By Garry Hamilton, Chief Growth Officer and Founder, Equator
Many marketers first invested in search engine optimisation (SEO) a decade or more ago, as organisations grappled with the growing complexity of gaining visibility on Google.
Since then, the lion’s share have operated according to the old rule: if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. SEO strategies are abandoned in some dark corner of the server or have even left the business in the pocket of a departing head of digital.
The problem with this approach is that most brands consequently don’t know whether to continue investing or at what level. This inertia usually means marketers arrive at one of three mindsets:
- Buy – go all-in with more budget to try to rise up search rankings
- Sell – throw in the towel, pulling budget and betting on alternative channels
- Hold – settle for the same strategy, level of investment and mid-ranking in search results
To understand which route is the most appropriate, marketers must shake dusty neglect from their SEO strategy, simultaneously scrutinise search trends in their sector and plot a way forward.
A forensic approach to keeping SEO healthy
Gone are the days when Google presented one set of search results for every marketplace.
Today, the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) nuances are many and varied. These demands reflect the rivalry of businesses and maturity of their sectors, along with Google’s continued dominance.
Broadly, there are three common scenarios in search marketing:
- A “traditional” results set
- A Google-dominated results set
- A results set dominated by aggregators (price comparison)
Let’s look closely at the healthcare sector to detail the challenges found in the industry and considers how each of the three factors above alters the approach required to maintain vital SEO returns.
When people are worried about their health and turn to search engines, they typically seek more information about the problem that’s bothering them – their symptoms or notional condition – or a potential solution: finding someone to make them better.
This doesn’t automatically mean that it’s easy to be found on Google. For instance, searching on “colposcopy” returns 40% fewer results and more knowledge content and images. Providing the solution does not necessarily mean you’ll rank for the problem.
That’s because Google sets the bar much higher for health brands. It classifies most health content as Your Money or Your Life: “…content that could potentially impact the future happiness, health or wealth of users.”
As such, Google looks for expert authors with highly cited works – such as news articles, wikis and guest posts – and strong ratings for the individual. It wants sites that are rich in expertly authored content.
It measures content quality based on three measures: expertise, authoritativeness and trust (EAT). In a sensitive area like cancer (colposcopies), this is mandatory. Some sites are so respected that Google has manually assigned specific publishers, like the NHS, a permanent first-page space.
Making regular first-page appearances while selling healthcare services can only be achieved when an SEO strategy revolves around delivering EAT content. This involves building rich content on critical topics directly related to products and services that support them.
Bulk up SEO success with a diet of EAT content
Most healthcare businesses concentrate on ‘selling’ content, mainly focusing on pages centred on how they can solve a user’s health problem. While there may be some informative content in the mix to help a user validate they are in the right place, little effort is typically placed in creating additional content to enrich them with a deep understanding of the problem.
This is not enough to make the front page. It’s not possible to rely on a couple of articles to make the grade. Dedication to serving the user with unique, informative content that meets EAT guidelines is a must.
The role of each piece of content in a brand’s portfolio must therefore be understood. Selling content id of course key to conversion but it must be supported by comprehensive ‘telling’ content to be discovered when it matters most.
It’s possible to score content on its ‘EATability’. The list below isn’t exhaustive but indicates the areas any search content strategy must cover to succeed:
- Content is weighted at least 90% towards informing the user about the problem
- The brand ranks for some of content on pages two and three for problem terms
- Content is written by an expert or serious enthusiast on the topic with proven knowledge
- It is “original, accurate, comprehensive, clearly communicated, professionally presented…and reflects expert consensus” (aligning with Google Search Quality Reference Guidelines)
- The content offers substantial and different value to pages already appearing for the target term
The more ticks that telling content received, the greater chance a brand has of first-page coverage. Then there is genuine potential to make ranking gains for critical problem terms.
The lesson here is that if you must gamble, gamble on content; viewed not just through the lens of SEO but as a tool for social, paid search, conversion and offline. It offers the most significant long-term returns on marketing budget and the best chance to bolster the balance sheet.
After all, if there’s one constant in every sector, for every outcome, it is that content drives better business outcomes.