After talking about local search for dental practices last month, I’m following up this month by outlining four things that are critical to getting your on-page SEO strategy moving in the right direction.
1) Content Management
To be competitive in search you will need to be agile, and this means having a content management system, or CMS platform, that will enable you to control content on your pages. Probably the most common CMS is WordPress, but there are many other options out there (Joomla!, Drupal, etc.). The core value of a CMS is that any user can log in and can make basic content changes on web pages (text, images, video, layout, add new pages etc.) without coding knowledge. In other words, you won’t need to contact a web developer when you need to make basic updates to your pages. However, I do think it’s important that you assign responsibility for updating web content to somebody on your staff (or think about hiring a web content manager).
2) Keyword Research
A CMS gives you the ability to control the content on your pages, but the foundation of good SEO will means incorporating keywords and phrases into your content. The first step here is doing some research to get more insight into the most important keywords for your practice page. A few months ago, I wrote about some simple analysis you can do to get started with keyword research. Once you’ve got the basic idea, there are tons of tools out there that help you get deeper into keyword research. The Google Keyword Planner is a popular free tool you can use to get a sense for the volume of searches along with some suggestions of other keywords. Another popular free tool is Ubersuggest. Depending on your budget and the scope of SEO you intend to do, there are also many paid tools including Raven Tools, SEMrush, and Keyword Spy.
3) Keyword Enrichment
Once you have a working list of important keywords, the next step is actually working those keywords into your content. There’s a bit of an art and science to keyword enrichment, but the best advice is to make sure that you are constructing page titles and copy that ultimately make sense to the user. At times, SEOs take keyword data too literally and cram popular keywords into their copy as much as possible. This doesn’t help your page rank any better and in fact Google can often detect “keyword stuffing” and penalize your site as a result.
Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to find ways to incorporate the keywords seamlessly into the page elements I’m outlining below. Here are some of the primary page elements you should be enriching with keywords on your pages.
- <title>: Your Title is probably the strongest SEO attribute on your page. Rather than displaying on your page, the title is used by Google to display the link to your page in search results. The best practice is to keep your titles under 70 characters, otherwise your full title won’t display properly. Make sure every page on your site has a title and every title is unique.
- Header Tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc. within the <body> element): While the title is what Google uses to link to your page in search results, your headers are what you display to users. Many people copy their titles into their h1 tags. While this may not hurt your page performance, you are missing an opportunity to use different keywords in each element.
- Copy (within the <body> element): The actual text copy on your page.
- Meta Description (meta name=“description” content=“place copy here”): The meta description is used to describe the contents of a page. In most cases, Google displays the meta description below the title in search results.
It’s often easier to see where these elements exist on pages so I’ve included some screen shots below.
4) Schema Markup
Last month, Chris from social dental network mentioned the importance of adding schema markup to your practice page. I fully agree with this. Let me explain further. With schema, Google can easily grab and index important elements of your practice and even display them directly in search results. For example, your address, your hours of operation, your phone number, your logo, photos, reviews. Getting schema onto your pages is not very complex, but it’s probably something that a developer would be doing for you. Generally it’s best to follow the schemas outlined by schema.org (they have guidelines for dentists at http://schema.org/Dentist), test the markup (Google has a free tool for this) and then add the code to your site. The important piece is that you update your schema if any of the values change (i.e., change of address, phone, etc.). Schema is a very powerful way to get more of your business information into search results and very few websites are actually using it. Below I’ve captured a screen shot that shows how Chipotle is using schema markup:
Understanding the fundamental page elements and how to use keyword research and enrichment along with schema markup will put you on the right track for a successful SEO strategy.
I will happily answer further questions you have about on-page SEO in the comment section below.