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Google and Disgruntled Patients: What is the Common Denominator?


Schema clears up communication between Google and your website

Do you remember a recent interaction with a disgruntled patient?

It is likely that miscommunication played a role in the conflict according to a study by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. In fact, one quarter of medical malpractice cases involve some form of miscommunication according to Harvard Medical Community's CRICO.

Physicians across all fields of medicine are utilizing various communication methods to ensure that patients truly understand all aspect of their care. These efforts are not just to avoid negative outcomes, but to enhance the physician's ability to guide as many patients to a successful outcome as possible.

Much like patients, search engine giant Google can become disgruntled despite your best intentions. Google's response to your website's alleged misbehavior can range from minor to catastrophic depending on the severity of the complaint and the manner in which you respond.

On the other side of the coin, communicating clearly with the search engine opens up opportunities. In both cases, it is crucial that your website speaks Google's language to avoid costly miscommunications.

What Language Does Google Speak?

Google can be described as the most significant and benevolent referral source on the Internet, directing its users to quality sources and away from questionable sources. The search engine giant is constantly enhancing its ability to distinguish and deliver quality content.

A fundamental component of this process is accurate communication of "schema" data from the website to the search engine. For our purposes, think of schema as Google's preferred definition for specific terms.  For example, most patients do not know what "gingiva" means, but they are aware of the term "gums." Schema seeks to clear up disconnects such as this by utilizing commonly accepted language.

How Schema Works for Your Practice

Schema is code that we build into our clients' websites that allows search engines to recognize and potentially display additional information on their practices within search results. The proper application of schema markup ensures that our clients' websites send clear signals to Google. These signals are used to determine whether a website is trustworthy, so you don't want to risk poor communication. 

Why is this important? Web pages with schema markup:

  1. Tend to rank higher in Google search results
  2. Have the potential to produce more compelling search results than competitors who are not using schema markup

Schema and the Rich Snippet

Now for a case study. Google's term for listings in its search results page is "snippet." Snippets are the various suggestions delivered based on your search, like the example below when searching for a cosmetic dentist. 

The basic Google snippet displays the name of the website, its URL, and a brief description.

Now let's see the difference between a basic snippet and a rich snippet. When schema markup is used correctly, your site has a better chance of producing rich snippets in search engine results. While you cannot completely control which aspects are displayed by Google, it is imperative to provide this information so you do not miss an opportunity to outshine the competition. 

This rich snippet includes links to several key pages on the firm's website, allowing consumers to quickly access key information on your site that will help answer their need:

Without Schema

With Schema

And now for an exciting opportunity. Unlike Google Ads, rich snippets cost nothing more than the time and expertise that goes into optimizing your website. Notice how the Artistic Expressions Dentistry snippet expands when a prospective client clicks on the entry. Directions to the office, office hours, reviews, photos, and additional information jump onto the screen and eclipse the paid ads on the right bar. This website is clearly speaking Google's language.

Caution: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

It is dangerous to assume that your patients fully understand the terms your are using. Remember that the confused patient may become disgruntled despite your best intentions and high standard of care. Google is much the same.

Incorrect application of schema on your website can negatively impact your efforts. It is vitally important to work with a professional who is well-versed in schema to maximize the communication between your website and the most prolific referral source online: Google.