SEO is such a highly technical strategy within Internet marketing that many times healthcare marketers get easily discouraged to the point of writing it off altogether.
But that shouldn’t be the case. Healthcare marketers have the advantage of optimizing for local search, which is easier to learn and implement because there is (usually) less competition for key phrases.
In the first part of this series I outlined some SEO basics such as optimizing the header of your page, optimizing the copy (body), and using internal links in your content.
Keep in mind that these are tactics to be used every time you create fresh content on your website page. In other words for each new page of content, you should optimize the header, the copy, use internal links and so on. My hope (and assumption) is that before you embark on any kind of SEO work, you have done plenty of research about your industry, keywords, target market and competition. This cannot be skipped otherwise anything you attempt to do thereafter is worthless.
Picking up from where we left off last time, here are some more sections of your page that need to be optimized as you continue to create your content:
Since search engines cannot understand the meanings of images, they rely on the context of the page on which those images are found to give relevance to the query in question. That’s why it is important to attach metadata to the image e.g. file location and name, alt tag, title tag.
- Alt tags are literally the ‘alternate text’ used to describe the image when the image is not available (say because there’s an error loading the page). A good alt tag is a simple phrase that is also key-word rich and sufficiently describes the image.
- Caption is the image title and it simply helps the visitor to understand the context of the image in relation to the rest of the content. It should therefore be accurate and detailed.
- A word about the images themselves. Because you want to give your site visitor a good user experience try to use high quality images that attract both interest and links from other sites (such as Pinterest). If you do use your own images decide if you want to give others permission to use them in exchange for a link back to your site. If you’re using other people’s images, be sure you have permission to use them so as not to get entangled with copyright violation issues.
Search engines are able to scan the text of your website and extract a snippet of the content based on the user’s search query. However you still need to decide if you’ll rely exclusively on those algorithms, or create your own descriptions. Keep in mind that the purpose of including a description about your page is to convince potential customers to click on your link in the SERPs. Make it convincing and use your keywords.
Optimize for Local Search
Recently search engines have began to emphasize local search results in the main results page. If a user searches for a hospital or a pediatrician’s practice, the search will return local suggestions of such providers in the area near the user. This is good news for healthcare marketers, but it also means that they have to pay special attention to optimize for local search. Here are some tips for local search optimization:
Geo-specific keywords: Basically, you will follow the same SEO basics as mentioned before (H1, H2, meta-descriptions etc.). However you will also need to target geo-specific keywords among your other keywords. For example you might use, “sports doctor Baltimore County” or ” internal medicine Baltimore City” (but do your research and see what location words you will rank well for).
Physical address: Also be sure to include your physical address on all your website pages. If you have more than one location, then dedicate at least one page on your site for each location. This is better than listing all your locations on a single page, which would be harder to return relevant results in a user’s search query. Also add other details including maps, directions, hours of business and so on.
User-generated ratings: These are reviews, comments and ratings from other customers, which include geo-specific words. These help to raise awareness of those pages (on your website) with search engines.
Sometimes SEO can feel like a lot of hard work with no idea where it is pointing to. But remember that no matter how compelling your website it, it does no good if no one sees it. SEO is about increasing the visibility of your website so that new visitors and customers can find it. Healthcare marketers in particular can focus on local search optimization, which has the potential of bringing in more paying patients through your doors.
Tips to Drive Traffic to Your Website – Multiple Marketing Channels
While launching our website, we got to learn a lot about on-line marketing. As a business owner, you know that there are a lot of different marketing channels available to reach your target audience. There were many issues involved such as driving traffic to the site, handling leads, converting casual visitors to subscribers and thereafter to buyers, and many other related issues. But which ones should you use? And how can you use them effectively?
We were surprised to find that there were a large number of marketing channels. We also learned that it was important to understand them well to be able to monetize them.
Here is an overview of the most successful channels we have used with the solutions we have retained.
Define your target audience
Before you can start using multiple marketing channels to reach your target audience, you need to first define who your target audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your marketing? What are their demographics? What are their interests?
Defining your target audience will help you determine which marketing channels to use.
Use a mix of Multiple Marketing Channels
Once you know who your target audience is, you can start using a mix of channels to reach them. Some channels may work better than others for reaching your specific target audience. Some channels you may want to consider using include:
If you do not have much time to devote to banners, go for Google Ads. Google optimizes your budget to reduce your cost per click and increase return on investment. Results on this channel are higher with visual banners.
Consider using BuySellAds – This is a great service that connects advertisers with the publishers who display their ads. Its a great service that lets you manage all your ads from a single common portal with a single billing mechanism. Saves you both time and money.
Creating stunning graphics for your blog, website or social media channels doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. You can using freepik or canva to create high-quality visuals for their business with just a few clicks.
You have an option of going for paid positioning or organic ranking. See below
- Paid positioning: this is a full time job and you should not under estimate the load of work. Ads have to be thoroughly thought and optimized to deliver the right message to the right person and increase your return on investment. Besides, advertising costs are very high when you get to a very competitive market such as the American one, make sure you do not throw your money out the window. The options here are Google Ads or Bing Ads.
- Organic: this is based on SEO. Organic ranking is the ranking search engines (read Google) gives to websites based on specific criterion. This ranking is critical because it is the natural positioning of the website in the Google list. High Organic ranking makes a big difference to the success of your marketing efforts. If you are able to do well here, you can even cut your advertising costs. This is a medium to long term strategy and payback could take time. So start as soon as possible. A few things you should concentrate on Meta description and URL optimization.
- Marketing intelligence: We became aware of the importance of keeping track of what the competition is doing and how do they intend to evolve. A few tools that help are
- MOZ: this service helps you find out all the backlinks that drive to your competition. You should consider putting backlinks on the same website if they have a good page rank.
- ispionage: helps you find out about the keywords competition is using, you can have an overview of your competition SEO and SEM strategies.
- Newsletters: Consider sending out a newsletter to ensure good customer relationship management and to keep your users informed and updated. This has to be professionally done. Be careful about the template you use, the titles and content. Opening rates are very low and click through rates are even lower. In fact you should be happy if 10% – 15% of your addressees read your mail. Here are a few providers, among the best:
- elite email
- constant contact
- stream send
- your own email server: this solution is by far the least expensive but be very careful using it, you will need at least three month to gather all the certificates, and you do not want to be labeled a spammer and see your domain name black listed
- Affiliate networks: supposedly set to bring you new customers, this type of network is hardly useful if your traffic is not substantial. Still if you intend to use it and you are just starting, I would not recommend you go for Google network because setup fees and monthly subscription can be expensive. You should start with less expensive networks until your business grows.
- Public relations: very useful and not too expensive, you can spread the word for $150. We used only one: PrWeb
- Social media: there are a number of social media that can be used. However I recommend staying with only the market leaders unless you have a niche product that can match up to a niche network. Social media is a great way to get people to visit your website. By promoting your website on Twitter, Facebook, linkedin, reddit, Pinterest or other social media sites, you’ll be able to reach a wider audience and get more people to visit your site.
- Backlinks: there are a few tips to learn where to post your links. Put your links when it is contextual, otherwise Google will penalize you in its organic rankings.
- Start a blog: A blog is a great way to drive traffic to your website. By providing valuable content on a regular basis, you’ll attract more and more readers to your site. And, if you include links back to your website in your blog posts, you’ll also get more traffic from people who read your blog and then click through to your site.
- Hire a journalist and spread your articles on your blog and other blogs. You can find great freelancers on elance.com or freelancer.com, they do not cost much and could be very productive if you find the right person.
- Use article directories to post articles on your area of business and related issues. However, remember that the articles have to be GOOD. Take care to write useful stuff and you will get the results you want. This is a slow process but if you can ensure quality, you will get people bookmarking your articles. Once again, you can take help of qualified freelance workers.
Forums: If you participate in forums, you can include a link to your website in your signature. This is a great way to get traffic to your site, as well as build up your reputation as an expert in your field.
Online directories: There are many online directories that list websites in different categories. If you submit your site to these directories, you’ll get more traffic from people who are looking for websites like yours.
Use each channel effectively
Just because you’re using multiple marketing channels doesn’t mean you’re using them effectively. Each channel has its own best practices for reaching your target audience.
For example, with social media you need to consider which platform your target audience is most active on and what kind of content they engage with. With email marketing, you need to make sure your subject lines are effective and your emails are mobile-friendly.
Test and measure
As with any marketing effort, you need to test and measure the results of your multiple marketing channels strategy. Which channels are giving you the best results? Which ones need improvement?
You can test and measure your results by looking at metrics such as website traffic, leads, and sales.
Adjust and adapt
Once you’ve tested and measured your results, you can adjust and adapt your strategy as needed. If one channel isn’t working as well as you’d like, try something different. If another channel is working well, double down on it.
Obviously, I am not a web business guru (yet! 😉 ). I am sure there are other techniques as well. I welcome additional information and inputs. Just add them in the comments section for the community’s benefit. Thanks.
SEO Basics for SEO-challenged health professionals – Part 1
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.
6 Ways Doctors Can Influence their Site’s Listing in Search
Google search is the most common way for current and potential patients to find information about your practice.
Research shows that less than 10 percent of searchers look beyond the first page of SERP (Search Engine Results Page). That’s why it is important that the most valuable content on your website feature on the first page of Google or Bing search results.
Content that should appear on the first page of SERP
- Your Website – This should be the first thing a patient sees because it has everything they need to know about what you practice. Plus you have control over the content you want them to see so that’s an added advantage.
- Your Bio Pages – Every organization, association, hospital or medical practice that you have an affiliation with should have a biography of your background, experience and current specialties. If they do not, consider submitting a unique bio to each one for them to post on their sites.
- Your Blog Content – Blogging can help reinforce your expertise and authority in a given field. Any content that you have written for other websites (guest posts), should also be listed high up in the first page of search results.
- Social Media Profiles – Social profiles establish ‘social proof’ or social influence – the idea that if you have a large social following then that is proof that you are doing something right (of course there are problems with this assumption, but that is a discussion for another day). For doctors, LinkedIn, Twitter and Doctors Hangout, are good places to start.
Now that you know what needs to be on the first page of SERP, the next step is how to move your results up. Software Advice, an online guide for software buyers, recently published an article about this.
Here are 6 tips to consider when developing an online reputation management strategy to help own the first page of Google:
#1. Start a Blog
If you haven’t already done so, start writing a health blog. Blog posts should be compelling and well-written. Find content that your patients would want to read and publish it regularly on your website.
As a physician your audience is made up of existing and potential patients, so the content your provide should be engaging, educational, and most importantly, easy to understand. A good start is blogging about frequently asked questions or preventative measures for illnesses that you treat.
#2. Edit Your Work
Google can penalize a site for poorly written content.
No matter how good you are at writing, have a second set of eyes look over your work to ensure your content make sense and is easy to understand. Ask a colleague who is familiar with the material to edit for clarity, and then ask another unfamiliar with the subject for a second perspective.
#3. Avoid Repetition
People do not want to keep reading the same things over and over again, so keep the topics focused but fresh. Mix up your content to cover the different areas of healthcare solutions that you offer.
Also, if you are listed on different websites, write a different bio for each one and focus on what you do for each organization.
#4. Share Your Content
Spread the word about your new blog.
When you first begin writing, be sure to promote your blog to people that will enjoy it. Also share each new article on your Facebook page, your Google+ community, Twitter profile, LinkedIn page, email list and every other social outpost you own.
The more content you publish and share, the easier it will be to improve your search listing.
#5. Ask Others to Share Your Content
When others link to your content, it’s like a high-five in the eyes of Google.
Ask your peers, medical associates, and other credible sources to link to your blog. It will further demonstrate authority to Google and build a larger following for others to read your material.
#6. Be Relevant and Avoid Spam
Share your content on websites that are relevant to your brand.
If a website seems “spammy” and you suspect its owners are participating in suspicious activity, stay clear of that website.A mention on a relevant website such as a top association in your specialty will increase your credibility in the eyes of both readers and Google.
Improving your website’s listing in search is an ongoing process. But if you take action with these tips, you will begin to see improvements. Monitor your progress and check your Google listing often. By taking control of what people see about you online, you are securing your success for the new year and beyond.
Over to you: Are you pleased with your brand’s listing in search? What steps have you taken to influence the results? Please share your ideas in the comment box below
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