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Google Search Console for Your Medical Practice

 

According to StatCounter's data from February 2023, Google accounts for approximately 88.9% of the search engine market share in the United States. This means that businesses that rank high on Google in the US have a significant advantage in terms of visibility and attracting potential customers!

​Google provides website owners with a highly-advanced toolset that helps websites rank higher on search results page. What if we told you that with just a little know-how, you could boost your online visibility and elevate your practice website into your primary source of patient engagement and lead generation?

But before we dive into the details, it's important to begin with the basics. To rank high on Google, it is important to understand what lies under the hood, a.k.a; the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Table of contents:

  • ​The Importance of SERP and GSC
  • Enter, Google Search Console
  • Setting Up GSC for Your Medical Practice
  • Understanding the Metrics to Track with GSC

 

The Importance of the SERP and GSC

 

What is it?

​In simple terms, Search Engine Results Page (SERP) refers to the page comprising the results of a search query or keyword entered by the user. The results are based on a proprietary algorithm that 'ranks' websites according to their relevance to user search terms. The ranking system considers many factors, such as content quality, page speed, mobile friendliness, on-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO), internal links, external backlinks, etc.

​In its early stages, it was a simple mechanism that displayed only website links in response to the queries entered in the search bar. Users could toggle the number of Google search results to receive, and it was ten results per page by default.

Results of SERP Evolution

​The SERP system has evolved radically over the past decade. Today it is an ecosystem of information with numerous layers of personalizations optimized to deliver the most impactful results for a query. The types of features that are currently an integral part of SERP are as follows (more on them in our future articles!):

  • Featured Snippets
  • People Also Ask
  • Image Pack
  • Videos
  • Knowledge Card
  • Knowledge Panel
  • Local Pack
  • Reviews

 

Enter, Google Search Console (GSC)

Even though the specifics of Google's software algorithm are a well-guarded secret, the company offers support to help your practice website rank high. This support comes in the form of GSC, formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools.

GSC allows you to see how Google's search engine indexing mechanism perceives your website. It also lets you diagnose and correct any issues hindering your online success. This makes it a must-have tool for anyone looking to enhance their website's visibility and ranking on Google. Think of GSC as a backstage pass to Google's inner workings!

The Uses of GSC and an Overview of The Metrics to Track

​GSC's approach to delivering insights about website performance is similar to how providers treat patients by analyzing their symptoms. In the case of your website, the 'symptoms' are the issues with your practice website, and GSC enables users to pinpoint them accurately. There are many metrics you can track, and there are multiple ways of doing them. But let's look at only the primary features you must be in sync with to fine-tune your website for online success:  

  • Website performance:

    GSC provides valuable information about how Google crawls and indexes your website. It allows you to see Google indexing statuses and their associated errors. By monitoring this information, you can ensure your website performs at its peak.
     
  • Search Queries:

    GSC provides insights into the search queries driving traffic to your website. Analyzing this data lets you determine which keywords drive the most traffic and the ones that need improvement. GSC facilitates the optimization of your website's content and ensures that your website is targeting the right audience.
     
  • Sitemap Submission:

    A sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website. Submitting a sitemap to GSC tells Google which pages are on your website and how they are related. Sitemaps help Google crawl and index your website more efficiently, improving your website's ranking in the SERP.
     
  • Backlinks:

    Backlinks are URLs from other websites that point to yours. They are an important search engine ranking factor for Google. GSC allows you to monitor the backlinks to your website and determine which ones are valuable and which may be hurting your website's performance. This information will enable you to remove harmful backlinks and build more high-quality backlinks to your website.
     
  • Mobile usability issues:

    GSC provides a report identifying problems with your website's mobile optimization. You can improve your website's ranking in the mobile SERP by fixing these issues. Optimizing your website for mobile devices is essential in the current market climate, where nearly half of the internet traffic moves through mobile devices.

 

Setting Up GSC For Your Medical Practice


Now we come to the good part! While GSC delivers detailed reports with a great degree of customizability, setting it up for your medical practice is a straightforward process. Here are the steps to follow:

 

Step 1:- Sign up and Profile Creation

  1. Go to Google Search Console and click the 'Start Now' button.
  2. Sign in with your Google / Gmail account.
     

​Note: If you own a Google or Gmail account, you'll be automatically logged in by Google. However, if you are setting up GSC for use by multiple users, you can add them later as owners or users of your site. By doing this, all of you will be able to access the console and work on a common website improvement strategy. Additionally, you can also tailor permission levels to match each individual's experience and needs, ensuring that everyone has the appropriate level of access. This allows you to collaborate effectively and efficiently, maximizing your business's potential.

​Step 2: Choosing Your Property Type

​GSC prompts you to choose from two property types namely, ‘Domain’ and ‘URL prefix’.

Domain: 

This type of property provides the most convenient option for GSC setup as it acknowledges multiple/all versions of your website. By opting for the domain property type, you'll need to verify ownership via a DNS record. A domain property encompasses all URLs and subdomains, while a URL prefix property covers only the specific URL that you input.
 

URL prefix: 

As discussed in the previous section about domain, selecting the URL prefix option will vastly limit the URLs included to those under the specified address and protocol. Specifically, the URL prefix property type will only cover URLs under the provided address and protocol. Hence, if you input, for example, "https://www.myclinic.com" as your URL, Google Search Console will not include "http://www.myclinic.com" or "myclinic.com" as part of that URL. Going with the URL prefix is limiting when compared to the domain selection option.
 

Note: Ideally, this method is used when you can't update the DNS details of your site during the verification process. It is best to stick with the domain property type since it saves time by setting up one domain property accurately instead of requiring multiple URL property inputs. Also, if you faced difficulties in configuring GSC and linking it to your website earlier, using a Domain property could be an effective solution to your problem.

​​

Step 3: Property Verification

​Choose the ‘domain’ property type and put the domain name. Once you complete this step, the verification process will follow. In the verification step, you would use your DNS service provider( GoDaddy, BlueHost, etc)  to complete authentication. Alternatively, you can select 'Any DNS provider' to access general instructions.

​After completing Step 2, you must now copy the TXT record which is a basically a string of code to paste in your DNS configuration field. Google will then attempt to provide you with precise instructions to match you with the hosts in their dropdown menu.

Alternatively, you can select “Any DNS provider’ in the ‘Instructions for’ dropdown to complete verification with the universal instructions.

Step 4: Viewing Your Properties

​You are now ready to use GSC and optimize your practice website for success!

To further customize your data analytics on GSC, you can set up more properties. To do so, simply click on the hamburger icon next to the top left-hand corner near the logo, and select the property from the dropdown menu. These steps allow you to track other websites, giving you the ability to monitor all your websites under one roof.

Step 5: Access Your Reports

As discussed in the earlier segments of this publication, you can track many metrics that enable you to tweak your website to rank high in the SERP results. GSC stratifies and organizes these segments effectively. The following section covers all the metrics you must track.

 

Understanding the Metrics to Track With GSC

 

As a practice owner, you are also an entrepreneur working to drive your business to profitability. Therefore you must familiarize yourself with the basics of SEO and, with it, the GSC functions. The following are the essential attributes of your website you should strive to improve with GSC:
 

  • Search Appearance
  • Search Traffic
  • Indexing
  • Core Web Vitals
     

Let's break them down individually.

 

Attribute 1: Search Appearance

As the name suggests, GSC’s Search Appearance reports and tools are designed to show how your website is configured and how it appears in search results. The reports generated by these tools are for the SEO effort of your website.

The search appearance feature primarily displays the performance of your rich snippets, videos, and other content. These metrics can be sorted by the number of 'clicks,' 'impressions,' 'average CTR,' or 'average position,' just like search queries, pages, countries, and devices. To optimize your website for Google, you must focus on the following metrics:
 

Structured Data

Structured data, also known as schema markup, is a standardized format for providing information about a web page and its content to search engines like Google. This information helps search engines understand the content on the page, and can be used to enhance search results with rich snippets, knowledge graph cards, and other search features.

Reports on four different types of structured data are available under the enhancements tab on the left-hand side of the page once you have logged into GSC.

  • Breadcrumb structured data helps search engines and site visitors better understand a page’s position in your site’s hierarchy
     
  • The FAQ structured data helps website owners mark up their Frequently Asked Questions page or section on the page.
     
  • Sitelinks search boxes enable users to search your website directly from the SERPs.
        
  • The videos tab displays any errors in your video structured data as well as the number of impressions your pages with that schema have received.

 

Attribute 2: Search Traffic

One of the most useful features of Google Search Console is the ability to analyze search traffic. It is divided into several sections each one of which make a significant impact on your website performance. They are as follows:
 

  • Search Analytics:

    This metric shows the performance of your website in Google search results. It includes data on clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and average position for your website's pages.
     
  • Links to Your Site:

    This metric shows the total number of links to your website from other sites on the internet. It also shows a list of top linking sites and the most linked pages on your website.
     
  • Internal Links:

    This metric shows the number of internal links on your website. Internal linking is important for search engine optimization (SEO) as it helps search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website.
     
  • Manual Actions:

    This metric shows any manual actions taken against your website by Google. These actions can include penalties or other corrective actions for violating Google's Webmaster Guidelines.
     

Attribute 3: Indexing

The search engine indexing process allows your users to find your web pages when they type in relevant search terms. Therefore it is crucial to prevent any indexation issues as a result. To ensure flawless indexing by the Google search engine, you must examine the search engine indexing report to determine whether your web pages include any innate issues.

In GSC, under the "Indexing" section, you can find the "Page indexing" report. It lets you see which pages Google can find and index and any relevant problems.

One of the first telltale signs that your page is encountering indexing problems is a sudden drop in the number of indexed pages. The report also lets you know why your web pages aren't indexed. Among the many reasons your web pages may not be indexed are 404 errors and adding the 'no index' tag by mistake.

The search engine indexing section of GSC enables webmasters to implement powerful fixes and verify them to ensure that the Google search engine can crawl your pages effectively and index them efficiently.

 

Attribute 4: Core Web Vitals

The search engine indexing section of GSC enables webmasters to implement powerful fixes and verify them to ensure that the Google search engine can crawl your pages effectively and index them efficiently.

However, before you begin accessing the reports, it is important to know what exactly you will track. To improve your core web vitals score, you must track the following three important factors:

  1. Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): 

    LCP refers to how long it takes to load a webpage after the user clicks a link. LCP accurately represents what it feels like for a user to open a page. The LCP metric stratifies all the webpages in your practice website into three buckets; Good, Needs Improvement, and Poor. Using these guidelines as a reference, your web admins must strive to optimize your web pages to load up no later than 2.5 seconds (the widely accepted benchmark).
     
  2. First Input Delay (FID): 

    FID refers to the time it takes for a user to begin interacting with your webpage. By ‘interaction,’ we mean choosing from menu options, navigation controls, clicking links, and filling up text fields. Just like in the case of LCP, GSC classifies FID data into the same three segments. The only difference is the unit of measurement is in milliseconds. A good FID time is considered to be around 100 MS.
     
  3. Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): 

    CLS is a measure of how stable a page is during load-up. In simple terms, it is a metric that enables web admins to ensure that specific areas of a webpage do not move around! Have you ever had that experience where you wanted to click on a specific radio button, but when you were about to click it, it moved a few notches down, and now you’ve clicked on something else? CLS metrics are designed to help prevent this instability with web pages when it loads.
     

The Takeaway

Over the last decade, businesses across all industry verticals have realized the advantages of engaging with their customers online. In the current business climate, a feeble online presence can adversely affect the profitability of a business.

Creating and optimizing your practice website just constitutes the tip of the iceberg. You will need a specialized effort to transform your website into more than just a medium to inform and educate your patients about your services and care instructions.

At Practifly, we understand how to bring about this transformation that independent practice owners need for their websites. Talk to our experts today to get a site audit and learn if your website is optimized to fetch the results to boost your online presence.

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