Despite touching pretty much every aspect of our digital life and beyond, Google and its core mission — search — is still somewhat of a mystery. And Google likes to keep it that way. Sure, they’ll put out a word here or there saying they’re updating their famed algorithm, often on Twitter. But they don’t give up much of how the world’s most popular search engine does its thing.
Sometimes these updates are named. Two of the more famous updates were named Panda in 2011 and Penguin in 2012. Hummingbird followed in 2013. Sometimes they are simply called a “broad core algorithm update.” RankBrain came in 2015, a machine learning algorithm that filters results to help give users the bests answer to their query. BERT came around Halloween of 2019 and Google said it was the biggest change to search since 2014. BERT was intended to make long-tail searches better understood.
Bottom line? Google is changing its search algorithm pretty much every day. No one knows how big this thing is anymore; it was over 2 billion lines of code in 2015.
But no matter how much things change or are updated with Google, there are some major parts of Google’s ranking criteria that are set in stone. Let’s get into them in this first blog of December. In our second blog, we’ll address what’s coming from Google in 2021.
There was a time when limited verbiage on websites was in vogue. Those were the early days of web design and of search engines. “No one reads copy” was the thinking, so just give readers a bunch of bulleted lists. Behind the scenes, the game was to try to outsmart the keyword system that governed search in those days.
That was then. Starting around 2015, Google was tiring of firms loading endless keywords, many that weren’t relevant to the actual content of the website. They didn’t like this because it made for unhappy searchers.
At that point, Google began to elevate the quality of content on the pages of every website. The algorithm was changed to elevate the value of quality content, and this has continued to evolve. Google’s webcrawlers are out there looking at every website and every page on those sites. They’re looking at all of the content, trying to understand what the pages and the overall site are about and if they will answer the user query.
For your practice, that means having a cryptic one-paragraph description of your abdominoplasty or Mohs surgery procedure doesn’t cut it with Google. You need quality, descriptive content about the procedures you want to be known for. If you extract wisdom teeth and want to be known for that, despite being a general dentist, you want content about wisdom teeth, why they need extraction, and how you do it.
Any content should be at least 300 words, and the writing should be good. This isn’t something to assign to an intern or your nephew, unless that person has a background in English and writing. Google rewards good grammar, writing that is free of typos and misspellings, and is easily understood and eminently readable.
Content is king in search optimization because content makes happy users. Period. That’s why at Advice Media we value quality content just as much as website design or our optimization techniques — without it your site can’t rank.
Links are both internal and external. When a Google bot is crawling your site, it starts on the home page. Then it hits links onto secondary pages, following those links and understanding what the site should be known for. Your link structure needs so be clear, making it easy for Google to understand your site’s structure.
External links are also known as backlinks. These can be your site linking to other sites, such as a university medical school or a seminar site where the practice owner is keynote speaker. Stuff like that.
At Advice, our website design is clear and logical. This is important to the user, of course, but also to the webcrawlers trying to make sense of your site.
How well your site is built
Site navigation and design are important in ranking. If pages load slowly, if there are dead links, if people hitting your site instantly click back to Google (meaning they couldn’t find what they wanted on your site), those types of problems all result in lower organic search rankings. This is website design 101 stuff, but you’d be amazed at how many poorly built websites are out there.
That’s the reason you shouldn’t have your son-in-law, the computer whiz, design and build your website. Computer skills don’t necessary equate to website design skills.
Mobile search is king
Everyone knows the number of mobile searches passed desktop search a couple years back. While it may not be true of medical or dental practices to the same degree, it is critical for businesses that can provide instant solutions. If you’re out and about and looking for the newest running shoe, you’ll search on your phone and the store that shows up first will probably get the sale.
Research shows search on more complicated issues such as banking and health is still the domain of desktop search. After all, a person researching breast augmentation isn’t going to do her research while sitting in the park and then walk the two blocks to the practice and have the procedure.
That said, mobile search is critical for ranking: your site has to be mobile friendly. If it isn’t, sites that are mobile friendly will outrank you because will punish your site.
When thinking of your practice site, you need to remember what Google is trying to do. Google wants to know all of the information in the world and provide access to the precise information the searcher is seeking. It’s really that simple, although executing that goal is incredibly complex. The better your site answers questions Google has that pertain to what your practice offers, the higher you will rank and the more patients you’ll garner through search.
Fortunately, Advice Media is expert at all of the above categories, so you don’t have to be. You’re an expert surgeon or dermatologist, dentist or gynecologist. We’re experts at providing clear, readable, informative content. We build cleanly designed, perfectly functioning websites that make it easy for Google to know exactly what your practice does and what it wants to be known for. And we build every site to be mobile friendly from the beginning. Then we monitor your site to be sure your content stays fresh, your links are current, and everything functions smoothly.
If you have any questions about what Google wants when it comes to ranking a website, give your Advice Media representative a call and we’ll show you what we do to make your practice website rank. If you’re not a client practice, let’s talk. Call us or fill out a contact form to get started.