Chiropractic SEO – 2018 Guide to Success
BY: DR. MIKE HAMILTON
INCEPTION CHIROPRACTIC WEBSITES
Chiropractic SEO is an almost mystical topic. For years companies have told chiropractors that they are doing SEO for them, but what does that mean? You'll find chiropractic marketing companies charging anywhere from $50 to $1000 per month for SEO. Why is there such a variance, and what should you be spending?
My team and I at Inception are very talented in the area of SEO or Search Engine Optimization. We currently hold most of the top ranks for terms in the chiropractic profession related to websites and marketing. In this article I'm going to pull the curtains back on how we did that and how you can do it to.
There's a lot of information to cover here, but I promise it's not that hard. Put a little bit of work in and you'll have people thinking you're the smartest internet person they know.
On Page SEO
It all starts with on page SEO. On page is everything that is contained within your website. The topics below will break down the major areas of on page chiropractic SEO. Think of this part of SEO as the foundation everything else rests on. If your foundation is broken you’re in trouble.
It’s also important to understand that every part I describe below is important, but just because you’re doing one or more well does not guarantee success. Your goal is to do the best you can in as many areas as you can. Some things will be out of your control but forget about that and do better in the areas you can control. Do that and you be happy with your results.
One of the things that Google is going to look at on your website is how much content you have. If your website has 6 pages and your competitor has 25 you’re going to have trouble outranking them. You’re not adding content for patients to read as much as you are adding content for Google to see.
As of today, we manage almost 1300 chiropractic websites and I can assure you that people are not reading the content. In general, they are looking at your pictures and maybe a few bullet points, but that doesn’t mean content isn’t important. You need that bulk there to show Google that your website is more robust than your competitors.
So, the goal here is to have as many pages as you can about as many topics as you can in your local community. It’s also important that your articles are optimized for your city. Each locally optimized page will have some power and as those pages are interlinked properly on your website the entire website becomes more powerful.
The coding inside of your website should be put together in a streamlined way. On this one you’re going to have to rely on your website provider. Where I see this be a problem is when someone tries to build their own website, or they use a provider that is buying a template online that they remodel for the client. You just want to make sure that the code of your website is easy for a Google bot to navigate. Some websites are filled with excessive extra code that makes it difficult for Google to assess the website.
Quality Score (Pictures, Bullet Points, Videos)
Quality Score is related to your content, but there was more that we needed to talk about. We know today that Google is looking at each page of your website and giving it a quality score. That score is coming from things like this:
- How long is the content on your page?
- Is the content understandable to the average person or is it written for doctors?
- Do you have any bullet points in the article?
- Do you have any pictures and are the pictures described properly?
- Do you have any videos?
- Do you have proper header structure in the page?
The more substantial your article is the higher your score will be. If you put that kind of effort into each of your articles your website will be difficult to beat.
User metrics is everything that people do when they interact with your page:
- How much time they spend on the page?
- Do they scroll while on the page?
- Do they click on anything?
- Do they fill out anything on the page?
- Do they end their search with your page or do they leave and look for something else?
There’s a lot you can talk about when it comes to user metrics and chiropractic SEO, but that’s enough to get you thinking. We probably need to write an entire article on that topic alone.
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to load speed. Most salesmen today will try to convince you that load speed is a top-ranking factor. I can assure you that it’s not. It’s actually not a ranking factor at all, but it is related to rank.
If your website loads very slowly you’re likely to have people leave before it loads. When people leave like that it’s considered a bounce. If you have a bounce rate higher than your competitors, then they have an advantage over you.
Most people believe you should be under 3 seconds today. Most of our clients at Inception are at around 1 second. Just make sure your load speed is not slowing people down. You’re dealing with an impatient audience that wants what they want now. Make them wait and you’re going to lose them.
For many years it was important to have your main keywords in your domain name. Something like www.GreenBayChiropractor.com, but around 2012 Google came out and said there would no longer be any benefit to buying a domain name like that. It’s important to understand that when Google says something it’s usually partially true. Time and time again I’ve learned that they speak in half-truths, and there are plenty of examples of that.
What I can tell you today is that having a keyword match domain does help, but it doesn’t help anywhere near as much as it used to. If it makes sense for your business to use a domain like that then do it, but don’t hurt your business branding for the little bit of SEO benefit you might achieve. You can make up for this tiny deficit in other areas.
The age of your domain is something you can’t really control. If you just opened your business this year in a city where other chiropractors have had websites for 10 years, there’s nothing you can do to change that. A ten-year-old domain is going to have more power than a 1-year old domain, but you can overcome this issue.
You don’t have to win every category. It’s easy to win if you can, but if you can’t then you must compensate in other areas. Adding more content, improving your on-page quality score, and having better user metrics will overcome an older domain. Most chiropractic offices are not putting any effort into SEO. Put one hour per month into your SEO and you’ll win the battle.
A big factor in the SEO for a chiropractic website is internal linking. Have you ever seen some highlighted text that took you to another page of a website from the article you were originally reading? I’m sure you have and that is an example of internal linking.
You want your internal links to link to relevant articles. If you’re talking about “Headaches” in an article and you have another article about “Headaches” somewhere on your websites, then you would want to link the word “Headaches” to that other article.
Internal linking helps a user move around inside your website, but it also helps Google Bots navigate your site. Internal links also pass power around. If you have a number of “Headache” articles that are all linking to one major article you write about “Headaches”, the major article will be powered up by all the sub articles linking to it.
External linking is an SEO factor that most people don’t think about. Google likes to see you link out to other “Authority” websites. As an example, if you’re talking about back pain you might want to link out to an article from Life University about back pain.
Try to find places in your articles where you can link out to nationally recognized organizations. Google will give you some extra juice when you help your readers go to places other than your website. Especially when those places are major authority sites.
Silo structure is an advanced topic. It’s not hard to understand it just takes some work to do it. Silo structure basically means that you have a group of articles that are supporting a major article on that topic. As an example, you might have an article that’s very thorough describing all the types of headaches that can occur.
You then write individual articles about each of the types of headaches and link each of those articles to your major article. You then link your major article to the homepage of your website. This brings a great deal of power to your major article and that power also passes to your homepage. This kind of structure is much better than random linking all over the website.
Meta data is the information in the code describing each page of your website to Google or other search engines. There are meta titles, meta descriptions, and meta keywords. I’ll describe them in order of importance.
The meta title tag is by far the most important. You have 60 characters or less to tell Google what your article is about. It can sometimes be tough to make that happen, but you need to make sure your most important keywords are there as well as the “City” specific information.
As an example this wouldn’t work: “Back Pain – Call Dr. Jones Today”. This would work: “Back Pain Green Bay – Call Dr. Jones Today”. Google needs to know what your city is in that title. If you fail to tell them that you’re competing with Web.com and other major national websites.
The meta description is the sentence or two that you see below the title tag in Google listings. For many years Google used this as the second or third most important factor for SEO on a page. Today testing is showing us that Google is not using the description at all for SEO.
I would focus more on what the patient needs to see here than trying to stuff your keywords into the meta description area. Maybe Google will start looking at this again in the future, but for now this area is more for patient benefit.
In the very early days of SEO meta keywords were really important. You needed to have all your most important keywords stuffed into that area if you wanted to rank well. Over the years many people took advantage of Google in this area by stuffing in keywords that were not relevant to the page.
Around 2012 Google verbally came out and said they would not longer be looking at meta keywords. They are looking for your keywords in your meta title and in your actual article content, but they are no longer looking at the meta keywords code area.
From time to time a client will call telling me that some salesperson told them they don’t have any keywords. They do we just don’t bother putting them in the meta keywords section and the salesperson doesn’t know what they are talking about.
Alright finally for on page chiropractic SEO are headers or header tags. The title at the top of your actual page on your website should be a header. Normally that will be your H1 header tag. You might also have sub topics of that H1 further down the page that would be H2 or H3 headers.
This article is a good example. My H1 header is “Chiropractic SEO – 2018 Guide to Success”. I have two subtopics of that…On Page SEO and Off Page SEO. Each of those are H2 headers. Under each of my H2 headers I have a number of H3 headers because they are subtopics of those topics. Finally, I have a couple of H4 headers because they are subtopics of my H3 headers.
Many companies use headers to highlight or bold something. That’s wrong and is not what they are meant for. It can also hurt the website if you have too many of the wrong kind of header tags on a page.
Off Page SEO
So now we move on to off page chiropractic SEO. At one time it was all about off page, but today it’s one factor of many. This section will give you what you need to know to power your website up from the outside.
Citations and Directories
Citations and directories are all the places you can list your business online. Here’s a few examples:
- Apple Maps
- Google My Business
- And hundreds more…
It’s very important that your business is listed properly with as many sites as it can be. Your business name, address, phone number, and website address need to be matching perfectly on every website. Significant ranking issues can occur if there are discrepancies in your online listings.
If you have ever moved, changed your business name, or any of your online information it’s very important to clean up incorrect information. Most of the ranking issues we see with clients today stems from problems created from non-matching online info. It can be very difficult and sometimes impossible to clean up.
Websites like Yext, MOZ Local, and Bright Local help businesses clean up listings. You can also use a company called White Spark to look at your listings.
A backlink is a link from some other website that takes people to your website. Websites that link to your website pass some power from the linking site to yours. This can be a big SEO advantage.
In the past you could get backlinks from anywhere. The more you had the better you ranked until the world changed around 2012. Around that time Google started penalizing websites that had unusual or artificial backlink profiles. Basically, if Google saw that you had backlinks coming from websites that were spammy or you had a collection of links that looked like it was artificially created you would drop in rank.
Since that time SEO has changed a great deal. For the most part Black Hat SEO or cheating has disappeared. Today backlinks need to come from industry related websites or from local organizations. In the chiropractic field there are very few high-quality related websites you can get links from, but there are a lot of local options. Find local organizations that are willing to link to your website and it can bring a great deal of extra power to you. The more traffic a website gets the more powerful a link from that website to yours will be.
For many years videos were amazing for SEO, but over the last few years things have changed. It’s not that videos don’t help for SEO, but they only work well if people are watching them. Basically, Google needs to see that the videos are valued by others if they are going to give value to them. If you’re making hundreds of videos that no one is watching, then the SEO value of them will be low.
Watch YouTube videos on how to shoot great videos. Choose topics that are interesting and helpful for people. Most chiropractors today are shooting videos on why you should come in to be their patient. Instead try shooting videos with information that they can use whether they come in or not. Turn yourself into the community expert that is always giving good advice and people will start caring when you put video content out.
Social media activity can have a huge impact on SEO. When I say activity, I don’t mean just posting information onto your pages. I mean that you post, and people comment and share your posts. A post that does not generate comments and shares has little to no SEO value.
In order to get your patients to participate in your social accounts you are going to have to invest some time there. The posts that will generate the activity you need are the personal ones. Exciting things happening in the office or direct messages from the doctor. Canned posts are nice filler, but they are not going to do much for SEO.
Your Physical Location Matters
At one time Google was not really concerned with where you were physically located. Google My Business (Google Maps) was just something that was just located above then organic listings. Now that mobile becoming the go to device for most local searches, Google My Business is front and center.
With this new focus Google has been very selective about the listing that it shows. The doctors that share an office or rent space are having issues today. You really have to have a separate business name, address, phone number, and visible signage to have your own Google Business listing.
Google doesn't take suite numbers into account when it looks at your address and determines if your listing should be filtered or not. Suite numbers can be helpful for patients, but it generally won’t work as a separate address.
Your Physical Location Will Affect How and Where You Will Show Up
Google is pretty consistent in only allowing you to rank in the city that you are physically in and not in surrounding cities. I won’t say that this is true 100% of the time, but it happens more often than not. It's also one of the reasons Google is going to make over 70 billion dollars in Adwords this year. If you want to show up in the city next to you, you’re going to have to do Google Adwords.
If you want to know how Google looks at your location do a search for your city and you will be given a map that will outline your cities borders in red. This may or may not be consistent with what your actual city limits are, but it’s what Google will use. If you’re outside that area you are likely to have trouble ranking in the maps section for that city.
SEO is not really that difficult to understand. There’s more than it makes sense to describe in this article, but if you made it this far you know more that most of the chiropractic profession. I hope it helps you and feel free to reach out with any questions that you have.
If you would like to check out some of our best chiropractic SEO, check out our website examples.
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