written by: Susan Hoffman
I’m often asked, “What can I do to improve my veterinary practice’s web site ranking on Google searches?” You could pay an expert to manage search engine marketing for you. You could pay for ads or sponsorships that guarantee your web site will show up at the top of searches. Or, you could implement a few free—yes, I said FREE—and easy Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics to boost “organic” or natural search results.
What is SEO and Why is it Important?
You’ve heard the saying “It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s best (whatever) if no one knows about it.” That’s where SEO comes into play. Simply put, SEO is all about helping you gain a higher ranking on search engines.
For example, let’s say a horse owner is looking for an equine veterinarian in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He or she types those “keywords” in a Google, Yahoo or similar search box. Will your practice show up as one of the top listings? It will if your online presence is “search engine optimized.” Research shows that 95 percent of internet users never click beyond that first page of search results, and very few even bother to look “below the fold,” which is the nickname given to listings revealed by scrolling down the page.
The more SEO strategies you implement, the better your search engine results will be. And that, in turn, can improve current customer loyalty, recruit new customers and improve your revenue stream.
Simple SEO Tactics
These SEO tips don’t require expert web or social media knowledge, but if in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult a professional.
Use Relevant Keywords in Web Page Titles
Web search engine “gobots” are more likely to find keywords when they appear in critical locations on the page, and that in turn improves SEO ranking. Think of the word choices equine owners and breeders would use to find a veterinarian, like equine lameness expert, pre-purchase exam or Coggins test, and use these as your web page titles. Remember, writing for the web is not the same thing as writing for a brochure. The headline “We’re Here to Help You” is just dandy for a printed piece but it’s SEO suicide.
Repeat Keywords in Web Page Content
Content is king! Important keywords should be repeated in your web page content, preferably in the first paragraph on each page, and in the first 50 words at that. SEO gobots will take notice of that upfront positioning. At the same time, “gobots” are also hip to scammers who use keywords too many times, so don’t simply repeat keywords like “reproductive services” in every sentence. If you try to overdo it, some search engines may actually blacklist your site from their searches.
Use SEO-Friendly Text
Does your web site use a lot of graphics? That’s fine, but search engines can’t read graphics, only HTML or similar coded text. So, make sure all the copy (words) on your pages, including your photo captions, charts, tables, etc. is searchable text and not a design element. As SEO technology progresses, this may not hold true forever, but for now why take the chance?
Diversity Your Online Presence
Search engines, especially Google, give preference to businesses that have multiple media strategies in place. A great web site is mandatory, but don’t forget these free—yes, I said FREE— online tools….
Blogs, like the one you’re now reading, are an easy way to boost SEO rankings. You can blog on your web site, start a separate “blogspot,” or blog on other relevant sites like the local riding club’s website or blog page. Your topics are virtually limitless but they should be about current equine news, trends or information, versus an out-and-out advertisement.
Social media sites, notably Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, are great places to post current information, images and videos. Search engines thrive on fresh content, so post new items frequently. And, don’t be afraid to ask clients to “Like” and “Share” your postings, as these traffic-building tactics are good for business and also improve your search engine ranking. But don’t post something every hour of the day or you’ll run the risk of antagonizing your audience!
SEO-friendly, HTML hyperlinks connect all your online “tools” together. In fact, the more links you have on your site and on other trusted sites, the more you’ll be seen by search engines as well as by people. For example, link the keywords “digital radiography” on your web site to your blog about the topic, to your Facebook posting about the new equipment you purchased, to your YouTube video showing you using the equipment, and vice versa.
If you implement these tactics, I assure you that your SEO ranking will improve. Maybe you’ll even be at the top of the search list results!
About our blogger: Susan Hoffman is a freelance writer, communications consultant and equestrian. Her clients range from international equine pharmaceutical corporations to local breeding and boarding stables.