Bit by bit, Google has been changing the terms of its SEO strategy deal with healthcare marketers.
Health systems produced content and then made it “findable” by following established search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, in exchange for greater visibility when Google’s users plugged in related search terms. With more than 60% market share, Google’s importance as a matchmaker between content and curiosity could not be overstated.
But Google’s strategy is shifting away from matchmaker to one of being a destination in and of itself, with fewer hand-offs necessary to your non-e-commerce site. As your organic traffic plateaus, marketers will be forced to re-balance their digital tactics, just to hold onto the same user volume.
Google’s changing approach is based on old trends, as well as new ones. Marketers have long known that the longer a user spends on a site, the more opportunity there is to capture value from the visit. Google now leverages that logic for its benefit. The more information previewed in the top-level results, the more likely it is that the user’s question will be satisfied without the need to click through your site. The results from voice-based searches are even more succinct and less subject to commercialization (at this point).
What Healthcare Marketers Can Do
Are you unsure if this trend applies to your hospital?
Do a condition-based search, relevant to your facility, on a desktop. The results page probably starts with knowledge panels and instant answers, a map with showing facilities like yours, followed by paid ads, and then organic results — where SEO lives.
This hierarchy is more pronounced on mobile. Google depends on your site to serve up information that it compiles and displays in an at-a-glance format, regardless of device. A substantial number of searches relevant to your core content can be addressed, without ever registering on your analytics as a site visit. The irony is you can be getting better at SEO; especially with speakable schema, but not see the growth in traffic you’ve come to expect.
So, do you abandon SEO efforts? No. Digital queries in all forms will continue to increase, and competitors will not sit still. Quality content will retain its value, but likely needs additional behind-the-scenes mark-ups to be optimized.
Beyond that, you may need to revise your assumptions about traffic volume that will be produced by organic results and offset that volume loss with traffic generated from targeted outbound display ads. Of course, this has implications for your budget and audience mix.
The good news is that digital display on reputable outlets can give you the targeting and frequency levels necessary to generate awareness. And, creativity will once again become the focus of display ad development to pique the viewer’s interests and earn the click.
Like so many things, what was old is new again.