A major cosmetic procedure review brand is trimming its staff by 14% after what the CEO called an “unfavorable” Google algorithm update last year.
The Seattle-based company, RealSelf, allows consumers to search and vet cosmetic surgeons and medical professionals for potential procedures. The company recently received a $40-million-dollar influx of investment cash.
But according to RealSelf CEO, Tom Seery, Google’s now infamous “medic update” allegedly took a toll on the company’s website traffic.
“Like many companies, you grow ahead of your growth and that growth just hasn’t been showing up at the rate we thought it would,” RealSelf CEO Tom Seery told GeekWire.
Seery’s delivery of somber news in the form of layoffs is likely one of his toughest career moments.
RealSelf strives to compete in a hub market that disrupts typical channels of consumer discovery of products and services. This means that the company relies heavily on search traffic.
While Seery isn’t quoted as explicitly mentioning the Google Medic update, he strongly alludes to it when citing his ongoing discussions with Google regarding the matter.
“We understand the underlying factors quite well,” Seery said. “We are having a conversation with Google specifically because we are in the healthcare category and there are underlying issues that are unique to the subject matter.”
So What Happened?
RealSelf.com experienced a massive drop in organic traffic and ranking visibility following the August Medic update.
You can see from the below SEMrush one-year timeline that the drop occurred in early August, right in line with the Google algorithm change.
This downfall was the consequence of a 50% drop in major keyword visibility from July to September.
Why Did It Happen?
As with most Google algorithm updates, there are no exact clarifications from the source itself. In other words, Google isn’t going to tell us anything definite. Rather, they offer up their typical canned responses that encourage site owners to create (or keep creating) great content.
While it might be Google’s stock answer and it might frustrate some site owners, that answer is wholeheartedly right.
Google Medic is likely a response to specific content verticals that seem to influence important life matters. For example, financial sites give financial advice. If people take poor quality financial advice, they might lose money. People taking rogue health advice could negatively impact their well-being.
Google probably wants to reduce its liability in such matters and also encourage higher-trust content production.
The case of RealSelf, however, is a complicated beast.
The website hardly proposes any cures. It does not diagnose or prescribe. RealSelf is a bridge from consumer to medical professional, much like Uber is from consumer to driver.
But potentially, Google didn’t make such a distinction about RealSelf’s business model when it drastically lowered rankings. This is likely a point of contention between Google and Seery in his ongoing communications over the matter.
RealSelf’s board of directors, while impressively featuring Uber’s COO, Barney Harford, and Expedia’s Co-founder, Rich Barton, lacks a sense of medical authority. In other words, there don’t seem to be doctors anywhere on the bio page.
Is Google really diving that deep?
Possibly. But all the same, given that RealSelf’s business model doesn’t purport to offer advice or cures, one might think a reversal may be in order.
Google Medic – Are You Seeing A Traffic Decline? Here’s What You Can Do.
Last August, Google updated its algorithm in a way that seemed to harshly affect a large swath of health, financial, and fitness websites. Google never denied or confirmed that the update targeted specific verticals, but SEO industry audits seem to confirm the bias.
Google Medic seems to be part of an overall RankBrain philosophy that places intense scrutiny on authorship and content trust/legitimacy, with a particular emphasis on sites that create content that is influential over critical parts of people’s lives. For example, financial websites could steer a person’s investment decisions, so Google might favor content produced by recognizable, respected financial advisors.
The RealSelf layoffs serve as a real-world example of the cold reality for SEOs. Sites are being scrutinized more than ever regarding authorship. It’s important to be aware of the current RankBrain climate.
The future of search results probably resides in trust authorship. Who writes your content is going to matter more than ever, even if your site exists outside health or finance verticals.
To ensure your content marketing creation is on the right path, here’re some digestible pointers:
- Use authors who are experts in the field
- Place author bios on your site
- Include all of your contributors on the author bios page
- Prominently list academic degrees and subject expertise credentials
- Cite sources
- Don’t create lackluster content
In the end, RealSelf CEO Tom Seery was forced to deliver the most somber news of his career when he announced layoffs. But RealSelf, as a business model, is hardly going anywhere. The site is likely to overcome this current SEO adversity and thrive in the future.