Basic marketing is not hard, and pretty much every veterinarian knows that you can promote your business on the internet. Some don’t think it’s worth the bother because they have other ways or, more often than not, believe the internet doesn’t work or is a waste of time. Others are into all that the internet has to offer or, more accurately, all they think they know the internet has to offer.
In today’s world, the internet is an organic part of society. It is not something you do, but rather it is integrated into everyday life where people hang, shop, work, market, sell and hire—organically. So, naturally, you decide to take that next step to market your business on the internet, hoping to get new clients.
Hint: This is the beginning of the mistake.
There are a million websites, books and blogs promising step-by-step guidance to internet marketing success. Some even go as far as to promise shortcuts (or “hacks,” as they call them) to quick success. After skimming a few resources and maybe talking to an SEO agency, you decide you found the perfect blog that explains how you can easily market your clinic in just a few steps. So, why not use their free or cheap advice and see what happens?
Of course, being a professional, you read and implement everything they say. After all, this is written by an SEO expert and the website seems legitimate.
Time passes and not much happens with your marketing results. You check your rankings on some online rankings checker to see if it failed and see you moved up on some keywords and down on others. Maybe your website is even now ranking for the exact keywords you chose. The problem is, either way, what you know for certain is that you have not gotten any new business.
The first thought is, “Thank God I didn’t spend big money on SEO, it doesn’t do anything for me.”
Hopefully you make it to the second stage called “confusion.” It happens when you just do SEO and then look at Google Analytics and see traffic, but sales were not up in any significant way. Eventually, your brain realizes that maybe it really should have worked because you have heard and read it works for others.
That’s because there is much more to SEO than can be contained in a blog or even one book. There’s a lot missing, and that is the point where SEO meets marketing. SEO is marketing, and that starts with a foundation, math, algorithms, trial and error, science and a strategy. SEO is not a plan, but rather just a tool to help achieve that plan. Expertise to fully wield that tool takes ongoing education and time; the same education and time you already spend staying up on your profession and certifications.
If internet blogs were plans on how to build a doghouse, there would be no strategy and they would only provide a hammer and a picture of the final product. There’s no mention of all the many other necessary tools. They don’t even tell you how long it will take. There are very few things you can build with just a hammer. You end up with no idea what parts to saw, where to find a saw or even what a saw looks like. Yes, there’s also a chance that you can wing it and build a doghouse successfully, but you have a business to run. Why waste time when you could be growing your business the right way?
All SEO is not created equal. It’s about seeing your SEO efforts in the bigger picture of marketing and sales and not just ranking blindly. SEO is not magic either. SEO professionals study the market, data and last year’s 900,000+ algorithm changes on a regular basis to know things beyond keywords. SEO agencies learn your business needs, your industry and, most importantly, how Google handles the combination of your keywords, your brand, your website and the competition. You cannot just pick keywords and go rank; it’s a futile exercise if you don’t even know which keywords cause visitors and which cause new clients.
That is the biggest marketing mistake veterinarians make. You simply do not have the time to market properly. Casual marketing rarely creates a steady flow of clients. It does however create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is one shortcut: keywords alone are useless. Marketing is nowhere as tough as getting your DVM, but it does take a lot of knowledge and time. When you dig in, you will see conventional marketing wisdom is much like the myths that clients ask you about in regards to their pets. Looking at keywords as SEO is like feeling a dog’s nose to tell if they are sick. Keywords and their search volume are usually the first SEO metrics (and sometimes the only metrics) many people look at before engaging in SEO. This is an empty piece of information without all the data they aren’t showing.
Let’s say you are a veterinarian (not a stretch here). You wrote a great informational blog post that was designed to answer a frequently-searched pet health question. Nothing wrong with that. It’s a great start, but just a start. It may even get you ranked well. However, the keywords you chose and ranked were incredibly broad. Let’s say the keywords the post ranked for are:
- Dog Health
- Veterinarian Cures
- Dog Health Tips
These may look like great related keywords; however, a longer glance at these terms can easily show what the problem is. The issue is people typing “dog health tips” into Google are not necessarily looking for a veterinarian to help. On the contrary, they’re most likely looking for information on how to do it themselves. This will virtually do nothing for your business unless your website is in the business of telling them how to not hire you…and I don’t think that makes for good business.
The problem is, most do-it-yourself SEO causes rankings, but not sales. Now, I’m not saying ranking for a search like this is all bad. It does bring in potential traffic and can create great awareness. However, you embarked on SEO to increase sales and gain new customers. From a brand awareness standpoint, it’s a win. But, a lot would have to happen before the vast majority of your website visitors from this traffic became paying customers.
When you do SEO, you need to be thinking about the big picture—including the technical aspects, the target market and the sales funnel for starters—not just blogs and online articles.
SEO is designed to take a lead through the stages of the buyer’s journey in order to convert them into a customer. Go ahead and look back at that SEO blog you were reading. I would almost bet that they never mention taking a visitor through the buyer’s journey. They are all about getting ranked.
Doing it on the side may seem like a free effort, but it’s not time well spent at all and doesn’t yield many results. SEO with strategy is designed to take your audience from problem-aware to solution-aware. You should be thinking about how you can get sales and not how to rank.
For SEO, you must first wear your marketer’s hat. What are your overall goals? How is each piece of new content or strategy bringing you closer to that goal? Don’t think about keywords after your site goes live. Plan your strategy meticulously. +