SEO and common sense

Revisiting the basic principles for website optimisation

Common sense optimisation of a dental websiteAs more dental practices develop their online marketing presence, inevitably competition for prominent Google ranking hots up.

This is particularly so in competitive environments e.g. large inner city locations with several practices in close proximity, all vying for new patients and trying hard to market new services.

On the back of all of this, a fairly sophisticated dental marketing industry has evolved, with ‘SEO and Google optimisation’ prominent within the services on offer. The terminology and jargon within the industry can be confusing to the layperson and the cynic in me suggests that this is sometimes used to baffle and up-sell to the inexperienced client. So much so that it’s worth revisiting the basic principles that really do matter for SEO – this way, at least you will have a good working knowledge and access to a reference list when discussing with potential web marketing providers.

Google has leveled the pitch….

Now it’s worth realising that over the last 18 months, Google has leveled the SEO playing field considerably, so much so that the tricks and questionable optimisation techniques used in the past no longer work. For example, lots of low quality links from directories, article marketing, poor social bookmarking and the like just serve to get your website penalised and demoted in the rankings. Similarly, “stuffing” your pages with keywords will also send your website careering down the rankings.

These are the practices of web “marketers” who like to outsource link-building to cheap off-shore suppliers whilst pocketing the lions share of the fee themselves. There is only one recommendation here – don’t do it! It doesn’t work anymore and will risk your website and potentially your livelihood. Many dental websites have suffered due to Google’s recent clamp-down. Bottom line is that there is no “cheap and cheerful” route to success in the search engines these days.

So what does work? How can you improve your presence in Google?

Here we have to revisit the fundamental advice that comes directly from Google. They quite clearly state that the websites which provide the best user experience will be promoted.

If we keep this principle foremost when developing our web strategy then we are on track.

  1. Ensure your website is structured well and easy to navigate. If it works for users, it will work for Google too.
  2. Ensure your website loads quickly – it’s easy to think that with modern broadband speeds that everyone will be able to load your site without difficulty, but this is not the case. Make sure that your designer knows how to optimise page load speeds and ask them to prove it using one of the freely available bench-marking tools. Remember – Google demotes websites that load slowly and favours ones that load quickly.
  3. Write great quality, useful and unique content. Don’t fall into the trap of “duplicate” content – some dental design agencies churn out the same treatment text time after time and chances are that this won’t rank in Google.
  4. Ensure that your website is optimised for mobile and tablet display. The recognised “gold standard” for this is using a technique called responsive website design which has outmoded separate mobile sites.
  5. Understand “local” search and how to optimise for it e.g. the benefit of patient reviews.
  6. Keep abreast of new Google tools such as “authorship” and how these can deliver useful benefits. Very often, early adoption of such techniques will give you a head-start over your competitors.
  7. Add new, high quality content via a practice blog. Fresh content will contribute to your domain authority which in turn has a positive effect for search positions. Blogging is also a great way to target “long-tail” keyword searches as well as the obvious benefit of providing useful content for your users.
  8. Seek links back to your website – but only relevant ones of decent quality. Remember that a few good links far outweigh lots of poor ones, in fact too many poor links will just serve to attract a Google penalty these days.
  9. Use social media to broadcast your content and to engage with your target audience. In turn this will generate links to your site as well as generate the social signals (likes, shares, re-tweets etc) that Google is now using to determine your relevance on the web.
  10. Scale your web marketing efforts commensurate with the competitive environment in which you operate. If you are based in an inner city, expect a much higher level of activity and budget than if you are in a small town or village. Don’t fall for the “bolt on” one-size-fits-all marketing packages that you will see offered. Your website, location and competitive environment is unique and consequently your marketing project should be tailored to match.

Summary

Web marketing is not necessarily technically challenging but it is hard work. There are no quick wins and short cuts with Google these days – try it and you will almost certainly be penalised. SEO is common sense in many ways, follow the guidelines above and you will be well set on the road to a good position in the search engines and the rewards that this will bring.

If you would like more information about any of the topics discussed above, please call the Dental Media team on 01332 672548 and we’ll be pleased to provide no-obligation advice and examples of how we help hundreds of dentists with web marketing throughout the UK.