Google’s January Update – What Actually Happened

by | Published on Feb 7, 2019 | Google Algorithm Updates

Healthcare digital marketing services help physicians successfully reach and engage healthcare customers and enhance the patient experience. Partnering with an expert medical SEO company allows physicians to focus on their patients and minimize the stress associated with marketing their practice. In fact, physician burnout is emerging as a major concern, even a crisis, in the healthcare industry. A recent study by the Harvard Global Health Institute institutions revealed that an increasing number of physicians are experiencing a loss of satisfaction with their work, and also a sense of efficacy.


The complexity of managing electronic health records (EHRs) is one of the main factors causing physician burnout. With EHRs, physicians need to spend more time on data entry and charting in addition to seeing their patients, which is proving very stressful. Another area which requires a great deal of time and effort is marketing the healthcare practice and maintaining an online presence to ensure a flow of patients. Medical SEO, like SEO in general, is more complex than before and something physicians and surgeons can’t handle on their own.

Why SEO Is becoming More Complex


SEO has evolved to become much more than just keywords and link strategy. Now, the Google SERP (search engine results page) is filled with interactive aspects such as featured snippets, PAA (People Also Ask) questions, answer box, voice and conversational search through mobile phones and smart speakers, knowledge graphs, carousels, etc.

Optimizing for the web has also become challenging because of the constant cycle of search engine updates by Google.

Algorithmic Updates and Volatility

Google brings out hundreds of updates each year, and not all of them are announced or even acknowledged by the search engine giant. Only the broad core updates are announced. Updates are launched with the aim to improve the user experience, but webmasters have often been confused when they see volatile results. Such volatility was experienced in January 2019.

More Intelligent SERPs

The SERP has become a lot more intelligent and doesn’t just give you a set of links and their description when you type in your search phrase. It understands, sometimes inaccurately, what your intent is behind the search and gives you results accordingly. That’s the whole idea behind the answer box and the PAA. The goal is to serve you with just the kind of results that would suit that query and the reason you’ve asked it.

January Ranking Volatility

During the January spike in volatility, more and more SERP results were incorporated with the PAA feature. Google is probably acknowledging the popularity of voice search. Voice search on the mobile phone is popular, ever since 2016, while smart speakers are also extremely popular. More than 100 million Alexa devices have been sold.

More PAA Featured Snippets and Less PPC Ads


Google’s algorithm change is probably an acknowledgement of the increased popularity of voice search. This rising popularity is probably causing the shift in Google’s algorithm. In any case, Google wants its SERP results to be more intuitive.

Another result of the algorithm change was the reduction in the shopping ads. When you search for something, you normally have ads of merchandise related to that, such as t-shirts, mugs, wall posters, etc. These ads come in a row, with the Sponsored tag on the top. Google assumes you might be interested in buying something related to that. This arrangement was also something online retailers were relying on with the PPC programs. Google was earning from ads like these that got clicked. But during this update, particularly on the 9th of January, 2019, these paid ad placements were significantly lesser. Instead, there were more links to online vendors.

Better SERP Results

To sum up, this January update seems to focus on nothing more than just offering better search results. There also isn’t any particular fix for sites that have lost rankings. That’s usually the case with updates such as these. Affected sites also don’t indicate there is something wrong with them. What they need to do is improve the content of their sites and wait for them to cycle back to the top.

Google hasn’t said anything about this, so SEO experts believe it could probably mean that there aren’t any major updates with this algorithm change. But experts still recommend you to keep a watchful eye on rankings and identify if your target audience is finding you.

That’s where healthcare SEO companies can help physicians, surgeons and others who run medical institutions with advanced and customized solutions. SEO services from Long Island are up for the challenge.

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