Here at Grow With Studio, we work with a lot of health and medical supplement clients who have ecommerce websites. Lately, we’ve noticed a rising trend in those clients – whether current or previous – reaching out about a long-term decline in their organic traffic over the last year or so. 

If you’re selling products in the health & medical industry, you might be noticing a similar drop in organic traffic. Here’s a guide to Google’s “Medic” algorithm update and other changes, how to diagnose if you were affected by it and what to do about it.

What Is the “Medic” Update?

The first change to Google’s stance on health and medical related sites came in the form of Google’s “Medic” update was a search algorithm update that Google quietly rolled out in August of 2018.

I say “quietly” because they did not publicly announce the change until folks started talking about it on forums and Twitter. Once Google finally announced the algorithm update, the company didn’t really say much:

From the Tweet, Google made it sound like there was nothing out of the ordinary going on and that was an everyday thing, but webmasters, marketers and SEO experts throughout the industry were seeing a huge fluctuation in rankings over timelines as short as 24 hours.

Google is notorious for not giving out information in regard to what it is and isn’t changing with its search algorithm updates.

Luckily the folks at Search Engine Roundtable took the initiative to poll their massive audience of SEOs to gauge exactly what sites were impacted.

Here are some other helpful articles to help you understand the impact of Google’s Medic Updates:

How Do I Know If My Site Has Been Hit by a “Medic” Update?

The signs of a direct impact because of a “Medic” related update will be easy to see:

  • Significant drop in traffic in August/September 2018
  • Significant drop in traffic in or around June 2019

Those two timeframes are when Google pushed algorithm updates that directly targeted medic and YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) websites. In both cases, the algorithm updates looked at content and how reputative your practices seemed to be.

The August 2018 update focused on sites making false or unverifiable claims about health products and devalued their authority if they found content that went against Google’s Content Quality Guidelines. The followup algorithm update in June 2019 was a broader algorithm update that took into account content quality, expertise, authority and trustworthiness. 

Other things that might have impacted your rankings would be:

  • Influx of negative reviews regarding your products, practice or personnel
  • Updates to product descriptions showcasing effects and product info

How to Fix Your Site for Google’s Quality Standards – “Medic” and YMYL Sites

Once you’ve determined that you’re a victim of the Medic or related update, there are several things you can do to help turn your site around and get it back in line with Google content quality standards.

Remove Any Unverifiable Health Claims Related to Your Products

The biggest culprit we’ve seen in regard to health and medical-related sites was unverified claims of health benefits from products. Essentially, if you run a health supplement site and you make claims that it helps you lose weight or cures illness without empirical, scientifically-backed proof, Google sees that as a violation of its content quality standards. 

Here’s the process:

  • Visit your product pages
  • If you have medical claims that you can’t back up with physician or scientific research, remove it
  • If you have studies that corroborate your medical claims, add that to the product page in question
  • Submit your updated product page to Google for reindexing

Showcase Medical Expertise (If You Have It)

In some cases, victims of Medic simply did a poor job of showcasing their medical expertise on their site and left Google in the dark. If you are a medical expert and have credentials, those need to be showcased throughout your site – on your homepage, your about page, in the footer.

For specific claims, these are best backed up by a medical expert or study from a reputable source. By mentioning the study right in your content and linking out to the relevant studies or experts in your content, you’ll be telling Google that your claims are backed by some level of expertise and improve your authority on the subject.

Again, once you’ve made updates to the page, submit them to Google for re-indexing.

Hire a Subject Matter Expert

Let’s say you don’t have scientific studies or are a medical professional yourself – you still need to demonstrate some level of expertise on your site. 

If this is the case for you, your best bet is to hire a verifiable subject matter expert, professional or authority to help legitimize your site and improve your authority. 

Here are some examples of how you can do that:

  • Hire an industry expert to write blogs and articles for your site
  • Work with a medical professional to review and/or endorse your health claims
  • Get your products certified, studied or reviewed by health experts and include those on your site

Improve Your Reputation Online 

In cases that your business or online persona has come under less-than-flattering scrutiny, you need to work on improving your reputation online. Online reputation management can fall under any of the below categories:

  • Building positive reviews for you or your business to overcome negative ones
  • Get any licensing or credential issues related to your medical field remedied and in good standing
  • For unsatisfied customers, be open and communicative about poor reviews and/or feedback and work on finding a way to remedy the situation

What to Expect with a “Medic” Update Recovery

No matter what your recovery method is, you should expect a long-term recovery. In the example above, our changes – once indexed – kickstarted a resurgence in traffic but even after a couple months, progress was still slow going. 

As with any algorithm update, it takes time for Google to reindex changes to your site, reevaluate your site’s authority and change how it ranks your site. In some cases, you may not even get back to your previous performance.

From previous recoveries we’ve handled for sites affected by “Medic,” we’ve seen changes take place about 2 – 3 months after changes were made.

Get Help with Google Algorithm Recovery

Are you struggling with Google Algorithm penalties or loss in traffic? Get in touch with the Studio team and speak to an SEO expert to map out a strategy for recovery.