The local world wide web

Vet practices depend on local business; yet many vets don’t realise that they can use the web to target local prospects. Krisinda Merhi reports

Someone has just moved into your suburb. They need a vet. Naturally, they go for the easiest search method there is: Google.

But how do you make sure that when they type in ‘vet’ and the name of your suburb, your business pops up first? How do you make sure they choose you over your competitor? How do you make sure they book you again?

The answers to all these questions depend on three things: visibility, consistency and strategy.

1. VISIBILITY: share your details with Google

Google is notorious for its big mouth. If you give it information, chances are it’s going to share that information with anyone who comes searching. The best way to ensure this is by claiming ownership of your website through either Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console. This might sound complex and intimidating but, according to Rob Johnson, chief content officer at Engage Content, it’s a really simple process:

“Google’s getting smarter. In the past, you had to give the computers a lot of help to let people know where you are. But nowadays, you just need to verify your business with Google and they will do the rest,” says Johnson.

“If you search for those terms [Google Analytics/Google Search Console], you’ll find some really clear instructions on how to do it.

“You follow the steps to verify and they will mail you a card with a code, which you then enter and voilà, your website, business, location and hours are all matched in the Google index.”

As far as Google is concerned, you’re now good to go. Completing these simple steps will help your site start appearing in relevant search results, making you generally easier to locate.

Discoverability can only take you as far as your competitors, however. When that new resident types in ‘local vet’, your practice won’t be the only one in the search results. This is where consistency comes
into play.

2. CONSISTENCY: be persistent, not annoying

The most basic way to achieve this is through ad-retargetting. You know those slightly irritating banner ads you see of the shoes you were just looking at on another site? That’s ad retargeting.

Johnson says this approach is especially useful when considering people who may be clients in the future but just aren’t ready to buy or book the first time they visit your website.

“Many people who use re-targeting swear by it—mainly because their competition doesn’t use it.”Rob Johnson, chief content officer, Engage Media

The ads work by planting a retargeting pixel on the pages of your site, so you can continue to serve your ad to them when they’re online somewhere else—say, on Facebook.

Ad-retargeting is something which has existed in digital marketing for some time but comes with a résumé of mixed opinions.

Although it is an effective way to keep your practice visible online, if not executed carefully it can prove more annoying than useful.

“You can control the amount of time you re-target someone. The problem is, the technology is not clever enough to recognise if someone has just come to your site by mistake, or if they’re already a customer. So they may have already booked with you, only to see your ads popping up everywhere they go on the web,” says Johnson.

And anyone who didn’t book an appointment probably did so intentionally. You can use technology to interrupt them while they’re looking elsewhere, but unless they are willing to engage with you, it becomes very annoying.

But, it’s not all bad news.

“Many people who use re-targeting swear by it—mainly because their competition doesn’t use it,” Johnson says.

But, in his professional opinion, there are other options which are far less stressful and far more effective.

For Johnson, foolproof digital marketing may start with Google but it ends with trust: it’s about building a genuine relationship with your client.

And the best way to do that, he says, is by educating and entertaining through a blog.

3. STRATEGY: Be clever, not just smart

You need to give your clients reason to come back. Although Google is smart, only you can be clever.

By producing lots of interesting, useful content and developing your own unique voice, you are more likely to secure long-term clients. If they like what you have to say, chances are they will stay around to listen.

“The people who are just searching for your practice name alone, or for ‘vet’ and the suburb they live in, are probably emergency cases. Which is fine, but you can get a more loyal patient if you can educate them about their pet’s health BEFORE anything goes wrong.”Rob Johnson, chief content officer, Engage Media

It’s all well and good to say you need to produce content that is ‘interesting’ or ‘quality’ or ‘useful’. But knowing what these things mean is important.

Quality content, according to Johnson, “firstly has to be unique, has to be accurate. It has to relate to the keywords it purports to relate to.

“It has to be at least 300 words and, truth be told, the longer it is the better. Beyond that, Google determines quality by how many people read it and link to it”.

Humans are less specific: they determine quality by how trustworthy and accurate the information is.

This is the bottom line.

If you produce trustworthy, accurate content that delivers what it promises to deliver, you will do well.

If you produce, as Johnson puts it, “some pile of gibberish or padding with a few keywords thrown in”, your chance of success is less likely.

THE BIG PICTURE: Give people a reason to visit

It’s important to remember that there is no quick, single approach to content marketing: it’s a process which takes time and demands effort.

Although geolocation and Google advertising are useful, they are just tools and should not underpin your entire marketing strategy.

“You still need to give people a reason to visit your site,” says Johnson.

“The people who are just searching for your practice name alone, or for “vet” and the suburb they live in, are probably emergency cases. Which is fine, but you can get a more loyal patient if you can educate them about their pet’s health BEFORE anything goes wrong.”

Vet Practice magazine and its associated website is published by Engage Media. All material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in any form without prior written permission. Explore how our content marketing agency can help grow your business at Engage Content or at YourBlogPosts.com.

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