What is Google’s Medic Update: A Complete Guide 2024

Google’s Medic Update

With Google’s algorithm evolving, we’re interested to see if our website’s search performance has been affected by the recent update. Have you noticed any changes in our ranking for relevant keywords?

One of my client sites got a 500% spike on the 15th-17th then a drop back down. Avg visits are around 200-350. Jumped to 1,750-2,000.

She was getting a mass flow of one-off generic keyword hits. Freelance photographer. Nude photographer. Stuff I have even begun to optimize for. It was crazy.

Here’s the crazier part. About two weeks before the update all of her rankings went from positions 3-5 to 30-50 practically overnight.

I was freaking out thinking I got slapped. No manual actions or anything occurred. It was strange and frustrating and disheartening tbh. Months of hard work white hat down the drain.

Then out of the blue they were back in position and surpassed their previous positions after the update. She’s now sitting in spots 1-3 for a slew of different but related keywords and her traffic has increased by about 15% by the bump to the very top.

So, before we dive into ranking preservation strategies, let’s take a closer look at the Medic update and its significance for your website.

What Was The August 1st, 2018 Medic Update?

In July 2018, Google released an updated document on an algorithm change that they had been talking about since March 2018, which gave us insights into the changes about to come when the Google Medic update was released and confirmed on 1st August.

This was an update that affected both local and broad searches, for example, searching for “dental clinics in Zagreb” (a local patient search example) and “top 10 fertility clinics in Europe” (a broad search from an international patient) since that date showed with dramatically different results.

And then a majority of clinic & hospital websites that I know of reported a dramatic drop in traffic – usually between 30-70%.

On 27th September 2018 Google confirmed that they released another smaller update that either caused some of those medical center websites to drop further or recover slightly.

So if you’re a doctor, clinic owner, marketing team or agency responsible for the website of a doctors practice, dentists office, medical clinic or hospital, look for recent traffic growth or drops since that date as well.

Data-Based Factors to Improve for the Medic Update

Google’s algorithm considers a vast array of factors, over 200 in fact. While mastering them all might seem daunting, focusing on continuous improvement is key to building long-term brand visibility.

To help navigate the post-Medic update landscape, we analyzed data from SEO experts, software companies, and publishers. Our findings reveal commonalities among sites experiencing ranking fluctuations.

Here’s a handy checklist to guide your optimization efforts and ensure your site stays on the right track.

1. Optimize Your Content and Link Profile for Expertise-Authority-Trust

Expertise ranking is shown to mainly come from links & mentions on authoritative sites. (big hospitals, accreditation organizations, science organizations, Wikipedia and university sites). You should be motivating all the doctors you work with to have them mentioned on university websites and scientific publications directly to your clinic or hospital website.

This may or may not be related to the update, but pages with a word count of 1000-2500 words seemed to hold ground much better than those of 750 pages or less.

Action point: So increase your word content if your leading pages are weak, and follow my recommendations for including expertise, authority & trust in the content.

Each page of your website should have “appropriate references cited” (QRG section 10.1)

Action point: I would consider adding a short bio of the author of the content to the bottom of the page. Write down the official title of the person writing the content, their education and any other places on the web where they have published expert content.

If not created by an authority figure, then be sure to link to an official biographical account of the data or doctor source in your material to prove that the content on your site is backed up by hard evidence from experts.

A low rating will be given if the website has a mildly negative reputation. (QRG Section 6.5)

So consider low ratings on review sites (GCR, Google, Facebook, Yelp, other medical & business sites to be evidence for a negative reputation – QRG section 2.6.4)

All local accreditations (for example your clinic license number) and international accreditations such as GCR, JCI, TEMOS, CANADA etc should be specified not only with an image, but also with text.

If there is an active community (user-generated content) built around the hospital or clinic, for example, active website comments or a patient discussion forum this can certainly improve the overall engagement and trust ranking as well.

So if you don’t have this content – start implementing a strategy to have your patients build it for you.

Early reports by Marie Haynes and Search Engine Land suggest the Medic update focused primarily on refining website authority assessments within the E-A-T framework. This highlights Google’s ongoing commitment to delivering reliable and trustworthy information to its users.

The Data

If you’ve got your basic SEO factors right (great content that people like, content that is regularly updated and linked to by authoritative, but not spammy sites) often the best thing to do with Google algorithm updates is to wait for ranking corrections (which in my experience, unfortunately take up to months sometimes).

So don’t worry about design or code for now – work on these other advice factors first.

  • Selling potentially unsafe products
  • Reputation issues or lack of positive differentiation from competitors
  • No established expertise in the niche
  • Abundant negative reviews

However, as Float cautions, these guidelines are meant for human evaluation. Google’s algorithms may not yet reliably discern genuine E-A-T compliance from attempts to game the system.

Content remains crucial, but a strong backlink profile can still prop up a website with E-A-T deficiencies, as evidenced by a UK site ranking for “Casino” despite concerns.

While the site lacked in-depth content, it benefited from a strong backlink profile, contributing to its jump from #15 to #4 in the update.

Here’s what to do to improve your site for E-A-T:

Build trust and authority for your website:

  1. Prioritize product safety: Ensure your offerings are demonstrably safe and reliable. Address any safety concerns upfront.
  2. Boost transparency: Make contact and customer service information easily accessible on dedicated pages like “About Us,” “Contact,” or “Help.” Highlight these in your navigation menu.
  3. Fight reputation battles: If competitors have a better reputation, focus on acquiring positive reviews through exceptional service and proactive engagement.
  4. Signal expertise: Build backlinks from reputable sites in your niche to increase your website’s authority in search engine eyes.
  5. Manage negative reviews: Respond professionally, address concerns transparently, and encourage positive reviews to counterbalance negativity.
  6. Keep content fresh: Regularly update pages with new information and relevant edits. Outdated content hurts your SEO.
  7. Leverage expert voices: When your knowledge isn’t enough, collaborate with experts to create high-quality content.
  8. Showcase author credentials: Include author bios on each relevant page, linking to a dedicated bio page and external profiles that establish their expertise.
  9. Embrace disclaimers: Clearly disclose any potential limitations or disclaimers relevant to your content.

2. Optimize & Improve Important Consumer Pages

Google holds certain web pages to a strict “Your Money or Your Life” (YMYL) standard. 

These pages, as Google defines them, deal with topics that can significantly impact users’ well-being, covering areas like health, finances, safety, and even happiness.

Essentially, these YMYL pages require the highest level of accuracy, credibility, and expertise to ensure users make informed decisions with potentially significant consequences.

The Data

The E-A-T update, while heavily impacting YMYL sites, also cast a wider net, affecting numerous non-YMYL pages.

This highlights the importance of E-A-T as a ranking factor across all content. While health sites comprised the majority of non-YMYL cases submitted to us, other niches were impacted as well.

Diving deeper than YMYL, Barry Schwartz’s analysis of 300 websites uncovered a broader impact across diverse categories.

Glenn Gabe’s analysis of 210 impacted sites similarly found a variety of non-YMYL categories impacted such as lyrics sites, e-commerce sites, gaming sites, and more.

Of course, the same steps to optimize for E-A-T apply to YMYL pages, but with some additional steps.

Here’s what to do for your YMYL pages:

Prioritize expert content for sensitive topics. Google prioritizes content written by qualified experts for topics impacting users’ well-being, finances, or happiness.

This includes medical information, financial advice, legal guidance, and even high-quality hobby pages. Embedding expert voices in your content shows Google you’re serious about E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) and YMYL (Your Money Your Life) standards, safeguarding your site from potential algorithm updates.

Follow YMYL guidelines for key page types:

  • Security first: Ensure secure shopping and financial transaction pages.
  • Expert financial advice: Back financial info (investments, taxes) with expert insights and relevant disclaimers.
  • Reliable medical information: Provide expert-written, research-supported, and regularly updated content for specific diseases, conditions, and mental health.
  • Accurate legal details: For pages on child support, divorce, wills, or citizenship, prioritize expert authorship with clear legal references and disclaimers.
  • Sensitivity matters: For topics like parenting advice where low E-A-T can be harmful, seek expert contributions and highlight their credentials.

3. Additional Factors to Improve for the Medic Update

While E-A-T and YMYL guidelines pave the path to Google’s favor, their effectiveness hinges on numerous sub-factors.

Google’s true north remains a stellar user experience, and unsurprisingly, ranking factors often mirror this focus. To ensure your site shines, consider these additional areas for optimization:

Content Length: The Data

CanIRank’s analysis of 100 sites impacted by the Medic update revealed a significant relationship between content length and ranking performance. Pages with content lengths closer to the average of top-ranking pages for similar topics tended to perform better.

Content Length: What to Do

Mirror the search, master the answer. When top-ranking content offers a quick bite, like “next eclipse date,” keep your response concise. But if depth reigns supreme, go deep with your insights. Essentially, dance with searcher intent, matching the “what” and “how much” they crave.

Content Quality:

While content quality can be subjective, it’s a crucial factor in overall site quality and user experience (UX). As Charles Floate noted, “small” or low-quality content pieces can significantly impact a site’s performance. A prime example is FabAtHome.org, which sadly tanked due to its consistently poor content.

Reinforcing CanIRank’s observation, content that rose in the rankings often shared the common traits of high-quality material.

Content Quality: What to Do

Craft high-quality content that engages and informs. Integrate captivating visuals like images, videos, and illustrations to break up text and enhance understanding.

Structure your content for easy navigation: use tables of contents, headers, bullet points, and pull quotes to guide readers and improve scannability.

Boost credibility and authority: cite relevant, high-quality sources with dofollow outbound links, and build trust by linking to an author bio or utilizing author markup.

About Page: The Data

Sites lacking an about page or having a low-quality about page were found to be negatively impacted by Charles Floate and Dale Davies, while sites with a high quality about page were found to gain by CanIRank:

About Page: What to Do

Strengthen your E-A-T with a compelling page that delivers value. Fill it with insightful content or link to valuable resources that showcase your credentials, authority, history, and expertise. This comprehensive approach will elevate your page’s quality and build trust with your audience.

Mobile Experience: The Data

Mobile-first design isn’t just a perk for users; it’s a golden ticket to SEO success. Studies have shown that well-optimized mobile sites consistently climb search engine rankings, thanks to their focus on user experience and accessibility. In today’s mobile-driven world, prioritizing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional – it’s the key to unlocking wider reach and higher visibility.

Mobile Experience: What to Do

Ensure your site sails through Google’s mobile-friendliness test. Prioritize a user-centric design, focusing on clear readability, optimal contrast, and touch-friendly elements for any device.

Ad Experience: The Data

Websites with deceptive ads camouflaged as content, ad overload, and intrusive autoplay video ads saw significant ranking drops. This underscores Google’s commitment to prioritizing user experience. Sites offering a clear distinction between ads and content, employing balanced ad placement, and respecting user control over video ads fared better in search results.

Conversely, websites that prioritized user experience by minimizing disruptive ad placements and clearly labeling sponsored content reaped positive results.

Here is another site that was advised by Glenn Gabe to cut down heavily on its ads prior to the update, and gained once the update hit:

Ad Experience: What to Do

Prioritize user experience by ensuring clear differentiation between ads and your valuable website content. Avoid diluting your message with excessive ad space. Focus on attracting more engaged visitors to strategically placed ads, rather than saturating the page with distractions.

Design: The Data

Website design isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a foundation for user experience, impacting factors like accessibility, bounce rate, engagement, and even brand metrics.

A well-designed site radiates care, often leading to investments in quality content, SEO, and outreach efforts, further boosting its ranking potential. As CanIrank notes, some sites that surged in popularity boasted “exceptionally usable, sleek, and modern interfaces.”

Google analyzes web pages using sophisticated tools that assess various aspects like layout, mobile-friendliness, and ad placement. This helps identify potential issues like intrusive ads, poor responsiveness on different screens, or hidden content, ensuring a smooth user experience for everyone.

Design: What to Do

Craft a seamless experience for your visitors. Design your site with clarity and ease in mind, allowing them to glean key information quickly and efficiently. Prioritize ample white space for visual breathing room.

Utilize structured data like headlines, lists, and tables for scannable content. Integrate engaging visuals like images, videos, and color blocks to break up text and enhance comprehension. Opt for an eye-pleasing color palette to minimize strain. Ensure all interactive elements, like buttons, are readily clickable for effortless navigation.

4. Technical SEO Factors Affected by the Medic Update

Google’s Medic update sent shockwaves through the search landscape, with websites experiencing significant ranking shifts based on their technical SEO quality.

Sites boasting strong on-page and off-page SEO practices generally saw a boost, while those lagging behind in these areas witnessed a decline.

Keyword Use: The Data

To pinpoint the technical SEO factors that pack the biggest punch, Barry Schwartz leveraged Cora, a powerful data tool, to compare and contrast different websites.

Schwartz’s Cora-powered analysis, summarized below, sheds light on the most impactful technical SEO elements.

Keyword distribution appeared to be a key factor. Sites with negative impacts lacked sufficient keyword presence throughout their content and HTML, while those that gained visibility displayed a higher density of relevant keywords in these areas.

Keyword Use: What to Do

Unearth high-value keywords and strategically weave them into your content, title tags, and meta descriptions. This targeted approach strengthens your on-page SEO, ensuring your site shines for the right searches.

Inbound Link Trust: The Data

Studies by both Schwartz and CanIRank underscore the critical role of backlinks in website health and ranking, particularly during algorithm updates.

Schwartz’s analysis revealed a clear pattern: websites with strong backlink profiles, characterized by links from relevant and authoritative domains, tended to experience positive ranking shifts.

Conversely, websites lacking a robust backlink profile often faced declines. This finding aligns with CanIRank’s observations in the health niche, where websites that gained traction during algorithm updates had secured a significant number of links from high-trust, mainstream websites.

These insights highlight the importance of prioritizing high-quality backlinks as a key SEO strategy for long-term ranking success.

Websites within tightly-knit networks, characterized by abundant internal links but lacking backlinks from established, high-authority sites, were more prone to ranking declines.

Inbound Link Trust: What to Do

Boost your backlink profile with a multi-pronged approach:

  1. Content marketing: Craft evergreen, high-quality content that naturally attracts links from relevant and authoritative websites. Think industry research, in-depth guides, and valuable insights.
  2. Strategic link building: Expand your reach through targeted outreach and partnerships with complementary brands in your niche. Focus on building genuine relationships and offering value through guest blogging, co-marketing efforts, and resource collaborations.
  3. Brand building: Solidify your brand identity and expertise through consistent brand storytelling across all channels. This fosters trust and encourages organic link acquisition from loyal followers and advocates.
  4. Social media integration: Leverage social profiles as valuable link hubs and distribution channels for your content. Engage with your audience, participate in relevant communities, and encourage social shares to increase link visibility and trust.

Site Speed: The Data

While its impact on ranking might be subtler, site speed remains a crucial technical factor. A fast website translates to a smooth user experience, and Google has acknowledged its importance in the past.

Site Speed: What to Do

Give your website a speed boost and watch your audience soar! Sluggish pages are visitor kryptonite, so let’s turbocharge your site and keep them engaged. Here’s how:

  • Upgrade your hosting: Ditch the sluggish server shackles and find a lightning-fast hosting provider. Your site will thank you (and so will your visitors).
  • Image optimization: Photos are beautiful, but bulky. Compress them before they hit your site, and watch those load times shrink like magic.
  • Mobile-first magic: Embrace the mobile revolution with a theme that shines on any screen. Your users will love the seamless experience, and Google will reward you with SEO love.
  • Code that cleans up: Trim the fat from your backend code. Every unnecessary character is a drag on your site’s speed. Streamline it and feel the performance purr.
  • CDN superpowers: Tap into the global network of Content Delivery Networks. They’ll serve your site up like a flash, no matter where your visitors are zooming in from.

How Can You Optimize Your Content to Avoid Being Hit by Future Google Updates?

Focus beyond just “better content” when interpreting Google updates. While over 200 factors influence rankings, a core update like “Medic” fundamentally aims to elevate overall search quality.

This points to content as a key lever for improvement, aligning with Google’s long standing emphasis on EAT (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).Remember that “better” can encompass various aspects, like tighter query-intent match, optimal content length, and relevant keyword inclusion.

Panda in 2011 exemplifies this focus on quality, urging sites to clean up low-quality or duplicate content. Ultimately, Google values content that meets their guidelines and truly benefits users.

This article goes beyond the simplistic “better vs. less bad” approach to offer actionable takeaways for aligning your content with Google’s evolving landscape.

Final Thoughts

The Google “Medic” Update has created a lot of confusion for leaders in the SEO community. When we examine impacted sites like draxe.com and healthambition.com, we identify many of the same technical and quality problems that we solved for our client. We believe this to be another broad algorithm update that can be “solved” by revamping the site to meet new quality guidelines.

  • Produce great content that is relevant to your demographic.
  • Create an audience persona, create a list of topics, and create various types of content to improve your authority and value to your readers and customers.
  • Then combine this prep work with a keyword strategy and optimize each post for SEO.

Do this, and your trust, engagement, and domain authority will improve. The better your site’s content and engagement, the better it will rank with this new “Medic update”.

Christopher Smith
Author: Christopher Smith

SEO and linkbuilding expert. More than 7 years of work in the field of website search engine optimization, specialist in backlink promotion. Head of linkbuilding products at GREAT Guest Posts, a global linkbuilding platform. He regularly participates in SEO conferences and also hosts webinars dedicated to website optimization, working with various marketing tools, strategies and trends of backlink promotion.

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