Here's a really hot topic for anyone wanting to run a business online or have any sort of an online presence: Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
As health, wellness or fitness people, you might want your website to be found on Google and other search engines, but don't love the idea of spending hours on your computer trying to figure out this whole SEO thing. I hear you! So these tips were written with that in mind. I'm a designer and I don't want to spend long hours at my computer 'tweaking' SEO either!
Before I dive in to the topic proper, I want to mention something very important. Something I’ve seen happen to business owners that I really don’t think is healthy. That is, do not let SEO become an obsession. Do not let SEO run your business life. Do not put too much energy into working on your SEO.
Why? Because while it’s important for people to be able to find you, it’s far more important to build genuine connections with people. For people to understand who you are, what you have to offer, and what makes you different from other people who do the same thing you do. For you to show you understand what your clients need and demonstrate how you can help them.
In other words: create your website, social media, blog, and all other content for real people. For your ideal clients. Not for the Google robots that search your site and index it.
Am I saying SEO isn’t important at all? No, not in the least. There are things you should be doing to help people find your business when searching online. But there is this trend where people become obsessed with making the first page of Google, and that’s just not healthy. Rather than putting a lot of time and energy into what Google wants, doesn’t it make more sense to put that energy into what your clients want?
Ok, now that we’ve got that baseline to work from, let’s move on and talk a bit about what you can do to help your site be found by people using Google or other search engines. Things that don’t compromise the quality of your site or make it sound like it was written by a robot.
First things first: there are a lot of tools out there to help you with this. If you have a WordPress website you need to install a good SEO plugin. I recommend Yoast but there are a few other good ones. If you’re using Squarespace, you need to read their tutorial on SEO and follow the guidelines. If you have some other website, or have hired a designer, you need to make sure it’s set up with a proper sitemap, meta tags, SSL, and so on. Any good designer will do this, so you probably have nothing to worry about if you’re working with a pro.
But what about beyond the tech tools? What can you do to improve your website?
1. Great content is important for SEO.
My number one tip is to write content the people you want to find your website will actually be interested in. Any serious business - health and wellness or not - should be thinking about their clients first. That's true when you're working directly with them, so why wouldn't it be true when creating content for your website?
So ask yourself: what do your ideal clients care about? What questions do they have? What problems can you help them with?
Once you understand that, you can think about how they might search Google if they were looking for answers to those questions. This is where creating good content meets SEO.
For example, if your ideal clients are runners needing massage for running injuries (and prevention of future injuries!), they might be searching Google for 'runners massage downtown Ottawa'. Or if your ideal clients are pregnant women, the search might be 'pregnancy massage therapy kingston'. You get the idea.
Once you’ve figured out what those ideal clients are looking for and how what you offer matches that, you can write awesome content that will make them want to know more about you and book appointments with you. Remember, getting people to your website is only half the equation - the other half is making them want to take that action in booking with you.
Not only that, but Google has actually said that the quality of the content on a website is a priority when determining search engine ranking. In other words, it’s not about sticking a bunch of keywords on the page for Google to pick up - the quality of the content is king (or queen).
You can also read more about this on my post about content marketing.
2. Updating regularly helps your SEO ranking.
So another question I get asked a fair bit is how often you should be updating your website, writing new content, and posting to social media. Well, there is no one answer to this, because you really have to do what works best for you. But I will say that from an SEO standpoint, Google does prefer sites that are updated regularly. This shows that your content is not old and irrelevant. No one likes to go to a website only to find out all the info posted there is incorrect because the website hasn’t been updated in years. I’m sure that’s happened to you before when you were looking for something.
So my advice here is if you have time, create great content (that your ideal clients will actually be looking for) on a regular schedule. If you don’t have a lot of time, at least give your website a few updates every month, even if it’s just updating your holiday hours and posting a few quick stretching tips or something of that sort.
3. Mobile-friendly design is important for SEO.
Another thing I find people really overlook is the mobile design of their website.
So here’s the thing: Google has flat out said that having a mobile friendly site will boost your page ranking (and that trend has continued as time has gone on. See here and here). It’s now 2017. Mobile devices, at least in Canada and the US, beat out desktop devices for number of searches done. Additionally, think about it: how often do you pull out your own phone to find local businesses? Probably all the time, right? People are doing the same thing when they’re looking for a massage therapist, a new gym, a yoga class, or a nutritionist. Or anything else of that sort!
So you have to have a site that is well designed for mobile, and doesn’t just have it as an afterthought. It’s absolutely essential. If your website isn’t easy to use on mobile, you need to get on that. Not sure how? If you're using WordPress or Squarespace and your website was designed in the last few years, this shouldn't be a problem. If you're using some other system, you'll need to check. Here's an easy way to test.
4. H1 (and H2, H3...) tags are key for SEO.
So you might read that and go, "Candice, I'm not a programmer, what the heck are H1 tags?"
Don't worry, I promise you don't have to be super techy to use them on your website!
These are heading tags and are important for two reasons:
Visually, they allow the reader to understand your content better. If you break things up into headings, people can quickly see where your writing is going.
For SEO, heading tags let Google know what your content is about.
What you need to do is return to what your ideal clients are searching for. Those are the keywords/phrases you should be thinking about in your headings.
For example, if you know clients are searching for sports massage, that is a key phrase for you. Make sure you include it in the title of your website and on some of the pages, when it makes sense to do so. Make sure titles are displayed with an H1 tag. For most website builders, this is already done for you.
But what about those H2, H3, and so on tags? If it's just a short page on your website, you don't need to worry about those. But if you have a longer article, think about breaking the content up into smaller chunks with headings between each one. And in each heading, think about how to include your key phrase, if possible. Again, it's important to sound like a human (not a robot) when writing! But if you can put your keywords or keyphrase in a few places, it does help your SEO.
5. Alt tags and SEO?
The last thing I want to mention is about alt tags. Now, this might be a bit confusing for some of you, especially if you aren’t the techy type. But bare with me.
Alt tags are something added to photos that appear on your website or blog. Their purpose is to help those who have impaired sight, so screen readers can tell them what a photo is of or about.
There has been a recent trend by SEO experts telling people they should be using their alt tags to boost their SEO. Generally speaking, this is ok to do, as long as you do it appropriately.
Should all photos on your site have alt tags? Yes. Should all photos have alt tags that are relevant to the photo? Totally. Should they just be full of SEO keywords in the hopes people will find your site easier? I bet you already know the answer there! (It’s no.)
Let me give you an example for this one. Say you have a photo of a man getting what appears to be a deep tissue massage. And say you’re a massage therapist focusing on athletes and sports massage treatments, so that photo is totally relevant to your ideal clients.
An appropriate alt tag would be something like: Man getting a deep tissue sports massage.
An inappropriate alt tag would be something like: sports massage clinic downtown toronto deep tissue myofascial athletes runners golf gymnasts… (you could probably go on adding words here, I think you know where I’m going with this).
As you can probably tell, the appropriate alt tag still describes the photo and still helps your SEO. The inappropriate one is just trying to stuff a bunch of keywords onto the page, which is really not cool and something Google frowns upon. In fact, I’ve actually been told by someone who used to work as a designer at Google that stuffing keywords into your alt tags is bad practice and Google will penalize you for it. So there you go, info directly from someone in the know.
Got questions about SEO optimization?
I know this is a big topic and can feel really confusing! As always if you have any questions shoot me an email at any time (candice at nyxie dot ca).