What is SEO about? Getting to the top of Google, right? That seems to be the most common understanding of site optimization. But is it correct?
First of all, ‘getting a site number one on Google’ is a meaningless phrase. Get your site number one for what? Presumably it’s to mean positioning well for the top keywords in your market, and this is what many site owners tend to focus on, thanks to nearly a decade of being told so. This is understandable — for one, keyword position is important! I am decidedly NOT saying it isn’t. It is.
But it’s not everything. Keyword placement used to dominate SEO, both in practice and in discussion. Marketers would send out (and sometimes still do) emails promising the top spots on Google for all of your important keywords. When top SEO experts repeatedly claim that “content is king,” many people think this means that the keyword position is king. But over the last 15 years, Google has refined their algorithm to such a degree that those marquis keywords are but one piece in the total puzzle, as we will soon see, and but one of the key performance indicators that you should be tracking in order to get an accurate picture of the health of your digital marketing efforts.
I attest that keyword position is not the most important metric to pay attention to. In fact, I don’t even think it’s in the top 3. So, what are? Just keep in mind this easy algebraic equation: Leads = Traffic x Conversion Rate.
The KPIs to Track for a Plastic Surgery Marketing Campaign
Leads! Leads are the most vital aspect of a medical SEO campaign. The whole reason for an internet marketing campaign is to get your website working for you as a lead generation machine. This should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how often leads are overlooked as the focal point of all SEO efforts in favor of techniques whose ultimate purpose should be the greater accumulation of prospective clients. And the way to get website leads is to drive a large volume of visitors with interests relevant to your site and to convert a meaningful percentage of those visitors into prospects. Sounds simple, huh?
Search Traffic Growth
Search engine optimization is designed to increase search traffic. Again, another no-brainer, right? The amount of traffic you receive through search is what we measure as a bellwether of success, much more than individual keywords. This begs the question: what affects search traffic? There are multiple variables that can improve how visible a site is: quality of content, site longevity, proper coding, usability of the site, site speed, amount of backlinks from other sites, proper internal linking, the amount of content on landing pages, et cetera, et cetera.
Truly, keyword position is only important insofar as it draws high-volume, relevant traffic to your website. But even driving volume via content can be done in multiple ways.
Example — A high-volume keyword relevant to a plastic surgeon in Milwaukee would surely be ‘plastic surgeon Milwaukee’. Let’s check to see who places highest:
Upon seeing this, you might come to the conclusion that mycpss.com has the most successful online visibility campaign in Milwaukee. So let’s investigate the site further. How many keywords does Mycpss place in the top 3?
That’s an impressive list of marquis keywords! The kind of keywords you want to rank for — 5 keywords at number 1, 11 keywords ranking in the top 3, and 34 in the top 10, or first page of Google, and all them them relevant and high-volume. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they dominate visibility in their market.
But how much search traffic — the real metric — is being driven to that site?
Using analytics tools, we can see approximate volume of visits coming from search to each site in the market. Here’s a chart demonstrating the visibility of each site — the x-axis represents the amount of keywords driving traffic, and the y-axis the volume of traffic:
Drbonness.com is far and away the most visible site competing for relevant traffic. Even more startling, drbonness.com only has one keyword in the top spot, one at number 2, and only 28 keywords on page 1:
Why then, if mycpss seems to be slightly outperforming drbonness, does drbonness get so much more traffic, roughly 50% more? The answer is: volume of keywords driving traffic. According to the SEO tool SEMRush, Mycpss.com has about 550 keywords actively driving traffic to its website from Google’s top 100; Drbonness.com has over 1,100.
Sometimes referred to as long-tail, or Latent Semantic Index (LSI) keywords, these are strings of multiple keywords or keyphrases, such as: ‘sagging facial skin after weight loss’ or ‘where can I find a plastic surgeon near me’. With the advent of voice search software like Siri and the increase in Google’s ability to intelligently parse the meaning of long phrases, more and more searchers are using natural language to find what they want online. In order to rank for a myriad of different strings of keywords, a site needs a lot of content and visible landing pages. This is the real meaning of “content is king”.
Lastly, long-tail keywords tend to convert better than generic keywords that may generate a lot of volume. The search term ‘rhinoplasty’ has a huge amount of monthly searches, but are those searches from prospective clients, or students doing a paper? A generic term like that is apt to have a much lower conversion rate than ‘rhinoplasty specialist near me’.
This in no way undermines the importance of high-visibility search terms — marquis keywords and keyphrases are a necessary component to increasing one’s volume, since they receive the most impressions per month. But a successful campaign will look instead to the big picture. Moreover, to become fixated in placing number 1 for various search terms can be counter-productive. Often dislodging a current number one can be difficult, whereas increasing overall relevant search volume is much more manageable.
So you’ve got a visible site that places well for a slew of keywords, and a good deal of long-tail keywords as well. Great! Is that traffic converting?
Conversion Rate Optimization is an oft-ignored yet vital component to an overall digital marketing campaign. You want to make the most of the visits you get by accommodating your site for the end user. This is done by:
- Keyword Relevance: Are you ranking really highly for a phrase that has nothing to do with your services? Chances are that traffic is not going to convert. Make sure that you highlight what you want to be found for in the content on your site by giving each landing page a specific theme.
- User-friendliness: Is your site easy to navigate? Does it advertise sections visitors care most about, like FAQ pages or photo galleries?
- Calls to Action: Is your phone number visible? Can they easily fill out a form?
- Mobile-friendliness: How does your site look on a smartphone, or a tablet? Does it load slowly? Can you click a button to make a phone call?
- Information: Is your content informative and useful? Are your photos attractive? Do you have before-and-after videos, or newsletters you offer to those looking to learn more?
CRO (conversion rate optimization) is the difference between good lead generation and great. Indirectly, higher conversion rates lead to lower bounce rates and longer time on site, both which are now suspected of being signals to search engines as a sign of site quality, and thus higher visibility.
Once again, good medical SEO comes down to: Leads = Traffic x Conversion Rate. Ask yourself: “Are we doing a good job driving organic traffic to our site? Is it relevant traffic? Are we converting a significant amount of visitors into leads? Why or why not?” Everything else is a technique in order to make this happen — means to an end; and never lose sight of that end goal, which is a more prosperous practice.