Chapter 12: SEO
Search engine optimization consists of a group of methods for helping search engines find websites. When you type a word or phrase into Google, Google rapidly brings up a list of sites that contain that word or phrase on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) The sites are displayed according to their Pagerank, which is determined by the way those words and related words are used on each website. The goal, of course, is to be at the top of the first SERP so your site will be the one users click on.
Page Rank is based on a complex algorithm, and no SEO specialist, no matter how skilled they are at their work, can guarantee you that you site will rank number one. If you hire someone to do SEO for you and they make this promise, they are not being honest with you. Pagerank can change from one moment to the next. So, to expect top billing every time is unrealistic.
However, the SEO on your website can influence your Pagerank and get your content closer to the top of the SERP. Your goal should be to get onto the first page of search results for important keywords relating to dentistry, because most people simply do not go beyond the first or second SERP. According to a 2014 study of click-through rates, 73.3% of the results clicked on came from page 1 of the search engine results and only 5.9% came from pages 2 and 3. That is just how important it is to have phenomenal SEO on your website!
Organic Search vs Paid Search
There are two kinds of search results on a Google SERP. When you run a search for a given keyword, you will see links at the top, side and bottom of the page. These results are ads website owners have paid for through Google Adwords. Organic search is based on Google’s ranking of websites based on their content. The results of the organic search are found below the top ads and to the left of the side ads. Although the organic search results are not at the very top of the page, people who are looking for reliable information often skip the ads for favor of websites that are more sure of having content they are interested in learning about. There is an art to creating an effective Google Adwords campaign, but it can be even more difficult to rank high on organic search.
SEO Is Not What It Once Was
There was a time, not so long ago, when all you had to do was repeat a word or phrase over and over on your web page to attract the attention of the search engines. In fact, at that time, many unscrupulous search engine optimizers wrote content that would get their sites noticed by the search engine regardless of whether the keywords they used related to the topic of their website. However, that was a simpler time and a simpler algorithm. Now, overuse of keywords is called keyword stuffing. The practice gets you lower on the SERP and can even get you banned from the search engines. And, using keywords not related to the topic of your site gets you nowhere in terms of search engine results.
Google and other search engines have made it clear that they are committed to delivering the most relevant results for every search. This means that you need to focus on quality rather than quantity. Instead of using one keyword over and over again, you need to use different forms of the keyword, synonyms for it and related words and concepts to present a cohesive piece of content that relays information about a topic people are interested in finding out about.. In other words, the content on your site needs to have substance and value, and it needs to be closely related to the keywords you use.
Simply put, metadata is data about data. Anywhere you find data, you will find descriptions of the data. In fact, there is metadata in the book you are reading right now. Examples of metadata in a book can include:
- a table of contents
- an index
The metadata on your website contains information about its content. Search engines use metadata to quickly assess the content of your site. Your content manager or website services company fills these SEO fields with descriptions and tags. While metadata in SEO fields is less important now than it once was, it can set the theme for the SEO-friendly content you place on your page. The SEO fields include:
- SEO description: a summary of the content of the page
- keywords: words or phrases about the main theme of your page
- SEO title: a title that identifies the specific page within the website
What Are Keywords?
A keyword can be a word or a phrase. Specifically, it is a word or phrase typed into a search engine in an attempt to find a website that contains information about the desired topic. For the webmaster, targeting keywords was once a simple matter of adding the keywords to a specific field on the website design and using the keyword in the content. Now, with the more sophisticated algorithms of search engines like Google and Bing, keywords are less important as an exact word or phrase inserted in a field or used within the text.
The goal of SEO now is to provide content that revolves around a key concept or keyword idea. So, if you want to find customers who will pay for orthodontic treatment such as braces, you cannot just put “braces” over and over in the content. You need to write about what braces are, how they can help people, their cost, the length of orthodontic treatment with braces and other topics related to braces. The search engine will see your content as being helpful and will give you a higher Pagerank when it is relevant to the keyword “braces” typed into the search box.
In terms of paid search, the specific keyword is more important. It is, in fact, the foundation upon which you build an effective ad. When a keyword is typed into the search box on Google, the paid results will show the sites whose owners have paid the most for that keyword at the top. As long as the content of the page is about the keyword you bid on, you can expect Google to give it a nod. Paid search can be a costly proposition, especially if you are targeting a keyword that is very popular in your niche.However, it can be an important tool for your overall website success.
Google Adwords is the most popular paid search service. When you run a Google Ad, your ad will be displayed above, to the side of or below the organic search results on an SERP. You start by bidding for a keyword. Depending on the popularity of the keyword, the bid can be a few cents or several dollars. You are in direct competition with others who want to use that keyword. You pay the amount of your bid every time someone is interested enough to click on your link and follow it to your website. A Google Adwords specialist can help you run an effective marketing campaign. When you rely on a specialist in this area, you can get more for each dollar you spend because they know how to maximize exposure and minimize expense.
You need to reach potential patients who are near enough to you to come in for services. But, the web is a big place. It holds information from places all over the world. Fortunately for you, search engines factor in the location of your business when ranking it for each search. If someone in Bogota types “dentist” into the search box, they will get different results from someone in Toronto who types in the same exact term. You can take advantage of this by using the name of your location within the content of your page to gain more traffic from local residents and even from people who are visiting locally. It also helps to include your address and a map of the local area with your dentistry business marked. In paid search, you can use the place name as a part of a keyword phrase.
For several reasons, you need to be specific when choosing keywords and keyword concepts. For one thing, a simple word like “dentist” is too competitive to be effective. There are just too many dentists who want to use the same word. You can use the term “dentist” effectively, but only if you modify it with location words or descriptive words like “pain-free.”
Second, when you target a more specific keyword idea, you reach people who already have a good idea of what they want, and these are the people who are more likely to come in for your services. A person who Googles “dentist” might have a general idea that it is good to have a dentist take care of their teeth. A person who Googles “dentist in Toronto” is actively searching for a dentist. A person who types in “pain-free dentist” knows what kind of dentist they want to see. A person who types in “braces Toronto” knows exactly what they want and where they want to get it. It is these highly specific queries that yield the most lucrative results for you. Therefore, your content needs to be targeted to this type of specific query.
What Is a Long-Tail Keyword?
A long-tail keyword is actually a phrase usually made up of 3 to 4 relevant words. You can research long-tail keywords with any of the keyword tools available on the Internet. However, you need to be careful when using these long keywords. To get the most effect from them given Google’s commitment to relevant results, they need to fit into the rest of the content of the page in a natural, seamless way. Instead of calling attention to a long-tail keyword like “cost of braces in Toronto” just use specific and descriptive language to define your services. And, whatever you do, avoid repeating long-tail keywords over and over within your pages.
Analyze Website Data
Because search engine placement is based on complex algorithms these days, it can be difficult to find out what works and what does not within your SEO campaign. Whether you are using paid or organic search to bring in traffic to your website, you can use the Google Analytics to decipher the effectiveness of each keyword. In Google Analytics you can run custom reports create dashboards for your campaigns and use their “segments” function to analyze your organic traffic as well as the paid results. Keep up with changes in the data you are analyzing so you can identify penalties the search engine might be placing on your content and find out what might be working differently than it did previously.
Choosing an SEO Company to Optimize Your Dental Clinic Website
SEO is a complex task best left to those who specialize in creating websites and website content that are both informative and discoverable online. Since basic SEO relies on relevant content surrounding keyword concepts, it is a good idea to use an SEO company that is familiar with the kinds of services you offer through your clinic. Get a quote from any company you are considering to produce search-engine-friendly content for your website. Then, evaluate the quotes based on what you are receiving for your investment. Avoid companies that make unrealistic promises.