As I wrote about last month, Google rolled out a core algorithm update at the beginning of August, assuring the online marketing world that this was just standard operating procedure- that they do this kind of thing all the time. For dentists though, this algorithm update had more significance than it did for many other businesses.

Barry Schwartz of SEO Round Table, a community website for SEO professionals, reviewed the nature of over 300 websites that he knew to be affected by the update and noted that about 50% of them were in some way related to the medical field with the others scattered over 10-15 other categories. Barry called this update the “Medic” update because of this perceived focus. It’s almost certain that Google wasn’t specifically targeting medical websites, but that the weight given to specific criteria in their algorithmic evaluation of websites has more relevance to medical websites than to other websites such as entertainment or travel websites.

We know that the August update was aimed at boosting quality results in Google’s rankings and we also have information from Google on what they believe demonstrates high and low quality. Many articles have been written about quality over the years as the #1 recommendation for SEO success, but most of these have been about content. The latest algorithm update seems to have even more emphasis on off-site quality indicators, especially online reputation and reviews.

Reputation online is more critical than ever. The quality guidelines available to us from Google specifically mention the BBB and Yelp websites. Perhaps these are preferred websites used by Google developers. We don’t know. We do know it’s important to be active on these.

You probably know I hate Yelp. They have deplorable business practices and they hurt more dental offices than they help. Having vented those feelings, I have to say: Yelp is not going away and we can’t afford to ignore them.

Google uses human “Quality Raters” to teach Google’s algorithm what quality websites look like. Google’s instructions to the quality rating staff are, “When the website says one thing about itself but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust external sources.” I will continue to beat the BirdEye/Online Reviews drum until this changes.

Many of our offices face a significant challenge: they have lots of negative reviews showing on Yelp and other profiles and struggle to get new positive reviews to counter the bad ones. The only thing we can do is to continue to ask for reviews, and we can’t afford to let ourselves become apathetic about the results. We have to continue to try different things until we find something that works for your office. With Yelp, it’s tough because Yelp doesn’t want you to ask for reviews (?!?), but we can build awareness by linking to your Yelp profile from your website. You can also request a Find Us on Yelp sticker here. Perhaps by displaying the Yelp brand in your office, you’ll trigger some patients who love you to post to Yelp on their own accord.

One other note regarding online reputation in the post-Medic update world: it goes beyond reviews. Google also instructs quality rating staff to look for evidence of fraud and customer lawsuits. Mary Haynes, an online marketing consultant says, “If a company has truly been involved in fraud or wrongdoing, then there is not much you can do as an SEO to fix that problem.” We’ve noticed this at Pro Impressions Marketing Group. We hate that the Internet has such a long memory and dim-witted judgment, but that’s the environment we have to operate in. We need to work together to try to clean up your past online if there are issues, and unfortunately, as your marketing team, we can only do so much. You may need to involve a lawyer to try to have certain accusations or verdicts of malpractice or other wrongdoing expunged from the Internet. Otherwise the negative reputation behind your name may weigh down our efforts.

The good news is that the way Pro Impressions Marketing Group operates- has always operated- is to focus on quality. We are always trying to build trust, and we can help you build the visibility of your expertise and authority online. Together, we can help Google understand that you are the best choice for patients in your market.