SEO Strategies for Veterinarians: Attracting Pet Owners to Your Practice

The most basic reason that higher search engine ranking is important to veterinarians is that there is a direct correlation between this rank and the amount of new clients that come to the clinic. While all clinics rely on repeat business, it is still new clients that serve as the life-blood of any small business, and it all starts with clients finding the clinic.

Veterinary care is one of the most competitive sectors when it comes to search engine optimization. The importance of higher search engine ranking is due to overwhelming competition. Adding to this confusion is the fact that pet owners have to deal with the emotional strain of a sick pet and must make decisions based on the advice they are given from a multitude of sources. Luckily, educating the pet owner that your veterinary clinic and information can serve as an authoritative source to help them with decisions related to their pet’s health can be the key to converting them to a long-term client.

Importance of SEO for Veterinarians

SEO helps to ensure that a vet’s website will be well ranked by search engines, making it easier for clients to access their invaluable information. Better rankings can also help ensure that the public is receiving the right information from credible sources, as they are often bombarded with conflicting advice. While it is true that the internet can be a dangerous place to obtain health information for both humans and animals, there are many reliable sites put together by medical professionals. It is disheartening for veterinarians to see that many pet owners are not visiting their vets for information, as they are the best source of medical information for their own animals. A higher volume of traffic to a vet’s website has the potential to enhance the public’s general understanding of animal health and thus improve the overall standard of care for animals.

In recent years, there has been a steep learning curve for vets with regards to nutrition and preventative medicine. This has been due to a wealth of new information coming to light about what is best for animals in terms of diet and prevention of chronic diseases. One of our key goals is to provide the public with credible information that is both easy to understand and in the best interest of their pets. We often recommend prescription diets and various supplements in order to improve an animal’s health.

Veterinarians play a critical role in society, and their importance cannot be ignored. They are the physicians for the animal kingdom, and their work goes a long way in ensuring that animals are healthy and live long lives. Just like medical doctors for humans, vets put in a lot of effort and need to constantly update their knowledge in order to provide the best medical services for animals. Just like any other medical field, veterinary medicine is an evidence-based practice.

Benefits of SEO Services

Pets are a very precious part of the family and people want to know that they are going to the best possible place for their pet. Chances are that there are several other veterinarians in your local area, what sets you apart from them? With a well-designed SEO service, you can make sure that potential clients find what they are looking for; which hopefully is information persuading them to choose your veterinary services.

It has been shown that 60% of internet users will not go past the first page of search engine results. SEO is a no-brainer; it is crucial if you want your business to have any success coming from your internet marketing campaign. Being listed on the 3rd or 4th page in the search engines makes it difficult for your clients to find you.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the method by which you make your veterinarian website more visible in the various search engine’s natural or unpaid search results. With all the pet owners in your local area turning to the internet to find good veterinary practices, it is important to have a high search engine ranking. Potential clients are looking to see what other people are saying about your services, what information you have regarding pet health, and they are looking for your location and hours so they can set up an appointment.

Optimizing Your Website

During the implementation process, it is important to include the keywords in the URL for each page on the website and properly Title Tag each page. Cookie cutter sites that do not have unique pages for each different service provided will not be effective in targeting different keywords. This step is vital in website optimization and can make or break the SEO campaign.

In the case of a veterinarian, the keyword “Low Cost Vaccinations” would be more effective than “Cheap Shots” due to the amount of shorthand and misspelling for vaccinations. The best tool for keyword research is Google AdWords Keyword Tool. The best practice is to search keywords by category and select keywords based on relevance to the category.

Keyword Research and Implementation: The first step in website optimization for search engines involves implementing the right keywords. An effective keyword is a word that your target market uses to find your product or service. Keywords differ based on popularity and competition within the search engines, it is important to find a keyword that is right for your business. A high quality keyword will be relevant to your business, have a moderate amount of competition, and have a moderate to high amount of searches per month.

Keyword Research and Implementation

According to a study by Ascend2, 89 percent of businesses and 72 percent of agencies use search engine optimization as their marketing method. Although the recreational purposes of SEO are still relevant to a substantial number of businesses, a large portion attempts to integrate their SEO strategies with an increased lead generation effort. So what does SEO have to do with lead generation? Truth be told, search engine users are simply more likely to convert. When your business ranks for a keyword in your respective industry, you are essentially providing free information to those who are seeking it. If the information is relevant to the individual, they may be more inclined to visit your site to read more, and this is where the funnel begins. Whether it be a sign-up form, a trial offered, or a request for further information, the individual is now a potential customer and has entered the sales funnel. This is all contingent upon providing the “right” information. Even though providing free information via search rankings is an effective way for businesses to drive leads, 47 percent of B2B and 39 percent of B2C companies still measure content effectiveness at the TOFU (top of the funnel), which studies suggest is used mainly for brand awareness and increasing traffic to the site. How does this all tie in with pet owners to veterinarians? Well, it’s quite simple. What is any animal owner looking for? Information on how to improve or maintain a pet’s health. A substantial amount of key phrases can be found for pet health topics and educating pet owners. Cursors on any of these key phrases can often lead to an inquiry or a potential customer attempting to find ways to implement the information they viewed on their pet.

Creating High-Quality Content

Even if these tasks seem simple, they can be time-consuming for many veterinarians who already have busy schedules. Consider delegating these tasks to a tech-savvy staff member, or hiring a company that specializes in SEO for veterinarians. Creating and optimizing quality content can bring great results in the long run, so it is a valuable strategy to invest time and money into.

Utilizing any of these tools can aid in creating quality, engaging content to help draw pet owners to your website. Remember that it is important for the content to not only attract but to have users stay and come back. Engage with your clients and value their feedback on your website. If they’re happy with your website they will pass it on to others!

Videos and images are also considered content and are very attractive to users, as many people are visual learners. When pet owners hear medical terminology they may be intimidated or worried so it might be helpful to have a short video to visually explain a medical condition. This can add a personal touch to your website and help owners feel more connected to your clinic.

High-quality content is key in attracting and keeping pet owners around to your website. You need to think about what questions or concerns potential customers may have and address them plainly in your website content. Do not use veterinarian jargon or terminology that pet owners may not be familiar with. When in doubt, keep it simple! It is still important to include keywords and geo-specific terms, but they must flow naturally in the sentences. Avoid keyword stuffing and stay away from unnecessary keywords that don’t have to do with the content. High-quality content should be shared or linked to. Any content that gets shared or linked to will help the website rank better with search engines. This involves information that is not only engaging, but also accurate and reliable. You can also create content off your own website and link it back, for example an informational article about heartworm disease. You can link this article to a pet owner asking for information about heartworm disease.

On-Page Optimization Techniques

Make sure to use alt tags for images and your keywords where relevant, but do not keyword stuff! Keyword stuffing is using a large amount of keywords to manipulate search engine rankings and is bad practice and could even result in penalties for your website!

Proper use of header tags (H1, H2, H3) to break the content down is often overlooked or used incorrectly. These tags resemble the structure of an essay, with the H1 being the title and H2 and H3 being subheadings. This makes the content easier to scan, and H1 tags are often used to bring up sitelinks for your website in Google search results.

Step two is to make sure the meta-data for each page is relevant to the content. The search engines scan a web page and compare the content to the meta data. If it is not relevant, there is less chance of high ranking. Title tags are displayed on search engine results pages and should be used to entice visitors to your site. A call to action such as “book an appointment today” is proven to increase click-through rates.

Step one for on-page optimization is to make sure each of your web pages is focused on no more than 2-3 keywords at a time. If you have multiple keywords for a single page, break the content down and split it among an inner page. This will make the page more focused and give it a better chance of ranking well for the chosen keywords.

On-page optimization techniques entail checking that your web pages can be indexed by search engines and found by potential visitors. Search engine optimization requires text-heavy informative pages. This means that you, as a veterinarian, are at an advantage. Trying to sell products such as pet food online is much harder for an e-commerce website than for a service-based website.

Mobile-Friendly Design

A mobile-friendly website has become a crucial online presence for a business where their target customers are active in the digital space. About 63% of Americans use smartphones and 34% own tablets. SEO strategies have a dual benefit when applied to a mobile site: the improved visibility in the search engines can attract more traffic to the mobile website, and the traffic itself can be more targeted given the hyper-local nature of mobile search. Treat mobile Search Engine Optimization with the same care as for a traditional website. By not optimizing for mobile search, you’ll be missing out on an audience that’s about 1/3 of all mobile users. You can confirm whether Google detects your site as mobile-friendly and whether it can be successfully accessed by Google search robots. This mobile usability report checks for factors such as font size, tap targets, and responsive web design to ensure compatibility between desktop and mobile display. It is important to keep in mind that a tested mobile website optimized to reach local pet owners can leverage the entire Near Me SEO strategy to its benefit, while avoiding the more crowded organic search result environment. Optimizing for mobile users is thus an indirect way to promote local visibility.

Local SEO for Veterinary Practices

The first step in local SEO is to claim your Google My Business listing. It is important to fill in all information on your Google My Business profile. You want to make it easier for your potential customer to find out more about your practice. Be sure to use a complete, genuine address (no P.O boxes) so that your clinic location can be pinned on Google Maps. Studies have shown there is an over 100% increase in clicks to your website as well as requests for directions when there is an exact address provided. Always stay consistent with information about your clinic (e.g. clinic name, address, contact number) on all online listings, this will help to instill confidence in potential customers that the information they find about you is reliable and this can translate to higher conversion rates.

Local SEO caters for location-specific searches. For veterinary practices, local SEO is of utmost importance as pet owners generally prefer to engage services which are in close proximity to where they are. If you are given a choice between a clinic which is 5 minutes away from your place and another which is 30 minutes away, where would you go? Being listed on the top of local search results means that pet owners are more likely to find and engage your services. This is absolutely crucial as 1 in 3 local searches in Google are for a local business or service. According to Google, 50% of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphone will visit a store within a day. This illustrates the importance of being visible in local search results.

Claiming and Optimizing Google My Business Listing

After you have provided the basic information about your business, you should also consider adding some photographs. Any good veterinarian knows that pet owners consider their pets to be part of the family, so representing your business by visually showing potential clients the friendly kind of environment their pets will be in when they visit your practice. Step into the shoes of your prospective clients, think of what they would like to see, and then display that for them in your photographs. Whether it’s friendly staff greeting an animal, a clean facility, or just some great pictures of the pets you’ve treated, anything that emotionally connects with visitors and gives them a greater sense of confidence about your services is worth putting up.

Every business with a physical location can claim a Google My Business listing, and it’s a necessary step in your Local SEO strategy. Once you have claimed your listing, you can provide Google with accurate information about your business, such as the services you offer, the markets you serve, and your business hours. These details will then be displayed by Google in your search engine result page and help to make it clearer to potential clients what you have to offer them.

In a quality search engine result page, a local business is showcased with a corresponding mapped location and contact information. Google displays this type of result based on relevance to the search term and location. To be able to influence and manage what the search engine displays about your veterinary practice, it is essential to claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.

Building Citations and Online Directories

A great way to find citation opportunities is to research competitors’ citations. Essentially, you need to find all the places online where vets operate, and then it will be a matter of trying to get your practice listed on those sites as well. Given that citations are a low-cost (and in many cases free) means of increasing your business’ local online visibility, they are great value for money. A good citation can mainly generate traffic on its own right, but importantly it also reinforces the message that your business is a key pet care service provider in the local area.

In the context of local SEO for veterinary practices, you are particularly interested in veterinary listings or pet care directories that you can list your practice on. The most important thing with citations is consistency. This means using the exact same NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) wherever they are mentioned. This is because Google’s primary goal is to provide its searchers with the most accurate and reliable information in as few clicks as possible. Therefore, it will give higher rankings to businesses with consistent information.

Local citations are any mention of your business on the web. They are essential in local SEO. At the most basic level, they don’t even need to link to your website (although that’s obviously ideal). An example of a citation might be an online yellow pages directory where your business is listed, but not linked to.

Encouraging Online Reviews

Guideline 1: Explain the concepts

Guideline 2: Reviews are an important ranking factor in local search and are the source of social proof.

Essentially, the more high-quality, recent reviews a practice has, the more likely they are to be found in local search and the more likely a person is to use their services. The occasional bad review is not the end of the world; it is expected that a percentage of clients are not satisfied. If, however, they only have bad comments and private feedback, this will be very damaging to the reputation of the practice and will remain quietly obstructing the move to a more positive online presence. So, encouraging online reviews is a bit of a balancing act, the goal being that happy clients will bother to leave a review, and any unhappy clients will voice their concerns directly, in person, so they can be addressed and ideally resolved.

What are reviews? Veterinary practices are often discouraged from encouraging clients to leave reviews due to the danger of a small number of negative reviews having a significant impact on the reputation of the practice. However, the reality is that reviews are an important ranking factor in local search and are the source of social proof. It is natural and normal for a veterinary practice to have the occasional unhappy client, but if they have never left a review, that practice will have a perfect 5-star rating.

Social Media and Online Marketing

The common strengths of these platforms are: Facebook is particularly good for promoting brand recognition and customer loyalty, and has a very broad user base, so it is likely to provide value to anyone. Twitter is good for targeted, concise messages and high-frequency contact with users. Google Plus is still in its infancy, but its strength lies in its integration with other Google services and the effect it has on search engine results. This makes it a useful long-term tool. Lastly, Pinterest is better in the long term also as it provides very good referral traffic to your website and will be a valuable asset to content marketing.

The common platforms are: Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest.

Social media moves at a rapid pace, and each platform has its own strengths and best uses. You should explore these individually to see which ones will help you make the most impact.

Leveraging Social Media Platforms

Twitter is a platform that allows significant interaction with potential clients. A pet owner could mention a behavior issue or an animal health concern in a tweet. A Twitter search using terms such as “#pethealth” or “#dogvet” will identify people talking about their pets. A practice could respond to that tweet with a tweet of its own, or even better, with a link to a blog post or article that directly addresses that concern. The goal is to get a pet owner to your practice website. Once they are there, if the content is engaging and well laid out, there is a good chance they will stay and look around. This further reduces the bounce rate.

For any sort of social media platform, the primary goal is to engage people. Use your status update to pose a question. When someone comments, Facebook algorithms push that story higher in the newsfeed. Contests, witty or self-effacing comments, or humor also generate traffic. Pinterest is a popular social media platform for pet owners. A veterinarian could develop content for pet owners such as infographics on pet insurance, potential poisons in pets, or seasonal pet dangers. This content can lead to traffic to your website.

Potential clients use social media platforms to exchange information, seek support and advice, and share their experiences. You need to be part of that ongoing conversation. All of your social media platforms should be linked to your practice website. Some SEO experts suggest maintaining both a personal and a professional practice Facebook page. This may be time-consuming and redundant, but consider the amount of shelter, rescue, and fundraising organizations that request publicity on animal hospital sites; you may want to keep personal communication separate from professional information.

Paid Advertising Campaigns

No matter what form of advertising you choose, it is important to have a clear goal and call to action.

Advertising for page likes can also increase the visibility of your practice’s page and the growth of an online community.

Once you have established an audience, you can continue to re-market to them using lookalike audiences. Email address data is needed to get the most out of this form of advertising.

You can also run ads for your practice that will show up on the right side of the page. However, the most effective Facebook advertising may be using custom audience ads. With custom audience ads, you can use data from your current customer base to find pet owners with similar interests and demographics.

You can use page post ads to increase the exposure of a particular post on the Facebook site. This can be useful if you are promoting an event or a particular service offered at your practice.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising with Facebook can also drive a lot of business. If resources are available, you can run ads using display or video targeting pet owners. Facebook PPC advertising has a variety of applications.

Start with a search ad campaign using Google AdWords. Bid on keywords such as your city and the word “veterinarian”. The goal is for your practice to show up on the first page of search results and eventually secure one of the top 3 local positions on the page.

Paid advertising campaigns should be ventured into, especially if your practice has the available resources to commit to and maintain them. Revenue-generating businesses typically invest 1-5% of their projected annual gross into advertising.

Email Marketing and Newsletters

There are many email marketing tactics to increase the number of pet owners to your website and social media. One common relocation incentive for humans could be to offer a coupon or deal at the veterinary clinic. A newsletter can be constructed as a part of the email marketing or as a standalone effort to reach pet owners. For a newsletter to be a viable and effective email marketing tool, it needs to be forwarded automatically to a confirmation-based opt-in list. Newsletters should not present the clinical material like the website, but rather the medical information should be interwoven with fun facts, pet owner profiles, and lifestyle or how-to articles. Keep medical jargon to a minimum and explain its meaning when it must be used. Use the pet owners’ personal information, pet type, and location to customize the newsletter. If you run a special event or seminar, be sure to get the word out in the newsletter. Email marketing strategies should ultimately get pet owners to visit the website, but should seek to reinforce and maintain trust and confidence in the veterinary services provided, thus retaining current clientele. Email marketing can be used to convert a potential client into a regular visitor of the website. If a pet owner has taken an action prompted from the email, such as schedule an appointment or take an online quiz, this should be noted to design the email tracking behavior. High-level actions such as these can change the status of a client on the segmentation list and result in a more targeted automatic email in the future. Email marketing efforts must comply with FTC laws and the SPAM Act in that they are sent to recipients that are expecting to receive the information.

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