Rich Snippets and Insecure Websites: Assessing Google’s Latest Updates — and What To Do about Them

google, search, privacy, security

The mysterious symbol appeared in my search bar out of the blue this morning. Instead of the usual green lock or small blank page before a web address, there was a lower-case “i” in a circle (see left image, above). Never having seen it before, I clicked on it and was shocked to read the pop-up that read, “Your connection to this site is not private,” followed by a list showing dozens of cookies that were apparently tracking my clicks.

And I wasn’t the only one who was suddenly worried about unwanted snooping on my web activity. As a similarly concerned poster on this thread on Google’s product forum wrote:

OMG. I’m freaking right now seeing this icon on Google… can I have the old version back? I’m not a techy person… Please help me.

Now imagine if that poster was researching aesthetic procedures and encountered that icon on your practice website. Do you really want people freaking out about a presumed loss of privacy when they’re thinking about having you perform their procedure?

Probably not, which is why it’s so important to stay current on the updates and changes that Google and its counterparts roll out on a regular basis. If, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details, here are three recent developments at Google that can impact users’ experiences, your practice’s reputation and, by extension, your bottom line:

Is your website truly secure?

It turns out that little “i” is more of a design change than a security update, although it’s also part of a larger shift that will roll out in the coming months. In a nutshell, the new icon more explicitly denotes that a website is using an older, non-secure HTTP connection instead of the updated (and secure) HTTPS standard. As of now, some users see it, some don’t, but come January, Google will begin labeling websites that ask users to log in or input credit card information as “Not secure” in an effort to push all websites to adopt the HTTPS standard.

How to tell? Search for your practice name and click on the link. If it comes up as https://practicename, you’re fine. If it comes up as www.practicename, it’s time to talk to your webmaster.

Faster load times = a better user experience

Nobody likes a slow-loading mobile webpage, least of all the folks at Google, who are in the midst of a global rollout of a platform designed to load pages almost instantly. Called the AMP project — as in Accelerated Mobile Pages — it’s currently being used by major publishers, but is expected to expand rapidly to other areas of interest, including shopping. According to Search Engine Land, AMP won’t affect search rank (yet), but it’s safe to say that sites that load faster will prompt users to stay longer, bounce less often, and feel better about those that make their lives less frustrating.

Little images, big impact?

Speaking of mobile, the image below highlights another recent development from the Googleplex: the inclusion of images as rich snippets in mobile search results. Like added lines of text or review stars, images can provide extra information that can help users make more informed decisions. And while Google maintains that incorporating rich snippets are not a factor in search rank, it’s not hard to see how a good before & after image might prompt a user to click on one link over another.

google, mobile, search, snippets

Doctor Takeaway

As search evolves, those who keep up will achieve better results

As the above examples demonstrate, keeping up with the changes in search is no easy feat. It requires a strong background in web design and SEO and, in most cases, is best left to those with the appropriate skills. At the same time, though, taking a completely hands-off approach is a bad idea since being “search savvy” can be a good first step in determining whether or not your web team is up to snuff. If they can’t or won’t explain what they’re doing to keep you visible to potential patients, it may be time to start your own new search.

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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