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If there is one thing that is true about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it is that change is the one primary constant. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms in an effort to deliver an improved user experience—and what used to work in the world of SEO may not work now, which makes hiring an SEO partner a daunting task indeed. Therefore, if you are in the process of shopping the SEO services of multiple marketing firms, and are unsure of what is true and false, we encourage you to ask these seven questions prior to signing a contract or making a commitment.

1. What is SEO and Why Do You Need It?

As we mentioned previously, SEO is constantly changing because the search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, are always updating their algorithms. At the end of the day, it is the intent of the search engines to provide a quality experience to the end user—and deliver to them the most pertinent information as it relates to their search query. So, with that in mind, the world of SEO is a comprehensive one and it is likely you have heard many terms, including “white hat,” “gray hat,” “black hat,” and others. Therefore, let us begin with the most basic in terms of SEO philosophy and strategy.

Ultimately, you only want to work with a marketing company whose philosophy is pure, white hat SEO. This means they follow the rules, respect the search engines, and do not try to take shortcuts in order to get you results that game the system or are “less than honest,” i.e., gray hat and black hat approaches. At the end of the day, the search engines are pretty aware when it comes to identifying an SEO professional who is trying to cheat—and they do dole out punishments. Trust us when we say that you do not want to be on the receiving end of such a penalty.

Additionally, there are arguably three major areas of SEO—and the companies that are truly worth their salt include all of these in their client’s strategy. Those three areas are: Technical SEO & UX, Content Development, and Off-site SEO. Here is what each means:

Technical SEO & User Experience: This references code, site speed, website architecture, as well as other factors that could influence search traffic and user behavior on-site. When a technical SEO audit is completed, the marketing firm you are considering will ensure that the search engines are able to “crawl” your site, which means ultimately determining what your site and its content are about. The SEO pro will also see where 404 errors might be present, analyze any necessary website redirects and other key points to ensuring your website is optimal.

Content Development: This is the creation of valuable content geared towards building rapport and nurturing prospective patients at any stage of their “patient journey.” This includes those in the earlier stages of gathering information, surgeon research and comparison (think credential checking, gallery of works, and cost), or those closer to actually requesting a consultation. Content can come in many forms, most popularly blog articles and resource FAQs, infographics, and video.
Per Google’s EAT guidelines, consistently generating content that serves the end user’s search intent, grants your practice perceived expertise, authority, and trustworthiness over time through the lens of the search engine giant. Content development MUST be a part of your overarching SEO strategy. Otherwise, Google will tend to favor other practices willing to showcase their expertise, prizing your competitors with qualified traffics and leads instead of you.

Off-page SEO: This refers to earning links, citation development (directory listings), online brand strengthening, site and content popularity measures, and other points that will improve SEO presence. In order to do this, the SEO agency will look to identify changes that will increase your domain and page authority by building high-quality links to your site that originate on legitimate and trustworthy websites.

It is important that the marketing firm you are considering is able to do all three of these things in a balanced and high-quality way.

2. How Do You Determine Which Keywords to Target?

In years past, keyword research typically meant typing some term into a keyword research tool, generating a list of keywords that were relevant to a client’s business, and then developing written content to align with those words. However, those days are long gone. Today, much more effort, strategy, and insight are involved in developing a keyword strategy. Namely, an SEO agency that knows what they are doing is going to focus their efforts on understanding the ultimate intent of a user. In order to get quality SEO results, you need to be able to think proactively and understand what a user is looking for when searching for a specific phrase (for instance, “breast augmentation surgery cost in Beverly Hills”) then provide content that is specifically catered to the search’s intent.

This is important because with the search query that we just noted in the previous paragraph, we are centering on someone who is searching for what they can expect breast augmentation surgery to cost—along with a geographic modifier. This denotes they might be farther along in their buyer’s journey when compared to someone who is simply searching “what is breast augmentation?”

Therefore, when you interview a potential marketing firm, make sure they refer to user intent and outline the methodologies and tools they will use to determine keyword intent. If they are simply talking about keyword density or the number of keyword searches, move on—they are obviously using SEO tactics that no longer work.

3. Can You Provide Examples or Case Studies of Previous Campaign Success?

Ask your prospective marketing firm if they are able to provide a sample report that was created for another client or even a case study, so you can guarantee that they have a process and reporting method in place for tracking progress and working toward your goals. If they do, that is a good sign. And, if they are hesitant when you ask this question or reluctant to offer up some quantifiable proof that they have happy clients, then you know what to do—and it involves heading out the door.

4. What Determines the Cost of SEO and How Do I Know Which Plan is Right for My Practice?

You want to make sure every penny you spend on your practice’s digital marketing counts, so this is an important question. Firstly, be cognizant of the fact that there is no “standard” price for SEO. A marketing agency has the ability to charge whatever they believe is a fair price for their services, and their rates are likely going to be centered on the size of their company, their level of expertise, and the services they provide to clients. Additionally, SEO rates will be based on the market you operate in as well as your industry, your competition, and how aggressive you would like to be in your efforts.

As far as the plan that is right for your practice, that is going to vary depending on what marketing company you are speaking with. Here at Firm Media, we will typically put together three game plans based upon our prospective client’s goals, objectives, and budget—and those plans will span from basic, mid-preferred, and finally, an aggressive SEO/content plan. Of course, with any tiered plan system, the more resources you take advantage of, the higher the price tag and vice versa.

5. How Long Before I Can Expect to See a Return on Investment?

Let us refer back to that last point regarding “the more resources you take advantage of, the higher the price tag.” Ultimately, the more aggressive you are in your SEO endeavors, the faster you will see some ROI. If you choose to invest less and go at a slower pace, it will take longer for you to reap the rewards. However, at the same time, there is no “silver bullet,” and it is disingenuous to be told that “you can expect to see results in X amount of days.” If any SEO firm is making that claim, head in the other direction. Exact timing is impossible to predict—no SEO pro has a crystal ball, and to claim such a thing is dishonest.

Here at Firm Media, we seek to deliver wins to our clients in the first year. But, this is also going to come down to what you are investing, what your targets are, the competition in your market, specific keywords, and other factors.

6. Why Should We Sign with You Over a General Digital Marketing Firm?

To answer this question, we will turn it around and present it to you from a medical practice’s perspective. If you were seeking a facelift or dental implants, would you consult with a general practitioner? Of course not, you would follow the advice of a knowledgeable plastic surgeon or oral surgeon, respectively— specialists who understand the issues you may be facing and have strategies that address your problem exactly.

The same holds true in the realm of digital marketing. Why would you go to a generalist when you need a specialist? You need to partner with a digital marketing agency that understands the complexities of the medical and dental industry and how those factors relate to an effective SEO strategy. The primary advantage, after all, to hiring a medical marketing agency is the fact that these professionals are more educated on the needs of a doctor or dentist. This expertise, in turn, will offer a refreshing distinction in the solutions that are being recommended for your practice. And that is going to make all the difference when it comes to the results you achieve.

7. What Do You Do to Ensure We Are Only Attracting Qualified Traffic, but Also Maximizing Conversion from Visitors?

So, this answer is a summary of everything we have covered thus far in this article. The digital marketing company that you partner with should be able to show how a comprehensive, white hat SEO strategy will drive more qualified traffic to your site while also maximizing visitor conversion. This is accomplished by creating a website that has a back-end that is optimized and “crawlable” by the search engines, implementing a keyword and content strategy based on user intent, ensuring a user-friendly, easy-to-navigate experience once a visitor lands on your website, and deploying a tactical approach that strengthens your brand online and boosts the trustworthiness of your digital assets. Taken all together, this leads to more website visitors converting into paying patients.

Any marketing firm you are considering should be able to speak on all of those points while showing you that they also understand your industry. If this is on display, feel confident in signing a contract and making a commitment.

Of course, we welcome the opportunity to earn your confidence. Reach out to the team at Firm Media today. We would love to chat with you about how we can transform your medical or dental practice via a best-in-class SEO strategy that is coupled with a digital marketing approach made just for you. Contact us now.

By Nohemi Arias
As an SEO Strategist, Nohemi implements result oriented web strategies to produce growing site traffic, leads and visibility for Firm Media's clients. With a Master's Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications and currently working towards an MBA in Business Intelligence and Information Technology, she brings passion and attention to detail to every project.

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