The Importance of SEO

In the last few years I’ve become more familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), but it wasn’t until last year that I realized how influential it can be. The healthcare organization I work for has a dedicated web marketing team, but last year decided to hire an “interactive marketing specialist” specifically dedicated to SEO and online advertising. At first, many people within our department didn’t even know what SEO was or why we needed a full-time employee to do it, but in the last 12 months its become clear.

As more and more physicians and practices look to build patient numbers they are looking for their rankings in search engines. Without our SEO specialist they would not be happy with the results. She has be able to educate our department on the importance of SEO for our organization’s marketing goals and our physicians are noticing.

How would you easily explain SEO to a company who isn’t familiar with what it does and its overall important for the business, not just digitally?

While I do have a limited knowledge of SEO, it is interesting to see just how time consuming and complex it is. As an ever-changing strategy it really keeps the marketing industry on our toes. Like with anything digital, if you don’t stay aware of the latest trends and technology advances, you’ll be left in the dust. The Beginners Guide to SEO is a great resource for people trying to grasp how extensive SEO reaches. Not only does it provide definitions, but strategies and resources for making SEO work the right way. We all know doing something right is more important than doing something just because. That definitely rings true with SEO.

When it comes to search engines, we all know Google is king, but that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the other search engines. The goal of marketing is to reach as many users as possible, so by keeping up with all the technology is key to having a successful online presence.

What do you think is the most important aspect of SEO? Keywords? Quality links? Content markup? Or can we not really single out one thing?

As we move forward in this course I look forward to learning more about SEO and its benefits to marketing.

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8 thoughts on “The Importance of SEO

  1. Laura –

    You ask about the most important aspect of SEO.

    From what I’ve read, I don’t think there is one magical silver bullet – there has to be some symbiotic relationship going on with the keywords, H1 tags, page title, links and most importantly content.

    Then website creators have to worry about how Google, Bing and other search engines use the particulars mentioned above to index a site. Google and Bing have their own set of SEO best practices. I’m sure other search engines have another set. Another thing to worry about is if the site is coming off as spammy because the site builder is really trying to add all of the SEO practices.

    But one thing they all have in common is having updated/fresh content. If you think about it, it makes sense. When content is fresh, there’s more for the crawlers to index – they crawl updated pages and bypass stagnant pages since they’ve already been crawled – and that leads to more linking to pages from outside sources, therefore boosting the site’s popularity.

    It all starts with good, interesting content. If no one wants to read it, no one is wanting to link to it and that is the kiss of death for indexing by search engines.

    I wonder if it would be beneficial to have some sort of definitive guide for SEO. Not this guessing game we play now. I also wonder if searches could then be skewed. I’m not sure, but it would be a lot easier knowing what was needed to be found through searches.

    • Dave, Thanks for your reply and thought provoking comments. After reading what you wrote I completely agree with your points. There is no magic pill when it comes to SEO, but none of the scientific tactics matter if your website doesn’t have good, focused content. I found this blog that supports our thinking (http://barnraisersllc.com/2011/03/seo-matters-but-quality-content-15-reasons-keyword-hashtag/). Without fresh content, even if someone finds your site through a search engine, they won’t stay… or come back.

      As far as definitive SEO guide, great idea, but I doubt it happens. As we’ve learned and I’m sure will learn more of this semester with the ever-changing atmosphere of social and digital media anything established will almost be immediately outdated. But who knows, maybe we’ll be proven wrong!

      • Laura –

        The SEO guide will never happen. It’s like CSS standards. Someone – ::: cough Microsoft cough ::: won’t help to regulate a standard. And it makes life harder than it has to be which ultimately hurts the end user’s web experience.

        Also, there’s too much money at stake to tell a companies exactly how to be indexed at number one. Can you imagine how that would shake out?

        I wouldn’t be surprise if search engines did accept payment from companies now to be put in that coveted number one position. Conspiracy theory? Yes. But valid.

        So, I’m not holding my breath for a definitive SEO guide.

        -Dave

  2. Dave, You raise a good point/conspiracy theory about paying search engines for better rankings. I too am sure this happens or it will happen in the future. It’s sad, but like any corporate agenda, money is power–even when it comes to the internet.

    I found this other op-ed piece on how paying for SEO isn’t really worth it if you’re not going to be dedicated to your site to begin with. (http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/12/11/seo-the-inconvenient-truth/). Companies need to use more manpower to help their websites rather than just paying for SEO. This paragraph stuck out to me:

    “The problem is that these kinds of complex techniques do work, to a point. It is possible to improve placement through a manipulation of the system. However, although it can have short term benefits, it will not last without continual investment. This is because the objective is wrong. SEO shouldn’t be about getting to the top of Google for particular phrases. In fact, we shouldn’t be optimizing for search engines at all. We should be optimizing for people. After all, that is what Google is trying to do.”

    It all goes back to the user experience. Better content. Better rankings.

  3. Laura,

    I never thought about how important SEO is to doctors, but with moving so frequently I often find myself looking up doctors online and I always follow up with more research, but chances are I wouldn’t do research on the fourth result.

    Like you said it’s not just knowing SEO it’s keeping up with it. Because of that, it seems like a great idea to have a person who is in charge of monitoring and keeping up with it. The business side of the search engine sites make it significantly more complex than necessary. Yahoo! tries to keep up with Google while Google is trying to outrun Yahoo! so it leads to new SEO every few months.

  4. Casey,
    Sometimes it’s nice to hear from someone who is not directly related to healthcare marketing. We always joke that MD really stands for “marketing director” because so many of our physicians care about how they are marketing, especially online. The most popular section of our website is our “Doctors & Providers” section (http://www.carilionclinic.org) because people are looking up specific information about physicians’ credentials and where they practice. Patients also reach out to us via social media. This is especially true for people new to our area. They may ask who is accepting new patients in their town, or today we had someone ask if we offer midwifery services. These types of questions and the information provided on our website can only be accelerated through SEO.

  5. Laura,

    You bring up an interesting point regarding industries such as the Healthcare industry realizing the importance of SEO and marketing and the recent demand to hire specialist specifically dedicated to SEO and advertising. I currently work in the Workers Compensation industry and I must say it has been hard getting my CEO and CFO to realize this. Word of mouth and going to conferences can only do so much; there comes a time when you need to hire specialists and create social media that not keeps you wired and up to beat with today’s technology but also keeps you relevant while simultaneously marketing your brand. I think it is important for service-based industry such as Healthcare and the Workers Comp industry to realize even though they are not advertising or marketing an actual product, they are marketing and providing a necessary service that needs to be marketed and treated just like a product. I am glad that your job has realized this and caught up to speed. I feel like my job would do so much better and would get more hits if they actually hired a specialist for SEO and looked deeper into their site traffic and rankings in the SEO world. What is the point in investing all of the money into company branding and websites if you are not going to research and consider how your company is fairing in search engines? You have to continually take these things into account if you want to stay on top.

    You ask I would you easily explain this to a company who isnt’ familiar? Well, I tried at my job and it’s not easy. I think you have to thoroughly explain the process and importance to them with actual data and results and definitions much like we received from our readings. Honestly, I would have never known the true importance had I not taken this course.

    And I think keywords are the most important aspect of SEO. They are what people are searching for that provides links to your site. I cannot imagine how hard it is to think of all the possibilities regarding keywords and SEO and creating a site. It seems like the amount would be never ending. What about you? what do you think?

    • Tammy,
      Thanks for your comment and feedback. It’s nice to know there is someone else in the class who works for an industry that isn’t really about marketing products but rather services. In healthcare marketing, with struggle with the fact that usually people only seek our services when they need them, not when they are healthy. That’s why, my organization has been moving toward a more “wellness mission” we’ve even marketing some of our hospital as places “healthy people visit too” because of all the outpatient services we offer. This is why SEO and our online marketing initiatives are so important. When people are searching for things like diabetes management or therapy services, we want them to see that you can find them at local hospitals and be connected to a network of physicians and specialists. It’ll help everyone in the long run.

      I agree that keywords are a big and important part of SEO. The marketing specialist here that works on SEO does research all the time on what people are searching and she is constantly updating and improving our keywords. But overall, I believe updated and fresh content is the best approach to staying on top of search engine lists. If you have updated content, your keywords will be updated as well.

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