You don’t have time to keep up with Penguins and Pandas, so you’ve decided to hire a search engine optimization (SEO) firm or a web design firm that offers SEO services for healthcare.
I’ve seen some of the worst and learned from some of the best.
Among the best is Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry and co-founder of Chicago-based web design firm Orbit Media Studios. His pages have ranked for competitive search terms like “web design tips” and “Chicago web design,” on page one, above the fold. And it’s not by accident.
If you’re hiring a firm to optimize your healthcare web pages for search engines, here’s advice from Andy as well as my own observations about the 4 most common—or treacherous—red flags to look out for:
This is an extreme example, but I’ve seen it happen:
A healthcare organization went live with a new website. Weeks later the site did not rank—for its own name.
“That’s almost criminal,” Crestodina says. “Think about how search engines work—they are actively looking for relevant content.”
If the search engines don’t find your healthcare organization’s site relevant for its own name, it’s likely that the SEO vendor deliberately put tags like “no follow” or “no index” into the code, he says. These tags tell search engines to ignore your site. Then, Sleazy SEO Inc., can go back and charge you more to make the pages visible.
“That’s like hijacking web traffic,” Crestodina says.
Your content strategy should indicate which terms are most relevant to your target audience.
If those names are unique—like your healthcare organization’s name, your rock star doctors’ names, or some other name that no one else could have—key pages with those terms should rank pretty soon after the site goes live.
This is why SEO got a bad reputation as being magical. Some firms will propose optimizing your site for a single upfront cost. Then, voilà you’re moving on up the rankings.
Run from them. It doesn’t work like that.
“There are parts of search engine optimization that have to be done from the beginning, like the site map and descriptive navigation,” Crestodina says. “Other things are ongoing and should be a monthly service.”
Ongoing search engine optimization can include:
- Checking for broken links
- Monitoring traffic and competition for keywords
- Making sure redirects from other domains work properly
- Attracting links from credible external sources
“That’s why it’s called ‘optimization,’” Andy says, “because it’s ongoing.”
Site submission is manually telling Google to crawl your site and rank it for relevant key phrases. Sure, after your site goes live, the search engines will probably find it, but manually submitting your site can speed up the process, especially if you’ve made major changes to the pages.
Beneficial? Yes. Worth paying for? No.
Google gives you quick instructions on how to submit your healthcare organization’s website yourself.
“Also, simply sharing a link on Google+ virtually guarantees that Google will find it,” Andy says.
Why healthcare SEO matters:
*Source: 2012 Google/Compete Hospital Study — The Digital Journey to Wellness
A good content strategy could stop this issue before it starts, but I’ve seen healthcare organizations launch a site for their main facility
…another site for the outpatient clinic
…a different site for the primary care group
…a bunch of other sites for the specialty groups
…and a blog.
All with different domain names. (Woe to the person managing all those sites.)
Domain names are like credit history: Getting new credit cards doesn’t help as much as a long solid history with the same lines of credit.
I know this can be a political issue in many healthcare organizations. The newly acquired hospital still wants to maintain its own site. Or all the physician groups want their own sites.
Respond with this fact:
And explain that getting to the top of the search results with a new domain name, is like parking your Ferrari—your established domain—and hopping on a new 10-speed, Andy says.
Be firm on this. Otherwise, those sites will have poor rankings and you’ll have a multi-site workflow nightmare. And yes, Sleazy SEO, Inc. will happily charge you to optimize pages on all those sites. Save yourself the trouble.