The other day I gave a little insight into how our website is going to bring us an estimated 100 new patients next year.

Today’s job? Teach you how to replicate this for your site using search engine optimization – creating your site in a way that helps it rank higher on search engines like Google. (If you’re not doing this on your own, pass these on to your web-geek. Web designers are often designing for looks not results, and a few little things can make a big difference.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but these tips are CAM-relevant, and will give you the most bang for your buck:

1. Search Engines Need to be Able to Find Your Site

Google can’t include you in a search for “Wellville chiropractors” or “Healthstown Holistic Clinic” if it doesn’t know your site exists. Here are a few ways to make sure Google knows you’re on the scene:

  • Have someone else who’s site is listed with Google put a link from their site to yours
  • Submit your site to Google here
  • Use Google Sitemaps to tell Google about your site

Really, it’s all about the first method because it means all the major search engines can find you without submitting to all of them. And it’s really not hard to get a few links – keep reading for some practice-friendly options.

2. Search Engines Need to Be Able to READ Your Site

Search engines use little programs to crawl the web from site to site by following links, just like you do when you’re surfing. The thing is, these “spiders”, as they’re sometimes called, can only read text. They can’t see pictures. So if your links and page content are made up of images, flash files, movies and other non-text content, you won’t rank as well. Make sure you/your designer uses a design that keeps almost all your words in text format.

3. Choose Your Keywords Wisely

Keywords are what users type into a search engine like Google in order to find something. The higher on the page your site shows for the results for those keywords, the more people will visit your site.

To get a good overview of keywords, try these free guides at Wordtracker. There are specific considerations for CAM practitioners, though. Keep these in mind:

  • Geography is Important: Most CAM practitioners are looking for local patients. That means your site is geographically specific. Unless you’re particularly focused on making money online, someone visiting your site from the other side of the world isn’t much good to you. For that reason, you’ll need a place as part of each keyword phrase – your town or city.
  • Profession Trumps Condition: The second part of your phrase is likely going to be your profession and/or practitioner description. Chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc. So your keyword phrases start to look like “Wellsville chiropractor” and “chiropractic Wellsville”. Notice that I’ve used both “chiropractor” and “chiropractic”, to cover the profession and the practitioner. You can do the same for your area of specialty: acupuncture/acupuncturist, massage therapy/massage therapist, etc. What about conditions, like “back pain”, “fatigue”, or “colitis”? I don’t feel that people searching for those terms are likely to search locally. So “colitis Wellsville” isn’t likely to be common search. Certain forms of treatment, however, like “colon hydrotherapy” would be. If that’s a big part of your practice, you’d include geographically specific keyword phrases like “Wellsville colonics” too.

4. Use Your Keywords On Your Site

While Google is reading your site, it uses, among other things, the text on your page to help it better understand what your site is about. Once you’ve got your keyword phrases put together, you’ll need to make sure they actually appear on your site. You should use your chosen keywords in the following places:

  • Page Titles / Title Bars: This is the bar at the very top of your browser window. It should, for example, have “Wellsville Massage Therapy” in it, as opposed to just “Home” or “Massage” or the dreaded “untitled”. You can use variations in your titles on different pages: “Contact our Wellsvile RMT Office” on your contact page, for example.
  • Tags: Meta tags are bits of code in your web page that describe what a page or image is about. While not critical, they occasionally show up in the description area of search engine results, and can encourage people to click on your listing. Also, make sure you or your web designer use <h1> and <h2> header tags in your content. (If this is Greek to you, just pass it on to whoever works on your site.)
  • Content: You’ll need to use your keyword in your writing, but the trick is to not spoil the flow of your language. So instead of saying, “Welcome to the Acme Naturopathic Clinic”, try “Welcome to the Acme Naturopathic Clinic in beautiful Wellsville, Alaska”
  • Links: Google puts emphasis on hyperlinked words, so you should use your keywords in links to other pages on your site. For example, “Here’s a map to our Collingwood Naturopathic clinic.” The phrase “Collingwood Naturopathic” is hyperlinked to the page with the map.
  • Contact Info: Make sure you put your address on every page, including your state/province. Use a variation of short form and long form for referring to your state/province. NY and New York, for example.

5. Get Links from other Sites

You can’t do enough of this. “Inbound links” are links from other sites to your site, and they’re not as difficult to get as you might imagine. Here are a few specific sources of links for alternative health care practitioners:

  • Advertisers: Many print publications offer online versions of their content, and offer links to their advertisers. If you’re paying for any print ads, make sure you take advantage of this.
  • Suppliers: You may be listed on supplier websites as a reseller or provider of a specific product or service. Contact them and ask them to include your web address in your listing.
  • Patients: Patients with their own web pages may be willing to link to you. Use this where appropriate.
  • Other practitioners: Swap links with your referral partners. We link to other practitioners in our area, too, even the “competition”.
  • Online directories: You might be surprised to find out how many local directories you’re already in. Do a search for yourself and find out where you’re already mentioned, and where you might be able to add a link.
  • Associations/regulating bodies: Most associations have a “find a practitioner in your area” directory. Get you and your website listed.
  • Schools: Does your school have an alumni directory or listing?
  • Your competition: This is my favorite. Search for your competition, and find out where they’re listed online, and get in there too.

6. Update Regularly

Google likes updated information. So do your patients. You don’t have to update daily, but try to keep your site up to date with new info when you can.

7. Track Your Results

The search engine game is a lot more fun when you can keep score. You can use Google Analytics (free) to keep track of your traffic, and how it reached you.

Be patient with your website results. Getting traffic can take time, particularly if your site is brand new, but it’s well worth the effort.

Join the Journey!

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1 Response » to “Website Optimization for CAM Practitioners”

  1. Dr. Rana says:

    Dan and Dr. Tara,

    Thank you for your fantastic blog, its a wealth of knowledge and a great resource for CAM practitioners.

    You hit the nail on the head! Optimization is the key to driving traffic to to a website. All too often, practitioners pay huge sums for a beautiful website that in the end, does nothing! It may look “flashy” (was that a pun?) with all sorts of bells and whistles, but if the site is not optimized, what’s the point? The key to internet marketing is being found. People are searching for you right now. They want your services and are willing to pay for what you have to offer. BUT, If your site is not optimized, search engines won’t “see you” and therefore, these people can’t find you. If your website isn’t sending you traffic and new patients, there no point to it. You are wasting money and losing a valuable opportunity. So make it count. Don’t get caught up in flash content, bells, and whistles. Invest your time and money into rich content and optimization. Get your website really working for you!

    To many practitioners also get caught up in “static” websites. The search engines prefer updated content as do your patients. It’s like giving a tour of your home. I think your guests would get really annoyed getting a tour of your home every time they visited, especially when nothing has changed. But if you’ve renovated or made an addition, a tour is appreciated. Same goes for search engines. A search engine is less likely to “crawl” your site if nothing changes. So keep the content fresh and updated regularly.

    I close with a quote from one of my favorite movies: Field of Dreams: “Build it, and they will come”.
    BUT WHEN YOU BUILD IT, MAKE SURE THEY CAN FIND YOU!

    Dr. Rana

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