2013 was a big year for us here at SEOWard, and we hope for you as well! We’re glad to have been a part of growing your practice, and I just wanted to take a few minutes  to tell you how things changed in the past year and give you a glimpse at what’s coming up in 2014. Thanks so much for reading and as always if you have any questions please let me know.

What was new in 2013

Google changes everything like four times

The latest update, Hummingbird, was a major change – the largest since 2010. Word is the update  was the final nail in the coffin of PageRank (though I still value it as a comparative tool) and introduces conversational search – meaning “where is the nearest dentist?” will have more accurate results if you’re 1 – logged into Google and 2 – Google has a bead on your location.

A drawback to this is that they’re pulling some search focus away from services and into information. A search for “acid reflux prescription” for example is more likely to give you information about treatment in general than a list of drugs or practices that provide them. This makes growing your informational content even more important – as though I didn’t already harp on that enough. Fortunately…

 

SEOWard brings on our own content team

The past year saw us bring on Sean Mannion, a content developer who gives us the opportunity to offer inexpensive, unique blogging services to those clients who don’t have the time or interest in writing – a strong content strategy is key to gaining authority online, ranking higher on your key terms and ranking on countless extra terms. The days of churned, duplicate, and spun articles came to an abrupt end this year when Google dinged websites & blogs displaying duplicate content. Also, consider this… Content strategy, unlike PPC, is out there forever.

 

We also brought on Nadine Allan to create infographics and branding materials for interested clients. Nadine comes to us from Los Angeles, and was responsible for the infographic material published in the UCLA’s Daily Bruin. Infographics are easy to share and packed with info, can be wildly viral, and with the right call to action can do a ton of work on getting attention – the web version of a perpetual motion machine. Again, once created they work for you pretty much forever.

 

We become Google Engage partners

A few months back, Google Partners became Google Engage and integrated some of the tools we use across a few sites. We all did some trainings sponsored by Google, passed some tests, and got to print out nifty certificates assuring us that we’re super good at working with their PPC, Webmaster Tools and Analytics. Full disclosure – they also sent us chocolates. Not to beat my own drum too much in the year-end drum beating email, but I have yet to see a third party firm as efficient with a PPC ad spend as we are. It’s not even close. I’m always alarmed at cost-per-click rates people willingly pay through their SuperPages contract. Yikes.

 

What’s to come in 2014?

Google Plus finally gets important

Whenever there’s an update, the importance of Google Plus inches up higher on the list. Right now, maintaining an active, engaging G+ presence is more important than Facebook for the purposes of your base search ranking. Google’s been moving “people” up higher on the results pages as well, meaning that even if people aren’t adding you to their circles, having content up there and giving it a shot is paying off in search results.

 

Pinterest drives social sharing, sales

It was ridiculous! This holiday season, sales that came to retailers through Pinterest grew by 260% over the past year. People are making pinboards. People are sharing pinboards. Pinterest, while already big, is going to grow even further, but even at its current traffic level the demographic s of the site suggest that these are the people you want to be reaching. This is an opportunity for practices, as you can collect valuable information on a subject (say, “peanut allergies”) and by pinning NIH articles and related news forever associate your practice with that subject.  Association is authority.

 

Your Own User Tracking Dashboard

We are currently working on new tools that allow us to better track the paths people take when navigating your website. Across the web, every account we create (like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus) has a distinct set of best practices for engaging people, but your personal website is first and foremost a sales tool. You want people finding and clicking “make an appointment” as often as possible. We can work with you to assign a basic dollar value to that appointment and show you ways to increase the value of your visitors, making certain that any money you spend online is done in the most efficient ways. You’ll even have your own private page where you can see this happen in real time, if you like staring at webpages to watch numbers go up (I do!) you’ll love the new dashboard.

 

Secure email offering

HIPAA is no longer the elephant in the room, but a way of conducting business. Patient-to-doctor communications are to be closely guarded and cannot be legally held over Gmail or Yahoo (much less Twitter or Facebook.)  After some research, we have begun working with a new email provider with the necessary privacy tools and encryption to allow us to set up offices with fully secure email accounts in compliance with current and future HIPAA rules.

 

Everyone should basically stop using Flash in design

We’re seeing serious growth in mobile visitors coming in from iOS or Android.  This means your website needs to be presentable on mobile. More than that, it needs to not have big holes at the top because of a Flash slideshow of smiling faces. It’s not just my pet peeve, either. If you’re searching on a mobile device, Google knows this and is less likely to show you results that include sites that aren’t optimized for your device. Tablet adoption is up so much in the past year that this trend is only going to continue, and while Flash still is a robust environment with uses, web design is no longer one of them.

 

Search Robots look for authorship, identity and location

Cars talk to drivers, people stand on corners to determine which direction is south and nearby business information is at your fingertips. Local search navigation is all around you. It appears on your PC, tablet and phone. Much like what the sitemap did for website content exposure, microdata formatting points crawling robots to your most pertinent data; who you are, where you are, your specialties, and how your patients rate your practice.  The proper coding of your business information into a microdata format is imperative to improve search and local platform performance providing a bridge from your practice website to maps, review sites, and even the Open Graph Source of Facebook searches.

And in the Far, Far Future:

The downfall of organic search rankings!

You can already see them being pushed further down the page as time goes on. First, the paid spots, then the local results. Soon, expect results to move even further down the page as you start to see social results (are people talking about the search term on Google Plus?) or maybe news items. Even more than all of this though is the fact that all search will become personalized – it will become impossible to tailor a website to rank highly on a term when every user’s results is based on their own search criteria, web habits and history. There will come a time when social drives users to find your local presence, and the website becomes strictly a tool to close users and get appointments. We aren’t worried however – we even look forward to it!