How can community pharmacists familiarise themselves with search engine optimisation? John Whittam explains…
SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is the process by which you can improve your visibility organically (not paid) within search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Search engines analyse every single webpage and have specific and constantly evolving algorithms by which they determine how to rank search results and provide the user with the most relevant content.
The core factors that contribute to these algorithms for major search engines are similar; meaning compliance with these will allow you to enhance your website page rankings within search results.
What influences search rankings?
Whilst there is a lot of work you can do to improve your SEO ranking, even a small change can dramatically improve visibility. The web is flooded with hundreds of potential processes you can implement to improve SEO results.
This can be quite overwhelming and you can often struggle to know where to begin. With this in mind, I have pulled together four key influencing factors that will help your website appear more prominently in search results.
1. Key words
Search engines analyse all pages on your website and will look at every word. Ensuring your pages contain relevant key words will help search engines gauge the subject matter and direct relevant users accordingly. For example, if you have a page that focuses on blood pressure testing and it mentions the words ‘blood’ ‘pressure’ and ‘testing’ multiple times, search engines will then mark this as a relevant search result for those searching ‘blood pressure testing.’
2. Page titles
Ensuring your page title summarises the content it contains is critical. As with key words in the page, search engines look at the page title in the same way, only with increased emphasis meaning the words it contains have greater weighting in influencing the position you appear within search results.
Tip – rather than listing all your different services on one page titled ‘Pharmacy Services,’ it would benefit your SEO ranking for each individual service to have their own web page that is titled accordingly, eg. ‘Stop Smoking Service’ or ‘Medicine Use Review.’
3. Links from external sites
Search engines tend to look at links to your website from an external website as a recommendation that the page has high quality content. Therefore the more links your website has from external websites, the better your sites authority, which will serve to further better the position of your website in search results.
Adding valuable content regularly will help increase your links from external sites.
Links from websites that are deemed to have a good reputation will have more of an influence on search results, eg. a link from the BBC would hold much more clout than a link from a newly published website from an unknown brand.
The likes of Google will also take into consideration what they see as your online reputation. There are many things that can potentially influence your reputation but a key factor that has a positive influence for search engines is a website that is regularly updated with new and engaging content.
Tip - a weekly blog on the latest hot topics in pharmacy and a weekly news round-up would help create a good reputation. Another key factor here is increasing the number of links from external sites, particularly those with better reputations themselves. This again ties in with creating regular content.
How can SEO benefit my pharmacy?
Search engine results are the primary driver of website traffic and as such play a huge role in helping your pharmacy offering stand out to potential customers.
For example, when a prospective customer searches for ‘flu vaccine’ or ‘cold & flu remedy’ you want your website or ecommerce page to show as high up in the search results as possible, thus making your SEO strategy critical in engaging with potential customers and driving those customers into your pharmacy or on to your online store.
Where do I start?
Take a look at all the key pages within your Content Management System (CMS) and ensure you are utilising the four key principles discussed to allow your pages to have maximum visibility within relevant searches.
If your website is managed by a third party, ask for details to understand what measures they have in place to ensure your website is optimised for search engines.
How do I measure my SEO performance?
A top line performance indicator to measure how your SEO strategy is performing is to look at your website traffic on Google Analytics. Take a look under ‘Acquisition’, then ‘All Traffic.’ In here, click on ‘Channels’ and you will get a breakdown of how your users have arrived at your website, included is ‘Organic Search’ which is the number of users that have visited your website via searching on a search engine.
Try drawing comparisons from previous webpage statistics to see the impact SEO is having on your website.
Not sure where to start with Google Analytics?
Numark members can take a look at an overview of measuring website performance and how it can benefit your online strategy at www.numarknet.com/9011
John Whittam is digital marketing executive at Numark.
Picture: tomch (iStock)