SEO Is Dead. Or Is It?
Dispelling recent misinformation regarding updates to Google’s algorithm
According to recent testimony from former Google CEO Eric Schmidt to the United States Congress, Google made more than 500 changes to its website ranking algorithm during the last 12 months. That’s more than two changes per day. Google tracks and evaluates more than 200 factors to determine the ranking that will be assigned to every website, including onsite website elements, backlinks, social media, patient reviews and other variables. Professional SEO companies monitor all these factors to ensure that their clients’ web strategies are compatible with the Google algorithm and its constant updates.
Two of the recent Google updates received mainstream media attention. Unfortunately, many marketing companies have taken this as an opportunity to create misinformation about Internet marketing strategies — specifically with regard to how SEO actually works.
The so-called “Panda Update” and the “Freshness Update” resulted in significant changes to healthcare-related search results. This article will provide background information about these updates; guidance as to how they could impact SEO and your practice’s website; and finally, what steps can be taken to prevent damage to your website’s visibility.
The first Panda update rolled out in February 2011, and there have been several additional tweaks introduced during the subsequent months (the latest estimate is five). The Panda update affected 10 to 12 percent of all search results and focused primarily on large websites — those with thousands or millions of pages. Sites with highly redundant or duplicate content were affected most. In our experience, no practice websites were directly affected. However, some SEO companies offer backlinks to practice websites from large article or blog sites that were affected. The Panda update penalized the quality of these large sites and thus weakened the backlinks to the practice sites, in turn dropping the rankings of some practice websites. When evaluating an SEO company, take a look at the sites that will provide you with backlinks. If the site has multiple articles about the same topic, then the backlinks probably have limited value.
Also, many website companies offer websites that all have the same content. It is very important that your site have unique content to obtain the best rankings. Although it is unlikely that the current Panda algorithm will penalize a smaller practice site (even one with duplicate content), as time moves forward and the algorithm becomes more refined, duplicate content of any kind is likely to be a target. So if your practice website contains duplicate content, it’s time to address it; otherwise, your search engine rankings are likely to be damaged.
Many marketing companies have made hay with the more recent newsworthy Google update called the “Freshness Update.” Google announced in October that it would favor sites whose content was timely and relevant. Marketing companies for elective health care practices have spun this announcement to suggest that traditional SEO is no longer needed, and that to obtain high rankings, practice websites must be constantly updated with newsletters, breaking news, blog posts, etc. This is untrue, and these marketing companies are providing harmful misinformation.
Google’s algorithms are very sophisticated, and Google recognizes that different types of websites have different requirements for freshness. A news site or a site about Hollywood celebrity gossip would be expected to have regularly updated content. A healthcare site that contains information about surgical or dental procedures would not be expected to have updates to those pages on a frequent basis. The basic elements of most procedures have not changed for many years. Of course, if new technology is available for these procedures, then articles about this technology would be useful; but simply adding a news update to a page about traditional procedures will not help your site’s rankings.
Furthermore, a newsletter about specials or seminars the practice is offering will have no impact on the site rankings. According to the Google search executives who presented at the most important U.S.-based SEO meeting (attended by our CEO and Director of SEO), the fundamental aspects of SEO have not changed, and SEO remains a critical element of successful search engine marketing. Matt Cutts, chief of the Google Spam and Search division, indicated that targeted, unique content on specific pages of a site and quality links continue to be the backbone of Google ranking.
Ask the experts
Q I have been in practice for more than 15 years in this area. Why do the new surgeons who just came to town outrank me on Google?
A Google does not evaluate your practice, it evaluates about 200 variables related to your website. The amount of time you have been in practice has nothing to do with these factors in your website. In order to rank well, your website has to have specific features and components that optimize your site for Google’s algorithm.
Top airport restaurants
Traveling for the holidays? Bad airport food getting you down? Check out our list of the top airport restaurants worth traveling for.
1. SURDYK’S FLIGHTS @ MSP (Minneapolis)
Flying cross country? There’s a chance you’ll have a layover in the Twin Cities. Luckily, there are some great places to eat. Recently-opened Surdyk’s Flights is creating some buzz. The latest incarnation of a popular Minneapolis market, this wine shop and bar features a full menu with great food. Surdyk’s can be found in the Lindbergh Terminal mall area. Try the local cheeses as well as the local beers. Need a gift for a wine connoisseur? Purchase one at Surdyk’s and take it on the plane. Don’t worry — they’re past the security check point.
2. CAT CORA @ SFO (San Francisco)
Cat Cora, Food Network’s 2005 “Iron Chef America” winner, is gaining praise for her contemporary café at San Francisco’s new Terminal 2. Flyers are raving about her lobster mac and other tapas-style offerings. Plus, Cat Cora has a great cocktail list. Of all the swanky new food spots in this terminal, Cat’s reigns supreme.
3. ONE FLEW SOUTH @ ATL (Atlanta)
Headed south? Visit Atlanta’s One Flew South, the newest upscale dining experience in Terminal E. BLTs with smoky Benton’s bacon, Carolina trout with celery root puree in brown butter sauce, refined cocktails, modern decor, and sweet desserts — experience fine dining in an airport like never before. One Flew’s bar seating encourages single diners to stop on in.
4. LA CARRETA @ MIA (Miami)
Flying to Latin America directly from your home city is ideal, but La Carreta is the silver lining to any Miami layover. Located in Terminal E, 24-hour La Carreta is a Cuban chainlet that every Miamian knows. This Miami mainstay is a full-service restaurant by day and a sandwich slash cafe cubano spot late at night.
5. TORTAS FRONTERA @ ORD (Chicago O’Hare)
Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author and television personality Rick Bayless can now be found in Terminal 1 and (soon) Terminal 3. Rick’s new restaurant, Tortas Frontera, boasts delicious tortas, or Mexican sandwiches. Sandwiches such as the Pepito-beer-braised short ribs topped with Chihuahua cheese, pickled jalapeños and cilantro crema will warm your toes in this chilly city.
6. Legal Sea Foods @ BOS (Boston)
Legal Sea Foods is a local (Boston) favorite that has gained an international reputation. Legal serves only the freshest, best-quality fish and shellfish. Logan Airport actually features several Legal restaurants (one in each terminal). Terminal A, after security, has Legal’s Test Kitchen (with a shortened menu and fast delivery). Terminal B, before security, has Legal C Bar (lots of beer options along with the usual menu) as well as the traditional Legal Sea Food restaurant post-security. Finally, Terminal C, pre-security, has another traditional Legal Sea Food location.
7. Deep Blue Sushi @ JFK (New York)
If you’re landing at or flying out of JetBlue’s new Terminal 5, you’ll have convenient access to high-quality dining and shopping. It may seem hard to choose from all of Terminal 5’s options, but if you can only pick one, go for Deep Blue Sushi. It has the lineage of Manhattan restaurant Buddakan behind it. If sushi’s not your thing, don’t worry; Deep Blue is a full-service Japanese restaurant, serving meat, fish and tempura dishes as well.
8. Encounter @ LAX (Los Angeles)
Encounter is an outer space-themed building completely separate from the LAX airport. When flying out of LAX, we suggest that you stop by this “1960s Star Trek set gone Technicolor,” as Frommer’s describes it. Encounter has visually artistic food and a fun, kid-friendly atmosphere.
Own Your Website, Own Your Destiny
5 website elements you need to own
To compete in today’s digital marketplace, your website needs frequent attention. This means regular upgrades, redesign and revitalization of your website. Keeping your site current and consumer and search engine friendly helps you maintain good Google rankings.
If you’re like most dentists and surgeons, you probably hire professionals to manage some or all of your website marketing and development. But there’s a catch: if someone else owns any of the elements that make up your website, you may find that you are not the one controlling your online destiny.
Print out the checklist below and ask your website development company about the following elements:
- Domain name –Do you own it? Your website’s domain name (e.g., JoeSmith-surgeon.com) is one of the most important branding elements of your marketing program. The longer you keep it, the stronger your brand becomes. It can also affect your search engine rankings. Go to www.whois.sc and type in your domain name. If you don’t own your domain name, this is an issue that must be addressed.
- Unique content –Is your content unique? Having your own customized written content is essential to the success of your website. Duplicate content, or content that appears on more than one website, can bury a website in the recesses of the search engine results pages. Trust but verify – Ask your web developer if your content is unique, and then check for yourself. You can do this by copying a couple of sentences from your website, pasting them into the Google search box with quotation marks on either side, and hitting enter. If any matches come up, you may have a problem.
- Website design –Ask your developer who owns your website’s design. This includes the layout, images, graphic design and written content.
- Artwork –Do you own all of the photos on your website? Maybe not. Many of the images that appear on plastic surgery websites come from catalogs that include a licensing fee. So make sure to ask your web developer who owns your website’s photos and if there are any associated fees.
- Flash/other multimedia –If you don’t have access to or ownership of the source code for your Flash and other video files, you may have issues when it comes to transferring your website. If you don’t own the source code you may have to pay a significant fee to have your multimedia files recreated once you redesign or expand your website.
Make sure you own all of the elements that comprise your website and you will control your own destiny. For more information, contact Ceatus today.
CEATUS Case Study of the Month
Case Study: Dr. Stuart Sondheimer
Learn how one doctor tripled traffic to his website in one year!
Background: Dr. Stuart Sondheimer has a highly successful cataract and refractive surgery practice with three locations in the outskirts of Chicago: Skokie, Deerfield and Park Ridge. Although his offices are outside the city, Chicago and the surrounding region comprise the main area from which he draws patients.
Problem: In 2008, Dr. Sondheimer decided to upgrade the overall quality of his web presence and increase the visibility of his practice website for Chicago proper. At that time, his site needed a new look and his search engine rankings needed to improve. He ranked well for searches related to Skokie, but for Chicago LASIK-related searches, his site ranked on the third and fourth pages of the Google search results.
Solution: He switched Internet marketing companies and called upon Ceatus to help him better tap the Chicago market. Ceatus Media Group immediately redeveloped his SEO strategy, placing increased focus on the Chicago market. The graph shows the improvement in traffic to Dr. Sondheimer’s website — visitors tripled from Nov. 2008 to Nov. 2011. “LASIK Chicago” and “Chicago LASIK” are now the top two search terms for Dr. Sondheimer’s practice website, whereas prior to the SEO program these terms were not even in the top 20.
After his site received more visibility, Dr. Sondheimer decided to have Ceatus boost the quality of his website to take full advantage of the improved prominent visibility he had developed on the search engines. As a result, Ceatus redesigned Dr. Sondheimer’s website, introducing unique components to help convert his increased number of visitors. Dr Sondheimer continues to expand his website presence for high-dollar surgical procedures through ranking improvement for cataract surgery terms such as “Chicago Restor” and “Chicago Crystalens,” which his site now also ranks for on the first page of Google.