In this three-part series, I’m going to share invaluable information about Internet marketing for dentists. In the first article, defined website rank and traffic, then explained how these two factors impact new patient calls. In this, the second article, I’ll briefly explain SEO and shed light on the simplicity of metadata. I’ll also explain how metadata affects a website’s rank. Then, in the final article of this series, you’ll learn 10 ways to grow your dental website’s traffic and improve its rank, with the direct goal of increasing new patient calls. If your website needs help, call me, Shauna Duty, owner of Identiwrite Creative and seasoned dental copywriter. I’ll help you establish a plan, with checks and balances, for developing a website that leads your marketing strategy, and your business, to greater success.
SEO, the Online Olympics
Where were you in 1994? In high school? Dental school? Running a successful practice? Brian Pinkerton was in Washington, creating a tool that would change the Internet forever. Until Pinkerton arrived on the scene, search engines were maintained by humans. After Pinkerton’s invention of the first indexing crawler, in 1998 Google introduced a crawler known as PageRank, and search engine optimization has been evolving at breakneck speed ever since.
To businesses, SEO is like the Olympics. You have to work hard to get into the regional, state, and national finals, then you might make the American team. In search, you must invest in your website — and overall online reputation — to reach the first few pages of search, and if you make the cut, you could land on page one of Google. Page one, position one on Google for a popular keyword phrase is like the gold medal for SEO. But the work doesn’t end at the gold; an athlete must continue to compete, work, and struggle to win the gold year after year. New competitors will pop up, and the game will become more difficult to win.
The Road to SEO Success
Your website needs many key features to do well with search engines. The following definitions provide insight into what each key feature is, and what it entails.
LINKS (link juice, backlinks, or incoming links): With PageRank, the term link juice was coined to describe incoming links to a website. PageRank’s primary purpose was to rank websites based on the number, then quality, of incoming links. Over time, black-hat SEO tactics involving link farms pushed Google to revise the parameters for link juice. Today, links are still important in SEO. However, quality is imperative. The key to a good linking strategy is getting your website linked from highly reputable sites that have high traffic. This can be very difficult!
INFORMATION (text, images, videos): Google is a search engine, and its reputation is based on providing relevant, accurate information to searchers. People would not use Google for searches if they thought the results Google provides were poor quality. So, to maintain a good reputation and the status of the most trafficked search engine on the planet, Google’s indexing algorithm reads the text on websites and determines the quality of the information. Website pages with informative, original text (not published elsewhere online) receive favor with Google and tend to rank higher than those with duplicate or brief text. In addition to words, original images and videos can factor into a site’s ranking.
METADATA (authorship, title tags, descriptions, keywords): Metadata is a group of data included in websites that speaks to search engines, but is not visible on-page as normal text.
Rules for metadata:
- Title tags can be up to 55 characters (formerly 70) and should include a keyword and your location. Title tags show up in the page tab at the top of a website browser and as the title of a search engine results listing, as illustrated above.
- Meta descriptions can be up to 160 characters and should include a keyword, but not your name or practice name. Meta descriptions show up in search engine results listing and should entice a reader to click on the listing.
- Meta keywords are no longer relevant. Keywords used in context, within original content are still important, though.
- Do not duplicate title tags or descriptions; each page needs a unique set of metadata.
- Only associate Google Authorhship (your G+ account) with a blog page that constantly updates with new text, not your sites main website pages (home, about, services, contact).
CODING (what’s behind the website you see): The code that allows us to see a website has a great impact on SEO. Some types of code are bad for SEO, while others are good. For instance, Flash is a now antiquated file type that search engines don’t index. Alternatives to Flash include jQuery plugins and HTML5. This probably sounds Greek to you, and that’s okay. Simply work with a website developer who understands SEO best practices, from a coding perspective. The developer should incorporate metadata, heading tags, alternate-image tags, Google Analytics, and Google Webmaster Tools into your website, as well.
USER EXPERIENCE (UX, user-friendliness): Some may argue that UX has an insignificant impact on SEO rank, but I disagree — for a few reasons. UX has to do with the layout of a site, not only for the elements of each page, but also for the overall navigation, or how a user traverses a website. A good UX entices visitors to stay on a site longer and visit more pages, which reduces the bounce rate and increases the number of pages visted that we see reported on Google Analytics. Overall, the site shows better traffic data, and popular sites earn more SEO credit. Second, placement of text, headings, and images influences how a site is indexed, as well as how it’s received by human visitors. And third, the amount of information on a website greatly impacts search. I consider organizing website pages part of developing a good user experience.
SOCIAL INFLUENCE (social media marketing): Today, Google considers a person’s overall online reputation and influence when determining the “expert’s” influence. By establishing and maintaining (that’s important!) social profiles for your professional persona, you’ll increase your potential for visibility online and in search engine results. In the illustration above, you can see that the second listing is a Facebook post. Social media posts can be indexed by search engines, ultimately getting your name in front of more potential patients.
There are a few ways to determine whether your website and the sites of your major competitors are up to par with these important SEO features. The easiest tool, in my opinion, is SEO Quake, a free browser plugin that can diagnose issues with a web page’s SEO. However, this tool doesn’t identify duplicate content, which can be a big problem for a site’s ranking. I suggest cutting and pasting website text into Google Search to see if any duplicate results are indexed. If so, you need new website text. If not, your site text is original — but it may not be well optimized. If you would like a complimentary analysis of your website’s SEO, email email@example.com today.