SEO for health care in the age of SGE and AI

Christa Toole, Reach Media

SEO for health care in the age of SGE and AI

By Christa Toole, Reach Media

AI has revolutionized content creation and AI has impacted search engine algorithms as well as search results. AI has made it very easy for massive amounts of content to be generated at a rapid rate. This content can then be used to garner rankings in search engines across topics including health care. Google has responded to this flood of AI-generated content saying it has and is cracking down and delisting AI generated content. Google announced on March 5 a core update to reduce low-quality content including AI-generated content, which resulted in a reduction of low quality content by 45 percent.

On the other hand, Google and Bing have added search generative experiences to their search results otherwise known as SGE. SGE provides AI-generated responses to many search queries which show at the top of results. As this practice ramps up and becomes more refined and prevalent, it will likely change the way users interact with search engines and the way marketers approach SEO. Google announced the rollout of AI responses called AI Overviews and AI organized results on May 14 and they are now starting to show in results including healthcare-related queries. This will impact the amount of traffic going to regular search results, but it remains to be seen by how much.

Importance of organic search

Search engines still drive 29 percent of all traffic to websites across industries. In some industries that number is even higher. Organic search traffic comes in at whopping 62 percent of total traffic in the healthcare vertical according to SEMRush. There are predictions that organic search traffic volume will drop as AI in search results ramps up, however organic traffic and organic search visibility will still be important. Gartner revised their prediction from a drop of 50 percent to 25 percent by 2026 however, showing that predictions are shifting rapidly. Nevermind search engines were already providing direct answers to queries from the internet in answer boxes, rich and featured snippets, and knowledge graph results and have been for years. It is also worth noting that some industries like health care, education, and financial services may be less effected as the search engines try to adhere to regulatory guidelines and avoid providing misinformation.

How will SGE impact search

Search Engine Land and Authoritas estimate that 87 percent of commercial search queries and 94 percent of Google SGE links are different from organic search results (from a test of 1,000 keywords). This means that SGE will impact the amount of traffic going to sites in organic search results. On the other hand, there is an opportunity to get listed in SGE if a site doesn’t have a top organic result. It will be important to consider what people may be looking for and providing content that provides an answer for those queries.

While there may be less “traffic” from search results, content and links may still be visible. For best visibility and impact, marketers will need to make sure they put forward unique content that is authoritative and accurate and that addresses key questions that their target audience may be searching. Very specific content that responds to long tail, natural language questions will be even more important. FAQs are still a good way to incorporate answers to long tail questions. Look at what the engines suggest as related questions – these could be useful to include. Properly structured content complete with Meta data and schema markup will continue to be important. These objectives aren’t very different than what SEO experts would recommend before AI. What is different is that customization and specificity will be more important than ever. Traffic may no longer be the main metric to measure impact as well. It will become more important to measure visibility in terms of rankings, impressions, and rich results to capture presence in SGE results vs. traffic alone.

SEO and content generation

How does AI impact SEO efforts? Companies and marketers can take advantage of AI to generate content, but that content will always need to be refined and enhanced by humans in order to rise above the generic responses and results already available on the internet. Search engines are looking for unique and authoritative content and SGE results will be no different. Also search engines can identify AI generated content and likely remove it or flag it as low quality. While marketers can use AI to generate content ideas, schema markup, meta tag ideas, content ideas, alt tag, conduct keyword and competitor research, and more, that content will need to be edited to be unique, accurate and SGE worthy. AI can enhance and speed up the SEO process, but SEO fundamentals including the imperative to create unique, useful and specific content will remain vital to success which will skew results to those developed and refined by humans.

Everyone is interested how AI and SGE will change how we find information and how marketers will work to maximize impact. It will be difficult to predict how and what exactly will change but the fundamental ideas behind good SEO practices hold true. Thus far no AI tools have shown that they can replace the direction and curation that human SEO marketers can provide, and I suspect that will continue for some time. SEO marketers will make use of AI as a tool to help develop SEO friendly content, conduct keyword and competitive research but not without a heavy human influence.

Christa Toole, Reach Media

Christa Toole is founder and CEO of Reach Media.