While you might not have heard the term “SEO” three years ago, it’s one of the most critical elements of marketing your practice in 2015. More importantly, improving your SEO is also tantamount to connecting patients with their providers (aka: you.)
There are things people see when they find you online (like the words and graphics on your website,) and then there are the elements that lurk behind the scenes; critical components to optimizing the success of your Web space.
Understanding the basics of effective website SEO doesn’t need to be difficult, with the right information on your side.
The most important thing to know:
Just having a website doesn’t mean that anyone is ever going to see it.
Before evaluating common mistakes, it’s important to understand how people can get to your site in the first place.
Inbound Links: When another website links to your website, browsers can click and be directed–either within the same tab, or a new tab that opens up–to you.
Intentional Arrival: If someone knows the URL (the online address that shows up in the bar at the top of the page) to your website, they can type it in directly. For example, if you knew you wanted to view the Practice Solutions blog, you could type in, and it would direct you here.
Organic Search: This is the elusive element. When someone lands on your page because they typed words into the search bar, (i.e. doctor in Park City, UT,) it is considered an “organic” arrival. In this case, the search engine has evaluated the search term and determined that there is a match between what they are looking for and what your website provides.
So how does the search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) decide whether or not your website fits the bill for the prospective visitor? This is where it gets tricky. The engines use “spiders” to “crawl” the web, investigating each page and forming opinions. Every year, understanding how to convince Google becomes more difficult because the Search Engine Giant just keeps getting smarter. They don’t tell us exactly what algorithms they are using.
However, there are a few SEO mistakes that we know will absolutely work to your detriment. Rather than trying to trick the system, start by doing your best not to be your own worst enemy with these mistakes:
1. Trying to trick the system
Let’s start with the most basic: Google (and any search engine) hates to be manipulated, and–let’s face it–you’re probably not smart enough to trick it. While you want the content on your site to be relevant, avoid stuffing it full of keywords in the hope that Google will see the word and just assume that your page is the expert on that one. Obviously, including the words that describe the purpose of the page is a good idea, but the search engine will recognize repetitive phrases and dock you points for it.
2. Being the expert in everything
If one page addresses things A-Z, the search engine gives it a bit of credit for each, but not a lot of credit for any. If I’m searching for a great restaurant in my city, a Web page that talks about the best of everything in the city, (entertainment, events, culture, family friendly attractions, public transit,) and happens to include dining options in the list won’t rate as high as a page devoted to “great restaurants in Salt Lake City.”
3. Not knowing what your audience is searching for
Rather than throwing in clinical terms, try to think like a patient. It’s common to overlook the most basic of phrases, but important to remember that they are more likely to enter the words, “how do I know if I have strep throat?” than “Doctor”. Think “conversational.” If the search engine knows that you are addressing the problem exactly as it was typed, you increase its opinion of whether or not you will give viewers the answer they are looking for.
4. Including broken or low-quality links
The genius minds behind the search engines know if the links you include on your page (“outbound” links) don’t work, and they think it is annoying. Check the links before you post them, and do a routine check-up every once in a while to be sure that everything works. Not only should they work, they should go somewhere that supports your subject and they should link only to pages that the search engine considers credible.
5. Failing to update your content
Creating a website is all well and good, but if you set-it-and-forget-it, you lose credibility. Information is outdated quickly, and Google knows it. What’s more, with the amount of new content that is added every single minute is mind boggling. According to this article, here are a few things that happen every sixty seconds:
- 571 new websites created
- 347 new Wordpress blog posts
- 278,000 Tweets
- 41,000 Facebook posts every second
If you aren’t the current expert, someone else will be. Update your blog, add or change the information provided on your home page, and be sure to keep the information relevant.
6. Not being crawlable
If a search engine can’t investigate your site with their crawlers, the result is obvious: It won’t consider it as an option. You won’t rank at all, and it’s one of the most common and detrimental mistakes you can make.
7. Being Un-Mobile-Friendly
Your website needs a mobile version, period. It’s almost a requirement, especially in Google’s eyes. Most themes that are available for Wordpress and Tumblr claim to be mobile-friendly, but double check when making a selection. If you have someone creating your website for you, be sure that they are aware of the importance and check regularly to be sure everything is showing up the right way on your mobile device.
SEO is a delicate art, but if you avoid the most common and detrimental mistakes, you are preventing a lot of steps in the wrong direction. If you outsource your SEO efforts, evaluate your rank on a regular basis. Perform a few searches. Search for a provider in your area. Look for the name of your practice specifically. Do you show up? Where do you show up?
If you aren’t high on the list, go back through these common mistakes and see if you’re a culprit.