Just creating a website isn’t enough to get your practice noticed. The Academy’s EyeSmart® website offers the tips below to help your site reach people who are searching online for eye care and in need of an ophthalmologist in your area.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a constantly evolving set of techniques that are used to get websites to show up more prominently in search results. The end goal of SEO is to get more readers onto your website.
Google search is by far the biggest source of web traffic today. How your website shows up in Google search results is usually the most important factor in how many people visit your website. Seemingly small changes in search ranking can have huge effects on your web traffic. Industry experts say that 60 percent of people who use a search engine click on one of the top three results.
In the past, there were tricks or questionable tactics that could be used to influence search rankings. Google and other search engines have made enormous efforts to render these tricks obsolete. But there are still a few best practices that can help improve your search rankings.
Be Realistic About Your Relevance
Think about the reasons someone might want to find your specific website and focus on those terms.
Some search phrases are extremely competitive. It might be difficult to get onto the first page of search results for cataracts—but cataract surgeon San Francisco could be a good phrase for you to optimize for. For general eye health information, many readers will end up on WebMD or the Academy’s EyeSmart® public education website. Focus on what is unique to you.
To Be Seen, Be Useful
Think about what information your readers need, and provide it for them.
Google’s guiding principle for search is “Give people what they’re looking for.”
Google tracks dozens of user behaviors during search and after the user visits your website. Google uses that data to assess whether you helped the reader get what they were looking for. If Google sees your website as being helpful, then it will send more people there.
Get the Technical Details Right
Do a technical assessment of your site and take action on any problems that are found.
If your site is slow or often fails to load, Google will notice and send fewer people there. If your site is vulnerable to hacking (for example, from an unpatched WordPress weakness), Google will warn readers who try to go there—and most of those readers will not visit. If your website has technical problems, it will be very difficult to improve your search placement. Make sure your pages work, load quickly and are easy to read on mobile phones.
Focus On the Most Important Words
Create a list of no more than three short phrases per page to optimize for.
SEO should always start from an assessment of what words matter to your readers. You can’t get your website to be the first search result for every search—you have to prioritize. Think about (and research) what real words and phrases your potential audience is using. Why optimize for conjunctivitis when the public actually searches for pink eye?
Once you have decided what words and phrases matter to you, make sure those words appear in natural, appropriate context in the text of your page, in section headers and bulleted lists (see below for more on those) and in the page’s short description (a special paragraph that isn’t visible on the page but is in the page code). The most important phrase or two should also be in the title of the page and the URL address of the page.
Write For the Average Reader
Write your web pages like you’re talking to a patient.
Your website needs to be understandable to the average reader. Communicate clearly, using simple words and phrases. Write for an 8th-grade reading level or lower. Many word processing programs, like Microsoft Word, have built-in ways to check the grade level of your text. You can also use online readability checkers or other programs.
Make Your Pages Skimmable
Organize your pages so that Google’s computers and your readers can easily tell what the page is about as they scroll through it.
Most readers will not read every word on a webpage. Help your readers quickly get the facts by using section headers and bulleted lists. Think of your pages in outline format, with the key points most prominent and additional detail tucked in between those major points.
Google also pays special attention to section headers and lists when it categorizes the topics of pages and weighs pages against each other. Make sure your pages are correctly coded using HTML so Google—and vision-impaired visitors who use screen reading technology—have a clear idea what is on the page and how it is organized.
Get Other People to Link to Your Website
Help Google and your potential patients find you by getting your website linked from other sites.
Google and other search engines see it as a vote of confidence when one site links to another. Local business lists, health bloggers, your Yelp listing and your Academy biography are all good places to start. The more reputable sites that link to your site, the better. But avoid buying links or trying to get your website listed on any link-farm websites. Google only cares about quality links that are topically appropriate. Junk links can actually count against you.
Link to Outside Sites (Like EyeSmart)
Don’t be afraid to link to other quality websites.
Some people are hesitant to link from their own website to another site. This can feel like sending readers away. But readers are best served by getting the information they need—even if that doesn’t come from your website. Linking to quality outside sources, like the Academy’s EyeSmart website, helps your patients get the best information. Linking to EyeSmart also advances the profession of ophthalmology by helping EyeSmart cut through the clutter of misinformation online.
Links from your website to other high-quality websites improve your standing in Google’s eyes because you are acting in the best interest of your readers. Linking—where appropriate—to EyeSmart pages and other high-quality information reinforces your credibility.
Another benefit of linking to EyeSmart is that you don’t have to update that information. If there is an advancement in treatment or a new warning, the Academy will update the EyeSmart website to provide the public with what they need to know.