When it comes to the ever-evolving landscape of online dental marketing, the old adage shouldread, “The more things change, the more they….well…change.” It seems as soon as marketing experts and business owners formulate an online marketing approach that is working for them, Google changes the rules; and strategies need to be revised or in some extreme cases, overhauled completely.
In the first quarter of 2012 we projected 6 key trends that we thought would affect dental marketing this year. Now that we are at the end of 2012 and gearing up for a new year, the time has come to take a look and see if our predictions were correct and what we see coming in the future.
Trend 1) – The Google Panda Update
What was the trend?: The Google Panda Update was first released in February of 2011. This update (named after its creator and Google engineer Navneet Panda), was meant to improve the relevancy of search results by helping quality sites with good content rank high in search engine results, while penalizing websites with duplicate or low-quality content.
How has it changed?: Panda has been updated 21 times since it’s release. While having fresh, high-quality, original content has always been important to Google, with the Panda Update, they have made it even clearer that if you want high rankings you need to play by their rules. In April 2012, Google released their Penguin Update, which negatively affects the search engine rankings of websites that utilize black-hat SEO techniques like keyword stuffing, cloaking and deliberate creation of duplicate content.
What you need to do now: If you have a “plug-and-play” dental website with cookie-cutter content that is on dozens of other dentist’s websites, you need to rewrite your content, or have a copywriter do it for you. If you don’t, you’ll always be at a disadvantage to dentists in your area with original content. Additionally, Google has been penalizing websites that are “over-optimized” or “overly-SEO’ed”. So no more keyword stuffing in your web page title tags, in your image tags, in blog articles, etc. (ie. having “dental implants Dallas” on a page five times).
Trend 2) – Social Media “Signals” Play a Bigger Role in Search Engine Rankings
What was the trend?: In 2012, Google threw their hat into the social media arena with Google+, confirming that social media would be a key factor in determining rankings on their search engine. Additionally, tweets, re-tweets, Facebook likes and +1s would all factor into how dynamic your social presence (and search relevancy) is online.
How has it changed?: SEO experts are still trying to figure out just how large a role social signals play in rankings and there have been multiple studies conducted to determine the exact correlation between social signals and rankings. While the results and opinions vary, the one thing that everyone agrees on is the importance of social signals continues to increase.
What you need to do now: You still need to establish accounts for Twitter, Google+ and Facebook and participate in them. An excellent strategy is to have your blog act as the hub of your social media presence. While Facebook and Twitter are great platforms, ultimately you don’t “own” your accounts on these networks. You want all roads to lead back to your blog – ideally a WordPress blog that is integrated into your practice website. To streamline the process, add plugins to your blog that automatically feed your social media accounts.
Trend 3) – The Google Freshness Update
What was the trend?: For years, online marketer’s mantra was “content is king”. Google’s freshness update modified that to, “fresh content is king”. In other words, not only is it important to have a lot of good content, it also needs to be updated frequently.
How has it changed?: In August and September 2012 there were 12 “tweaks” to this Google update, all pointed towards rewarding websites with fresh, high quality content.
What you need to do now: To stay on Google’s good side, establishing and regularly updating a blog that is connected with your website is a fairly simple way of keeping your website “fresh.” There are no future trends pointing away from this recommendation so we say…blog away!
Trend 4) – Google Makes a Big Push in Local
What was the trend? In mid-2011, Google merged organic (website) rankings with Google Places (Google Maps) listings; meaning, what happens on one can influence the other and vice versa. This 2012 trend reinforced Google’s preference for and stake in local search results.
How has it changed?: In May 2012, Google Places was completely replaced by the new Google+ Local pages, further supporting the importance of having a dynamic Google+ profile. Nearly overnight, roughly 80 million Google Place pages were converted to Google+ Local pages. Additionally, Google purchased Zagat making their reviews system a cornerstone of Google’s local offering.
What you need to do now: Claim and complete your business listing on Google+. Google search rival Bing recently announced a partnership with consumer review website, Yelp, which gives business owners (like you ) an additional venue that may be able to compete with Google. So, you’ll want to make sure you have a claimed and completed listing on Bing, Yelp, Yahoo Local and other directories.
Trend 5) – Online Reputation Management
What was the trend?: This is a big one, especially for dental practices. Positive (and negative) reviews can have a surprisingly HUGE impact on new patient flow and it is an element of dental marketing that just can’t be ignored. According to eMarketer, 80% of shoppers say that negative information they read online has changed their mind about a purchase decision and that includes whether or not to make an appointment with YOU. Patients have a plethora of options when it comes to choosing a dental professional and you can’t let something like a negative review be the deciding factor for them.
How has it changed?: Online reputation management can be summarized this way…Your best defense is a good offense. The only thing that has changed about online reputation management is that it’s becoming more important than ever. So important, that our research team at BullseyeMedia has just completed our latest e-Book, titled; “Word of Mouth: Online Reputation Management for Dental Practices.” This guide includes detailed strategies for protecting your hard-earned reputation. To get your complimentary copy, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and request it.
What you need to do now: Have you Googled yourself or your practice lately? If not, take some time to do so. If you have negative reviews that pop up on the first few search results pages, either request our e-Book for tips how to manage the situation or call us for guidance. Also, watch for next month’s issue of the Bullseye Bulletin, we are focusing that issue completely on Online Reputation Management.
Trend 6) – Mobile Search
What was the trend?: According to Pew Research Center, 45% of American adults own smart phones. That’s up from 18% in 2009. And yes they are doing much more than just playing Angry Birds; they are conducting web searches, like searching for a dentist for their family. In fact, statisticians say that mobile internet browsing is on track to surpass desktop browsing by 2014. Mobile search is not only here to stay, it’s growing exponentially.
How has it changed?: Recent analysis of our client’s dental website traffic indicates that on average, 23% of visitors are on mobile devices. Having a website that is easy to read and fast loading on mobile devices has become imperative for dental practices.
What you need to do now: If you don’t have a mobile website – create one! Check out our blog for ideas and tips, or call us and we’ll create a mobile website for you.
For more articles and information on how to stay at the forefront of the latest developments in online dental marketing, read our blog each week for the latest updates.