I asked a doctor friend what she thought SEO meant. She quickly responded, “I’m a physician, not a financial advisor.” (I think she got it confused with ROI!).
If you’re in the health profession and have recently started ‘doing’ content marketing, then SEO might be a new term that you’ve come across as well.
SEO means search engine optimization and the idea is to make sure that when someone searches for “sore throat doctor” (or whatever key words that describe what you do) on Google or Bing, your website appears at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
SEO may seem too technical to health professionals and can easily get written off. But the important thing to remember is that search engines reward content that is clear and user-friendly and optimization is about making your content do exactly that.
Here are some basic SEO principles to help you get started:
Optimizing the Page Header
The page header is the title that states what the page is about and is viewable to users in search engine results, on social networks and at the top of the browser when you are viewing the page. It’s purpose is to identify the page’s content and should be optimized as follows:
- Use 10-15 words (no more than 70 characters), put the most important keywords first followed by a compelling description e.g.’5 easy ways to stay hydrated during hot summer months.”
- Be sure that you assign a ‘H1′ tag to your title – each page should have only one h1 tag (If you need to have other headings in the page, they should be subheadings and for those you should assign h2 or h3 tags).
- For your readers’ sake as well as for the search engine, make sure that the title of the page matches the content of the page.
Optimizing the Body Copy
If you’re targeting a keyword phrase (e.g. sore throat doctor) then your content should relate to that keyword phrase. Keep in mind that people search for keywords because they want information that is related to those keywords. Searchers have little tolerance for a page that optimizes a keyword but then delivers unrelated content.
- Be sure to use the exact match target keyword phrase three to five times per 500 words or so. Variations and synonyms can also be helpful for better copywriting.
- Avoid keyword stuffing i.e. overloading a page with keywords to the point that the text of the page is unnatural or even unreadable.
- Try to work your target keyword phrase into the first sentence of your copy and then maybe two or three more times in the rest of the article.
Links in your Content
The content of your page should also have links in it. The most important thing to remember is to make it clear where a link will take your visitor. Also keep in mind that search engines are designed to look for the same clarity that humans want in a link.
- Be sure to use internal links in your content. An internal link is one that links to another page on your own site (not someone else’s site). Internal links encourage visitors to engage with other content on your site.
- A link’s color should be different from the main text. Most people expect links to be blue and underlined so be sure to have your web designer include that in your site’s style sheet.
- The actual text that is linked i.e. the text that is blue and underlined is called “anchor text”. Because it is highlighted and draws attention to itself, make sure that the highlighted words give a good clue to the content you are linking to. E.g. If the anchor text reads “sore throat remedies’ then it should link to a page that talks about sore throat remedies not something else.
- Avoid as much as possible using generic anchor text such as “click here” or “more”. Remember that relevance is a priority to both human readers and search engines.
The heart of SEO is to make web content search-engine friendly. Remember that your goal is to make it easy for search engines to ‘crawl’ the pages of your site so that they can produce search results that are relevant and useful to users. In the next section we will continue to discuss some more SEO basic principles that help your content to be easily found by users searching on the Internet.
Over to you: How familiar are you with SEO? Please share some of the practices that you use to optimize your content.