Home Field Advantage
Google is making it hard to rank in multiple locations
With all the hubbub about the algorithm changes Google made with its Panda and Penguin updates, there hasn’t been much focus on another change that’s had a big impact on elective health care practices: In recent months, Google has altered its algorithm to focus on local businesses.
While this may be good for pizza parlors, hardware stores, or plumbers — i.e., the types of businesses whose customers decide to use their services primarily because of their location — it isn’t a great benefit to surgeons. Proximity is not the primary factor in a consumer’s mind when making decisions regarding elective health care procedures. Prospective patients are more than willing to travel 30-90 minutes to a practice for procedures such as LASIK, breast lift or dental implants. Even farther for bariatric surgery. But, unfortunately, Google is making you play in the same sandbox as the local hardware store, a truly local business.
The Shift Toward Local
Despite the havoc wreaked by the Panda and Penguin updates, in their immediate aftermath we noticed that Google was still fairly lenient in allowing practice websites to continue ranking highly in markets and locations where, technically, they were not located. Essentially, Google was ignoring “location issues” related to medical and dental practices. For example, a practice in a Chicago suburb could rank well for downtown Chicago searches, as well as for multiple towns around Chicago, such as Arlington Heights, Oakbrook, Naperville, and so on.
That all changed in the fall, when Google slipped in a few updates that didn’t make the news, but did have a big impact on elective health care practices. These updates required that practices be “local” to rank highly. Since elective medical practices typically draw from much larger areas than pizza parlors or hardware stores, the diminished visibility was substantial. To make matters worse, Google penalized, sometimes very harshly, practice websites that were trying to rank in a wide range of different markets. The rankings for practice websites that had multiple location pages targeting a variety of markets disappeared overnight.
But there is good news to report — we have found that by focusing on just one suburb and one major market, many practice websites have been able to maintain impressive rankings. If your SEO company does its homework and sets up your website properly, Google may not treat your website as harshly.
Going Forward: Location, Location, Location
What does this mean for your practice website?
First of all, don’t confuse ranking downgrades related to Penguin or Panda with ranking issues caused by Google’s location algorithm change. In other words, if your rankings have fallen, don’t assume you were hit by Panda or Penguin.
Take a look at your site and see if your SEO company is targeting markets outside your immediate area. We have found that throwing a more narrow net for SEO helps to boost the rankings. So if your practice is in a smaller market between larger cities, such as Arlington, TX, which lies between Dallas and Fort Worth, be wary if your SEO company tells you that your practice website can rank well for all of these markets.
In all likelihood, other strategies will be needed to obtain online visibility in markets away from your practice location. You may have to do what Google really wants you to do, which is to purchase PPC advertising (from Google) in those markets where you are not located. Another option is to develop separate websites for each market. This type of strategy can be difficult and costly, and the potential for success is limited; so we don’t recommend it. But, if you do take this route, make sure that none of the websites duplicate any of the others. And if possible, ensure that you have some physical presence in the markets you are targeting. Another more cost effective option is to purchase a listing (for any given market) in a directory website that has high rankings for core “education-based” search terms.
Final warning: before you do anything, make sure your website doesn’t have numerous “location” pages. If so, clean these out before embarking on any new strategies.
The upside to all of this is that consumers are beginning to figure out that every business is not a local business, as Google would like them to believe. More importantly, consumers are changing their search strategies, and this will eventually help elective health care. As in the early days of the Internet when consumers learned to add their city to a search when they wanted something local, today they are learning how to perform a search that rejects “local.” How long it will take for this change to fully materialize is an open question. But, the more Google tries to squeeze every business into a local cubby hole, the more consumers will look to other means to research online elective procedures and the doctors who perform them.
Ask the experts
Q I have great word-of-mouth referrals. Why do I need to have a strong Internet strategy, too?
A Word-of-mouth referrals will always be important. Now, however, consumers rely on the Internet, not only to learn about procedures and the doctors that perform them, but also to confirm and support word-of-mouth referrals. Without an Internet backup, the value of a word-of-mouth referral decreases dramatically in the mind of today’s consumer. According to Harvard Business Review, “The key question is not whether to deploy Internet marketing—practices have no choice if they want to stay competitive—but how to deploy it.”
Increase Your Patient Volume
Come visit the Internet Marketing Experts at Ceatus
Hilton Waikoloa Village (Big Island)
Hawaiian Eye brings in over 1,000 world renowned physicians, skilled nurses and highly-trained administrators for a full week at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on Hawaii’s Big Island. Come to this year’s Hawaiian Eye to learn about new innovations that will enhance your skills and take your practice to the next level. Speak with one of our Internet marketing experts at Booth 104 and learn how you can increase conversion and bring new patients to your door!
Expanding Horizons Symposium
Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Meet us at this year’s Expanding Horizons symposium to explore the latest technological advances and techniques in facial rejuvenation, breast augmentation and body contouring. This 2.5-day symposium will offer intimate, in-depth, and advanced discussions on new techniques that will enhance your practice. Come by our booth for a free evaluation of your website’s Google potential from a Ceatus Internet marketing expert!
47th Annual Baker Gordon Educational Symposium
Come to this year’s 47th Annual Baker Gordon symposium in Miami, Florida! This year’s meeting will focus on enhancing visual perception, which is the only way to improve the aesthetic outcomes of various technical approaches. Speak with one of our Internet marketing experts at Booth 20 to learn how you can increase conversion and bring new patients to your practice!
Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting
McCormick Place, Chicago
Ceatus Media Group will be at this year’s Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting for an exciting three days of interactive dental lectures, live demonstrations and hands-on participation courses. This meeting will help you build your knowledge by putting you in touch with the top leaders in continuing education and dentistry. Speak with a Ceatus Internet marketing expert in Booth 4816 for a free website and SEO evaluation.
CEATUS Case Study of the Month
Three SEO success stories!
Background: Despite Google’s many algorithm updates over the last 18 months, including the location-related changes described in our feature article, Ceatus SEO clients have done well. Below are a few examples.
Challenge: Maintaining your rankings when Google is a moving target.
Solution: A customized SEO strategy from Ceatus. Our SEO packages are always carefully tailored to your practice, your market, and your competition.
Example 1: Jennifer Harrington, MD – Edina, MN Plastic Surgeon
Dr. Harrington’s practice is located in Edina, MN (outside of Minneapolis) and her website is focused on ranking in both Edina and Minneapolis. During the Google shakeups of 2012, her listings remained strong for the Minneapolis searches, even though Google no longer provided a Google+ Local listing for her practice in Minneapolis. At the end of 2013, her website continued to rank in the top 2 or 3 positions for the most competitive searches (e.g., “Minneapolis Breast Augmentation” and “Minneapolis Plastic Surgery”), above many of the practices located in Minneapolis proper.
Example 2: Gregory Pamel, MD – New York City LASIK Surgeon
At the beginning of 2012, Dr. Pamel ranked in the top 4 listings on Google for the most important search terms for his practice: “LASIK NYC,” “LASIK New York,” “LASIK New York City” and “LASIK Manhattan.” At the end of 2013, the rankings had been juggled and many of his competitors had disappeared. But Dr. Pamel’s rankings remained solid: his website remained on the first page of Google and his Google+ Local pages were in the top 4 for the most important search terms.
Example 3: Richard Champagne, DMD – Morganville, NJ Dentist
Dr. Champagne practices in Morganville, a small town in northeast New Jersey, about 40 miles from New York. He wanted his website to target not only his town, but also his region. His site always ranked well in Morganville, and at the beginning of 2012 he ranked well for the highly competitive term “New Jersey Cosmetic Dentist.” At the end of 2012, his #1 listing for “New Jersey Cosmetic Dentist” continued, as many of his competitors’ rankings fell to page two or lower in Google’s search results. By casting a targeted SEO net — focusing the SEO efforts on Dr. Champagne’s town and on New Jersey, but no more — Ceatus was able to maintain Dr. Champagne’s rankings.
New Year’s Resolutions
So many of us start the year with good intentions, only to slip back into our old habits. Here are five of the most commonly broken New Year’s resolutions, along with tips for sticking to them. Good luck, and Happy 2013!
1. I vow to lose weight and go to the gym.
After a holiday season filled with family dinners, desserts and drinks, it’s only natural that a promise to shed the holiday weight would follow. January is the month with the most gym membership activations, crowded classes, and the longest treadmill lines. Fortunately for avid gym rats, research from Time magazine says that 60% of memberships go unused by mid- February. To buck the trend, set a realistic goal: Vow to make it to the end of February. If you make it that far, you’re more likely to continue the habit.
2. I vow to learn something new.
You’ve been meaning to learn a new language. You’d love to play the guitar or piano. And how great would it be to go surfing in the summer and snowboarding in the winter? But by February you may conclude that a new language is too hard to pronounce, the guitar takes too much practice, and you can learn how to snowboard next season. “I’ll do it when I have more time” is one of the most common excuses. Have you caught yourself saying this? To avoid this pitfall, earmark a specific time slot for your new hobby, and put it in your daily organizer along with all your responsibilities.
3. I vow to eat healthier.
How many sweets did you consume during the holidays? For most of us, the past month consisted of family parties filled with eggnog, cheese balls, fudge, and desserts. This year, 2013 will be different: It’s time to swap bagels and cream cheese with cereal for breakfast. The problem with this resolution is that most people go too far, and put themselves on restrictive diets they can’t keep — so do it in moderation. Eat healthy, but treat yourself to a guilty pleasure once in a while.
4. I vow to quit a bad habit.
It takes at least 21 consecutive days to break a habit. Whether yours is eating too many Twinkies, going to bed without flossing, or even hitting the snooze button too many times, there is always room for self-improvement. Although some resolutions are harder than others, this one may be the most challenging. It takes more will power to break a bad habit than purchasing a gym membership or buying healthier foods. So keep the 21-day goal in mind; if you can make it that long, you might just kick that nasty habit!
5. I vow to be more philanthropic.
One of the more popular self-improvement resolutions is to find ways to help others. Whether choosing to make a donation to nonprofit organizations, mentoring a child, or doing more charity work, this is a great vow to keep. Even cleaning out your house or closet and donating household items that you no longer need can be a great start!
Blah, Blah Blah-ging
Blogging can be a powerful marketing tool – IF you don’t put your clients to sleep
Do you get tired of those emails and mailed brochures that are always offering some new product or a “special” discount? Makes you wonder if those companies ever sell anything at full price, doesn’t it?
Well, beware of falling into this trap with your practice blogging strategy. Many practices blog as a means to boost their SEO and/or to attract more patients to their practice website. It is a medium with great potential, but it works best if you don’t make every article about some new product or special deal you are offering. If you want to engage prospective and current patients in the social media arena, you have to give them a “social” reason to be interested in your blogs. A constant barrage of product- or price-oriented blog posts will bring little benefit to your practice.
Share, Don’t Broadcast
The best blog posts are those that are actually useful consumer resources. Write about topics that your patient base has an interest in, rather than what you are interested in. Blog posts with interesting topics are read and shared by people. And, if the blog post links out to other articles of interest related to the topic area (as opposed to linking back to your website with every post), then consumers are more likely to return and see what you have written about recently.
Where do you start? Come up with a list of topics that your patients often ask about. “How long after breast augmentation can I exercise?” “Will I still need my reading glasses after cataract surgery?” “Can I eat an apple after I get dental implants or veneers?”
Then, expand the list to topic areas that are timely; you can even consider including some that have nothing to do with your practice. During September, write about back to school ideas (healthcare related or not) or in the spring about allergies and how they affect different people.
Once you have established that your blog posts are informative and interesting, then you can mix in information about your practice or new services that you are offering. By using this strategy, your “product” oriented blog posts will have much more impact and traction. Your patients and prospective patients will feel like they are being educated and provided some value, versus constantly being sold some new product.
Blogging for SEO Value – Long-Tail Search Terms
Another advantage of this type of blog strategy is that it allows you to naturally target the so-called “long-tail search terms.” It’s surprising how often consumers search for information with very specific phrases, e.g., “breast augmentation recovery and exercise” or “eating an apple with dental implants.” While these search terms do not garner a lot of search volume individually, they do add up. More importantly, these types of search “phrases” are targeted. Consumers searching in this manner are frequently very close to making a buying decision. Consumers that come to your informative, interesting blog via these search terms will be impressed with what they find, and that can help your patient flow. After you have blogged for a few months, take the opportunity to look at the search terms consumers are using to arrive at your blog, and expand on those topic areas. Just remember that the objective is to increase the reach of your blog as an information resource, not a product showcase.
Ceatus Can Help
Our expertise in Internet marketing has enabled us to help many practices transform their ineffective blog strategies so that they are engaging to consumers and attract a considerable number of online searchers. Call us to find out how we can help you leverage your unique practice attributes to achieve a powerful and successful blog strategy.