If you’ve spent any kind of time looking into digital marketing, you probably know something about SEO. Some people like to position SEO as a highly complicated science, while others treat it like some kind of mystical art. The truth is that it’s somewhere in between, and it’s something that you can do for yourself.
SEO is dynamic; it changes to adapt to what web users need. To really make it work for you, we need to understand more than what SEO was yesterday; we need to be mindful of what it is today and what it’s going to be tomorrow.
What Is SEO & Why Should I Care?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. To put it simply, SEO is a series of small steps or actions anyone can take online to make their website easy to find. The point of SEO is to grow the amount of organic traffic your website receives as well as to help your website rank higher in Google’s search results.
Obviously, the more people who know about your business, the more people are likely to choose your practice. But it’s not just about reaching people; it’s about reaching the right people. Search engine optimization is designed to bring web users who are either looking for products and services just like yours or are looking for answers that you can provide.
I like to say that SEO isn’t really the best description of SEO; it’s more like SEEO:
SEEO is a great way to describe the sequence that strong SEO follows. So let’s unpack that a little bit.
- Create content that addresses a subject you or your company is an expert in
- Make this content engaging by employing writing for the web best practices and incorporating helpful media
- Empathize with the needs and pain points of your readers; give them a reason to believe that you can help (and that you care)
- Provide your reader with an opportunity to take a meaningful next step. This could mean prompting them to call you, directing them to a helpful video, or linking them to another page/post that provides additional value.
The SEO Fundamentals
If you were to scour the internet for every SEO article ever written, you’d find a whole lot of deviation in terms of what’s considered effective. But there’s a good reason for that.
The rules for strong SEO are totally based off of Google’s search algorithm. If that algorithm were etched in stone and passed on from generation to generation, SEO best practices would never change. But Google’s job is to help searchers find what they’re looking for, and they’re very good at it.
In their never-ending quest to give you the best experience and most relevant search results, the powers that be at Google regularly update their search algorithm. Every algorithmic change alters the rules for SEO. To put it simply, SEO best practices change every few months or so.
As of right now, the fundamentals of SEO boil down to user intent, user experience, and integrity.
Google really wants to answer users’ questions with the precise information that the user is asking for, which is why they’ve placed a huge value on user intent. When Google looks at your site, it takes note of what topics each page covers and how well it covers them. It’ll consider things like the types of content you have, including videos, text, and infographics.
Most of all, it evaluates how well each page addresses user intent. Does this page have everything the user is looking for? If so, it’ll rank significantly higher.
No matter how good the information is, a user won’t bother to scroll through it if the website isn’t easy to use and navigate. That’s why Google puts a huge emphasis on user experience. Elements like load time, content organization, page layout, mobile responsiveness, and simple navigation can all impact the way your user interacts with your website, which in turn, impacts your rankings.
One of the biggest misconceptions about SEO is that it’s all about tricking Google into ranking a site on the front page, whether it’s relevant or not. On the contrary, SEO is all about helping your site rank highly by making it as effective, informative, and user-focused as possible.
The days of talking at your user are over. A modern website shouldn’t be about you or your practice; it should be about giving potential patients all of the information and resources they need to make an informed decision. Think of your website as a means of starting a conversation. A good conversation doesn’t start with a sales pitch, it starts by getting to know the other person and trying to understand their needs.
How Has SEO Changed Lately?
On August 1, 2018, Google implemented what has come to be known as the “Medic Update.” This update wasn’t necessarily designed to target medical professionals, but it has certainly made an impact.
The medic update was designed to come after “your money, your life” content, which is any information in copy, video, or infographic form that could have an impact on the user’s health or life. Going forward, any of this kind of content needs to come with some kind of expertise or credence.
One of the ways you can do this is to cite sources. For example;
“Though soft drinks are tasty, studies show that drinking a lot of pop is linked to severe dental erosion and decay.”
By linking to an academic source that confirms your claims, you’re giving yourself credibility and proving that the information you’ve provided is trustworthy. Another important way to establish expertise is by crediting blog entries to a qualified author. So you can either write your own content, or have content ghostwritten for you; either way, it’s important to attach your name, title, and all your credentials to assert your knowledge.
Keywords Aren’t Enough
A few years ago, SEO was very keyword-centric which resulted in keywords becoming the focus of most websites. Even though SEO has changed, lots of websites and even some marketing agencies cling to keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing is an outdated technique that relies on using as many relevant keywords as possible in hopes of creating well-ranking content. The resulting copy usually reads like something that was generated like a computer.
Here’s an example:
“XYZ Dental in Northwest Calgary is your source for general dentistry services in Calgary. All of our Calgary dentists are experienced in family dentistry and cosmetic dentistry in Northwest Calgary.”
This content was written for Google web crawlers (bots) rather than human eyes. Any person who reads this will get frustrated and suspicious, and will probably leave the site.
Effective content today is thorough, deep, and rich. Give your readers all the information they need in order to make the right decision. Having said that, keep your audience in mind; you’re writing for patients, not doctors. Offer the simplest explanations you can and avoid medical jargon whenever possible.
A wall of text will overwhelm the average web user, so be sure to break the content up into short paragraphs, probably no more than 4 sentences or so. Finally, be sure to add clear and relevant headlines every time you switch to a new topic or sub-topic. Web users seldom read web copy, they scan it. Headlines help your reader scan through the content to find the information they want quickly and easily, which makes for a positive user experience.
With such an emphasis on user experience, it’s crucial that your website isn’t self-serving. You need to consider your user and their intent, making sure that you’re addressing as many of their needs as possible.
It’s easier than it’s ever been to cross-shop. Give your potential clients all the information they might be looking for on your website, including prices (or that you follow your regional pricing guide), hours, technology at your practice, and products available.
The one caveat to this is that mentioning these types of unique features might be prohibited by the regulatory body in your region. Be sure to consult the relevant legislation before creating your website.
What Can I Do to Improve My SEO?
The list of things you can do to improve your SEO is long, but don’t get discouraged! Most of these tasks are relatively small jobs, and they can make a huge difference. You can either implement these changes yourself or hire an agency to do it for you.
- Build a good, professional-looking website that’s mobile responsive & loads quickly.
- Cite every claim in your website’s content.
- Claim & use your social media accounts to create valuable content.
- Curate questions from patients and answer them via video. You can share that video on your social media pages.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date. Tracking your professional and academic accolades helps distinguish you as an industry expert.
- Maintain a presence in online professional spaces like message boards for dentists.
- Contribute to your community both online and offline. You can support local sports teams, speak at local schools, collect cans for the food bank, etc.
- Continue with traditional advertising methods like print. When users search for your practice by name, you’re more likely to get positive user engagement, which can help with your rankings.