Your reputation as a behavioral health care professional can easily be undone by something as simple as a few inappropriate SEO practices on your website. The scary part is that you could be employing some of them without even realizing it.
The idea that you could be engaged in bad SEO practices without knowing it seems impossible. Remember, however, that bad SEO isn’t always intentional (although it often is). If your website has been managed by multiple web developers and SEOs over the years, it’s possible your website doesn’t have a clean bill of health in terms of SEO.
To understand how this happens, it’s necessary to consider how Google repeatedly flipped the script in the 2010s. The Panda update in 2011 was an indication of what was to come. Panda has a simple purpose: to identify websites with weak, inferior content and keep them from ranking well. This update has been refined over the years and has lowered the rankings for many websites in every industry, including behavioral health care.
There are any number of reasons why your behavioral health care website isn’t ranking as well as it should. The following are four bad SEO practices you should definitely avoid.
Google has clearly become ever more focused on improving the viewer experience. One of its main missions is to make sure websites are adhering to the latest Google guidelines. It’s not difficult to fall out of favor with their guidelines. Many common SEO practices from just a few years ago are now frowned upon by the latest guidelines.
The burden for Google compliance is with your SEO people. Well-respected SEOs stay on top of Google updates to ensure their clients are in full compliance with any changes the search engine has made. It’s always important to keep in mind that being penalized by Google isn’t always obvious. In fact, it’s amazing how many companies look at their declining Google rankings and have no idea what went wrong.
It’s very easy to become somewhat complacent with your own website, especially if you’ve had it a long time. All too many website owners only pay attention to one or two superficial factors while ignoring problems that may be lurking below the surface. And ignored they are . . . sometimes for months, sometimes for years. I know this because we’ve seen the condition of some client websites when they first come to us for redesign. Over the years, I’ve seen pretty surprising problems on the websites of some significant companies.
Your website, for example, may have great content. That’s good, because readers will appreciate that. Unfortunately, if you’re creating excellent content but ignoring multiple technical issues, you have a problem. The greatest content in the world is never going to compensate for glaring technical errors. To Google, those errors can easily cancel out the value of excellent content.
Any good SEO has to keep an eye out for various problems that can creep up on a website, including the following:
When issues like these are allowed to remain on a website, they serve as giant, blinking, red lights to search engines that all isn’t right. Allowing such problems to remain only increases the possible damage they can do to rankings.
In its quest to make viewers happy, Google is very focused on improving the search experience. The most important things they’re looking for are websites that provide a steady flow of fresh and relevant content. When websites supply this, Google sees that as a signal that value is being provided. Sites that concentrate on making Google—rather than readers—happy will ultimately wind up disappointing both.
Smart, engaging content is your chance to connect with readers in a meaningful way. It empowers you to be the trusted authority people are looking for. Stale, old, or otherwise inadequate content won’t do anything to help you reach your audience.
More than a few SEOs spend their days trying to trick Google into giving their websites a high ranking. They use gray hat or black SEO techniques to achieve their objectives, and not getting caught counts as success for such SEOs. What they don’t realize is that with each Google update, the chances of them getting caught become greater and greater. Trying to outsmart algorithms has increasingly become a losing proposition.
Playing by Google’s rules is the smartest advice. Viewing Google as the enemy makes no sense. Their algorithms aren’t some Machiavellian trap; they’re simply meant to improve the viewer experience. Your website should be trying to achieve the same objective.
As Google tweaks and refines its algorithms, the better the company is able to seek out and identify suspicious or low-quality websites. Your behavioral health care website should never be threatened by Google updates. The best way to make sure that happens is to work with SEO experts who are thoroughly invested in ethical SEO practices. You have enough things to be concerned with, and worrying about website compliance with Google guidelines shouldn’t be one of them.
Dan Gemp is the president and CEO of Dreamscape Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency serving the health care industry based in Columbia, Maryland. A graduate of Villanova University’s School of Business, Gemp applies financial modeling to Dreamscape’s business intelligence campaigns to advise clients on a cost-per-action marketing model. He is a nationally recognized speaker on ethical health care marketing and maintains a year-round speaking schedule. Gemp’s unique perspective at the intersection of business, digital marketing, and health care has made him a thought leader and go-to contributor to many health care podcasts, webinars, and publications including Bloomberg and The New York Times.