Over the past 6 to 9 months, many dental practices have unfortunately seen their websites disappear from Google search engine results. Given the popularity of Google as a search engine compared to the others out there, this likely caused a dramatic drop in traffic and new patient leads. So what happened? Why did Google give them the boot?
If your website was one of those websites that took a big hit in visibility, it’s easy to assume that Google penalized your practice. Here are some of the reasons why Google may have slapped your website with a penalty:
· Manipulative linking tactics
· SEO spam such as hidden, keyword-rich text
· Use of gateway pages or other methods of trying to trick Googlebot
In those situations, Google could have performed what it calls a Manual Action. This is different from when you might have heard professionals in the Internet marketing world bemoaning the latest Google algorithm change.
When Google changes its algorithm, it changes the way that it evaluates all websites on an automated basis. If Google levies a manual action against your website, then a human member of the Google Web Spam team has flagged your website for breaking Google’s terms of service in some way.
This is very bad news for a dental practice, more so than for online merchants, because while they can easily buy a new domain name and start over, your practice has likely been branding your website’s domain name for years. Your domain name may be the practice name or even your own name if you’re the doctor. But before you start scrambling for solutions, it’s important to first identify whether or not Google actually singled out your website.
Just because your website has dropped from the prime position that it previously enjoyed doesn’t mean that Google specifically targeted your website, but it may not actually be an algorithm change that caused the drop. There is another common reason why websites lose rankings.
In many cases, spammy link building is to blame. Yes, manipulative link building can result in a Manual Action from Google, but other times, your website is simply collateral damage when other websites suffer penalties.
Picture a house built above water on supports. If those supports are taken out from under the house, the house plummets. The same can happen to a website that has a perceived value in Google’s eyes based on links from websites that Google later devalues.
When Internet marketers looking to game the Google system learned that links were part of how Google evaluated websites, they immediately started looking for a quick and easy way to build massive amounts of links to fool Google into believing that the websites that they managed were well-respected across the Internet.
This technique of building as many artificial links as possible to a website is not a new technique, nor has it gone away. The methods used to build links vary from using hackers to implant links in websites with poor security, to links placed in blog comment areas by computer programs that troll the Internet, to just flat-out paying someone to link to your website. These manipulative and unethical tactics are frowned upon by Google.
Regardless of how the spammy links are created, when Google changes their algorithm or takes manual action against websites downstream in an artificial linking structure, the result is that the thousands of links built up toward the website at the top of the hierarchy suddenly lose value, and the house comes crashing down without Google intentionally penalizing your website for doing something wrong.
Step 1 is to have your Web team look for a Manual Action taken against your website. They can find this in your website’s Google Webmaster Tools account.
A Manual Action from Google will necessitate an intense campaign to disengage your website from the manipulative tactics that were used. It’s not enough to just fire the previous company. Doing so generally won’t reverse the damage done. You’ll have to have your next company unravel things and start over.
Whether you have a Manual Action taken against your website or not, a lot of work will be needed to restore Google’s faith in your website as a reliable source of dental information. The good news is that Google doesn’t generally hold a grudge. Once your website proves its worth again, it should be able to return to its former 1st-page glory in Google’s search engine results.
About the Author
Jonathan Fashbaugh has been working with dentists on their marketing for ten years. He is the president of Pro Impressions Marketing Group, holding a degree in Digital Media Arts from Full Sail University. He has written many articles about website design and search engine optimization. He has also taught Internet marketing courses at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. You can learn more about Jonathan and Pro Impressions at https://www.proimpressionsgroup.com.