Marketing consultant Adam Hampson discusses the importance of Google search optimisation strategies to ensure patients are directed to your website
Good search engine optimisation (SEO) can make a positive difference to any aesthetics business. A high position in a search engine results page (SERP) should generate more traffic to your website (71.33% of clicks come from page one results)1, 2 and, consequently, increase the number of new customers. As Google is one of the top search engines in the world with an estimated 1.6 billion3 unique monthly visitors, we will focus on Google optimisation in this article.
Google SEO provides two methods for acquiring traffic to a web page: organic and paid-for search. Organic SEO refers to ‘the methods used to obtain a high placement or ranking on a SERP in unpaid, algorithm-driven results’.4 In other words, it’s when a page from your website appears in SERPs without you having paid Google to prioritise your listing.
However, it isn’t enough to have an organic presence anywhere on a Google SERP; the page and position are vital. A study from SEO specialists Moz in October 2014 reviewed previous data from numerous sources and conducted fresh research – the findings indicated that 71.33% of searches result in an organic click from the first page in Google and that the first five organic results on page one account for 67.60% of all clicks.2 Advanced Web Ranking also carries out ongoing research into clickthrough rates that supports these findings.5 This means that your goal should be for your web pages to appear in the top five organic positions on page one of Google for your chosen keywords/search terms.6
Alternatively, you can pay Google for an advert listing that appears in a prominent position on SERPs depending on the relevance of your advert to the user’s search. This is known as Pay- Per-Click (PPC) advertising, which you can create using Google AdWords.7, 8
PPC ads have a small symbol next to the URL to indicate that they are a paid-for listing. The best ads mirror the searcher’s end goal – giving visitors the end solution to what they are looking to achieve, e.g. ‘kill acne once and for all’, and put the focus firmly on the visitor by using ‘you’ and ‘your’ whenever possible, e.g. ‘fat freezing – say goodbye to your muffin top’ or ‘book your free consultation9 Both organic and paid-for listings have their benefits. A paid-for listing can help you to appear on page one of Google and is useful to increase awareness about your clinic in the shortest possible timeframe. You may choose to do this if you are conducting a time-sensitive marketing campaign.
Conversely, more than 50% of people prefer to click on organic listings over paid-for ones because they recognise that the PPC ads have paid for a top spot rather than earned it organically.10 Data from the Advanced Web Ranking CTR Study5 even shows that 94% of searches result in a click on an organic listing.11 This means that organic Google optimisation should be a priority for any business wanting to generate website traffic. There are, however, common mistakes that you need to avoid.
New clients often tell us that ‘SEO is dead’, citing reasons such as the popularity of social media, and Google’s increasing ability to understand context and adapt search results to an individual’s location and search history. SEO is far from dead, it’s just evolving.
Google’s algorithms use approximately 200 signals to decide how to rank pages in SERPs.12, 13 Although Google has never provided a definitive list of what they are, we know that they cover the following:
We know from experience that by improving your web content and technical SEO, it should improve where your web pages rank on Google. Where your web pages rank for a search will also depend on the searcher. Google personalises search results,17 so if a searcher who lives near your clinic has visited your website before or follows your business on social media, it will influence whether your site appears in their search results. Google wants to return the most useful results so, in the case of a search for an aesthetics clinic, it will look for businesses in the searcher’s location first.12,13
Many businesses carry out a flutter of SEO activity and expect to leap-frog to page one of Google overnight. It’s more realistic to allow three to six months for your SEO efforts to positively affect your organic rankings, or even 12 months in more competitive areas, such as Central London. SEO is an ongoing process, not a ‘set and forget’ activity, meaning that you must commit to regularly reviewing your Google optimisation at least once a month, if not more often.
You also need to consider how much you will spend and whether your budget is realistic for what you want to achieve, and seek advice about this. There is no magic number for the perfect SEO budget but it will be influenced by the size of your website, the number of treatment pages, and the competitiveness of your local area; a clinic in a city will typically have to spend more over a longer time period than a rural clinic with one or two local competitors.
A good SEO strategy should focus on maximising your available budget, concentrating on optimising your most profitable treatments, but also set realistic expectations of what can be achieved.
It’s important to pinpoint who you want to reach via Google, why you want to reach them and what you want them to do once they have seen the listing for your business. Once you understand this, you can begin researching the keywords and phrases that your potential patients are using.
Each page of your website should have a unique and single focus.18 For example, if you have a page about non-surgical fat reduction, then everything on the page – from the copy and images to the titles, meta data and calls to action – should be about the non-surgical fat reduction methods that you offer and topic-specific information.
Where some businesses go wrong is cramming too many unrelated keywords and search terms (as well as products and services) on to each page. This is bad for user experience as much as search engines. Ideally, a person landing on any page of your website should be able to instantly see whether it addresses their query. Eye-tracking research shows that people take just 2.6 seconds to scan a web page before focusing on a single element, so you need each element on a page to support one core message.19
Although you should pay attention to Google optimisation throughout your website, we believe that the best strategy is to identify your most profitable and/or most popular services and concentrate on that SEO first, especially in terms of wider optimisation activities such as blogging or social media content. For example, if chemical peels are your biggest seller, you might want to concentrate on writing blogs about the benefits of medical facials or information on social media that links to your website treatment page on chemical peels. This can help you to maximise your budget and enquiries. The danger with promoting too many products and services is that your website will seem chaotic, hard to navigate, and hard for customers and search engines to decipher.
Another common mistake is failing to optimise a website for local searches. As we’ve seen above, if someone is looking for a local service, Google will endeavour to return the highest-rated businesses situated as close as possible to the searcher. You can improve your local optimisation with simple, free steps such as listing your clinic on Google My Business,20 adding your address to the header or footer of your website, featuring Google reviews from your Google My Business page on your website, and writing long-form content that mentions the local area.
In May 2015, Google announced that mobile searches were outstripping desktop searches in 10 countries including the US and Japan;21 this trend has continued. The popularity of mobile devices affects how we search, with the latest figures from the US indicating that more than half of teens and 41% of adults now use voice searches on a daily basis.22
It is therefore important to remember that your patients might be searching using this method. When people conduct a voice search, they tend to ask a question, such as ‘will dermal fillers hurt?’ or ‘how long will dermal fillers last?’ rather than typing in a keyword.23 As a result, many websites are able to increase their traffic by answering frequently asked questions and using questions in headers and body copy. In my experience, using conversational content such as questions also makes readers feel like you are talking to them personally, which can be more compelling and therefore increases website dwell time and lowers bounce rates.
In the race to the top of Google’s organic search listings, a consistent and methodical approach is far more likely to win than a scatter-gun sprint. For many businesses, the best approach is to combine organic SEO efforts with some PPC advertising. This can help you appear several times on page one of Google in multiple positions and increase your visibility while you fine tune your Google optimisation strategy.
The key is to be patient, check the credentials of SEO professionals if you outsource your efforts, understand your audience and create content designed to appeal to them, and treat SEO as an on-going process.