In our last post, we talked a little bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as it relates to your private practice website. We said that in order to understand how internet search queries work, it’s helpful to think about your website as the answer to a question. What you probably want to do is to be a great answer for questions like “Who is the best therapist for anxiety in my area?” or “Where can I get treatment for my eating disorder?” When people search, they’re asking Google (or any search engine) to answer their questions.
Once you understand that, the next obvious question (and what we are going to talk about in this post) is how can I convince Google that I’m the best answer to those questions. Like I said last time, there’s a certain aura of black magic around SEO, but there are some things that you can do to help your cause.
If you’ve ever talked to anyone about SEO, then you’ve heard the term keyword. You probably also think that there’s something special about them. Keywords are not something that you have to pay for or fret too much over. Let’s go back to the idea of the questions that you want to be the best answer for. Let’s say the question that someone is asking is this: “Who are the best therapists in Charlotte to help my children deal with anxiety and depression?”
It’s important to know that one of the ways that Google figures out the best way to answer people’s questions is to match keywords in the questions with keywords on websites. So, if Google was being asked this question, they would probably isolate these words as being important:
The most basic way to increase your chances of being found via search is to use the words in the questions that you want to answer. If someone is asking about anxiety and depression, these are words that you should be using on your site. You should be talking about your specialties and some of the approaches that you might use to treat anxiety and depression.
There’s a lot of very impressive technology happening behind the scenes at Google so it’s not as cut and dried as just adding the words. But, it is an essential place to start.
One mistake I see people making is to overdo it. They think they have to use these words over and over. This may have been true in the early days of Internet search, but not any more. Google now prefers more naturally written and structured content. So, write with purpose, be concise (rather than verbose), and give your content structure when appropriate.
If you’ve ever written a term-paper, then you already know about the structure of content. Remember APA? Remember all the various layers of headings for the sections of your document? The same thing exists when you’re talking about content on the web.
In HTML (the code that makes websites look like websites), there are six levels of headings. Depending on how you edit the content on your website, you might see these listed as H1 though H6. Sometimes, they’re listed as Heading 1 through Heading 6. Many times, they don’t even show all six levels because that’s usually overkill.
In this very blog post, there are just H1s and H2s. The H1 is basically the title at the top (where the background image is) and the various headings that introduce each of the tips are H2s.
A couple of good rules to remember. You should generally only have one H1 per page. The various sections of your content should be broken up and organized using the H2s and lower. All of those headings should also include some of the keywords (or closely related words) whenever possible. This helps Google understand the various sections of your page.
There are other ways to add structure too. There are concepts such as ordered and unordered lists (ordered lists have numbers, unordered lists have bullets like the list of words above). Create these lists in your Content Management System rather than just listing words out in a paragraph separated by commas.
There are parts of your site that probably change very rarely. There are probably pages that haven’t changed since you launched you site. Just like in real life, staying relevant means adding to the conversation. Adding to the digital conversation often means regularly publishing new blog content. A blog is a great venue to share ideas, opinions, research, and other important things with people who are looking for you site. From a marketing perspective, when you have more quality content, you have the opportunity to answer more of the questions that people are asking Google. Which has more answers: an encyclopedia or a pamphlet?
Think creatively. Blog about topics that you’re learning about or areas that you want to get into from a clinical perspective. The more quality content that you create increases to the validity of your voice and your role as an expert.
Google loves experts.
In a previous post, I made the point that web marketing is not an if you build it they will come endeavor. You can’t just create content and expect people to find you. It’s important from a marketing perspective to engage with people on social networks too. When you share the content you create, a couple of things can happen. First, as the content becomes popular and spreads, there are literally more eyes seeing it. When there are more visitors to your site, it’s more likely that someone is going to click that appointment request button (as an aside, make it easy for people to make an appointment!). The other thing that happens is that it’s possible more people will link back to you site - either by re-sharing your content on their own social networks or by adding your link to their websites. Google also likes content that people link to. Google has a vested interest in keeping people coming back to their site and they want to give people the BEST answers to their questions. If a lot of people have already vouched for a particular piece of content, then that’s a good sign that other visitors will like the content too!
So, four relatively simple ways to help improve the SEO of your site. I can’t reiterate enough that these aren’t magical – you’re not going to see overnight results from anything you do here. However, it will set you up for establishing great foundation for being the answer to the questions people are asking!
Part One of this Series: SEO: The Answer to the Questions People Are Asking.
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