Jacquelyn Green: “We get questions from clients a lot where they will ask us, do I just need to keep using this keyword all throughout my site? Is that how I’ll show up higher in search results? It really is much more than that now, because Google is getting so sophisticated. Google really needs to understand what you do and really how all of the different pieces of your services fit together.”
Intro: Welcome to the Ignite Podcast, the only Healthcare Marketing Podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth. Each week, Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.
Lauren Leone: Hey, everyone, thanks for joining us on this episode of Ignite, the healthcare marketing podcast. My name is Lauren Leone. I’m our SVP of Client Services. Today I have with me Jacquelyn Green, not a new face, but definitely someone that we’re excited to have back. Jacquelyn is our director of Search Engine Optimization here at Cardinal.
Today we are going to talk about, as we wrap up this year, what are the big trends in SEO that you need to be aware of for 2023? Want to just share some quick tips with you all on things you need to know, things you need to be considering, especially if you’re a healthcare organization.
Jacquelyn, I think the most important fundamental question just for everyone listening to frame this up is, why should they care about SEO for Healthcare? What role does it play in the grand scheme of marketing and digital marketing?
Jacquelyn Green: When someone is looking for something, they automatically turn to Google and patients are no different. It’s super important that you have a digital presence that extends to Google, and that you have both the presence in organic and paid channels.
You can’t just rely on ads. You want to make sure that you have that organic presence so that you are really dominating the search engine results page and that patients can find you and find out who you are and how they can get help from you.
Lauren: I get asked a lot, when we’re talking with prospective new clients, do I really need to pay for SEO? Can I just do advertising? Where does SEO fall in the ability to capture that search when someone does go to Google?
Jacquelyn: SEO is a foundational channel. Paid Search is awesome. Display, all of those other things that you can do to gather visibility and conversions are amazing. SEO is really unique in that it really does set a total digital foundation for your brand. It impacts your appearance at every stage of the funnel too.
You’re really able to capture patients, whether they’re just trying to figure out what condition they might have or what service they might need, all the way down to searching for a provider in their area. It’s a really great way to make sure you are capturing audiences across the board and that you really own a space on the search engines.
Lauren: Thinking about what people need to focus on, what are the trends going into next year, there were a couple of algorithm updates this year that affect or created, for some organizations at least, a pivot in how they do things. For some groups, they were doing this tactic all along, but talk about what those updates are.
Jacquelyn: The biggest one that we’ve seen recently, and I think this is really indicative of where Google is going in general is the helpful content update. I know we’ve talked about that a lot. It’s certainly front of mind since it was so recent, but I think it really is indicative that Expertise Authoritativeness and Trust, EAT, is really just continuing to be a major, not even trend, it’s a major piece of the Google puzzle for the organic channel.
Having content that is robust, having content that is helpful to your patients and really provides them with unique information, that’s really going to be key. I think building that trust with users is what Google is pushing at every level.
Lauren: When we talk about robust, I think that’s where you say like, “Wait, robust and helpful, do those two things go hand in hand?” Robust is no longer a term for a keyword count. Robust just means that you’ve really addressed every element of that topic that you really address the questions that people have, that you have given them information on now what do I do with this? Where do I go next?
I want to dispel the myth that when we are talking to clients about robust content that was just, this one has to be 1500 words, this one has to be 2000. I think that’s a big thing for people to look out for. In planning for that content, we’ve gotten to a place, for anyone listening, keyword over-optimization is dead. It has been for a while. If you’re still thinking of that as a core piece of your strategy, mark 2023 as the time to cut that out. That doesn’t mean keywords and keyword research aren’t important. Talk about the shift from keywords to entity optimization.
Jacquelyn: For sure, I think this is going to be something that continues to be a huge trend, and again, becomes a foundational element of how Google looks at content and assesses websites. Google really is getting a lot more sophisticated. A big takeaway from that is that Google is understanding what your content is about at an entity level. It’s not just about using a certain number of keywords or using a certain amount of phrases to get every variation of a keyword. It really is about communicating through your content that you know what you’re talking about and that the content you’re producing provides a full answer to the user’s query.
Where entities come into play is that Google is really looking beyond just the keyword. They’re looking at your entire site. They’re looking at your entire webpage, at your entire digital presence to really understand what your business does and what types of search terms you should show for. It means you’ve got to create a lot more of a holistic search presence. You’ve got to take more into account than just blogs that have keywords in the title. It really has to be an intentional user-centric approach.
Lauren: Putting that into a real-world example, let’s say my core head term is therapy. That’s the service that I offer. I think the strategies of the past, maybe something like a therapy page, and therapy is in every header, every sub-header, it is stuffed all up in there. That’s how you’re telling Google that you do therapy.
Now what that really means is that, at the core, your site contains information on, well, types of therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, family therapy, couples counseling. On that, you feature the therapists of your organization. That is more the entity that Google is mapping all of that to. Now I understand you do therapy.
Jacquelyn: Exactly. We get questions from clients a lot where they will ask us, do I just need to keep using this keyword all throughout my site? Is that how I’ll show up higher in search results? It really is much more than that now, because Google is getting so sophisticated. Google really needs to understand what you do and really how all of the different pieces of your services fit together.
Therapy’s a great example of making sure you have content for users at different stages of looking for a therapist to really communicate to Google and to those potential patients that you really have the services to meet their needs and that your website can provide them with that robust, comprehensive information about your services.
Lauren: Absolutely. I think that entity shift is something that at least from what I’ve seen, is still being understood and adopted by a lot of marketers. I think if I could say anything to anyone listening, go and do some more research on that topic because it really can and is the foundation of then what you write, how you write it, everything else you do. Understanding entity optimization, I think, is critical.
Another piece, and I’m going to call it a trend, but I think it’s one of those duh things, digital reputation and controlling how your brand is portrayed as a whole, whether it’s on your website or off your site. Talk about just how that’s continuing to increase as a factor in not only getting the traffic to your site, but also in getting the lead.
Jacquelyn: Absolutely. It all goes together, right? When we’re talking about Google, they’re looking at the full image of that entity. You have to consider not just the words that are on your website, but you need to consider how you’re appearing in other channels or in other areas of the web.
A huge piece of that for a lot of local businesses is your Google business profile. Making sure that you have optimized listings that align with the content that you’re showing on your webpage is huge. That will help Google understand exactly who you are, where you’re located, and what you offer. That’s true for all listings, not just Google. It’s really important to make sure you’re managing that.
Reputation management is another huge piece of it as it relates to listings, making sure that you have high-quality reviews, making sure that patients are reacting to your business so that they can show that trust and indicate to Google that you are a business worth trusting and that you have that authority in the space, it’s huge.
The other piece as it relates to SEO, of course, is link building. It’s not a trend, it’s just a major facet of what it means to have an SEO strategy. It’s more important than ever to really focus on the types of links you’re building, making sure that you’re not focusing on quantity over quality and really focusing on getting links that are going to align with your ultimate business goals.
If you’re a healthcare provider who is providing therapy services, you really want to make sure that your links are talking about the distinctions in your services versus competitors. That they’re really targeted toward the nuances of what you provide and helping users who might be reading the content that you’re linked on, helping them understand exactly what services you provide. It all works together and it’s really important just to have that holistic view as you’re thinking about your organic strategy.
Lauren: Speaking of backlinks and reputation, that topic you just covered, I get asked this a lot, what is the right number of reviews or what is the right domain authority? I think this is something that– I probably get asked this at least once a week.
Jacquelyn: It’s all relative. I think that’s the most important takeaway for people who are wondering about this topic. If you have a domain authority score, which I’m putting that in quotes. If you have a domain authority score that’s on the low end compared to huge national brands, and you’re are simply a mom-and-pop focusing on your local patients, you don’t need to worry about how you compete with that national brand. What’s more important is how do you compare to actual competitors in your area. It’s really important to take domain authority in those types of authority scores with a grain of salt.
The same goes for a number of referring domains or the number of backlinks that you have pointing toward your site. Make sure you’re looking at the right competitive set when you’re thinking about that. Same goes for reviews, but I think what’s most important about reviews is it is important to have a high quantity. It’s also important to have a high quality. A thing that people miss with review management a lot of the time is really making sure that as a business you are going in and responding to any negative reviews or any reviews that might have questions.
That’s huge because it not only shows to an individual user that you care about the questions that are being asked and the feedback that you’re getting on your services, but it also shows Google that you are engaged with your listings. It shows them that there is a real person managing these listings and these profiles, which can be a really great indicator of trust and authority. It’s really important to focus on that as well.
Lauren: Go ahead, pull a benchmark of your competitive set and use that as a, “I want to be the highest of that competitive set.” There are a hundred, Google doesn’t say if you get a hundred reviews, you’re going to be the number one result. They say, let me look at everyone who’s competing for this query and determine who’s most valuable to the end user in terms of top results. I think that’s a great tip. Let’s talk a little bit about user experience and SEO, like the intersection of those two things. I think the historical mindset has always been SEO is about having thousands and thousands of words and UX is about conversion, so we’re only going to really care about UX on landing pages or paid search traffic.
I think that framework has fundamentally changed. Groups that aren’t considering, or even with agencies scoping in a user experience, web development, and design piece into their overall strategy, I think are going to miss the mark on where the engines are going. I’ll use the word digital transformation because I think that’s super popular right now. How does digital transformation play into SEO?
Jacquelyn: I think that, again, with Google’s sophistication and with their focus on really providing helpful content to users, user experience has to be a part of that. If you have a website that is hard to navigate or hard to look at, users are not going to engage with that. I think people get hung up on whether or not Google actually uses things like user engagement or click-through rate as a ranking factor. I think they’re missing the point there. The point really is to focus on how you can engage with your users at every level. Paying attention to user experience metrics is a really huge way to make sure that your content is actually helpful. I think you really can’t ignore that when you’re considering your SEO strategy.
Lauren: Like I could write a 1500-word article that is, from my point of view, the most helpful content about a specific topic. If it is just 1500 words of paragraphs, is it really helpful? What’s helpful to someone is not only that the content exists, but that they can skim it, see bullets visually understand the hierarchy of, “What I need to focus on. What’s the most important piece of this?” Maybe see things like images or video or other helpful visual components throughout that content that just generally make it easier to digest.
Jacquelyn: For sure. We know that users care about this, it’s obvious but we also know that Google cares about this. Google has been at the forefront of rolling out updates that pertain to user experience, and this is not new a few years ago it was the mobile experience. After that, it was page speed and core web vitals. These are all just pieces of the user experience puzzle and we have to pay attention to those if we want to succeed.
Lauren: Two more trends I want to touch on as we wrap this up. The first one is just the constantly evolving nature of what the search engines results page, the SERP, looks like, and then what the different SEO requirements are in order to play in that SERP. The core pieces have always been, well, you’ve got ads and you’ve got a map pack, then you’ve got organic results, but there’s a lot more to it. What are some of the newer features that organizations should be thinking about?
Jacquelyn: The way that Google continually updates the way that SERPs are displayed, this is not new. Google is constantly evolving. It’s taking user feedback from SERPS and making changes that are ultimately going to, hopefully, improve the user experience on the search results page. It’s really important that you consider all of the different changes that are happening, even little things. We recently saw that Google is playing with the way that site names display on their listings and search results.
Whether or not you have a schema in your site that actually displays what your site name is, and what your organization name is, that can impact whether or not that feature shows for you. What’s really important to consider with SERP changes is that they’re not going to be a ranking factor, but it’s really important to control how you are displayed in SERPs so that you can have some control or some influence over your click-through rate because you’re really competing with everything under the sun in search results. It might be direct competitors, it might be huge national sites.
It’s a tone of different things that you’re competing with. Any way that you can make yourself stand out by taking advantage of elements like schema, things like the people also ask snippet any type of rich result that you can play into. I think all of those things are going to be huge for impacting how users perceive you from the moment they even see you in search results.
Lauren: It’s the multiplier effect on, “Hey, I can be present in four of the 10 results types on this page.” It’s like a one plus one equals three effect, so think about not just owning one specific feature or the other. How can I be present in as many as possible? Final one. This is really interesting and this is something we made regularly and we are figuring out and evolving along the way. AIs is more and more precedent in every form of our lives now, and we see that there are AI tools available to help in how we do SEO. There’s also AI in things like Alexa. How we have to do SEO differently because of how some of this technology is coming into play. Just talk about some of the trends you’re seeing in AI.
Jacquelyn: I think that we’ve moved a bit past the fear of AI controlling SEO. We’ve moved a little bit closer to a general comfort with it, or at least a comfort with the discomfort that AI is always going to be now a part of the equation. I am seeing SEOs becoming a lot more comfortable with ideas of using AI as a means of production, Like they’re, we are not going to get to a place where AI completely rules the roost on SEO anytime soon. I think that there’s maybe some fear that that’s happening, but there really is still a need for people to be involved with the strategies that we are producing for these sites.
The reason for that is Google is getting more sophisticated. As we have more AI tools to help us produce the different SEO tactics we want to deploy, Google is just learning more about how to notice those AI tools and how to flag uses of AI that might be not natural or inorganic. Google wants to prioritize content that is going to relate with users and is going to be ultimately helpful.
If you can use AI to accomplish that, I think people are learning that is possible. Ultimately, having a human managing these systems is going to still be important in the coming year. I think it’s really about learning how you can use different tools, to help automate and make your process more efficient. SEO is not at a place where it can really lose that human integration yet.
Lauren: It’s like that work smarter not harder piece. If you’re using AI let’s see, for copywriting, and this is something a lot of people are exploring, fundamentally, the strategy, the components of what need to go into that content for it to be helpful, the research on what are the questions that this content needs to address? That is the human intelligence piece. Getting the words in that order and fulfilling the sub-blocks beneath that, try AI out and see if what it produces is maybe a 60% towards good.
Then you can have the human review element on top of it. Really just finding ways to be more efficient so that time can be spent on the things that there is an AI for you. Design and UX and link building and building digital relationships. Those are the things that we need more time to do.
Jacquelyn: Exactly, and if anything, what we found at Cardinal in playing with new AI systems is that using these tools really gives our team more power to be strategic and gives us more time to really have fun and try new things with our clients and try new strategies that are going to move the needle even further and really be innovative and creative. AI is just it’s a way that you can get things done faster. It’s a way you can get things done better potentially, but really, it’s just a means to an end, which the end will pretty much always be the same.
Lauren: Final closing question. This isn’t on our plan for this topic, but I just got to ask the emergence of, I’ll put in quotes, new search engines, how are things like, TikTok, and some of these platforms? I know you’re going to love this question, Jacquelyn. It’s the reality. If I go to sometimes my social platforms or other places now and people are starting to use those, and typing queries into those, very much like it were, Google, anything that anyone needs to be on the lookout for? Do they just need to know that this is happening and they need to be thinking about it next year?
Jacquelyn: Yes, I think this happens every year, really, with a new system or a new search engine, a new website, we saw it with YouTube, we’ve seen it with Voice Search. People get really interested in the next big thing, the next big platform that people can use. It’s certainly valid. Those platforms, things like TikTok, they are incredibly popular for a reason. People are using them, so I think it’s important to definitely be aware that these platforms are out there, and think about where they could fit into your strategy. Don’t get caught up in the moment of the platform that is extremely popular right now because Google has not slowed down.
In a really fast-changing world where there are a lot of new systems we can be using and a lot of new ways to get information, we’re still not seeing Google die off by any stretch of the imagination. With something like TikTok, use it, explore it, see what people are searching for, see how content differs on that platform versus yours, see what you can learn from it. For some brands, it might totally make sense to fit that into your awareness strategy. For other brands, you’re going to be trying to fit a square into a circle with it.
Don’t overthink it, don’t try to make your strategy completely change to bend to the new trend because ultimately, we’re not seeing SEO or any type of search strategy slow down anytime soon. Focus on the things that are going to be lasting, but don’t be afraid to get creative, it’s totally fine to see what those systems might have to offer you.
Lauren: I love it. If we don’t innovate, well, Google’s doing it. If you don’t innovate, you’re going to die. I do respect that Google, we see trends in terms of the number of searches the number of people using it continuing to go up. To your point, it’s not going anywhere. Jacquelyn, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks, everybody, for joining us on Ignite. This is our healthcare marketing podcast. For those of you just joining us, if you have been with us all year, we so appreciate you. Please, go like, comment, share this episode, wherever it is that you listen, and we hope to see you guys again next year.[music]
Outro: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.[music]
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