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A method for the design and development of medical or health care information websites to optimize search engine results page rankings on Google

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-23, 16:16 authored by Suzanne S. Dunne, Niamh M. Cummins, Ailish HanniganAilish Hannigan, Bill Shannon, COLUM DUNNECOLUM DUNNE, Walter Cullen
Background: The Internet is a widely used source of information for patients searching for medical/health care information. While many studies have assessed existing medical/health care information on the Internet, relatively few have examined methods for design and delivery of such websites, particularly those aimed at the general public. Objective: This study describes a method of evaluating material for new medical/health care websites, or for assessing those already in existence, which is correlated with higher rankings on Google's Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Methods: A website quality assessment (WQA) tool was developed using criteria related to the quality of the information to be contained in the website in addition to an assessment of the readability of the text. This was retrospectively applied to assess existing websites that provide information about generic medicines. The reproducibility of the WQA tool and its predictive validity were assessed in this study. Results: The WQA tool demonstrated very high reproducibility (intraclass correlation coefficient=0.95) between 2 independent users. A moderate to strong correlation was found between WQA scores and rankings on SERPs. Analogous correlations were seen between rankings and readability of websites as determined by Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scores. Conclusions: The use of the WQA tool developed in this study is recommended as part of the design phase of a medical or health care information provision website, along with assessment of readability of the material to be used. This may ensure that the website performs better on Google searches. The tool can also be used retrospectively to make improvements to existing websites, thus, potentially enabling better Google search result positions without incurring the costs associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals or paid promotion.



Journal of Medical Internet Research;15, (8), e183


Journal of Medical Internet Research



Other Funding information

Faculty of Education & Health Sciences, University of Limerick


©Suzanne Dunne, Niamh Maria Cummins, Ailish Hannigan, Bill Shannon, Colum Dunne, Walter Cullen. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (, 27.08.2013. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.



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