Most optical shops have websites and a number of them are wonderful. They are bright, engaging, up to date, and answer the FAQs pretty well. At the same time, a very large number of ECP websites are pretty bad. Either they were built as a cookie-cutter website with the same images a few dozen other shops use and use the same generic optical text that by itself would make it hard to distinguish your shop from your neighbors down the street or your friends and colleagues across the country. While we will abstain from the specific layouts of various sites, we will share some of the very common and very easy to fix mistakes many optical shops and practices make when building and launching their websites as far as SEO is concerned.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process by which you tell Google and the other search engines who you are in a way that helps them know how and where to place your website in their directories. If we go back to the days before Google when the Yellow Pages were the go-to resource for consumers looking for products and services, you relied on either the alphabet or an advertising budget to get noticed and position yourself uniquely from your competitors. You either chose the name AAA Optical to move upfront in the listings or you bought as big or bigger ad than your competition in the book.
Those days have long gone by and today optical shops and practices are found online. Google has become so dominant in our world and in our lives that we have turned the noun into a verb. Want to look something up online? Google it.
So, therefore, setting up your website to answer the questions people are asking online in a way Google and other search engines understand is vital to your practice’s success. We are sharing 10 common local SEO mistakes and tips to help you avoid making those mistakes and get more traffic to your website and your stores.
- Localized Keywords
Just like Father’s Day… having a mug that says “World’s Greatest Dad” is a wonderful sentiment, but doesn’t make it a reality. By the same token, saying you are the best optometrist doesn’t make that claim any more true. Saying you are the best optometrist in Pittsburgh may or may not be true, but when people search “best optometrist in Pittsburgh”, you are much more likely to show up. Make sure you localize your keywords, especially for geographic terms locals use.
- Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are very important in SEO. Just as no one wants to be a doctor’s first patient or a pilot’s first passenger, no one really wants to shop where no one else does either. Seeing positive reviews of your practice helps give validation to consumers searching online. So make sure you have plans in effect to stimulate getting reviews…on a consistent basis. If all your reviews are from five years ago, what happened?
Make sure you reply to negative reviews. Baseball players who hit a ball 1/3 the time at bat are inducted into the Hall of Fame. No one hits home runs every time they bat. Neither will you. Sometimes you screw up. Sometimes you don’t but it appears to your patient or customer you did. How you handle that complaint says a lot about your business…almost as much as the glowing review next to it.
- Name, Address, Phone, Website
Have you always been in the same place? Did you move? Is your phone number correct? If you put the wrong address into your Amazon delivery you won’t get your packages. If you put the wrong information on your website or in online directories, you won’t get your patients and customers. Make sure the links to your website in your social media and your advertising is correct.
- Directory Profiles
Make sure you are listed in Google My Business. If you have to be in one place to be found online, make sure this is your first stop. From there make sure you are in every directory you can. Most cost nothing and is little more than a one-time entry. Make sure to remember all the directories you submit to so when the time comes to move, you don’t forget to let everyone know.
Backlinks are an important factor for your website. Google doesn’t know you but it knows who is popular. If websites that are more popular than yours point to you, Google will give you more juice (so to speak) based on the fact that other sites think you are worthy of connecting to. That doesn’t mean go out and purchase backlinks, but rather make sure you are correctly listed as authorized dealers on your vendor’s websites. Not only will they drive more local customers to you, but so too will Google.
- Mobile Optimization
More than half of all website visits are now conducted on mobile phones and tablets. How does your website work on those devices? Is your website mobile-friendly? We’ve seen websites that haven’t been updated since George W Bush was President and it shows. The sites are ugly and unresponsive. How can you convince a patient or customer that you are a modern optical practice when your website won’t work on half their devices? If your website won’t load in the first 5 seconds you will likely find that half your potential visitors will leave and search somewhere else.
- Contact Information
How many websites have you visited where you have to invite the entire gang from Scooby-Doo for clues as to where a business is located or how to call them? Every website should have a Contact Us section. Roughly half of all online complaints are people who found no way to contact the business and resolve their issues offline. Make sure you make it easy for people to find you and contact you.
- Image Optimization
If an image on your website is going to end up being 2 inches (192 pixels) across, it doesn’t benefit anyone to load the photo to your website at 1000 pixels. A non-compressed image at 1000 pixels across might be as big as 2 megabytes. The same image correctly optimized for 192 pixels across might be as 20,000 bytes. Why force someone to download 2 million bytes of data when 20 thousand will suffice. Google and other search engines want websites to load quickly and reward those websites that facilitate speed. Your potential patients and customers want that speed too. Optimize your images for faster loading and while you are at it, make sure your images all have ALT tags that help explain what each image is all about.
- Keyword Stuffing
Way back when the web was young, web designers and those who wanted to get noticed by Yahoo and Google would stuff their pages and websites with every keyword they could think of, whether those keywords were relevant to the business or not. Google now penalizes such behavior. If you want to rank for “blue light” you can’t just write the words blue light anywhere. You need to have content and/or products that address blue light in order to rank for blue light.
- Technical SEO Last but certainly not least is the technical end of your website. Is your website using an SSL certificate? Is your site secure? Are your links working? Are you pointing to pages that no longer exist or never existed? A thorough audit of your website should be conducted every now and again to make sure everything works. An SEO professional or good website developer can identify these errors quickly and resolve most of them just as fast.