Something really big happened yesterday, April 21, 2015. Google acknowledged that mobile has hit critical mass (and maybe even gave it a little push) with it's program to prefer mobile-friendly sites in search results. They actually put it this way:
"...today's the day we begin globally rolling out our mobile-friendly update. We're boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Now searchers can more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling."
In the same media release, the world leader in online search acknowledged that this had been in the works for a long time, and that it was a response to a rapidly-growing trend toward the use of mobile devices-smart phones and tablets-for online searches. And anything that responds to what people are already doing is probably a good thing. But what does this mean to folks who have made investments in SEO?
Most of the more sophisticated bank marketers and the best branding agencies have been working on mobile for a while now. Gibbons | Peck first engaged with the whole digital/online/phone banking phenomenon several years ago, when we were engaged to do bank branding for Central Pacific Bank in Honolulu, Hawaii (most Greenville ad agencies don't get that kind of opportunity, so we really appreciated it).
Central Pacific was trying to find the front edge of the phone banking wave, to anticipate the demands of their substantial Asian customer base. Because paper checks had never been popular in Japan, Korea, and China, those consumers had skipped right over checks and were early adopters of mobile banking.
This consumer demand (although it was a couple years later that it made it to the mainland) drove banks to be mobile-conscious. For this reason, the Google announcement will probably have minimal impact on bank SEO (although it would be a good idea to check your site here).
Hospital SEO is a slightly different matter. Until fairly recently, there was minimal need even to differentiate a community hospital from a consumer perspective, since the vast majority of procedures were by physician referral. Hospital branding was important, but as much for the sake of patient experience as for driving preference or generating transactions. The biggest contributor to patient experience is internal marketing. Hospital websites, until about five years ago, tended to be institutional repositories of container-loads of information.
In light of new consumer empowerment, as the ACA has encouraged consumers to shop for healthcare services the way they would for other products and services, a hospital branding agency now has its work cut out for it. But healthcare marketing has closed the gap quickly. Fast-loading sites, built on responsive platforms, have given hospitals the infrastructure for mobile-friendly. And with services such as online ER scheduling programs, both search and mobile search have become a bigger part of the equation. So, to a lesser degree than banks, hospitals have consumer-driven business reasons to be mobile friendly. Still, check and be sure, here.
One powerful tool for SEO, both mobile and traditional, is inbound marketing. Although inbound was not developed specifically for SEO, it lives and dies on engaging content. As search engines get smarter, they become less-and-less "robot" driven, and more and more consumer search driven. We see it as a big part of community healthcare and community bank marketing in the future. In fact, we would suggest that your make inbound part of your checklist, when you go looking for the best bank branding agency, or community hospital agency.