Search Engine Optimization and the Role of Content

by Bettina Kina

The ever-changing landscape of search engine optimization (SEO) would make quite the dramatic daytime soap opera. Just when you think you are in a stable, loving relationship with your website’s SEO strategy – bam – a new marketing trend emerges that makes you rethink your plans. Keeping up with industry best practices can be tough, so I am here to share some solutions that will bring stability to your relationship with SEO .

While SEO tactics may evolve, your strategy does not need to be in a constant state of flux. If you have visited a marketing blog within the past few months, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you clicked on a “Content is King” blog post. These posts, my friends, are no lie— building a strategy centered on quality content is a surefire way to build a website that ranks well on search engines now and well into the future

Whether you manage your marketing, you have a dedicated marketer on staff, or you work with a digital agency, it is important to understand the many benefits of building a SEO friendly content strategy. We all understand how important quality website content is. However, continually producing content that meets Google’s and other search engines’ standards is where smaller businesses struggle. In this article you will find an outline of an attainable content plan that drives user engagement and helps your website appear on Google’s search result pages.

Google: A Brief History of Panda and Its Role in the SEO Landscape

Google regularly updates its algorithm. Algorithms are computer formulas that determine which web pages to show when a person types a search query into the search engine. Google’s algorithm relies on over 200 signals to determine what to return. This can include the freshness of your content, the keywords on your website and even your geographic region.

In 2011, Google released the first in a series of algorithm updates called Panda. This update had a major effect on how people’s websites performed on search engines. When marketers saw traffic and rankings drop for websites that had embraced ‘Black Hat’ SEO and low quality content practices, the approach of building quality content made its way back to the forefront of SEO strategy.

The effects of Panda 1.0 were significant, with media reports citing the 2011 update affected about 12% of search results. It is no secret that Panda-related updates are an ongoing Google initiative designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from appearing in Google’s search results. In May of 2014, Google released Panda 4.0, an update worthy of an announcement that affects about 7.5% of search queries of a regular user.

Why are Google’s updates so important? Google continues to be the most popular search engine, with comScore (the leading internet analytics company) reporting it holds close to 68% of the search market share. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, a marketer’s SEO strategy continues to focus on cultivating high rankings on Google. Google has made it quite clear that quality content is a core component of search rankings, so it is in a business’s best interest to build a SEO strategy centered on content.

The Case for Content

Every website is built with basic content that covers what you do, your team, the services you offer and the conditions you treat. The nature of this content results in generic web pages, as there are only so many ways to explain how a vein specialist treats varicose and spider veins. Regularly adding articles, patient education, videos, blog posts and images that offer a unique angle and approach will help your website to appear on Google more often and also higher up on the search-results page.

Before you build your plan you should understand that the location of your practice plays a role in how you approach your SEO. The more competitive your market is, the more likely it is that you will need to supplement more generic web pages with content you have written yourself. For example, a doctor in Los Angeles, California is competing against hundreds of websites to rank, while a doctor in Ames, Iowa may only have a handful of competitors. Type in “sclerotherapy in (your city)” and take a look at the total number of search results - these are all pages your content is competing against.

All signs point to content being a necessary investment into your future SEO efforts, but in case you need some more reasons, here they are. Fresh, relevant content:

  • Increases brand awareness
  • Expands your web presence
  • Helps generate patient leads and referrals
  • Maximizes the lifetime value of patients
  • Sets your practice apart from your competitors

The First Step to Success: Understand Your Core Audience

Quality content is user-oriented and engaging. Your content should target your core audience and should provide solutions and valuable information they want and need. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself - what do they want to read about? If you are having trouble thinking like your patients, read through the “Market to Your Target Audience” article in the Winter 2014 VEIN issue. This piece will help guide you through the process of identifying your core audience.

Once you identify who your audience is, leverage the power of the Internet to understand what they want to read about. Here are some simple, yet powerful ways to collect valuable insight.

  • Survey Your Patients – Use a patient survey tool to ask your existing patient base what type of information they need and would be likely to share with their social network
  • Health Trends – Use social media channel hashtags to identify trends within the health community; utilize social media analytical tools like Hootsuit to manage your Facebook and Twitter research
  • Lifestyle Websites – Follow popular lifestyle sites to stay up-to-date on current topics of interest; is there a celebrity who has received vein treatment recently? Or maybe there’s a particular fitness trend or home remedy your content could piggy-back off of?

A Little Bit of Planning Goes a Long Way

How you structure your content is an important piece of your content puzzle. Identify where you want your content to live, and work with your webmaster to build out the appropriate areas in your content management system (CMS). Some content may live on existing web pages about laser therapies, and some may live on your blog. Wherever the content ends up, it’s important to keep in mind that search engines like Google take your website’s user experience into account, so organization is key.

Content should be easy to find and share. More consumers will see the great content you have written if they are able to come across it on Google or via a social network. Keep site and social optimization in mind when structuring and posting your content.

Content should be posted with meta tags – title tags, HTML header tags (H1, H2, etc.), description tags – which are written elements that are not seen in the body of content, but can have an impact on search results. After your content is published, it will be important to think through how you compose tweets, Facebook posts, Google+ shares and Pinterest descriptions. Adding the right hashtags and keywords to your posts will encourage engagement and expand your reach.

Putting the Plan into Action: A Brainstorming Session

Now that you have created a home for your content, it’s time to create your content calendar. Bring your medical and marketing teams together and hold a brainstorming session to build out topics for your content production calendar. To get you started, here are some of the most common forms of content paired with real life topics making the rounds on the Internet:

Blog Posts: Blog posts should provide your audience with news and educational information that is relevant to their lives. Take a more conversational approach and share your reviews on the newest treatments to minimize spider veins, or provide your angle on the ever-popular topics of health, exercise and prevention.

Patient Education: Build out a Question and Answer or FAQ section on your site. Consumers can find information on what a spider vein is anywhere on the Internet. What they’re really looking for is your personal expertise and insight into venous disease.

Videos: Videos are a medium that provide consumers with a behind the scenes look at the practice. Block out a few days and work with a videographer to produce doctor interviews, treatment videos and patient interviews. All of this content is unique to your practice and is proven to increase site engagement.

Infographics: Work with an illustrator or designer to use visual cues to explain the differences between varicose and spider veins. Superficial veins are quite visual, so you should capitalize on that by educating consumers on what they should be looking for.

Build on what is popular and trending by adding your own angle and approach, and voilà you’re in the market of creating high quality and high value content.

How Do I Know if it’s Working? Metrics. Metrics. Metrics.

Measuring the results of your content efforts is the best way to refine and make improvements to your SEO strategy. Using analytical tools that provide metrics and insight into performance empower you to make educated decisions that drive results. Measuring your results does not need to be complicated. Here are some simple tracking suggestions:

Google Analytics: Use Google analytics to track the traffic and engagement of your content pages. Read up on the basics of analytics to understand how page metrics like bounce rates can help you gauge the engagement levels on a page. If you want to take it a step further, work with your marketer and webmaster to add conversion tracking codes to top performing pages on your site that include a trackable call to action (CTA) or form. You will be able to view how many patient inquiries your high volume pages are delivering.

Hootsuite: Use a social analytics tool like Hootsuite to determine what content is resonating with your audience. Measure clicks, likes and retweets to identify what content works and what content doesn’t. These types of platforms allow you to create custom reports you can share with your entire team.

Facebook Insights: Insights provides information about your Facebook page’s performance. Determine what content is performing the best with your Facebook audience by tapping into your demographic data and tying this information to how many people are discovering and responding to your posts.

The amazing thing about content is that you will reap the rewards of your investment now and well into the future. By making content a core component of your SEO strategy, you are building a website that aligns with Google’s goal of providing its users with high quality, unique and relevant content.