"The purpose of SEO is simple – to increase conversions." What is a conversion? A conversion is some form of measurable event. It can be different for every company – a phone call from a customer, filling out your website contact form, or a product being purchased from your website. This is the single most important purpose of SEO – to create these conversions. This post is part of a series discussing 10 web marketing tips your healthcare staffing agency should do right now.
4. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Your Healthcare Staffing Agency. Many people still have a hard time understanding the value of SEO or what SEO really is. Yes, many components of it can be technical, but understanding the basic concepts will help you make the best decisions you can when it comes to SEO for your medical staffing company.
What is Search Engine Optimizaiton (SEO)? Search Engine Optimizaiton (SEO) is a process whereby a set of skills and techniques are applied to a website in order for the site to be properly indexed, ranked and displayed by search engines. Or, put more simply, it's making sure your customers find you when they search for relevant words on Google, Bing and other search engines.
Why should you SEO your staffing agency's website?
- SEO is timely. Your web advertising (banner ads, PPC, Facebook ads) might not be reaching your customers when they are looking to buy or even paying attention. SEO ensures your customers find you when they need to and when they are searching for you.
- SEO is cost effective. SEO campaigns cost a fraction of offline marketing. For example, a typical print ad in a national magazine can cost you $20,000 – $40,000, minimum. This is the cost for only one ad and how do you even know it's reaching the right people? A good SEO manager or company can run a successful campaign that produces real results for 5 – 10% of this cost.
- SEO helps all of your marketing efforts. From content creation, to site performance improvements, to link building campaigns – all of these efforts serve to promote your brand, strengthen your marketing and increase conversions. Further, it's critical that you realize SEO is a process, not an event. The more content you create, links you earn, and improvements you make to your site performance, the more return you will see on your investment.
- Gain valuable insights. If you pay attention to your site analytics (which goes hand in hand with SEO) you'll gain valuable insights into the minds of your customers. It will teach you more about the services they're looking for and the words, questions, and phrases they're using to find them.
- SEO evens the playing field. Even if you're a new per diem nursing company only servicing one city, a successful SEO campaign can get you listed right along side some of your largest competitors. Successful SEO requires a degree of agility that big companies often can’t manage.
Here are some do's and don'ts to help you get stared with SEO.
- The most effective SEO strategy is to create a great website for your healthcare staffing agency. Great websites are interactive, relevant and provide useful content to their customers. Great websites will always rank highly because search engines are designed to do just that. Even Google suggests you design for your customers, not for SEO.
- Research. Lots of companies tell us the keywords they want to rank for when we start an SEO project. However, often times, data from our research suggests these are not the best keywords for them to use. It's very likely that what you think people are searching for to find your business is not supported by good research data. Do your homework first.
- Choose the right URL. Key words within a URL may be the single most relevant way to show up when your customers search for you. Keep them simple and to the point, and no – they do not have to use your company name. Say someone is searching for “Seattle Nurse Staffing Agency.” All things being equal, the site www.seattlenursestaffing.com is going to have a higher ranking than www.carenursesplus.com. Google highly prioritizes keywords contained in the URL.
- Use page titles. Your page title is arguably the most valuable place for keywords on every page. This title helps the search engines easily identify your page.
- Create meta descriptions. A meta description is essentially a description or summary of the page contents. It has a significant impact on your search engine ranking. This is what shows up as your description in the search results. Use keywords and make it relevant.
- Earn links from relevant sites. Search engines give high ranking preference to sites that have inbound links from other sites. The more links, the more important your site appears to search engines. But not all links are the same. Sites linking to yours should have a good reputation and contain content that is relevant to your content. If the search engines deem these sites otherwise it can hurt your ranking.
- Name Your Images. Give all of your images a relevant, keyworded title and use both alt and title attributes as well. Think of it this way – search engines can’t actually see images, but they can read the alt and title tags. This includes your logo. Calling your logo something more keyword specific than "logo" will go a long way.
- Link your keywords. Does your site have the words 'Click Here' hyperlinked to take you to another page? If so, you're basically telling Google you'd like to rank for the words 'Click Here.' Oops. By hyperlinking words you're telling Google these words are important and relevant to your content. Make sure that's true. Instead of 'Click here to read an article on improving your staffing agency's website' try 'Click here to read an article on improving your staffing agency's website'.
- Create relevant and useful, keyword driven content. Keep the buzzwords to a minimum and make sure your content is useful, relevant and clearly states what you do. Most importantly, don't forget to use your keywords and make sure they match your content throughout the page.
- Remember that SEO is a process, not an event. I've talked to so many people that say "we've already done SEO." That's the first way I can tell they aren't effectively deploying SEO tactics. SEO is something that needs constant management, monitoring and improvement. Even if you see good initial results, these results can slip without warning if you let up on your efforts. Most importantly, just remember that your competitors are doing the same thing you are. Steady wins the race here.
- Break the rules. Unfortunately with SEO there are a lot of rules and the rules change all the time. If you don't follow the rules the consequences can be worse than if you didn't do any SEO at all.
- Keyword stuff. You can use too many keywords or overuse key phrases. Doing so will negatively affect your site's ranking.
- Duplicate content. Blatantly copying content from another site is a bad idea for several reasons. One of them is because it will hurt your search engine rankings. This should be fairly obvious. Perhaps less obvious though is how you're duplicating content within your own pages. This includes your title tags, meta descriptions, etc. I just ran across a site last week where every page (all 30) has the exact same title. This has a very negative effect on your SEO.
- Using images instead of text. Recently we were doing SEO for a staffing company that had just completed their website design. Unfortunately the web designer used images for all the headings instead of text. Heading tags (h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6) play an important role in SEO. They should include relevant keywords for the page. Using images instead of text looses you points in this area. Speaking of headings, remember that the lower the heading number, the more relevant it is to search engines (an h1 carries more weight than an h3 tag).
- Take down linking sites. If you have multiple brands or products, having multiple sites actually helps you. As long as you are not duplicating content, you are effectively adding more content to the web and creating another location from which you can link back and forth. I recently talked to a company that wanted to take down their other product sites because they felt they were "competing" with their main site. Not so. Keep these sites going if you want to keep your SEO.
- Use 'black hat' tactics. In the past, people have attempted to trick the search engines. Just don't do it. These tactics are called 'black hat' SEO tactics. The penalties for getting caught are not worth it and you will get caught. For example, in some cases, people have attempted to create invisible text by making the font color the same as the background color of the page. They then put the text at the very bottom of the page, so that the visitor won't see it but the search engines will. This doesn't work and the search engines will catch and de-list you.
- Forget about local. If your company's business is mostly done in your local area, such as a per diem allied nursing agency, local SEO tactics are a must. Even if you are a national company, many local SEO tactics can help you. Local SEO is it's own ball of wax so we'll cover that more in detail in a later post.
- Don't post too many links on a single page. Google suggests you use less than 100. Even this number is high for most companies. For example, unless you are listing jobs or something similar, I can't think of any reason a healthcare staffing agency would want to have so many links on a page. Keep the number low and the links relevant.
- Use too much Flash. I'm not in the anti-Flash camp but I do think you need to be cautious if you're using Flash on your website. Currently, Flash is not supported on mobile devices like iPhones and iPads. In addition, many hospitals don't have Flash (or at least not the latest version) installed. Therefore, using Flash can make your content inaccessible to many of the people you're trying to reach. Further, it is very tricky (if not sometimes impossible) to SEO a Flash site. Play it safe. Almost anything you'd want to do in Flash as a healthcare staffing agency can be done with JQuery and JQuery does not have these same issues.
- Use competitors names in your SEO. Some companies think they're tricky by using names of their competitors in their SEO campaigns. Don't do it. No one thinks you're clever and in fact, many people will just think you're shady. It's a bad practice and will potentially do more harm than good.
The two most important things to remember are that 1) a good website design is the best SEO strategy you can pursue and 2) SEO is a process and not an event. If you haven't started your SEO project it's better to do so sooner rather than later. Further, if you're getting ready to build a new website it's always best to do your SEO first. This helps with the content, layout and navigation decisions. If you design first, you can find yourself having to do a whole bunch of rework.
Although everything in this post can get you off to a good start with your SEO efforts, it's really just the beginning. There are several things to consider in order to produce real results you can measure. Hiring an SEO company with specific knowledge of the healthcare staffing industry is an excellent way to ensure the results you're looking for.
If you'd like more information on running a successful SEO campaign contact Staffing Robot and we'll discuss your goals, and figure out how to best get you started achieving them.
Next post – The benefits of blogging to your healthcare staffing company
Of all the marketing efforts your staffing agency takes on, blogging is the most simple, cost effective way to promote your brand and create content. In the next post we'll discuss the benefits of blogging for your healthcare staffing agency and help you get started.
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