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March 2016

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Search Marketing

Google’s New Update and How It Impacts Your Practice

What Google Changed and Why

Google typically makes fun, quirky changes to their logo and algorithms, but rarely do they change the way in which their search engine results pages (SERP) appear. Recently, Google decided to remove right-side paid ads (AdWords) on desktop searches.

How has the paid ads display changed?

Before, paid ads were located at the top of, along the right-side, and at the bottom of the search engine results page.

Now, Google has completely removed ads on the right-side and expanded top-page paid ad results from three to four positions:

What is the impact of these changes?

There are at least two major impacts of this change:

  1. Cleaner User Experience: By including fewer options, it’s easier to view paid ads using a desktop computer or full-size laptop. It also provides a more unified experience between mobile and desktop search. In recent years, Google has made strides to create a better search experience on mobile devices. One example of this is Google’s recent decision to make mobile friendliness a ranking factor. By eliminating side ads and expanding positions on top-page paid ads, Google is getting rid of clutter that wouldn’t appear on mobile devices anyway.
  2. More Relevant Clicks for Businesses: Searchers are more likely to click on top-page ads than right-side ads because sometimes the top-page paid ads appear to be part of the organic (non-paid) search results.  And, having less competition on the page can help you get more relevant clicks, resulting in more visitors to your practice’s website.

What This Means for Your Practice’s Dental Marketing Strategy

Though it’s hard to predict the overall impact to your practice (it will vary depending on how you use online marketing today), it’s safe to say the way consumers interact with ads in a search will change. For example, while fewer ads could increase organic traffic, a fourth ad above organic results could also push these results down the page which lowers the value of organic search. However, no ads on the right-side of the page, means fewer non-clicked ads.

In the short term, if your online marketing strategy includes search engine optimization (SEO), this should have little to no impact. If you are utilizing pay-per-click (PPC), you could potentially have less competition on the page, which means more focused search results. In the long term, having a consolidated approach that involves both SEO and PPC will provide the most positive impact.

If you have hired ProSites to manage your practice’s SEO and/or PPC strategy, we are already aware of this update and watching for significant changes to your website traffic performance. If we see any negative changes, we will update your strategy accordingly.

How This Affects PPC

With removal of the right-side ad space, your PPC ads will likely compete for even less ad real-estate “above the fold.” A change in key metrics may indicate that you’ve been affected by this new update.

Here’s some tips that you can follow to keep tabs on any impact:

  1. Review how your ads are appearing in Google’s search results page by navigating to the Tools tab and then clicking on “Ad Preview and Diagnosis”.
  2. Review your average position in search results for a given keyword. Having an average position above three or four will help you maintain higher impressions and clicks on your ads. You can find the “Average Position” metric in the Keywords tab of AdWords. If you’re a ProSites PPC client, this information is included in your monthly report.
  3. Increase your position in search results for relevant keywords. You can do this in two ways: improve your quality score and/or increase your bid. Note: Check your cost per acquisition (CPA) to ensure you are not bidding too high.

How This Affects SEO

Because top-page ads are now pushing organic results further down the page, strong SEO plays a larger part in getting your practice as close to the top of page 1 results as possible.

In many cases, when someone searches for a local service, Google will include a handful of local business listings with a map noting their locations. These listings, known as the snack pack, appear immediately under paid ads. So, if the snack pack is displayed, organic results are pushed even further down page 1.

As you can see from the example below, organic search results do appear, but not until four paid results and three snack pack results are displayed. Therefore, the first organic result is actually in the eighth position on the page.

Tying it all together

Google never makes any changes without a wealth of data and due-diligence, so it’s our guess that this new update is here to stay. As a dentist, it’s important to remain informed about these updates and their potential impact to your online marketing strategy. Or, if that feels like a lot of work, hire a professional who will stay informed and make appropriate shifts to your online marketing strategy to keep you ahead of the competition.

To learn more about how you can improve your dental marketing strategy, download your free copy of our Definitive Guide to Online Marketing for Dentists.

Search Marketing

Why Duplicate Listings are Bad for Your Dental SEO

Why You Need to Clean Up Duplicate Listings for Dental SEO

Have you ever had a patient call in to ask where your practice is located because their GPS took them to an old business address, only to miss their appointment? When someone searches the Internet for a dentist in your town, is it difficult for your practice to show up on the map results? Answering yes to either of these questions could mean that you have duplicate business listings for your practice. Duplicate listings are multiple listings within the same online directory with inconsistent business information. People and search engines depend on this information to find you.

A clean presence on local online directories is one of the most important, yet neglected, search engine optimization (SEO) components by dental and medical professionals seeking to improve rankings.

In fact, Moz’s 2015 Local SEO Ranking Factor study found that collectively, local business directories account for 30% of ranking factors. Consistency of NAP (name, address and phone) information among online directories is the number 2 ranking factor in Google’s map results in search engine results pages, referred to as the Snack Pack. This means your NAP information must be consistent across all online directories to have a chance at ranking favorably in local search results.

You also must ensure that your practice appears in only ONE listing, per each directory. This is particularly important in Google Maps. Multiple listings for the same practice in a single directory leads to trouble with ranking well within Google’s Snack Pack. Because Google Maps accounts for nearly 15% of local search ranking factors, this article will concentrate on duplicates specific to this directory.

Common Google Duplicate Scenarios and How to Solve Them:

Problem #1: Your practice changed locations but the old address is still showing.

Solution: Claim your old business listing using phone verification and then change the address. The old phone number will have to be in service for this to work. If you have already claimed the listing with the old address, simply log in to your Google My Business dashboard and update the address (this may prompt re-verification).

Learn how to claim your business on Google Maps here

Problem #2: You found a listing for your practice and another one for each doctor at your practice.

Solution: Find all listings on Google maps and submit a report for each repeated listing that you find. Generally, they will be the listings that contain each doctors’ name. After you find a listing on Google Maps, scroll down to find a “suggest an edit” button near the business hours:

Click on “suggest an edit” then toggle to “yes” when asked if this “Place is permanently closed or doesn’t exist”:

Finally, select the “duplicate” option and submit the form:

If you do this while logged into your Google account, you will get an email confirming the report submission. Once you report each duplicate listing, claim the remaining listing (the one with your official practice name) by going through the phone verification process.

Learn how to verify your address on Google Maps here

Problem #3: You bought a practice from another doctor.

Solution: Do not set up a completely new listing for your new practice! Instead, find the Google listing under the name of the practice that you bought and claim it through the phone verification process. If the listing is verified under the old doctor or dentist, simply request an ownership transfer through Google’s form. The owner will get an email and will then be able to transfer ownership of the listing to you through an existing Google account.

Learn how to transfer ownership of a Google Listing here

Other Top Directories to Consider for Duplicate Clean-up:

Below are some of the top directories for doctors, dentists and vets according to Moz Local Citations. You’ll need to identify which directories have duplicate listings and then report them according to each directory’s guidelines. Then, claim any listings that you did not report by registering with a business account in each directory. Each process will be different, but all may require phone verification through the business phone number so make sure be at the practice when you do this.

Want to learn more about improving your rankings online? ProSites created an easy-to-follow guide that walks you through key ways to boost your visibility to new patients. Click here to get your free copy.

Search Marketing

Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Practice

Remember the commercial that repeatedly interrupted your favorite television show last week? Chances are you don’t – because we’ve trained our brains to tune out what isn’t relevant to our immediate surroundings and needs. It’s estimated that we are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of data a day. If we didn’t filter out most non-essential messages, we couldn’t function. 

Does this mean advertising is dead? No, but it does mean that service providers, including doctors, need to change their traditional marketing approach. By using Internet searches to your advantage, there is a way to get in front of prospective patients in that fleeting moment where you’ll be seen as a solution and not an interruption. The key is search engine optimization (SEO).

Simply put, SEO brings visitors to your website by helping your practice appear high on the list of results when prospective patients search for a dentist or doctor online. Over 85% of searchers do not go past the first page of results, so where you appear is critical. As far as SEO is concerned, if you’re not on the first page, you may as well be on the last. 

ProSites’ latest publication, Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Practice, breaks down SEO and all that goes into it. From search engine crawlers and algorithms to keyword density and metadata, this white paper outlines the basics in a manner you can understand. Looking for a quick overview? Read on for some highlights. 

Keywords are at the core of SEO. These are the terms search engines use to find and rank your practice (i.e. orthodontist, teeth whitening, etc.). Though your services are important keywords to include on your website, so is your practice’s location. Since the average patient isn’t going to travel hundreds of miles to visit a dentist, chances are they will limit their search to providers in close proximity. Therefore, to attract local prospects, your website must be associated with your geographic location. This type of SEO is known as local SEO. And the backbone of successful local SEO is optimization, both on-page and off. 

Just as the name implies, on-page optimization refers to changes made directly to your website. The most visible area for on-page optimization is website copy. When writing copy, remember to use phrases that prospective patients would use in their online searches. This allows search engines to correctly categorize your website, increasing the number of times your practice comes up in relevant searches. In addition to copy, on-page factors include HTML tags like page titles and meta descriptions. (Did we just lose you?  Don’t worry, ProSites’ white paper includes a handy glossary.)

Backlinks and business listings are two off-page optimization strategies that take place outside your website but still impact your search engine ranking. 

Backlinks are hyperlinks on other websites that connect back to your site. This may seem like a quick way to bump you ranking, but beware – Google considers context when giving you points for backlinks. This means that backlinks on irrelevant sites negatively impact your ranking. 

Business listings are another type of off-page optimization that can not only drive traffic directly to your website, but also affect your search ranking. While it may seem obvious, consistency and accuracy are the two most important elements to optimizing your business listings. Your practice should be in a number of professional directories so be sure your NAP data (practice name, address, and phone) is correct and identical across all listings.

Creating an SEO strategy for your practice may seem overwhelming, but neglecting it can be hazardous to your professional health. A good place to start is by downloading Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Practice. Written for busy dental professionals, this free white paper walks you through the basics of SEO and provides tips you can put to use today.

Still not sure you’re ready to tackle SEO on your own? ProSites has you covered. Let our in-house team of SEO experts handle it for you. For more information, call (888) 932-3644.

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