Everyone with a website is familiar, by now, with the intermittent huge changes Google makes to how it searches, ranks and recommends sites online. In the fall of 2018, one such big change was rolled out, and it’s one that disproportionately affects health, medical and wellness sites.
For dentists keeping an eye on how their website is performing online, it’s something you’ll need to know about. Most, if not all, dental practice sites are affected by the update, which is being called Google Medic, both for its area of effect and for its intent to fix some common search problems.
That intent seems to have been to strengthen visibility and ranking for sites that are higher in a few key areas related to trust. Google calls these factors EAT, for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The sites most affected by the change fall into a category Google calls YMYL sites, for “Your money or your life”. These are sites that primarily have content dealing with either finances or health, where, for obvious reasons, authority and trust are even more important than usual.
If you’d like to take a deeper dive into the factors Google uses to assess the quality of web pages, the guidelines they use are online here. But we’ll try to give you what you really need to know in this post.
Medical practitioners are, of course, also interested in creating trust with their patients, both online and off. So, we’ve put together a few recommendations that should help dental practices show Google — and their patients — that they are a reliable and trustworthy source of information.
What You Can Do
Those three factors we mentioned earlier, expertise, authority and trustworthiness, can be signaled to Google in several ways. The general idea is to provide evidence online that shows professional reputation and credentials, verification of any health-related statements, and anything else that points to your site being a reliable and reputable source of information.
- Maintain strong, accurate profiles for each dentist, doctor or other health professional on your website. These should include information on each person’s education, credentials, professional affiliations, and areas of expertise.
- Most medical professionals appear in online industry directories and professional association sites. Add links to these listings, when you can, from each doctor’s profile on your website. That helps make sure Google has indexed those links back to the practice’s site, and provides some extra proof that the dentist is part of the professional associations they say they are.
- Keep your professional affiliations current, and maintain as many as you can. If budget is an issue for doctors who carry a lot of affiliations, we suggest prioritizing affiliations that help you by providing backlinks to your website in their directories. These links add industry relevance and improve the authority of the practice’s website. That benefits everyone in a practice, so we recommend that practices help their dentists and professionals with the cost of maintaining such affiliations.
- When creating content for your website, add author credits for each informational page or blog post for your doctors. Each doctor in the practice can build up a body of authoritative work this way, which shows his or her expertise in their field, and signals to Google that they are reliable experts. The author credit should include a short bio at the bottom of each post or page, focusing on the doctor’s education and experience, with a link to the doctor’s profile on your site. These “credibility indicators” go a long way to build trust.
- Add more links from your website to quality, well-reputed sources. These might be in blog posts, service pages, professional profiles, and anywhere else on your site that health-related information appears. In particular, when making medical claims or statements, cite your sources, and back up your points with links to high-authority, reliable industry sites, such as the CDC, NIH, etc.
- Get serious about review monitoring and management. Online reviews are a big factor in how your patients, and Google, gauge a practice’s quality. If you have poor reviews linked to your website, it will bring down your ratings for trust and damage your online presence. To keep the many review sites organized, we suggest making a spreadsheet of the major sites your practice and doctors appear on, and checking each profile regularly. When you have happy customers, send them to sites where your reviews aren’t the best, to improve your rating there. This is easily done with a review portal on your website to funnel good reviews to a specific site. (If you need help with that, a review portal to encourage good patient reviews is a feature we include on all websites we design for our dentists.)
- Check your Better Business Bureau, or BBB, profile, and if you don’t have one, get one. BBB ratings are a traditional trust indicator for all types of businesses, and are widely trusted by potential patients. While there isn’t any evidence that Google looks directly at BBB profiles during search rankings, this still deserves your attention for its ability to boost patient confidence and display positive information about your practice online. It’s not necessary to pay for BBB accreditation to be listed with a profile, either. However, once you set one up, be aware that it will be a place where patients can leave comments about any issues they have, so it’s important to keep an eye on the profile to head off any complaints that might ding your rating.
Keeping Up With Search Changes
While making these changes will help your practice’s website rate higher with Google after the 2018 Medic update, there’s a lot more to learn about online search, reviews, and marketing tactics to help your site’s overall presence. We cover even more ways to improve on your practice’s online visibility and search rankings in our in-depth guide to dental marketing, an overview of the most important things you can do to help your dental practice succeed online.