Episode 17: A Conversation about Healthcare SEO with Matthew Woodward

This week, we sit down to talk about Search Engine Optimization and how healthcare professionals can use SEO to their advantage with world-renowned SEO expert Matthew Woodward. Matthew’s twenty-plus years of experience with SEO has given him some great insights into the SEO industry. Enjoy our conversation!

Episode Transcript: Interview with Matthew Woodward

Crawford Ifland: What’s up everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast. Today, we have a special guest on the show to share some of his thoughts and insights about the world of search engine optimization. Its world-renowned SEO expert Matthew Woodward.

bbrwoMatthew, welcome to the show!

Matthew Woodward: Hi, how are you doing? Thanks for having me on.

Crawford: My pleasure. So, just by way of introduction, just tell us a little bit about you. How did you get into the SEO world? 

Matthew Woodward: Well I’ve been building websites since before Google existed. Before YouTube, before social media was a thing. I grew up in in the dawn of e-sports and competitive gaming, which led me to build my first real website allowing people to share their highlight videos. This was before YouTube, and as a thirteen-year-old kid, I lacked the vision to just build YouTube.

Crawford: Wouldn’t that have been nice?

Matthew Woodward: I literally built a website for people to share videos, but it was only for that very very small community that I was in and I lacked that “big picture” insight, you know? And then found myself, you know always a natural…I was that kid that was always trying to sell you something at school. Whatever it was – sweets, Pokemon cards, cigarettes – the whole shebang. As my interest in the web developed, my interest in sales developed, my interest in marketing developed, it all kind of converged when e-commerce started becoming a thing. 

You might remember on the news when people were like “No one’s ever gonna buy online. No one’s gonna put their credit card details in a website. How can you trust who you don’t know who you’re giving…”

You might remember all of that time. That was about at the time I was getting into e-commerce. So for me, it’s kind of lucky that all my natural interests and technology and you know people’s opinions of the internet and things all kind of converged into the right moment that pivoted and allowed me to pursue digital marketing full-time. I’ve been doing this for nearly nearly 20 years now, which is half of my life…

Crawford: And did that evolve into client work at some point? Going from working on your own stuff to then working on behalf of others? 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, I have done a lot of client stuff. I have an SEO agency based in London. But during that transition, I took clients personally and you built that side of the business from there. I’ve really seen it all – not just from my own sites that I rank, which is mostly what I do, but through working with clients…and you’d be amazed at some of the types of clients that we get and the problems they have.

Crawford: Sure, sure. And obviously, you know through all of that experience over the last 20 years, you’ve seen Google and other search engines change and grow a lot, you know, certain tactics and strategies come and go and you got to kind of navigate your way through that, because this is an industry that changes all the time. 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, yeah it is. I mean it is constantly changing. When I started doing SEO link building was not a thing. Google had not yet launched and they introduced the link graph towards the end of ’98. Back then it was just about on-page, who can have the highest keyword density. So, you would literally just load up a page with the content that you wanted to rank and then just put white text on a white background so you couldn’t see it and to spam your keyword to like a thousand percent keyword density. Whoever had the highest keyword density ranked number one, so it’s definitely changed.

In general right now, I would say in the last ten years, although things have changed the fundamentals and foundations haven’t I often find that people make mistakes chasing the the new strategies and new this and new that. And while people are distracted chasing that they usually haven’t taken care of the basics and then are wondering why the struggling to rank. It’s a common problem.

I think humans are just attracted to the complicated solution, but you know, like with any business with whoever you’re a medical practice, a restaurant, or an SEO if you don’t do the very basics, it doesn’t matter what complicated or you know intelligent things you think you’re doing because you’re not going to have the success if you haven’t built that foundation first.

So the foundation hasn’t changed and after you like it skipped over by many people in the pursuit of change and something new.  

Crawford: I was browsing around your website and I love the tagline that you have on there, which is “connecting the dots between humans and bots.” And you know, most marketing people I know, we’re all data nerds and I think that often times we to easily get distracted by those technical aspects of what we’re doing: you know, the code, the A/B testing, the best practices and optimizations that we implement to try to make the computers happy…but it sounds like what you’re saying, you know at the heart of everything we do is the end user, which is a real human. I mean, in your view isn’t that really what SEO is all about? 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, I mean, well, first of all that tagline, I don’t know who came up with that. I stole it off a t-shirt on Amazon, and I’ve Googled the tagline and I’ve never seen anyone publish it not on a t-shirt. So I don’t know who made it or who created it. So yeah, I borrowed it. But you’re completely right with big data and analytics in this and that and all the other is very easy to get disconnected from the human.

We sit behind a computer screen and you know, if sometimes I look at my site and it’s like “I only got 2,000 visitors that day.”

But, trust me – if I was stood in a room with two thousand people in front of me and I was reading them a blog post or a piece of content, I’d feel that. But when I’m sat behind a screen looking at Google Analytics, it’s like you know, not only do I dehumanize it, I devalue it. And I think anyone that’s nerds do that anyone interested in data does that.

It’s very easy to forget that there’s a human on the other end of the screen. Like that’s 2,000 people that have read your website, they made a first impression. They’ve digested the content in the brain. They’ve processed it and formed an opinion about it. That is often forgotten about when you’re looking at Google Analytics, so, you know, the human is the center to it. The human is the person that’s going to get their wallet out and buy something.

Google, in a way, kind of fueled the fire a little bit over the last years in that the algorithm was so non-human-centric. It was so data-centric – and it still is – but it was data-centric to the point where people were just throwing up crappy content that didn’t actually help the human just because that’s what performed right in the search engines. And it was like that for many years, and as a consequence of that that’s bred a lot of SEOs that have never even thought about the human…because they’ve never had to.

Crawford: Yeah, sure. They’re just trying to game the algorithm and you know come out on top but never really thinking about the person. “Hey, am I actually delivering value? Am I actually producing great content?”

Matthew Woodward: Yes, yes, and that’s an easy mistake because we’re just looking at data all the time. You never connect with the person. It’s very easy to become disconnected from the reality of what’s actually happening, you know, connecting the dots between humans and bots. That is what we’re here to do ultimately but it just seems like we’ve been connecting the dots between servers and bots rather than humans and bots.

Crawford: Yeah, sure. I like that. So let’s talk about Google a little bit. So, you know as you’ve kind of alluded to, we’ve talked about Google’s changing all the time so it can be really difficult to stay on top of everything that’s going on in the SEO world if you don’t live it and breathe it 24/7. And I know a lot of people, you know, we tend to get distracted by “what’s new?” and “what did Google do this week?” and that kind of thing.

But just thinking more broadly, what are some of the biggest developments in the SEO world at the moment or in recent months and years and kind of what do they mean for the future of search and where we’re headed? 

Matthew Woodward: The only guarantee in SEO is change, right? It’s always always a moving target, so to speak. But I kind of spoke about it before: if you do the fundamentals right of your SEO, if you build a website and an experience that people love, it’s likely that Google will love it as well. You might need a technical SEO just to make a few changes here and there, but in general if you’ve built something that humans love, Google will love it as well. 

The reason for that and the reason that’s true now more than it was in the past is because Google has gotten much better understanding language and questions. You know before people would search for like “buy car.” Now, they search for things like “buy a red Honda Civic from you know, 2001.” And Google has got much better at understanding queries and as such then being able to match documents of those queries in a very accurate way.

That’s now moved on to the point of voice search, where Google are so confident in the result that they return. You can ask Google Home a question, and specifically in the medical world, you can ask it a medical question and it’s going to come back with a medical answer. In July, I forget the news corporation – one of the big ones NBC, someone like that posted a case study that demonstrated Google was now the most accurate voice medical device in comparison to Alexa and Apple’s offerings.

And that is very interesting because for you to be able to blindly ask medical question and a device return a single accurate answer from all of the possible millions of answers are across all of the internet? That’s quite incredible. And that’s something we really need to be paying attention to because Google are quite obviously searching for authoritative sources of information in which to serve those answers from. Because the risks of not serving accurate answers under those circumstances are life and death.

Crawford: Yeah, sure.

As many of our podcast listeners will know, we’re a healthcare marketing agency. Most of our clients are physicians in private practice and many of these clients and these healthcare providers are solidly in what Google would call, the “YMYL” space, or “Your Money or Your Life”.

So really the stakes are higher when, hey, if somebody’s posting something online that kind of contains suspect medical advice or something like that that can have an outsize effect, adverse effect potentially on patients. So how should being in the YMYL  space influence how healthcare providers go about their SEO strategy? 

Matthew Woodward: Your SEO strategy just essentially as an extension of your business strategy.

So, first of all, if you have a doctor’s office, it’s probably very clean. Everything’s probably really organized, nicely presented, when people walk in they feel comfortable. They feel relaxed. They’re greeted by a friendly face, a receptionist. That kind of healthcare experience that you expect in the real world needs to be carried over into the digital world.

So if I land on your website and it’s like, it’s an eyesore – that is not a true reflection of the experience of your business if I was to visit it and walked in from the street. First of all, your website needs to be an extension of your physical experience. And if the two are mismatched right now, you need to work on that and figure out why that is.

You know, I said it before – if you build a website and an experience humans love, it’s likely that Google will love it as well. If you have a physical world business, you know, if you owned a retail store, you wouldn’t open the retail store with half the shelves missing and all the stock or mixed up. It be opened with everything organized, everything done right by, you know proper till system. And you must treat your website in very much the same way.

And I don’t feel like many people treat their website in the same seriousness as they treat their physical business space. 

Crawford: Yeah, it’s something that we always tell our clients like we have to remind them – your patient experience doesn’t start when a patient comes into your practice for the first time. It doesn’t start when somebody walks in the door, because chances are they’ve done their research beforehand and they’ve already seen your website. They’ve already formed an opinion about you. So the way that you’re presenting your business and your practice online, you know across all different channels – not just your website, but your social media and your review platforms and all that kind of stuff. It really does matter because you want to have one cohesive picture, one cohesive experience that patients have. 

Matthew Woodward: Yes, of course, of course. Arguably the experience starts the moment the symptoms start. Because they’re already in their mind thinking “I’m feeling sick. Maybe I need to go to the doctor” and are already thinking that point that from the first moment of symptom before they’ve searched before the picked up the phone, before anything, they’re already thinking “I need to go and see a doctor” and already if they haven’t got one in mind, they’re already narrowing the choices in their mind.

Different people will have different requirements. Yeah, you’ve got to be aware of that  from the very start of things. And that could be right now that the first thing someone does is asks a voice assistant, “I’ve got these symptoms. What does mean?”

You hit nail on the head the experience starts way before they walk in the clinic. And it’s easy to forget as you’re running a doctor’s practice. Doctors have the the the exact opposite problem of SEO s because they’re people-centric, and they forget about the digital. 

Crawford: That’s funny. So in past episodes of this podcast we’ve touched on E-A-T a little bit and why it’s an important part of Google’s algorithm.

And for those of you who might just be joining us for the first time if you’ve never heard of that before E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

So, we now know that Google doesn’t specifically have an E-A-T score as part of their algorithm. But we also know from their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines that it’s still important to pay attention to.

So I guess my question for you is, what should healthcare professionals know about E-A-T, and how does that factor into the fact that they’re in this “Your Money or Your Life” space and Google kind of treats them with a little more strictness, if you will?

Matthew Woodward: Yeah. This again comes back into a comparison of the physical experience in the digital experience. If you were to put yourself in a patient’s shoes and you were searching for a doctor, and these were doctors that you never heard of before you never had recommendation, they were just cold discoveries…that person then needs to make a choice: “Which one am I going to go with?”

And that is usually going to be made from looking at things like your qualifications, your experience, reviews, what other people have said. And those things are E-A-T signals.

People are looking – are you an expert? You know, have you got the qualification? Are you authoritative? Yeah, have you got a good reputation? Have you got good experience on your site? And then from reviews, are you trustworthy? Because ultimately doctors must be trustworthy. Which is not always the case, but all of those offline things, offline signals that people would look for need to be coherent in your digital space. And that is done in a number of ways online.

Very very simply – and I’d be surprised if a doctor’s office doesn’t have this – you need to make sure you have basic information: address, phone number, company registration information. Anything that’s legally required.  All of those very very basic things. Any terms and conditions. All of those kinds of things need to be in play. 

You also need to make sure that on your about page you’re detailing your staff: who they are and all of those signals that build into E-A-T. Why are they an expert? Why are they authoritative? Why can you trust them? The more information you can provide the better – not just from a Google standpoint, but from the standpoint of the patient making the decision of “is this the place I’m going to go to?” 

You know and design also feeds into E-A-T. You know, if we hit a website and it’s messy and doesn’t look good and there’s no consistency in the design elements and things like that – you go, “well that’s kind of…” It’s a signal of distrust. So, everything in your digital presence feeds into E-A-T.

And the best way for anyone to evaluate it themselves, even without any digital experience or SEO experience, is just to literally put themselves in a customer’s shoes and start searching and see what you find for your practice. If you’re a doctor that’s listening, put yourself in a patient’s shoes: do the searches that they would kind of do to find you and see if along that journey you feel like you’re building expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. 

That observational exercise will often reveal a lot of weaknesses and holes. You might have been featured in some kind of medical journal, but you never updated your website with it, you know? And that kind of thing is easy to forget about. So do that review, but do it manually. Do it with your eyeballs. Do it from the customer’s experience. Start searching and at the end of the experience, do you feel like you’ve built trust with this this digital entity before you pick up the 

Crawford: That makes a lot of sense. And if you really do put yourself in a customer’s shoes, in a patient’s shoes, so many of these decisions, you know about who you’re going to buy from or what practice you’re going to go see for any given medical condition?

It really comes down to the questions of “What do I think about this person or this business? Do I like them? Do I want to associate with them? And at the end of the day, can I trust them?”

Because these are pretty high stakes things, especially if you’re talking about the medical world. Can I actually trust them with my medical condition? Can I trust them, you know kind of these early questions of the internet when e-commerce was out there: “Hey, can I trust the site with my credit card?” We’re asking similar sorts of questions, you know, even though we’re 20 years on from when that stuff first came out. We’re still we’re still asking those kind of things and that’s still important for people, sounds like. 

So let’s talk a little bit about content marketing. So, content marketing is obviously a great way to drive traffic to a website and creating great content can certainly help your organic rankings. But a big challenge is to create content that, people actually want to read. I think healthcare in particular is an interesting and challenging industry in this regard. So. Let me pose a question to you: do you think doctors should blog?

Matthew Woodward: For what purpose? For what goal?

Crawford: I would say for an SEO goal. For the goal of increasing and improving your rank in search. 

Matthew Woodward: The best way of doctor can go about blogging is blogging not to increase their rankings in search, but blogging in order to increase the number of people that come through the door. That will inherently allow them to grab more visibility in search, but it shouldn’t be the reason that they do it.

And I say that because if you start blogging for search, we’re not connecting dots to humans and bots. 

But as a doctor who’s human-centric, who has patients coming through the door all day every day, they will be aware of things that algorithms are not. For example, you may have a regional outbreak of Dengue, in which case it would be an intelligent marketing decision for a doctor to put together a small guide of how to protect yourself from getting Dengue and then market that to their local audience. Because as soon as the people get Dengue, they’re going to go to that doctor. 

It’s really focusing on answering the questions that patients are asking, or doing things that are more topically relevant from what a patient would want to see, not necessarily “oh, what are people you know searching for on Google and how can I try to game the system that way?”

And not just topically relevant, but seasonally relevant. 

Some doctors will be in a place where they can guarantee in the winter months they have a high amount of people coming in with the flu. If you know that and you know that every year, well, then you can just create a few pieces of content that help people with that how to protect themselves from it: how to home-medicate, and then ultimately what they should do if it gets really bad. In each of those pieces of content should have a call to action to make an appointment, you know, and those pieces of content should go out.

Of course, they should go out with keywords in mind, but keywords should not be the formation of the idea formation of the idea should be from the doctor. 

If you do that consistently over time, not only you’re going to see an increase in appointments, people and start talking about you more. Even if they don’t make a reservation with you and their friend gets ill, they’re going to be like, “Hey, read this. This really helped me. He’s a local doctor.”

That is trust – the fact that the doctors local and that advice is that you know. So having you finger on the pulse of of epidemics, you know things come and go and have a new pulse on seasonal illnesses as a doctor. You can really use that to to uplift every area of your business.

Now, as a doctor, I’m not suggesting that you write the content – your time is better spent doing what what you were trained to do. But it’s likely that you have juniors or assistants or other people that you could just give a very basic bullet-pointed framework, two hundreds and fifty words that a junior could expand into something really nice and then you could come back and give your final review. 

So, in that regard, should doctors blog? Yes. Should doctors blog just for the sake of SEO? No.

Crawford: Gotcha. Many of our clients are healthcare practices that focus more on like elective surgeries – things like LASIK or plastic surgery or things like that. What advice would you have for one of those clients who it’s not necessarily, you know something that’s seasonal or an outbreak of X, Y, or Z – it’s more a procedure that a patient is considering and they’re going through, trying to do their research find all of their options in that kind of thing.

What what advice would you have two practices like that in terms of creating content and trying to rank for it? 

Matthew Woodward: In in that case again, I wouldn’t be directly trying to rank content. The very first thing I would do is make sure that the website and the content on the website creates trust. And the way I would create the trust is through education – and not only leveraging the doctor-patient relationship, but leveraging the teacher-student relationship.

When people are undergoing those kind of surgeries, they are going to have the same worries, the same concerns, the same problems. They need to be addressed in the content. And if you could address those major problems and worries through video content, something that inherently builds trust and expertise and is authoritative, that is where I would start with the content creation for those kinds of services.

Later on I’d then be looking to leverage that content into search and how we can bring in some rankings in additional traffic that way, but the very foundation of it would be that – to make sure I have all of that in place first. Because again like people can go and learn about the risks of whatever surgery from whatever website right? But it’s ten times more powerful to learn those risks from the personal who will actually be doing the surgery. 

Crawford: Sure, it makes it more human and there’s a there’s an opportunity for the physician to educate and to answer questions, to assuage concerns, things like that. But it’s more powerful when it’s coming from. Hey, this is actually your surgeon, not just some guy with a blog. 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, yeah, and even if you’re communicating advice that already exists, that’s not the point. The point is it’s coming from you.

And yeah, that creates that relationship before they walk through the door, because they’re already met you. They already feel comfortable with you, even though you’ve never seen them or even know their name.

And I don’t feel many people go to that that length and you know, all you need really is an iPhone and a tripod and to speak. The cost of producing something like that is literally just time and sharing your expertise and you know, all of that feeds into your E-A-T signals.

Crawford: So, we encounter a lot of clients who may be used to have a robust content marketing strategy and they were doing it with people in mind – you know, actually answering the questions that patients have and that kind of thing. But over time, one thing led to another and other things got in the way.

So what about those doctors whose blog has maybe gone cold hasn’t been updated in a few years? How should they go about kick-starting their content marketing with SEO in mind?

Matthew Woodward: A doctor should never be doing anything with SEO in mind in any part of the process. The doctor should only be doing things with humans in mind and that answering those questions, by extension, is doing it with SEO in mind, but it’s not the reason they should be doing it.

The reason they should be doing it is because they want to build their name. They want to build their brand. They want people to be you know, when someone gets ill oh, yeah, go see this doctor, he’s awesome. You know, they want to be that. So, a doctor should only be focusing on producing content that aligns to that. The SEO will come as a natural extension of that.

But if you’ve not updated things for a long time, it’s likely you need to go through and have a manual review of your site from a customer point of view. And it’s likely you’re going to have things out of date on the site. It’s likely team members have changed. It’s likely you’ve got some of a qualification or something to add.

First of all go through and update all existing content. Make sure it’s relevant. Make sure it’s accurate while you’re doing that. Look for weaknesses. Look like, okay, well previously this content got a bit of success – what can we do to double down on that? Why was it successful? Was it because we were blogging about a seasonal illness? Was it because we answered a really common question like, why was it? And then pull down on that.

And in terms of then from an SEO standpoint what you could look at is did any of this content used to rank? Does it still rank? Are there any tweaks we could make? If we just put this keyword in the title and and did some on-page optimization could we increase the rankings there? But that’s nothing a doctor should be doing you know, that that’s that’s for people like ourselves to come in and leverage what the doctors built for the human and we take that and connect it 

Crawford: Gotcha. So what do you think is the best way like how would you go about refreshing old content that’s gone stale? It may be used to perform well, but isn’t delivering that traffic anymore. Is there like a systematic approach that you take to resurrecting that old content? Or is it more just hey, we’ll, you know, try it on a case-by-case basis and see what works? 

Matthew Woodward: I mean if you’ve got a lot of content that’s not been reviewed for a while, well, you got you got to make a big list of it in a spreadsheet and go for it one by one and do a review. Is it current is it up to date? If not, update it. Could you imagine walking into a supermarket and buying, stale fruit and vegetables? Like, you wouldn’t. You’d just walk out and you’d be like, “Ew, I’m not going there again.” Same thing with your website, especially as a doctor.

You know,  I imagine if your doctor’s web if you know, if you’re a some kind of smoking doctor and you’re not recommending to quit smoking with Vapes right now, you might want to go update that content. You know, hot topic in the US. Likely, if your doctor as well as you’re a doctor in that niche and you aren’t publishing content to capture that attention right now. If you’re not selling medical exams off the back of that, what are you doing? 

So, yeah, go through if content is not being updated for more than six months, you need to go through it manually review. Is it still current? Is it still right? What do we need to add? What do we need to take away and you need to do that? Because people are forming an opinion about you on that content…and that might be a very very bad opinion just because of how a new story broke a couple of weeks ago, you know?

Crawford: Yeah. And you don’t want to appear to be behind the times or not relevant anymore or anything like that.

So we talked a lot about the relationship between SEO and pay-per-click advertising on platforms like Google Ads. So for many of our clients and many doctors in general, SEO is important, but it can take a while to rank for some of those key terms. But at the same time they also need to be bringing patients in the door right away, especially if they’re like a brand new practice. So I know that you focus on SEO a lot, but what part do you see Google Ads playing in a marketing plan? 

Matthew Woodward: Google Ads and SEO are just components of a marketing plan. Your marketing plan should not just be SEO. Neither should it be a just Google Ads. You need to do, you know take a holistic approach, offline and online.

So Google Ads are a quick way of buying the number one position. And if you’re looking to literally just turn on leads, it’s a great way of doing it, but it’s expensive. It’s expensive and if your website sucks and you’ve not done all of the things that we’ve been discussing today, it’s going to cost you a lot of money to generate a lead. So there is risk in that, because you’re often paying very expensive fees per click without any guarantee of a return. It is an intelligent gambling decision, really.

Where people can do well with Google Ads about spending a lot of money? If you’re doing some pretty solid offline marketing – which you should be – retargeting your website visitors through Google Ads is a great way of recovering people have interacted with you that have already started to build that trust with you and then retargeting and reminding them to come back and make a reservation. That is a very good way to reach a highly targeted audience on a very budget-friendly level. And it removes a lot of the risk. The conversion rates when you retarget like that are insane. 

Crawford: You know that they’ve you know, they’ve had some sort of interaction with you and that’s kind of why.

Matthew Woodward: Yes, yes, and if you’ve done all of the things that we’ve been talking about today, they’re going to be as warm as a person that you can reach.

Equally, if you’re going for the cold click from Google, if you’ve done all the things we’ve talked about today, that’s going to remove the risk. And when I say remove the risk, I mean the risk of spending a bunch of money on Google ads and having no people walking through your door.

It depends. We work with many clients for many different industries and some of them are like, allergic to Google ads. You know, like they don’t want anything to do with it. They don’t see that they should be paying for it. They don’t see that they should be paying to appear for their own brand name, you know things like that and they’re only interested in the SEO. 

And then we have clients that want a good balance of both and they get terrified if search traffic accounts for more than 40 percent of their overall traffic. So different clients, different budgets, different wants, needs, fears – they all leading to a wildly different marketing strategies and plans.

So Google Ads should only play a part in your marketing plan if it makes sense to play a part in your marketing plan. If you’ve got a sucky website that looks terrible on mobile, you should not be playing with Google Ads. You gotta build those foundations out.

So assuming you’ve taken care of everything and you’ve got the budget to do so, Google Ads are an intelligent way to start, you know to turn on the leads turn on the traffic. But you’ve got to have this foundations in place. You’ve got to have a store where all the shelves are organized. Everything is lit well. Everything functions.

Otherwise, you’re just wasting money. And if you want my PayPal address, you can just send it straight to me, and that will be fine. 

Crawford: That’s funny. So if a healthcare practice came to you wanting to attract more patients from Google, but they’ve really never done any sort of SEO before, where would you tell them to start? Like what’s the very first thing you would look at? 

Matthew Woodward: I have the same conversation with every client, right and it usually goes like this: they showed me the website, they’re wondering why it’s not ranking and they’re like, “I want to let’s build more backlinks.”

And I look at the site and I like well, you’ve got a ton of on-site problems.

And they’re like, “No we haven’t! No, we haven’t! It’s perfect!”

Well, here’s like a 20-page list of the problems you’ve got. Every time every client site is perfect and there’s no way it can be better…until they read that report. So, the very first thing that we start is a look at the on-site. And you know, we spoke about it. It’s looking: have they got the foundation right? Have they built a foundation humans love that will then allow Google to love it as well?

And more often than not they haven’t. One of the things I love to do is disconnect my phone from Wi-Fi and load the website on my mobile phone. If that takes longer than two or three seconds, then I know that the significant problems. Because, you know, that’s often the real world experience of people. Not everyone’s on a desktop a laptop or connected to high-speed internet.

So, that’s why I like to start is with manual observation of just what is the experience? Does it look right on a phone? Can I make a reservation? Is there some annoying pop-up that stops me from being able to make a reservation? Can I navigate around quickly? Just the very basics of manual observation something that’s again lost in SEOs because we’re so distracted by data and this and that and the other. Just manually observing how the website functions: does it function right? And more specifically does it function right on a mobile phone?

You just can’t beat manual observation. 

Crawford: Yeah, really getting into your user shoes and saying hey, you know, they don’t care at all about the technical stuff – they just want to know if it works if it’s easy to use or if it takes forever to load and they get frustrated and go somewhere else, right? 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s often missed. It’s often  missed by SEOs as well. So that’s the first place we start and it’s the first place you should start.

Then once we’ve done the manual observations, then we start doing a few basic technical spot checks. Now if anyone wants to follow along and do their own kind of, I call it a “common sense SEO Audit” in the fact that anyone can do it. It’s something actually did on my own blog.

If you Google Matthew Woodward SEO Audit or you hit my blog and find my SEO audit tutorial and there’s a video actually that guides you through it. You can go through very quickly and within about 15 or 20 minutes have a good idea of all of the problems you currently face from an SEO standpoint and that will allow you to create a plan of attack on what you should be looking at first and how to fix it.

You know, on-site audits is is the first place we start. Now a real on-site audit can only be done by a technical SEO. You need someone with knowledge and experience and you know, the manual brain processing in which to do it, but you can also find many of your problems yourself and fix a lot of.

You know, oftentimes if you’ve got issues with site speed it’s just a plug-in – you can go buy WP Rocket, install it, actiate it, bing and fix most of those problems. There’s a lot of things that you can do yourself about much knowledge and experience.

So while you never going to get to the level of a truly technical SEO audit if you follow my common sense or audit you will find a lot of problems and be able to improve your position yourself. 

Crawford: And you get those kind of those pieces of “low-hanging fruit,” if you will, that are going to take you maybe not a hundred percent of the way there, but you’ll certainly be better off than when you began. 

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, if you’ve never done anything like this before you’ll be a million times better off. And the process I created is something that anyone can do in just a few hours. That’s from finding the problems to fixing the problems that the find and it checks a lot of the very fundamental things a lot of the very basics of many people skip over.

Simple things like all right, you’ve got your address your phone number, your company information, everything displayed on the website. But have you got it in structured data? Most people don’t even know what that means. But it’s something that is very easy to check, and it’s something that’s very easy to implement as well.

So my Common Sense audit takes them through how to check that and then how to integrate it as well. So that’s where we start with every client full-blown technical SEO audit.  If you’ve got just a few hours of time when afternoon and maybe $50 to to buy a plug-in, you can do a very low-level audit and capture a lot of issues yourself. 

Crawford: Cool. And for those of you who are listening will have a link to Matthew’s Common Sense SEO Audit in the show notes, so be sure to check that out.

Matthew, just a couple more questions for you. I know it might be hard to pick one, but if you can only pick one, what’s the worst piece of SEO advice you’ve ever heard? 

Matthew Woodward: Wow. 

Crawford: I know that’s hard because I’m sure over the years you’ve heard a lot of really bad advice.

Matthew Woodward: You know, one of the things that I really hate that gets thrown around is 10X ‘ing your content. the skyscraper thing. Brian Dean’s approach.

Now, it does work. It is effective and people do see great results doing it. But in my opinion 10x’ing anything your competitor’s doing, especially when it’s coming to just a piece of content is a waste of resource.

You don’t need to 10X it. It just 2X it. It’s better to 2X  five pieces of content than 10X one piece of content.

And for anyone that’s listening that doesn’t know what I’m talking about, 10X your content is essentially the strategy where you look at what’s currently ranking and you make something that’s 10 times better. So if there’s like a bunch of like thousand-word guides are kind of here and there you make a 10,000 word guide with custom graphics, and you make the go-to piece of content on that subject.

And that’s a great strategy. It does work and it does build your authoritativeness. But there’s no there’s no reason to 10X what already exists. 2X it. 3X it. The resources that goes into ten times in your content is absolutely incredible and it’s not necessary. This is completely not necessary. It’s just it’s just a complete waste of resources in my opinion.

So that’s one of the the more recent and common pieces of SEO advice that I hear that I take issue with from a business standpoint. When you tie it into finances and looking at resource management and allocation all that kind of thing, it just doesn’t make sense to 10X content. 2X it. 3X it for sure.

Crawford: But there’s always an opportunity cost and you need to think about hey, where can I be spending this time and these dollars and these efforts. Is there a better place that I could put these resources rather than just spending all your time trying to 10x a piece of content?

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You can you can still give people a wow factor and attract all of those links with something that’s 2X or 3X. It’s diminishing returns after that, you know. So that’s not the worst piece of SEO advice I’ve heard, but it’s something that I hear thrown around a lot and something that I feel people waste a lot of time and money with. 

Crawford: Gotcha. That’s good to know. So just just kind of boiling down our conversation…if there’s one thing you would want people in the healthcare space to know about SEO, if you could just distill all of this down into kind of one or two salient points, what would those be? 

Matthew Woodward: I think we’ve touched on it quite a few times throughout the podcast, but if you’re in the health care space your primary objective is people.

You’re caring for people, you’re talking with people. You’re making people feel comfortable. You’re you know, people often stressed or upset or in areas of panic you’re bringing calm and you know into the world, you know. So, make sure that experience is carried over in in your digital endeavors for your website, social media, whatever it is. Just carry, you know, keep the human in mind. We talked to my many many times throughout this conversation.

And SEO at the end of the day, all right, it’s Search Engine Optimization, but at the end, it’s humans searching.

And people in the healthcare space know more about the fears and the problems those people are facing than any algorithm ever will. 

Because they speak to the people. They know it. They feel it. They touch it every single day. So that is is the one thing not that I want you to know about SEO, but it’s the thing that you should be carrying over into your digital experience which in turn will affect and touch your SEO. But you shouldn’t be thinking about.

If you’re in the healthcare space, think about health, think about people, and how you can carry that experience that you provide in-person over to the digital space. 

Crawford: I love it. If any of our listeners want to get in touch with you or connect, what’s the best way to do that? Is that your website?

Matthew Woodward: Yeah, matthewwoodward.co.uk. There’s a contact form on there if you need to drop me an email for any reason. Social media…it’s likely you’re going to get a slower response on there – I get so much spam, it’s unbelievable. But through the comments box on my website, through the contact form.

Crawford: Well Matthew, thank you so much for for joining us on the podcast. There’s a lot of great stuff you shared here. So I think our listeners can get a lot of value to this conversation and I appreciate you taking the time.

Recap

  • If you focus on creating great content that people love, Google will love it as well. The SEO will come naturally.
  • Address on-site problems before worrying about more complicated SEO techniques.
  • Although Google and other search engines make tons of changes to their algorithms, the fundamentals of SEO haven’t changed in 20 years. It’s still all about creating great content.
  • In 2020 and beyond, voice search will become increasingly important.
  • Keep E-A-T in mind as you develop content that you want to rank for.
  • Your patient’s experience doesn’t start at the door. You need to deliver an exceptional experience online, just as you would in person.
  • Sometimes, you just can’t beat manual observation.
  • For the best SEO results, focus on making your online experience congruent with your in-office, real-world experience.
  • Don’t forget that there are real people with real problems and fears behind your Google Analytics data. It’s easy to dehumanize the process, but SEO is about connecting humans and bots.
  • You don’t need to waste time 10X ‘ing your content. Just find a piece of content that’s ranking well and make it 2X or 3X better.

That’s all for today’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast.

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