For some of us, the concept of dipping our toe into the world of SEO (search engine optimisation), can be a little overwhelming.
We know it’s something we should be doing, but a bit like taking out a private pension, somehow it seems difficult or awkward or too complex to consider.
I don’t believe this should be the case, and with the world of online traffic being a huge source of potential patients for our practices, we need to learn to embrace it.
I’d like to ease the scary mystique surrounding SEO, by breaking some learnings into a few articles.
I’d like to help encourage you to get chummy with SEO, so you can get the best out of your online presence.
It’s all about Google. Yep. There are indeed other search engines out there but unless you are the proud owner of a ‘Betamax’ mind-set (that obsolete video recording system, in case you are too young to remember), Google is the benchmark for ranking when it comes to websites and online information.
How on earth does Google think about your website?
First of all, it helps to think about traffic. Not the dioxin-producing variety, but that stuff which delivers our eager peeps to things we’ve loaded up to the ‘t-internet’.
We’ve maybe even heard about organic traffic (not to be confused with Vegan) and paid traffic.
Organic traffic is that Holy Grail that we are all looking for. It’s free, and not something you’ve had to pay to acquire. Interestingly, the traffic that arrives organically, is higher ‘converting’ when we want patients to do something such as book in to come and see us. It’s a better quality kind of traffic than traffic we pay for, otherwise known as pay per click (PPC), traffic.
The bigger the volumes of organic traffic, the higher up the Google search rank we go – our aim.
Not only are we more visible to people the higher up the Google rankings we are, it also helps bestow a kind of internet authority ranking for us clinicians.
Google doesn’t know whether you are a gifted Physician, Surgeon, or osteopath, but human beings (rightly or wrongly) assume you must be doing something right, if you’re ‘at number one’ in the rankings.
So how do we actually appear when we are viewed on Google’s pages?
If you open a Google search page and type in a search term such as “dermatologists in London”, you will see that there are listings in three different formats:
Right at the top of the page is the ‘Google Ad’ section. This used to be on the right-hand side. Then they moved it to keep us on our toes.
The advantage of paying for a Google Ad is as soon as you’ve handed over your lovely dosh, like ‘Mr Ben’, you instantly appear. But, boy, can they be expensive.
Next, are the ‘Google Map’ listings – this is sometimes called local SEO. Another way of putting it is, how you rank according to the ‘Google +’ local pages. To have a chance at ranking, you’ll need to have yourself visible to Google (by registering your practice through setting up a ‘Google +’ business page). Once this is live, you can then attract reviews of your practice. Once you get more than five reviews, you will start to get an ‘average star rating’.
This should spark your desire to work as hard as possible to get as many reviews as you can. It’s an awesome game.
The bigger the number the five-star reviews, the better you rank.
So how do you get your patients to do this?
Answer: you could literally send an email to every patient you see, asking for their shared opinion of how well you did, and explain to them how they can place a review on Google +. If you can be a little bit disciplined to do this, it will make a mahoosive difference to your practice.
Below the ‘Google Map’s listings are what we call the ‘normal listings’ for Google, aka the ‘organic listings’.
Here is the weird thing: even though organic listings appear further down the page, (and the patient may have to physically scroll down the page to look at them), the majority of people are pre-conditioned not to click on the Google Ads.
Instead, most folk consciously, or subconsciously, prefer to go straight to these organic searches.
Which is why a high organic ranking is so valuable.
The disadvantage of the organic listing is that it takes time and a lot of effort to rank well in them.
You may still be wondering, how the heck does Google decide to rank you organically?
Sadly Google doesn’t have a small army of interested human beings scouring all of our websites. Instead, they have a scarily large number of servers (somewhere in the region of over nine hundred thousand – your local council might have three to five hundred).
Instead of people, they have armies of little spiders wandering over your beautifully crafted t’internet words. It’s enough to bring out the arachnophobe in anybody. The good news is, you can befriend these cyber tarantulas, if you write the right kind of stuff.
Google’s spiders look at three particular areas when deciding if your site rocks or it sucks.
First of all, they look at CONTENT, then they look at LINKS, and finally, they tell us what Google’s ‘RANK BRAIN’ thinks of it. Yep. It has a brain.
Content this is literally the most important ranking factor for you. It’s basically everything that’s on your website. That means text, kitten pictures, and that tacky ‘infographic’.
You may have heard of the term ‘Keywords’ – which are the words patients choose to search on the t’internet. In the past, Google would count the number of keywords on each of your web pages and give it a mark. All a bit basic.
As a consequence, people used to do try to abuse the system, and attempt ‘keyword stuffing’. This is a practice of littering a page full of the keywords which probably didn’t read very well, but nevertheless ranked well for SEO.
All this has changed now.
Google instead wants to look at the way that you use your keywords in a more holistic way. Nice.
For example, you might write about hip pain but also include terms such as hip arthritis, hip physiotherapy, and stretches for hips etc.
Google also wants to see enough words on each of your web pages, and if you’ve a website page that has less than two hundred words on it, you really need to add all a lot more content if you want Google to score it.
At least three hundred words are necessary to satisfy the appetite of a spider. Apparently.
Google spiders are also fussy about what they eat and read: they like excellent quality, reader-friendly text, without spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. Yep, your English teacher was right all along. (So annoying, isn’t it?)
Links are hugely important, and you can have links that take you from your website, or to somebody else’s website – known as outbound links. Most desirable are inbound links, which means that somebody else has directed a Google user to your website.
For instance, if the BBC or a University were to point someone in the direction of your website, that would rank very highly.
It also matters what is happening in terms of social media; Google also crawls across Facebook and Twitter. Outbound links are important, but much less so. The aim is to get jammy inbound links.
Finally, Google has what is called a ‘Rank Brain’. Try not be put you off by the name.’
Google is trying to learn all the time, and it’s getting a pretty good understanding of what an informative website is all about.
First of all, it assesses what the ‘bounce rate’ is like from ‘Search Engine Results Pages’- aka ‘SERP’s.
If you were to type a keyword into Google, for example, ‘hip-arthroscopy’,and it takes you to a page all about hip-astronomy, then you’re going to abandon that website page and go straight back to Google to have a look for a more appropriate site you can click on.
Google also looks at how quickly you might bounce off any given website page, if you have manually typed in the URL – for example, www. hiparthroscopylondon.co. uk.
If you were to leave the site in a flash because the website didn’t float your boat, then Google declares this to also be a non-boat-floater and no good for your ranking.
Dutifully, Google finally looks at the stats on how people use your website.
It notices how long people spend nosing around on each of the different pages, whether or not they scroll down to the bottom of the pages, and if they click through links which might take them to other areas of your website.
It can literally see whether people are copying and highlighting text from your website or getting engrossed in some of the videos that you may be putting up.
All of this is good stuff for your ranking.
Getting your head around some of these basic concepts, is a fantastic way to start thinking about keywords that you can use on your website, which will bring traffic from Google and other searches.
We’ll get into this juicy stuff next time.
Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in building our practices – from a business perspective, as well as a clinical one.
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