Many of our clients ask us ‘why aren’t we ranking at the top of Google?’ – this article is written to answer this question and gives you some tips on how you can address this.
Before we start let’s clear up what we’re talking about here.
What we want is to get to the top of search engine results.
By search engine, we’re talking about Google.
By top, we mean the first page as fewer than 2% of searchers ever make it onto page two.
To achieve this we need to be optimising our site to be favourable to search engines. This is referred to as SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. This term refers to work done both on your site (onsite) and on other sites that are in your environment (offsite). Many people think that getting to the top of the search engine ranks is free. It isn’t. It will require significant time and effort to get your site ranked. If you want to get on the top of Google right now, today, the only way you can do this is to pay for it via AdWords, Google’s famous advertising platform which has made the founders two of the richest men in the world. To launch a campaign get your credit card ready and click here.
Firstly, Google broke the mould when it was launched because it differed from all the other search engines in one big way: it measured sites not simply on what was written on its pages. Pre-Google a web master could load the page full of the keywords it wanted to rank for. So if he wrote ‘Knee Surgeon’ a thousand times on a page the old search engines would rank it on the basis of how often this was mentioned.
The problem with this is that it didn’t actually determine whether anyone was really a knee surgeon. In fact, it only really registered the ability to understand how a web page was built which undermined the whole idea of a search engine. Google changed everything because it realised that to keep people coming back they needed to trust it – so it set about delivering the best possible result for the consumer, not the website owner. Knowing this is key to understanding how you appear on the search rankings, or SERP (Search Engine Results Page) as we call it in the trade. Google isn’t trying to help you, it’s trying to help the consumer.
Google built its ranking index around an algorithm which measures certain factors and this made it harder to game the system. Although this algorithm has evolved significantly over the years many of these factors that determine how a site is ranked are outside of the direct control of the website owner. Google still wants the most relevant sites to appear at the top but it requires sustained effort on behalf of the site owner to get there. You have to play by the rules to get ranked.
Be Honest & Genuine
In establishing how to rank on Google, it’s important to remember that they want you to engage with the internet in an honest way. This means your site should be regularly updated in a way that a retailer is regularly restocked or a clinic is regularly maintained. Similarly, you should put yourself about a bit and get links from other websites that are in the same sector as you. Google are clever, they measure not just your site but how you fit into the environment in which you operate. Their software performs trillions of website checks (called crawls) per month so they know what it going on and who is connected to who.
Also, you should bear in mind that what happens in the SERP battle isn’t just about you. It’s also about what everyone else is doing. So if you are a new website and you operate in a competitive sector in a populated city the chances are there are going to be a lot of people doing what you’re doing to get to the top and they will probably have been doing it a lot longer.
Not every search is the same. If you’re in Edinburgh and you search for a knee surgeon the results you see in Google will be very different from those of someone searching for a knee surgeon in London. The search above was performed in Stratford-upon-Avon and you can see that the results are skewed in favour of local practitioners.
A New Website
If you’re a new site you have to earn your position in the ranking table. Like many things in life you get out what you put in and for those who think they can spring to the top simply by putting up a site then I’m afraid you have to think again. There are many sites that have been there long before you who regularly update and work on generating inward links and you need to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in if you want to compete. That said there are also many sites that don’t. In my experience, 80% of healthcare websites are never updated and make no effort to engage with an online audience.
So what can I do?
The exact Google algorithm isn’t something that is officially published but every now and then they release some information and for those of us in the internet business we know from experience what works and what doesn’t. The following list is an outline of factors you need to address to get your site ranked. Be prepared for the long haul. This very site now ranks position 3 on Google for ‘Healthcare SEO’ and it took about 18 months for us to get there. And we’re still fighting to get to that top position! Check it out here.
There are some 200 factors in the Google algorithm and trying to adhere to all of them can actually be a full-time job – so we’ve pulled out the 10 of the main factors you need to consider:
These are links from sites that have some relevancy or connection to what you do. This can be trade bodies, hospitals, clinics, directories and other websites that you may be associated with.
2. Regular production of original content
Google will crawl your site on average every few weeks. The more you change your site (by adding content) the more frequently the site gets crawled and more Google will rate you. Adding pages to your site also increases the size of your site and it’s footprint on the internet making it more likely to get picked up by potential clients.
3. Keyword-rich meta page title tags
It’s important to add content and also equally important to flag it so that search engines get a clear signpost to what you are talking about.
4. Mobile & tablet responsiveness
Your site should be built to deliver the optimum user experience. Remember Google is all about providing the best results for the consumer. A responsive site will deliver a different site layout depending on which device is used – it responds to the device, hence the responsiveness element. Interestingly, half of your website traffic will now be coming from portable devices.
5. Existence of conversion-optimised landing pages
All your pages should be optimised to maximise conversions, this means calls to action like phone numbers and readily accessible contact forms. Your pages should make it easy to contact you
6. Clean code
A well-built site with fast code free from malware is a given. If your site is older than 10 years old then consider an upgrade.
7. Site speed
Slow sites are a curse. Your site should load within 2 seconds. Ask your developer to make sure images are small and that the code is optimised for fast loading.
8. Social signals
Link up your G+ and LinkedIn pages to the site. If you’re more social then connect with Twitter and Facebook
9. Age of site
Google respects its elders. If a site has been around for a while and ticks all the other boxes then it will do well. Longevity on its own however isn’t enough to win in the ranking war so if you’re a new site don’t worry too much as the other factors all count.
10. Keywords listed on page
Remember to say what it is that you do on your site. Google bots don’t have the ability to view how beautiful a site is, they are interested in what’s written on the page. As an interesting experiment if you want to know what Google sees when it crawls your site then put your web address in this tool and it will show you what it looks like to a machine. Does it say clearly what you do?
Our business specialises in helping clinics and practitioners get found online – if you want some help, advice or just a chat then contact Gavin on 0774 009 8092 or email Gavin@bhmmedia.com.