When we set up chiropractor websites through our sister company Perfect Patients, it doesn’t take long before the conversation turns to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is the art and science of getting a website to become visible to the major search engines and rank highly for the search terms someone might use to find a chiropractor on the Internet.
There are probably as many or more misconceptions about SEO than myths about chiropractic!
When you eliminate the smoke, mirrors and hyperbole surrounding SEO for chiropractors with websites, it’s a sobering game changer. Allow me to do so.
Everyone wants to be on page one of Google. But there are only 10 spots. This creates the same angst I remember seeing among chiropractors in the mid-1980s struggling with what size of yellow page ad to get. Since larger ads were placed towards the front of the category, and the assumption was that the larger the ad, the more new patients it would produce, sales representatives exploited this, revealing the true meaning of the word “manipulation.”
“You don’t want to lose your spot…”
“The chiropractor down the street is enlarging his ad this year…”
“I’d hate to see you get buried in the back…”
Today, SEO consultants have taken this page out of the yellow page salespersons’ playbook, extracting money from chiropractors who don’t want a website, a yellow page ad or any other form of chiropractor marketing. He or she just wants to help people.
Reverse Engineering Google
The plea to “Get me on page one of Google” has been answered with a variety of techniques designed to artificially elevate a website’s listing. Many of these involved various levels of subterfuge that Google and the others have learned to detect. Things like packing the page with search terms in white text on a white background seen by the search engines, but not by humans.
The list of these “black hat” techniques is endless. And when detected, Google simply bans the site from its index! In fact, it has gotten so bad that these days the most reliable experts believe that only about 20% (or less) of what’s actually on the website determines how Google ranks it!
Said another way, what you or your webmaster do to your site, such as title tags, metatags, description tags, alt attributes, keyword density and even the words and pictures visitors see when visiting your site, are only 20% or less of what Google considers when deciding how to rank your site.
If you want Google and the others to place you high in the listings, you must look at things from Google’s point of view.
The Other 80%
There’s an old adage, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” When this was coined more than a dozen years ago, it simply meant that you could fake your online identity. Or misrepresent the truth. Exaggerate. Even lie.
This creates a problem for search engines that see the millions of searchers looking for quality, accurate information as their real customer. In turn, what Google values more than the actual content on your website is its reputation and authority. In other words, is the website to be trusted and is the content authoritative?
It’s a lot like that diploma on your wall. You can place it behind glass. You can surround it with an ornate gold leaf frame. And you can aim a spotlight at it. But by just looking at it, no one can tell whether its owner was the overachieving valedictorian or the goof-off who barely graduated.
Same with your website.
You may be an authority in your practice with the adoration of thousands of delighted patients, but on the Internet, you could be a dog. Google isn’t sure. In fact, Google is automatically suspicious. Especially if your website is relatively new. So, Google looks at a variety of indicators to judge your online authority and reputation. That’s the other 80% of the search engine equation.
Managing Your Online Reputation
Naturally, knowing exactly what Google uses to determine your online reputation and determine how authoritative your website is would be valuable information. Thankfully, my colleagues at our sister company, Perfect Patients, has this nailed. Some of it is widely known among SEO consultants. Other parts of the equation we’ve learned by studying, producing, failing, revising and celebrating the success of hundreds, even thousands of chiropractor websites.
I’m not about to give away our hard-earned lessons and the proprietary techniques we use on behalf of our chiropractic website clients. But I would like to share a practical tip any chiropractor with a website can apply today.
Voting For Class President
You may remember the popularity contests back in high school for prom queen or class president. Tragically, the Internet works a bit like this. Google looks to see who else in the Internet community thinks your website is worth linking to, and takes note of it. Thankfully, unlike voting for class president where every vote is equal, Google carefully considers the quality of every inbound link (“vote”) to your site. Some links are worth more than others.
High Quality Links – The best links are from chiropractic and other health-related sites that already have a high level of authority and reputation in the eyes of Google. These might include links from your state association website, alternative health care directories or listings from a site dedicated to your particular adjusting technique. Even a link from your chiropractic college roommate in another town can have value.
Low Quality Links – A link from your brother-in-law’s carpet cleaning website won’t be as helpful, but get it if you can. Links from your Chamber of Commerce, the service club you belong to or some other local, non-healthcare sites should be welcomed, but aren’t as valuable in the eyes of Google.
Worst Quality Links – On the Internet, the worst type of link is no link. And this is where many chiropractors falter, thinking that simply having a website, like buying a yellow page ad, is enough. It’s not. If you have any hope of ranking highly, you must convince Google of your authority and trustworthiness. And one way Google ascertains this is how many other sites link to yours. If being on page one is important to you, you simply must have inbound links to your website.
Before get sucked up in the complexity of social media, Twitter, Facebook and like, or seduced by metatag-talking SEO consultants working for the online version of the yellow page directory, examine these overtures in light of how they will enhance your online authority and reputation. Be mindful of who you entrust it with. Because it takes years to acquire, but can be lost in a momentary lapse of judgment, greed or a temporary need for new patients.