Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fickle beast. It’s always changing, evolving and throwing marketers for a loop. All that aside, it’s still an essential part of most digital marketing strategies these days and knowing the top SEO trends is critical for success.

But what are the SEO trends healthcare marketers should know about in this post-COVID, mobile-first, consumer-focused 2021? We recently sat down with Curt Graman, sales director for Helium SEO, to learn more.

Check out a recording and transcript of the conversation with Curt and Kirsten Lecky, WriterGirl VP of client partnerships. It’s all part of our new Tips in Ten(ish) Minutes video series, where we share best practices that help healthcare marketers do their jobs smarter and faster.

 >> P.S. If you want even more detail, we’ve included a few extra tidbits from Curt in the transcript below. Look for these boxes!

Kirsten: Hey everyone! Kirsten Lecky here from WriterGirl. So, my friend Curt and I were just having a conversation about SEO and as always I was taking notes, very intrigued. I feel like I’m learning something and as it relates to SEO, I’m always catching up and there’s always something new to learn.

I figured that I wasn’t alone and that maybe some of you feel that same way — that you’re catching up and trying to learn. So, I thought, let’s stop the conversation, let’s hit the record button. That way, we can share his answers with the rest of you and hopefully you’ll learn something, too.

The intent here is really to keep this super short. We’re going to maybe get to two to three questions and keep it under 10 minutes.

So, I’ll start by introducing Curt. He is the sales director at Helium SEO. Helium SEO is here in Cincinnati, where WriterGirl is headquartered. We have collaborated on some projects together, so we’re really proud of the work they do and have enjoyed that partnership.

What’s the number one thing healthcare marketers should know about SEO that they may not realize?

Kirsten: So, we’ll go ahead and get started. The first question we were talking about: What’s the number one thing that healthcare marketers should know about SEO that maybe they don’t realize?

Curt: Thank you, Kirsten, for the introduction and the opportunity. I know this is supposed to be somewhat short and to the point. So, with that, we’ll keep it short and if anything comes up, anyone can reach out to you or me and we’ll share additional information with them.

So, your question about what should healthcare marketers be on the lookout for regarding SEO. One of the things that we run into a lot with healthcare professionals is doctors claiming their Google My Business account. With that, a lot of them don’t know that’s a really good opportunity to connect with the patients.

It may sound a little odd, but when people are searching for doctors or really anything in Google, they’re putting very generic terms in there. You also have to think about why it’s important to claim that Google My Business listing for a doctor. When you’re in need of medical assistance, or when you’re going to your family practitioner and they refer you to a specialist, they’re saying a doctor specifically. With that, you go home, and you’re searching for that doctor. Somebody who is going to search for “Dr. Smith, orthopedics,” you want to claim something that’s very specific to that doctor’s name. Same thing with dentist offices, as well.

Kirsten: So, how does that compete with location pages? Is it a complementary exercise? Do they compete? Talk to us about that.

Curt: With location pages for a hospital vs. doctors, we recommend doctors claim it individually. When you’re referred to somebody or you’re looking for a specific practice or someone who does orthopedics, you’re going to search for orthopedics and that doctor you were referred to.

We always recommend that doctors have their own individual Google My Business accounts to list patient hours and ways to schedule virtual telehealth appointments.

Also, doctors should include pictures of the types of services they provide and what to expect when they arrive. This helps patients understand what their specialty is.

A hospital is going to be more general with its photos and information, like more general hospital hours. But the doctor can say which days of the week they work specifically.

>>Once they claim the Google My Business profile, doctors should remember to update and manage their listing. Keeping the profile up-to-date with hours, virtual visit appointments and photos can help doctors find new patients and have more visibility on Google. 

Kirsten: That makes sense. You’re right, if you’re getting a referral to a provider, most likely you’ll search that provider name. Less so than maybe where they practice and what specialty they’re in.

What should healthcare marketers know about mobile-first indexing?

Kirsten: So, let’s talk about mobile-first indexing. What should healthcare marketers know about mobile-first indexing and how can they be best prepared for the new algorithm?

Curt: Yeah, that’s a great question. This day and age, everyone is using tablets, iPhones. With that, mobile-first is now the way Google is going with its algorithm. So, it’s best to be mobile-friendly first. They’ve been dabbling with this since 2016, but in 2019 they made a big push to go mobile-first.

The big thing that you should keep in mind is that you want to have the same information on your mobile-friendly site as well as your desktop site. I know that may sound a little weird that you may have different ones, but some people think mobile-friendly and they want to keep it condensed. That’s not the case. You want it to be the same. If you have long-form content on your site, you also want that on your mobile site, so it’s the same when Google’s bots are crawling them.

Kirsten: So it’s really more of the user interface and how they’re accessing the information.

With that in mind then, what could negatively impact SEO on a mobile site?

Curt: If you had different robot tags from a desktop to a mobile site. Don’t use lazy load primary content where the content is all loading at the same time. Don’t have anything blocked just because it’s on mobile or desktop.

Also, make sure the content is the same. Whether it’s on your desktop or mobile site, it needs to contain the same amount of content.

Kirsten: So, are we penalized if there are discrepancies there, if someone is searching and it’s being served up differently?

Curt: I don’t think you’ll be penalized that hard for it. It’s just what’s most relevant.

What we’ve come to find out at Helium is that the two most important things are authority and relevance. If you have good relevancy, you have the same title tags and headers across your mobile site and desktop site. If you don’t, it’s not something Google is going to reach out and penalize you, it’s just optimizing so there are no potential errors for Google to hold you back.

Kirsten: So, would you say the most important thing is to have the same content?

Curt: Yeah. Have the same content, same meaningful headers so when Google’s bots are crawling your desktop site vs. your mobile site, there are no discrepancies. If they have that same info, Google’s bots are going to put the most relevant search cues in the user’s feed.

>>Most people don’t realize it, but most search queries are already mobile-first. The best thing you can do is make sure you have a great mobile experience. Google provides a mobile-friendly test for website owners to see whether their pages meet Google’s guidelines.

What’s coming up next in SEO best practices?

Kirsten: So, let’s wrap this up with a doozy of a question. If you had a crystal ball, what’s coming up next in SEO best practices?

Curt: If we or any other SEO agency had that, I think we would charge a lot more! Helium’s approach is trying to better understand Google’s ranking algorithm.

There are over 600 algorithm changes a year that Google implements. A lot of those are very small and most people see no impact. A couple of industries that do get impacted the most are legal, finance and healthcare. So, it’s great that we partner together to make sure we keep in mind all of these SEO factors.

The largest algorithm update we’ve seen in the last six months has been the Core Web Vitals update. It was supposed to launch in May 2021, so it’s been a little delayed. We expect it to be in the next two to three months.

The Core Web Vitals — again, this is a loaded question that I could get into a lot and I’m trying to figure out how to clearly communicate this all to the users from a high level. There are:

  • Largest content paint
  • First input delay
  • Cumulative layout shift

Kirsten: You’ve got to break that down into more simple terms!

Largest content paint

Curt: Largest content paint aims to measure when the content on the page finishes loading. When the page loads, they want to see the main content on the page, what that page is most relevant for, load very quickly.

Kirsten: You said “load”? Like speed?

Curt: Yes. So, when we talk about Google’s ranking algorithm, the two most important things are authority and relevance — other sites linking to their sites and content, which you guys are good at producing. The third most important thing is user experience and in that user experience bucket is site speed.

>>Largest content paint (LCP) can be affected by:

  • Client-side rendering
  • Slow resource load times, like large images
  • Slow server response times
  • Render-blocking JavaScript and CSS

First impressions are huge. When you land on the site, while the design can be very nice, it can be hard for Google’s bots to put numbers behind that. So, they look at how quickly the site can load and how quickly you can interact. That’s where largest content paint comes into play.

More importantly, you have to think of SEO as two audiences. You’re trying to appease Google’s bots and at the same time you’re trying to appease the user.

The acronym for largest content paint is “LCP.” Google scores this based on load times. Here are the scoring factors:

  • Good site speed is less than 2.5 seconds
  • Needs improvement is between 2.5 and 4 seconds
  • Poor (you have to make some kind of adjustment) is above 4 seconds

Kirsten: So, to summarize that first bucket, it’s speed. It’s about how quickly the page loads or the main piece of content on the page.

First input delay

Curt: First input delay measures the time it takes for the user to interact with the page. Whether it’s a click, a tap on a button or a custom JavaScript-powered control, it’s the time the browser takes to load and allow the bots to process what the user is doing on the page.

>>Design and visual appeal are hard to track, but speed and responsiveness of a site is not. Slow, unresponsive websites perform poorly in Google search and are less likely to convert users to customers.

Again, this is a first impression. Google can’t determine how visually appealing your site is. They really don’t care, in a way. Where the visual design points come into play, and this is vitally important to website success, is conversions. The site looks updated and looks fresh, but where the meat of the opportunity is how quickly does it load and how quickly can you interact with that page.

The score range for first input delay is:

  • Good: Less than 100 milliseconds
  • Needs improvement: between 100 and 300 milliseconds
  • Poor: above 300 milliseconds

There are all tools out there to track these. We have access to these tools and there are free ones as well.

Cumulative layout shift

Curt: Cumulative layout shift measures the way visible content shifts. The easiest way I can describe this is, when you’re on a site that’s poorly optimized and you’re scrolling, and all of a sudden the content shifts. What’s happening is there’s an image that Google’s bots haven’t had the time to load yet, and as you’re scrolling down you’re reading the content and all of a sudden that picture loads, causing the content to shift.

Google’s bots don’t like that, the users don’t like that. It hurts your performance score.

So, you want to make sure there’s code you put into your site — or you work with an agency like Helium that helps make sure that you have these codes in place. With this code, when your page is loading and Google’s bots are crawling it, they’ll see just a blank box, white space, but that’s where that picture will load. When you’re reading the page, the content won’t move on you. It makes for a better user experience and over time that picture should load.

The scoring range for cumulative layout shift is:

  • Good: Less than 0.1 seconds
  • Needs improvement: between 0.1 and 0.25 seconds
  • Poor: above 0.25 seconds

These are all in seconds, milliseconds — very short time frames. But they can cause a huge negative impact on Google’s bots ranking your site and the user’s interaction with your site.

Learn more about top SEO trends

Kirsten: We appreciate you agreeing to this! I believe it will be helpful to more than just myself.

Curt: I appreciate it! Thanks for putting me on the spot. Please ask me more questions! I think this was a great opportunity for us to help share some SEO knowledge. Whether it’s healthcare or not, we’re able to help.

Kirsten: Absolutely. Thanks, Curt. Bye!

Looking for more details on these top SEO trends? Feel free to reach out to Curt or contact WriterGirl anytime to learn how our SEO-savvy healthcare writers can help you reach your marketing goals.