Ranking factors for the health industry: How health websites achieve optimal Google rankingsIndustry-specific Searchmetrics ranking factors study shows what Google and users expect from health websites.
Berlin, 15. November 2017 – Health-related websites need to create highly relevant, long-form content and respond competently and clearly to searchers' questions more than other industries if they want to be competitive online. This is according to the new Searchmetrics study, which identifies key ranking factors for the healthcare industry.
77% of those searching for health-related content begin their search on the web. Health publishers, online pharmacies, health insurers, publishers with health topics as well as doctors and clinics can best meet the needs of searchers here by providing relevant content that is longer than in other industries. Searchmetrics' ranking factors study shows that content should be well-structured with headlines and informative images.
"The challenge for anyone in this industry is to stand out from the plethora of offerings," says Daniel Furch, Director Marketing EMEA at Searchmetrics. "One of the most important tasks that should be accomplished to be successful with online content is to find a way to increase visibility in search engines."
The online health space covers a wide range of content – from fitness tips and nutrition advice to medical research studies and health insurance information.
"Google now has a better understanding of what type of information searchers are looking for on health, and therefore knows which elements within each online industry best fulfill the search query," Furch continued. "This means that an industry-specific approach to optimizing content and websites is important."
The Searchmetrics study is based on an analysis of the top 20 search results on Google.en for over 6.000 typical health-related search terms (examples include "ovulation calendar," "calorie calculator," and "sun allergy"). Searchmetrics identified the most common elements that appeared in the top-performing, health-related results and compared them to the results of its separate, broader Google ranking factors benchmark study, which analyzed the results of 10.000 general keywords with high search volume analyzed across all industries.
The four key findings from the study "Ranking Factors in Health 2017″ are:
1. Content in the health space is 15% longer than average
Sites listed in the top20 results for health-related search queries used 15% more on-page words than the benchmark average collected in the general ranking factors study. This suggests that searchers are placing more value on the information they are looking for and are willing to read longer content to answer their questions.
2. "Your Money or Your Life" requires high content relevance
Content that ranks well for health keywords tends to be more relevant to search queries than content that ranks well for more general search queries. This again underlines that searchers around health topics want to find good information that fully answers their questions.
Searchmetrics measures content relevance¹ using Big Data to compare semantic relationships between words searchers type in with text in listed pages and words associated with related topics.
In fact, the study found that content relevance in Google's top results for health-related search queries is higher than in any other industry studied – and also significantly higher than the average in the overall benchmark study. Not surprising: health topics are sensitive topics that fall into the YMYL category of pages. These "Your Money or Your Life" websites must be of high quality to be ranked accordingly by Google.
3. The focus is on texts, not images
Well-ranking health-related pages have only half as many large-format images (200 x 200 pixels or more) compared to general search results.
When it comes to online health topics that perform well, the focus is increasingly on text content. Even though health sites are anything but image-heavy at the moment, appropriate images and illustrations can be very helpful and recommended for answering user questions.
4. High ranking potential through HTTPS implementation
Only one in five (19%) pages listed in the top 10 results for health-related search queries use HTTPS encryption. By contrast, for more general search results analyzed in the benchmark study, the HTTPS usage rate is 33.
HTTPS is arguably less common among health sites, as few of them ask visitors to submit sensitive data such as credit card details. However, healthcare websites that use HTTPS can gain a competitive advantage, as Google has officially communicated to favor websites that provide a secure connection.
This study is the latest in Searchmetrics' series of industry-specific ranking factor studies that focus on individual industries. The other studies can be downloaded here.
About the data
1 Content relevance is used to indicate how relevant a web page is in relation to a search term or topic. Topic relevance is of high importance for search engine optimization. Basically, the better the text or. the content of a page matches a search query, the more likely it is to rank well. Content relevance can thus be counted among the ranking factors that Google uses to evaluate a website in its index.
The calculation of content relevance for this study is based on measurement methods that use, among other things, linguistic corpora and the conceptualization of semantic relationships between words via distances in the form of vectors. For semantic evaluation of a text, for example, the search term and the content can be evaluated separately. From this, a score can be determined for complete texts, which sets the relevance of the text in relation to the search term/topic used. The higher the relevance score, the more relevant the content of the analyzed landing page/s is for the corresponding search query. To make content relevance even more meaningful, instances of the actual keyword being searched for are filtered out of the calculation.