Whatever type of medical professional you are, whether it’s a doctor, dermatologist, chiropractor, or dentist, these 4 basic factors are what you need to know about local SEO. Read this post before you do any kind of SEO. I plan to have tutorials on each of the 4 factors so be sure to subscribe via the sidebar or below this post.
1. Lay the Foundation: Keyword Research
If you want to learn just one thing from this post, it’s that successful SEO all starts with what keywords you target. The main way that you do this, is using Google’s own Keyword Planner tool. Every single keyword research software uses this data. There’s no reason to pay for a tool, at least when starting out. (If you want to get an immediate heads up on your competition, there are a couple of tools that make competition analysis much easier, which I’ll talk about in a future post.)
Keyword research is the bread and butter, because you’ll want to see what your potential customer are searching. I’ll go in more depth with keyword research in another post, but for now you just need to understand that keyword research is the most important thing to learn.
2. Tidy Up: Site Architecture & On Page Optimization
This in a nutshell means how the web pages on your site are organized, and how your pages are labeled(meaning, is it clear what your site and pages are about?).
To use an example, imagine a bookstore, where there are thousands of books in hundreds of rows. Could you imagine if they weren’t labeled by genre? What if all the business books were mixed with the cooking or fiction books? That’s why On Page Optimization is needed, to help identify exactly what industry or topic your site is in or about.
Okay, so now that we have all the books labeled by genre, imagine that the books are now unsorted, so we know what each single book (page) is about, but we have no idea how to go find that page. This is where site architecture comes in, and honestly it’s the easier of the two, especially since as a medical professional, your page is, for the most part, purely informational and educational.
The ideal metric to follow here is to keep all information less than 4 clicks away. The less clicks, the better. For example, say you want someone to contact you, then it’s obvious so have a contact page link right on the menu bar. However, what if you have multiple offices? You have 2 options: list all of the offices on one contact page or use a drop down menu from the menu bar that allows the user to click through to individual pages. I would personally go for the second option because the individual pages can provide a potentially better visual experience if optimized correctly (adding maps, reviews, pictures, etc.).
Some thoughts on your home page
This might seem obvious, and you probably have this already, but you want to showcase in a menu bar on your first page the most important calls to action. Having your email, location (accompanied by a map), hours and your office number on the first page is absolutely the bare minimum. Having a blog is also ideal (more on that another time) and some reviews (including any Yelp, Google or ZocDoc reviews). Your front page is your first impression. If it looks like it’s from 1995, it’s time to invest in a decent WordPress theme.
3. Get Found: Local Citations/Directories
This next one takes a bit of digging, but you want to find out if anyone has listed your business on local or niche relevant directories. Places like Angieslist or Yellowpages.com are sites you can get started on. A great resource for a list of directories and local sites to be on is at this site.
Speaking of adding maps and all that, I want to focus on specific directories and sites that you absolutely should have your business on. Here is the list:
Notice that most of these are actual Google properties. Conveniently enough they just rolled out “Google My Business” which attempts to have everything managed under one web page. So you’ll want to check that out and register your business before you do anything SEO related. Another important aspect is to add Google Authorship to your site. It’s pretty quick and easy to do, and requires that you make a Google+ page, but I’ll write up a quick tutorial on that as well. (There’s also a lot of info in this basics post, so towards the end I’ll be sure to put a short abridged version with actionable steps).
Anyways, onto Yelp. Yelp is a necessary evil, because there is so much SEO power that can give you a lot of business and traffic by ranking you instantly for specific keywords in some cases, but a bad review can really put your business in an awful position. What’s worse is that Yelp sorts and filters their reviews and sometimes good reviews are seen as fake and don’t show up and bad reviews are ALWAYS seen as real. It’s next to impossible to get bad reviews removed or repealed as well, so it’s important for you as the owner to stay involved and contact Yelpers who leave bad reviews and figure out why they left the bad review. Ultimately though, it’s up to your judgment whether or not you want to be on Yelp. However there’s a recent alternative that has been gaining some great traction: ZocDoc.
ZocDoc is strictly a review site and appointment setting system for medical professionals, which is obviously ideal, since it’s more specialized as a website especially when compared to Yelp. In fact, I used ZocDoc to find my current primary care physician(I actually cross referenced all reviews across Yelp, ZocDoc and Google and made my choice.) ZocDoc has been getting excellent positions in Google, so it’s definitely worth it to set up and fill out your profile as much as possible, particularly with keywords you’d like to rank for. I’d suggest you do the same for Yelp as well.
Another important point is to find out what shows up already when you Google your business. What most practices don’t know is that Google, Yelp and ZocDoc allow for user-created listings. It’s up to you to come in and claim those listings as your own (which can require verification in some cases).
The reason you should be on all of these, is because sometimes people (including me) use more than one review source to make a decision, especially if there’s a lot of choice. If you have consistent reviews across all of these platforms (Google, Yelp & ZocDoc reviews) it builds that much more of a case to choose you.
4. Copy your Competition(Optional but Highly Recommended)
Look at some of your competitors by typing into Google:
“[your profession] [your city]”
Check how many of the sites that show up have the actual keywords in the exact order of the search query (in this case “dermatologist in queens”). Looking at the top 10 results:
If you’ve noticed the rankings, it’s 1)Yelp, 2 & 3)ZocDoc, then there’s “Google My Business” entries that actually hijack the top ten results w/ Google reviews, then the rest of the searches. That’s why it’s important to be locally visible on those platforms.
So we see that “dermatologist in queens” even on a local level, is pretty darn difficult to rank for(there’s at least 7 other dermatologists who are on “Google My Business”) but it’s a baseline to put your site on all 3 suggested platforms, because looking at the results further, it doesn’t look like many of the dermatologists are on all three platforms. So it’s not only important to copy your competition. It’s also important to one up them, which I’ll talk about in a next post.
Remember, this is just the basics.
This post was made to give you an even footing against all of the other medical professionals who just so happen to have hired someone to get all this stuff sorted out(or had their employees do it). So here’s a quick rundown of what you need to do with your site in this order(different from above):
1. Get on Yelp, ZocDoc and Google My Business
2. See what your competition is doing, what keywords they’re targeting, what platforms they’re on.
3. Expand on your keyword list via keyword research
4. Optimize your site with the keyword research and work on your site architecture and on page optimization.
Now if you do it in that order, you should have the best, most optimized site ever. However, you’ll need to do a couple more things to absolutely kill it. That’s going to be in another post on Advanced SEO strategies.