Balancing Authenticity and SEO for the healthcare industry

11th Nov, 2021
Author image
Tara Wesson
Content Strategist

As a healthcare brand, it’s important that the information shown on your website is accurate. The internet’s a rampant, misinformation-ridden free market; it’s essential you are your own source of truth regarding your products.

Failure to meet these ethical standards could put your readers and prospective customers at serious risk.

Your content marketing strategy must address this concern while optimising for search engines at the same time. It’s very much a balancing act between authenticity and SEO.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know, including:


What Makes Healthcare Content Different?

Healthcare is one of several industries that Google considers to be potentially dangerous concerning its influence online. Misinformation could mislead readers, putting their health and safety at risk.

Google wants to promote credible information to search users, for all search results. The expectation for content quality is heightened when it comes to healthcare.

To understand why this is, we need to cover some Google algorithm history.


Why Healthcare Content is Held to a Higher Standard

Google’s algorithm is like the holy grail for SEO specialists; its secrets contain the blueprint to ranking on page one. Whenever an update is announced, everyone pays close attention.

Google maintains extremely protective and tight-lipped about the inner workings of its algorithm. Every new update brings about speculation and subsequent detective work to uncover what has changed.

Luckily, something happened in 2015: a leaked version of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines surfaced. In response to that, Google decided to release it officially:

It’s a 172-page document that outlines guidelines for trained Google website evaluators. If you didn’t already know, Google uses qualitative data to rank websites, not just numbers, backlinks, keywords and such. They have people who rate websites based upon the established criteria.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do specifically with healthcare content? In that PDF document, there are three crucial pieces of information:

  • Beneficial Purpose
  • E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)
  • YMYL (Your Money or Your Life)

These give us an insight into how Google classifies good quality content from poor quality content. What are they exactly? What do they mean? Let’s break them down.

1. Beneficial Purpose

The Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines have been updated over time, adding new criteria, and tweaks to existing ones. One of the most major changes Google made was the focus on something referred to as “beneficial purpose.”

This concept is covered in one of the first pages of the document:

“Most pages are created to be helpful for people, thus having a beneficial purpose.”

As shown in the screenshot above, it’s clearly stated that websites should be created to help people. Content should be made with a beneficial purpose, whatever that may be. Further down there are some examples listed:

Healthcare content must be created to help search users. If it doesn’t satisfy a beneficial purpose, it’ll be deemed low quality in the eyes of Google. It’s all about providing a great user experience, and that means being user-focused.

2. E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

If you’ve been around SEO circles for a while you’ve probably heard of the acronym EAT; it stands for:

  • Expertise: what are the credentials of the main creator (MC) of the content.
  • Authoritativeness: what is the reputation of the main creator (MC) of the content, the content itself, and the website.
  • Trustworthiness: how accurate and therefore trustworthy is the main creator (MC) of the content, the content itself, and the website.

Just as beneficial purpose plays a part in determining a page’s quality, so does E-A-T.

When it comes to healthcare content, Google’s search evaluators expect a higher level of E-A-T. The next section about YMYL will explain why this is.

3. YMYL (Your Money or Your Life)

If there’s one primary reason why healthcare content is held to a higher standard on Google, it’s YMYL. Your Money or Your Life is a classification given to content that, if incorrect, presents a potential danger to readers. This danger could relate to:

  • Finances
  • Health
  • Safety
  • Mental wellbeing

YMYL-designated content presents high stakes for its readers, having possible ramifications for their lives. Google doesn’t take this lightly: the last thing it wants to do is promote fraudulent information on its search engine.

What Google wants is for experts to write the content. It’s also important to mention that whether or not a page is YMYL greatly influences the E-A-T requirement. Healthcare content needs more expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness, for obvious reasons.

Healthcare is just one of several YMYL topics; others include:

  • News/current events
  • Civics, law, and government
  • Finance
  • Shopping

The Google Medic Update

Given that we’ve mentioned beneficial purpose, E-A-T, and YMYL, we must talk about the infamous Google “Medic” update.

In late 2018, a big core algorithm update occurred. It was given the name “Medic” by SEO expert Barry Schwartz because it affected primarily health-related websites.

He reviewed over 300 different websites that said they were impacted by the update. 41.5% of them were in industries, niches, and spaces like health, fitness, healthy lifestyle, and medical.

image Source: SEO Roundtable

We can infer that Google wanted to tighten its stance on YMYL websites, pages, and E-A-T demands.

How to Optimize Healthcare Content for Google

So, now you know why healthcare content is judged differently by Google. But how do you optimize it for Google? How do you balance the authenticity that satisfies beneficial purpose, E-A-T, and YMYL, with SEO best practices? You still need to rank on Google after all.

Below, you’ll find actionable content marketing strategies you can implement:

Create High-Quality Content

You must create high-quality content that extensively covers popular topics in-depth. If you want to rank on page one of Google for valuable healthcare related keywords, you must provide readers with value.

At the same time, you must be able to satisfy the demands of E-A-T. If possible, have someone with expert credentials write the content; for healthcare content for example, a Doctor or Professor would be an expert source..

Also, carefully consider the external links you choose to make; Google will judge you based on the company you keep. What does it say about you if you’re linking to bad sources of information? They’ll assume you’re not credible too, which hurts your E-A-T rating.

Conversely, linking out to authoritative sources such as government and health bodies can boost your appearance of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. For example, in the above screenshot the article links to the National Institute of Aging.

Lastly, keep your healthcare content up to date. When new information or issues arise, make the appropriate edits. Google rewards accurate and regularly updated content.

Create Easily Accessible Expert Profiles/Credential Pages

Building upon having experts write or approve your healthcare content, you create a profile page on your website for them. This is where readers can verify and fact-check the credentials of your supposed experts.

Consider that Google uses actual people to manually review the quality of pages on the internet. In assessing the authenticity of your healthcare content, they’ll vet the author of the content or those who’ve approved it.

Make no mistake about the credibility of your experts; mention them somewhere on your content. Link directly to their profile page.

This is a surefire way to guarantee maximum E-A-T.

Use Healthcare Schema Markup

By using healthcare-oriented schema markup, you can improve your odds at ranking for SERP features. These are the prioritized positions on search results that allow you to give additional information. Pages that are featured as SERP features have greater click-through rates.

Image Source: Schema App

Optimize Your Meta Titles

One of the most effective ways to boost your SEO for your healthcare content is to optimize your meta titles.

Your meta title is your page’s title on search engines like Google and Bing. It’s an HTML tag that communicates to search engines, telling them what the page is about. It also communicates to search users, telling them what a page concerns.

To optimize the meta titles of your pages, you’ll want to do these things:

  • Use your primary keyword
  • Front-load your primary keyword
  • Use secondary/LSI keywords if possible
  • Keep it short

Optimize Your Meta Description

Along with your meta titles, you should also address your meta descriptions. These are the short preview blurbs beneath the meta title on SERPs.

Although not a direct Google ranking factor, meta descriptions can increase the click-through rate, which does influence search rankings.

To optimize your meta descriptions, do the following:

  • Keep it under 155-160 characters
  • Use emotive language
  • Get their attention
  • Tell searchers what to expect on the page
  • Tell searchers what’s in it for them


Healthcare content, because of its ability to influence a readers’ wellbeing, is held to a higher standard. Google wants the information at the top of its search results to be authentic and credible. Pages that fail to meet these standards will put readers at risk.

In this post, we covered everything you need to know about healthcare content. Hopefully, you found value in the information and strategies outlined.

Are you looking for professional help with your healthcare brand’s content marketing strategy? Consider hiring our content marketing team to find out how Vine Digital can grow your website’s organic traffic today.


E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness) is a qualitative criterion that Google uses to evaluate the quality of a webpage. It’s a concept that’s outlined in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines. Google uses humans to evaluate websites, not just numbers and data.

YMYL (Your Money or Your Life Pages)

YMYL is a label given to pages that discuss a topic or issue that can potentially cause readers harm. These are industries like healthcare, finance, law, news, and government. Google holds these YMYL pages to higher standards because misinformation has dangerous consequences.

Google Medic Update

The Google Medic update was a big core algorithm update that occurred in late 2018. It was named “Medic” because nearly half of the websites affected by it were in health niches and industries.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a digital marketing strategy concerned with improving the search rankings of web pages.

Schema Markup

Schema markup is a form of code that can be added to your page’s HTML. It’s a way to clean up your HTML so that it can be more easily read by Google. When used correctly, it can increase your chances of ranking for SERP features.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

SERPs are the pages that show up after searching something on search engines like Google.

SERP Features

SERP features are the special results that show up on search engine results pages. This includes rich snippets, knowledge graphs, site links, the local pack, among others.

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