The Wild, Wild Web

Are You Search Smart?

In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, having online search prowess takes on heightened urgency as consumers seek out ECPs who are committed to safeguarding the health and welfare of the greater community

A full 93% of online activity begins with “search,” and Google owns 90% of the search engine market. Which means eyecare professionals must aim to rank No. 1 on Google so consumers can find you fast—and their first impression is a good one.

That’s not new.

What has changed as businesses prepare for pandemic recovery is consumers’ rising scrutiny: Is my favorite salon, diner, and optical shop safe to visit and committed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines?

Thus, search takes on new meaning—and importance—today. Search walks new customers to your door. Search engine optimization (SEO) improves rankings using sanctioned tactics (and Google punishes Sneaky Petes who try to game the system).

Today, search is more critical than ever. For tips on approaching search in today’s new normal, EB went to SEO titan Stephan Spencer, co-author of The Art of SEO, whose clients range from Zappos and Chanel to Volvo and Sony. Host of the “Get Yourself Optimized” and “Marketing Speak” podcasts, Spencer is a frequent TV guest and contributor to Harvard Business Review, AdWeek, Foundr magazine, and Search Engine Land. Here are his three strategic tips.

STEPHAN SPENCER, SEO expert, author, podcast host

TIP #1:

Steer customer reviews strategically. If reviews are good on Yelp but not Healthgrades, invite happy patients to post reviews on Healthgrades to lift ratings. “Ask at the moment they are happiest, not when you are doing website redesign or finally getting around to SEO,” advises Spencer.

In the Now. Fresh reviews chronicle challenges, workarounds, and positive outcomes as patients journey through the pandemic. “This will provide lots of insights looking back, and establish the business as forward-thinking, thoughtful, positive, and even inspiring. Only having pre-coronavirus reviews would look tone-deaf.”

TIP #2:

Google your business. Does your website appear at the top of search results? “You want your website to be No. 1, not a site you don’t control like Yelp or Healthgrades,” says Spencer.

Does a knowledge panel appear at the right of search results showing your shop front, map, business hours, and phone? If not, you have taken a credibility hit.

In the Now. Absence of the panel raises questions, such as, “Did they close for good?”

If “Own This Business?” appears, that means the owner has not yet claimed the listing. Do it. It’s free and easy, and you can correct errors, add photos, and other details.

TIP #3:

When someone clicks on your website from Google, instantly hits the “back” button, and proceeds to a competitor, that’s “pogo-sticking,” an offense Google punishes by reducing your ranking.

Combat pogo-sticking by putting your “social proof” at the top of your homepage. Social proof, a term coined by Influence author Robert Cialdini, conveys you’ve already been vetted.

In the Now. ECPs’ social proof can be a professional award or nonprofit directorship, testimonials, or being quoted in trade press—anything that establishes credibility. “Lack of social proof is rampant on optical websites,” Spencer says. “Social proof is the equivalent of seeing someone accompanied by five supermodels; clearly there is something going on.” —DENISE POWER