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The Future of Search: Explicit vs. Implicit Search

Published: October 18, 2013

Google's Hummingbird Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve said this, but “a lot is probably going to change with the next Google update”. Dubbed “hummingbird”, Google’s next search engine algorithm update promises to be on of the most consequential in years. Nobody knows the exact details of what will transpire with this update, but the way keywords are looked as is one of the things that is likely to change.

Dental Websites and "the Hummingbird"

Now before you call your SEO person in a panic - don’t. I still maintain that even though Google’s algorithm will shift over time, the bottom line for Google is to provide visitors relevant search results. Once Google stops providing relevant search results (giving you websites about motorcycles when you are searching for yachts), that’s when Google goes broke. Accordingly, as long as your website provides high-quality, custom content, that aims to meet the needs of your visitor, you will still succeed. And as for what will happen to keywords with this new update, I will keep you up to date as the information becomes clearer. But remember, it’s EVERY dental website that will be affected by this change (every website in the world, in fact) so you/we are all in the same boat.

Explicit vs. Implicit Search

One of the things that has been changing over the years in the world of search, is the move to implicit search vs. explicit search. In the early years of search engines, there was no differentiation of results. So if you were searching for “sears lawn mower” it didn’t matter what device you were using, what you had searched for before, or what state you were in. Everyone generally saw the same search results for the search term “sears lawn mower”. This result pattern is known as explicit search.
As search engines have gotten smarter, and know more about visitors, they are able to cater the search results more specifically to the user. This technique is known as implicit search. Search engines will still give you relevant results for “sears lawn mower” but they are also going to factor in what town and city you are searching from, your browsing history, the device you are using, and so on.
The take-home from this shift from explicit search to implicit search is that the content on your web pages, needs to be more and more relevant than ever before. It’s not enough to have a “Services” page where you list “dental implants, root canals, crowns, etc.” Instead you need to have a page for each of these individual services (in addition to the “Services” summary page).

What’s the Good News?

The good news is that most of your competitors are not writing custom content. They are having content written by copywriters who don’t know a periodontal pocket from a shirt pocket, or even worse, they are using canned content that “came” with the website. So for those of you who have a large number of pages, with custom written content, you are already ahead of the game in this even more content-centric world.
But for those of you who still have the content that “came with the site”, or only have a 5 page website that provides little information other than your name and address, all is not lost. You can turn over a new leaf tomorrow (ok, maybe on Monday) and start thinking about expanding your website to meet the needs of implicit search, and start writing your own content to really promote your practice in a helpful and thoughtful way.
Besides, you know more about your office and your patients than “the copywriter”? Don't you?

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