Marketing/SEO | May 2014 Hearing Review

Using reliability, trust, and authority to drive SEO—and new visitors to your website

EricBrendeBy Eric Brende

A digital marketing strategy should be on the mind of every serious hearing care provider operating today. Gone are the days of relying on an ad in the yellow pages to bring people to your door. Today’s consumers are looking online more and more, and not only to find a professional— they’re checking up on your reputation, too.

But how do you make sure your listing rises to the top of the search results where it will be seen? Search engine optimization (SEO) is not an exact science. There is no magic formula, and no one can guarantee specific results. With search algorithms changing all the time, there simply aren’t any dependable shortcuts to ensuring your listing shows up in the top search-result rankings.

So What Should You Expect from an SEO Strategy?

First, let’s understand the purpose of search engines and their ultimate objective for visitors. The goal of effective search engines is to provide online searchers with the most reliable and relevant information possible. How does Google determine the most reliable and relevant information for a person? Experts point to more than 200 factors that contribute to Google’s search-result rankings—which are constantly changing. These factors can, however, be more easily addressed when we separate them into seven enduring categories.

1) Content. Quality content that viewers want to read; includes targeted keywords.

2) Links. Hypertext links from trusted sources; total number of quality links.

3) Architecture. A website that’s readable for search engines, with pages that load quickly.

4) HTML. Keywords in title tags and headers; meta data descriptions of the page.

5) Personal. A location that is nearby for the searcher; relevant to their search history and social factors (age, sex, interests, etc).

6) Social. Content that is frequently shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks. This indicates strong social connections within the community.

7) Trust/authority. Links and shares that show your site as a trusted authority; how long your site has been around.

  • At the center of all of these categories are the concepts that should remain foremost in your mind when attempting to improve your search rankings, namely:
  • Reliability;
  • Trust; and
  • Authority.

Understanding this provides the answer to one of the most common questions about SEO: Why does it take so long for my site to rank on the first page or to be ranked #1?

When a business first opens its doors, it takes time to build up that brand name and trust with customers. It doesn’t come the first day, week, or month. SEO is the same: You have to build your brand and trust with Google and other search engines to see rankings improve.

Here are a few of the ways you can accomplish this more efficiently.

Discover Content Ideas (Keywords)

Research new keyword opportunities and build content around them. What are people actually searching for? Set out to learn how your customers are searching online, and craft your content to address their needs and questions. Below are just a few ways to discover new keywords and content ideas for your website and blog.

  • Google Keyword Planner. The Google Keyword Planner provides you with keywords being searched for on Google, the average number of searches per month, and how competitive the keywords are. You can even view these results for a specific location if you are trying to focus on local search, or if your business serves a particular area/region.
  • Google Analytics. This is a great place to see what keywords are driving traffic to your site, and what people who search for those terms do once they are there. Do certain keywords show a high “bounce rate” (people who leave quickly after arriving at your site)? This could mean that viewers are not finding the information they want on your website, and it is an opportunity for you to create new content to satisfy their needs.
  • The questions your customers are asking. What common questions do you get from your customers in person? Have your employees write down questions they are regularly asked. If people are asking these questions offline, they are certainly asking them online.
  • Site search. What are people searching for within your site? Are they searching for information that you do not currently have on your website? If so, that could be a great opportunity for a new page or blog post.

Remember to develop content not for yourself or for your company but for your customers and potential customers. When creating new content, always ask, “Does this provide value? Am I answering questions my customers and potential customers are asking?” If you can answer yes to these questions, you are well on your way to creating quality content.

Build Links via Quality Content

Develop quality content that your customers are searching for and will want to read—and, perhaps better for you, share it. Links to a website are like votes. The goal is to build links from quality sources. To do this, it is essential to have great content that people will want to share. Here are just a few ideas for how you can build links naturally.

  • Make sure you have links or icons on each page that allow people to share the content (ie, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and e-mail). If people can’t easily share your content, they most likely will not share it at all.
  • When you write a new blog post or create new content, share it on all your social media profiles. Again, if it provides value to your customers and social media followers, they are more likely to share it.
  • Include your content in periodic e-mails to your electronic mailing list, and make it easily shareable.
  • Find an article you like or a piece of great content from another local business, and ask if you can link to that content or share it with your social network. Maybe they have an event they would like help promoting; assisting others with promoting their content and events helps build relationships, which is critical to building your reputation in your community. Once you have built these relationships, you have the opportunity to go back to them and ask if they would be willing to help you with something—whether it is sharing a blog article you wrote or helping promote an event you are hosting.

But Stay Away from…

There are a few tactics that you should avoid as part of your link-building strategy— tactics that were popular in the early days of the Web and social media, but that have since been too easily manipulated, causing search engines not to trust them.

Don’t bother having someone else create volumes of poor content for your business that will be distributed to the masses. And don’t pay for links that are likely from untrusted Web outlets. These links are likely not worth what you’ll pay for them, and you should be wary of companies that offer to build links for you.

There are many other “black hat” link-building tactics that people and businesses still use. But if you focus on creating quality content, building quality relationships, and sharing smart content via social media, you should see your number of quality, reputable links increase naturally, which will improve your search results.

Social Media: A Few Effective Strategies

Social media is now playing a bigger role in search rankings and how people discover new information. Below are a few tips on how to be effective with social media.

  • Know who is following you. Use Facebook Insights to get an idea of who your audience is. This will help structure how you use Facebook and what you should post.
  • Note what content or types of social shares are working. Is it offers? Videos? Pictures? Asking questions? Again, Facebook Insights provides good information on the types of posts that create the most shares and interactions.
  • Mix it up. Don’t always make your Facebook posts or Tweets about your business. Don’t be too self-promoting.
  • Share and be visual. Share the unique content you create, whether it’s a blog post, an infographic, images, or video. Visual posts typically have a higher engagement rate than just copy. Whenever possible, try to include an engaging visual element in your posts.
  • Help others and they’ll help you. Talk about other local businesses or events. Again, this goes back to building relationships to help create links. If other businesses see that you are promoting them, they are more likely to return the favor. Did you go to an event or restaurant that you thought was great? Share it on your Facebook page, Tweet it, and post it on your Google+ account.
  • Test new things. Don’t be afraid to try something new. Not every post will generate a lot of shares or comments. That is okay. Just remember to keep note of what works and what doesn’t.

Social media is about connecting people with the information they are interested in—connecting people to new businesses in the local community and providing them with useful information. Remember, on social networks, “engaging” means informative but also entertaining and fun.

What’s Next?

Keep researching keywords, revising content, and expanding your social network footprint. This type of research never ends; SEO is an ongoing process. Great SEO always involves further analysis. Since there are constant changes—not only to what your customers are searching for but to how the search engines themselves work—it is critical to keep your site up to date with the latest search-marketing changes. But in the end, your goal should be to make sure that your website establishes you as a dependable source of information, and that it provides answers for the people searching for hearing care in your marketplace.

Brende author boxOriginal citation for this article: Brende, E. What you should expect from SEO. Hearing Review. 2014;21(5): 14-16.