We’re all familiar with the situation: you’re suffering from some condition, be it the flu, body aches, or clogged sinuses. Is it an allergic reaction? Maybe a dust allergy?
Before calling your doctor, you want to look and see what it could possibly be. After all, you want to know what you’re working with, right? After a cursory search (from reputable sites like Johns Hopkins), you find out that your flu-like symptoms mean you unequivocally have a terminal illness. But that can’t be right, can it?
What Is Medical SEO?
Before you start panicking, you need to know the ins and outs of medical search engine optimization.
Medical SEO refers to search engine optimization efforts aimed at helping medical professionals, whether local doctors or multidisciplinary medical practices pull in potential clients. And they can do this in multiple ways.
For example, a doctor can use local SEO to essentially advertise to people nearby. You’ve probably seen this while searching for any service in your area: the first thing you’ll see on your results page is a local map pinpointing businesses that connect with your keywords and search terms.
Likewise, medical institutions can capitalize on medical SEO by incorporating medical phrases like ‘the best allergy treatments,’ ‘cancer symptoms,’ and ‘how to treat back pain.’ It's a sound method for increasing your SEO impact.
Medical SEO Rankings
Although it’s become a bit of a joke nowadays, searching for information on something mild and effectively receiving a notice that you have mere weeks to live is rooted in medical SEO.
It turns out that a massive leap from mild symptoms to severe illness can often happen because certain diseases have much better SEO potential than other conditions. Your search will only tell you which health conditions have the highest SEO potential. Simple as that.
That’s right. You could be getting results for a scary medical condition due to optimal search engine optimization. Chances are you’ll get results pointing towards brain cancer rather than something milder. Some medical terms simply have more of a draw, and medical companies know this. The more popular a medical term, the more eyes it will pull in.
For example, let’s look at ‘Lupus’ as a keyword.
As you can see, lupus is pretty popular. Even the keyword ‘lupus symptoms’ garners well over a quarter of a million monthly clicks.
And if you were to examine the first page regarding lupus, (currently the CDC’s page on Lupus), you’ll quickly see the list of symptoms. Notice anything? They’re pretty common symptoms for nearly every condition you could have:
- Chest pain
- Dry eyes
- Skin rash
- Joint or muscle pain
So when you search for any of these symptoms, lupus could potentially show up as one of your unofficial diagnoses.
Let’s look at something more current. Think of how many COVID-19 articles or stories you’ve seen. Content creators (as well as the rest of the world) know that this is a hot topic and tailors content around it.
'COVID-19' itself is a medical keyword with massive pull.
With nearly 4 million clicks monthly, it’ll take quite the arsenal of content creators, research, and more to break into the top ten on Google SERPs.
Clearing Things Up: YMYL Pages
Medical SEO helps doctors and medical practices gain exposure. And don’t get us wrong; we aren’t saying that medical SEO is nefarious or is trying to trick patients, far from it.
In fact, Google takes indexing sites with medical advice seriously. These are referred to as ‘Your Money Or Your Life’ pages. Aside from sounding a bit ominous, YMYL pages have the potential to greatly influence people in myriad ways. In the medical SEO sense, proffering medical advice can significantly influence peoples’ behavior.
Other examples of YMYL pages are sites giving financial advice, government sites, and news. In short, YMYL pages have the potential to have a massive positive or negative impact on someone’s life.
That being said, Google recognizes this and needs these pages to exhibit the highest quality possible. So when you’re seeing high-ranking medical sites, Google determines that they have authoritativeness, expertise, and general trustworthiness. Likely, these sites have had experts outline, write, vet, and post this medical content.
Side Note: See Your Doctor!
All this being said, it’s always crucial to contact your doctor if you have any health concerns. Don’t take a medical website’s word as gospel. While some reputable sites can dole out fantastic advice regarding symptom treatment and general knowledge, it’s always important never to substitute website tips for medical advice from your doctor.
Now that you know that medical SEO has a massive role in which conditions you’ll likely see when searching for symptoms, it’s time to take a much-needed breather. Google rewards higher volume keywords like cancer over milder conditions. But always remember to contact your doctor if you have any pressing concerns.
Just don’t take a website’s list of possible illnesses as the final word.