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Has Google Become Goddle?

Search engines make the rules. Play their game if you want patients to find you.
By: Dana Fox, Your Strategic Edge

Let me begin this article by answering the question I just posed: “YES!” Make no doubt about it: Google and every search engine like Yahoo, MSN, and Bing are “The Gods of the Internet”—in charge of which and how many web searchers find your website. The pill that is tough to swallow is that Google only cares about making those searchers happy—those they consider their “customers.” Making you, the business, happy is not on their to-do list. So if you want to win, if you want to appear high on that Google search result, read on. If you want to stick to your guns (as I’ve heard some practices say, “I don’t want to do it Google’s way. I don’t care. This is how I want my site to look”), I wish you luck.

Play By The Rules and You’ll Win

People now refer to Google as a person—a person in control of our online lives and a person we are trying to appease on a daily basis. They throw us lightning bolts from above when their new research shows “searchers” need or want or demand something different. Believe me, they don’t send out emails explaining their changes; they just do it, and at the drop of a hat. The trick is to keep up with ever-changing Google “rules.” That takes care and attention. You can hire a good company to keep those leads coming your way or bring in an expert SEO person to protect your interests. But what you can’t do if you want to stay relevant is develop a site and walk away feeling like “well that’s done.”

Your Site Will Never Be Complete

You don’t plant a garden and turn your back on it. You have to change plants, trim, water, enhance, and give it constant attention. That’s what you have to do to maintain a website that can help build your practice. Nothing is stagnant online so if you are a “completion junkie” or really need to cross something off your list to feel satisfied, your website is always going to be a thorn in your side. Just plan on maintaining it like, yes, your garden. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep content fresh. This includes fresh, interesting blogs; changing information on the homepage (specials, new services, events); articles about you—anything patients will be interested in.
  • Do not copy content about your procedures. Don’t lift content from manufactures’ websites or, worse yet, your competitors’ sites and plunk it into your website. Google only recognizes the first site that posts particular written content. Everyone after that is an “also ran,” and Google will ignore you.
  • Find new, interesting ways to talk about your treatments, services, and procedures. No, it isn’t easy because Botox is Botox is Botox. But, if you want searchers to find you for their Botox treatment, you must find a way to make text unique.
  • Videos must be relevant to the subject matter on that page. If you’re talking about facelifts, do not include videos on that page referring to breast augmentation. Why? Because Google says so!
  • How photos are treated is critical. Let an expert integrate images so those photos are quick to load. Google doesn’t like slow-loading anything.
  • Remember 76 percent of all searchers are finding you on their mobile device—phones and pads. Making your site mobile-friendly is no longer a nice to have. It’s essential! Find someone who knows what they’re doing—do not just give the task to your cousin’s son who took a course in web development!
  • Make sure your site performs the way Google wants it to perform. I don’t have enough space in this article to explain this very complex subject of web performance. Whole books are written on it; weekend seminars address it. Here again, find someone who knows this like you know surgery.

The Challenge: Balancing What Patients Want to See and Hear With What Google Expects and Demands

You are in the beauty business, you say, and nothing could be truer. Making sure your office is beautiful and your staff nicely groomed is just the beginning of creating an image that reflects expectations of the elective patient. So it is with your website. If it’s not beautiful, site visitors might move along thinking “How can I expect that surgeon to get me beautiful results when his office looks so old fashioned?” So balancing beauty with easy navigation, quick loading and the rest is what has to happen for your site to work for everyone. If you’re sticking to your guns, over-sizing images, stacking loads of videos on every page, and generally thumbing your nose at Google, you should no longer be surprised or wonder why you’re not getting enough hits and your site has gone silent.

Stay Technically and Functionally Current

I’ve already talked about keeping content current but just as important is making sure Google likes the way your site is structured, how it navigates, and that you’re not making it too hard for searchers to find what they want. I went into a sports equipment and clothing store the other day and could not find after-ski boots. Everything was organized in a random fashion. Tables everywhere; big confusing signs. Then I popped into an Apple Store for a charger and oh what a difference. Sections clearly delineated. Helpful people in red shirts to point the way. Easy navigation! That’s how a site must be.

Think of prospects walking into your “storefront” when they enter your site. Can they quickly find information on your specials? The details about body contouring? Information about financing plans you offer? Where you attended medical school? Or do they have to wander around the way I did at the sports store (which I left, not buying anything)? This is what Google demands—that the site functions for searchers, gets them in and out quickly with a smile on their faces!

Find An Expert You Trust

If I sound self-serving, forgive me, since my company is an expert on everything I’ve talked about. But my most sincere advice is for you to find someone or a company who can guide you through the rules and ongoing changes that will inevitably be part of your online strategy. Knowing just a little about it can be dangerous. And something else: The shelf life of a site—even with ongoing changes, additions, and fresh content—is, according to research, about three years. That’s when you’ll need to reevaluate where your site is and how it needs to change to remain relevant…even if you’ve been playing by Google’s rules all along.

If You Want To Compete, And Of Course You Do, Make Friends With Google

You can throw up your hands and decide “not to play” but this is really not an option in today’s competitive world. The first way you stand out is by creating beautiful results for your patients and treating them like kings and queens. But getting them through the door is another matter altogether. So, my final advice: Keep up with Google (the big-dog of search engines) and do what they expect. They’re watching you!

Dana Fox is President of Strategic Edge Partners, Inc., a consulting firm focused on aesthetic medical practices.