By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Everyone appreciates that proper Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vitally important to being found online and makes for more successful healthcare marketing. But a techno-talk vocabulary of “title tag,” “Googlebot,” or phrases beginning with “meta,” tends to evoke blank stares and bored expressions.
Indeed, SEO can be a mighty complex, and ever-changing, blend of words, images and (largely unseen) programming. By definition, SEO attempts to improve the visibility of a website or web page to achieve a higher position among a search engine’s results listings. Earlier or higher ranked page listings will result in more site visitors.
But if you’re not an IT or coding brainiac (or even if you are), consider these ways to improve your SEO:
1. Install and use Google Analytics. You need a means to measure change and progress. There are many software options that track and generate detailed statistics about website visitors. Use any one that you prefer, but we like Google’s product partly because it’s free, widely used and easy to install. More importantly Google Analytics is primarily intended as a tool for marketing people.
2. Publish fresh, original, relevant and interesting content often. Perhaps your single most effective means to better online marketing is in producing interesting and engaging content. Make it your own material and publish something new regularly. If your website is generally static, create a blog with updates three or four times each week.
3. Put your big ideas right up front (and throughout). Google and other search engines tend to look at your content from the top down. Using keywords and phrases in the headline and first paragraph make it clear to the reader and the search engine what’s important in the article, page or post. Continue using keywords judiciously throughout the material.
4. Don’t guess about keywords. Google is the most frequently used search engine and they are constantly sorting and crunching data about the words that people use to search online. Some keywords are intuitive but others may surprise you. As a research step, use the Google Keyword Tool (free) to determine the most popular search terms.
5. Test your keyword list on several search engines. Bing, Yahoo and Ask are among the most popular search engines (after Google), and you’ll want to try your keyword terms on each of these. By the way, the other major search engines also provide help in identifying and selecting keywords.
6. Use keywords naturally…not too many and not too few. The secret about keywords is to use natural language expressions, descriptions and words the way that the audience thinks about the topic. Write text that communicates, using key words and phrases, but without forcing or keyword “stuffing.”
7. Have or create a site map. Few site visitors will care much about this page, but a site map is marvelous material for search engine spiders. It’s their roadmap for indexing a sites hierarch, navigation and content. (Where appropriate use keywords in headings.)
8. Quality Counts: Outbound links are good. Inbound links are really good. The Google search algorithm considers the quality of the link-connected page and adds weight when the site is relevant, authoritative and appropriate. In short, quantity is not as important as quality.
9. Multiply, magnify and diversify your online presence. A single website in the digital world is a weak and lonely signal to prospective visitors and to the SEO process. When you can deliver quality content in multiple places—website, blog, YouTube channel, social media—your visibility to prospective patients (and to search engines) is a much wider net.
10. Don’t be shy about getting professional help. SEO is a specialty that requires unique professional experience and constant updates. In fact, a team of several people with a variety of skill sets is often required. Have a professional SEO audit at least annually; quarterly is better. It’s a continuing process.
Bonus Tip: Don’t expect instant rewards. SEO changes for the better can sometimes take weeks to register in measurable results. Keep at it, but be patient. And for more about Search Engine Optimization to improve healthcare marketing results, read our previous articles: Making Friends With Spiders, Crawlers and Bots and SEO Strategies for Doctors Who Are Tired of Being Invisible Online.