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Search Engine Optimization: Cyber Savvy, Part 1

Article-Search Engine Optimization: Cyber Savvy, Part 1

Editor's note

CST takes you interactive! Here we present Part 1 of this two-part "how-to" on increasing the visibility of your practice's web site in search engines. Read Part 2 by clicking to

Ms. Roche
When you want to learn about something online, chances are you click to Google (or some other search engine), type one or more words describing your topic of interest, and then peruse the list of links and descriptions that display after you've clicked the "Search" button. Most likely, if you don't find what you're looking for in the first page or two of search results, you try a different combination of keywords until you find what you seek. Similarly, when you have your own web site, you want patients to readily find your site when they use a search engine. The ideal is for your site to be found in one of the first ten results presented when potential patients conduct their search.

Search engine optimization is the art of trying to make your site receive high rankings in search engines, such as Google or Yahoo. This process is an art not a science because search engines will not reveal the algorithms they use to rank sites in order to preclude firms from manipulating their search rankings. Still, there are some fundamental steps you can take to increase the chances that your site will receive a higher ranking.

PRIORITY ONE Getting the right people to visit your site is your chief online priority. To take advantage of the search engines that can lead patients to your site, first you'll need to make sure your site is laid out with search engines in mind. Then you'll be ready to register your site with search engines, as well as implement more advanced search engine optimization strategies aimed at ranking your site ahead of the competition. The most important step is to identify the keywords that will lead patients to your site most effectively.

SITE LAYOUT STRATEGIES Before registering your site or implementing search engine optimization techniques, you and your webmaster have some homework to do. Write down the following questions and their answers to help identify: What's the purpose of your site? Who are you trying to attract? What services are you trying to tout? What information are you providing of value to potential site visitors? What distinguishes your services and your site? Why would someone want to visit your site initially? Why would they want to return? Once you've determined the goals of your site, you should analyze it to verify that it's laid out to meet these goals. This is likely to be the first phase in making it as useful as possible to patients, as well as to search engines. Be prepared to make some changes on your site at each stage of the process.

WORDS THAT POINT Site layout strategy is a very broad topic, and so we're going to focus on some essential techniques to create a search-engine-friendly site. One of the most important things you can do is identify the topics of information — or "keywords" — that you want people to know your site includes. Your task is to identify and feature on your site, as strategically as possible, the all-important keywords that will drive patients to your site from search engines. Effective keyword placement includes the choice of words used for link text that point people to information pages on your site, the actual text in paragraphs, and the placement of those words on the page — both visible and hidden —inside something called "meta tags."

AUTO INDEXING Your site may be indexed in an automated fashion by search engine "spiders" or "robots" (often referred to as "searchbots"), by human-powered directories, or ideally, by both. In order to search and then index your site, searchbots need to be able to read your site pages.

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