There's a definite undercurrent of panic in the phone calls we've been getting recently about Google search results…or more often, the results that have disappeared. If you haven't checked your Google Search results ranking in the past few days, do it now.
Take a minute and do a few Google searches just as the regular public might search to find your website online. (Better than 90 percent of online traffic comes to your site via search engines, and Google is far-and-away the biggest of the bunch.) Search using your best keywords in common language vernacular of a prospective patient. (We'll wait.)
In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world, a first page ranking is premium—and often hard-earned—real estate. And if your site has recently taken a nosedive in ranking, the guilty party is Penguin. The search algorithm that is, not the cuddly wildlife.
Some hospital and healthcare marketing websites will be unchanged. But for many others, the near-panicky concern is understandable. Well-established sites that typically appear on the first page of Google results have seemingly disappeared, dropped significantly in ranking, or in some instances have been "banned" by Google. Perhaps a competitor—or a completely oddball site—now appears at the top of the results list.
One of our Healthcare Success SEO experts, Jayme Westervelt, explains, "Last month, Google instituted over 50 changes to their search algorithm, named Penguin. The purpose of these changes is to produce more accurate search results to discourage sites that are unfairly "over optimized."
If you consider the math that's involved for Google to adjudicate 34,000 searches per second, the concept of producing more meaningful and correct search results is mind-boggling. In time, Google searches will produce "more high quality sites."
In the near term, however, many small business sites have lost their established footing. Medical practices, healthcare organizations, individual and group practitioners and hospitals need to determine if—or to what extent—Penguin updates have impacted them.
Google provides a ton of information about how making your website "search engine friendly." It's good stuff, but most of it is highly technical, complicated and overwhelming. That said, Westervelt advises "Staying within the Google 'rules' is often a matter of common sense. Most website owners want to achieve a high listing without resorting to so-called 'black hat' techniques that Google considers unfair or inappropriate.
"With insightful planning and experienced technical support, a quality website will be recognized through Google's algorithm." Here are some general tips for healthcare marketing websites:
And finally, SEO is not DIY. Search Engine Optimization is a professional specialty. You can talk with us or any number of well-qualified SEO resources, but don't fail to get outside help. Changes that you make today can take time—from weeks to months—to influence your rank with Google. But, since Google searches dominate as a primary source of site visitors, optimization—done properly—will make a significant difference in business and your bottom line.
Read more: There's additional SEO information in our previous article in this series.