Pulse Check: The Google Helpful Content Update, & What It Means For Healthcare

Every so often, the internet’s topography experiences a seismic shift, leaving the terrain forever changed. Due to its grip on the world of search, Google is – more often than not – close to the epicentre of these digital tremors. Businesses strive to make sense. Marketers scramble to navigate the aftershocks. And searchers – that is, customers, patients, and clients – interact with brands in new, very different ways.

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September 2023 saw one such phenomenon.

This pivotal algorithm adjustment aimed to reshape search by prioritising websites that offer truly valuable and informative content. Google, with its refined helpful content system, set out to enhance the quality and relevance of search results, rewarding sites that provided answers and insights.

For healthcare providers, this update carries significant implications. On the one hand, it's an opportunity to shine by creating content that genuinely helps patients and visitors navigate complex medical topics. On the other, it raises the stakes for those relying on outdated or superficial content strategies.

As Google's algorithms evolve, so must our approach to crafting online experiences that prioritise the needs of audiences. Are you looking for healthcare-specialised consultancy, website services, SEO or local SEO to help you reach the summit of this changed landscape? Book a free consultation with our healthcare marketing experts today.

Or read on as we dig into what the Google Helpful Content Update means for healthcare providers, exploring both the challenges and opportunities it presents.

So What Is In Google’s Helpful Content Update?

In Google's Helpful Content Update, the focus shifted decidedly toward genuine, people-first content.

This means crafting content with the reader in mind, addressing their needs comprehensively and in a human way. While the specific ranking factors of Google's algorithm remain opaque, we can make a pretty good guess based on experience and industry insight.

At a top level, the update underscores Google's commitment to elevating user experience (UX) by rewarding websites that prioritise helpfulness and relevance.

It encourages content creators to adopt a user-centric approach, ensuring that all content serves a genuine purpose for the reader. This shift challenges healthcare providers to think beyond traditional SEO tactics and embrace a more holistic, human approach to content creation.

Table Of Contents

What Google Means By ‘Helpful’

Google's definition of "helpful" encompasses a spectrum of ranking factors that prioritise clarity, genuine insight, originality, and readability. To align with Google's standards and avoid unwelcome impacts, content creators should stay mindful of to six essential guidelines:

  1. Originality and Quality: Content should be unique, well-researched, and add significant value to the reader.
  2. Trust and Expertise: Emphasise trustworthiness and demonstrate expertise through accurate and reliable information.
  3. Person-Centricity: Focus on addressing the needs and concerns of users, ensuring content is tailored to their queries and intentions.
  4. Avoidance Of Search Engine-First Content: Create content primarily for users, not solely to optimise for search engines.
  5. EEAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness): Content should exhibit expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) to establish credibility.
  6. The Who, the How, and the Why: Answer critical questions about who the content is for, how it will benefit them, and why it matters in a clear and concise manner.

OK… How About ‘Unhelpful Content’?

"Unhelpful content" then, and as you might expect, refers to material that fails to meet Google's criteria for quality and relevance. This includes:

  • Lack of originality
  • Mistakes
  • Mass / generic production
  • Over-focus on search engine optimisation
  • Absence of trust signals
  • Controversy / sensationalism
  • Old content labelled as new
  • Lack of genuine answers

Can Impacted Sites Recover From Search Engine Freefall?

Short answer: yes.

But exactly how long it takes to recover lost search engine rankings remains unclear.

  • Early in 2024, Morgan Overholt (freelancer and self-styled “600k upworker”) posted on X (formerly Twitter) to the Google Search Liaison, claiming that “@searchliasion told me personally a site could recover within 2 weeks of making changes.”
  • Google Search Liaison responded, saying “I don't recall giving a specific timeframe like that. It would be unusual for me to do so, because it's not what we say in our documentation. It's not something I've also said in posts when people ask about this. Apologies if I misspoke or perhaps confused this with something else.”
  • The account went on to cite the Helpful Content System FAQS: “A natural question some will have is how long will it take for a site to do better, if it removes unhelpful content? Sites identified by this system may find the signal applied to them over a period of months.”
  • “Our classifier runs continuously, allowing it to monitor newly-launched sites and existing ones. As it determines that the unhelpful content hasn't returned in the long-term, the classification will no longer apply.”

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What This All Means For Healthcare Providers

By aligning your content strategies with Google's standards for helpful content, you can enhance online presence, connect with patients more effectively, and improve search engine rankings.

  1. Prioritise Patient-Centric Content: Healthcare providers should focus on creating content that prioritises patient needs and concerns. This includes addressing common health questions, providing accurate medical information, and offering solutions to patient problems.
    → Example: Instead of generic health articles, a mental health clinic could create detailed guides on managing specific conditions or navigating treatment options.
  1. Establish Trust and Expertise: Google's update emphasises the importance of demonstrating trust and expertise in healthcare content. This involves showcasing credentials, featuring expert contributors, and citing reputable sources.
    → Example: Your new blog post could include pieces authored by experienced physicians discussing complex medical topics.
  2. Quality Content Over Quantity: With the focus on helpfulness, healthcare providers should avoid churning out low-quality or generic content. Instead, they should invest in creating in-depth, well-researched articles that provide real value to readers.
    → Example: A dermatology website might replace short blog posts with comprehensive resources like interactive skincare plans or detailed treatment guides.
  3. Enhance User Experience: User experience is crucial for ranking under Google's new guidelines. Healthcare websites should prioritise mobile-friendliness, fast loading times, and clear navigation to enhance the overall user experience.
    → Example: A care home might optimise its website for mobile devices to ensure ease of use for patients accessing services on smartphones.
  4. Stay Informed and Adaptive: Given that Google's algorithms are continuously evolving, healthcare providers need to stay informed about updates and adapt their content strategies accordingly. This may involve regular audits of existing content and adjustments to align with new ranking criteria.
    → Example: A healthcare marketing agency can offer ongoing SEO services to help clinics monitor algorithm changes and adjust their content strategies proactively.

Search Engines, the Helpful Content System, and You

The concept of ‘helpful content’ has become central to achieving success in search traffic. Google's emphasis on creating helpful content goes beyond simply meeting a particular word count or ticking off boxes for core ranking systems; It's about connecting with your existing or intended audience in meaningful ways.

For healthcare providers, this means crafting content that addresses patient needs, provides valuable insights, and builds trust. Remember: the goal is not just to rank higher, but to genuinely assist and engage with those seeking medical information.

So take Google’s latest bombshell as an opportunity to contribute to the helpful content ecosystem. Your commitment to creating meaningful content will not only benefit your search rankings but, more importantly, empower patients with the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions.

Need some assistance in creating helpful content for your blog? Thinking of a special ebook or whitepaper to promote your services? Or maybe you’d like to improve your on-site UX? Contact us today and speak with one of our healthcare content marketing experts – we look forward to hearing from you.

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