Search Engine Land, a well-known online SEO publication, has an excellent article that summarizes the direction that SEO, or inbound marketing more generally, has gone in. And it couches the discussion in terms that should relate to you, as a business owner. The way the author puts it is, if you want to compete in a market characterized by falling price points, you’ll have to compete on other terms and that is to become the authority on the service or product you provide. And the way you accomplish this is through content marketing.
Your end goal is to sell but to make sales you have to attract new patients or customers. But, ‘new patients or customers’ is a pretty ambiguous term because that group of people is going to be very diverse. Some are going to be ready to make a purchase now, others might still be looking for new information, to educate themselves before making a purchasing decision. To become the authority on your product or service, you’re going to have to address the concerns of your new patient base, which will be as varied as their intentions. The solution is to create a suite of content around the topic, which is your product/service, the problems it solves, and why you’re the visitor they should go see.
Welcome to the world of topical optimization.
Topical Authority: An Example
The best way to explain topical optimization is by way of example and our InfoSites are a great place to start.
Suppose you’re a prosthodontist and you want to attract new dental implant patients. You know that there are a lot of potential patients out there and they’re all going to be at different points of the decision-making process. Some may have already been told that they need to replace a tooth and they’ve settled on dental implants, so they’re looking for the right dentist. Others might want to replace a missing tooth, but they haven’t made a decision on what type of restoration to use and they’re looking for more information. These are two different search intents and your website should be ready to address them.
The InfoSites accomplish this by being a dedicated suite of content on a specific topic, which in our example is ‘dental implants.’ The reason we focus on a topic, rather than a keyword, is because we want the resource to be comprehensive — we want it to attract the entire range of potential dental implant patients by addressing the various motivations behind searching for information that falls under the topic’s umbrella.
Let’s use Dr. Henninger’s dental implant InfoSite as an example of how it uses topical authority to attract dental implant patients:
- To satisfy local patients who search for information on dental implants we have pages like “Our Dental Implant Solutions,” which explains dental implants are and how they can be applied to treat tooth loss.
- Maybe they’ve already settled on dental implants as their treatment of choice, but they’re still not quite ready to schedule an appointment. They might instead want to research if they’re eligible for the treatment. For those patients, we offer an “Are You a Candidate?” page.
- Perhaps the patient suffers from dental anxiety and wants to know whether you provide IV sedation, she would land on the “IV Sedation for Dental Implants” page.
- Alternatively, the patient may already know she wants implants and that she is a candidate, but she wants to know how much they cost and whether she can afford them. We provide a “Cost and Financing” page — one that is treatment (topic) specific. And, similarly, for patients who are this point of the purchasing decision, we also offer treatment-specific information on the doctor(s) and the staff, in the form of both “About Us” and “Before and Afters” pages.
That’s a fraction of the content on a dental implants InfoSite.
We use data provided to us by Google (Search Console and Google Analytics) and other tools (Ahrefs, SEMrush, AdWords, et cetera) to know and address market-specific search queries and questions. An InfoSite might come with a specific set of pages to start with, but every month we add more content to continue cornering your market by simply being the best, most relevant resource in your area. There is no guesswork, it is all data-driven.
To give you a concrete example, Google Search Console gives us positioning data over the last 90 days. Using this data, we can see where the best opportunities are, opportunities where our efforts will have the greatest impact on your bottom line. If you offer ceramic dental implants and show up on page two for highly specific terms relevant to ceramic implants, we’ll adjust the content strategy to better address these queries. Likewise, if we find through the data that people are searching within their specific neighborhoods, rather than the city as a whole, then we can improve the website’s SEO around how people actually find you.
The idea that there is an SEO toolkit that will find you immediate success doesn’t reflect how SEO works. There has to be a monitoring and improvement process that aligns the web asset with what your potential patients actually need, and there are so many local and dynamic variations — not just how your patients search for you, but in the competition you face — that need to be tracked and incorporated into your content strategy.
What Information are Patients Looking For, How Can I be the Resource?
Your main website and every piece of content you put out on the web — posts on Facebook, answers on Quora, your email newsletter — also plays a role in making you the authority. And they should all operate on the same principles. What do people need? How can I add value to their lives in a way that’s relevant to what I do and my own goals?
Building this authority is not just good for your website, it’s good for all of your marketing across the board. It’s good for your brand. It can grow your business not just through web search, but by word of mouth and referrals.
And to become that authority you have to target relevant people at different stages of their journey, because the questions we have change depending on what we need and what part of the process we’re at. Someone who is looking to learn more about, say, sleep apnea does not have the same concerns as someone who knows that they have sleep apnea, they’ve tried CPAP, they hate it and they’re ready for an alternative. Our InfoSites tackle this by building pages for people at different stages of their purchasing journey and your website should be built on a similar logic.
By doing this, you’ll find that your site is not only able to earn leads now, but able to nurture leads for the future.
Director of Marketing at Now Media Group, with a background in quantitative economics and analytics. Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International.