SEO Best Practices for Veterinarians

Search engines like Google® or Bing® have been improved over the years to recognize high quality content from websites that matter most to users. They’re designed to deliver the most relevant information based on search preference, using a complex algorithm, to real people. How do you ensure that your website will be listed among your competitors on page 1 of the search results?

Understanding the Basics of SEO

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involves making your website more “search-engine-friendly.” SEO ensures that all the valuable information (and cute puppy pictures) aligns with the search engine algorithm and appear high in the search engine result pages (SERPs).

Any SEO strategies you implement for your veterinary website should be used to accomplish the same goal: increase organic (natural) traffic to your website.

Targeting Keywords for Your Content/Website

Google analyzes and understands pages across the web based on text, and more specifically keywords. The strategies for using keywords to optimize your website’s pages have completely changed over the last few years.

The bottom line: Keep it simple. The general idea behind choosing targeted keywords is to simply give people the content they are looking for. If you do, you’ll be rewarded by Google with good SERP rankings, shares from your fans, and natural links from other websites (bringing more people to the website).

You may be already aware of old SEO strategies, such as “keyword stuffing” or “whitehat vs blackhat SEO” — these no longer work because Google’s algorithm is more sophisticated. Do not compromise the quality of your website by squeezing in more veterinary-related keywords to each page.

If a targeted keyword is used once or twice in a great piece of content on your website, that should be all you need (for that page). People search keywords because they want related information to that keyword or keyword phrase. They will not tolerate a website that optimizes for a keyword but doesn’t provide corresponding content. You will end up with an unfavorable bounce rate (people leaving your site after visiting just one page) and potentially lowered rankings in the SERP.

How to Structure Your Content’s URL

When creating the web address (or URL) for your pages, use keywords. That will provide search engines with even more descriptive information about your page’s content. For example, if your veterinary website has a page for teeth cleaning service for dogs, your URL might look like this (highlighted in yellow):

URL Structure in Search Result Page

Notice how “Dental Cleaning” is bold? That’s because if a user searches for the keyword phrase, “pet dental cleaning”, Google will recognize that this website has a relevant webpage and information for the search. Try it out for yourself. Notice how the keywords you enter appear in the optimized URLs?

What are H1 / H2 / Title Tags?

One of the first thing Google looks for on your pages are header tags, also referred to as H1s and H2s. These “headers” or headlines provide Google with a basic framework of what your page or post is all about. How can we explore these?

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid working with some coding for SEO. But don’t let that discourage you. Basic SEO doesn’t require advanced coding experience. 

You can display the code for any website by going to your browser.

  • Google Chrome: Use the shortcut Control-U.
  • Firefox®: Go to “view” and then “page source”.

Every browser allows you to see the source code (most of the time, you can right-click, and select “View Source”). For most browsers, the code will be displayed in a separate window so you can compare the code and the displayed web content side by side.

Each webpage’s headings should be tagged with <H1>, <H2>, etc., with H1 as the top-level heading. Search engines pay close attention to the H1 tag, and less to the subsequent heading tags. Here’s how to use them:

  • Each page should have only one H1 tag. (If you need to have headings for multiple sections on a page, use H2s or H3s. It’s okay to have more than one H2/H3/H4/etc.)
  • H1 tags should be located at the top of your page content above any other heading tags.
  • If at all possible, put your important keywords into your H1 tag.
  • Above all, the H1 tag should serve as the content piece’s title or headline, communicating what the page is about.

Title tags are used in several places to describe the content. It will appear at the top of your browser when the page is viewed. Let’s use our doggy dental cleaning website as an example:

Veterinary Website’s Title Tag

See how the title tag appears in the top left, in the browser tab? The title tag in this case is using the keyword phrase, “Veterinary Dental Cleaning”.  In other words, they are telling search engines, “This page is about veterinary dental cleaning, and my H1/H2 tags will be similar to this subject.”

Remember the purpose of the tags:  By optimizing your headings, you’re making it easier for search engines to determine if your website/pages are relevant and informative to potential users and/or customers.

Coding note: Title tags can be hard coded in the HTML of your pages, or they can usually be entered in your content management system (CMS), such as WordPress.

How to Optimize a Meta Description

Meta descriptions are displayed in SERPs as the descriptor text for the webpage. This makes them a key piece of information for search engines, but especially for your audience. Just like title tags, meta descriptions can be hard coded in the HTML, or can be entered within your CMS platform. Let’s jump back to our dental cleaning example to see what they have for a meta description (highlighted in yellow):

Meta Description in Search Result Page

Think about it: When was the last time you did a search on Google, and didn’t use those descriptions to make a choice on whether you would click on the website? Search engines limit the amount of real estate available for descriptions — normally about 160 characters. Any text that goes beyond that will likely be cut off and leave a reader’s questioning the relevance of the page.

Optimization Strategies for Images

Because images are searched quite regularly (everyone loves puppy photos), the images on your website need to be optimized. In fact, images can even show up on the first page of the SERPs if the search engine determines that it’s relevant enough to a search.

Search engines often rely on the context of the page on which the images live to identify relevance, along with the meta tags for the image, to understand the image’s contextual meaning and its relevance in search.

Naming your image file is important. Use relevant keywords in image filenames, separated by dashes (not underscores). Instead of "DL000031.jpg", use something like "veterinary-dental-cleaning.jpg".

Utilizing SEO Best Practices for Your Veterinary Website

Search engine optimization is not an exact science. The algorithms used by Google, Bing, and other search engines are proprietary, so we can’t know exactly how they work. Instead, SEO best practices are created based on theories that have been carefully researched and tested by experts in the field.

By following these optimization strategies, you will greatly increase your content’s chances to drive more traffic to your website and beat the competition.


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