Future-proof Your Practice: Understanding the New ABCs of Google Search Results

google health, search, serps

Looks like the gang at Google is at it again. Last week, the company officially rebranded itself as Alphabet; this week, they rolled out a new domain name with the appropriate but awkward URL of abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com.

Name changes aside, though, the more relevant news relates to recent behind-the scenes changes the company has made to its search and social offerings. For doctors hoping to connect with potential patients, the three developments below can spell the difference between getting found or not:

Dr. Google diagnoses more conditions

Last month, Google announced plans to more than double (to 900) the number of health conditions that it would provide at-a-glance information for right on page 1 of its search results. Aesthetic consumers, for example, can now get basic information about acne and obesity, information they’re encouraged to bring with them when pursuing care. And while most doctors recognize that more-informed patients lead to better outcomes, the increased likelihood of self-diagnosis may also mean fewer visits to their practice websites.

Local listings feel the squeeze

Until recently, an aesthetic consumer searching for, say, a Chicago dermatologist or San Diego cosmetic surgeon, would get results that included a so-called “local pack,” a select group of seven providers whose listings included a phone number, address and Google reviews. That’s now been shrunk to three listings, making that real estate far more precious. To avoid being squeezed out, it’s more important than ever to claim your Google My Business profile, include all pertinent information and ensure your practice website is optimized for both desktop and mobile search.

Say goodbye to Google+

While the above two developments may mean more work for you or your web team, here’s one Google change that might actually make your life easier. After years of lackluster engagement, Google has apparently realized that its social network, Google+, was never going to take off. It’s still live but the company has uncoupled it from its other services, signifying its steadily diminishing importance. Going forward, it’s worth keeping your profile page current but you can save yourself the trouble of posting content that almost no one will see.

Doctor Takeaway

When it comes to SEM, there are no easy ABCs

Search engine marketing, i.e., trying to promote your practice’s visibility in search results, requires a two-part commitment based on understanding the changes the search engines roll out and modifying your practice website to accommodate them. And while website design and technology are best left to those with SEM/SEO expertise, understanding the underlying basics is the best way to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth from their efforts. For doctors who do so, the reward will be continuing to rank well in the face of the inevitable changes to come; for those who don’t, the writing is on the wall.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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