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Google Just Made Your Practice or Hospital Website Disappear. (Seriously.)

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

google logoThe search engine giant Google made its fortune by finding things online. Google dominates the world of Internet search in a way that "dominate" doesn't seem like a strong enough description. In reality, if Google doesn't find and list your website on the first page or two of search results, you are destined to be overlooked.

But Google just changed some of the rules of the search game. As of now, if you want your medical practice or hospital website to rank higher among those sites that "get found" via a Google search, your online presence also has to be timely. Otherwise, your website could seem to disappear, perhaps in favor of your competition.

Here's what's different and why this is important to you.

Most healthcare Internet marketers—certainly the savvy ones—recognize that a "set-and-forget" approach for websites doesn't play well at all with Google. At least a modest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) effort is necessary to produce and maintain good standings in online search results. Quickly defined, SEO are those web techniques and technical touches that attract search engine attention and push your listing higher than the next guy.

Keeping up with—and appealing to—elaborate search algorithms isn't an easy task. (Professional help is well advised for this.) And since Google is constantly introducing changes to its algorithm, a neglected website tends to be left behind and gradually slip further down the results page.

Last week, Google made a significant change that is intended to generate more timely and useful search results. The change is a biggie that they call a "freshness algorithm," and it will affect better than one-third of all searches. So if your site isn't keeping up with the way Google is looking for you—and staying "fresh" in Google's search process—there's a good chance that your medical practice or hospital website might effectively disappear.

Google has the general public in mind with this and earlier changes. They expect to deliver more relevant and meaningful results in any search.

Earlier this year, for example, another significant change in the algorithm assigned greater importance to "high-quality" sites. Google now differentiates between sites with truly useful content and "low-quality," content farm sites that talk a lot but don't actually say much.

What you need to do to keep your website fresh and timely.

Anyone who has used Google can appreciate that having 27-zillion "results" is not as valuable as having a few pages that are both recent and squarely on target. Google doesn't reveal the complexities of how it makes these judgments, but here are a few ways to bring the "fresh" concept to your own medical practice, hospital or healthcare website.

  • Have a regular program for refreshing and updating existing content.Websites that are treated as "out of sight, out of mind" quickly become stale and aging in Google's view. Even though a new visitor-seeing your page content for the first time-may regard the information as new, search engines have already "been-there-and-seen-that."
  • Routinely add new content. Search engines have always liked change in content. But this latest algorithm is hungry for-and apparently gives weight to-material that is new, timely and up-to-date. Google hints that they favor information about recent events, relevant or trending topics, frequently updated or changing information, and/or new developments.
  • Integrate your social media resources. Online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and dozens of others, are engineered with an element of immediacy. Creating, or revising, your website in a way that takes advantage of this constant refreshment process can be a plus.
  • Revisit and rethink your entire website. The ideal model for a new medical or healthcare website created today is significantly different and more advanced than what was top of the line even last year. If your site has not kept pace with Internet technology, it may be time to either reengineer or begin now to create a future-facing new site.
  • Consider outside SEO and content resources. Search Engine Optimization and regular maintenance are required continuing support for any website, new or existing. If you don't want to handle the technical side, don't have the staff resources to regularly generate fresh content, or don't have the time to stay current with continuing search engine changes, then it's best to consider working with outside resources to get the job done reliably.

What's at risk here?

Anyone tempted to think this is so much techno-talk, could be putting a lot on the line. First there is the cost of creating a medical practice or hospital website in the first place. And further, if your online marketing plan does not include regular maintenance and search engine optimization, your site is not producing new business. That's lost initial cost, lost new business and lost opportunity in business that goes to a competitor.

For more background on Google's new algorithm, see this Wall Street Journal article, and this related article on our website.

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