Midwest Equine

Feature Article

Part One: Taking SEO from Page to Profit

Andrew B. Clark, President / The Brand Chef
CreateWOWMarketing, LLC

ArticleFebruary 2014 WOW SEO Part One | Midwest Veterinary Supply

Part One: Taking SEO from Page to Profit

Demystiying the digital marketing landscape for veterinary clinics.

From Tweets, Vines, Tumbles, Facebook, Friends and Pings to YouTube, Likes, Pins and Posts, where do you start when it comes to utilizing the digital tools available to your clinic to reach your customers "Out there" on the digital landscape? There are a million and a half (just a loose estimate) "experts" to give you just as many strategies for navigating the digital world. Each one has its validity and each one is applicable in the right environment. But that's the kicker, isn't it? Your environment, that of much travel, some trailers, tight deadlines and even tighter budgets, is a unique world in itself. How does a busy Vet research, learn, master and engage, or more importantly earn by using digital marketing?

At the time of this writing, there are a select handful of apps and sites out there that have positioned themselves as "Leaders in Business Communications and Productivity." These powerhouses include:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. YouTube (Owned by Google)
  4. LinkedIn
  5. Twitter
  6. Pinterest
  7. Instagram
  8. Oh, and your Website!

Figure A ©2013 CreatWOWmarketing, LLCSo we're going to focus on those. While there are dozens upon dozens of other digital solutions you could use for your clinic, these eight tools can be accessed, managed and manipulated with ease and offer thorough documentation for tracking the successes attributed to each.

If you look at the diagram (right), you'll see a basic model to which digital marketing campaigns can adhere. While from case-to-case the components may change (i.e. - Instagram may not be as relevant for communication to your clinic's target audience as Tumbler, etc.), we will use this diagram as our base in this and following articles.

Website Awareness = Brand Awareness

At the center of every successful digital marketing program is a Website that creates the focal point of all online communication efforts. That is where your clinic's brand lives – from the mission, vision and values to the latest updates, news and specials. In a digital age of communication, the first place your customers will look for help with their animals will be the Internet. And if you're not there, you've already lost the game.

"Oh, yeah, we have a website. We had {insert friend or family member} put one together for us years ago."

Stop there… Unless said friend or family member is a web developer with a marketing communications emphasis, we'll have to question the effectiveness of the website.

10 years ago, Websites as a basic online brochure (answering: who, what, when, why, where) were acceptable. The sites were "online" and a digital footprint was contained safe and sound right there with it's own little "www." The biggest thing pushing people to your website was a 2" x 3.5" piece of card stock or a YellowPages ad. In retrospect, they took little investment and even less strategy to put together, and no one was thinking of "Search Engine Optimization (SEO)*.

*SEO – Search engine optimization is the art of creating content within your website's pages as well as within the code of each page that presents the most optimal results when search engines index them. This is used to improve your page rank in searches through Google, Bing, Yahoo and other engines.difficile and perfringens.

In one short decade, that was all turned upside down.

Today, Google, Bing and Yahoo rule the information flow to your customer's eyes, minds and hearts. When surveys show the trends on business research, it's undeniable that the digital world has taken over the reigns from print, radio and even television. As "Baby Boomers" and "GenX'ers" age, trends show a high propensity toward digital research (FIG. B), and online dependence. "GenerationY" and "Millenials" or "Digital Natives" as we like to call them, will soon dominate the marketplace and your clinic will need to be prepared to communicate where they're spending their professional and personal time… Online.

Figure B Source: eMarketer.com/Nielsen Research

So, what is it your Website needs to become "Search friendly" and more engaging to your customers? In a word: "Content."

Your Website as an online brochure is, from this day forward, considered out–of–date and irrelevant to your customers, your targeted audience, and, most importantly, the search engines from which leads and new prospects find your site.

Content Feeds "The Google"

SEO is no longer about piling on keywords, meta–tags and oodles of links. Your Website (as well as your entire staff) should care more about what the consumer is looking for… word–for–word… than fooling the search engines.

While the algorithms for search and ranking through Google, Bing and Yahoo change on a regular basis, it's widely understood that the more content, the better content, the more relevant content within a search will rank the highest. Recent changes in search criteria have locked down the tactics of more nefarious search ranking "strategies" like keyword seeding and bulk back linking. Google (the MONSTER of search (FIG. C)) has clarified their desire to provide truthful, relevant, and purposeful content to their search customers, who, ironically, are YOUR CLINIC CUSTOMERS.

Making Content the Heart of Your Site

The Right Tool for the Job: WCMS

Time has been kind for us budget–conscious business owners. The access to tools for digital marketing has become very easy and economical. In lieu of spending $15,000 to $30,000 for a robust website content management system (WCMS) in 2006, today there are multitudes of FREE (or close to free) options for businesses to base their website upon, enabling constant generation and dissemination of content. Open source WCMS frameworks like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal are very popular across all industries and are adaptable for any Website large and small. With self–hosting and a little thoughtful strategy, you have a very viable tool for digital marketing as well as SEO augmentation.

Bringing your site from an "online brochure" to a full–blown WCMS is just the first step. Once the visual identity, the vision, mission and values, the about page, the services page, have been populated, you then need to focus on your content. You need to focus on "Feeding The Google."

The variable content of your site, in contrast to the static pages, is what The Google looks to for sustenance. While your static content will be crawled and indexed by search engines, once it's indexed, it's over. The next crawl of the site will determine your true intention for relevance and engagement. In essence what you're trying to do is help the search engines tell your story.

If the crawl finds the original static content and nothing more, the algorithms will result a lower score for relevance and engagement than if there was a fresh supply of content for the search engine to chew on. With fresh content and relevance, indicating a "live and active Website," Google and the other search monsters will treat your site favorably and you will see positive change in your search engine page rank (SERP). Simple, huh?

Figure D; Frequency of Blog Posts

Of course, there IS a strategy to what you supply as content, how it is written, when, how often (FIG. D), and eventually where it is posted, but simply having a Website that is search engine friendly is a tremendous advantage to "the old way" of digital marketing.

In our next article we will focus on a content strategy and distribution plan for your Website and digital marketing program. Much of the article will cover keyword and target audience research as well as the integration of engagement tools – commenting, feeds, e–newsletters, contact forms and social media distribution.

Digital marketing can gain a small business the "Biggest bang for the buck," but understanding the perils and pitfalls of navigating an ever changing landscape is imperative. Once you have the map and the systems set up, bringing customers through your clinic doors will seem easier than ever!

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