Old joke: Where’s the best place to hide a dead body?
Answer: On page 2 of Google’s search results.
The joke, of course, is that no one ever looks past the first page of search results, an idea that’s not always true but nevertheless relevant for two crucial reasons: For one thing, the majority of health seekers do start their online research with a search engine (and usually Google); for another, continual changes to search engine algorithms means you either keep up or run the risk of getting left out.
That’s especially true at Google, which employs thousands of software engineers who seem to spend their days tweaking and updating the factors that determine what websites show up where. Here are 3 recent changes that you (or at least your webmaster or marketing agency) should be aware of:
Local search: Last July, Google rolled out a new algorithm for local search. Among other things, the update — dubbed Pigeon by Barry Schwartz of SearchEngineLand.com — brings local results more in line with traditional web-search results, coordinates better with map-based results and gives greater recognition to directory-style results.
Doctor Takeway: Always include location information on your website, complete a Google My Business profile and make sure your practice is listed in all relevant local directories.
Mobile search: As previously noted, mobile searches often return different results than desktop searches because Google assumes mobile searchers are looking for different things. Presumably, one of those things are websites that render well on mobile devices. (Few things create a poorer mobile experience than a site that doesn’t load well.) To help them out, mobile-friendly sites are now actually labeled “mobile-friendly” in a snippet right under the website’s address. For mobile-first searchers, that could be a significant differentiator.
Doctor Takeaway: Make sure your site is mobile-friendly by ensuring that content automatically sizes itself to the screen, using text that is readable without zooming, having enough white space to allow effective tapping and avoiding poor-functioning software such as Flash.
Think thumbnails: According to Schwartz of SearchEngineLand, Google is testing the idea of including thumbnail images in mobile results. On the one hand, images are guaranteed attention getters; on the other, they can impede load times, which is another sure way to provide a poorer user experience (and risk banishment to page 2 or beyond).
Doctor Takeaway: With no indication of a larger rollout of thumbnail-enhanced results, it’s premature to discuss strategies to take advantage of it. Nevertheless, the effort is proof positive that search remains an ever-evolving concept. The real takeaway is that whoever handles your online marketing better keep up.