The Basics of Search Engine Optimization For Veterinarians
Search engine optimization – or SEO, for short – is a common tool used by nearly all types of businesses with an online presence. The principles of SEO have many similarities between industries, but when you get down to the brass tacks of the matter the real magic happens. And while we’d argue that all businesses can benefit greatly from using this tool, very few in the smaller niches actually know enough about the process to successfully do so. We’ll go over some of the basics of search engine optimization for veterinarians big and small below in a general overview. Check back here for more detailed deep dives soon!
What Is Search Engine Optimization?
Let’s start with the most fundamental part of this entire process: what is SEO and how can it benefit your practice? When you think of a ‘search engine,’ you most likely go straight to Google as the perfect example. Why? Google has cornered the market pretty effectively, though Bing, Yahoo and other search engines have tried to stay relevant. With 90% of daily searches happening on Google (this works out to about 3.5 billion individual searches per day) you can see why businesses might want to play nice with Google’s algorithms.
When Google is figuring out which websites to show in their search results, they want to be picky. If they keep showing people useless or unrelated results, those users might start considering one of Google’s many competitors. To prevent this from happening (and to maintain their status as the industry standard) they’re constantly developing newer and better ways to serve up exactly what people want when they search for something. That’s where search engine optimization comes in. Google’s programmers have come up with many ways to scan a webpage -- both the text and images that you see as well as metadata about the page and information on how this web page connects to others online -- to effectively identify the content. Following SEO best practice principles means making sure that every piece of information you can have is present and accounted for in a way that Google and other search engines can read. The optimization part is especially tricky, as you always want to be threading that needle of specificity to bring in pet owners.
Why Do Veterinarians Need to Use SEO?
So how does this translate into the benefits of SEO for veterinarians? Say John Doe pulls up his browser and types in “dog spay Portland OR.” It’s pretty safe to say that if you’re a veterinarian located in the Portland, OR area, you’d love to have your clinic come up on the top of the search results page when John hits that button. John, like most people, is unlikely to go far past the first page of results, and he’s almost never going to make it past the second or third. At the same time, it’s pretty useless for you to show up in search results for a pet owner in Portland, ME. Veterinary practices, even mobile ones, are highly localized businesses in nearly all cases.
On Page vs. Off Page SEO for Veterinary Websites
The distinction between ‘on-page’ and ‘off-page’ SEO can be a little confusing, so we’ll just do a brief summary of a few important pieces that go into both and save the knitty gritty details for the (near) future.
You have plenty of control over on-page SEO decision-making, so we’ll start there. That’s the simple part of the equation that most people think of when they think about search engines. There are keywords that people enter -- like John with his dog that needs to be spayed in Portland -- and they hopefully match some of the keywords on your own website. In addition, there’s page information that you can choose as you create or edit your website that can help you out. This is items like URL and meta description for your veterinary clinic’s page, as well as the individual service pages. If your website has a tab dedicated to spay & neuter, it’s even easier to pop up for John’s search.
You often have less control over the off-page SEO information, especially if your an individual private veterinary practice. This includes backlinks, where other websites link back to one of your website’s pages, as well as your domain authority. There are ways to improve these, but it takes quite a bit of behind-the-scenes work.
Misusing Search Engine Optimization
Now that we’ve gone over some of the basics, do you feel ready to start taking on search engine optimization for your own veterinary practice? Don’t get ahead of yourself and make one of these common mistakes.
‘Keyword stuffing’ is a term for when you overdo it with the on-page SEO. Google programmers have gotten wise about people jamming as many keywords as possible into a chunk of text on a page, and they’re none too pleased about people who try that. You need to strike a careful balance, and be ready to change things up at a drop of the hat as things change over time. Just as with your business, they’re constantly striving to provide a better experience for their ‘customers.’
Duplicate content or improperly indexed content can be a massive blow to your search engine results ranking. If the content on your website isn’t unique (you see this plenty with marketing companies that act as mills that churn out nearly identical websites in high volume for their clients) then Google doesn’t want to show it to users. Just like in school, copying your classmate’s answers on a quiz often leads to you failing the final exam.
And there you have it! Thanks for sticking around for all that, and we hope you came out of it with a better understanding of how search engine optimization can benefit your veterinary practice. It’s a multifaceted puzzle, and each piece plays a crucial role in how your clinic will perform. Vet Marketing Pro is always here to help you navigate the somewhat murky waters, so please feel free to reach out to us for more information at any time.