Why are my Google rankings slipping?
As a veterinarian, you know your website is a reflection of your practice as a whole. You want to be a step ahead of the other practices in town when it comes to your web presence, and, especially if you believe you provide superior service, you don’t want to see your Google ranking slip.
In 2015 you may have had the upper hand in Google rankings if your practice’s site was mobile friendly. But as cell phones have become ubiquitous, only the most out-of-date practices (and unlikely to be competitors for SEO) are not already using responsive design to ensure their content can be easily viewed on mobile devices.
You may see your competitors catching up to you, and you find yourself wondering, why are my Google rankings dropping?
So, while 2016 had an easy answer to the question of what you can do to gain an upper hand, what is the answer for 2018?
Here are five key strategies for veterinarians who want to bolster their Google rankings in 2018.
1- Prioritize Visible Content so visitors to your page see the most important content first.
You want to make sure your ‘above the fold’ content loads quickly. Even if the rest of the site isn’t as nimble, when a visitor to your site immediately gets content, both Google and the user are happy.
Since the old newspaper term “above the fold” is used to describe what you want loaded first, think about it like reading the front page of a newspaper. If the words to the articles in the rest of the paper weren’t there until you turned the page, you wouldn’t care. It’s the same way with your site, so you want to make sure your visible content loads quickly and easily.
Google says to tackle this in a couple different ways.
First, write your code so your most important content loads first.
“Structure your page so the initial response from your server sends the data necessary to render the critical part of the page immediately and defer the rest,” Google’s PageSpeed tools site advises.
Secondly, make sure that ATF content is not bogged down with big and heavy items. Minifying your resources, which removes unnecessary data and needless formatting, can help your ATF content load quicker.
2- Identify what mobile users are doing.
Sitting on your couch looking at a website on laptop is a very different environment than standing in line looking at a phone. The couch is a relaxed environment, more conducive to surfing and browsing, while the other is more utilitarian. Visitors to mobile sites tend to be going for specific purposes, and are quicker to exit a site if it does not provide the information they are looking for quickly.
That means you need to know what your users are doing on your mobile site.
Marketers at McDonald’s discovered people using the McDonald’s mobile app were mostly people without computers trying to apply for jobs or mothers on the go looking for a location with a jungle gym. Knowing this allowed the designers to tailor the mobile site to a very different audience than the PC site attracted.
Find out why clients would/are using your mobile site in a way that is different than the PC site. To schedule appointments? Get directions to your practice? Get medication information? Find answers to FAQ’s about common procedures? To track their pet’s immunization schedule?
It may be a purpose you hadn’t thought of, but whatever it is, the most important information should be easily found at the top of the page. A good mobile site will have a clearly defined call to action that includes the ability to “Click to call” or “Click to get directions.”
Talk to your marketing team about how to tailor your mobile site to the needs of a user on the go.
3- Minimize redirects to ensure your page loads as quickly as possible.
Mobile is far less forgiving than the PC experience when it comes to loading time.
Researchers found that website loading time on a PC can be mitigated by the ability to look at other tabs while a page loads. On mobile devices, however, users are usually staring at a white screen and are likely to bounce back to search results if the page doesn’t load immediately — up to 40 percent of users will ditch a site that doesn’t load within 3 seconds, reports KISSmetrics.
URL redirects tell the browser to go to a different URL than the one originally hosted. Redirects can be necessary for a number of reasons. When a site switches domains, all the internet links to the previous domain would become obsolete without a redirect. Redirects also allow sites to anticipate common misspellings in URLs and will automatically redirect someone who types in (for example) gogle.com to google.com.
Google’s advice: Keep those redirects to a minimum. Think about it like a redirect in real life. You go to the store to buy a potato, but they don’t have any potatoes. Going to the store next door may not be a big deal, but by the time you have gone to 3 or 4 or 5 stores to find a potato, a simple task has taken way longer than it should.
When your mobile site has several redirects, the process of loading a page gets bogged down. And if you have a page redirecting to a redirect to a redirect…well, you get the idea. Things slow down quick.
It is most likely you have some old redirects that can be cleaned up. Use this redirect mapper from ScreamingFrog to assess how redirects may be impacting your page-loading speed.
4- The future is voice
The number of cell phone users who rely on Siri, Google Now, or Microsoft’s Cortana has skyrocketed in the past year. With so many users talking to their phones as if they were an actual human being, savvy practitioners will tweak their content to capture this new type of search.
The biggest consideration is the phrasing of searches. When looking for a veterinarian in Saint Petersburg, Florida, most people using Google would type in ‘Veterinarian in Saint Petersburg,’ or some slight variation. But digital personal assistant searches are far more conversational. It is simply more natural, since ultimately every search is a question, to phrase the search as a question. (Siri, who is the best veterinarian in Saint Petersburg, Florida?).
Think about how your FAQ’s can capture some of the commonly asked questions.
- When is the best time to get my dog neutered?
- What immunizations do I need to get my cat?
- How do I get my dog to stop chewing on things?
At the end of the day you want to make sure you are targeting conversational search terms, especially for longer tail search terms.
5- Go beyond the standard FAQ
Once you have thought out the questions a visitor to your page may bring and written them in a conversational tone, you want to format them into an FAQ page to drive SEO results.
However a standard FAQ page where you give 2-3 sentence (most likely insufficient) answers to each question (a) won’t fully answer the question and (b) won’t help your SEO results very much.
Remember, Google wants to help web users find a page that will specifically answer their question. A page with 25 questions and a brief answer — even if the question matches the search perfectly — will not be ranked as highly as a page dedicated entirely to one question.
Your clients are pet parents who want to know more than just a 30-word answer to a question about their pet’s health. So what should you do, if the standard FAQ is insufficient both for SEO and for the user?
Link each question to a fully built-out blog post.
For the first question (When is the best time to get my dog neutered), link the question to a page with a thorough blog post about the timeline of getting your pup fixed, pros and cons to when you do it, etc.
The typical FAQ page is a resource for a practice’s clients. View your FAQ page as a resource for anyone in the world with a pet. In-depth blog posts will be useful to both your clients and people in New Zealand. The more people reading your blog posts, the better your SEO results, and the more likely a local potential client will be to bring their pet to see you.