Search Engine Optimization: 5 Essential Steps to Improve Local SEO for Your Practice

Teerawong Kasiolarn, ND, MSAc, LAc

Practice Building

What is SEO? And why is it so important when it comes to promoting your naturopathic practice? SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Most people create their website while lacking knowledge of SEO, especially if they create the website without any professional help. The main reason for creating a website is to promote your services; you want people to visit your website/practice and/or to buy your products. Even if you happen to have the fanciest, state-of-the-art website, not having the proper SEO to get traffic through the search engines will affect the visibility and the ranking of your website. This article provides 5 essential steps to improve your local SEO for your naturopathic practice.

Step 1: Claim and Optimize “Google My Business”

(for Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Plus)

As you may already realize, Google is the world’s leader in the realm of search engines for both desktops and mobile devices.1,2 Therefore, to improve and optimize your website ranking and local SEO, you should use Google tools as much as possible. Fortunately, Google provides an excellent and free service called Google My Business3 (formerly known as Google Places), in which businesses can be found on their Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as well as on Google Maps. With Google My Business, once you are signed up and claiming your business, you will be able to update and optimize your business information and start engaging with your clients from your desktop computers and/or mobile devices for free.3 For these reasons, setting up Google My Business is an essential step toward enabling potential clients or patients to find your naturopathic practice online and eventually become your loyal clients.

Step 2: Capitalize on Social Media & Online Directories

According to Pew Research Center, about “seven-in-ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves.”4 In addition, based on the 2013 Nielson Global Survey of Trust in Advertising – a survey that polled more than 29 000 internet respondents in 58 countries – “sixty-eight percent of survey respondents indicated that they trust consumer opinions posted online.”5 The survey results also showed that “trust and action often go hand in hand,”5 especially word-of-mouth marketing; “recommendations from family and friends and consumer opinions posted online prompted the highest levels of self-reported action.”5

In the medical field, according to research by the American Osteopathic Association, over 65% of survey respondents “relied on a traditional method of finding a physician – word-of-mouth.”6 With such a high percentage of people trusting online reviews (representing word-of-mouth marketing), it is clearly important to capitalize on social media and various online directory reviews and testimonials to maximize the traffic to your website. Asking for reviews and testimonials can feel uneasy, but the words from your best clients or patients can have a crucial impact on the success of your practice. Here is a list of popular social media websites and other important online directories, to help promote your naturopathic practice:

  • Google My Business: This was already discussed in Step 1. Google is ranked #1 among search engines, and, as of August 2016, had an estimated 1.6 billion new visitors each month.7
  • Facebook: This is the most popular social media platform.8 You can create your business fan page for free and start interacting with your current and potential clients. Your clients or patients can also write reviews or testimonials on your fan page.
  • Bing Places for Business: Bing is the second most popular search engine in the United States and has about 400 million new monthly visitors.7
  • Yelp: This is one of the most popular online local business reviews, and has a monthly average of 28 million new visitors.9
  • Yellow Pages: This is the leading local marketing solutions provider in the United States. You can search and claim your business for free on their website.
  • Super Pages: This is the local expert, as well as a top online resource for finding information and insights on businesses and retailers.

Step 3: On-Page SEO

On-page SEO is “the practice of optimizing individual web pages in order to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic in search engines,”10 and “refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.”10 Optimizing on-page SEO is a complicated task and requires an SEO professional to work on your website, as it has continuously changed and evolved over the years.

There are several on-page SEO factors11 that can influence your website rankings in the search results, including the page keywords, page title, page content (especially the relevancy and length of the content), headline tags, image optimization, links (both internal and external), social media sharing buttons, responsive or mobile-friendly design, multimedia engagements (eg, images, videos, diagrams, etc), website speed, sitemap, etc.11,12

Regarding mobile-friendly design, according to an independent web analytics company, StatCounter, in October 2016, internet usage by mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) exceeded desktop usage worldwide for the first time.13 In addition, starting in April 2015, Google made an announcement to use “mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal.”14 Hence, if your naturopathic website is not mobile-friendly or responsive to various mobile devices, it will negatively impact your website ranking and user experience. You can easily check to see if your website is currently mobile-friendly by using a free Google Mobile-Friendly Test tool.15

With regards to creating keywords for your website, you should think like your customers. Performing the keyword analysis is essential. Keyword analysis helps us understand the most common words employed by users to search for services/products that you provide to your potential customers. You can start your keyword analysis by searching your services/products. For example, when you perform a search on “naturopathic” through the Google search engine, at the bottom of the result page you will see a list of phases/keywords that are related to the topics of your search. The Google search engine also offers a free keyword analysis tool called Adwords Keyword Planner.16 Once you create the Google Adwords account, you can search by phrases, websites, or category.16 In the result page, you can see the relevant keywords and the average monthly searches. This can be a very useful tool when you optimize your keywords for your website.

Step 4: Off-Page SEO

Off-page/off-site SEO refers to “actions taken outside of your own website to impact your rankings within search engine results pages (SERPs).”17 Building high-quality backlinks18 (from popular, trustworthy, and high-authority websites) is the most crucial component of off-page SEO.18 For instance, you can boost your naturopathic website ranking by writing high-quality blogs/articles for the high-authority organizations (eg, American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (NDNR), naturopathic state associations, local news websites, local newspapers, etc) and requesting backlinks to your website.

Step 5: Audit & Clean Up Your Local Citations

“Citations and external location signals are the 3rd most important ranking factor, according to the Moz local search ranking factors survey.”19 As a result, it is crucial that your naturopathic business information in the NAP format (Name, Address, Phone) is correct and consistent across the major citation sources. You can learn how to audit and clean up your local citations, yourself, at the Moz19 website, which can be quite a time-consuming task. Or, you can pay companies (eg, Moz Local, Yext, Whitespark, etc) to audit and fix for you these incorrect business citations.

References:

  1. Desktop Search Engine Market Share. Available at: https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpsp=2017&qpnp=1&qptimeframe=Y&qpcustomd=0. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  2. Mobile/Tablet Search Engine Market Share. Available at: https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpsp=2017&qpnp=1&qptimeframe=Y&qpcustomd=1. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  3. Google My Business. Available at: https://www.google.com/business/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  4. Pew Research Center. Social Media Fact Sheet. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  5. Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages. Nielsen; September 2013. Available at: https://www.slideshare.net/iabmexico/global-trust-in-advertising-report-nielsen-2013. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  6. Word-of-Mouth Is No. 1 Source for Finding Physicians. January 24, 2014. Available at: https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Word-of-Mouth-No-1-Source-Finding-Physicians/1010557. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  7. Ratcliff C. What are the top 10 most popular search engines? August 8, 2016.. Search Engine Watch Web site. https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/08/08/what-are-the-top-10-most-popular-search-engines/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  8. Pew Research Center. Facebook remains the most popular social media platform. November 10, 2016. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/social-media-update-2016/pi_2016-11-11_social-media-update_0-01/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  9. About Us: 10 Things You Should Know About Yelp. Available at: https://www.yelp.com/about. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  10. On-Page SEO. Available at: https://moz.com/blog/category/on-page-seo. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  11. On-Page Factors. Available at: https://moz.com/learn/seo/on-page-factors. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  12. Dean B. On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Page (2017 Update). August 4, 2017. Backlinko Web site. https://backlinko.com/on-page-seo. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  13. Mobile and tablet internet usage exceeds desktop for first time worldwide. Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/press/mobile-and-tablet-internet-usage-exceeds-desktop-for-first-time-worldwide. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  14. Google: AdSense Help. Make sure your site’s ready for mobile-friendly Google search results. Available at: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6196932?hl=en. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  15. Mobile-Friendly Test. Available at: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  16. Keyword Planner. Available at: https://adwords.google.com/home/tools/keyword-planner/. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  17. Off-Site SEO. Available at: https://moz.com/learn/seo/off-site-seo. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  18. Backlinks. Available at: https://moz.com/learn/seo/backlinks. Accessed September 17, 2017.
  19. Advanced Local Citation Audit & Clean Up: Achieve Consistent Data & Higher Rankings. Available at: https://moz.com/blog/advanced-citation-audit-clean-up-achieve-consistent-data-higher-rankings. Accessed September 17, 2017.
Image Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_ximagination’>ximagination / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Dr. Teerawong Kasiolarn (Kan) received his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine and Master of Science in Acupuncture from Bastyr University in 2005.  After graduation, he served as a naturopathic resident at the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM) in Connecticut, Yale-Prevention Research Center (PRC), and the Integrative Medicine Center (IMC) at Griffin Hospital, a teaching facility affiliated with Yale University.  For the past 11 years since his residency, Dr. Kasiolarn has been practicing at Nova Medical Group, which is now owned by Inova Health Systems (www.inova.org), which is the global leader in personalized health and is the largest integrated healthcare network in Northern Virginia and the Washington, DC Metro area.  Dr Kasiolarn focuses on Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD), metabolic syndrome, diabetes, thyroid disorders, weight management/obesity, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, anxiety/depression, and autoimmune diseases.  Dr. Kasiolarn is also the founder of NDAccess Web Service (www.ndaccess.com), which is the leading web hosting & design solutions, specifically created to serve, assist, and support Naturopathic physicians.

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