1) The Google Panda Update
The first phase of the Panda update rolled out in February 2011 and has been the talk of the online marketing world ever since. Google’s goal with Panda was to improve the relevancy of search results, by helping quality sites with relevant content rank high, while penalizing sites with low-quality, and/or duplicate content. According to Google: “We added new signals to help us make better predictions about which of two similar web pages is the original.”
The Panda update was said to have impacted 12 percent of search results and several websites with poor quality content saw website visitors fall 60% or more, almost overnight. What this update really did was change search engine optimization (SEO) best practices forever. While it’s always been important, today having fresh, high quality, original content is critical.
Dentists need to beware of the cookie cutter dental website companies that use the identical website and blog content on dozens (or in some cases hundreds) of the dental websites they create.
What you need to do: Ensure that the content on your website is unique to you. If you are unsure whether your website content is unique, visit Copyscape.com and paste the URL of one of your services pages into the box at the top and click “Copyscape Search”. If other dentist’s websites show up, you’ll know that your website has duplicate content.
2) Social Media “signals” play a bigger role in Search Engine Rankings
With Google making a huge push into the Social Media arena with Google Plus (a/k/a Google+ or G+), we have confirmation of what we’ve assumed for some time: Social Media is becoming a more important factor for ranking well in Google. In addition to links from other websites to yours, Google is also looking at your social presence: Tweets, Facebook Likes, +1s, etc.
What you need to do: Establish accounts and begin participating in Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.
3) The Google Freshness Update
The online marketing world has always said “Content is King”, with this update that mantra should now be “Fresh Content is King”. The update rewards websites based on the freshness and relevance of the content. This is another modification of the formula to provide web searchers with more relevant content. In Google’s attempts to create that perfect search world, they’re holding website owner’s feet to the fire by requiring a constant flow of new, high-quality content.
In Google’s words: “This change impacts roughly 35 percent of total searches (around 6-10% of search results to a noticeable degree) and better determines the appropriate level of freshness for a given query.”
What you need to do: Establish a blog on your website and begin posting high-quality articles to it. This will keep your website fresh.
4) Google makes a big push in Local
In their never ending quest to provide relevant search results (and make money), Google has placed increasing emphasis on local search results – particularly Google Places (aka Maps). Mid-2011 Google made a major change to the way search results are displayed when they merged organic (website) rankings with Google Places listings. Prior to this change the Places listings stood on their own in the “7 Pack” at the top of the page, afterward the Places results were combined with the primary website rankings for the majority of search terms (keyword phrases).
Whereas in the past, optimizing your website had no affect on your Places listing & vice versa, today what happens on one affects the other. Therefore, it is more important than ever to ensure your Google Places listing is claimed, optimized, citations are built (your business information submitted to prominent listing directories) and that your business name, phone & address are consistent across these various listing websites.
What you need to do: Claim and complete your business listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing & Yelp. Then search for your business and see which additional directories you are listed on and ensure your name, address & phone are consistent across all.
5) Online Reputation Management
2011 was the year of the empowered consumer (examples: the occupy movements across the country, the Netflix backlash, etc.) and dentistry wasn’t exempt. With the proliferation of online review websites, prospective patients are able to read dozens and in some cases hundreds of reviews for the typical dentist. There are currently over 17 million reviews on Yelp alone.
So, it is not surprising that online reviews can have a huge impact on new patient flow – positively or negatively. You may have heard the old saying: “a satisfied customer will tell 10 people, a dissatisfied one will tell 100” – on the web that dissatisfied patient could “tell” thousands.
Reviews from your existing patients tell your potential new patients the level of service you provide and whether you can be trusted with taking care of their pearly whites. Unfortunately, this is a two way street: a bad review can cost you new patients and even if untrue, can potentially destroy your image in the eyes of the public.
What you need to do: Do a Google search for your name and your practice name. Visit the websites that come up on the first page. If any of them have negative reviews, see if you can submit a response. Here is an article with tips on how to respond to a negative patient review. Then proactively begin collecting reviews from your satisfied patients. Additionally, try to own as much real estate on the first page of Google, Yahoo & Bing as possible for your name and your practice name.
6) Mobile Search
Smart phone ownership has more than doubled in the past two years. In 2009 only 18 percent of US mobile subscribers owned a smartphone. Currently the figure is 44 percent. Over 50% of Google Maps/Places traffic is from mobile devices. The percentage of web searches from mobile devices has grown 25% year-over-year, now accounting for 26% of total search volume. Google says 40% of its mobile searches are for local information.
And, as you know moms make a majority of the decisions regarding healthcare for their families, and they are always on the go. According to one recent study, 62% of moms access the internet from their mobile phones.
What you need to do: Visit your website from a smart phone and see if it is readable. If not, you’ll want to have a mobile version of your website built. Be sure and remove any flash as Apple products cannot read flash. Again, ensure that your listings on local directories are claimed & optimized.
Call today to learn about our mobile dental website design services.