by Adam T. Sutton
, Senior Reporter
The Hauser-Ross Eye Institute & Surgicenter is a regional eye care provider located about 45 miles west of Chicago. The office earns a large portion of its income from medical and elective procedures, and the marketing team thought that improving the site's SEO could help boost procedures.
The team had never launched a full-scale SEO campaign, but it thought that improving the site would help attract more inbound queries for procedures in four categories:
Competition for search rankings, however, was rife in these categories, says Jennifer Smith, Digital Marketing Specialist at Hauser-Ross. Terms such as "lasik" and "cataracts" were dominated by sites with huge libraries of content and national brands, whereas Hauser-Ross was a regional provider with a small website.
"Our goal was really to cut through that competition to boost our visibility and certainly attract users with a high-intent to purchase," Smith says.
Somehow, with little history of search engine optimization, the team had to break into this competitive channel and direct inbound queries to its website.
The team decided to launch a first-ever SEO strategy, and started by setting up a paid search campaign to explore the category. After crunching the data, the team found much of its best opportunities in location-based SEO.
The team took the following six steps:
Step #1. Find your niche
The team established a pay-per-click ad campaign in October 2011 that targeted keywords in the four categories mentioned above. The paid search ads gave the brand immediate visibility in search engines and provided data that could be used later to help build the team's SEO strategy.
For three months, the team maintained and improved the program, always looking for keywords that fit these three criteria:
- High volumes of traffic
- High conversion rates
- Low levels of competition
Many of the opportunities the team uncovered were variations of a broader keyword, particularly variations that included a nearby location.
For example, instead of targeting the highly competitive term "lasik surgery" the team found that including the organization's city, "Sycamore," or a nearby suburb brought visitors who were looking for nearby facilities (and therefore more likely to convert).
Step #2. Conduct keyword research
The team did keyword analysis for its paid search effort, but it did a deeper dive before designing its SEO strategy.
The team researched these key ways:
Ask the front lines
Understanding which keywords to focus on for SEO requires a deep understanding of your audience. The best terms to target are revealed when you understand how people look for information and companies in your market.
To learn more about its customers, the team sat down with Hauser-Ross' patient coordinators, who accept inbound calls for the organization. It asked about the language that patients use, the questions they ask, and the topics they discuss when calling.
The team also looked to see which natural search keywords were already driving traffic to its site. This helped the team understand the keywords for which it had some authority and the keywords it needed to improve on.
"We found that we ranked high for our brand, but we didn't rank high for the specific procedures," Smith says.
Leverage keyword tools
The team gathered the keywords it uncovered in its paid search efforts, customer research and website analytics, and started analyzing them with the free Google Keyword Tool (see useful links below).
Even though the tool is designed for AdWords (Google's paid search program), it helped the team:
- Estimate volume of traffic for each keyword
- Estimate level of competition
- Uncover other relevant keywords through the tool's suggestions
Step #3. Repair site architecture
An analysis of how the website was organized revealed that the team had several copies of its homepage under different URLs including:
To avoid a duplicate content issue, the team consolidated these pages into a single homepage and redirected the second and third URLs to point to the first.
Other architecture changes the team made:
- Repaired or removed pages that did not load (also known as "404 errors")
- Redirected or removed other duplicate pages
Step #4. Add geo-keywords to the site
The team did not think it could compete with the largest competitors in search in this category (at least not yet). To side step that challenge, the team focused much of its SEO work on relevant phrases that included a nearby location. This would give the team strong rankings in relevant searches, even if they weren't the broadest large-traffic keywords in the market.
The team inserted the names of nearby locations throughout its website, including the names of towns and suburbs in a 45-mile area surrounding the office.
Here are the main areas the team improved the site's local SEO:
Persistent header and footer
The team added the office's street address, city name and phone number to the header
, and also included the full address and phone number in the footer
. The footer also included 10 links to nearby organizations and hospitals the team is affiliated with, many of which have titles that include the names of nearby cities.
Including this information in the persistent header and footer essentially added it to every page on the website.
The team added the office's location in two other places on the homepage
. It also included a list of nearby locations at the bottom of the page:"Serving clientele from: Sycamore, Rochelle, Dixon, Yorkville, Sycamore, Dekalb, Geneva, St Charles, Batavia, Sandwich, Dixon, Rockford, Belvidere, Oswego and more!"
This list was also added to several other pages.
'Contact us' page
The 'contact us' page
lists the office's full address first in regular text, then again in a large map. The page also includes the office's phone numbers, email address and fax number.
Step #5. Improve other on-site SEO factors
A site owner controls many different factors that can be adjusted to make a website more appealing to search engines. The team made these major on-site changes:
Create service pages
To add content to the site, the team created pages targeting phrases such as "LASIK eye surgery
," "cataracts treatment options
," and "glaucoma treatment options
." The pages typically featured at least one image, provided general content on the topic, and several have lead-generation forms.
In addition to having a persistent left-hand navigation and a sitemap, the team added links throughout the website that pointed to other internal pages. These links used a variety of keywords in their anchor text and often pointed to pages with content on specific conditions and procedures.
For example, the 'about us' page links to more than 10 pages on topics such as pediatric eye care, glaucoma, and cosmetic procedures. The homepage also links to about 10 different pages in its copy.
The team also updated the metadata for its webpages. This information is used by search engines to serve a short description of a webpage in search results. The team updated these tags to include relevant keywords and the office's local city.
Step #6. Improve off-site SEO
When determining how to rank a website, search engines give significant weight to factors that are outside the control of the site owner. The team improved three main off-site areas:
Inbound links can have a big impact on SEO, so the team worked to encourage other websites to link to Hauser-Ross.
Much of this work focused on contributing articles to related websites and ensuring that the articles linked back to Hauser-Ross. Since it was focusing on local SEO, the team tried to include geo-keywords in the links' anchor text when possible.
Places is a service offered by Google that allows businesses to build a page about their location that is tied to Google Maps and includes relevant content about the organization.
Hauser-Ross' Places page
- Photos of staff doctors and the facility
- A video
- Short description and keywords
- Address, contact numbers and homepage URL
The team also worked with a vendor that provides tools to verify and manage listings in local search engines across the Web. This helped the team add relevant location-based information about itself on other websites, verify its accuracy, and add inbound links.
Even though the New Year typically brings a drop in eye procedures, Smith's team is seeing a big increase, and it's entirely due to this campaign, she says.
"It is a trend that is across the board for over 30 years that in January our surgeries go down, everything goes down, but we didn't see that at all … Overall procedures were up 33.5%."
Specific categories of procedures are showing even greater results.
"When you look at most vision correction surgery, it's a field where most [providers] are down right now. They're either flat or behind, but we saw growth of 333% in revenue year-over-year in January," Smith says.
Other results the team has seen:
- 52.8 % year-over-year increase in organic search traffic in January
- 61.6% year-over-year increase in organic traffic in February
- 6 out of 10 of the site's top keywords in February included a local term such as "Sycamore" or "Dekalb"
- Increased position on 429 keywords
More work to come
The team has completed only two steps of a six-step plan to overhaul its SEO. Future plans include a competitive link analysis to find good link-building targets and more focus on generic keywords.
The team has also had success testing mobile-optimized landing pages for its PPC ads. Although they are not driving large amounts of natural search traffic, the team has seen encouraging results and plans to explore this area further.
Useful links related to this article
Link Building: 5 tactics to build a better SEO strategy 7 signs that you’re overvaluing search engine optimizationSEO: How to launch a website redesign without hurting search rankings and traffic Marketing Research Chart: Consider SEO tactics carefully; degree of difficulty determines success 15 Miles
- Contact us page
- Lasik eye surgery page
- Cataracts treatment page
- Glaucoma treatment page
- Google Places page
- helped the team research, design and execute strategyGoogle Keyword ToolGoogle PlacesHauser-Ross Eye Institute & SurgicenterLocaleze
- local search management provider