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5 SEO Insights to Learn From

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5 SEO Insights to Learn From

Healthline is one of the biggest health niche websites. We’re talking tens, if not hundreds of millions of clicks every month with fierce competition. It doesn’t get much more exciting in SEO than this.

Health niche big players comparison

Healthline is owned by media giant company Red Ventures, which has a whole RVO Health subdivision comprising many domains in this YMYL niche. One of them is also Medical News Today that you can see among the biggest players listed in the chart above.

All of these websites are SEO powerhouses we can learn from, but I found Healthline to be the most interesting one, especially its content and on-page aspects. Let’s take a look at five insights that stood out to me from many hours of analysis.

1. You can perfectly align with search intent using templates

It’s hardly a surprise that you’ll find patterns after publishing tens of thousands of pieces of content. In Healthline’s case, it currently has around 34K pages in its Health and Nutrition article subfolders that drive the vast majority of its traffic:

Healthline site structure
Screenshot taken from the Site structure report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Certain types of content, like food item overviews, can be templated pretty heavily, as you can see from the title tags and H2s here:

Templated content on Healthline
Screenshot taken from Page Explorer in Ahrefs’ Site Audit.

But more often than not, you’ll need some more unique points and headings to align perfectly with the search intent.

For example, here are three SERP snippets that use the same title tag template that tells you the focus of the article.

We have crackling in ear…

Crackling in ear search result

Followed by wrist pain…

Wrist pain search result

And ending with contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis search result

Causes, symptoms, and treatment are variables the vast majority of searchers will be interested in when looking up these health problems.

But crackling in ear can be something you may be able to fix easily with home remedies:

"Crackling in ear" sections

Wrist pain usually requires you to do some exercises to get better:

"Wrist pain" sections

And contact dermatitis is something you likely need to see photos of to confirm if you landed on the right health problem:

"Contact dermatitis" sections

All of these articles have huge structural overlaps but are still unique in one way or another, which makes them great for answering all sorts of questions a searcher may have.

Healthline uses the title template of {health problem} followed by the most relevant combination of words like causes, symptoms, treatment, diagnosis, risks, preventions, pictures, etc., across the board.

It sounds simple. But choosing the right combination that best aligns with the search intent results in SERP titles that are better—or at least on par with the competition:

SERP for skin lesions

And this goes on and on throughout different content types. Here, we have a bunch of pages where people are likely most interested in the difference:

Example of templated title tags

While others are positioned toward picking a winner for a certain quality (better, healthier, etc.):

More diverse examples of templated title tags

2. Own more search results without cannibalization

Nailing search intent alignment is one thing. But being able to do it with multiple pieces of content that have huge target keyword overlaps is an advanced SEO and content game.

I think most people associate ranking for one keyword using multiple pieces of content with a phenomenon that hurts one or more of these pages. This is known as keyword cannibalization.

But take a look at this:

Ranking with more pages thanks to mixed search intent

As someone who’s done a bit of research about creatine in the past, I can see myself clicking on both of these results. They cover the topic from different angles that don’t result in cannibalizing each other’s organic traffic. 

Anyway, you can’t even cannibalize your own content when you already rank at the top with one of those pages. Occupying more search results simply gets you more traffic.

There are currently over 40K keywords in the U.S. where Healthline owns the top SERP position and one or more lower positions:

Healthline ranking for over 40K keywords with two or more pages

Not all of these keywords have a mixed search intent, though.

In some of these cases, Healthline likely ranks with more pieces of content that serve the same purpose just because it is a huge authority in the space. I didn’t encounter this from examining many of its SERPs. But the following data speaks for itself.

What surprised me the most is the fact that out of the 1K keywords with the highest search volume here, it manages to rank for 994 of them with two or more results in the top 10 search results:

Deeper research into Healthline's multiple rankings
Using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, I exported SERPs for the first 1K keywords with the highest search volume from the previously shown Organic keywords report. Then I extracted domains from all ranking URLs and created the pivot table above that counted how many times a given domain ranked in the top 10 for each keyword. Lastly, I used the SUBTOTAL function that could count the number of rows filtered by COUNTA of Domain of two or more.

Last but not least, another way of taking more SERP estate is to rank with both written content and videos. You guessed it. Healthline also has a thriving YouTube channel, and it manages to own multiple results in this manner as well:

Simultaneously ranking with an article and a video

3. Don’t overlook your visitors’ engagement 

Two confessions: I hate the UX of most websites with display ads, and I often refer to engagement metrics like bounce rate as vanity metrics.

Yet I find the experience of browsing through Healthline smooth, with many nudges to keep me engaged with it longer. And I’m sure its team does a great job of doing visitor engagement analysis and goal setting.

There are three aspects worth taking a closer look at because SEO and UX are closely intertwined disciplines.

Keeping ads in moderation

Display ads, pop-ups, and interstitials are usually a nightmare for many browsing experiences without an ad blocker. (Are you really a marketer if you’re using one?)

Healthline seems to have found a great balance between monetization and user experience. Especially on desktop, it doesn’t stuff ads in between paragraphs, which I highly appreciate. I don’t mind seeing the ads at the top of the content or on the side:

Ads layout on Healthline

The experience obviously gets worse on mobile, as there is no sidebar. But the ads within the content still aren’t overwhelming. It also applies to pop-ups, as I only recall getting one for an email newsletter subscription, which is totally OK from time to time.

Infinite scrolling

A lot of Healthline articles use an infinite scroll feature where you seamlessly “flow” into reading another article related to the one you landed on. The URL changes as you go along.

For example, here’s an ending of a Beetroot 101 article that flows into the health benefits of beets with an ad in between:

Infinite scrolling example

I got into reading some Healthline articles and sometimes didn’t even realize that I was already reading another piece of content. It nails down the relevance, making the reader stay on the page longer, which naturally results in more monetization opportunities.

Chances are that it’s also a positive SEO signal, but we’re getting into speculations here. No one officially confirmed signals like dwell time to be a ranking factor.

Truly related content suggestions

The key factor in keeping readers engaged with more content is the relevance of the suggestions. We already showed an example of infinite scroll, but Healthline also employs other content suggestion methods.

There’s a well-known “related reading,” or as Healthline titles it, “read this next” section. For example, these are suggestions at the end of an article with the title “Healthy Eating Is Human: Joys, Challenges, and 3 Things You Can Do”:

"Read this next" section

Looks good to me. What also looks good are its “related videos” sections to provide content in different formats, like this one in between the list of the “healthiest vegetables around”:

"Related videos" section

Being able to show video ads in there is just the cherry on the top.

4. Revive meta keywords; they can be useful

The great relevance of all the suggested articles and videos we just covered makes me wonder how Healthline manages to do that. It’s unlikely that it selects these manually at this scale.

I encountered what seems to be a multi-level system of content tagging that could play a big role in creating this content recommendation system.

Healthline uses a combination of different meta tags, like on this page about losing weight:

Example of Healthline's meta tags
Screenshot and HTML code taken from Ahrefs’ Site Audit crawl data.

Yes, the long-dead meta keywords can still be encountered. While they don’t play any role in rankings (at least not for Google), they can come in handy for tagging the topics of each piece of content to create an internal topical hierarchy. Some advanced CMSes (like the headless ones) recommend doing it for this purpose too.

The sailthru.tags is a meta tag for categorization and user interest tracking used for a personalization engine. Healthline takes catering to search intent and users’ interests very seriously.

I made an assumption that it’s also serious about engagement tracking and goal setting. Well, there are lots of custom dimensions it sends to its Google Analytics, including these content tags:

Healthline is collecting a lot of custom dimension data
Screenshot taken from the dataslayer tool added to Chrome Developer Tools.

5. Get inspiration from this E-E-A-T signaling masterclass

It will hardly surprise anyone that a successful website with 100% YMYL content excels in signaling E-E-A-T. But there are many aspects of this worth bringing up.

Most relevant authors and reviewers

It should go without saying that your authors should be qualified to cover their assigned topics, especially in YMYL niches. Healthline does a great job here.

It has a team of in-house writers and guest freelancers with various qualifications related to health and medicine. These people don’t necessarily need to be experts in a certain topic, but their backgrounds ensure that they can put together great content:

Healthline author profile

Then the experts come into play in the medical review. In this example, there’s no one more qualified for the job than an ophthalmologist:

Healthline reviewer profile

Healthline’s medical team consists of four divisions that create a huge professional network with expertise for likely any medical topic you can think of:

Healthline's medical team divisions

Awards, accomplishments, citations, and backlinks of authors and reviewers

We have all encountered a few doctors that left us wondering how they even finished med school. Having a diploma is simply just a prerequisite. Given that E-E-A-T is largely about backlinks and references, it’s likely a good idea to get people with a successful track record.

Everyone I clicked on on Healthline seems to have great professional backgrounds and credentials:

Healthline's reviewer bio example

Diving into stuff like h-index or other author-level metrics seemed like an overkill here, so I at least looked up a few authors and reviewers in Google Scholar. Almost everyone returned relevant papers and articles from the Scholar index.

Google Scholar returning results for Healthline's editorial team member

All of these things in academia are basically like backlinks in SEO. I won’t be surprised if all the data we’re showing here was interconnected on the entity level and that Google took it into consideration not only for enhancing the Knowledge Graph but also for rankings.

Speculations aside, Healthline already has all the highly authoritative backlinks that are so needed in this niche. We all expect that. But I took a look at a few personal websites from the Healthline’s editorial team and found some nice backlink profiles that signal E-E-A-T too:

Backlink profile of Healthline's writer
Screenshot taken from the Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

The takeaway is that the direct backlink profile is undoubtedly most important, but you can’t go wrong featuring great content from someone who already has a proven track record.

Meticulously describing editorial processes

Healthline has the most detailed and open documentation about its editorial processes, monetization, product selection, integrity, etc., that I’ve ever seen.

You can access all of this from its About page with a click or two.

For example, here’s an excerpt from its “product selection process” page that clearly signals the trustworthiness of its recommendations:

Excerpt from Healthline's product selection process page

Adding a list of sources and references

Listing your sources is a great way to show the reader that the content is based on trustworthy information. Healthline includes those at the end of articles:

Healthline article's list of sources

Keeping the history of edits and reviews

Health is one of those niches where almost no content can be considered evergreen. New research can sometimes even flip existing findings and best practices around.

Next to the Sources tab, Healthline also shows the History tab where we can see who has done what with the content and when:

Healthline's History section

Anthony Machi from Healthline’s SEO team said that they already had a 50:50 split for publishing new and updating old content back in 2022.

I can imagine that they already spend more time on the updates now. The number of new pieces published is significantly down recently when looking at the past five years:

Healthline's publishing rate
Screenshot taken from Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.

Final thoughts

Even though I spent many hours analyzing Healthline’s website from all sorts of angles, I’m sure there are many interesting SEO insights I still haven’t uncovered.

It’s a website anyone can take inspiration from to improve their own SEO and content game regardless of the niche they’re in.

Got any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.



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Google’s AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

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Google's AI Overviews Shake Up Ecommerce Search Visibility

An analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries by Bartosz Góralewicz, founder of Onely, reveals the impact of Google’s AI overviews on search visibility for online retailers.

The study found that 16% of eCommerce queries now return an AI overview in search results, accounting for 13% of total search volume in this sector.

Notably, 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.

“Ranking #1-3 gives you only an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews,” Góralewicz stated.

Shift Toward “Accelerated” Product Experiences

International SEO consultant Aleyda Solis analyzed the disconnect between traditional organic ranking and inclusion in AI overviews.

According to Solis, for product-related queries, Google is prioritizing an “accelerated” approach over summarizing currently ranking pages.

She commented Góralewicz’ findings, stating:

“… rather than providing high level summaries of what’s already ranked organically below, what Google does with e-commerce is “accelerate” the experience by already showcasing what the user would get next.”

Solis explains that for queries where Google previously ranked category pages, reviews, and buying guides, it’s now bypassing this level of results with AI overviews.

Assessing AI Overview Traffic Impact

To help retailers evaluate their exposure, Solis has shared a spreadsheet that analyzes the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.

As Góralewicz notes, this could be an initial rollout, speculating that “Google will expand AI overviews for high-cost queries when enabling ads” based on data showing they are currently excluded for high cost-per-click keywords.

An in-depth report across ecommerce and publishing is expected soon from Góralewicz and Onely, with additional insights into this search trend.

Why SEJ Cares

AI overviews represent a shift in how search visibility is achieved for ecommerce websites.

With most overviews currently pulling product data from non-ranking sources, the traditional connection between organic rankings and search traffic is being disrupted.

Retailers may need to adapt their SEO strategies for this new search environment.

How This Can Benefit You

While unsettling for established brands, AI overviews create new opportunities for retailers to gain visibility without competing for the most commercially valuable keywords.

Ecommerce sites can potentially circumvent traditional ranking barriers by optimizing product data and detail pages for Google’s “accelerated” product displays.

The detailed assessment framework provided by Solis enables merchants to audit their exposure and prioritize optimization needs accordingly.


FAQ

What are the key findings from the analysis of AI overviews & ecommerce queries?

Góralewicz’s analysis of 25,000 ecommerce queries found:

  • 16% of ecommerce queries now return an AI overview in the search results.
  • 80% of the sources listed in these AI overviews do not rank organically for the original query.
  • Ranking positions #1-3 only provides an 8% chance of being a source in AI overviews.

These insights reveal significant shifts in how ecommerce sites need to approach search visibility.

Why are AI overviews pulling product data from non-ranking sources, and what does this mean for retailers?

Google’s AI overviews prioritize “accelerated” experiences over summarizing currently ranked pages for product-related queries.

This shift focuses on showcasing directly what users seek instead of traditional organic results.

For retailers, this means:

  • A need to optimize product pages beyond traditional SEO practices, catering to the data requirements of AI overviews.
  • Opportunities to gain visibility without necessarily holding top organic rankings.
  • Potential to bypass traditional ranking barriers by focusing on enhanced product data integration.

Retailers must adapt quickly to remain competitive in this evolving search environment.

What practical steps can retailers take to evaluate and improve their search visibility in light of AI overview disruptions?

Retailers can take several practical steps to evaluate and improve their search visibility:

  • Utilize the spreadsheet provided by Aleyda Solis to assess the potential traffic impact of AI overviews.
  • Optimize product and detail pages to align with the data and presentation style preferred by AI overviews.
  • Continuously monitor changes and updates to AI overviews, adapting strategies based on new data and trends.

These steps can help retailers navigate the impact of AI overviews and maintain or improve their search visibility.


Featured Image: Marco Lazzarini/Shutterstock



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Google’s AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

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Google's AI Overviews Go Viral, Draw Mainstream Media Scrutiny

Google’s rollout of AI-generated overviews in US search results is taking a disastrous turn, with mainstream media outlets like The New York Times, BBC, and CNBC reporting on numerous inaccuracies and bizarre responses.

On social media, users are sharing endless examples of the feature’s nonsensical and sometimes dangerous output.

From recommending non-toxic glue on pizza to suggesting that eating rocks provides nutritional benefits, the blunders would be amusing if they weren’t so alarming.

Mainstream Media Coverage

As reported by The New York Times, Google’s AI overviews struggle with basic facts, claiming that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president of the United States and stating that Andrew Jackson graduated from college in 2005.

These errors undermine trust in Google’s search engine, which more than two billion people rely on for authoritative information worldwide.

Manual Removal & System Refinements

As reported by The Verge, Google is now scrambling to remove the bizarre AI-generated responses and improve its systems manually.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company is taking “swift action” to remove problematic responses and using the examples to refine its AI overview feature.

Google’s Rush To AI Integration

The flawed rollout of AI overviews isn’t an isolated incident for Google.

As CNBC notes in its report, Google made several missteps in a rush to integrate AI into its products.

In February, Google was forced to pause its Gemini chatbot after it generated inaccurate images of historical figures and refused to depict white people in most instances.

Before that, the company’s Bard chatbot faced ridicule for sharing incorrect information about outer space, leading to a $100 billion drop in Google’s market value.

Despite these setbacks, industry experts cited by The New York Times suggest that Google has little choice but to continue advancing AI integration to remain competitive.

However, the challenges of taming large language models, which ingest false information and satirical posts, are now more apparent.

The Debate Over AI In Search

The controversy surrounding AI overviews adds fuel to the debate over the risks and limitations of AI.

While the technology holds potential, these missteps remind everyone that more testing is needed before unleashing it on the public.

The BBC notes that Google’s rivals face similar backlash over their attempts to cram more AI tools into their consumer-facing products.

The UK’s data watchdog is investigating Microsoft after it announced a feature that would take continuous screenshots of users’ online activity.

At the same time, actress Scarlett Johansson criticized OpenAI for using a voice likened to her own without permission.

What This Means For Websites & SEO Professionals

Mainstream media coverage of Google’s erroneous AI overviews brings the issue of declining search quality to public attention.

As the company works to address inaccuracies, the incident serves as a cautionary tale for the entire industry.

Important takeaway: Prioritize responsible use of AI technology to ensure the benefits outweigh its risks.



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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

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New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

A keynote at Google’s Marketing Live event showed a new AI-powered visual search results that feature advertisements that engage users within the context of an AI-Assisted search, blurring the line between AI-generated search results and advertisements.

Google Lens is a truly helpful app but it becomes unconventional where it blurs the line between an assistant helping users and being led to a shopping cart. This new way of engaging potential customers with AI is so far out there that the presenter doesn’t even call it advertising, he doesn’t even use the word.

Visual Search Traffic Opportunity?

Google’s Group Product Manager Sylvanus Bent, begins the presentation with an overview of the next version of Google Lens visual search that will be useful for surfacing information and for help finding where to buy them.

Sylvanus explained how it will be an opportunity for websites to receive traffic from this new way to search.

“…whether you’re snapping a photo with lens or circling to search something on your social feed, visual search unlocks new ways to explore whatever catches your eye, and we recently announced a newly redesigned results page for Visual search.

Soon, instead of just visual matches, you’ll see a wide range of results, from images to video, web links, and facts about the knowledge graph. It gets people the helpful information they need and creates new opportunities for sites to be discovered.”

It’s hard to say whether or not this will bring search traffic to websites and what the quality of that traffic will be. Will they stick around to read an article? Will they engage with a product review?

Visual Search Results

Sylvanus shares a hypothetical example of someone at an airport baggage claim who falls in like with someone else’s bag. He explains that all the person needs to do is snap a photo of the luggage bag and Google Lens will take them directly to shopping options.

He explains:

“No words, no problem. Just open Lens, take a quick picture and immediately you’ll see options to purchase.

And for the first time, shopping ads will appear at the very top of the results on linked searches, where a business can offer what a consumer is looking for.

This will help them easily purchase something that catches their eye.”

These are image-heavy shopping ads at the top of the search results and as annoying as that may be it’s nowhere near the “next level” advertising that is coming to Google’s search ads where Google presents a paid promotion within the context of an AI Assistant.

Interactive Search Shopping

Sylvanus next describes an AI-powered form advertising that happens directly within search. But he doesn’t call it advertising. He doesn’t even use the word advertising. He suggests this new form of AI search experience is more than offer, saying that, “it’s an experience.”

He’s right to not use the word advertisement because what he describes goes far beyond advertising and blurs the boundaries between search and advertising within the context of AI-powered suggestions, paid suggestions.

Sylvanus explains how this new form of shopping experience works:

“And next, imagine a world where every search ad is more than an offer. It’s an experience. It’s a new way for you to engage more directly with your customers. And we’re exploring search ads with AI powered recommendations across different verticals. So I want to show you an example that’s going live soon and you’ll see even more when we get to shopping.”

He uses the example of someone who needs to store their furniture for a few months and who turns to Google to find short term storage. What he describes is a query for local short term storage that turns into a “dynamic ad experience” that leads the searcher into throwing packing supplies into their shopping cart.

He narrated how it works:

“You search for short term storage and you see an ad for extra space storage. Now you can click into a new dynamic ad experience.

You can select and upload photos of the different rooms in your house, showing how much furniture you have, and then extra space storage with help from Google, AI generates a description of all your belongings for you to verify. You get a recommendation for the right size and type of storage unit and even how much packing supplies you need to get the job done. Then you just go to the website to complete the transaction.

And this is taking the definition of a helpful ad to the next level. It does everything but physically pick up your stuff and move it, and that is cool.”

Step 1: Search For Short Term Storage

1716722762 15 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows an advertisement that when clicked takes the user to what looks like an AI-assisted search but is really an interactive advertisement.

Step 2: Upload Photos For “AI Assistance”

1716722762 242 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above image is a screenshot of an advertisement that is presented in the context of AI-assisted search.  Masking an advertisement within a different context is the same principal behind an advertorial where an advertisement is hidden in the form of an article. The phrases “Let AI do the heavy lifting” and “AI-powered recommendations” create the context of AI-search that masks the true context of an advertisement.

Step 3: Images Chosen For Uploading

1716722762 187 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows how a user uploads an image to the AI-powered advertisement within the context of an AI-powered search app.

The Word “App” Masks That This Is An Ad

Screenshot of interactive advertisement for that identifies itself as an app with the words

Above is a screenshot of how a user uploads a photo to the AI-powered interactive advertisement within the context of a visual search engine, using the word “app” to further the illusion that the user is interacting with an app and not an advertisement.

Upload Process Masks The Advertising Context

Screenshot of interactive advertisement that uses the context of an AI Assistant to mask that this is an advertisement

The phrase “Generative AI is experimental” contributes to the illusion that this is an AI-assisted search.

Step 4: Upload Confirmation

1716722762 395 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

In step 4 the “app” advertisement is for confirming that the AI correctly identified the furniture that needs to be put into storage.

Step 5: AI “Recommendations”

1716722762 588 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

The above screenshot shows “AI recommendations” that look like search results.

The Recommendations Are Ad Units

1716722762 751 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Those recommendations are actually ad units that when clicked takes the user to the “Extra Space Storage” shopping website.

Step 6: Searcher Visits Advertiser Website

1716722762 929 New Google Search Ads Resemble AI Assistant App

Blurring The Boundaries

What the Google keynote speaker describes is the integration of paid product suggestions into an AI assisted search. This kind of advertising is so far out there that the Googler doesn’t even call it advertising and rightfully so because what this does is blur the line between AI assisted search and advertising. At what point does a helpful AI search become just a platform for using AI to offer paid suggestions?

Watch The Keynote At The 32 Minute Mark

Featured Image by Shutterstock/Ljupco Smokovski

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