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SEO Buyer Beware

It seems that everyone is an SEO expert these days. With multiple companies approaching you all the time, promising better search engine results for your website, you may find yourself not knowing what and who to believe. Before you sign on the dotted line, here’s a few things to keep in mind…

Where to start

Plan. Start by determining what you’re trying to accomplish. This will set the course for what you need to improve upon with your website. For example, if you feel that your website isn’t coming up when searching for vague terms such as “hysterectomy”, or “ent doctor”, realize you’re asking for the impossible. Be sure to be specific (and realistic) on what you’re trying to do well with in terms of search engine results.  Are your trying to be found for a particular service in a certain geographical area? Remember – health care is for the most part local.. Be sure to include those words or phrases within the content and markup of your website. Give some thought about what your business metrics need to be to determine success? Are they based on conversions, pageviews, patients or some other measure? Strategy should identify the tactical, not the other way around.

Research. Determine what your visitors are searching for online, how it relates to you and create content that is relevant. It’s important to consider how patients will be searching for this information and not necessarily how you think they should be searching.

Write Content. Yes it’s true … content is king. Without relevant website content there’s little, if any, SEO can improve. Bottom line – create useful accessible content to earn links and references from relevant, credible sources that ultimately lead to higher search engine rankings and greater traffic.

Measure Accessibility. Make your website pages and materials accessible and optimized for search engines so they can properly display it when relevant searches are performed. Here’s where you may need to rely on your web developer for some help.

Next Steps

So now you have a sense of what needs to be done, its time to identify who is going to get it done.

Website content. If you’re adding content (and hopefully you are), consider whether to use someone internal or external to write copy. Regardless of who is writing your content, be sure that they follow a content model.  You’ll want a consistent tone and an organized approach. Random content that doesn’t enhance usability nor convey the right message will impair your visitor’s experience. Another key consideration – is this person familiar with SEO? Since optimization starts with good content, not having the right person develop this content with SEO in mind may mean redoing things.

Updating website code. While many firms provide SEO guidance, the reality is that your current website developer will most likely need to implement those changes. You don’t want an SEO firm mirroring your website simply to make coding changes. This can negatively impact your desired results. Also if you’re on a content management system, some of the suggestions made may require recoding that can typically be done with your current website developer. Its not to say that someone else cannot make these changes but they will need to get up to speed on your application, host environment and your website. Additional time spent will likely mean a higher budget to implement. And if the SEO expert breaks something in the process, you’ll need to contact your current website developer to get it fixed. Finally, keep in mind that you’ll need to provide ftp access to this outside company in order for them to make changes. If you offer any secure services on your website, you may not want to give this information out.

Link building. Bottom line it’s the quality of your inbound links, not the quantity. Google, and other search engines, see inbound links as a vote of popularity. Be sure to have your website listed on online directories that are relevant to health care, and more importantly your specialty.  Search engines reward websites that provide relevant search query results. Simply by listing your site on multiple unrelated directories will have little, if any, SEO value.

Keep in mind, it’s the tried and true, that wins the SEO race.