Many practitioners have been the recipient of an unwelcome letter from the Australian Health Practitioner Registration Agency (AHPRA) in recent times in regard to their online advertising. It’s been my experience that most practitioners simply fall foul of the regulations unintentionally, landing themselves in hot water!
In a stressful situation like that you’ll obviously want to remove any material from your practice website that has been identified as being a problem. However when doing that there are important search engine optimisation implications of which you need to be aware.
Odds are any pages that are on your website will have been indexed by Google and the other search engines. That means they could be showing up in the search results on those search engines, and people are coming to your website. If the page they are expecting to see is no longer present, they’ll get what is known as a 404 error. This doesn’t look good for you, and as an inconvenience for them.
In addition if the search engines get 404 errors as they search the internet, it can start to negatively impact your website’s authority if too many of these are present. Lower authority means lower search engine rankings which in turn means less exposure to new patients. To overcome all this we use what is known as a redirect.
What is Redirect?
A Redirect is simply where instead of displaying the page that was requested by the user, your web-host delivers a different page that you have set. There are a number of different types of redirects, but the most important ones to use in this situation are what are known as 301 redirects and 302 redirects.
You would use the 301 redirect when you are permanently moving a web page. This tells the search engines that the page is no longer at its old address, and has been moved to the new place on your website. Usually the search engines will then update their database accordingly. So if you thought that there was no chance of restoring the page in question, then you should use a 301 redirect. If there is a chance that the page will be restored, then you should use a 302 redirect. This redirect tells the search engines that the new location is simply temporary.
You might be tempted to simply use 301 redirects for everything, but there is certain “value” that a web address develops and if it can be avoided it shouldn’t be changed.
How to Create These Redirects?
If you’re on WordPress site it can be relatively simple to create these. There are plug-ins like the Simple 301 Redirects plug-in that enables you to enter them without too much technical knowledge. There is even a bulk upload extension that can be used with this plug-in if you have lots of changes to be made.
If you’re not on WordPress (which you should be – see here for more details), then implementing these is more complex. You’ll most likely have to edit what is known as your htaccess file.
If you’ve only got one or two pages to remove then creating the redirects is simpler. If you’re doing the whole site you’ll need to get a list of all the addresses (URLs) on your site. There are two tools I would recommend for this purpose. The first one is what is known as Screaming Frog. It has a free plan which should be adequate for most clinics. The other tool is one known as Xenu. This one is free but is slightly less user-friendly. Both these tools will produce a list of your URLs which you can then use to create the redirects.
If you have a website that needs help then drop us a line here at Clear Health Media either by booking Strategy Session to review your existing marketing, or submit an enquiry for an hourly work estimate.
Disclaimer: This article is not produced or endorsed by AHPRA. This article should not be construed as legal advice, or advice on how to handle a complaint from AHPRA. All persons advertising registered professions should ensure any advertising meets the standards required for their jurisdiction.