Doctors and lawyers have long used review rich snippets as a tool to stand out from their competition among the search engine ranking page results. Those who did mainly benefited from the inclusion of reviews and rankings in their Google search result snippets. Rich structure snippets also helped to augment information available to both users and Google crawl, helping them understand the context of a page.
Now, these snippets have fallen out of relevance in these fields because Google now ignores the rich-snippet-producing code in results linking to sites for doctors and lawyers.
Review rich snippets were available to doctors and lawyers until September 2019, when Google’s latest update eliminated them. Considering the effects of this update, what can doctors and lawyers do to regain a competitive edge on SERPs?
A Closer Look at Google Snippets
The Original Google Snippet
Google queries produce results formatted as snippets, most of which simply feature a page title, a URL, and a description. Review rich snippets, which Google generates in response to a bit of code added to a website, also include review and rating information pulled from real customer reviews. Below, you can see a rich snippet for a personal injury lawyer’s website from before September 2019:
These review rich snippets were originally intended to provide additional information to searchers by telling them how other users had reviewed the product or service connected to that result. In the case of local businesses, these enriched results allowed searchers to contextualize results with information from others in their community who had retained a practice’s services.
What Changed for Doctors and Lawyers?
While you may still see review rich snippets appearing among the results for other searches, Google has decided to discontinue this feature for results that pull review information directly from the website they lead to.
For example, if your law practice has a client reviews section, Google will no longer populate your snippets with review or rating information from that section. This automatically disqualifies many reviews for doctors and lawyers, as many practices have websites that include a curated section highlighting positive reviews.
The intention of this change is to avoid including information among the results that could be seen as “self-serving” on the part of the practice, therefore influencing the opinion of a searcher who believes the reviews to be fully objective.
How Doctors and Lawyers Can Take Back Their Reputations
Now that doctors and lawyers no longer have the ability to leverage glowing reviews in rich snippets, they’ve had to turn to other onsite and offsite SEO tactics to boost their site ranking.
However, this pursuit became even more challenging for both doctors and lawyers when Google rolled out the Medic II update. This update reinforced the objectives of the first Medic Update, which took a significant toll on many healthcare providers’ websites.
Leverage E-A-T Content
The Medic and Medic II updates, implemented in 2018 and 2020, respectively, double-down on Google’s dedication to providing searchers with the best possible results by evaluating sites based on E-A-T criteria, meaning expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Google pays particular attention to these factors when ranking websites that sell products or provide services or information that can impact people’s happiness, health, financial stability, or safety. These types of sites fall into the category of YMYL (your money or your life).
Both law and medicine fit firmly within the purview of YMYL. As an expert in a field that significantly impacts people’s health, safety, and financial stability, with credentials that demonstrate your expertise and authority, you will receive major exposure from Google, so long as your website adheres to its standards.
Although your site’s curated reviews section can no longer help populate Google’s rich snippets, it is still E-A-T content that plays an important part in signaling to Google that your practice is trustworthy.
Other kinds of E-A-T content include blogs and articles that highlight your knowledge. If your online reputation could use some work, regularly publishing high-quality content that draws on your experience as a real expert in your industry will help boost your rankings as well.
Many who are caught off-guard by Google’s updates and changing policies are failing to take advantage of the opportunities they present—producing E-A-T content on your website gives you the opportunity to get ahead of your competition.
Focus on Local SEO Tactics
As you build up your online reputation, you’ll want to pay particular attention to tactics that will increase your visibility to local searchers who are likely to become patients and clients. Keep in mind that the criteria Google uses to rank local search differ slightly from its general criteria.
If you haven’t already, take control of your practice’s Google My Business profile. This free, local-business-focused tool allows you to see which keywords are taking searches to your website, post updates about your business, and more. If you see that a particular keyword (for example, “personal injury”) has been popular, consider producing a blog post or article featuring that keyword.
Keep in mind that there are multiple ways searches can find your practice in their results, and you’ll want to optimize for both kinds of searches:
- Branded Search Terms– Branded search terms include the name of your practice or perhaps even your own name. If you have a local commercial or an ad at a bus stop, customers may remember your or your business’s name and type it into the search engine the next time they’re in need of legal or medical help.
- Non-branded Search Terms– Non-branded search terms come into play when potential clients or patients search things like, “ENT doctor in my area,” or “Personal injury attorney near me.” These kinds of terms don’t include your or your practice’s name, but if your local SEO is effective, your website will still appear among the top results.
To foster your practice’s rankings with local searchers, remember that you’re part of a community. Build a robust and appropriate social media presence for your practice, encouraging clients to connect with you and augmenting your online presence.
Satisfied clients and patients share information with one another both online and in-person and maintaining a positive reputation in your community will lead them to recommend your practice.
Get Listed on Directories and Listicles
Listicles like “Best Lawyers in [Your City]” and “Top-Rated Doctors in [Your Town]” are important tools for boosting your practice’s online reputation. Many of these lists are compiled by local news sources, which Google tends to consider expert, authoritative, and trustworthy.
Getting your practice included in business directories, which make NAP (name, address, and phone number) information readily available for searchers looking for businesses in a certain category, can also give you a boost.
Content Removal for Negative Reviews
Just as positive reviews of your practice give you a bump in Google’s rankings, negative reviews do damage to your placement on the SERP, as well as your online reputation as a whole.
As a professional in a high-stakes field, you have likely been forced to make many difficult decisions. The circumstances that lead people to visit a lawyer or doctor are often challenging and can lead to outcomes that are understandably upsetting.
However, when your practice has done its due diligence and provided all the help it can, your online reputation should not suffer as the result of reviews related to a negative but unavoidable outcome.
Fortunately, there are services available to remove negative reviews, either via deletion or de-indexing. These professionals reach out to site owners to negotiate the removal of negative reviews. In cases where this is not possible, they can also have the negative review removed from Google’s indexing, meaning that although it still lives on the site where it was posted, it won’t turn up in search results.
Takeaways For Your Practice
As the removal of review rich snippets demonstrates, your practice’s SERP ranking is often at the mercy of Google’s changing opinion about what constitutes reliable information. For this reason, the need to be proactive and aware of these updates and changes has never been higher.
You also need to be aware of any damaging reviews or content directed at your brand, and in turn, deal with that negative content via removal or technical SEO.
Although losing review rich snippets may be a blow, remember that curating reviews on your site still creates E-A-T content for Google to crawl. Furthermore, these updates present an opportunity for doctors and lawyers to utilize their expertise and Google’s view of authority to boost their rankings and continue to expand their client bases.