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Search Engine Optimization 101

If you’ve done any Internet marketing for your dental practice, you’ve probably heard about search engine optimization or SEO. This how you fine-tune your website and web presence to rank higher in the search engine results page. With more than 200 factors influencing whether your site will rank well, it can be a Herculean job to sort through them all.

Let’s make it easy to start! SEO can be divided into two categories: on-page and off-page optimization. You can control the on-page factors but you can only influence the off-page factors.

On-page optimization

With a website, you really do get what you pay for. A well-developed website saves you headaches over time. Many companies let you make and update your own website, but if you don’t have any experience with SEO, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by not setting it up to rank well with search engines. I’ve seen the work of many professional website developers who don’t understand how SEO works – so you also want to make sure that your website company has a solid understanding of web development for SEO.

The most important on-page factors are:

  • Keywords – Choose the right keywords and optimize your site accordingly by using semantic html. If your website is structured properly, it’s easy for Google to figure out that you’re a dentist who offers specific services.
  • Well-written website content – Write for your audience and make sure each page of content provides value for them. Short content length, bad grammar and spelling, duplicate content, and overuse of keywords can tell search engines that this site is not worth showing.
  • Mobile optimization - Having a mobile site, whether it’s a separate mobile site or a responsive design, is essential not just for marketing but also for SEO. Google ranks sites higher that display on mobile, especially if the search comes from a mobile or tablet device. They favour responsive design since it will display on any screen.
  • Page speed – People’s attention spans are limited on the Internet. If something doesn’t load within seconds, the visitor might assume it’s broken and browse away before even looking at your site. Search engines regularly check page speeds, so you should have quick loading time. That means reducing your image sizes, not adding unnecessary media or apps, and making sure everything loads properly.

For more information or to check your status, take a look at our blog post “Eight great things dentists should look for when evaluating on-page SEO”

Off-page SEO

This refers to improving your reputation online – wherever you happen to be mentioned on the web. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to have complete control of these off-page factors. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore this list! You can at least influence many off-page factors. These factors all affect whether your site ranks in the search engine results pages.

The most important off-page factors are:

  • Google My Business – To show up on local map searches and in the local results, it’s essential to have a Google My Business page. You can customize this page with business information to improve your ranking. Google favours businesses that are open when the searcher is looking, that are close to the searcher, and that have online reviews. So, it really pays to invest time to make your Google My Business page the best it can be.
  • NAP Consistency – NAP stands for name, address and phone number. These bits of information about your practice need to be consistent throughout the Internet. If you have a different business name associated with your address, that can confuse the search engines and they might not rank your site. Citation sites scrape information from each other, so make sure your name is correct everywhere and then the wrong name will never be re-published.
  • External links pointing you your site – Consider each link that points to your site like a vote of confidence that says you’re a trustworthy site. The best links back to your site will be from others in your industry or the community that you work in.
  • Quality of external links pointing to your site – Unfortunately, all links aren’t created equal. In the past, so-called black hat SEOs put in a lot of effort building links from whatever source they could find. The search engines have become more sophisticated in discovering spammy links and could penalize your site if your SEO company engages in this practice. That’s why it’s important to do things right and to build links slowly and naturally.
  • Online reviews – Online reviews are another indicator that the search engines can trust that you’re a legitimate business. When people who aren’t linked to the business are talking about the site, it gives your site an extra boost above the competition.
  • Social signals – Having an active social media account where people have reviewed your business, checked in, tweeted or shared your status messages is another indicator that you’re an active business and should be ranked more highly online.

We’d be happy to answer any questions or even take a look at your site and let you know how it ranks. Sign up for your free SEO report.

Jean Fraser
Jean Fraser
As the Director of Marketing at Optio Publishing, Jean is fascinated by all things related to internet marketing, including SEO, Google AdWords and Social Media Management. When not at work she can be found tearing up the dance floor.
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