For many practices, search engine optimisation is a very confusing and widely misunderstood concept. We’ve met plenty of business owners that haven’t got the faintest idea what SEO means – and if they do, their views are often outdated. It’s sometimes very easy to forget that many potential clients don’t understand the principles behind search engine optimisation, so I thought it worth briefly outlining the fundamentals.
What Is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a process of activities that will influence the appearance of a website or web page in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results. The reason for this activity is the attempt to improve the websites position in the search engine’s results pages for a specific “keyword” or phrase. Generally speaking, the higher a website is ranked on a search engine’s results page, the more traffic the website will receive from search engine visitors. More website visitors equal more patients and ultimately more revenue for the practice.
What Are Keywords?
Keywords refer to the search terms that users will type into search engines in an attempt to find information. For instance, someone looking for teeth whitening may search for the term “teeth whitening”. If a practice doesn’t implement this phrase into their website and SEO strategy, then they won’t appear in the search results for that phrase. A search engines job is to order relevant information and content for those looking for this information online. A search engine will therefore order web content based on how relevant it is to the search term used in the search engine. It is an SEO agencies role to discover the most popular searches or “keywords” that respond to the business activities and make sure their clients site is seen as one of the most relevant by the search engines so that it ranks highly in results. It is worth noting that many small clinics and practices are unaware of the phrases their potential patients are using to search for the types of treatment they are offering. All too often practices simply don’t realise their competitors are already implementing SEO campaigns that are attracting patients elsewhere.
What Is Keyword Research?
Keyword research involves finding out what your potential patients are searching for online in order to work out which words should be targeted in the SEO campaign. Detailed keyword research will take into account the volume of people using the phrase each month and the likelihood of a particular key-phrase converting into a patient when they land on the website. For example, if you owned an ice skate store there’d be little point in optimising your site for the phrase “ice skating,” as this search term indicates an interest in learning more about the actual activity, not purchasing a pair of ice skates. “key-phrases” will therefore need to be specific where possible and should include a number of variations to account for the different types of phrases people use when searching.
What Is Onsite SEO?
Onsite SEO is the process of working out where to place keywords on your website, which pages to target for specific phrases and how frequently to mention them on your web pages. The process includes making sure the web pages include the key-phrases within the website code in order to communicate to the search engines the pages are relevant. Be warned that by irregularly mentioning the same phrase on all of your web pages, you’ll make the wording of your site seem unnatural, and the search engines may pick up on this and penalise your rankings.
What Is Offsite SEO?
Offsite SEO accounts for the largest part of any campaign and is focussed on increasing the amount of links to a website from other websites. Offsite SEO involves the acquisition of links to a website, either by attracting or submitting link requests from other websites. One of the best ways to increase links is to create text or video content and submit this to relevant websites that are prepared to link back to you once you have uploaded content to them.
The Link Building Myth
Having a large number of quality websites in your industry linking to your site will often improve your websites perceived quality from a search engine’s point of view. In the early days of SEO, you may have been able to boost your rankings by getting a high volume of links to your site, regardless of the referring websites relevance or credibility. There are now multiple factors which the search engines will take into considerationwhen analysing the links to your site. For example, they will penalise your search engine rankings if you’re being linked to from poor quality websites, as this indicates you’ve probably manufactured these links. In short, you should aim to produce content that is beneficial for another site to share or link to. Having a strong inbound link profile and optimisaing your site with keywords are possibly the 2 most important factors to think about if you’re just getting to grips with the subject. However, there are many more factors that search engines take into account when analysing the quality of your site and deciding how to rank you against similar sites.
- The quality of the content
- How fresh or “recent” your content is
- How often and how long visiors engage with content.
- HTML title tags
- HTML meta descriptions
- HTML headings
- keywords in your website copy
- The speed of your site
- How easily search engines can crawl your site
- The URL structure
- The text used in hyperlinks to your site
- Your social media reputation (includes number of shares and mentions on social sites)
- The age of your domain name
More and more factors will contribute to the quality perceived in your site by search engines over time, so it’s important to keep up to date with the latest developments to avoid being left behind by your competition. Practices that have implemented a robust search strategy are already reaping the rewards of higher website traffic, increased brand awareness and sustained business growth.