Greetings from Redondo Beach and the close of the 2019 BHCalCon, the annual conference of the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies. The two days were packed with management best practices about succeeding in the present environment and preparing for the future on many levels.
One topic that came up in my closing keynote, Success Today, Success Tomorrow – Strategy Issues in The Changing California Behavioral Health Market, was the importance of improving your organization’s use of commonly available, inexpensive technology to improve organizational performance. One of those “must leverage” technologies is enhancing the strategic utility of your website and improving your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
If you’re not familiar with the term, SEO refers to the techniques used to place websites prominently in search results for keywords or phrases produced by search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.). It’s essentially improving how your organization appears when a consumer does a search. The basic question is—does your organization come up on the first page of consumer searches for the services you deliver?
Why is SEO important? More and more, consumers start with web searches on their computers and smartphones to find the services that they and their families need. I would add that referral sources do the same. In my experience health care professionals also use web searches to identify potential treatment options when the specialty is unfamiliar. Making sure your organization comes up “on top” is critical to getting those referrals.
So how does SEO work? How do search engines find you? Search engines rely on software programs called “spiders” to “crawl” over web pages to collect data, including capturing all links pointing outside of the currently viewed page, as well as to capture all content displayed on a page. Search engines then analyze the data (these methods are kept secret), and then the websites are cataloged and ranked (for a deep dive into this process, see SEO Basics For Health & Human Service Professionals).
How do you know if your SEO is good or not? There are a number of ways to measure SEO performance including tracking engagement metrics, conversion rates, time on page, pages per visit, bounce rates, scroll depth, and search traffic (see Tracking SEO Performance). But for many small provider organizations, the time and resources available may be limited.
Our recommendations for key measures of SEO success (or not) are:
Unique visitors to your website each month: These are people who visit your website at least once in a month and are important to monitor as you want to reach as many people as possible.
Page views each month: The total number of times your web pages were seen is an important website metric because it can indicate overall site traffic and include multiple visits by a single user during the month. From these first two metrics, you can determine the page views per unique visitor, which helps you see how many web pages on your site an average visitor looks at during the month.
Average session time: The amount of time each user stays on your website is important because it can measure how relevant your content is and the overall quality of it. If you can keep a user on your website and keep that person engaged, he or she will be a happy user!
Number of inquiries generated from potential consumers: Web traffic by itself only takes you so far. You need to generate inquiries, leads and sales from potential consumers, which means you need to track leads that come from a web page and monitor that as a metric each month to ensure you turn your traffic into sales opportunities.
Search ranking of key words: Regardless of your website’s content focus, you have keywords and phrases that tell the user (and search engine) what your website is about. Make sure your content and keywords rank prominently in search engines, use keyword research to find phrases that potential consumers are searching for, and write content that aligns with those keywords.
Page loading time: This is a very important metric that determines whether a search engine ranks your website more prominently than a competitor’s page. The “loading time” is the time it takes (usually measured in milliseconds) for your web page to appear in a user’s browser. Anything longer than three seconds is too long to load and search engines might penalize your overall search rankings.
So take a measure of your SEO to ensure that consumers can find you and check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library for more on optimizing your search results:
- SEO Basics For Health & Human Service Professionals
- Your Marketing Plan: Thinking Through Social Media Strategy
- Online Marketing Misconceptions That Hold Back Provider Organizations
- 5 Keys For Optimizing Your Online Brand
- Is Your Online Marketing Plan Up to Speed? The OPEN MINDS Approach To Digital Marketing
For more, join OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Rob Hickernell and OPEN MINDS Executive Vice President Tim Snyder for their Executive Seminar “Finding The Path To Online Marketing Success: An OPEN MINDS Executive Seminar On Best Practices In Website & Social Media Marketing” on October 28 during The 2019 OPEN MINDS Technology & Informatics Institute.