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What Google's mobile-first index means for doctor websites

See the effect mobile first could have on your medical practice’s search engine optimization.

Optimizing for Google’s mobile first index

In November 2016, Google announced a slow shift to mobile first indexing, and it’s finally starting to hit small local businesses — including doctor websites. In short, this means Google is now mainly focused on mobile content for indexing and ranking purposes.

If your medical practice doesn’t have a mobile-friendly website, your rankings will likely take a hit. Read on to learn more about Google’s mobile first index ranking and its impact on your medical practice search engine optimization strategy.

Why mobile first?

For the past couple of years, most Google searches have been conducted on mobile devices. In total, 55 percent of organic search engine visits in the U.S. came from mobile devices during the second quarter of 2018, according to Statista.

Google strives to provide users with the most relevant search results, which made the shift imperative. Previously, Google’s ranking systems evaluated a page’s desktop content to gauge its significance. This was a problem for mobile searchers, because Google’s algorithms were not assessing mobile content.

Google’s mobile first indexing strategy aims to solve this problem by shifting algorithms to focus on mobile content for page indexing and ranking. Google only uses one index, which now follows a mobile first approach. If your mobile site doesn’t contain as much content as the desktop version, make a change now to avoid dropping in rank.

How Google’s mobile first index affects doctor websites

All doctor websites will not notice the same impact of Google’s mobile first index strategy. Desktop only, responsive, and canonical AMP websites will not see a change. However, websites with separate mobile and desktop URLs, dynamic serving, and separate AMP and non-AMP versions of a page will be affected.

If your website has separate URLs — referred to as an m-dot site — Google will use the mobile URL for indexing. Mobile-optimized content on dynamic serving sites — i.e., content is served based on the user’s device — will be favored. The search engine will also focus on the mobile version of the non-AMP URL, so it suggests making changes if yours is dynamic serving or uses separate URLs.

Related: The speed of your website could cost your healthcare practice patients

Components of a mobile-friendly website

The best doctor websites offer the same value on desktop and mobile. Since the two types of devices are vastly different in size, content must be optimized accordingly.

When mobile users are forced to pinch or zoom their screen to read content, they tend to abandon the website, according to Google. For a website to truly be mobile-friendly, it must be filled with valuable content that’s also easy to read. Among other features, mobile sites should have a condensed menu, click-to-call links, and seamless form entry that supports autofill.

Optimizing your practice website for mobile is entirely necessary, but it isn’t easy. Some designers create a separate mobile website — the m-dot site noted above — but Google has already announced that separate URLs are not compatible with Google’s mobile first index.

If a designer’s quick fix mobile website is just a one-page summary of your entire domain, only a small portion of your content will actually be optimized for mobile. Essentially, this means only part of your practice will be visible in search results.

Your medical practice search engine optimization strategy should never include a single page, alternate version created exclusively for mobile. Taking a responsive design approach to your entire site is the best way to fully optimize it for Google’s mobile first index.

Don’t panic if your practice website doesn’t currently meet Google’s mobile first index standards. PatientPop can help you take your medical marketing to the next level with a high-performance website. We’ll make sure your site looks great and performs great on any device, including mobile.

For more information on the PatientPop solution, contact our sales team at sales@patientpop.com.

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PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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