Caffeine, Places, Farmer, +1, and Pandas* – Oh my!*The code names of some of the recent Google algorithm projects
(This is going to be a long one. But, I promise it will be worth it! Strap in!)
If you’ve owned a website for any amount of time, you’ve likely been “warned” about “big changes” at Google and why you MUST keep up – usually by paying someone to update your website. This is “part and parcel” for (some of) the website designer and SEO (search engine optimization) industry. And, no doubt, dentists are susceptible to being alarmed by those things they do not know (at all or very well).
How many times have you heard, “(Oh SHIT!) Google changed their algorithm and EVERYTHING is going to change in the search results! If you don’t make certain changes, your website will be crippled! Hurry!”
The sky is falling, and if you don’t pay someone to help you, your SERP (search engine results page) listings will fall off to oblivion. Nobody will find your site in their searches! Your website will be rendered invisible. Never you mind about nebulous and mysterious concepts to which you are not privy. Just stop your trembling hand long enough to write a check, and you’ll be just fine… until the NEXT change at Google… which could happen at ANY moment! Don’t cap that pen, yet!
A well-hung jury
While this may initially come across as an indictment of the web design and SEO industry, I assure you it isn’t. Although, there are certainly some players who deserve such scrutiny. My message is not to steer you away from getting professional help. Rather, with this blog article, I hope to enlighten you just a bit and allay that perpetual fear of failure. Most of us will need some professional help with our website marketing. But, I’d rather it not be based on fear-mongering and ignorance. The good news is that there ARE reputable companies with which dentists can work. (My English teacher would be proud I didn’t end my sentence a preposition with! ) There really are some good ones!
It’s still the same old Google
Google isn’t changing! Google’s goal has always been to give searchers what they are looking for. (Damn! Ended with a preposition!) Google wins only if people (searchers) keep coming back. Google wins (with advertisers) if it remains the dominant search engine. And, it’s a win-win-win when searchers are connected with the most relevant resources. So, again… Google is not changing. However, it IS true that Google is constantly IMPROVING their algorithms. They will forever tweak their systems so that the best and most relevant results are delivered to searchers. Google’s ultimate goal is to automate what can be the subjective process of divining the best information for searchers. That’s good for everyone, of course. And, that’s why using gimmicks, tricks, black hattery, ass-hattery ;), and sleight-of-html will just waste time, money, and energy.
In the title of this blog article, I referenced some of the more recent Google algorithm project code names (Caffeine, Places, Farmer, Panda). All of them are intended to refine and automate the process of getting the best and most relevant results to the top of the SERPs.
One of the biggest and most talked about changes is “Places.” But, even that’s not really new. It’s a new name for an old feature of Google. It used to be called “Local Business.” It’s been around for many years. They renamed it and emphasized it in the SERPs. In fact, they’ve merged it with the organic results. Years ago, I advised dentists to get a listing in “Local Business.” Now, it’s even more important. But, I contend it isn’t the “game changer” as ballyhooed by the SEO industry… not IF you have a website that truly meets Google’s desires. Keep reading…
Many dentists are fooled into believing that simply being at the top of the Google search results is… to borrow from Charlie Sheen… “Winning!” Accordingly, they may be seduced into paying for efforts designed to trick Google. There is an adage: “Don’t fool with Mother Google.” OK, I just made that up. But, my point is that trying to fool Google into listing your site higher in the search results will, at best, work very temporarily. Worse, it’s a waste of time and money. At worst, you may get bitch-slapped by Google and your website WILL disappear (from their listings).
Some of the players will try to sell you inbound links or offer to publish articles on your behalf. Some will even spam popular blogs with links to your site (ask me how I know). They’ll even get you phony online reviews. Others will simply ask you to write a monthly check without telling you what (if anything) they’re actually doing for you. It’s all bullshit!
Again… I’m not saying your shouldn’t hire help. Just be sure you understand EXACTLY what they are doing. Are they doing ANYTHING? And, if they are… is it GOOD for you long-term? Or could it be BAD for you (messin’ with Google-squatch)?
I just wanna be loved by you (Google).
So, what can you do? Here’s the key concept of this entire article: Your website will be LOVED by Google… IF…. it has excellent and unique content. I’ve long contended that there are three steps to website marketing success:
- Get people TO your website (mostly via search engines).
- KEEP visitors ON your website (with compelling copy and content).
- Get visitors to TAKE ACTION (usually call or email for an appointment).
All three steps are critical. If any one of those steps is missed, your effort (to gain new patients and build your practice) will fail. Remember I said that Google’s long-standing goal is to deliver the best, most relevant information to searchers. So, what people like… Google will (or wants to) like. When visitors arrive at your website, they want good information.
Just tell me what time it is!
Communicating the benefits of dentistry can be a tall order. The decision to seek dental care is often fraught with emotion. However, dentistry is a science that is typically explained with logic. Emotions and logic are rarely compatible. Appealing to emotional visitors with logic and science simply doesn’t work. Unfortunately, most dentists’ websites are little more than miniature dental encyclopedias. Dentists are the type of people, who when asked for the time, will expound on how to build a clock. And, doing that on the web will result in the visitor clicking on the “BACK” button. Nobody cares how a porcelain veneer is actually done!
Start writing… and re-writing
This is the part where folks reading this might be disappointed. If you want Google to love your website, you are going to have to pitch in! This is the real meat of this article. Pay attention! The vast majority of websites were created by dentists who write a check and delegate the entire project to whomever they hired. Dental website designers are competing with each other to get your business. Naturally, dentists are price-conscious like most consumers. Website designers have to be efficient so they can eke out a profit while keeping their dentist clients happy. That’s no easy task!
Dentists are usually fascinated with high-tech and shiny objects. Consequently, website designers use their talents to create flashy and visually enticing websites with lots of special effects. The actual CONTENT of the websites get short-shrift. The good news: You’re going to help! Don’t dismay, this isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon.
Content is king!
Because website designers have to be efficient and profitable, they can’t afford to create unique content for every site they are commissioned to make. Furthermore, I dare say most of them are not even remotely qualified to explain dental care and procedures. They aren’t dental professionals. Understandably, they resort to extracting dental information from other sources and distilling it into their own little “dental encyclopedia.” Then they recycle this content in every single website they create for their clients. Sure, they “insert your name here.” But, if you look at the content of the websites created by any one company, you’ll find them to be nearly identical. And, that’s NOT good. It’s not good for Google. It’s not good for visitors to your website. And, it’s not good for you.
You can’t delegate (entirely) the creation of the content of your website. I acknowledge that not all dentists are born writers. But, all dentists ARE experts about dentistry. And, we all have our own unique way of explaining things to patients. Yes, some of us are better than others. Some of us even delegate that to staff. Great! Enlist that same staff to help you create compelling content for your website! But, if you leave it all to your website designer, you’re going to get the same canned generic content as all the other websites. And, that’s not good for anyone.
In case you didn’t already know, there is one thing Google does NOT like. That is DUPLICATE CONTENT. If your website has content identical to other websites, it gets demoted as irrelevant. It has long been known that Google penalizes duplicate content. Yet, a vast majority of dental websites are just clones with the names changed!
Unique content will win every time. It will not only win with Google; it will win with visitors, too. Visitors are PEOPLE you hope will become your PATIENTS. If you can CONNECT with them on your website, it’s win-win. And, regurgitating a dental glossary isn’t going to make that connection. Instead, appeal to their emotions. Give them what they are really seeking: Information in plain English along with why they should choose YOU. Why should a visitor to your website choose YOU to do her smile makeover? Why should he choose YOU to relieve him of his toothache? Describing a how a root canal is done in excruciating graphic detail, complete with diagrams of files in canals is NOT what your visitor is looking for, I promise!
If you were at a cocktail party and someone asked about coming to see you for a toothache, would you whip out a root canal diagram? If you were asked about getting an implant, would you start talking about osseointegration and show an x-ray of an implant in a mandible stored on your smart phone? I surely hope not! Hopefully, you’d have a more casual conversation describing the BENEFITS of dental implants and how you’ve helped so many grateful patients. And, if there’s someone at the party who’s had a dental implant restored at your office, go get her and let HER explain how great it is. THAT’S what should be in your website! Is this starting to make sense?
By the way, the next time someone at a social event hooks his finger in his mouth and mutters, “Woo goo wook ap dis toof?” tell him you’re glad you’re not a proctologist. And, then thank him to not shake your hand afterwards.
Hell, besides your website designer essentially knowing NOTHING about dentistry, there’s a good chance he’s never even MET you! How on Earth could he possibly create unique, relevant, and compelling content for your website? How can he communicate the uniqueness of your practice? Worse, how can he do it for the multitude of dentists he’s serving? He can’t. Again, that doesn’t mean you don’t hire him. It just means you’ve got to pitch in and help! Your website designer can set up the foundation and framework. But, you’ve got to fill in the blanks. Get your staff to help, if need be. Remember this is a marathon or like eating an elephant: One step or one bite at a time. I’ve been writing and re-writing my website for about 12 years. It’s never finished.
More to come…
This article is already getting too long, and I’m anxious to get this message out. I will write more about effective copy-writing and content (such as testimonials, video, and photography) later.
Future-proof your website*(* was the alternate title for this blog article)
Finally, my goal here is to mitigate the perpetual anxiety about keeping up with Google. It’s really not that complicated. If your website is built on a good foundation, these Google tweaks will not pull the rug out from under you. In fact, if your website is on solid ground, the changes will likely enhance your results. Yes, you and your webmaster should be aware and tweak along with Google. If you focus on what Google (and web searchers) REALLY want, you shouldn’t lose sleep. Dental Warriors don’t have to resort to trickery and gimmicks to rock the website marketing world.