AS MORE AND MORE PEOPLE are using their mobile phones when searching online, reports have circulated about Google rolling out a new algorithm—the mobile-first index. What does this mean? For starters, it means that if you are a dentist-owner or manage a dental practice website, then it is time for you to really pay attention to your online presence. Here's why.
Generally, Google’s index analyzes the desktop version of any website to determine how it will rank in both desktop and mobile search results. At one time, desktop searches were most prevalent. However, in recent years mobile searches have come to dominate daily search activities.
To generate more valuable results, Google started various experiments for making its index "mobile-first." With a mobile-first index, Google would show rankings on search results using the mobile version of your dental website—even if the user is on a desktop or laptop computer.
How should dental practices respond to mobile-first indexing?
As the internet evolves, more potential patients feel comfortable searching for health-care information online. In response, dental practices are steadily adapting by focusing on SEO strategies that will help them build their online brands and attract more patients. From local SEO strategies to mobile optimization, dentists are strategically embracing the benefits that local SEO and online marketing can provide their businesses.
It’s not necessary to be a dental SEO expert in order for your dental practice to succeed online. That’s why hiring the right dental marketing expert is important. But before you do that, it is important that you know a little bit about how important SEO principles work—for example, how mobile-indexing works.
How do you make sure your dental website is mobile-index ready? Here’s a three-point checklist to get you started.
1. Content consistency on desktop and mobile version
If you have a mobile version of your site, it is highly important to keep your links and content consistent with that of your desktop version. Everything should be the same. This will guarantee that when Google crawls your website, whether desktop or mobile, it will still see the same content and links.
That said, make sure that your mobile site does not have less content than your desktop version. Now, you may feel that having fewer words on your mobile pages provides a better user experience. However, Google is going to now rank your website in its mobile and desktop search results based on what is on your mobile version. Therefore, you want to make sure the strategies that you would execute on the desktop version of your site apply to your mobile version.
One SEO element that Google looks at is how much content you have on a page in relation to the keyword density of your targeted keywords. In addition, studies have shown that pages that rank first in search results have a higher word count. (1) So, don’t delete content on your mobile version.
The key here is to implement mobile optimization and create a responsive website that can adapt to the device used to see your site’s content. That way, you don’t have to have a separate mobile design. Some dental websites just have a desktop site with a “mini” version of the site as a mobile site. With responsive websites, you provide a consistent user experience where every element—whether it be content, links, alt attributes, structured markup, headings, metadata, etc.—is the same on both desktop and mobile.
To check how Google sees your mobile site, go to Google Search Console and use the fetch and render tool. Use the “mobile: smartphone” user-agent. Once done, check the preview to see how Google sees the indexed pages of your site using mobile.
It’s also best to check if your site’s mobile version is accessible to Googlebot by checking or testing robots.txt.
2. Page-speed performance
While Google has already considered page speed as one of the important ranking factors, its importance will be higher when Google rolls out a mobile-first index. Compared to a desktop, browsing a slow website via a mobile phone can be problematic. Poor speed performance on mobile sites creates a painful user experience.
3. Add and verify your mobile site to Google
To do this, make sure that you have submitted and verified both your site’s desktop and mobile version to Google’s Search Console.
While earlier news mentioned the initial launch of Google’s mobile-first index would be in 2017, Google webmaster trends analyst Gary Illyes said that the release is “probably many quarters away.” (2) There is no specific timeline yet, but that does not mean you have to lay low and procrastinate.
As dental practices improve and move toward a new era of accessible health-care information, it is crucial for dental practitioners tobe proactive and invest in SEO and online marketing. Prepare your dental website now while you still have time to ensure your rankings will not be adversely affected.
Author's note: If you want to improve your dental practice by attracting more patients online and improving your online marketing, we’re here to help! Don’t hesitate to reach out to Organic Clicks LLC for an initial assessment.
1. Lincoln JE. The SEO and user science behind long-form content. SearchEngineLand website. https://searchengineland.com/seo-user-science-behind-long-form-content-230721. Published September 28, 2015. Accessed October 1, 2017.
2. McGee M. Google’s mobile-first index likely not coming until 2018 at earliest. SearchEngineLand website. https://searchengineland.com/googles-mobile-first-index-likely-not-coming-2018-earliest-277074. Published June 13, 2017. Accessed October 1, 2017.
Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions.
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