Mobile-first Google Indexing

What does “mobile-first” mean and how does it impact your website?

optimising website designIn today’s blog we are taking a closer look at perhaps one of the least well understood aspects of how Google search works, albeit one of the most important. The topic concerned is “mobile-first indexing” a technical phrase used to describe how Google assesses the content of a website before choosing how to rank or position it in the search results.

At this stage, it is important to note that indexing is actually separate to ranking in that indexing refers to part of the process whereby Google collects information from websites, whereas ranking is the process it uses to evaluate that content and decide its worth relative to other websites. So in very basic terms to illustrate, Google sends out “bots” to crawl website content and then returns this to its servers where complex algorithms evaluate and rank it. The conclusion of the process is the Google search results which many of us use daily.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Historically, Google used the desk-top version of a website to index. This was simply because mobile sites were in their infancy and the vast majority of people accessed websites via desk-top PCs rather than via mobile devices such as browsers on ‘phones. More recently, and with the advent of responsive web design techniques, more and more people have switched their web browsing habits to portable devices, so-much-so that the large majority of people now surf via their ‘phones or tablets.

Consequently it makes absolute sense to use the mobile version of a website’s content to determine ranking results. There are of course other reasons why Google wants to promote the mobile web, including optimal opportunities to serve ad content, and we’ve discussed this elsewhere in our blog.

What does it mean for your dental practice website?

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No padlock showing in your “secure” website page?

How to track down non-secure design assets which are compromising your dental website

Encryption for your websiteSo your web designer updated your website to https encryption, possibly at a very handsome fee, but you’re still seeing an insecure message and no green padlock in the browser address bar? This is very infuriating and can happen with one or more of your website or blog pages.

Not only is this infuriating but also potentially business-losing in that it’s very off-putting to users who are now used to fully secure websites and check to make sure before they interact with you.

So what’s gone wrong? Why are you still seeing signs of an insecure page even though you’ve had the SSL certificate installed and all of you website pages switched to https?

Understanding web page security – https

Web pages can be served to user’s browers by using something called an SSL certificate which is installed on the website server. In basic terms, this encrypts the contents of the web page before it is decrypted to show normally in the user’s web browser. This also goes for any data which is transmitted via a website contact form. Over 65% of all websites are now running with encryption protocols and this is increasing all of the time. With user privacy and initiatives like GDPR now firmly with us, encryption is becoming standard practice and frankly, users now expect it.

Back in 2018 ahead of GDPR, we converted hundreds of dentist’s websites to use https rather than the old http standard. As we’ve covered elsewhere in our blog, it’s not just user confidence we are trying to gain by doing this; Google now also gives search ranking benefits for sites which are using encryption correctly.

Now we’ve refreshed our memory about https and the key reasons why your website must have it, let’s take a closer look at where this can go wrong and how you can track it down and fix it.

The green padlock

Perhaps the most well-known indicator that a website is correctly encrypted, is the green padlock which shows in the browser address bar – this is what most user’s look for. If you look deeper, you can also see the details of the certificate which has been used to complete the encryption on the server.

However, very often you will see websites which are apparently encrypted which don’t show the green padlock in the browser bar; they show something else such as a red padlock, or even no padlock at all. This means that the web page concerned is not actually completely secure and could theoretically compromise your data. So you need to establish what has gone wrong and get your developer to fix it.

What causes web page encryption to fail?

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The hidden benefits of digital marketing

Build & consolidate your local business presence – digitally!

Facebook logoQuantifying pay back on digital marketing spend is clearly very important. Without the correct metrics in place, it is impossible to validate the effects of a campaign and then optimise it to ensure that it performs appropriately as time passes.

As we’ve highlighted elsewhere on our blog, there tends to be a lack of this type of performance measurement and tracking of services offered by many dental marketing companies; indeed the best you can expect in many cases is an automated report from Google Analytics and little else to give you confidence that all is working as expected. Often this lack of transparency is deliberate and done to mask the fact that the marketing being done is completely ineffective.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this! Please take a look here to see how the team at Dental Media demonstrates the success of digital marketing campaigns and what we build into all of our client programmes. If you need for more information about this, simply call us or if you prefer, take a look through the various articles in our blog. We’ll be delighted to help.

But what about the less obvious benefits of digital marketing?

Having established that clear reporting is essential and that campaigns must deliver bona fide new patient enquiries, it’s also pertinent to highlight the other “hidden” benefits of such campaigns when they are done well.

These types of benefits are quite difficult to quantify in that they are not absolute. So not like a website contact form enquiry or telephone call which we can measure. The type of benefit I’m referencing here is “brand exposure” i.e. ensuring that your practice is seen and remembered by the local population, even if they aren’t immediately ready to undertake treatments with you.

A good case in point is advertising on Facebook – of course you want the direct enquiries which come from targeted campaigns, but you also benefit mid and longer term when your business details appear in thousands of potential new patients timelines on an ongoing basis. You need to avoid spamming them as this is very off-putting, but periodic appearance will ensure your business is “top of mind” when they are finally ready to purchase.

You also have to keep in mind that your web savvy competitors are almost certainly already using tools like Facebook, so there is also the element of not getting left behind!

Local brand awareness

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SEO versus PPC – the current state of play for dentists

When it comes to SEO or pay-per-click ads, which do you choose?

Google AdsBack in 2015 we wrote a blog which concluded that organic SEO i.e. seeking out best positions in the free Google ranking, was preferable in many cases to pay-per-click, i.e. Google Ads. We weren’t naive enough to completely discount paid advertising, but back then our experience suggested that gaining a broad, prominent organic search presence was preferable to a sole reliance on PPC for traffic.

Since then the search landscape has changed quite considerably and Google has pushed increasingly hard to encourage business owners to invest in pay-per-click ads. For example increasing the number of ads they show in the search results pages and also the positions they show them. As we’ve written elsewhere, this is particularly prevalent on mobile devices where ads take up quite a large proportion of the available screen real estate.

So these days we are much clearer in recommending that our dental clients consider a holistic digital marketing approach, leveraging on traditional SEO and pay-per-click. The proportion of website traffic generated via paid search is just too great to disregard these days.

Despite the evidence, there are still too many marketers in both camps who insist that their preferred channel i.e. paid or organic, is better when it comes to new business leads. But the days of this type of bias are behind us and we need to select the best marketing options for any particular circumstance. So with this in mind, lets take a look at some of the key things to consider when we are reviewing PPC and SEO as part of a dental digital marketing strategy.

Paid search is not a substitute for organic SEO (and vice versa)

Both techniques have strengths and weaknesses and both can be very useful. As we’ve seen in the ‘ad display on mobile’ discussion above, there is almost a necessity to pay to be in the mix these days. Also if you have a new product or service and need to get it out there quickly, PPC is your go-to tool as it really can be immediate. Conversely, it is always desirable to have a broad and prominent organic (free) search presence to keep delivering new enquiries without having to rely solely on a big PPC budget. It is also important to note that quite a lot of web users still distrust paid ads and deliberately avoid them! A broad organic presence is also known to build more trust with users, rather than simply a presence of paid ads.

Both techniques can be real power-houses so why wouldn’t you want both of them working for you?

Neither technique is free

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Basic Mistakes With Mobile Websites

Check your dental website for these four common errors

optimising website designMany dentists (not all!) have now realised that it is essential to ensure that their practice websites are mobile-friendly. This is not just essential to ensure a good user experience, but also to ensure that Google doesn’t penalise your search ranking results.

It pays to remember that Google now creates its search results index using a “mobile first” methodology, i.e. they recognise that most users now access website using mobile ‘phones and consequently create the search index using mobile content rather than desk-top. So if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then you are clearly disadvantaged!

However, even though many dentist’s websites are generally mobile-friendly, we still see lots of mistakes which can compromise the user experience and consequently lead to diminished enquiries. Don’t forget that web users are generally very fickle and will soon hop off to another website (your competitor?!) if you don’t deliver the browsing experience they expect.

So let’s take a look at four common errors we regularly see on mobile dental websites.

Slow load speed

This is a function of a few factors but typically a) poor design and coding and b) poor server performance.

Here at Dental Media, when we are designing client’s websites, we always think “mobile first” i.e. when we are creating concept designs, we don’t start with the large desk-top display but primarily look at the mobile layout first. This may sound a bit odd but actually it’s very logical when you consider that most people now access websites from their ‘phone or tablet rather than the desk-top computer. So it makes sense to start “mobile first”! Of course the other layouts need to be excellent too, but if there are any compromises required in the design, it’s always best to know this when you start with the mobile view.

Where we see other design agencies making big mistakes, it’s often down to leaving the mobile layout as a secondary consideration i.e. they start at the desk-top layout, refine that and then try to cobble together a mobile version latterly. But this isn’t the way of modern “responsive” mobile-friendly website design.

We also see designers trying to be too clever with designs; adding far too many bells and whistles which can look nice on a big screen but mess up performance and usability on much smaller ‘phone and tablet screens. A classic example is the use of background video which is always a compromise as we’ve discussed in an earlier blog here. If these are not handled very carefully, it’s very easy to trash your mobile and desk-top performance. This is just one example of ill-conceived design where form reigns over function but your users don’t benefit!

So watch out for any features which might look pretty but don’t actually work well on the mobile view of your website. There are tools to evaluate this so ensure you check in with your designer to make sure your mobile site isn’t compromised by poor design and content; and preferably before you go live!

The second factor which messes up load speed is where a design company cuts cost by using cheap servers or overloads them with too many websites. This is a regular occurrence unfortunately. Whilst you don’t need a dedicated turbo-charged server for most dental websites as they are generally relatively small and not resource intensive, you do need to ensure that the hosting infrastructure being used is not only secure but also fast and efficient too. Again there are tools to test this, so please make your designer aware that you are on the case and checking!

Poor placement of contact details

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Why you need to control your Google web assets and tools

Google My Business, Analytics, Ads, Search Console – here’s why you need to control those accounts

Google provides lots of useful free tools to help business owners monitor, maintain and promote their websites. The main ones are explained below and as we’ll see later in this article, it’s essential that you retain control of these important assets rather than hand over the responsibility for them, to a marketing company.

So what are the main Google assets that you will likely encounter as a website owner at some point?

Google My Business

This is not a website tool itself but is more a page on Google where you can add your main business information such as a short description, category, photographs, location and opening hours. Aside from your website, this is the main library of information which Google uses to reference your business and integrate it with the maps listing and results which show in local searches. You need to claim your business listing and ensure that the information recorded there is consistent with the information on your website, blog or any other digital platforms you use. This consistency is important to ensure that you are best placed to take advantage of Google local searches and to receive reviews – hopefully positive ones!

Your Google My Business page is a fundamental piece in the dental marketing jigsaw and it pays to take time to set up your information correctly and to maintain it regularly.

Google Analytics

Analytics is an excellent free tool which Google provides to allow you to record huge amounts of data about the activity on your website. You can use this in conjunction with other tools to see how your website is performing, to see how effective marketing campaigns are and much more. We’ve covered some of this in more detail elsewhere in this blog but suffice to say here, that Analytics is a “must have” tool to allow you to manage your website effectively. Install it as soon as your website goes live and data will start accruing almost immediately.

Search Console

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Promote Your Dental Business Using Facebook

Methods to extend your reach and gain new patients!

Whether we like it or not, Facebook seems to be an ever-present feature in many people’s lives and it won’t be going away any time soon. To ignore it would be wasting a great opportunity to acquire new business, particularly as Facebook has ramped up hugely when it comes to offering advertising opportunities across its platform.

Over the last three or four years, Facebook has ported from a social media platform where you could build relationships and perhaps gain a few new patients via recommendations and associations, to an advertising behemoth where, in skilled hands, you can present carefully crafted ads to thousands of people very quickly indeed.

So what are the main techniques you can use to start gaining traction for your dental business on Facebook? Let’s take a closer look.

Organic Reach

This has always been the traditional way of representing and promoting a brand on Facebook. Here you build your practice business page and make regular posts to it to encourage “likes” and interactions. By building this community around your brand, you ultimately hope to attract attention and secure new enquiries and ultimately, business. However, there is a big issue with simply trying to grow organic reach in that Facebook has massively curtailed it in recent years. So whereas in the past, the majority of those following your business would likely have seen most of the content you posted, now less than 5% will. Here we see Facebook rather cynically removing their freebie service and pushing more and more businesses to advertise, dentists included unfortunately.

It still makes sense to build your organic reach on Facebook as people will still look there to see what your practice is doing. However, don’t expect new patient acquisition via organic reach to be anywhere near as healthy as it was before Facebook nailed it down.

When posting to your Facebook page, be sure to make the content worthwhile and something potential new patients might engage with, e.g. events at the practice, business updates, etc. This will work much better than generic, boring content you will often see 3rd party social media services posting on a client’s behalf.

Boosted posts

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Dental Marketing Expert – Says Who?

Avoiding the self-proclaimed SEO ninjas and marketing experts.

Perhaps it’s the ill-conceived thought of “rich dentists” that continues to lure new companies into the dental marketing space?

Certainly the influx of new start-ups in the sector continues apace and all of them claiming to be an “expert” in lots of areas, or at least so it seems. But behind the flashy veneer, all is not what it might appear to be and the risk of being duped is very high as we’ll see later.

As dentists, you know better than to call yourself experts or claim to be “better” than your peer group; but this doesn’t appear to be the case in the community which offers you marketing services. Indeed one marketer we know had the honesty to write about how he “faked it to make it” several years ago when he first started out.

But if we’re being honest, would you like to be in the hands of someone who professed to be an expert but was simply putting on a show, or working with a team of acknowledged professionals with a long and successful track record? The answer is pretty easy isn’t it, but how do you differentiate if you are not familiar with the subject? That’s less easy unless you really know where to look and who to ask.

I’m prompted to write this as we take over yet another dental website from suppliers who “faked it to make it” – but didn’t and went bust. In their wake they left lots of poor dentists who forked out thousands for websites and huge monthly fees for little or no return. In fact I’m just off the ‘phone to one poor practice principle who is on his third design agency in the space of five years! The first is a long-standing “big” name with a reputation for high fees (but also poor delivery) – they took hundreds of pounds from him each month, but still he couldn’t get them to complete the work they promised. All they wanted to do it seems, is to up-sell him to their next expensive package. Sound familiar?

The second company he fell foul of attended lots of dental shows and snared new clients with the promise of the moon on a stick and so many new patients he’d need a bigger practice. This hard-sell approach appeared to work for the marketing company for a couple of years, but then clients started to see through their glossy website promises and lack of performance, and started leaving in droves. The company subsequently sold off some of their clients to other marketing agencies whilst leaving many of their smaller clients in the lurch. What’s worse is that the websites they’d provided were built with a niche development tool that very few people use, making then unsupportable and in need of full redevelopment. The poor guy I mentioned above has ended up paying for three new websites in five years, but at least this time we’ll be there to support him over the long term.

How do you spot the cowboy dental marketers?

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Did your Google rankings drop?

When should you panic?

I think it’s fair to say, that like most small business owners, dentists know the huge importance of Google for securing new client sign-ups.

Whilst paid ads are becoming more important, organic (free) search ranking is still critical and the the number of new patients acquired from this channel is significant. So it pays to invest in securing those lucrative positions at or near the top of the search results.

Many dentists frequently check their ranking positions, some as regularly as once per day! Whilst this is overkill perhaps, it’s certainly worth a quick check of you main keywords once a week or so to see what’s happening.

Those of us who do that regularly will also know that there is a lot of fluctuation in Google these days and gone are the times when results for keyword searches sat static for months on end in the rankings. This is because Google is constantly adjusting the algorithms which dictate how the search results work – so one day you could be top of the shop for your main keywords, but a few days later you could be down at position three. This type of flux is common now and we should expect it without too much cause for panic.

What we can also be confident about is that if a website is high-quality and that any SEO (search engine optimisation) for the site is within Google’s guidelines, then these small fluctuations can generally be ignored and that any small falls in position are likely to recover within a few days or weeks as Google adjusts again.

So not too much to worry about there. Indeed, if you’ve read any of our SEO blogs before, you’ll understand this ranking “flux” and also know that your overall traffic and conversions (enquiries) are even more important than keyword positions when it comes to the overall performance of your website.

But what happens when there is a more obvious and sustained fall in you keyword ranking positions? This is indicative of something more serious happening and is certainly cause to find out what is happening as quickly as possible. Panic is probably not the best word, but given the importance of website ranking position when it comes to gaining new patients from the web, you certainly need to act with a degree of urgency.

What causes ranking drops?

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SEO, SEM, SMM – what do these marketing terms mean for dentists?

Navigating the minefield of dental marketing acronyms and abbreviations

Those who are new to the field of digital marketing may well be confused regarding the plethora of terms and abbreviations which are used to represent the different tools and techniques currently in play.

So whether it’s SEO, SEM or some other description, here is a quick explanation of what they actually mean and how you can benefit from their use.

Let’s start with one of the most important areas to consider i.e. getting your website high up in the search results, in particular Google.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Whilst it’s very important to have an excellent, mobile-friendly website for your dental practice, equally important is to make sure that the website has good prominence in Google. Whilst paid advertising in Google is now increasingly popular (and becoming essential as we’ll see later), having a high position in the organic (free) ranking positions is still very important. This includes the traditional results index and now also the “map” or local business pages. Whilst this article isn’t about how to achieve that, and you can find plenty of advice about it elsewhere in this blog, suffice to say that you need to keep SEO, the technique for getting free traffic from search engines, as a priority within your marketing initiatives.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

Whilst SEO is all about free traffic to your website, SEM is all about paid traffic i.e. paying to advertise on various networks to bring traffic to your site. Perhaps the best known system is Google Ads (formerly AdWords) whereby you join an auction to have your ads displayed in Google. Typically, the more you bid for your chosen keywords, the higher your ad will be placed. Your bid price isn’t the only determining factor, far from it, but for ease it helps to think of it this way, particularly if you have limited experience.

So why is SEM becoming increasingly important, to the point where you now need to “pay to play” with Google? To understand this you need to remember that over 90% of Google’s revenues are generated from ads and consequently they have a strong interest in monetising their platform as much as possible! So for example, we are now seeing more ads in the search index than ever before and they are particularly pervasive on mobile devices. So it has come to the point where, essentially, businesses are being forced to advertise alongside their organic SEO initiatives. You will also likely hear the term ‘pay-per-click’ used in the context of SEM.

Again we’re not telling you how to use this technique in this article, but if you need help, our experts will be pleased to advise.

SMM – Social Media Marketing

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