This sponsored article was written by Jeremy Dietz, Executive Digital Editor at Coffey Communications. Coffey is a leading full-service healthcare marketing firm with deep industry expertise. We help hospitals, health systems and health insurance companies grow their brands, their reach and their impact.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a worthwhile investment for your healthcare organization. But choosing an agency to help you with SEO can be challenging.
Make the right choice and the budget you invest in SEO will be repaid in things like website traffic from people who are ready to choose your organization for their healthcare needs.
Make the wrong choice and you could find yourself wasting precious resources without getting the results you need. In a worst-case scenario, you might even find your site getting penalized by Google for a shady agency's tactics.
10 things your SEO agency should do
Whether you're looking for a new agency or wondering if you're getting what you should from your existing partnership, here are some things that you should expect a good SEO agency to do.
- Learn about you. Your relationship with a new SEO vendor (or any vendor for that matter) should begin with them taking the time to understand your organization and your goals. No vendor, no matter how skilled they are at their craft, can effectively work for you if they don't understand who you are and what you're trying to achieve.
- Audit your site. An SEO audit will show what's working now and where there are areas of opportunity. The audit should look at both the technical foundation of your site as well as the performance of your content. It should also evaluate off page elements like links to your site and your listings—Google My Business in particular.
Another thing an audit should do is show the level of competition you'll be facing for important search terms. This can help you identify areas where you might need to use paid search to meet your goals.
- Help you set meaningful (and realistic) SEO goals. Using what they've learned about your organization and the findings of the audit, your agency should be able to help you set expectations for what your SEO efforts can achieve—and how long it will take to see results. These goals should be specific and tied to what your organization is trying to achieve overall.
- Explain why they're doing what they're doing—in language you can understand. As the client, you're entitled to know what an SEO agency is doing on your behalf and why. Nothing your agency is doing for you should be considered a "secret" or "proprietary." The best SEO agencies actually want their clients to be fully informed about the work that's going on.
- Create great content (if you've hired them for this). Not all SEO relationships involve content creation or optimization. But if you're paying for content, you should expect the work that's done to be high quality and to align with your overall brand standards and voice.
- Keep you involved. Your SEO agency should bring expertise in helping you perform well in search. But their work shouldn't happen without your input. You'll need to answer questions and supply access to subject matter experts who can help make sure that the work being done is accurate and complete (in addition to being optimized for search).
- Have a plan for local. Most healthcare organizations serve a specific geographic area. Your SEO agency's plans and tactics should be designed to help you reach that market. That means the keyword research they do and the ranking data they give you should be tailored to the community you serve.
- Operate above board so you don't get penalized. A reputable SEO agency won't knowingly use tactics that could get your site in trouble with Google or other search engines. Tactics that could get you in trouble include hidden text on your site, keyword stuffing or link schemes. To learn more, check out Google's quality guidelines.
- Proactively let you know about trends or algorithm changes that might affect you. Search is always changing. A good agency will let you know ahead of time about how things are shifting and what you can do to avoid losing traffic.
- Provide regular reports and action items. SEO isn't a one-time task. Your agency should be in touch regularly with reports that show how well their efforts are working and that clearly identify any areas where your goals and expectations aren't being met. You should be wary of SEO reports that are always 100% good news.
The reports you get should also have action items that can help you maintain the things that are going well and take action in areas where your goals aren't being met.
Your role in an SEO partnership
A great working relationship is a two-way street. Here are a few things you can do as a client to make sure you get the most out of your SEO partnership.
- Ask questions. Whether it's a proposed tactic or data in a report, if you don't understand it, ask for clarification.
- Learn about SEO. Understanding SEO best practices will help you ask good questions and will make sure you get the most out of your investment. Your knowledge will also help you ensure that any SEO work done internally is completed with best practices in mind. If you're new to this topic, there are a number of excellent resources out there, such as Moz's Beginner's Guide to SEO. It can also be helpful to look for resources that are specific to healthcare SEO.
- Read your reports. The reports your agency gives you should tell you whether your investment is paying off. If the reports you're getting aren't clear or understandable, ask for something different.
Finally, be patient. Great SEO results can take time. It's normal to want rapid results from your investment in SEO. In a perfect world, your SEO agency would be able to provide you with some quick wins. But truthfully, depending on your market and competition, SEO can be a long game. So while it's reasonable to expect progress, it's also helpful to view SEO as a long-term investment rather than a one-and-done task.