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?
The main causes of ranking drops in search results are as follows:
- Google algorithm updates – usually these are applied fairly and happen as Google attempts to improve the quality and relevance of their search results. However, sometimes these updates target things like mobile-usability, website speed and over-zealous SEO, and if your website falls outside of new standards, you can find that your rankings start to tank.
- Your website content got stale and Google prioritised other, more relevant sites above yours.
- Your SEO team messed up with techniques that are outside of Google’s guidelines and you got spotted – this is a sure-fire way to tank your website (and it’s very hard to recover). This is all too common in the world of dental SEO unfortunately and several “big name” marketing teams have a history of compromising their clients. It’s still going on today and if you’d like to see some examples, please get in touch. This is just one reason why you need to be extremely careful when choosing your digital marketing team!
What can you do to reverse a rankings drop?
There are numerous things to evaluate when a website suddenly drops away in the search results and in reality, you likely won’t have the tools and experience to evaluate this unless its the type of work you do regularly. This is where an experienced SEO team will be invaluable. However, that said, here are some of the key ways you can start the recovery process.
- check that your website content is still relevant and add to it to prevent it from going stale. This could mean new treatment sections, upgrading old treatment content, adding a practice blog, new case images, videos etc. Anything which helps users to engage with your website will also been seen as useful by Google too. As an example, we recently added a complete new implants section to a client’s website with 5 or 6 new pages covering the topic, rather than just a single page. Whilst it took Google several weeks to evaluate the new structure, the end result was a position 1 ranking position for the “dental implants” term for the client’s location – a great result and lots of new implant enquiries.
- if you have an SEO team, you need to ask them in no uncertain terms what they have been doing. Risky techniques can get a fast results, but invariably Google will catch up on this and penalise you i.e. the ranking drop. One of the main problem areas is spammy back-links which can cause dramatic harm and if you’ve been subject to this, prepare for some pain ahead. In most cases your SEO team will not give a straight answer and it will be time to move on to a new team to try to attempt a ranking recovery.
- check your on-site SEO – similar to the above, if you’ve been over-zealous with the SEO content on your site, Google will penalise it. This is easier to clean-up than the spammy links mentioned above, but it certainly isn’t an overnight fix.
- Is your website fast and mobile-friendly? Google is continually updating the requirements here so you have to keep in touch. There are free web-based checking tools to help you evaluate this or seek some professional help to do it for you.
When your dental website tanks in the search results and your new patient enquiries start to dry up, it can be more than disconcerting. There are a number of reasons why this can happen and fast action to evaluate and reverse the problem is essential. There are some things you can do to help, for example adding new content to the website, but for some of the deep-rooted technical issues that you can’t see, you will more than likely need the assistance of an SEO expert to diagnose what is going on and help with the solutions.
Here at Dental Media we have a long and successful history with ethical and sustainable SEO for dentists from across the UK. If you need help in this critical area of dental practice marketing, please don’t hesitate to get in touch on 01332 672548.Google+