Below are a few tips to guide you in establishing an SEO strategy that will be effective with both your target audience and the search engines.
Importance of SEO to local based practitioners
Studies in the field of law for instance have shown that Google, Bing and other search engines are the second most prevalent way people use to find lawyers. Roughly, 22% of potential clients start their search on their Internet homepages, while a further 11% start somewhere else on the Internet. Added up, it means roughly one third of all potential clients attempt to find attorneys through the Internet.
While the study was specific to lawyers, the figures are not much different for other locally serving professionals. As a dentist, chiropractor or other practitioner, it’s safe to assume that a significant percentage of new clients will come from search engines and other online sources.
Why SEO is difficult for local-based practitioners
The math seems quite simple – invest towards SEO and you will start seeing your business expand and grow. However, it really is not that simple. Like everything else related to business, SEO takes hard work and a lot of smarts in order to succeed.
The main challenge of SEO is the fact that Google as well as other search engines make continuous changes to their rules and algorithms. Therefore, what is applicable today may become inapplicable tomorrow. There’s no knowing when or what the next update will be, since any changes are wholly at the search engines’ discretion.
Given the frequency of algorithm updates, it’s very difficult for a fulltime practitioner to also invest time in learning SEO best practices and carrying them out. Just when you have learnt some technique, chances are that the rules might be changed, taking you back to square one. That’s why professional entrepreneurs need to have professional SEO services on board to handle that aspect of business.
Hiring an SEO Professional
There are several options available in this regard: you choose an SEO freelancer, an agency or hire an in-house SEO professional as part of your staff. In any scenario, there are millions of SEO and growth marketing service providers who can offer the service you need. However, practicing entrepreneurs have little knowledge about SEO and online marketing, which can make hiring the right service provider more challenging for them.
As a credible practitioner, you stand to lose much if you form an association with SEO service providers who are not conversant with or don’t follow the rules. You will either lose a lot of money or destroy your online reputation. Most likely, both will happen. Therefore, you have a big responsibility to find out what kind of SEO services your business will be best served by, and carry out careful assessment of potential service providers until you have the best one.
There’s a lot to learn about SEO, and the limited experience of local-serving practitioners makes them prime candidates for scamming by unscrupulous “experts” with little understanding of the inside workings of SEO. As you conduct your search, bear in mind that anyone can say anything about the skills and knowledge held, but concrete results are what you should look out for.
Google Hummingbird and why you should care
Prior to searching for SEO assistance, you need to have a rough idea of SEO basics. You may not have the time to delve into the intricacies of the trade, but at the least you must know what’s allowable and not, any new major algorithm updates and how they would affect your practice. This will make the foundation of your conversations with potential service providers.
First, it was Google Panda, followed by Google Penguin and in October 2013, Google Hummingbird joined the game, being the most complex algorithm released to date. There are many features of the Hummingbird algorithm, but the most important for local practitioners is the importance placed on local results and semantic search capability.
Below are a few rules to play by to continue winning in the Hummingbird era:
- Remember that high quality and relevant content is still the best SEO weapon in your arsenal, regardless of any reports to the contrary. Ensure that your articles’ content base on your key practice areas, and make it semantically pleasing to hook readers.
- Ensure your contact information is clear and consistent. Hummingbird tries to serve results based on searchers’ locales; hence appropriately displaying accurate contact information will enable you to nab searchers in your locality. You should also set up and maintain an active social media profile on major social networks, including Google Plus.
Keywords may have diminished in value, but they are still important to your SEO strategy. Be keen to note how potential service providers treat your keywords in the strategy they intend to implement for your practice. Have a healthy balance between long-tail and short-tail keywords, and don’t overdo any.