Key Post Highlights
You’re ruining your organic search results by:
> Skipping strategy.
> Maintaining a site not made to serve content.
> Using a bad content management system.
> Over-emphasizing paid over organic search.
> Having a flawed information architecture.
Whether you’re in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, searching for a brownie recipe, or trying to figure out why you can’t sleep, you’ll probably turn to the same place — Google. As you type in your search, millions of websites are competing to make an appearance on your screen, and in many cases, gain you as a customer.
This is called organic search — or the unpaid results that show up on a search engine results page (SERP). The top results on this page don’t make it there by luck. Instead, they earn their ranking because Google has determined they have authority in this domain.
Organic search is crucial to any business. Over half of all website traffic comes from organic search — and more than 40% of revenue.
As a healthcare organization, organic search is how you become noticeable to prospective patients, providers, and donors. It’s how you keep your doors open and continue growing as an organization.
In part two of this two-part series on website redesigns, CareContent team members, Kadesha Thomas Smith, CEO, and Brandies Meva’a, VP, Client Strategy, discuss what factors can ruin your organic search results.
Kadesha Thomas Smith: Hello, Brandies, how are you?
Brandies Meva’a: I’m alright. How are you doing, Kadesha?
Kadesha: I’m good, I’m good. So we’re here to talk about what is ruining your healthcare website’s organic search performance. This is important, obviously, because anybody with a website wants to make sure that they’re ranking well in search. But a lot of our clients are competing with 800-pound gorillas in their market. And they want to make sure that their content ranks above that or at least near it, because that’s how people are primarily coming to their site.
So what would you say is the first thing people are doing to ruin those organic search performance results?
Brandies: The first thing that we see over and over again, and it’s probably the biggest faux pas, is skipping strategy.
Brandies: Having a strategy is more about the organization than it is about the people they want to reach. It’s even like spending hours on strategy if you don’t build the strategy for what it really takes to gain organic traffic, it doesn’t matter.
Kadesha: Yeah. Agreed. And it hurts my heart when I hear people say, well can’t you guys just create some content? No, we can’t. We shouldn’t and neither should you. Like, don’t even pay for it if there’s not going to be some kind of strategy research to figure out who the audience is, what are the key messages, what are the calls to action?
Brandies: Having strategies built on audience and actually taking the time to connect with those people as part of the strategy really builds precision communication. I mean, there’s nothing better than saying exactly what needs to be said to precisely the right person and using their own words to optimize the content on your site to continue to reach them.
Kadesha: Second reason why organic search results drop.
Brandies: It’s because a site that’s been built to look pretty before it was built to serve content. So just because you have a website doesn’t mean your website understands content. It should be — here’s my content strategy, and now I need a website to contain that and not trying to force content into what a website looks like.
Oftentimes you’ll see people who have a website and they have three buttons on the front. And they’re like, I need to just steal what I’m trying to say in content to fit these three boxes.
Brandies: Instead of saying, I need to design a homepage that gets this whole message out clearly. I don’t care if it is for a synthesis.
Kadesha: And that type of content planning doesn’t just include the written words. It’s like do you want videos, do you want quizzes, do you want any other type of interactive element? How is that going to be displayed on the page, and does your design accommodate that? Absolutely.
The third one — what ruins people’s search results?
Brandies: As you like to say, a janky CMS. A CMS, or a content management system, that isn’t well optimized for SEO. So they are not all the same. Some of them you buy, not because you’re trying to optimize for SEO, and you might have higher security parameters. And so that’s why you have it. So not telling you to step away from that.
But all CMSs are not cut the same. I’m meaning that, in order for you to optimize your site, you have to be able to have meta descriptions. You have to be able to categorize, tag properly, put in all these different keywords and whatnot. And if your CMS doesn’t allow the data that people are trying to add content to the site, just going in and do that and make that process fluid, that gets escalated to IT, and then this person over here in order to kind of shoehorn it in.
It really makes it harder for you to stay competitive and to move quickly when you’re in this race for more organic traffic to flood into the site.
Kadesha: We are a content-first agency. So everything that we do prioritizes content first as much as we can.
And oftentimes when health systems or associations come to us, they come with content requests from their physicians, from their subject matter experts, who may not be a part of the primary audience. So while they’re wanting to appease these very important stakeholders, the first priority is to make sure your content answers people’s questions, right? To make sure the content gives people the information that you’re really trying to engage.
And one of the reasons we’ve often seen, when we approach a redesign, for example, is that so much of the content was because some physician thought that the marketing team was a drive-through spot. They pulled up, they said, hey, give me this. Marketing said, would you like cheese with that? And they gave it to them. But there was no consideration for — this is not going to get any traffic once this guy drives off. The audience is not asking this question. This is not helping the audience with anything. And now you have this website full of pages that nobody is engaging with.
All right, what would you say is the next thing that ruins organic search performance?
Brandies: It’s an over-emphasis in paid over organic. I understand that paid feels really good. You’re like, I’m going to buy these keywords, I’m going to compete. Boom, campaign was successful. Paid has a place even in an organic landscape. However, organic is sustained.
The moment you stop being paid, you’re done. Like, whatever that campaign did, it’s finished, You don’t get to retain reward on all of the paid activities. With organic, once you optimize a piece of content that is on the world wide web, for those keywords, it continues to give. It’s sustained.
I think that not having enough emphasis on figuring out what’s competitive and organic, in a way that we see what’s competitive in paid, really does hurt. You have to focus on all the strategies that it takes to stay relevant and organic in the same way that we do paid. So at one point, your organic strategy made a lot of sense, but it is ever-evolving. You have to stay on top of it.
Kadesha: And let’s see if we can give more legs and shelf life to the existing content that just needs to be jazzed up a bit. Maybe it just needs to be revised a bit, so that it can continue to engage their audience.
All right, one more. One more thing that ruins search performance.
Brandies: The last thing is gonna be a really poor IA. So if you’re the site that has 50 million subdomains or prefix domains, and your site structure is, like, poor, Google knows. Yahoo even knows. Even Bing, they know. Like user behavior informs them of how your architecture is set up, and if you have bad IA, it’s gonna show. It’s gonna show in how your site performs. So you wanna make sure you clean it up so that you can actually build healthy, relevant domain authority.
If your information architecture is all over the place, you have really bad permanent link structures. If you use a WordPress or you don’t have clean URLs for, as a regular, smegular people who aren’t WordPress, we want to make sure that we’re focused on that because it matters in the long run.
When you do not structure your website in a way that optimizes user flow, you lose the opportunity for them to do an impulse buy or to go across a product or service that you have that they weren’t even thinking about. But a one-optimized site will give them every opportunity to do that.
Kadesha: Right. So they’re able to find what they need, but also something that maybe they didn’t even know they were interested in.
Kadesha: Awesome. Thank you.