Search engine optimization has grown in Internet marketing importance over the last 5 years. Without a solid organic search engine optimization program practices simply miss hundreds of potential surgeries. If you are not where people are looking, you are simply not an option. It does not matter if you are targeting generation Y, generation X, or even baby boomers. They are all in need of your services and they all use the Internet by the millions. Over the last years many practices have successfully and unsuccessfully established their SEO programs. The top SEO performers continue to spend the money it takes to do well on the search engines because it simply works. So how do you choose the right company and avoid SEO malpractice.
As a practice you have the daunting task of trying make sense of these kinds of companies and whether or not they practice legitimate techniques. The SEO world is comprised of white hat (legitimate) and black hat (cheaters according to google) companies. Most companies operating in the field of ophthalmology practice legitimate white hat SEO techniques and are a solid bet for reliability, performance and safety from SEO malpractice, however, after attending several LASIK marketing seminars I was literally shocked at the confusion surrounding SEO in ophthalmology. Some practices justified saving a couple hundred dollars a month and ended up with serious problems resulting in penalties. Others just got NO results and spent a lot of money. Some even had outgoing links to pornography websites. If you are a practice that wishes to take the high road and practice correct and appropriate SEO you should continue reading. If you are a practice that has no problem trying to cheat google or work with “shady” companies you should probably stop reading at this point. The remainder of this article will attempt to help you understand the issues surrounding SEO malpractice. Remember, you are a medical practice! Act like one!
1. Discussing the 3 C’s of SEO.
Engage in a conversation with the SEO companies you would consider to HIRE. What are the techniques used to get first page results? Your SEO company needs to address how they appeal to the search algorithms. Be skeptical of companies that have a “PROPRIETARY METHOD” that they are secretive about. Your conversation should be centered around the 3 C’s of SEO which are content, code and connectivity. These three elements are the core of a good SEO program. As a medical practice you should be concerned with these elements and what the SEO company doe to appeal to the algorithm.
For more information please read Onur Birsen’s article that coined the phrase The 3C’s of SEO.
2. Unsolicited emails from people claiming they are SEO experts
This seems to be a surefire to waste a lot of time and money. I have heard numerous stories from practices who hired these kinds of companies and simply got nothing in return. No results and a website littered with keyword stuffing and poorly developed tags that hurt the website SEO more than helped it. Take the time to find the right company on your own. Word of mouth usually works the best. Some of these illegitimate companies are downright hilarious. The sales people in many cases having been selling SEO for 2 weeks, but they claim to be the best. They are not even educated enough to know what they are saying.
3. A WORD FROM Google (content source – Google)
A statement from Googles Webmaster Help Center: “Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a “special relationship” with Google, or advertise a “priority submit” to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or through the Google Sitemaps program, and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.”
NO COMPANY can guarantee anything with SEO. What if the algorithm changes tomorrow and it determines the techniques on your website are now spammy. What happens next?
4. Do Not USE duplicate content
This topic is quite amazing to me! I am completely surprised at how a medical community like ophthalmology could unintelligently engage in this practice. Not only is duplicate content the work of other people, but it clearly has issues on the search engines. When duplicate content first became an issue on ophthalmology websites, many companies and people pushed back. Many people claimed it was a MYTH. Today, I am more confident than ever that websites will have issues if they do not take the time to write their own unique content. Is it worth it to have a possible SEO penalty dropping your results to page 40? Once this occurs you have a bigger and more expensive problem. My suggestion is to develop a robust set of content for website that is well written. NOTE: A duplicate content penalty does not just come in the form of text it may also have to deal with your URL structures and usage of domain name.
check your site and articles with tools like copyscape.com.
5. Use proper redirects – Use the 301
Do not let your SEO company engage in the use of shadow domains or domains that drive traffic to your website by deceptive redirects. Many of these types of domains can be actually owned by the SEO company and can be used without the awareness of the practice. Insist on 301 redirects and ask the company to not engage in shadow domains.
6. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing does not work and makes your website look ridiculous. I think it is important to have visible keywords within the website content, but just limit the over usage of keywords. Additionally work the SEO around the content on the page. Many ophthalmology practices still have tags on a page with no relevant content. All this does is limit the focus of the quality content on the page.
7. Do Not Hide Text in the Website.
Sometimes you can find hidden website text really easy by highlighting the blank area at the bottom of the page. Hiding text from humans or human website editors is an old black hat trick that non longer works and can get your website in big trouble. When consulting your SEO company make sure to address how the website tags are developed.
8. Differentiate Between SEO and SEM
Make sure the SEO company explains the difference between SEO(organic) and SEM(paid). Some practices think they are optimized for organic searches because they are on the google adwords program doing pay per click advertising. A SEO company should have a strategy to deal with both paid search and organic search. Make sure that there is a clear distinction between the two methods of search.
9. Avoid LINK Farms
Link farms are another completely misunderstood topic. According to Google, a link farm is a collection of UNRELATED website links put together for the purpose of tricking link popularity. LINKING with relevant websites such as other eye doctors is NOT a link farm, LINKING with your local media is NOT a link farm.
10. Hire a Professional But Know What They DO!
It is certainly possible that an ophthalmology practice could attempt SEO internally with a potentially savvy employee. Typically speaking SEO people with little experience make mistakes. Take for example to refractive coordinator who bounced from page 2 to page 40. Simply understanding how to construct proper and SEO friendly URLs and understanding the duplicate content penalty could have saved them the aggravation. Now, no patients will find you. You have to ask yourself this question. Is it worth saving $300 per month to get penalized and end up on page 40 where you are certain to get NO leads? Of course I am saying this as a SEO professional but I can say for certain how to avoid penalties and how to handle the situation if one does occur.
Page Topics Include: Ophthalmology website search engine optimization, ethical medical SEO, 10 keys to avoid SEO malpractice in ophthalmology.
About the Author: Michael Dobkowski is a seasoned ophthalmology practice marketing consultant for Glacial Multimedia Inc. If you need assistance with internet marketing, you may consult him at: 207.878.5900