Google’s Venice update – will your healthcare website sink or swim?

Google is the process of rolling out its new Venice update all part of its “40 changes for February” project. So what is the Venice update and how will it impact your healthcare SEO strategy?

In a nutshell ‘Venice’ is all about Google serving up more locally relevant websites in its search results, well that is what Google is trying to achieve, but from my initial experience the accuracy of the results are pretty poor and I had to physically alter some of the search settings before I started to see more relevant results.

Here’s an example…

Yesterday I ‘Googled’ “osteopath” and straight away I noticed that Google was serving up quite a few listings from its Google Places entries along with a map of where those osteopaths are based. Below those results there were still some generic, non-local standard organic results too. Now you might think this is great, because you’re only seeing results showing osteopaths located near to you, as you are not going to be interested in learning more about an osteopath located some 100 miles away from you. However, when I carried out the search, Google seemed to think I was based in Liverpool, which I’m not, I actually live in East Sussex. Google was therefore serving up a list of osteopaths situated in the wrong area! Totally useless for me and frustrating also, so why did this happen? Basically Google uses a number of methods to detect where a user is based – most notably, the user can set their default location in their search preferences, but if that is not set then Google will also look at GPS, Wifi information and IP address and to some degree past search history to try and determine your location.

So for me the IP route failed, so I had to alter the Google search preferences and change my location (I guess most searchers won’t automatically think of doing this) and finally I started to get a list of more relevant local results. Next, I went and carried out the same Google search on my iPhone and this time Google thought I was based in London, so again I had to update my location in the search preferences.

Local SEO Strategies for Healthcare Websites

So, what impact will this new update have on your SEO strategy? What it means is that’s even more important than ever for both smaller local level healthcare businesses and national businesses that have multiple branches dotted across the country to ensure that firstly, they have created and optimised a Google Places listing. Secondly, I would also recommend that you identify the types of searches relevant to your business and carry out a series of searches to see if Google is triggering the Venice algorithm for those phrases. Then you need to check that the on-page elements of your web pages are optimised for those target key phrases but also include a location, e.g. “Osteopaths in High Wycombe, Bucks”.  For a smaller healthcare business that is based in just one area, then you can easily do this by optimising top level pages such as the home page or product and service pages. However, if you are national business then you are going to need to think about how you can incorporate multiple location pages into your site so that you can optimise a page for each specific location. However, you need to approach this tactic with care as you don’t want to erroneously create pages that have duplicated content, as this could trigger a penalty.

If you’re healthcare website has been impacted by the Venice update and you want some help in developing a Google compliant local SEO strategy then drop us a line.