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Magnet attracting people traffic on wooden background, top view with space for text. Marketing conceptMarketing A Private Medical Practice.

While in school, business and marketing was not a focal point of coursework.  Unfortunately for you, that means you have to learn about business from the school of hard knocks.

Just because you opened your medical practice doesn’t mean your calendar will be overflowing with new patients.  You need a game plan to help you grow regardless of how big or small your practice is.

If you are here you need help.

From our experience from successfully marketing practices,

We compiled our list of the 30 best marketing tactics for private practices to help you build and grow a healthy sustainable practice.

While helping you remain HIPAA Compliant in your marketing efforts.

First you may be asking,

How do I market myself as a doctor?

As a doctor, you need to remember that you are an advocate for your patients and must be sure to make this clear to them from the start. This should be your main message. Making sure your patient base understands who you are and what your values are is an important part of marketing yourself as a doctor they can turn to in times of need. Which can lead to more patient referrals.

30 of the best marketing strategies for medical practices

Build a website

When a patient wants to learn more about you, the first thing they are likely to do is head to good ol’ Google. Give them something meaningful to look at when they find you; invest in a site that is professional, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to navigate.

Testimonials

Gathering testimonials from current or past patients that highlight their positive experiences with your private medical practice is one of the best ways to build a trustworthy reputation. Studies have shown that half of patients think it is important for their doctor to be well liked by others, and 77% ranked trustworthiness as the most important trait their doctor needs to have.

Best of all, collecting testimonials is a relatively straightforward process. Keep up your excellent care and bedside manner. Then ask your patients to review your medical practice and attest to your high level of care.

However, always maintain HIPAA compliance.  Only use testimonials or reviews with the patient’s expressed SIGNED consent.  Don’t assume that if you get a review online you can respond any way you want or post it on another site, never reveal any personal identifiable information.

Social media presence

Social media is the ultimate modern marketing tool. Billions of users flood social media platforms daily for information, entertainment, and so much more. So, how can you take advantage of it? Create social media accounts on major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, of course.

Before establishing your presence on any of these sites, however, it is important to research what platforms you are most likely to find your patients on. For example, Facebook is the go-to social media platform for many older people. If you see mostly adults who are 60 or older, then, it only makes sense to work hard to establish yourself on Facebook above any other platform.  Here is a helpful breakdown of social platforms by age group as well as income levels.

Give back to the community

As a doctor, you are a valued member of your community. Your private medical practice is also part of that community. Therefore, taking the time to invest in your community shows others that you are not just in it for the money but you genuinely want to help people. Examples of community outreach include attending charity events or volunteering medical supplies or services several times a year.

These are not only excellent ways to show the community that you care but also a great opportunity to make your practice locally known.

Use SEO best practices

SEO stands for search engine optimization. Using SEO best practices ensures that your website ranks high when prospective patients search for you. Good SEO strategy takes into account quality content, word choice, and local listings. You can hire an SEO company to help you with this or read up on these best practices yourself here.

Claim local listings

Local listings display information about your practice like address, website, and contact number. All of this information makes it easier for patients to find you. Make sure to claim and verify these so that search engines can easily pull up your information. Search engines like Google are such an integral part of our everyday life—it would be a detriment not to effectively utilize this form of advertising!

Blog

Blogging is a great tool for connecting with your audience and building your reputation. Information shared on your medical practice’s blog not only helps you build credibility as a doctor but also gives your patients insight into your business. Offer health tips, post information on health conditions, or touch on other topics your readers would be interested in.

When used correctly it can support your SEO strategy.

Update regularly

After establishing a website, it can be easy to think that your work has been done. However, it is not quite that simple. Make sure that you are taking the time to update your website on a regular basis.

You do not want patients or potential patients coming across a site with outdated information or old technological functionality. These issues can create distrust or frustration among your patients or leave you open to a hack.

Engage your audience

Show your patients that you care by actively engaging with them. Utilize social media platforms to share information and keep in touch with your patients. Also make sure you are replying to all comments or messages, not just the positive ones. This shows that your practice’s first concern is ensuring patients are taken care of and that their concerns are not being ignored.

Important to note that when replying to comments that are available publicly do not include any personally identifying information.  It is best to direct feedback related comments or questions to a pre approved list of canned HIPAA compliant responses that move those conversations offline or to a more secure environment.

Implement direct marketing techniques

Direct marketing strategies include sending out newsletters, birthday cards, “welcome to the family” greetings for new patients, and even friendly reminders for upcoming appointments. Patients want to feel valued and seen. Direct marketing can be impactful because it creates personalized experiences that make patients feel welcome and more than just another number in your records.

Offer tips

As a doctor, you have knowledge and experience that can benefit your entire community. Use your expertise to educate your community on staying healthy; hold seminars at local events to offer patients tips on a variety of health-related topics. You might even visit schools, nursing homes, and other institutions to educate others. In any case, showing your willingness to help others builds trust.

Ensure top quality care

The best way to win over your patients and ensure that they want to come back? Simply provide them with top-notch care. Maintain quality care, and the good reviews will follow. This method depends upon building a loyal patient base by promoting your practice via word-of-mouth. It may take time to pay off; however, if you are persistent and passionate about everything you do, it will be worth it.

Create a powerful brand

Branding plays a key role in marketing and is a dynamic way for patients to recognize you in the community. Make sure to create a cohesive logo, website, and practice “look” so that your practice is easily identifiable. Focus on creating a memorable experience for your patients. There are great resources on building and defining brands online that can help you with this.

Offer discounts

Make visiting your practice seem more enticing than ever. Discounts may come in the form of free screenings or referral discounts for patients who are introduced to your practice by a current patient. Moreover, discounts can give patients the opportunity to test out your care or explore new services.

Hold webinars

Like blogs, webinars are great for building trust and showing off your expertise. These online speaking events inform your patients on topics they may be interested in while also giving them a chance to engage back. Webinars usually incorporate question and answer sessions or discussions, which can help you connect with the community your medical practice serves.

Advertise openings

Let potential and current patients know that you have time in your schedule by emailing, posting online, or putting up signs that state that you are “Accepting New Patients”. This will signal to people that you want to prioritize them.

Freebies

Personalize pens, notepads, magnets or other free items with your medical practice’s brand and contact information. Then, pass these out to your patients or at various events throughout the community. These little items keep your patients and strangers alike excited. After all, who doesn’t like receiving free things? Not to mention, even a little pen with your name and practice plastered on it is a great way to advertise yourself.

Build professional relationships

Become familiar with other professionals in the area and in your field. They can become critical supporters of your medical practice, and you can even help them build their client bases. They will do the same by referring patients to you.

Paid search campaigns

Paid search campaigns can easily drive your target audience to your social media and website while also targeting patients interested in your private practice’s specific services. Pay-per-click advertising buys you advertising space on search engine results pages–for example, Google, Bing, or Yahoo. The best part is that you only pay if your paid ad is clicked on and you can get in front of higher competitive searches your SEO and content marketing campaigns may have trouble ranking for in the search results when you are new.

Expand services

As your private medical practice continues to grow, consider adding additional staff and services to your practice. This not only attracts new business but creates more loyalty within your patient base, because they may visit your office for multiple services instead of just one. For example, if you are a pediatric orthodontist, you may team up with a general pediatric dentist to offer more services in one office.

Traditional advertising

While digital marketing has grown significantly in the last decade, you shouldn’t overlook the benefits of traditional marketing to attract new patients. In fact, traditional advertising strategies like TV ads are still the most effective based on indicators such as sales and new accounts. Reach out to local radio, newspapers, and TV stations for some of your practice marketing needs. Just remember to target advertising towards your desired audience.

Partner with journalists

Offer to be a medical reference for news articles relating to medicine. This is a great way to gain exposure while establishing your expertise in the medical world. Being cited in a news article as a medical source or as the health column expert helps you foster trust among your current/prospective patients.  While also improving your local SEO and reach.

Connect with your local chamber of commerce

A chamber of commerce is a business network that works to further the goals and interests of businesses. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to community outreach, you can get in contact with your local chamber of commerce to get involved. This network can help you identify areas where you are needed and is also a great way to build relationships with other businesses in the area.

Host an open house

Open houses are a great way to welcome the community to your private practice and help you establish important relationships. Show off your facility and your services to the community by inviting the public to an open house. These events give potential patients a chance to meet your staff and see what your office looks like.

Attend health fairs

Health fairs help you build brand awareness and can help you advertise your services to people who may otherwise have been unaware about you or your practice. Use these events to give back to your community while also speaking to them about the services you offer.  They can also be an effective way to build professional relationships with other providers who can become a great source of referrals.

Publish in journals

Contribute to medical journals or publications to show your knowledge on particular topics. You can build your reputation and credibility by referencing studies and research that your doctors have participated in. These can help assure your patients of your expertise.  White papers also can help in a SEO strategy for building up your brand mentions and backlinks.

Mobile optimization

3.5 billion people in the world own smartphones. Tap into this market by making sure your website is mobile friendly. For example, you might make it so that your patients can call your office simply by tapping a button on your website.

Pamphlets and brochures

Create materials for distribution and information to hand out to your patients when they visit your office. Pamphlets and brochures not only teach a patient about your services and the values and mission of your medical practice, but they are also easy to pass along to others. In addition, you can hand these out at any events you attend.

Email marketing

Stay in touch with your patients and keep the lines of communication strong with email. Emails can include appointment reminders, links to your blog or newsletter, and updates on upcoming events or promotions your practice is holding. This strategy allows you to keep in touch with patients outside of regular office visits.

Don’t forget the patient release documentation to allow you to market to them.

Thank your patients

Let your new and long-time patients know that you appreciate them with handwritten letters. Personalized touches like this remind your patients that you care about their business and will help your practice stand out.

Bonus: Affordable ways to market

There are plenty of marketing ideas out there both for new and established medical practices. For those looking to keep costs down, focus on marketing strategies that you can personally carry out. Learn how to build great social media and other marketing courses in Udemy. However, don’t forget about HIPAA when engaging in social media.

Design apps like Canva offer free basic graphic creating tools while a basic internet search can teach you how to put out helpful content. If spending money on advertisements is too costly, focus on word-of-mouth marketing and building a loyal patient list and find some networking groups to gain professional relationships that will help promote your business through referrals.

The world of marketing is expansive. Take time to test different strategies and find what works best for your medical practice.

How To Market a Private Medical Practice.

As a healthcare provider, your mission is to ensure that your patients are receiving high-quality medical care. When it comes to building a patient base, marketing efforts for private medical practices cannot be overlooked. Having multiple marketing strategies in place will put your private medical practice on the map, enticing prospective patients to seek out your care and expertise.

There are many ways to set your private practice up for success. Below, we offer some of the best strategies for ensuring that your private medical practice receives the attention it deserves.

If you’re a practicing physician or have just finished your residency, you may be considering starting your own medical practice. Although it can feel like a daunting task, the truth is, you’ve already completed the hardest part: becoming an MD or DO. Establishing your practice won’t take nearly as long as completing the degree and postgraduate requirements did–nor will it cost as much!

That said, there are some things to consider before you take the steps to starting your own medical practice: time, expenses, and licensing, just to name a few. Establishing your private practice is much like starting any other business: there are many moving parts to consider. But once you have solidified your plan of action and start researching everything you need to know, opening your practice and taking on patients will likely begin to come naturally.

How exactly do you begin? How do you start a medical practice from the ground up?

Here are some things you should keep in mind!

Hire Someone to Help You Get Started

Even doctors need to consult someone else for help every once in a while. With that in mind, you might consider hiring a consultant to help you get organized and explore your options. A consultant can help you identify where you should establish your practice, how you will design the space to meet your needs, how you’ll organize your staff and patient data, and how much this will all cost.

It might also be helpful to hire a personal assistant to help keep you organized throughout the process, especially if you’re already working for another hospital or private practice. Managing your time and energy will keep your mind clear, and keep the task of establishing your own practice from beginning too overwhelming.

When it comes to your medical website design or marketing you should always consider hiring a HIPAA compliant and minded company or consultant.

How Much Does It Cost To Open A Private Medical Practice?

Costs for opening your own practice will depend upon a number of factors. Where you decide to practice will play the biggest role in determining the overall cost, as real estate and property rental fees vary widely from one state to another; even cities within the same state with just a few miles between them can bear different price tags.

How you choose to furnish the practice, the types of benefits you offer your employees, and the number of employees you’ll need to staff your practice are some other major factors that will determine the total cost of starting your practice.

In total, opening a small-sized practice could range anywhere from $70,000 to $100,000 over the course of just a few months. This estimate covers your insurance, start up costs, and your personal expenses for the first quarter that you’re open for business.  However, some costs can be reduced depending on what you decide to do yourself.

Assuming that you will require a small business loan to get started, having good credit will save you some of the expense associated with the high interest rates of credit cards or loans. If you’re beginning the planning process now, be sure to take your credit history into consideration.

If your credit is not great, make it a priority to improve it as quickly as you can. With good credit, you might be able to find a low-interest loan that can be structured to require interest-only payments for the first year. In doing this, you should be able to establish a decent revenue-flow and salary before you’re required to begin repayment.

How Long Will it Take?

Assuming that you are already practicing as a physician, you should give yourself about six to nine months of planning time before you expect to open your practice. This will give you time to find an appropriate and convenient location and to renovate it to suit your needs, if necessary. It will also give you time to purchase all of the equipment, furniture and materials you’ll need to be business-ready.

You can also spend this time applying for a business license, acquiring the insurance you’ll need, and establishing standard operating procedures for your day-to-day and special-circumstance operations.

That said, the bulk of these decisions should be outlined in your business plan that you’ll need to apply for your loan.

Business Planning

Not only will a business plan be required to secure a loan; it can also serve as a great foundation for conceptualizing what your practice will look like. The business plan should include at least a few detailed pages articulating your plan for financial growth and the services you’ll offer, among other things. Let’s look at each of these in detail:

  • Start with an executive summary. An executive summary is essentially the introduction for your business plan. It should explain your basic business proposal, who it will help or what problem it will solve, your target market, and your financial highlights, like what your major expenses will be, and how you will generate income.
  • The company overview. The company overview will expand upon your practice’s mission statement, legal structure, management team, history, and proposed or general location. The mission statement will require you to consider what your real goals are for the business, aside from the financial ones.
  • Some information about your services. Expand upon your experience as a doctor and what services you plan to provide at your practice.
  • Your marketing plan. For a medical practice, this section is unique. Typically, you’ll want to talk numbers here. You might explain the demographic of your proposed location, what they’re greatest needs will be from a doctor’s office, and how you’ll advertise your services once established. Giving this “numbers portion” of the business plan some context through a story (like, for example, about your grandparents and their aging group of life-long friends and how that translates to the need for a private medical practice) will give you an edge in convincing a loan manager that you’re worth the investment.
  • A list of company milestones. In this section, you’ll establish the long and short-term goals that you hope to reach in the future of your practice. This is a good place to determine concrete deadlines, management terms and budgets for the business.
  • The management team. If you’re going into business with another doctor or other doctors, this is where you’ll talk about their experience and histories as well. Their educational backgrounds can be showcased here, too. If you have an office manager or other individual in place to manage different aspects of the business (ie: a financial manager, a human resources manager, etc.) this is where you’ll highlight the talents of those people and explain their roles within your company.
  • Your financial plan. This can be intimidating for many people. That is hiring a competent personal assistant or accountant may be helpful for this portion of the business plan if it’s overwhelming. To break it down, the financial plan should include the following:
    • Profit and Loss statement
    • Cash flow statement
    • Balance sheet
    • Sales Forecast
    • Personnel Plan
    • Business ratios and break even analysis

(Don’t forget about the office supplies and utilities)

Also It may be helpful to plan for non-payment and if you are going accept private, state medical insurance, medicare, or medicaid.

Staffing Requirements

When considering the staffing requirements for your practice, you’ll need to first consider  its size and scope. Like many businesses, you will need employees to operate various aspects of your practice, including reception, billing, accounting, and marketing. You might decide to hire an office manager, or you may delegate multiple responsibilities to various employees with other medical-related responsibilities (like employing multiple nurses who can also answer the phone and schedule appointments).

According to managemypractice.com, the number of employees you will need will depend on a number of factors. Inefficiency creates the need for more hires. If your employees need to leave their desks to handle multiple responsibilities, you’re losing efficiency. The record-keeping and transcription services you use will also determine whether or not you’ll need additional staff to transcribe and file patient records, or whether you’ll spend more initially for software that will save employee costs in the long run.

As your practice grows, it may be practical to have a specific staff member dedicated solely to answering the phone and scheduling appointments. For a budding practice, being able to accommodate new patients in a timely and friendly manner without being rushed or sidetracked is crucial.

Your patient’s first contact with the office will likely be via phone inquiry or email, and having a dedicated staff member to complete those tasks will make the process smoother for a new, or returning, patient. If you miss a new patient’s inquiry, they are much more likely to try a different practice. That is a patient you cannot afford to lose out on!

You will also need to consider whether or not you’ll be a general medicine practice or offer some specialty services. Depending on your type of practice, you may either need a staff member to organize and set up referrals to other doctors, or have specially trained medical staff on duty full or part-time. These could include X-ray technicians or lab technicians, depending on the type of specimens you plan to process in your office.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to have enough dedicated triage nurses to greet and process patients as they come in for appointments. You may require a physician’s assistant or other medical practitioners as the volume of your practice grows, or if you plan to operate a fairly large practice from day one. Other staff to consider, based on technology, location and operation size include:

  • Medical billing and records staff
  • Records and transcriptionist staff
  • Marketing, advertising and social media account manager
  • Office manager or practice management, if needed

Hiring highly skilled candidates and cross-training employees can help cut down on human resources expenses in the long run. Holding employees to high standards of efficiency is important.

In the beginning, you likely need to closely monitor and modify standard operating procedures in order to find a system that works for your office and needs. Competitive benefits and paid time off will also attract more qualified candidates. This is also another reason to make sure employees are cross trained so that even your small to mid-sized practice can accommodate employee sick and vacation days.

Business Operation and Licensure Requirements

In order to legally practice medicine in your own private practice, there are several licensing (including the obvious medical licenses) and insurance requirements you will need to meet.

One of the first steps you’ll need to take is applying for a National Provider Identifier number. The national provider identifier (NPI) is a HIPAA-required unique identification code that qualifies your practice to accept different insurance types from your prospective patients. More information on how to apply can be found at www.cms.gov.

Your staff members will also need to complete HIPAA and OSHA compliance training prior to practice’s opening. This will ensure that your staff is well-educated on workplace safety operating and reporting procedures and patient confidentiality rights.

Finally, you need to insure your practice; the type of insurance you need will depend upon the nature of your practice. Aside from the standard medical malpractice insurance, you’ll also need to purchase business liability and internal theft coverage.

Insurance rates can vary based on a number of factors, but depend mostly on how many employees will be on your staff. Worker’s compensation insurance can cost upwards of $2000 for a staff of three employees, according to medicaleconomics.com. You may also want to offer health insurance to your employees and make sure that you and your family remain medically insured as you leave your place of employment.

Challenges You May Face

There are many potential challenges in getting your practice off the ground, as is the case with any other type of business. First and foremost, you’ll need to be sure you’ve given yourself enough time to plan. You’ll likely need to work with both your attorney and accountant to draft some of the legal documents and business plan required to get started. Surrounding yourself with a team of professionals that you can trust will take some of the burden off of your shoulders during the startup process.

Finally, remember to take into account any existing contracts you may have signed at your current place of employment. Some employment contracts contain no-competition clauses; as such, you may need to wait it out or have your attorney review the circumstances. Expect delays to occur, especially now that many agencies have employees working remotely for the first time.

Above all else, try to be patient and persistent. Opening your own practice will be challenging, but also rewarding, and doing your research will help create a smoother process for everyone involved!

Bonus: Affordable ways to market

There are plenty of marketing ideas out there both for new and established medical practices. For those looking to keep costs down, focus on marketing strategies that you can personally carry out. Learn how to build great social media and other marketing courses in Udemy.

However, don’t forget about HIPAA when engaging in social media. Design apps like Canva offer free basic graphic creating tools while a basic internet search can teach you how to put out helpful content. If spending money on advertisements is too costly, focus on word-of-mouth marketing and building a loyal patient list and find some networking groups to gain professional relationships that will help promote your business through referrals.

The world of marketing is expansive. Take time to test different strategies and find what works best for your medical practice.

If you run a website for your business, you may have heard the term “search engine optimization” or SEO for short, being thrown around a lot. This isn’t a coincidence either… SEO is really important to ensure people actually find and visit your site at all.

Your rankings in search results (such as Google and Bing) determine whether users will find the link to your website. And you don’t have to be an expert to know, the more people clicking and visiting your site, the more clients, or customers you’ll generate.

So how do you make sure you maximize your SEO and get the best possible rankings for your business? Follow these 10 important tips to improve your ranking, make your website more relevant, and help bring in the money.


First things first: Make sure your site is crawlable.

Before anything, the spiders crawling the internet (bots looking for keywords and data) should be able to find your site. How do you do this? The easiest way to make this happen is to put a sitemap on your site. This tells Google—and people browsing—what pages are on your website. If you’re not tech savvy enough to create one manually, you should consider leaving this one to the professionals… OR if you are on a popular platform such as WordPress there plugins that can help create a sitemap for you.  Popular ones, for example, are Yoast, All in one SEO, RankMath, or Seo Framework.

However, if you do not know how to create a site map the second best option is create a site architecture that makes sense.  For example, homepage, services (with sub service pages), about, contact, blog posts, etc.  Good site structure can help make your site easier to understand from a crawler (bot) perspective.  Think like a user as well.  If your users can easily navigate it means Google can as well.  This can make up for not having a sitemap.  Most site builder sites such as Wix or Squarespace create one automatically however they do not allow you to customize it as much.  Meaning you may have some pages missed if you do not link to them or a signup landing page for a past event rank higher than your service page.

The Site’s Name Matters (Kind of)

Before you write your content and put it on the internet, you have to know that “everything” is in a name, well kind of in a name. If you’re cornering an information niche online, do your best to include your most important keyword (usually what your content is about) on your site’s domain name. For example, if your website is about Brunch, it’ll help your search ranking by having the word “breakfast” “brunch” “lunch” or “food” or both “breakfast” and “lunch” in your URL.

Here is the “Kind of”, you should have something that is industry related in your URL but don’t get hung up on the name.  The URL structure can make up for a Brand domain.  Such as Tabletalk.com/brunch.  Many SEO’s and businesses  get hung up on the name but consider Nike, hotwire.com  (All are brands and none have what they sell in the main domain.)  Keywords in the domain name help boost rankings initially but over time other ranking factors start to take higher precedence.

Your subdomain also plays into your ranking. Going further with the Brunch site example, let’s say you went with “food.com”; naming your subdomain “Brunch.food.com” will likely strengthen your search engine ranking. However, with subdomains they involve more technical setup and more seo considerations than just adding a subfolder  (example.com/example).

Content Matters

Most people’s idea of SEO is just adding or repeating a bunch of keywords over and over until you get enough density to boost your ranking… But what REALLY matters for good search ranking is to produce some relevant and unique content on your site that will help answer a potential customer’s questions, not just a keyword for a search.  Remember behind every keyword is a person searching for an answer.

Of course, being in a niche helps, it only makes sense—the more niche your site’s content is, the less likely it is you’ll have competition in the relevant keywords. And the better the quality of your content is, the more likely people will click on it. Also, the keywords should be present in your page or article’s headline or title. (This is usually the first thing people will see in the search results so remind them why yours is the best answer!)

With your content you should also focus on the main topic then start to branch out from there. Look at this guide, each of these SEO tips could have quite a few blog posts devoted to each one.  Think like a librarian, each subject is categorized with supporting subject matter connected in each section.

But Make Sure It’s ORIGINAL Content

While you do need to have unique content on your site, make sure that it’s also original, not just stuff you’ve found on other sites. Obviously, the more unique and original it is, the less likely it’s going to appear on other sources. And the more original content you have, the more diverse your offerings are, and the stronger your site’s relevance will be. Cover all your bases, and people will be more likely to click on your link too.  Use a plagiarism checker like Copyscape.com to check your content.  (It can also track down competitors stealing your content.)

Is Your Content Clickable?

On one hand, while increasing your search ranking is going to help you become more easily accessible when people search for a keyword, it would be irrelevant if nobody clicks on it because it’s not relevant to them.

So even though you’ve done enough to improve your ranking, you need to make sure you present your content and title in a way that’s compelling and enticing enough for people to click.

Usually, this is done via good metadata writing—meaning, the part of the page’s description and title that shows up on the results page. It’s not exactly a simple thing to nail, and you may need the help from some experienced writers if you’re not one yourself. Just make sure it’s too good to resist, and the clicks will come.  (The plugins mentioned for WordPress insearch meta titles and meta descriptions into your pages if you want to customize them).

Most website builders have a section they title SEO (incorrectly since there is much more to SEO than just titles and descriptions, remember that class we have). The default for most websites if you do not set a custom metadata, is your page title and first 300 characters (Google only shows about the first 60 for title and 150 for page description.)  Google will also search your page and create one but it might not be what you want them to show.  If you are familiar with code you can insert your metadata into the page header <head > but we do not want to encourage people to mess with their code if they do not take some time to read up on it because it can cause undesirable issues with your site.  However, now most website platforms have either plugins or fields they call SEO for pages.  The list of plugins we mentioned earlier for WordPress all allow you to edit this metadata.

Try To Write A Lot Of ‘Relevant’ Content

This also goes into the substance of your site’s content. Length is a big factor in Google and other search engines’ determination of whether your site is authoritative in the particular field you’re trying to capture. The longer (aka the more text you have) your article or page content is, the more likely the page will show up higher in results.

BUT also remember that answering a searcher’s question takes a higher priority.  Don’t just write to write.  A great example of this is to search for “Is it Christmas”  Then we can talk about page length. 🙂

Try To Get ‘Shoutouts’ Or Backlinks From Other Sites (And your own site too!)

It’s not just the content on your site that matters to a search engine, but also whether other websites know you’re relevant. Because the spiders will also look at other sites and note which link back to yours (hence the term Backlink). Having others backlink to you signifies that your website is a potentially  important source for the content for a topic (ideally your target  keywords).  The more quality links (that are relevant) create a stronger signal that your site is an authority on those key terms.

It’s not just external sources linking back to you that matter. Interlinking between pages in your site also helps—but make sure you don’t overdo it, or else the spiders will know and you’ll get penalized by the search engines. Just try to do it naturally.  If you have something that is valuable for a reader and it makes sense to link to it internally, do it.  Internal linking has a very strong impact on search rankings.  (this is not just the navigation menus and footers but call to actions, text links, images, and buttons.

Try getting your site linked back from other websites with the same kind of content, as well as peppering your content with links to your other pages, and you’ll see your ranking increase gradually. If done correctly.  (Did we mention we offer training and consulting?)

Write Your Keywords Based on What You’d Search Yourself

Sprinkling your site’s content with SEO keywords is actually how you get yourself found on search engines. That’s the easy part, and you should know that by now. But you may be wondering:

Which keywords do I use?

Simple—not only the generic, broad stuff your content falls under, but also using phrases, synonyms, and relevant questions and answers work really well.

Think of yourself as the searcher, and which words you’re actually going to type in the search engine. If your site is about, say, making aquarium landscapes, “aquarium landscapes” is one keyword, but “how to make an aquascape” is another one you could consider including in the content piece.  Using a keyword research tool such as Semrush  Or Spyfu can help you find and understand search volumes with those terms.

Make Your Content Keyword-Dense (But Don’t Spam Them!)

These keywords should not only go into tags (If you have multiple content pieces that are related topics you can tag them), but they should also be present in your content as well. Google and other search engines tend to look at keyword density, which calculates how dense your text is with the keywords you’ve chosen to use.

How do you calculate keyword density? Simple—take a specific keyword, count how many times it appears in your content, divide that number with the total word count in your article or page, and then multiply the result by 100.  We also include a media keyword alternative tag and file name keyword count to get a range but you have to view the source code.

You can analyze other top results on the search term you are targeting to see what they have as well to give you a baseline of the average potential density you might want to shoot for.  This is just a guideline to help in content planning and to see if you may have too many keywords.

Media Can Help Boost Rankings

The media you use on a site, such as images and videos, can also be optimized to increase your ranking. You can include your important keywords in your image’s ALT tags and filenames as well, and those spiders will be crawling through those and adding them up to your score, per say.

This can also help in boosting your site’s images, or videos in image and video search results, and the same rules apply—the higher those images /videos are on the search results, the more likely people will click on the links to your site. They also help fill your brand searches with more content.

Also, you should consider balancing the text in your page and/or site with an appropriate amount of images, as visuals will make a bigger impression on your readers and visitors. Balancing is an art of not too many and not too few.  Think of breaking up the text to give readers a visual break.

Remember, these aren’t super hard-and-fast rules; their application always depends on how much text and content you need to and will write on your site. Just make sure to not spam your pages with too many keywords and spammy metadata, and eventually, you may start seeing results in your search rankings on track for increases.

If you want more technical and hands on training and more Value Bombs like that last one: Reach out.  Besides SEO Consulting and “done for you” SEO packages.

We also offer one of the only no fluff courses that have a dedicated instructor lab (side by side time) after each class as well as small class sizes for local Twin Cities attendees.  As well as live stream options and playback for those who can’t make it.  We take you from beginner to intermediate SEO to help you see real rankings increases by the end of the course.

What Platform Should Your Practice Choose For Its Website?

When considering HIPAA compliance, choosing a CMS platform to build your website on is daunting.  Choosing the wrong one can cause a host of issues: revenue, costly rebuilds, potential fines, and headaches.

Should care about your website as much as your electronic health record system?  You should read our post about commonly overlooked HIPAA risks or take our HIPAA risk quiz.

There are many options to choose from (literally hundreds) we would love to analyze all of them but that post would be massive.

We have laid out a helpful table for each platform (for those who want a quick answer) as well as a more in-depth review of each platform.

 

*Full disclosure:  If you use our affiliate link for Hushmail you get a lifetime discount on their service and we get a small amount for referring you.  However, do not mistake that as influencing our decision to include them in this post.  Any of our affiliate choices are only based on quality of service and if they align with giving value to our clients (discounts or upgrades).   All of the forms listed offer a great service and were chosen for quality of service.

Drupal

Free
  • The platform is Free. The monthly cost depends on the host.

  • 4.8

  • Standard MySql database with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported

  • Drupal has a robust security team and is utilized because of their security. In addition to Drupal Security you can utilize Sucuri for an additional layer of protection. Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns. Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking, (Blocks unusual admin logins from unknown IPs), and much more. These are only part of a HIPAA security solution and do not replace good security practices.

  • Depends on the host. Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

  • Drupal is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant. There are many HIPAA Compliant Web Design Agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement.

  • Recommended. If you are a larger organization and need a more robust platform, Drupal is trusted by many banking, government organizations, and large health care providers.

WordPress

Free
  • The platform is Free. The monthly cost depends on the host.

  • 4.6

  • Standard MySql database with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported

  • Top 3rd party security solutions for WordPress are Wordfence and Sucuri. However, Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns while Wordfence does not speak to HIPAA anywhere on their site. Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking, Whitelist IP (Blocks unusual admin login's from unknown IPs), and much more. Wordfence is also a great plugin for security and some protection is better than none.

  • Depends on the host. Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

  • WordPress is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant. There are many HIPAA Compliant Web Design Agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement.

  • Recommended. WordPress can be built in a way that is HIPAA compliant. Some of the highest traffic sites online are built on WordPress. It is a great choice for a HIPAA compliant website. Making a compliant site on WordPress can be affordable as well. There are many tools to assist you in building your own site even if you have limited coding skills. If you build your own site it is important that you carefully vet what you install on your site. It is advised that you utilize a HIPAA consultant or a web designer that understands the risks and can recommend compliant options.

Squarespace

$16-46/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $16 to $46.

  • 3.6
  • Squarespace does not support with MySql Database and can't be connected externally

  • Provided by Squarespace. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt through with support.
  • States that their servers and most parts of the platform are not HIPAA compliant, including their forms. They recommend you use a HIPAA compliant third party service Acuity Scheduling. (That is cover their own butt speak).Squarespace integrates analytics, logs your visitor's IP addresses, and your patients will interact with the site. All of this becomes PHI if they can be used to identify your patient. You are also responsible if they suffer a breach or your site is hacked. As thousands of sites found out in 2018.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk and performance. If you understand the risk that you may fail an audit if you have a breach then Squarespace can be an option. We don't advise our clients to use it for this reason. The performance of the site in terms of load speed and limited search engine optimization options also make Squarespace less than ideal.

WIX

$13-500/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $13 to $500

  • 3.2
  • A database can only connect to an externally hosted one through custom API

  • Security is only provided by WIX. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt with through support.
  • HIPAA is not addressed on the Wix site. It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk. The performance of the sites on this platform have been less than ideal for most. While they did a rebranding campaign advertising new search engine optimization tools, in the greater professional web development community, Wix still comes up short.

Weebly

$5-38/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $5.0 to $38

  • 2.3
  • Platform does not support with MySql Database and cant be connected externally

  • Security is only provided by Weebly. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt through support.
  • HIPAA is not addressed on the Wix site. It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk. Weebly has lagged behind in terms of website builders. It was acquired by Square in 2018. The potential for this platform to become better is possible with the backing of Square. This may become a good alternative for small providers in the future.

Drupal

Free
  • The platform is Free. The monthly cost depends on the host.

  • 4.8

  • Standard MySql database with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported

  • Drupal has a robust security team and is utilized because of their security. In addition to Drupal Security you can utilize Sucuri for an additional layer of protection. Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns. Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking, (Blocks unusual admin logins from unknown IPs), and much more. These are only part of a HIPAA security solution and do not replace good security practices.

  • Depends on the host. Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

  • Drupal is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant. There are many HIPAA Compliant Web Design Agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement.

  • Recommended. If you are a larger organization and need a more robust platform, Drupal is trusted by many banking, government organizations, and large health care providers.

WordPress

Free
  • The platform is Free. The monthly cost depends on the host.

  • 4.6

  • Standard MySql database with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported

  • Top 3rd party security solutions for WordPress are Wordfence and Sucuri. However, Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns while Wordfence does not speak to HIPAA anywhere on their site. Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking, Whitelist IP (Blocks unusual admin login's from unknown IPs), and much more. Wordfence is also a great plugin for security and some protection is better than none.

  • Depends on the host. Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

  • WordPress is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant. There are many HIPAA Compliant Web Design Agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement.

  • Recommended. WordPress can be built in a way that is HIPAA compliant. Some of the highest traffic sites online are built on WordPress. It is a great choice for a HIPAA compliant website. Making a compliant site on WordPress can be affordable as well. There are many tools to assist you in building your own site even if you have limited coding skills. If you build your own site it is important that you carefully vet what you install on your site. It is advised that you utilize a HIPAA consultant or a web designer that understands the risks and can recommend compliant options.

Squarespace

$16-46/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $16 to $46.

  • 3.6
  • Squarespace does not support with MySql Database and can't be connected externally

  • Provided by Squarespace. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt through with support.
  • States that their servers and most parts of the platform are not HIPAA compliant, including their forms. They recommend you use a HIPAA compliant third party service Acuity Scheduling. (That is cover their own butt speak).Squarespace integrates analytics, logs your visitor's IP addresses, and your patients will interact with the site. All of this becomes PHI if they can be used to identify your patient. You are also responsible if they suffer a breach or your site is hacked. As thousands of sites found out in 2018.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk and performance. If you understand the risk that you may fail an audit if you have a breach then Squarespace can be an option. We don't advise our clients to use it for this reason. The performance of the site in terms of load speed and limited search engine optimization options also make Squarespace less than ideal.

WIX

$13-500/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $13 to $500

  • 3.2
  • A database can only connect to an externally hosted one through custom API

  • Security is only provided by WIX. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt with through support.
  • HIPAA is not addressed on the Wix site. It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk. The performance of the sites on this platform have been less than ideal for most. While they did a rebranding campaign advertising new search engine optimization tools, in the greater professional web development community, Wix still comes up short.

Weebly

$5-38/mo
  • The monthly cost varies from $5.0 to $38

  • 2.3
  • Platform does not support with MySql Database and cant be connected externally

  • Security is only provided by Weebly. They offer passive scanning periodically. Not real-time. Hacking issues are dealt through support.
  • HIPAA is not addressed on the Wix site. It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

  • No

  • Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk. Weebly has lagged behind in terms of website builders. It was acquired by Square in 2018. The potential for this platform to become better is possible with the backing of Square. This may become a good alternative for small providers in the future.

Drupal Features & HIPAA Compliance

Drupal Overview

Drupal is a free open source platform that can be used by groups or individuals to manage a website with large volumes of content or users. It can be very user friendly but it has to be built that way.

Drupal is commonly chosen by larger organizations who need a highly secure website. The platform is light weight and fully customization which is great for developing a responsive website.

Platform is Free.  Monthly cost depends on host.

Yes

4.8 Out of 5

Standard with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported.

Yes

Yes

Drupal has a robust security team and is utilized because of their security.  In addition to Drupal Security you can utilize Sucuri for an additional layer of protection.

Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns.

Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking,

(Blocks unusual admin logins from unknown IPs),

 and much more. 

These are only part of a HIPAA security solution and do not replace good security practices. 

Depends on the host.  Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

Drupal is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant.

There are many HIPAA compliant web design agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement. Just make sure you do your due diligence. 

That depends on how the site is built.  Drupal is an open source content managment platform that you host and build your website on.  That means if you do not have a HIPAA compliant hosting, a server set up correctly, and your forms are not built compliantly then it is not. However, HIPAA compliant hosting can be slightly cost prohibitive for smaller practices.

You can embed a HIPAA compliant form into Drupal for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack. Most electronic health record systems also have options to embed into or connect to your site.

It is important to note that if you are building on Drupal you web design agency will likely already choose a HIPAA compliant host and create a custom form.

Recommended. 

 

If you are larger organization and need a more robust platform, Drupal is trusted by many banking, government organizations, and large health care providers.  

Key Features Of Drupal

Custom domain and any email service

Bring your own domain name and email service of choice.

Security

What sets Drupal apart is their commitment to security. They have a dedicated security team to ensure the infrastructure is secure and new threats are addressed timely. By hiring a good web developer, Drupal can maintain HIPAA data integrity and confidentiality. Just being on Drupal does not make your secure but it does help.

Ease Of Use

Drupal site owners can set up a good-looking site but they need HTML or CSS knowledge.  There are some pre-made themes out there as well as marketplaces.  It is important to remember that Drupal is geared towards larger sites and developers.  But a Developer can make a very easy to use and edit site on Drupal.

Performance

The platform is built lightly so the Drupal platform will not be the reason for a slower site.  A good website developer can create custom code that performs exceptionally on Drupal.

Hosting

Drupal can be hosted on nearly any HIPAA compliant host or self-hosted.  The server just has to have Drupal installed.  Drupal Does have a list of prefered hosts here.  This means Drupal can connect or create any database or web application API without limitation. In laymen’s terms you have more flexibility.

Drupal Drawbacks

While the platform is free the cost quickly mounts due to the need for custom code. Like WordPress, Drupal has many “plugins” or modules. However, unlike WordPress, to get them to do what you want will require a developer. Think of Drupal modules as frameworks made by developers for developers on a truly open source platform. While WordPress is consumer focused and a majority of plugins only do some of what they say and have bloatware (extra code or gated sales pitches) that can slow down a site significantly the more that are used.

Are Drupal forms HIPAA compliant?

That depends on how the site is built.  Drupal is an open source content managment platform that you host and build your website on.  That means if you do not have a HIPAA compliant hosting, a server set up correctly, and your forms are not built compliantly then it is not. However, HIPAA compliant hosting can be slightly cost prohibitive for smaller practices.

You can embed a HIPAA compliant form into Drupal for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack. Most electronic health record systems also have options to embed into or connect to your site.

It is important to note that if you are building on Drupal you web design agency will likely already choose a HIPAA compliant host and create a custom form.

How much is the true cost of a Drupal site?

Most Drupal site range from $30,000-$60,000 with additional costs depending on organizational requirements. That cost is largely development costs. Unless you are a clinician who is also a web developer, then the cost would be time and server costs.

Do not let the custom Drupal price tag fool you.

The Verdict

A custom Drupal site has more flexibility and lower cost in the long run for larger organizations in terms of performance and security. Because all or a majority of the code is custom, the potential for hacking is much lower. WordPress is the largest platform for creating websites and this makes it a common a target for hackers of all skill levels. Drupal has a much smaller user base and typically requires more advanced hackers to exploit. Both WordPress and Drupal can be very secure with the right web developers.

Drupal has an edge over WordPress when your clinic is much larger and handles more ePHI.

We highly recommend Drupal if you can afford development costs.

WordPress Features & HIPAA Compliance

WordPress.org VS. WordPress.com

WordPress.org is the open source version of WordPress that has a robust developer community and flexibility.  WordPress.com is the for-profit provider of WordPress hosting that has limited options in terms of development and limited plugins. Nearly all the plugin’s on WordPress.com are premium and have limited customization.  Also WordPress.com sites are only hosted by WordPress.com and they provide the security updates and server maintenance.

 

* This review of WordPress, is for WordPress.org.

Overview of WordPress.org

WordPress powers a third of all of the top websites on the internet. It was originally built to be an open source blogging platform but quickly became a powerhouse for other web content. It is now one of the largest content management system online.

WordPress is great for small to mid-sized clinics and solo practitioners.  However, it can be a security risk if you do not take proper steps to secure your site. That is why working with a Web designer who understands security and HIPAA is important.

Platform is Free.  Monthly cost depends on host.

Yes

4.6 Out of 5

Standard with most hosts. Integrates well and fully supported.

Yes

Yes

Top 3rd party security solutions for WordPress are Wordfence and Sucuri.  

However, Sucuri addresses HIPAA concerns while Wordfence does not speak to HIPAA anywhere on their site.

Sucuri provides website firewall, CDN, active hardening, site scanning for malware and hacks, malware/ hack fixes, IP Blocking, Whitelist IP (Blocks unusual admin login's from unknown IPs), and much more.

Wordfence is also a great plugin for security and some protection is better than none.

Both solutions are only part of a HIPAA security solutions and do not replace good security practices.

Depends on the host.  Some hosts explicitly state they are not compliant and will not sign a business associate agreement.

WordPress is a content management system and not a packaged platform. It can be built in a way that is compliant. 

 

There are many HIPAA Compliant Web Design Agencies and hosting providers who will sign a business associate agreement. Just make sure you do your due diligence. 

That depends on how the site is built.  WordPress is an open source content managment platform that you host and build your website on.  That means if you do not have a HIPAA compliant hosting, a server set up correctly, and your forms are not built compliantly then it is not. However, HIPAA compliant hosting can be slightly cost prohibitive for smaller practices.

You can embed a HIPAA compliant form into WordPress for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack. Most electronic health record systems also have options to embed into or connect to your site.

Recommended.

 

WordPress can be built in a way that is HIPAA compliant.  Some of the highest traffic sites online are built on WordPress. It is a great choice for a HIPAA compliant website.

Making a compliant site on WordPress can be affordable as well.

There are many tools to assist you in building your own site even if you have limited coding skills.

 

If you build your own site it is important that you carefully vet what you install on your site.  It is advised that you utilize a HIPAA consultant or a web designer that understands the risks and can recommend compliant options. 

Key Features Of WordPress

Custom domain and any email service

Bring your own domain name and email service of choice.

Security

WordPress can be built very secure if your web developer knows what they are doing.  However, due to the popularity of the platform it does suffer more hacking attempts.  There are also 3rd party sites selling plugins and themes that are compromised.  There have been plugins that were available to download that were really malware. The convenience of installing a plugin or a new theme can lead to data breach if they are not properly vetted.

Ease Of Use

WordPress site owners can set up a good-looking site without much HTML or CSS knowledge.  With the Gutenberg update pages can be built with some more design options, there are also page builders, and pre-made themes.

Performance

While WordPress is not a light as other content management systems it can make a site that performs great if it is built right. Unfortunately, it can easily be bogged down by needless plugins, poorly developed themes to name a few issues. Typically, new site owners installing a plugin to do something that is easier and faster to do with a few lines of code.

Hosting

WordPress can be hosted on nearly any HIPAA compliant host or self-hosted.  This means WordPress can connect or create any database or web application API without limitation. In layman’s terms you have more flexibility.

WordPress Drawbacks

WordPress can be very un-secure and slow if built improperly.

You can’t set it and forget it. WordPress, themes, and 3rd party plugins have regular updates that are recommended because new vulnerabilities or bugs are discovered.

However, these updates can also have unexpected interactions on the site and can break sites if they are not tested. A regular backup schedule is recommended (it is good to backup your site no matter the platform you are on).

Performance can be degraded if you have a high-volume site.

High amounts of content can become difficult to work with in WordPress.

Are WordPress forms HIPAA compliant?

That depends on how the site is built.  WordPress is an open source content managment platform that you host and build your website on.  That means if you do not have a HIPAA compliant hosting, a server set up correctly, and your forms are not built compliantly then it is not. However, HIPAA compliant hosting can be slightly cost prohibitive for smaller practices.

You can embed a HIPAA compliant form into WordPress for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack. Most electronic health record systems also have options to embed into or connect to your site.

How much does a WordPress site cost?

A WordPress site can range in price.  Sites can range from $1,000– $15,000+ depending on what you need.  A good rule of thumb, sites under a $1,000 are going to be more of a template theme set up with little to no customization, or fully outsourced out of the country.  Both have concerns with potential HIPAA violations and future ePHI. We have seen sites where they had a backdoor placed in the site by the outsourced web developer or all form data was logged and copies sent to the web “guy”.  You get what you pay for but also understand that with HIPAA the “get what you pay for” might also be a fine much much higher than the cost of a fully customized site.  (Since HIPAA fine caps per year range from $50k- $1.5 million)

In general, a WordPress site typically costs less than a Drupal site however, costs can become comparable if complex requirements are added.

The Verdict On WordPress

A custom or premade WordPress site has more flexibility and lower cost in the long run for solo practitioners, small to larger organizations in terms of performance and security. Because all or a majority of the code is custom, the potential for hacking is much lower. WordPress is the largest platform for creating websites and this makes it a common a target for hackers of all skill levels. Drupal has a much smaller user base and typically requires more advanced hackers to exploit. Both WordPress and Drupal can be very secure with the right web developers.

 

WordPress can be built in a way that is HIPAA compliant.  Some of the highest traffic sites online are built on WordPress. It is a great choice for a HIPAA compliant website.

Making a complaint site on WordPress can be affordable as well.

There are many tools to assist you in building your own site even if you have limited coding skills.

 

If you build your own site it is important that you carefully vet what you install on your site.  It is advised that you utilize a HIPAA consultant or a web designer that understands the risks and can recommend compliant options.

Drupal has an edge over WordPress when your clinic is much larger and handles more ePHI.

We highly recommend Drupal if you can afford development costs.

Squarespace Features & HIPAA Compliance

Overview of Squarespace

The Squarespace platform is a drag and drop grid website builder that uses pre-made templates that users can customize. It has grown in populularity due to it's ease of use and quick ablity to get a site up and running.

$16- $46 Monthly

Yes

3.6 Out of 5

Not supported

No

No

Security is only provided by Squarespace. They offer passive scanning periodically.  Not real-time.  Hacking issues are dealt through support.

States that their servers and most parts of the platform are not HIPAA compliant, including their forms. They recommend you use a HIPAA compliant third party service Acuity Scheduling. (That is cover their own butt speak).

 

Squarespace integrates analytics, logs your visitor's IP addresses, and your patients will interact with the site. All of this becomes PHI if they can be used to identify your patient. You are also responsible if they suffer a breach or your Squarespace site is hacked.  As thousands of sites found out in 2018.

No

No.  Squarespace states thier forms are not HIPAA compliant and they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a HIPAA compliant form into Squarespace for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

Not Recommended based of HIPAA Risk and performance.

 

If you understand the risk that you may fail an audit if you have a breach then Squarespace can be an option.  We don't advise our clients to use it for this reason.  

 

The performance of the site in terms of load speed and  limited search engine optimization options also make Squarespace less than ideal.

Key Features Of Squarespace

Custom domain and any email service

Bring your own domain name and email service of choice.

Security

You do not have control over your website’s security.  You get passive scanning of your website and for basic websites that do not handle ePHI this can be perfectly fine.  However, since hacking and malware issues are not identified in real-time and hacking issues are dealt through technical support, your site could be compromised for a while. With HIPAA that could translate into a significant breach.

Ease Of Use

Squarespace is very user friendly and the drag and drop editor can build a great looking website both on desktop and mobile, if you have time to build it.  You can also customize through HTML and CSS or hire a Squarespace designer to build the site you want.

Performance

This gets tricky since a Squarespace site can perform well but typically speed is an issue.  If your site loads slowly there a few things you can do to optimize such as uploading properly optimized images but the limiting factor is the Squarespace platform itself. Such as:  How it pulls resources into a page can be edited slightly if you know how to code and pay for the higher tier plans. Also limiting the amount of inline CSS but you risk breaking the site completely.

Hosting

Squarespace is only hosted by Squarespace. Their servers are also not HIPAA compliant.

Squarespace Drawbacks

First and foremost, Squarespace explicitly states they are not HIPAA compliant and their forms are not as well. The form you can use is Acuity for HIPAA but that does not ensure that you are compliant.

Security is not up to par when it comes to HIPAA. Like we said in the table Squarespace has been hacked recently causing thousands of sites to have a data breach.

Customization for slightly complex (or not that complex) requirements that need server access to implement efficiently are virtually nonexistent.

Are Squarespace forms HIPAA compliant?

No.  Like we said earlier, Squarespace states thier forms are not HIPAA compliant and they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a HIPAA compliant form into Squarespace for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

How much does a Squarespace site cost?

Monthly costs range from $16- $46 with a discount if paid annually. If you hire a web designer costs vary greatly depending on your requirements and the designer’s fees.  Because of the ease of use there are a lot of overpriced novice designers. (Remember you get what you pay for, in this case you may pay more for less.)

The Verdict On Squarespace

We do not recommend Squarespace for those under HIPAA (We also don't reccomend it for businesses that are not under HIPAA for SEO and performance reasons).  If in the future Squarespace changes their servers to be compliant and fix the performance issues then it can be a decent option for solo practices or small clinics.

However, at this time it is a business risk decision that falls on the owner.

If you are dead set on using Squarespace you can embed Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack for at least a basic HIPAA compliant form that transfers securely to their servers.  This will limit the risk of a data breach in contact form data.

WIX Features & HIPAA Compliance

Overview of WIX

The WIX platform is a cloud-based drag and drop grid website builder that users can customize. WIX is an Israeli based company.

$13-$500 Monthly

Yes

3.2 Out of 5

Only can connect to an externally hosted database through a custom API and adaptor to translate requests.

No

No

Security is only provided by WIX. They offer passive scanning periodically.  Not real-time.  Hacking issues are dealt through support.

HIPAA is not address on the Wix site.  It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

No

No.  Out of the box, WIX forms are not HIPAA compliant because they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a HIPAA compliant form into wix for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

Not Recommended based of HIPAA Risk and performance.

The performance of the sites on this platform have been less than ideal for most.  While they did a re-branding campaign advertising new search engine optimization tools, in the greater professional web development community, Wix still comes up short.

Key Features Of WIX

Custom domain and any email service

Bring your own domain name and email service of choice.

Security

You do not have control over your website’s security.  You get passive scanning of your website and for basic websites that do not handle ePHI this can be perfectly fine.  However, since hacking and malware issues are not identified in real-time and hacking issues are dealt through technical support, your site could be compromised for a while. With HIPAA that could translate into a significant breach.

Ease Of Use

WIX is very user friendly and the drag and drop editor can build a great looking website if you have time to build it. Unlike Squarespace you can build much faster on WIX.  You can also customize through HTML and CSS or hire a WIX designer to build the site you want.

Like WordPress they have their own plugins and 3rd party plugins. Which makes integrating features if you are not tech savvy easier. This also means the site can slow down the more you add.

Performance

WIX sites have had performance issues and even after they have added Search Engine Optimization “tools” they still perform less than optimal.

We have moved many sites off WIX and almost immediately have seen a boost in organic traffic and performance.  Just saying.

That being said there are some very well performing sites on the WIX platform but those are on the higher paid plans.  Those are WIX powered but everything else is custom built.  Which means they can limit the bloat their 3rd party plugins can cause.

We will give credit to WIX. WIX has been working hard at cleaning up their image and performance issues.  The platform has improved since it started.

Hosting

WIX is only hosted by WIX. They do not address HIPAA in any documentation. Since they are an overseas company if you get a Business Associate Agreement (which we have not seen they provide) there are additional costs with more risk assessments required by HHS that are put on the healthcare provider or vendor.  Which doesn’t provide an incentive for WIX to cater to, and why would they since HIPAA and HITECH doesn’t currently apply to them.  In short do not send ePHI through any of their servers.

Unlike Squarespace you can connect your externally hosted database to your WIX site through a workaround.  This means WIX has more flexibility than Squarespace for custom coded sites.

WIX Drawbacks

HIPAA is big drawback for WIX.  Unlike Squarespace which is US based and has to address HIPAA, WIX is not and has chosen not to open the door to unneeded litigation or HITECH audits.

Squarespace has slightly better performance than WIX and their sites tend to look better due to the grid-based design.  We know that “look better” is subjective. In this case we are talking about the ability to move items where you want while staying in line with other elements.  You can also design mobile easier in this builder for Squarespace over WIX's builder.

Are wix forms HIPAA compliant?

No.  Out of the box WIX forms are not HIPAA compliant because they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a HIPAA compliant form into wix for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

How much does a WIX site cost?

The monthly cost for WIX ranges from $13-$500 (with discounts for paying yearly). They charge more to unlock more features.  This is not for the development of the site but just to use the platform features and the cost can go up depending on what plugins you decide to purchase.   Like Squarespace the cost to develop a site depends on the designer.

The Verdict On WIX

Like Squarespace we do not recommend WIX for those under HIPAA (or other businesses).  It is unlikely that WIX will invest in becoming HIPAA Compliant in the future.  If they fix the performance issues then it could be a decent option if you do not collect form data.

However, at this time with so many other compliant platforms that perform much better there isn’t really a reason to use WIX as a first, second, or even third choice for covered entities.

If you are dead set on using WIX you can embed a Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack form for at least a basic HIPAA compliant form that transfers securely to their servers.  This will limit the risk of a data breach in contact form data.

Weebly Features & HIPAA Compliance

Overview of Weebly

The Weebly platform is a widget-based drag-and-drop website builder that users can customize. Weebly is a US based company that was recently acquired by Square Inc in 2018. (Not to be confused with Squarespace)

$5-$38 Monthly

Yes*

2.3 Out of 5

Not Supported.

No

No

Security is only provided by Weebly. They offer passive scanning periodically.  Not real-time.  Hacking issues are dealt through support.

HIPAA is not addressed on the Weebly site. It has to be assumed they are not compliant.

No

No.  Out of the box Weebly forms are not HIPAA compliant because they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a hipaa compliant form into Weebly for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

Not Recommended based off HIPAA Risk.

Weebly has lagged behind in terms of website builders. It was acquired by Square in 2018. The potential for this platform to become better is possible with the backing of Square.  This may become a good alternative for small providers in the future.

 

Key Features Of Weebly

Custom domain and any email service

Free domain with the .weebly.com, custom domain*, and any email service.

*Bring your own domain name if it ends in, .weebly.com, .com, .net, .org, co, .info, or .us.

Security

You do not have control over your website’s security.  You get passive scanning of your website and for basic websites that do not handle ePHI this can be perfectly fine.  However, since hacking and malware issues are not identified in real-time and hacking issues are dealt through technical support, your site could be compromised for a while. With HIPAA that could translate into a significant breach.

Ease Of Use

Weebly is less flexible than Squarespace or WIX.  With both Squarespace and WIX you can edit your fonts, arrangements, literally everything.  With Weebly you have fewer options in their drag and drop widgets.  The issue with their widgets, if you want to customize the location you will need CSS and HTML knowledge.  Do not take this as a bad thing Weebly is slightly easier to use since it has less options to mess up.  However, you can break your site or lose your work a little easier with Weebly (no undo option).

Don't mistake easier to use for great design, it takes a lot of skill, and custom code to do that.

Performance

Weebly sites have had performance issues (adding functionality that commonly comes with other platforms is plugin based and lowers performance) and they have added Search Engine Optimization “tools” they still perform less than optimally than Wix or Squarespace.  In the SEO community most answers to Weebly SEO is "move off it."

We have moved many sites off Weebly and almost immediately have seen a boost in organic traffic and performance.

Hosting

Weebly is only hosted by Weebly. Like Wix, they do not address HIPAA in any documentation.  In short do not send ePHI through any of their servers.

Weebly Drawbacks

Performance issues as well as HIPAA are big drawbacks for Weebly.  Weebly has chosen not to open the door to unneeded litigation or HITECH audits.

Squarespace and Wix have slightly better performance than Weebly and their sites tend to look better and have a more modern feel.  However, recent updates have added modern elements such as adding H1-H6 html tags.  However, that is a plugin add-on and not part of the platform.

Are Weebly forms HIPAA compliant?

No.  Out of the box Weebly forms are not HIPAA compliant because they do not currently sign a business associate agreement.  However, you can embed a HIPAA compliant form into Weebly for a less than optimal solution.  Using a HIPAA compliant 3rd party service such as Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack.

How much does a Weebly site cost?

The monthly cost for Weebly ranges from $0-$29 (with discounts for paying yearly). They charge more to unlock more features.  This is not for the development of the site but just to use the platform features and the cost can go up depending on what plugins you decide to purchase.   Like Squarespace and WIX the cost to develop a site depends on the designer.  (Any reputable web designer won't work on Weebly.)

The Verdict On Weebly

Like Squarespace and Wix, we do not recommend Weebly for those under HIPAA (or other businesses).  There is potential that Weebly will invest in becoming HIPAA Compliant in the future.  If they fix the performance issues then it could be a decent option if you do collect form data.

However, at this time with so many other compliant platforms that perform much better there isn’t really a reason to use Weebly as a first, second, or even third choice for covered entities.

If you are dead set on using Weebly you can embed Hushmail, Jotform, or Formstack form for at least a basic HIPAA compliant form that transfers securely to their servers.  This will limit the risk of a data breach in contact form data.

With Square's payment processing power, developers, and financial backing there is some potential that Weebly may change into a player.  We just wouldn't hold our breath or risk putting a practice on it.

Conclusion

Drupal is a winner for large clinics with a large volumes of content, followed  closely by WordPress. A website is only as good as the person or website designer who builds it.  Websites can be built in a compliant way depending on how you use them.  Some platforms are much more risky than others and add performance issues they can limit your practice's profitablity.  While they are easy to forget in your HIPAA audits; websites, social media, and other digital properties, they are becoming a leading cause of HIPAA fines.  If you work with a developer who doesn't understand the complextities of HIPAA you may put your practice at risk.

Comments or Feedback?

Still feeling overwhelmed in choosing what to build your website on?

Do you have a platform you want us to review or features we missed?

We will keep this blog updated with any new updates or features.

 

Why not leave your comments below or reach out to us?

15 Website Design Trends to Avoid

15 Website Design Trends to Avoid

Table of Contents Website Design Trends to Avoid1. Stock photos2. External links opening in the same tab3. Minimalism for the sake of minimalism4. Skimping on mobile optimization5. Too many fonts6. Social media overload7. Promising great results without evidence8. Too...

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Protected Health Information: HIPAA PHI Compliance

HIPAA Learning Objectives  (Estimated Read Time – 8 mins)

There are countless HIPAA Settlements each year. With well over half involving digital and network compliance.

At the end of this you will learn:

  1. A brief overview of HIPAA and fines.
  2. What Is PHI? And ePHI.
  3. What the Biggest overlooked gap in HIPAA compliance is.
  4. Example cases.
  5. WHY you should care.
  6. How to close those gaps.

HIPAA Overview

Who falls under HIPAA?

Covered Entities (CE) medical providers, mental health providers, medical insurance providers, and yes that includes medical insurance brokers/agents. Pretty much anyone who accepts insurance as a form of payment, companies who handle Protected Health Information (PHI), or electronic PHI (ePHI), or come in potential contact with it fall under some level of HIPAA. This includes third parties that have entered a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) (And only if they have signed a BAA.)

“A Covered Entity is any entity that receives federal financial assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services or is covered under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act as a program, service, or regulatory activity relating to the provision of health care or social services.” HHS

Who doesn’t fall under HIPAA?

Any company that doesn’t handle or has the potential to see/ interact with PHI. That includes your contractor who is building your IT network or repairing your office if they don’t have a BAA.  (See the problem if you don’t do an effective risk analysis for PHI)

If I don’t accept insurance and only accept cash do I have to worry about HIPAA?

It depends.

First, we recommend talking to a lawyer that specializes in HIPAA about your situation. Good rule of thumb: If you have ever fallen under the CE rule, accepted insurance in the past, currently, or will potentially in the future, you still have to protect all of that data. (Some lawyers have even mentioned if you included HIPAA releases on your intake forms you, fall under it.) HIPAA Is Past, Current, and Future client’s PHI.

HOWEVER, even if you are not under HIPAA, you are still open to the governing laws of your state and professional license. While HIPAA has a lot to do with how to best protect data, not protecting your data can open you up to the new consumer protection laws that states are adopting which can still hit you with big fines.

HIPAA Violations and Fines

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) publishes a list of the largest fines and breaches. The HHS lists all HIPAA breaches involving 500 individuals or more on the OCR Portal. There are over 500 large breaches as of 2019 over a 24 month period. The largest fines and select breaches are listed on HIPAA Resolution Agreements website.

Large beaches are only a small fraction of the fines assessed every year.

If you have a breach, you risk not only having a very public description of your incident, you also face a financial penalty based on the size and severity of the breach and practice’s culpability. Not to mention the loss of patient trust and news coverage.

In addition to fines, you may face criminal charges if the violation merits it.

Important to note: You do not need to have a breach to face HIPAA penalties.

What is the penalty for a HIPAA Violation?

There are five tiers based on the violations and what level of responsibility (and negligence) the entity acted in at the time of the violation.

Tier 1: Minimum fine of $100 per violation up to $50,000, with a per-year maximum of $25,000 that the issues persisted.
Tier 2: Minimum fine of $1,000 per violation up to $50,000, with a per-year maximum of $100,000
Tier 3: Minimum fine of $10,000 per violation up to $50,000, with a per-year maximum of $250,000
Tier 4: Minimum fine of $50,000 per violation, with a per-year maximum of $1,500,000.

As of April 2019, fines were adjusted to reflect the maximum amount per tier violation. But the figures could change as they are still pending additional rule-making. Federalregister.gov

It is important to remember that each State Attorney General can also impose HIPAA fines which the State keeps a percentage. As you can see, a multi-state data breach can get quite costly quickly and the incentive for a state AG to push a case.

Each Tier has maximum criminal penalties as well.

Tier 1: Maximum Up to 1 year in jail
Tier 2: Maximum Up to 5 years in jail
Tier 3: Maximum Up to 10 years in jail

Plus up to 2 years for PHI theft and potential payment of restitution.

What Is PHI and ePHI?

What is PHI?

HIPAA protected health information (PHI) is any information about an individual created in the provision of medical care. This includes past, current, and future care.

Examples of PHI include:
  • Name
  • Any part of the address and this can be even the general subdivision the person is located in.
  • Telephone and fax numbers
  • Email
  • Social Security Number
  • Any dates (minus years) related to an individual, admission or discharge, birth, date of death, or the exact age if older than 89
  • Any account numbers (bank, health record, health plan beneficiary number, etc)
  • Credentials such as certificate/license number
  • Device serial numbers or models etc
  • Vehicle identifiers, serial numbers, or license plate numbers
  • Web URLs
  • IP address
  • Biometric identifiers (fingerprints or voiceprints)
  • Full-face photos
  • Identifying diagnosis and treatment notes
  • Any other unique identifying numbers, characteristics such as tattoos or body marks, or codes

What is ePHI?

ePHI is simply the electronic; storage, transmission, or creation of PHI information which can be on any device. For example: computer, thumb drive, internet, cellphone or any recording device.

HIPAA treats any company that stores or transmits PHI as a Business Associate (BA) with the Covered Entity (CE) and requires a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). If the CE does not get a signed BAA, the CE is the one that will incur the HIPAA violations even if the BA is at fault. Technically a BA does not even have to view the PHI data to fall under the BAA requirement. A BAA helps safeguard both the CE and BA with clear responsibilities in handling PHI and liability in the event of a breach. It also helps lower the risk of a breach since both parties understand and follow HIPAA best practices. Also having a good BAA and documented procedures can help lower the fines associated with a breach or violation.

That means if you create, transmit, pass through, store, potentially see, ePHI with them, they need a signed BAA. But more on that later.

What Is The Most Overlooked Gap HIPAA Compliance Risk?

Digital marketing and websites.

How?

PHI pertains to past, current, and the most commonly overlooked future clients. Remember our list of PHI data? IP addresses, contact information, etc. Yes, you may have invested thousands on protecting at your physical location, staff training, and internal network but you may have left the backdoor wide open.

Your Website

If your site is not hosted on a HIPAA compliant server or does not have end-to-end encryption, and has any of the following: contact form, chat, server hosted email, and a whole host of potential website security gaps, then you are potentially exposed. We have seen some big providers of “medical websites” who built non-compliant sites.

Why is that important?

Your website is the portal of first contact so if it is susceptible to hackers or malware, then your patient data may be intercepted.

Did you know?
  • IP data can be harvested from a website even if you do not have a contact form?
  • A hacker can install fake forms, add content, or access the server if the site is vulnerable.
  • If your internal network connects to your website then even more data can be mined.
  • Even if you do not connect your website to your network, a compromised site can expose your internal computers to malware or employee logins to hacking attempts.
  • If you do not have a SSL (the padlock on your site’s URL) installed any information entered on your site (visitors, or employee’s login) can be intercepted in plain text.
Example: Look at all of these glowing reviews and comment cards

Your web designer may post testimonials on your website without a signed release.

This office was one the hook for $25,000 for posting testimonials and photos on their website.

Digital Marketing

While a non-compliant website can cause a huge issue when you start to market online, the company you hire can be an even bigger risk.

More often than not, you may hire a marketing company who does not handle the data (such as lead information) with HIPAA in mind and inadvertently cause a breach. If you don’t have a BAA with them, then you are fully on the hook for their mistakes (not to mention the violation from not having a BAA). And it could put you and your practice at risk.

But how could that happen?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Example: You hire an SEO consultant or company who is helping your site reach the top of the search results. If they know what they are doing, they will ask for FTP access to your site. As well as higher-level access than your average user.

You could be on the hook for $300,000 like this Tennessee medical imaging company who let a contractor have FTP access and did no due diligence.

Or they may install call tracking software to show you proof ot their results, logging all calls to your business, owner name, and traffic source.

Social Media Marketing and Lead generation

Example: Posting a picture of a patient without a signed consent can get you in trouble (even if they are in the background inadvertently).

OR

Your lead generation company may be selling or buying your leads on the open market. Or using your patient list to create lookalike audiences on Facebook. We don’t need to get into the data breaches that Facebook has had…

Real posts from one large Facebook marketing group looking to buy or sell lead data.

Or your marketing company can leave their server open exposing your new clients.

But it doesn’t take much searching to find examples of potential HIPAA violations. There are literally thousands of examples of how your practice can be exposed by third-party vendors.

Why Should You Care?

If you are still in doubt as to why HIPAA compliance or proper vendor due diligence is something to care about, then please re-read or look up fluffy cat videos on YouTube.

How To Close HIPAA Digital Compliance Gaps.

  • Review your digital vendor list and their access.
  • Complete digital audit of 3rd party vendors who come in contact with PHI/ePHI and see if they are compliant. Don’t forget about Apps, CRM, Plugins, etc.
  • Identify any red flags. Did your marketing or web design company ask you for a BAA or did they even mention it? Do your BA have 3rd party vendors that they are outsourcing your work to? Did they disclose it and are they also compliant?
  • Get BAA or terminate.
  • Write up procedures to mitigate future risk according to HIPAA guidelines.
  • Self report potential breach or violations (Consult with a HIPAA Security expert and HIPAA Lawyer first to assess severity and appropriate response)

Take our HIPAA compliance quiz to see where you may be at risk and/or contact us to schedule a digital risk assessment.

Want even more examples of Digital HIPAA Violations?

$100,000 HIPAA Breach due to compromised Username and Password

Open Server Database in Search Engines.

Mental health non-profit pays $150,000 fine for un-patched and noncompliant software.

$500,000 for sharing HIPAA data with 3rd party vendor without BAA. 

Allowing sales representatives access to phi to identify patients to market to. Jail time avoided in plea agreement and settlement.

Office closed over $6,500 ransomware.

80,000 exposed in marketing breach

An Introduction to a Holistic approach to PPC, SEO, and Content Marketing 

There are often debates in the marketing world about whether SEO, content marketing, or paid ads are the best solution for a business.

In any marketing groups, forums, and blogs there are hundreds of posts riddled with arguments over which type of digital marketing makes the most effective strategy.

More often than not, when one of these three strategies has not worked for a business, it is not because it is ineffective, but rather that it was used in the wrong way.

The truth is, in order to see the best results from your digital marketing campaigns in 2019, businesses need to combine PPC, SEO, and content marketing effectively.

Marketing Learning Objectives

In this article, you will learn:

  • Basic overview each strategy
  • Why each strategy is important
  • Tips and techniques for each strategy
  • How to combine them and make an effective marketing campaign
  • Why combining all three is so effective

Let’s get started.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

You have probably heard the term SEO, organic search optimization, or search engine optimization thrown around a lot, and might have mixed feelings about it. So let’s take a second to quickly answer the question,

“What is SEO?”

Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving your website’s visibility and rankings on search engines or search based platform. There are multiple types of SEO (Amazon, different search platforms, etc.), and hundreds of different methods to improve the visibility and rankings of your website.

*For the purpose of this post we will focus on SEO as it relates to (the major search engines) Google, Bing, Yahoo, and their respective maps.

How does it work?

The way this works is through the organic search results. For instance, when someone types in a query into a search engine, the results they are shown are based off relevance and the ability to best satisfy search intent but are not paid to show up.  The organic results are the sections that are not the paid advertising.  The paid results are currently up to the top 4 and bottom 3 results (With a map result depending on the local term).  They also have a little “ad” notation before the URL.

Results that are higher up in the search achieve these spots based on a multitude of factors:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Click through rates  (A subjective metric in light of featured snippets from Google)
  • Time on page, Bounce rate (Not necessarily for Google, Potentially for Bing. ~ Ahrefs)
  • Backlinks
  • Page authority
  • Keywords
  • Social shares / Brand mentions
  • Comments
  • On page SEO

The list goes on. There are literally hundreds of ranking factors that determine position on Google’s search engines and more that are not publicly available. The great thing is as an experienced SEO agency we are not fully guessing what Google and the other search engines want. We have years of data and a larger SEO community that help us make informed decisions. (Don’t just take our word for it 200 ranking factors)

Essentially, the mission of search engines is to provide the user with the best result for what they have asked. This means providing them with a user friendly website design and content that will help your audience to:

  • Find answers to their questions
  • Read or watch longer
  • Not need to search through additional results afterwards
  • Be more likely to check out additional content on your site
  • Potentially make a purchase
  • Leave a review
  • Comment, share, interact another way

The only goal of SEO is to get people to come to your site organically. This means that you are not paying directly for them to show up on your site, as you are with paid advertisements such as Google Ads or Facebook ads campaigns.

Why is SEO so important?

Without a strategy that properly addresses how your website is ranked for searches on search engines, it will be difficult to succeed online.

Put simply, if you want to generate organic search traffic to your site, search engine optimization is a must.

The reason that focusing on organic search traffic matters is that you want to be building your brand while generating revenue. Paid ads are highly effective, but organic leads can be higher quality and quantity if targeted correctly.  Best of all they are free!

Even more important is the fact that 51% of traffic comes from organic search results.

How can I implement SEO Organic Search into my marketing strategy?

Ideally, you might want to consider working with a marketing agency or to at least get a SEO audit of your site. This will at least help you get started in the right direction. They can also help with implementing more complex strategies.

From there, if you are determined to handle SEO for yourself, you will want to at least focus on:

  • Site load speed
  • Mobile usability
  • On page SEO
    • Internal links
    • Keyword research
    • Headings/subheadings
    • Images
    • Site structure
    • URLs
    • Etc… (remember those 200 hundred factors?)
  • Backlink outreach strategy
  • Local SEO (We show you how to start to rank in Google maps and more.)

Optimizing each one of these will lead to your website having a very strong organic search presence. Over time, this will boost rankings, and increase the amount of impressions and visitors your website gets.

But, as I said in the introduction, search optimization is not as effective without content marketing, or paid.

Content Marketing

So why is content marketing so important? And how exactly does it help to work with search engine optimization in order to make an effective online marketing strategy? Let’s take a look.

What is content marketing?

Content marketing is a strategy which revolves around the production of high-quality, custom content targeted towards your various audience segments.

This content can come in a wide array of formats, such as:

  • Blogs
  • Ebooks
  • Video
  • Social media
  • Case studies
  • Webinars
  • Online courses
  • Podcasts
  • Etc…  (insert anything that can be called content)

Why is content marketing so important?

The goal of content marketing is to provide for the informational needs of your target audience. But It help answer a question or questions your customer had or didn’t know they had with content tailored to them.  It is a guided entry point to services and not necessarily always the end point.  Consider it a first date, with some follow up dates, but one night stands happen too (Hey, some content is more forward than others.)

By making this the primary goal of your content marketing campaigns informational, you will be much more effective.

People Want And Prefer Content Marketing

In fact, content marketing has been shown to generate 3x as many leads as paid advertising campaigns, at just 62% of the cost.

The reason why it’s so effective? People want content. The average person consumes over 11 pieces of content before making a purchasing decision.  (Remember the date analogy?)

Content Marketing Improves Organic Search Traffic

Not to mention, producing high-quality content for your website allows you to drastically improve your search rankings.

For example: if you want to rank for “Minneapolis Web Design“, you will never be able to do this organically without content. Or creating amazing website designs (because let’s be honest if your websites looks horrible why would you want to rank for web site design.)  Our responsive websites look awesome by the way. But we digress… we were talking about content and ranking.

But why?

Well for starters, the average number one search result on Google has 1,890 words. The 2nd place search result has just around 2,000 on average.

That means that if you simply have a web page where you have some content about Web Design in Minneapolis, that isn’t enough.  You need supporting content. You would need to have information about, what makes web design tailored to Minneapolis different than New York, or information about your web design that makes it relevant to the Minneapolis market.  Maybe even local signals that showed you were relevant to a Minneapolis based searcher.  See the point here is that it takes more than just a keyword on a landing page to rank for it. It takes content.

Content Marketing Provides Value to Your Audience

When people search online, they generally search with a question. You can read about the latest SEO Trends which include the rise of question based voice search. Content marketing aims to provide value to your customers by giving them vital information which helps them answer their questions, and make the right decisions moving forward.

By answering your audience’s questions, and providing value you are achieving a few things:

  • Ranking for certain keywords
  • Getting their clicks
  • Winning their trust
  • Establishing your brand as an expert leader
  • Leading them to the next step
  • Obtaining information from them
  • Potentially converting them

Without quality content, people are likely to leave your site early, or never even be shown your site in the search results.

Content Marketing Improves Lead Quality

Another beautiful thing that creating custom content allows you to do is generate more quality leads.

Rather than attempting to only rank for extremely competitive terms, that are likely not seen by a majority of searchers, content allows you to rank for more specific keywords that are likely to drive conversions.

For example: You run a carpet cleaning agency, and you produce a piece of content about “What to do if you spill wine on your rug?”

Chances are, someone who is searching for this exact question has likely already spilled wine on their rug. Therefore, by the time they arrived on your site, they are extremely pre-qualified. You are not fighting for the more difficult to rank for “Wine on Carpet” because Rug is more specific.  Which means you have a very specific content piece to do with types, brands, and cleaning (hopefully more professional priced services) for those rugs.

Content pre-qualifies the Buy.

By giving them information that can help them solve their problems, you are qualifying your business in their mind as a potential solution.

Consumers No Longer Trust Brands

In 2019, only about 49% of Americans trust brands. This means that just over half of the people you could potentially be marketing to with paid advertising campaigns or come to your site organically do not trust your company, regardless of how well-structured your campaign or site is.

This means that no matter what, acquiring new customers is now an uphill battle, and the only way to get through to conversions is to build trust.

Just how effective is custom content at building brand trust? A study done by DemandGen show that 95% of B2B buyers look to content in the evaluation process of making a purchase.

Content Can Generate Valuable Email Lists

Email marketing is one of the best ways to generate a positive ROI from your online marketing campaigns.

One study even found that email generates a 3,800% ROI. Content marketing allows you to leverage the value that your content can provide to customers in order to generate contact information from them.  Nearly everyone has downloaded a guide.

From here, you can use the emails you generate in order to develop segmented audiences which are targeted by your email campaigns bringing you a higher ROI.

How Can I Implement Content Marketing?

As we touched on earlier, content can come in many forms. Typically, the two types of content that are interacted with the most are blogs, and video.

This is a great place for anyone looking to start content marketing to begin developing high quality content for your audience.

Blogging

Around 55% of marketers consider blog content to be their top inbound marketing priority. Of those who blog, those who create 11+ pieces of content monthly generate an average of 3x more website traffic.

But don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

When creating blog content, you want to make sure that you:

  • Understand your audience
  • Have done keyword research
  • Conduct a content gap analysis for your industry
  • Create high quality content
  • Create long form content
  • Are consistent

Video

Video content is quickly becoming the new face of marketing. In 2017, video made up 69% of all global internet traffic. Experts estimate that by 2021, video will represent 80% of all online search traffic. Needless to say, video is here to stay.

On top of this, video content has also been shown to dramatically improve conversion rates. In fact, we have seen by adding a great introduction video to landing pages improves conversions by an average of 80%.

Paid Ads

Paid advertisements are the last piece of the online marketing strategy puzzle. You can have excellent SEO and content marketing, but without implementing some sort of paid advertising campaign, you will never reach the full potential of your online marketing efforts.

Are paid ads still relevant in 2019?

While content marketing typically generates a greater return on investment than paid marketing campaigns, this does not mean paid ads are ineffective.

In 2019, paid advertisements are still very profitable, with 65% of keywords that spur purchases had paid clicks while organic had 35%.

On top of this, in 2019, Google still reports that about $2 of revenue result from every $1 of ad spend across industries.

So yes, PPC is still very relevant in 2019.

Why are paid ads important for online marketing?

Paid ads are the fuel for all of your hard work when it comes to content and SEO. It can take years in order to build up your website enough to generate lots of organic search traffic.

In the meantime, you need to find alternative and consistent ways to generate revenue from your online marketing efforts.

Paid advertising offers the best solution to this problem. It can also easily be combined with both of these other strategies in order to create very effective advertising campaigns.

Some of the main reasons that paid advertising is so successful are:

  • Advanced targeting
  • Complete customization
  • Easy to test, edit, and adapt
  • Wide array of platforms
  • Allows re-targeting
  • Very good analytics and metrics

All these ingredients help to provide you with the information and tools necessary to easily integrate paid advertising into your existing marketing efforts.

It often takes multiple touch-points before generating a sale.  Paid advertising is the perfect way to re-target people who have also already visited your website.

For example: If you use a Google ads campaign to drive traffic to your website, you can create a Facebook re-marketing ad to the visitors who didn’t convert.  To make the remarking more profitable (and to limit competitors who may get captured by your Facebook pixel) re-market to visitors that did a desired action such as adding an item to a cart but did not purchase.  This granular data can also be used to create a look-alike audience for future social media ads.

Combining Them All

Now comes the fun part, combining search, content, and paid advertising to make the ultimate online marketing campaign for your business.

But how do you do it right? What are the best ways to combine all three of these strategies? How will you know if they are successful?

Let’s take a second to answer each of these questions at once.

1. Make Sure Your SEO Follows Best Practices

Before you ever even get to producing content, or managing paid advertising campaigns, you need to first make sure that your technical SEO on your site is done right. Technical SEO includes coding errors, server issues, site speed, meta data, to list a few.  We have some free SEO tools to take a 1000 foot look at your site and fix some common errors.  We also provide much more comprehensive SEO audits and action plans, Contact Us to learn more.

Once you’ve taken care of this, you next must make sure that the SEO for your custom content is also done properly. This includes things like:

  • Keyword research
  • Internal linking
  • Answering questions
  • Optimizing title and description
  • Optimizing headings/subheadings
  • Avoiding SEO mistakes and malpractice (keyword stuffing, hidden content / links, or questionable link building)

Once this is done, you can then begin focusing on the SEO for your paid advertising campaigns (Yes, you can optimize your paid campaign landing pages for search).

For the most part, this is the most simple SEO strategy to manage, because there is not a whole lot that you have control of other than keywords to target, and optimizing titles, meta, and ad copy if you have done more of the technical parts already.  Link building is not a primary focus of a paid ad campaign.

This is where content begins to creep in.

2. Create the Best Content

The most important thing to remember when creating content for your audience is that quality trumps everything.

As we went over earlier in this article, Google is driven by user intent. This means that the user’s satisfaction is the ultimate determinant to how well a piece of content performs.

In order to create the best content for your brand, there are a few things you must do:

  • Segment your audiences
  • Create content for each stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Provide unique and valuable insights
  • Answer questions
  • Understand SEO’s role in content marketing
  • Be consistent
  • Upgrade your current content (adapt and change it with the insights gained from new trends, past paid, or search)
  • Produce content on multiple different platforms

Applying these simple strategies on a consistent basis will allow you to appeal to a wider target audience, effectively reach your target audience, improve your search engine rankings, and deliver a better end product.

3. Use Paid Ads to Create a Sales Funnel

Once you have improved your site’s technical SEO, as well as created high quality content with search engines in mind, it is now time to begin building your paid advertising campaigns.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to creating paid ad campaigns online is that your business has multiple types of buyers with different types of needs.

Each buyer can be at a different part of the sales funnel. This means that you must develop multiple different ad campaigns, on multiple different platforms, with multiple different offerings.

This all sounds overwhelming, but essentially all you are doing is giving your content that you produced, the best chance to reach your audience and provide them with value.  Moving them along in the buyer sales process.

Pro Tip: If you find areas where you can target near the end of the buyer cycle they can have the highest returns in the short term (eCommerce).  But finding ways to capture and fostering them earlier provides scalability for brands with longer sales cycles.

When it comes to paid ads, you want to take these steps to always succeed:

  • Test, test, test some more
  • Target a smaller audience
  • Focus on keywords searches that convert first
  • Use different channels for different stages of the funnel.
    • Social media ads for early awareness and re-targeting, Native ads for educational sales content, and other search engines and networks after maxing out your current platform.
  • Always run re-targeting campaigns in some form when the budget allows.
  • Provide value and establish trust before selling

By prioritizing these objectives, you will be able to gain the highest ROI from your paid marketing campaigns.

You want to be sure that with your paid ads that you are equally as focused on SEO when it comes to optimizing it for search engines and users. Guess what! Google and Bing use similar search optimization signals to evaluate the quality and relevance of your landing page to the quality of the ad (and how much you pay per click). Facebook uses site actions to optimize for conversions and great user experience has a high social share rate. Also, you want to be very deliberate that the content in your ads matches your landing page and buyer intent, including:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • Landing pages
  • Product offerings
  • Etc… (Sorry about the broad bullet point, we could write whole books on this part but this Etc. really depends on your niche.)

All of which ensures that your message comes across clearly and correctly, and you’re driving the leads to take the right actions.

By continually producing high-quality content, and monitoring the results of your paid advertising campaigns, you can begin to optimize them over time.

This will give you an edge over the competition, and allow you to combine all three of these strategies in a way that will skyrocket your online lead generation, while building your brand and developing an effective organic search presence.

Table of Contents

Without a steady source of leads or customers your business will not succeed. Many businesses use paid advertising, social media, referrals, or pay a premium for a “great” location to generate sales. However, there is a free stream of leads that a lot of businesses see as a mystery but has a huge impact on business sales. The art of ranking on the top of the organic search results, search engine optimization (SEO). With SEO, websites with the right “secret sauce”, are served on top of Google (and many other search engines). This gives the website a better chance of being read by its target market by providing a path into a sales funnel.

Despite SEO being a constant consideration in digital marketing, it still has evolved over time, and the changes it brings also decide the success of a company. As a business owner it’s worth knowing what these trends are because these keep digital marketers up at night, help owners gain more leads, and give them an edge over other entrepreneurs.

AI-First SEO Approach

Picture of AI and SEO, Eland consulting, Minneapolis SEO consultant

Experts have predicted that big data AI technology will be the focus of over $61 billion worth of funding by most brands by 2025 (Fagella, 2015). We still have a long way to go before then, but AI is still a game changer in SEO today. For instance, Google Analytics and AdWords (became Google Ads (July 24,2018)) make use of artificial intelligence to improve ad targeting and to get performance insights. Google also relies on RankBrain to analyze content to give better organic results that work to answer the “how and why people search” then use that information to serve the most relevant results to future users.

What does artificial intelligence mean to business owners? Or why the heck should we care about it in search rankings?

With AI, your ranking in the search results or how much you pay for PPC is directly influenced by big data learning AND more importantly something you or your marketing agency has to adapt to. Frankly, tailoring your site to respond to AI could help your search ranking but did you really think it was going to be that easy? The AI system can’t easily be gamed (we doubt that any exploits will stay that way for long) but rather it is something that helps push quality content to the top. In layman’s terms, posting spun blog posts (content that is only changed in semantics but not in originality) or utilizing questionable linking strategies will catch up to you eventually. This also means that business owners need to be mindful of the companies they hire to improve rankings. What does that mean for search? Do we only have to cater to a program?

No but…

Optimizing Your Site For Voice Search

Most searches in 2016, over 40% adult user searches, were done via voice search, and this trend has steadily increased through 2017. With the accuracy of voice technology passing the 95% threshold means that more searches stay within a normal human vocabulary. Since most voice searches are questions,

2018 Global Online Trends Infographic. 5.9 Hours spend on digital media, 60% of all payments are online, 49% of product searches start at amazon, 36% product searches start with search engines. Voice search technology is increasing.

the best keywords to use in web content are actual sentences, instead of phrases. Keywords should also be long-tail (a fancy term for longer search phrases “think like a customer would”). Digital marketers respond to this trend by posting the questions and answers on the same page. The trick is to give users instant results.

However, readability for the consumer is going to play a big role in voice search. With more conversational questions, any answer has to get to the point quickly but also support a conversational style. Being the best answer verses being good enough is the difference between a site visitor or crickets. We are predicting that more voice users will only be served the best answer instead of getting a ten pack of search results. This is especially true due to the rise of home-based units such as Alexa.

The trend we have seen is more searcher focused results getting the top organic spots over content with a lot of backlinks. What do we mean by this? If you are searching for a service then service related links are shown, a product then more product sites.

Hasn’t this always been the case? No, in the past, backlinks (domains that include a hyperlink back to a website) were key to ranking. Why do you think every web design company threw a footer link on a website they made or why there are backlinks for sale on Fiver when you search for SEO.

The concept of pure linkless ranking wasn’t a viable strategy until recently (and still a hot button issue among the SEO community). A linkless search ranking strategy focuses on the quality of the website first (Content, inter site linking, page structure, technical SEO, user experience, and quality calls to action) before any attempt at link building begins. Then any link building is focused on quality over quantity. Now it is possible to rank with fewer links instead of thousands (don’t get us wrong the big dogs are not going down without a fight). With voice, now is the time for new businesses to start to take more of the search rankings or old businesses to adapt. Voice is opening the door to more user focused, and frankly better content in exchange for search rankings.

Interesting Topics SEO Trends

2018 is ushering interesting and relevant topics and starting to push keywords aside. Not that keywords and phrases have become useless but users now also search for topics instead of just keywords. Google’s algorithm responds to this trend and serves sites that best answer past similar topic queries (remember AI). Meaning you don’t have list every keyword or exact phrase to be eligible for the first page. However, to build content pieces that include more than one focus but stay under a topic have a better chance to rank for more terms. Words that would naturally be associated under a topic would be considered for a searcher’s inquiry as relevant.

One way for digital marketers and online entrepreneurs to provide meaningful content is to write advice, reviews, and how-to articles. Content can also be sorted out into different themes. Keywords are still relevant, but only because they make searching for sites and content easier. That said, Google Trends, Google Keyword planner, SpfuSEMRush, and Keyword Explorer remain indispensable tools for the digital marketer, to name only a few.

Responsive Design

Over the years mobile devices have become more functional with their multiple features. Not only are they used to call and text, but now they are mainly used to browse the Internet and download mobile apps. This is also the perfect opportunity to make websites responsive to mobile devices. Responsive designed websites are optimized to provide a great user experience on desktops/ laptops, from Androids to iPads. InVision provides 11 powerful examples of responsive web design, which you can check out and apply to your own website.

Test your site mobile speed and responsiveness

Get your free report.

Now you can also serve mobile optimized versions of your website through the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page) project. AMP is tailored more to static content and sites that don’t serve mobile responsive (or load slowly). In a nutshell it strips down your site of extra fluff to load instantly (near instantly) and serve the /amp version. Google has pushed AMP heavily for years because they want all websites to load fast on mobile for better user experience and rank sites that tailor to mobile. This Mobilegeddon was slated to happen a few times (made a few of us SEOs sound tin hat like “it’s coming we swear”) but recently Google’s mobile first page speed was rolled out (July 9th, 2018) making it a significant ranking factor. That means that the slowest sites have some updating to do.

Desktop Site Speed

We talked about mobile speed, desktop speed is still a huge ranking factor. While mobile is dominating the internet usage 56% of online time (our handy infographic). We still see conversion rates being higher on desktop for E-commerce (easier to view multiple items at once) than mobile (few exceptions: single sales and social). Google places quick-loading sites on top of the search index, just as it promised in 2010. Users likewise prefer sites that load faster. A website should launch in 2 seconds or less. Otherwise, there’s a huge chance for users to leave the page. Worse, they might never return. To improve page load times, pages need optimization. Images should be the right pixel size and format (a common issue we see is a 3000 x 3000 px file in a 150 x 150 px image post or PNG file as a photo instead of a logo), server compression enabled, HTML, CCS, and Jscript magnification (getting rid of the non functional code, notes, white space), to name a few but this free website speed test tool or ours (the mobile speed report) will tell you what you need to do.

More Video Content

Video content is more important than ever, this being more accessible to users than images and blogs. (We know you may rather listen to this post over reading it.) Instead of reading a long text on how to make crepes, users go to YouTube and look for a tutorial video. YouTube is considered as the second largest search engine (let’s ignore the fact Google owns them), and digital marketers can use that knowledge to their advantage.

Users like to watch personalize and contextual web content. With the attention span of the average adult lowering, that means video has the power to hold customer attention longer. Search engines have included videos in the top results as well as rewarding sites that give quality content that include video (that do not slow the page). If you are the creator of the video then you control over optimizing both traffic sources. Creating compelling and entertaining videos is a different topic altogether, but having some definitely makes webpages more SEO-friendly. Learn 13 SEO tips for videos from experts here.

Position Zero

Eden Praire MN SEO, Minneapolis SEO Search, Featured snippet example

Position Zero at the top of results in the featured snippets section, they start before the rest of the search results show up. Users get most information from Position Zero, where the answers they need are at their fingertips. When users see the information they need on the first page – and on top of – the Google search, they likely will stop scanning the other results. They also have your result to click on as they scroll down. The great thing about Position Zero is you don’t have to be number one get featured (but it doesn’t hurt). The priority of any SEO expert is to: Get to Position Zero and they do that by providing ready answers to who, what, where, and why.

Shorter URLs

A shorter URL is more readable and good ones are easier to remember. Of course, users can copy and paste URLs, but some mobile devices make it difficult to do so. URLs that contain at least one keyword are also SEO-friendly (but not as important as they used to be but for the user it does help make it relevant). If possible, URLs should contain few, if none, numbers and alt characters.

Here are some of our go to URL Shorteners, most are free.

  • Bitly.com (The paid version allows you to brand your URLS.)
  • Yourls.org (self hosted options that you can get close to Bitly without the huge monthly price tag if you have some development knowledge.)
  • Tinyurl.com
  • PrettyLinks.com (WordPress)

If the URL is Shortened will it hurt my own site’s SEO?

No. They still hold SEO value to your site due to the nature of how most shorteners use 301 redirects to move traffic from your tiny URL to your main site. This means that the pagerank flows to the destination site. Due to the sharable nature of a shortened link, the likelihood of earning social shares and brand mentions as well as quality links back to your site significantly increases.

You can also use URL shorteners for affiliate links. For those who utilize more blog, content, influencer, or affiliate marketing strategies these shorterners pay you per impressions.

Some of the highest paying URL shorteners are:

  • Petty Link
  • Linkshrink
  • Shorte.st
  • Adf.ly
  • Dwindly
  • Linkbucks
  • Spaste

***Disclaimer*** We do not endorse or have used any of the paying URL shorteners (some clients have used them with success).

The reason we have not is because a 3rd party ad is shown to the customer before they are directed to your deal or funnel. For affiliate bloggers, marketers, or influencers these may still provide some value. Since you can post and have them shared across many channels while still getting revenue from views can add another passive income stream. However, just remember that the end goal of any affiliate marketing campaign is to generate a sale. Do you really want to trade-off not being able to control what your potential customer sees and if they forget your offer?

Content-Gap Analysis

Studying a competition’s site design, affiliate links, and content give marketers an edge in SEO. There is a need to provide content that hasn’t been written about yet or under served content. Users will also appreciate it when a website has unique content that match their preferences and provide them a relevant online experience. When we approach a content-gap analysis, we look at Google trends and Google’s keyword planner (just sign up for adwords (Google Ads)). We also use at tools such as SEMRush and SPYfu.com, and some ones we have internally. We are building a comprehensive guide on content but in the meantime here is a short guide on how to perform a basic one yourself.

A Fluid Site Architecture

Users enjoy their online browsing experience when they seamlessly move through a website. Thus, site architecture and navigation should be kept simple. Users shouldn’t be left guessing what to do next as they search a page. Effective calls to action and site links help increase sales while helping to build a solid interlinking structure that help drive your visitors through your site.

A fluid site architecture likewise helps search engines index the pages on the website. Site crawlers should also easily navigate the web page when you keep your end-user in mind.

Fixed Technical Issues

Nothing disappoints users much than seeing broken links or 404 errors on your site. With the help of a detailed SEO audit, a properly trained SEO specialist or consultant can fix technical issues such as slow loading pages, thin content, redirecting pages, and broken links. They can also fix more advanced issues such as incorrectly installed SSL or CDN, hacker database injections and improperly managed redirects.

A complete SEO audit is completed to improve a website’s SEO campaign. It’s best to do this every quarter, or every time a website is catering to a new client or target market.

Every SEO Audit has 9 basic steps:

  1. Determining the website/company’s strategic goals.
  2. Analyzing the quality of keywords. Are they specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound (SMART)?
  3. Analyzing the competition.
  4. Conducting a technical analysis.
  5. Analyzing each page level, such as conducting Copyscape checks, META descriptions, and Titles.
  6. Analyzing content (i.e. excessive ads, grammar mistakes, too many occurrences of your keyword, off topic posts from your focus keyword, spammy comments).
  7. Improving user experience, including return visitors, exit pages, and goal completions.
  8. Identifying strengths and weaknesses in external and internal link profiles.
  9. Checking citations and untapped directories.

Longer Existing Pages

Backlinko published a study in 2016 that yielded how longer content has the likelihood of getting a higher ranking. Content writers can easily extend 1200-word posts to 2,000 words. This also means that content can be extended instead of made from scratch. Because existing pages already have a readership, it would be easier to keep them by updating published content. Adding an interactive table of contents also enables the user to go directly to the information they are looking for or interests them. Meaning you can rank for more terms while improving customer navigation and experience.

SEO trends are rapidly changing with new updates seemly happen weekly. It’s important that digital marketers are up for the challenge and adapt quickly to these new developments. It’s not enough that marketers understand the basics of SEO; they must also know how to tinker with the sites they work on and check analytics data regularly to make sure that the right customer actions are happening. It is not enough to create a site with content because if you don’t convert you won’t pay the bills.

We would love to hear your feedback in the comments and continue the discussion.

Why you’re not getting the right or any search traffic.

You may have invested your own time in search engine optimization or even hired a SEO consultant to work on backlinks and blog content but you’re not seeing the traffic that you expected. It might be time to analyze the quality of links and the keywords that were focused on.

Now that I have captured your attention, full disclosure, this post was completely written using Google Voice on my phone. This is to showcase how well voice technology has improved and soon I will link a post going over why this is a significant change in how you should approach search. However, keep reading because minus a few grammatical errors this is my thoughts as if you were speaking to me. Also it is really hard to think and proof read at the same time. Also Google if you are reading this please turn down the dun dun after I pause on Cortona.

Many times I see clients who have focused on a keyword that is dare we say unobtainable with a current level or efforts. Worse yet they acquired spammy backlinks that only drive bot traffic or Nothing at All.
You may be wondering: How can I compete with another company that spends tens of thousands a month on search engine traffic?

You can’t. Not in the way that you would expect.

If you don’t have the budget to compete you have to find other ways to obtain qualified traffic that your competitors may not be focusing on. Would you rather have one key word that drives thousands users or hundreds of long search terms that drive 50 to 200 users each.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that small adds up quick in the terms of exponential growth.

16-20% of all monthly searches on Google have never been seen before. (Google Interview)

  • If all of those searches are new and haven’t been seen before, that means to answer the questions what and why before it’s asked is very important.

What do I mean by what and why?

You should be thinking about:

What questions will potential users, customers, searchers, or clients will ask before buying?

Did you know but there are many different ways to slice a sandwich. I should know because my wife likes for sandwiches cut horizontally… or vertically, or sideways. I don’t remember until after I cut it wrong.

When it comes to search does that mean that you should order your keywords in different and unnatural variations?

For example: “Minneapolis SEO” and “SEO Minneapolis”. Those two are individual search terms with different volumes according to Google.  However, if you were to search in Google’s Keyword Planner only one search volume would be shown. This is because they are phrase matches and are considered the same/ similar search term.  You don’t have to have both variations in the exact order on a page to rank well in Google.  Otherwise we would have very unnatural articles that frankly wouldn’t be entertaining to read.  Now I am going to throw a wrench in everything I just said because there is some value in exact match search terms over phrase matches.  (Knowing when and how to break this rule is good SEO and copywriting.)

Just because Google has a search term volume for a certain phrase order doesn’t mean that it’s a qualified searcher. What I mean by this is culturally, for example, in other English-speaking countries (and even regionally word choice order may be different just do to common cultural phrases.

For a South Africa client in the event rental industry, “hire” and “lease” had significant local search volume but “rent”, “rental” had nearly Zero.  Unless we increased the search location and it was followed by in South Africa which we attributed to be local foreigners.  However, for the United States the opposite was true.  The small volume of local searches has to do with cultural over search trends.  In this case, exact match had better results over phrase.  Another great example is the term “uni” versus University, college. State side you will rarely see or hear Uni as much.

You have to consider the psychological and cultural impacts of your searcher when you want to increase the quality of your traffic.  Making sure that a keyword is something that is a cultural relevant potential search term or part of your in your target demographic is important. It can be the difference between landing a customer and showing up in another country search where you can’t service.  (or not many if you have set up a preferred location or have a country specific URL like .us)

The why.

Or as I like to call it, “The why should I care.” As a company should always be putting out content that answers the question why should I care. Why should I care about your company, doing business with you, and why is this relevant to “What” I searched for.

How do you make your “Why” a relevant search their “What”?

You make your companies content relevant through your meta description, titles, and the choice of information you display on your website that supports that content. You wouldn’t want to click a cake recipe and be directed to a plumber. While they may be correlated if your surprise birthday cake was found by your two-year-old and they flushed it down the toilet, I’d be willing to bet that you’d be clicking back before reading anything about the plumber.

Then why do businesses do that with their website SEO?

It simply can be answered by businesses trying to hard.  They stuff keywords, or utilize none.  They give great content without locking on on key terms that searchers may use to get there.  They focus too much on backlinks without fixing the issues on their site.  Great SEO balances target keyword terms and like similar search terms with relevant content that flows into a great user experience.

Back to why your organic traffic isn’t converting.

We have addressed unqualified traffic but have not talked about user experience and conversion paths.  After you have worked on great content and are starting to lock in relevant traffic converting that traffic is the next step.

User Experience And Its Effect On SEO

How your users flow from search to your website and to convert to a sale is important.  With the right call to actions, lead magnets, and ease of contact information.  BUT how they experience your website should be a top priority.  For sake of time (I could write a book on just this topic) I will just focus site speed and errors.

The faster your site speed the better since according to Kissmetrics a “1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.” And “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”

Any good SEO will work to lower that load time because site speed is a significant Google Google ranking factor for search and even more so in July 2018.

On site errors such as 404 (page not found), poor internal linking structure, and thin content all have impact on your traffic and rankings.  While backlinks are important you need to work to fix onsite errors so your link building outreach can be more effective.

When you focus on quality traffic keywords searches, answer why and what, and improve user experience you can fix your traffic and increase your sales conversions.

Schedule A Free Consultation

Get started now by scheduling an intro call. We’ll talk through your marketing goals, and determine if we’re a great fit.

How long does it take?
A phone, not long at all. I promise we won’t bite. Initial phone calls usually last about 15-20 mins or less. You can call either 612-787-2179 or 612-247-2290 to start your project quote today. Timelines for projects depend on the engagement and scope of work. Website Design takes anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to much longer for larger complex projects. Most small business websites take between 3 to 4 weeks. SEO really depends on the competitive landscape of your industry. Typically, we see upward trends starting in the first month and then more noticeable movement from 3-6 months.
How much does it cost?
Think of us like your digital real estate agent. Just like a real estate agent would need to know your price range. We help you find a winning solution to best match your budget and project requirements. Our goal is to help make your online presence a digital asset that works to earn you more business even while you sleep.
Can I make changes afterwards?
All of our projects are built so you can take control of as much or as little as you would like. If your needs change during the project, we can adjust the scope of work or quote for the new features if it is a drastic change.

Let’s Work Together!

Our mission is to improve your business utilizing a consumer psychology focused approach in our services
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