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The Latest Google Algorithm Update and How it Affects Your Dental Practice

Algorithm change button
Algorithm Update

SEO (search engine optimization) has long been a staple in the dental marketing community and its importance will not wane anytime soon. That said, SEO best practices do change over time as Google rolls out their periodic algorithm updates. The latest Google algorithm update is no exception and it’s important to understand how it affects your dental practice.

Most Google algorithm updates are minor, but there are still small tweaks to the rules of SEO that are important to pay attention to if you want to keep your dental website relevant and showing up at the top of search results for related search inquiries.

The latest major Google update was released back in October 2019 and is named ‘BERT’ (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). In this article, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about BERT and other algorithm updates and how they can affect your dental website and practice.

Why Care So Much About the Latest Google Algorithm Update?

“Will the latest Google algorithm update affect my dental practice’s website?” We hear this question every time the internet is abuzz with news of a new Google update, and it’s an important question because the answer is almost always a yes.

The problem with these updates is that there’s a lot of uncertainty that ensues once the update is rolled out. And here’s a secret; Google launches hundreds of core algorithm updates every year, but only announces a few of the most impactful ones. Needless to say, the SERPs are always changing.

With every new algorithm update, Google is moving closer and closer to making the search experience easier and more relevant for its users. Unfortunately, this can mean that your site’s rankings can fluctuate along with these updates which makes it crucial that you stay up to date with them and understand their impact.

What is BERT?

Let’s start by discussing what BERT is. Essentially, it is a breakthrough technology that helps Google to better understand natural language queries—which are common in voice search.

Here’s an example, a couple of years ago a common search term for your practice may have been “porcelain veneers.” That search was probably pretty easy to optimize for and track. Today, with more people using software like Siri and Alexa, they may use a voice search that lends itself to more conversational queries.

With a voice search, that same searcher may say something like “How expensive are porcelain veneers and will they damage my teeth?” A query like that can easily confuse an algorithm. However, this is where BERT comes in. BERT is a learning technology that can evaluate all the words in a query. BERT uses data regarding speech patterns and common word usage to identify the searcher’s intent.

So, How is BERT Changing SEO?

If you track your dental website’s SEO performance, you probably track the short, commonly searched keywords. If so, you may not have even noticed the impact of BERT. This is because it only applies to long queries like the example we listed above. And chances are, you aren’t tracking your performance on such a long, wordy phrase. In fact, it probably never even occurred to you to do so.

You really can’t predict these long, conversational phrases. In fact, according to Google, 15% of all searches are unique. Unique queries mean that these searches have never been conducted before, and this number is likely to continue to rise right along with the prevalence of voice searches.

How to Optimize for Voice Search Per the BERT Update

Given that the BERT update considers voice searches, it makes sense that if you want to continue to compete in local search, you need to optimize for voice search. Unfortunately, due to the unpredictable nature of voice queries, it can be difficult or impossible to identify these keywords.

The most notable difference between voice and text search aside from the length is the format. A query is a question. Searches are asking something, but they don’t always ask in question format. As we mentioned above, typed queries tend to be shorter and more concise whereas voice queries tend to be longer and posed more like a real spoken question.

Knowing this information, here’s how you can improve your results with BERT and better optimize your dental website per Google’s latest algorithm update:

  • Make sure that you’re creating content that’s both relevant and valuable to searchers. In the past, sites could get away with adding keywords like “porcelain veneers” a few times in your content to better increase your rankings for the keyword. Instead, focus on creating content and thoroughly and clearly explains the topic.
  • Consider key questions that your potential customers might be searching for. There are several keyword research tools out there that you can use to identify common questions asked about a given topic. But don’t underestimate your personal knowledge and experience—you have firsthand knowledge of what your patients are asking and what information they’re seeking. These are the questions that you can begin to build your content strategy around.
  • Be sure to include an FAQ page on your website. Not only do patients appreciate the ability to get answers to their most pertinent questions but it can also help boost your SEO and traffic because your frequently asked questions are the questions that are being frequently searched in search engines, too.

To get a deeper dive into voice search, check out our article The Future of Voice Search in Dental Marketing.

Broad Core and Featured Snippet Update January 2020

So far in 2020, Google has announced two algorithm updates. The first is a broad core algorithm update. As we mentioned, Google rolls out hundreds of updates per year, however, they only launch a broad core update a few times a year. Broad core updates are significant because they can make significant SERP fluctuations—which can send website owners into a panic attack.

While this update may have caused some fluctuations, it’s important to keep in mind that these updates are made to improve the search quality for Google users and the only way to combat these fluctuations and stay ahead of the curve is to create exceptional content that’s geared towards the user experience.

The second algorithm update of 2020 that was announced is regarding Google’s featured snippet. Google rolled out an update that will restrict URLs shown in the featured snippet from appearing again within the first ten organic search results.

Previously, if you had a page that made it into position #0 or the featured snippet, you would also see that same page listed somewhere on page one in the organic listings. Google rolled out this campaign to ensure that the SERPs are not cluttered and that only the most relevant information be displayed.

Just the Beginning

While the immediate impact of Google’s BERT update may be very subtle, you can rest assured that this is just the beginning. As technology evolves, search evolves along with it. As simple text searches wane, voice search will continue to soar.

Dental practices that are early adopters will get the edge on their competition. This means that if you want to continue to compete in the SERPs, you need to start implementing strategies to accommodate relevant voice search.

At Core Dental Solutions, we stay in the know and up to date with all Google algorithm changes and bring that information to our clients. We’re a full-service dental marketing company that helps ensure our clients continue to evolve with the ever-changing digital marketing world.

If you’re interested in seeing how we can help your dental website stay at the cutting edge of search by incorporating relevant SEO best practices, get in touch with us today.

Schedule your free consultation here to learn more about our dental marketing services and how we can take your dental practice to the next level this year!

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