What you need to know!
An interview with SEO Consultant, Bradley Barrett
Bradley, to get started, can you tell us a little about your career and background in the SEO world, and how you became involved in the dental industry?
My SEO career dates back to the late 90’s, which was around the same time the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was first coined. This was also a few years before Google would become a household name.
Some of the sites that I worked on during that time include America’s Job Bank, Denver Broncos, Bulova Watches, Cinnabon, New Era Cap, and Wilton Armetale.
Around 2007, my attention turned towards “Local SEO”, which is about helping businesses get found within their local markets. For the past several years I’ve worked almost exclusively on dental related websites.
I often hear from dentists who tell me about calls they get from various marketing agencies or SEO providers telling them everything that’s wrong with their current SEO services. Are these calls legitimate? Or are they just scare tactics to incent a switch in provider?
Sometimes both could be the case. Aside from the fact that these calls can be quite annoying, they can at times point out details that are technically correct.
The issue I have with most of these claims is that they tend to exaggerate the importance, or the severity of each. Not everything involving SEO holds the same value.
Let’s say that someone points out your Title Tags are too long. This could be considered “technically correct”, but I would also consider this example a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. It’s not something that is going to make a big difference either way.
It’s pretty common to hear in a sales pitch all the great things an SEO provider is going to do for you. But, can they really guarantee results? Especially if they’re all essentially competing against each other for rankings?
The claim “guaranteed” is something to pay special attention to. Especially if it involves guaranteeing top Google rankings. If they do promise you guaranteed rankings, that would be my cue to walk away.
Here’s the thing. Each year, some of the most respected SEO practitioners in the industry get surveyed on what they believe to be the most effective ways of getting top rankings. Although useful, these results only go to show that they cannot all agree on what exactly this is. If the “best of the best” can’t figure this out collectively, why would anyone think a single agency can?
Why is domain name and website ownership so important to understand in terms of SEO?
Your domain name is your www.yourpractice.com. If anyone other than you registered this domain name, it’s possible that they registered it in their own name. This basically means they own the name, and have complete control over it.
You could have the greatest Google rankings in town, but with one flick of the switch, it could all be gone.
You can check this out for yourself by using a free WHOIS service, such as the one GoDaddy provides (godaddy.com/whois). Type in your domain name and look at the results. What you should see is your contact information listed as the registrant.
Another tactic used by some (and I emphasize some) is for a provider to build a website for you, but retain all rights to it. This means you paid for a website that you don’t actually own. If you happen to get top rankings and ever want to switch providers, you’re likely going to lose everything that helped get you there.
Make sure you check the fine print, and that you actually own everything should you want to take it elsewhere.
What is important to consider when planning to build a new website or change a domain name?
One way to guarantee a negative impact on your rankings is to change your domain name, or to replace an existing website without a sound SEO strategy.
Most agencies that offer SEO also build websites. When proposing to replace your current site, some won’t bother to do a proper analysis, or will ignore whatever top rankings you already have. Their first priority will be to get your business, and worry about salvaging the SEO later. This is a huge mistake. SEO should never be an afterthought.
Another mistake that some will make is changing their domain name. This request many times will come from the dentist themselves, however, a good SEO consultant will strongly advise against it.
Sometimes this can’t be avoided, and there is a process to follow that can limit any damage it might cause. But the rule is, only change it when there are no other options, or your rankings are so bad that you really have nothing else to lose.
How can a dentist evaluate the results or quality of work from his or her SEO provider?
In a few of words. Not very easily. At least not without some outside assistance.
Since SEO can be such a confusing topic, trying to make sense of it all can be quite daunting.
If things are not working out, it’s highly unlikely your provider will admit to it. In fact, most providers have made an art out of spinning the “negatives” into a “positive”.
One way you can tell if things are working or not is by looking at your web analytics. I prefer this method over rankings since rankings can be so fluid.
I like to run reports that are filtered based on “organic” traffic, which is traffic that comes from the search engines. I also like to filter this based on the location of the user. Comparing this month to month is a great way to measure how well your SEO is working.
If your current provider is able to clearly demonstrate a correlation between the work they’ve done and conversions, then you’re likely in good hands. If you’re SEO has improved, and you’re still not converting this into new patients, then you likely have other issues that need to be addressed.
SEO, like dental marketing in general today, is often positioned and sold in nice, neat little packages (Happy Meals as I like to call them). But, if quality SEO is such a custom service, then are these predefined packages really a good idea for dentists to consider?
Most agencies and providers prefer to offer their services in packages. You pay this for the “Silver Plan” or you pay that for the “Gold Plan”. The problem with this approach is that it implies SEO fits nicely into little boxes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. At least not when you’re first starting out.
I can understand packages when it’s time for the maintenance phase, but this only happens when your goals have been met, and it’s about sustaining and maintaining what’s already working.
SEO is not a one-size-fits-all kind of service. Each website is going to have its own challenges and requirements to improve rankings. You can’t presume to know what the site needs without first doing an analysis of where things currently stand.
What is a reasonable monthly budget for quality SEO services from a reputable provider?
I’m hesitant to suggest an actual budget since each case is going to be unique, but I’ll do my best.
What I’d like to see is a provider scoping out the work, providing a list of action items, along with an estimate of what this will cost to deliver. I’d then like to see it spread out over monthly payments.
With this approach, I could see an average monthly spend of somewhere between $600-$900. Maybe more for multi-location practices. The key here is to be able to justify how they got to this number, and it shouldn’t be an arbitrary number based on what they think the dentist will pay.
I’d also like to add that there should be some wiggle room for the provider. The reason for this is SEO best practices can occasionally change, and adjustments to the strategy needs to change with it. But this only helps to support the case against the use of predefined packages.
Any closing remarks or parting thoughts to leave our audience with?
Much has changed in the world of SEO since 1997, but the one thing that has dogged the industry ever since has been the abundance of so called experts that will take advantage of its complexities for their own gain.
For some, SEO has become synonymous with the “sleazy” used car salesman. But even the used car industry has its “good eggs”. The challenge is finding them through all of the noise.
Bradley, thank you so much for all the great information! For those who have further questions, or want to learn more from you, how can they best contact you?
It was my pleasure. Anyone that would like to contact me can do so by calling (386) 232-8264, or visit my website at www.bradleybarrett.com.