John McAlpin: “When you are building a website, think about the future. Think about your dream website, what are the key things you wish your website had? I have six principles to keep in mind: stay organized, be discoverable, be unique, make sure things on your website are linkable, have consistent branding, and make sure every page delivers some sort of value.”
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Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast, the only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth each week. Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients. Buckle up for another episode of Ignite.
Alex Membrillo: Well, today we are in for a treat, everybody. Thanks for listening to Ignite. I am Alex Membrillo, still CEO of Cardinal Digital Marketing somehow. We have the very brilliant technical SEO wizard, the best in the country, Mr. John McAlpin. John, welcome to Ignite.
John McAlpin: Thanks for having me back.
Alex: All right. We are going to record a session that is very near and dear to John’s heart because he wants to make sure everybody knows all the tips and tricks around how to build a website that ranks very well for SEOs, not just aesthetically pleasing. He cares about it because he sees a lot of clients coming to us in bad shape because they didn’t build the website to rank, they built it to look beautiful and beauty only gets you so far I’m told.
All right, John, webinar tonight, let’s get into it. We saw in 2021, a consistent trend we’ve seen in our healthcare works is that they’re investing in their digital presence, right? If you’re considering a new website in 2022, just be grateful for user experience, or does it also need to take SEO into account and can your web design agency just do the SEO foundation? Obviously, I’m leading into an answer there, but tell us what to think.
John: Now, you got to be careful with what your agency focus is. They may be a web design, web build focus agency, and they say, “Oh, and we consider SEO.” That’s a very broad statement. You really do need to have an actual SEO audit of your site at various stages. I’m talking about even starting as early as the wireframes and mock-ups and auditing it before it goes live.
Alex: Should the web design firm be working alongside an SEO company?
John: Absolutely, yes. We do it all the time. We have clients that want to work with a specific agency that they like for web builds, but they’ll have us consult and we work alongside. We set up very fluid relationships between these other agencies that would say, “Hey, involve us at these key stages, we’re going to provide you the documents,” and we have a great working relationship. There’s no reason you can’t use multiple agencies for the same project.
Alex: That’s right. Specialization’s the name of the game, we’re not going to harp on this too much but there is no agency under 300 people that is great at both design and SEO, I haven’t seen it yet. Most healthcare orgs are not big enough to work with one of those mega list from a holding company, so work with specialist agencies.
Let’s talk about website structure. What architectural principles do you look for, like foundation? If I only get some things right, the technical foundation is the most important, what do I need to do right when I build this bad boy?
John: A lot of times that people are going to build a website, they’re trying to solve a specific problem they’re currently having. That should be your first step, but don’t get too boxed into what your current issues are. Think about the future. Think about your dream website, what are the key things you wish your website had? I have six principles to keep in mind that help make sure, and as long as you’re achieving these six principles and you can check them off, you will have your dream website.
Make sure it’s organized. Meaning people can easily– Every piece of content you have has a place. That phrase, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Keep it organized and make sure everything’s discoverable. Don’t want your users going five clicks deep just to find key information. Make sure it’s unique. That’s where that UX and design come into play. You don’t want to look like all your competitors, you want to have something that stands out as memorable.
You want to make sure things are linkable, that you have natural linking opportunities within your website and you have content worth linking to through your link-building campaigns. Number five is to make sure that your content is consistent, consistent branding, consistent messaging and theme. Always, the number one rule is to make sure every page delivers some value that is– Get rid of all those pages that aren’t delivering value for you.
Alex: You know what the latest algorithm update is, John? I’ve done so much research on it and Google is really prioritizing niche websites even if the website content is a little thin. The more niche you are consistent in your content like you just mentioned, stick to a theme, the whole website should be about that theme, don’t try to be all things for all people. If you’re a provider, you’re really great at something, just harp on that. Symptoms, diseases, treatment. Make everything about that, don’t try to be the catch-all provider group. It’s not working, Google doesn’t rank it very well, fine.
We get the six principles in place. Are there any technologies you’d really highly recommend? We have websites coming to us with all kinds of crazy CMSes and stuff. Give us the foundational technologies you like to see.
John: We wanted to talk about a couple of things. We have three different approaches. You want to have something that’s easy for you to use, very efficient. You just start from your CMS, your content management system. If you’re using something like WYSIWYG, that’s a term we’re going to talk about. It’s WYSIWYG, which stands for “what you see is what you get.” Also known as a drag and drop web builder. Thinking about your Squarespace, those are WYSIWYGs. Those aren’t very efficient for updating content at scale.
Think about a CMS that is really scalable like WordPress, the number one CMS in the world, there’s a reason that has the largest market share. There are some other CMS’s is that you can use but there are pros and cons to each one. The most robust and flexible and adaptable would be WordPress. It’s usually what we recommend and what most SEOs recommend, and that’s you need to have something to support it, which should be your web host.
Make sure that they take daily backups. Make sure they have the top of the line security. Make sure like I was talking about specialists, look for a specialist that specializes in your CMS. Don’t go for a GoDaddy host, it does it all. Like Alex said, someone that does it all is never going to be Jack of all trades, master of none. If you’re doing WordPress, go with someone like Flywheel, WP Engine, Kinsta. Those three are specialists in WordPress.
Then number three, make sure that you have speed and security for your website. Look for a CDN that offers top-of-the-line speed and security like Cloudflare, thinking about things like mitigating bot abuse and mitigating DDoS attack and making sure that you have something that Cloudflare offers. Always up so if your server goes down, users can still get to your website and take action.
Alex: Makes a ton of sense and not only does it function well with WordPress CMS, but all of it ties into speed, making sure not using a WYSIWYG thing and the templates are built out appropriately and then Flywheel’s fast, CloudFlare helps make it fast and more secure. Fast, fast, fast name of the game these days, John?
John: Fast, speed, yes. If you follow even the six principles I covered earlier, oftentimes, speed will be a result of that.
Alex: That’s true, the architectural foundation. With any of your websites, make sure you have Search Console connected. Oftentimes, the clients come to us and say, “Yes, we use Google Analytics a lot.” No. Search Console, it’s the only. It’s really the point of truth on a lot of SEO-related things in your core web vitals in there, page experience. Google will tell you which pages are slow and why. It is no longer ignorable.
If you build a website not following what John said with his technological and architectural foundations, it will be slow, it will drag and your rankings are going to get crushed. Let’s talk about UX a little bit, John. You talked a little bit about architecture technology, can we put sliders and fancy UX stuff because it’s going to help people convert? Tell us some tips and tricks, what to avoid, what to do.
John: We see a lot of websites using very old-school UX principles. Like you said, sliders. Sliders are out, people. No one’s using them, guys. Studies have shown that users aren’t staying around for the automated sliders, they’re not clicking through. People don’t interact with sliders anymore. Not only that, they can slow down your website and they can be really buggy. We have a lot of clients using sliders that are extremely buggy, meaning that when you’re loading the web page, things shift around and they break with weird padding issues
A lot of issues with sliders nowadays. Animation flash, no longer supported. Really keep it simple, that’s the name of the game and work with experienced UX and CRO professionals to identify what’s actually driving conversions. Any flash or design elements you add need to be adding value and at the end of the day, driving more conversion.
John: Absolutely. That’s for everything. You don’t even need to be SEO, everyone needs CRO to some extent. If your goal is to convert, someone to take an action, you need CRO.
Alex: Does video still have a place or does it box things down too much?
John: Absolutely, but use it tactfully. Don’t overwhelm your users, make sure it supplements and adds to your content.
Alex: Let’s say I’m not a huge provider group with lots of resources, an in-house marketing department, or maybe have one digital marketing director or one marketing director, how can I get all this done? John, where do I go look for or on Upwork? Do I have to get in agencies or a cheaper way to do it with Freelancer? How do I get all this done?
John: You’ve asked about video.
Alex: Let’s talk about website architecture, site speed, all that stuff first. How do I get that?
John: Oftentimes, agencies are always the way to go because it’s an all-in-one package. You’re saving a lot of cost with hiring in-house but sometimes, it’s as simple as going back to the drawing board and starting small. Write it down on a piece of paper and think about how you want to organize your website and frame it all out. Then bring these ideas to an agency and say, “This is where my head is at” and they can help guide you to the right spot.
A lot of times, the goal of an agency is to drive down future costs and make sure that things are scalable so that it’s just easier to just add in new elements over time. You’re not constantly having to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to go back to the drawing board.
Alex: Driving down future costs one client at a time. I’ve never heard that, but I love that. I’m going to use that more. If you can’t afford an agency, there are site speed people, there are great hosting people, there are all of those on upwork.com. Go hire a very– try to get an expensive freelancer. The cheap ones are exactly “you get what you pay for,” but try to get a really expensive freelancer if you just want to do one thing, can’t afford an agency, don’t need one yet.
Lots of great people there on for site speed. UX, more complicated because we need someone that’s creative and analytical. That one’s harder for me to think to freelance, wouldn’t you think? I don’t know.
John: Oh, yes. You have people say, “Our UX is data-driven.” You don’t want data-driven, you want data-influenced. You don’t need to go back to – sometimes it going to take some bit of intuition. Data is going to give you some hints, but you need someone who’s creative, has that intuition that is influenced by data, but they don’t rely on it. They rely on what they feel works and it’s going to help and its going to appeal to the users.
Alex: Data-influenced. I like it. I’ve been SEO-influenced by you for the last 15 minutes. Thank you so much, John. You guys heard everything about how to build a website correctly so it’s not just pretty, but it also runs fast too, works fast too, ranks well most importantly. John, thanks for joining us on Ignite.
John: Thanks for having me back.
Announcer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcast and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips, visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.
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