Starting today, Google is rolling out a major change to their search algorithm. Considering that roughly 70% of all web searches use Google, this could have a big impact on how your prospective patients find out about your practice. Follow along and we'll give you an inside peek into how the almighty Google-Box is changing, and how you can make sure your clinic's search rank doesn't suffer.
What the heck is #mobilegeddon anyway?
Starting April 21st, Google is making a change to its search algorithm (the way in which it decides what websites to display first when you search a given term). Google will now check to see if a website is "Mobile Friendly" -- meaning that it looks good on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet -- and use this information to update its search results rankings (where you show up in the search results). While Google will not share exactly how this will impact your search rank, what we do know is that this should only impact mobile searches (when you search for something from a smartphone or tablet rather than your PC).
What does it mean to be mobile friendly?
It's pretty simple. Does your website look like junk when you view it from a smartphone? You're probably not mobile friendly. Here are the big things that Google is looking for:
Readable Text: If you have to pinch and zoom in to read text on a web page, it's probably not readable, and therefore not friendly for mobile viewers.
Clickable Links: Some people (me) have big ol' fingers. If links are too close together or too small, they are hard to click accurately on a mobile device. If your links are hard to click, your site likely isn't mobile friendly.
Mobile Viewport Not Set: Was your site built to resize for different sized screens (viewports)? It's pretty simple to make the content of your website adapt to various screen sizes, but if your site doesn't do this, it's probably not mobile friendly.
Why would Google do this to me?
Because Google is like the great and powerful Oz (don't look at the man behind the curtain) and it loves to toil with its adoring minions (read: us). But seriously, it actually makes a lot of sense. The number of mobile searches are skyrocketing. According to Google, about half of all its searches come from a mobile device. Mobile users expect the same experience as they do on a traditional PC, so it only makes sense for Google to start weighting its results based on mobile friendliness.
How can I check if my site is mobile friendly?
For this, Google has built a lovely tool to give you a quick answer if you site is mobile friendly or not. Head on over Here to have a look and see if your site is mobile friendly. Just paste in your clinic's URL and Google will analyze your site and give you any feedback required.
"Oh no, my site failed the test! What do I do now?"
Don't fret. While Google's change goes into place today, it will take about a week to roll out across the web. Even after it's done rolling out, you can still make changes to your site and you should see your search rank start to improve. That being said, you will need a plan of attack to update your page. Here are a few places to start:
To get an in-depth view of what needs changing on your site, check out the Google Page Speed Index. While this tool was designed to test how fast your page loads, it will also give you a detailed check list of items to fix, things that you should consider fixing, and things you're already doing well.
If you worked with a 3rd party to build your site, and your site was built in the last few years, call up your website developer and ask them why your site isn't mobile friendly. There is no excuse for it not to be. If your site is older and you are thinking about building a new site, this article can be helpful in thinking about the process.
If you built the website yourself (Go you for taking the initiative to not only be a PT, but also to learn how to develop for the web!), there are a number of great resources online for learning responsive web design. Some of our favorites include this Treehouse post from last year, this Smashing Magazine overview from 2011, and the one that started it all.
Google Local Search won't be changing (for now).
As we've talked about before, reviews can have a big impact on search rank. When we rolled out StriveHub Reach we made a decision to push patient reviews to Google+ for this reason. When you search for a given service (such as physical therapy) Google defaults to displaying Google Places results first (on web and on mobile). Locations with a significant number of Google reviews will float to the top, therefore ensuring that your practice lands first. As far as we know now, Google's mobile friendly change will not be impacting this at this time, giving you another option to improving your clinic's search presence.
Wrapping things up:
If your site is mobile friendly already, good work. If your website isn't, don't stress! You still have time to make changes. As we continue to see mobile use grow, it will continue to be critical for businesses of all kinds to adapt to mobile best practices. #mobilegeddon might be just the kick in the pants your practice needs to get going.