There’s no point having a great website if it’s languishing on the second page of the search results. That’s why SEO – or Search Engine Optimisation – is a must. It’s the process of altering your website’s organic (unpaid for) visibility and ranking on search engines such as Google. The more highly your website is ranked, the quicker and easier it is for potential clients to find you.

Although the idea of SEO can be a little daunting, there are a few simple things that you can do yourself to improve your site’s search engine ranking. Start with small steps and you’ll soon get the hang of it. Eventually you may wish to employ an expert to carry out ongoing SEO, but it’s a good idea to carry out some tasks yourself in order to gain some knowledge.

Keywords and key phrases

Start by making a list of all the likely keywords and phrases potential clients might put into a search engine. For instance, if you are a physiotherapist, they could include: physiotherapy, sports massage, physical therapy etc. They may also add the condition that they are seeking treatment for, such as sports injuries. When searching for a therapist people will almost always put in their local area: so physiotherapy in Lincoln, sports massage in Bristol, and so on. Another common key phrase is a question; for example, ‘how can I improve my mobility?’.

Once you have established your keywords and phrases, ensure that they appear throughout the text on your website. However, take care to keep your content well-written and clear, without repetition. Don’t include every possible keyword just because you can – place them where they will make sense and be useful to the reader. Around 2 or 3 per page is usually plenty. If you stuff your content with keywords and phrases you will make it almost unreadable by potential clients, and you can also be penalised by Google (which will affect your rankings).

More tips for keyword placement

– If you can update your website yourself, incorporate keywords into your title tags with the most important word first (or ask your web designer to do so for you).

– If you have images on your website, give them a good image name that incorporates keywords.

– You can do the same with the individual URLs of each new website page that you add, although it’s best to avoid changing old URL’s in case they are linked to from another page or website.

– Here’s a tactic for incorporating keywords and a location whilst keeping the text easy to read. Add your keywords to a page heading, then use the first part of the paragraph that follows to include your location. So, a heading might be ‘John Smith, Psychotherapist specialising in sports injuries’ and the first paragraph could start ‘Based in Bristol, John has more than a decade’s experience…’.

Other SEO tips

Google likes sites that are extremely user-friendly, and ranks them accordingly. Here are a few ways you can ensure that your site is user-friendly. It won’t just benefit your ranking but will help to convert visitors into clients.

– Make sure that the structure of your website is well-organised and that the pages “flow” in a way that is easy to navigate.

– Spend a little extra time on each page’s beginning paragraph, summing up what the page is about and thus making it quicker for clients to find the relevant information.

– A Q&A page is a good way of ensuring that likely key questions (paired with well-written answers) appear on your website in a “natural” way.  Think carefully about the answers to your questions and dedicate some time to drafting and re-drafting. Although improving your website’s SEO doesn’t need to be hugely complicated, it is important to allow yourself the time to produce relevant, high-quality content.

– Your contact page is also a very useful tool in improving your visibility online. Ensure that all of your relevant contact details are presented in an easy-to-read way. Embedding a Google Map of your location also improves your chances of ranking highly if potential clients search by area (e.g. “Physiotherapists in Bath”).

– Up-to-date content is another element that search engines look for. Ensure that you make regular changes, for example in a news section. Another convenient way of achieving this is to include a blog. Regular blog posts about topics relevant to your particular branch of therapy give you more space to provide well-written content and to answer questions that potential clients may be searching for.

The importance of links

Links to your site from other sites plays a major role in your page’s SEO success and should not be underestimated. Links must be relevant. But how to gain links?

– Not all links back to your site are equal. Good quality websites with a high number of visitors are best. Consider which websites may be willing to add your web link. For example, does your accredited body place links on their website? Could you provide articles or blog posts for other sites that will then lead back to your site?

– Encourage readers to share links to your site on Twitter, Facebook and so on. Providing high-quality, easy to read content (for example useful blog posts) is great.

– Providing links on your own social media accounts can also help boost the likelihood of links to your website appearing around the web, especially if friends or followers subsequently share the link.

– From time to time you may receive an email from an unrelated company offering to place your link on their site if you’ll do the same on yours. Always refuse this offer. If, however, there is a genuine connection between your practice and their company, making a link relevant, then go ahead.

Good luck!

Have you had any success with improving your website’s SEO? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.