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By Monica E. Oss

Last Friday I looked at key performance indicators (KPIs) that executives can track to see how successful they are at keeping their websites front and center for consumers (see Can Search Engines (& Consumers) Find You? SEO & Why It’s Important). KPIs should include monthly totals for unique website visitors and page views, as well as average session times, the number of consumer inquiries, page loading times, and keyword search rankings.

If your website isn’t “up to par,” what can your team do to improve web search rankings? I tapped OPEN MINDS Senior Associate Rob Hickernell for an answer and he suggested the following four key elements to improving your organization’s search engine optimization (SEO): deliver quality content and experience; include your content keywords strategically; build external links to show credibility; and drive social media engagements.

Deliver quality content and a great user experience—Content is the information your website provides, and the way in which it is presented (see Is Your Online Marketing Plan Up to Speed? The OPEN MINDS Approach To Digital Marketing). Great content needs to achieve two functions: It must be relevant and engaging to your target audience and attractive to search engines. The key is knowing who those consumers (or potential consumers) are and including a combination of service users, payers, and stakeholders. To attract search engines, use keyword research and targeting, link building, and social connections, which are all key building blocks of a SEO strategy (see SEO Basics For Health & Human Service Professionals). For more on building great content for your website, check out The Two Basic Elements For Successful Website Design and What Makes A Website ‘Work’? Superior Design & Accessibility.

Do keyword research and include them strategically on your web pages— A big part of building great content that delivers on consumer engagement and SEO means identifying keywords that are important to your target audience. You can do research and brainstorm words and phrases that your organization wants and focus titles, meta-titles, URLs, and text on those words. An example of the average number of monthly searches for a few given keywords during a 12-month period, as tracked by, include addiction (49,500), anxiety (550,000), depression (450,000), and autism (301,000).

Build external links to build credibility for your content—The more inbound and outbound links that you can place on your website, from other high-quality sites, the better your chances that search engines will recognize both the quality and the popularity of your website. The cumulative effect is that you will “prove” to search engines that you are popular, relevant, valuable, and have a better reputation than other sites (see Do Outbound Links Affect SEO?). A scalable, content-based link strategy means maximizing the number and reputation of the pages to which you are linking.

Drive social media engagements and encourage shares, likes, follows, etc. to drive traffic and show search engines user engagement—A good social strategy includes building social connections that will maximize your reputation in relation to your connections’ reputations. By building onsite consumer engagement, social media, and viral marketing, you strengthen your social connections and optimize overall content and rankings. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are the most widely used and effective social media options.

Mr. Hickernell weighed in on the importance of search engine optimization as part of online marketing in a recent edition of The OPEN MINDS Monthly Management Newsletter (see The Online Marketing Issue: How To Build An Online Marketing Strategy For ROI). He explained:

It’s an art and science to allow the search engine to effectively find the site, know what it is, recognize keywords, see linking relationships between you and other sites, and make sure that the search engine delivers results to the end user. You have a service you are offering, and the mindset should be “let’s make sure we do everything we can to make sure people can find us.” SEO is one piece of this. I include SEO as part of marketing and how you attract visitors to your site and service. Make sure that everything the marketing, web development, and content teams do is delivered in ways that humans and search engines can find and easily identify what is most important.

As most executive teams read this advice, one question has probably come up—who is going to do this? Updating web copy, social media posts, and monitoring your online presence is a labor-intensive endeavor. Your marketing team needs to staff appropriately to optimize your web presence and gain critical service referrals. For a deep dive into social media strategies and tactics to improve web presence and consumer service, check out these resources from The OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. As Online Ratings Grow, Your Online Reputation Matters More
  2. Will Consumers Find You After Google Implements Mobile-First Indexing?
  3. Three New Tools For Social Media Integration
  4. Social Media Listening As Consumer Engagement Strategy
  5. 40%+ Of Consumers Won’t Know You Without A Social Media Plan
  6. Social Media – The Dog With The Bite Or Best Friend?
  7. Best Practice Online Marketing On A Budget!
  8. 37% Of Health Plan Members Under Age 64 Are Connected To Their Plan On Social Media
  9. Can Social Media Usage Contribute To Mental Health Issues In Our Clients?
  10. Navigating The New Marketing Paradigm – Web & Social Media Presence Are The New Essentials

For more, join Mr. 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.

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