Welcome to article #3 in our 4-part series on social media marketing. Now that you have a start on drafting your social media strategy and some tips for getting the most out of your online presence, we’re going to help you with the next critical step: Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Gone are the days when you could write up your web content and, much like a brochure, once it was “published” you could set it and forget it. Today’s websites need to be built with dynamic contentmeaning content that changesbecause that’s how search engines find them.
According to a study from Conductor, approximately 64% of web traffic comes from organic searches. “Organic” means people are typing in keywords looking for such things as veterinary services, rather than looking for a specific business name. Keywords, as described below, are an essential part of any SEO strategy.
You may be thinking this is the work of web and social media experts, but it’s just as important for veterinarians and practice managers. If you want to develop your online presence, it really is everyone’s business to know this stuff!
That’s the why factor for this article on SEO—now let’s look at how you can implement it.

Get social with keywords and relevant content

We’ll begin by explaining two key components of a good SEO strategy: keywords and relevant content.
While what you put on social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and others) doesn’t necessarily affect SEO, it can improve your SEO ranking by getting people to your websitewhich should always be the goal. Google, the primary search engine used worldwide, will rank you best when your posts use both keywords (see more below) and content that is consistent with your website.
Let’s say you’re an avid sports fan, and you want to share a series of funny posts about golf on Facebook. If golf isn’t one of your keywords or part of the content on your website, you likely shouldn’t be posting about it on social all the time. Google doesn’t like that, and it will affect your search rankings. Instead, share relevant Facebook posts about Flea and Tick prevention, for example, to link readers to your website. There, they can read a blog post/page with more flea and tick information, and book an appointment or purchase treatment from your practice.
Don’t worry! Sharing the odd post about somewhat random topics like a great golf score isn’t totally out of the cards—just try not do it all the time.
This becomes even more important if you’re doing social media advertising using Google AdWords. This is an online advertising service developed by Google, where you can pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings, and even videos on the Google ad network. Signing up for Google AdWords is free: you only pay when someone clicks your ad to visit your website or calls you. You can set your own budget based on the results you hope to achieve.
Google does what’s called an AdWords Quality Score and you’ll get a higher score when your ad is found more often because it aligns with the keywords and content used on your site.
This helps to explain how a consistent approach in your social content, website content, and advertising all work together to affect SEO.
The following, adapted from an earlier article, provides more information.

Know your keywords

Keywords, or keyword phrases, are named as such because they are the key to search engines. These words are what search engines use to index your website. Using the right combination of keywords in your content is what brings local pet owners to your website.
Your keywords should be based on what you know about your clients: who they are (e.g., pet owners, pet health services, etc.), and the words you think they’ll use to look for information about your services and products (veterinary care, animal health care, vaccinations, spay & neuter, pet dental care, Dr. Your Name, etc.) You want to use words that are highly relevant to your clients and your practice.

Be selective

While it might seem like a good idea to use as many keywords as possible, this is considered a black hat technique that you should avoid. Be strategic and pick the keywords that will lead people to the services that your practice actually offers.

Be direct

Search engines also really like it when your posts convert readers to take some action (more on this below). Be as clear as possible on what you’re asking them to do using relevant keywords.

Stay up to date

Social media, websites, and the digital world are constantly changing. Likely, so is your practice. Updating your site on a regular basis with keyword-rich content will show Google that your website is active, which encourages search engines to index it as a relevant and current website.
Not to worry—you don’t have upload new pages all the time. Instead, work smarter, not harder by prioritizing evergreen content, which continues to pull in traffic by always being relevant. One industry trick is to regularly tweak these pages ever so slightly to show that they are still active.

Be local

Local SEO is quickly gaining ground as an effective strategy for greater online visibility. According to Kris Harrison, a member of the LifeLearn SEO strategy team, “local search engine optimization is a much more focused approach and makes a lot of sense for veterinary clinics who want to target customers in their jurisdiction.” Harrison also recommends putting your clinic’s location in the main page title and using keywords that identify your location within your content. “It’s not difficult to rank high in Google if there isn’t a lot of competition in that area,” he said.
Harrison also suggests “geotargeting,” which optimizes local searches by identifying your location through your IP address, Google Maps, and other means.
Keep in mind, however, that it can be more challenging to get good search rankings when there’s a lot of direct competition, such as veterinary hospitals or clinics in the same area.

Other tips and tricks

Some of Harrison’s other suggestions for improving Google search rankings include:

  • Each website should have its own host with a unique IP address
  • Make sure pages load as fast as possible
  • Use Local Directory listings
  • Have a mix of dynamic content (like a blog, because it changes constantly) vs. static content (such as an about us page that usually remains static)
  • Use clear calls to action in all blog content to assist converting readers to customers
  • Ensure your site is mobile optimized
  • Get/feature an SSL certificate (secure site)
  • Use a local top-level domain (TLD). For example, Canadian websites use .ca
  • Host the website in the region you wish to target. If you’re a practice in Toronto, for example, host your website in Toronto or the nearest credible and reliable provider of hosting services.

Getting expert help

This can all feel a little overwhelming, but it really doesn’t have to hassle if you follow the steps outlined above. Beyond that, you might consider how you can get the support and expertise you need through your existing (or new) WebDVM website and LifeLearn SEO support.
Here are some core best practices that LifeLearn applies to every WebDVM website we build, including:

  1. Submit the website to all search engines
  2. Verify that clients have a Google My Business Page
  3. Input keywords during the development of the website
  4. Add meta tags to the description of the website

If you’re a WebDVM client, you may also want to ask your LifeLearn representative about our SEO+ premium add-on.
With all this in mind (and we know it’s a lot), Harrison offers these words of advice: “Many bloggers waste time and effort trying to get good ranking for a blog or web page that isn’t written or designed to convert readers in some way.” In that vein, conversion can mean different things to different people. For your practice, conversion can mean getting visitors to your website to sign up for a newsletter or book an appointment. Alternatively,  if you have a shopping cart, it could mean having pet owners purchase a product or treatment online, or to reserve an “off the shelf” item at your clinic.
Ultimately, your goal when using social is to send social signals to your veterinary website, “to encourage a lower bounce rate and improve page navigation, which in turn will score your website as more user-friendly. When the reader arrives at a page and is converted to a high-value customer, that’s what really improves rankings,” says Harrison.
LifeLearn has a team of experts that are also available to help you. If you’re a LifeLearn client, talk to your LifeLearn Client Care representative for more information about how we’re optimizing your WebDVM website and to explore any add-ons you may want to consider. If you aren’t a LifeLearn client, feel free to talk with one of our Practice Specialists to learn more.
See you online soon!

Other articles in this series:

Social Media Guide Step 1: Creating Your Veterinary Social Media Strategy for 2018

Social Media Guide Step 2: Tips and tricks for optimizing and simplifying social media