Dear Potential SEO Client,

I’d love to help you, and if you want to pay my company to reoptimize your website, we can do that, but it’s unlikely to help you. I hate to say this, but it’s not your SEO. That’s not the problem.

Your website is like the proverbial camel. Straw after straw has been piled on top of it. Now, it seems that the site and the SEO have done all they can. One more thing has come along, and now the camel’s back has broken.

The truth is that you really are the problem–or at least what the internet thinks of you is the problem. We can work with you to try to fix it, but it will take time.

I specialize in marketing for dental offices, and I often get messages from dentists who want to know why they just can’t seem to pull past their competitors or even rank anywhere on the first page of Google. I don’t message them back with the exact message above, but sometimes, after I look into what’s causing their ranking problems, I want to.

The number of off-site problems has exceeded the website’s adaptive capacity, and the road back is unlikely to be easy.

What Is Adaptive Capacity?

Adaptive capacity is the ability of an organism to cope with various challenges before it stops thriving and begins to show signs of stress. Recently, I heard Dr. Prabu Raman lecture at a dental conference. He had a slide about TMJ disorder where he described TMD treatment and the patient’s adaptive capacity:

dr. prabu raman giving a presentation

Dr. Raman said, “Once TMD has been precipitated by physical or emotional stressors, the removal or the resolution of that precipitant may not resolve the TMD,” and that “resolution of the TMD may require removal of the underlying predisposing factors.”

In the case of someone who suddenly starts suffering from jaw pain, it may be that some external stressor broke the threshold of their ability to adapt to their TMJ problems that were there all along or could have led to other problems that contributed to their development of TMJ disorder. Regardless, the “removal of the ‘last straw’ doesn’t always cure the broken back,” Dr. Raman said.

What is Adaptive Capacity in SEO?

In SEO, adaptive capacity represents a website’s ranking potential despite underlying negative ranking factors or the lack of positive ranking factors outside of the optimization of the website itself, including the reputation and brand recognition of the entity represented by the website. On-page search engine optimization can only do so much. 

For a long time, SEO has been about much more than sprinkling keywords here and there on a website. Google started looking at factors like links. SEO specialists tried to address this with external link building, but all they really did was try to artificially create what Google was looking for: a website that people actually cared enough about to link to. Google got smarter. The AI has been taught how to look for authentic authority and factors that make a website, a company or a dentist that people can actually trust.

All SEO can do is help Google spot what’s actually there. In dental SEO, we help Google understand how and why great dentists are great! 

Old or New, Your Website Might Need to be Rebuilt

I continue to be amazed at how often dentists come to me with websites that don’t pass the most critical tests that Google has told us are important. Sometimes the websites are ancient and in obvious need of replacement, but often they are freshly redesigned. These sites often look great but are critically flawed in their content, structure, programming, or all of the above.

If you’ve seen your rankings tank after launching a new website, you have to be bold and brave enough to invest in re-redesigning your website. All the SEO in the world can’t overcome a website that Google and/or human beings don’t like because it’s slow, hard to use, or offers nothing of value.

And remember, we need to help people get in, get what they want, and get out. No one has time to explore just how mysterious or high-brow your brand is; you have to be customer-centric in your design. Even luxury brands have chat options, store locators, and online shopping these days. Your website’s design should not overcomplicate the user’s experience.

Sometimes, the website looks like the problem because it’s painfully slow, but what’s really to blame is the server technology involved. Unfortunately, it all looks the same to Google and the user.

Is Your Online Reputation Pushing Past Your Marketing’s Adaptive Capacity?

SEO people started encouraging businesses to ask for reviews as part of their local ranking efforts a while ago. Some took it to heart, and it was an easy fit. Others ignored it or tried to game the system and suffered because of it. All businesses get negative reviews at times.

Again, I do marketing for dentists, but this can be applied to any business. If you’re a dentist and you’ve had a ton of negative reviews, this can cause a cascade of failure in your marketing. You might be able to get a review on Google removed, but you should address it regardless. A negative online reputation hurts you in four ways.

  1. You’ll have a big gap in patient referrals from those unhappy patients.
  2. Prospects will be less likely to convert from your online listings. 
  3. Downstream, you’ll have fewer positive reviews and referrals from those missed opportunities.
  4. Google and other search engines will see your business as untrustworthy and hand it a low ranking. 

You can see that the problem compounds. In addition to responding to the reviews, you’ve got to turn things around:

  1. Address the cause of the negative reviews. Probably not easy, but definitely the most important step.
  2. Increase your efforts to drive new business.
  3. “Wow!” the new business with an outstanding customer experience that makes it easy for them to tell friends and family about your generosity, kindness, and expertise.
  4. Ask for reviews personally, and thank them online and offline for helping you spread the word about how great your business is.

Online reputation is worth investing in, but it goes beyond reviews.

Help Your SEO With Boosted Visibility and Networking

Just as Dr. Raman said about treating the TMJ as well as the underlying factors, addressing whatever pushed your website over the edge into Google oblivion is a good start, but you have to address all of the issues present to truly see a turnaround. In addition to fixing your reputation and your website and maybe hiring some help for your social media marketing, you should consider helping build up your actual reputation in your industry and/or local market. That might involve some work offline and even some networking.

Our best clients are dentists who get the word out about their practices. They advertise online and offline. They speak at dental conferences. They are featured by local media for their expertise. They are active in their communities.

All of this is worthwhile time and money invested. If it were easy, everyone would do it. If you want to pull past your competitors, you have to do some things that they aren’t doing.

Google catches wind of it all, and a good marketing company can help your offline efforts increase your reputation as an expert in the online world.