What does that word mean? SEO, SERP and more.
By Beryl Vaughan
Marketing and Practice Management: Know the Lingo
By Beryl Vaughan
You’ll hear some of these terms and may not understand. No judgment.
→ SEO ( Search Engine Optimization )
Techniques to improve your ranking in a Google search.
SEO is “Seach Engine Optimization.”
SEO techniques improve the ranking of your website on a Google search. Medical-Legal SEO is quite different than, say, e-commerce.
The rarity of profession-centric search terms and rarity of content on a forensic physician’s website must dovetail to “rank” higher than others in your field. Learn more at Is Google God?
Google’s “rules” are an algorithm. Google’s algorithms are updated routinely and so secretive that SEO experts do a lot of guessing.
If a client searches “forensic mental health expert” what will they see? How about “expert in neurosurgery?”
The #1 Factor for Appearing High on a Search
Google cares most about how long your website has been online and how often new material appears on it. Only 4% of sites newer than 2 years appear in the early pages of results (according to one source.)
Therefore, “young sites” are at a disadvantage that only time will improve. That doesn’t mean your newish site (or site name) can’t be found, only that it may have to take a number.
In the past, SEO relied on keywords (stuffing pages with the words you think people are using to find you.)
Google now dings you for this.
Are SEO Services Worth the Cost?
SEO services are expensive and can’t deliver for niche practices because it’s a small profit center for them. Plus, they don’t know a thing about med-legal ethical and legal requirements. Overstepping from e-commerce to expert witness services is a huge mistake. Diminish your serious practice with a sales focus will put you in hot water.
→ SERP ( Search Engine Results Pages )
Where your site appears in the results. Page 1 or page 10,000? SEO can improve the SERP.
SERP is Search Engine Results Pages.”
This is what you analyze to see if your SEO is working.
If your SEO isn’t working, your SERP reveals how far “down” the list on the Google results page you are appearing in a search using targeted terms.
I searched for “expert witness marketing” and my site appears on page 2. That is fine because only one competitor appears among people who are not truly my competitors.
Website Building Terms
→ Domain Name and Registration
Websites are the result of the interface between software and what the viewer sees.
That software requires an unveiling (or de-vailing), if you will, that enables it to be viewed.
The platform and host, together, make this possible.
What is a domain name?
The domain is the url and website name for your site, e.g. “ERdoctor.com,” “medical-legal.com,” “mdexpertwitness.com.” A great explanation is in footnote 1.
Mine is forensicexpertpro.com.
Your domain name will be one of your most valuable practice assets.
How do I find a domain and lock it down?
- Determine if a domain is available. Use a search tool on sites like Name.com or domain.com .
- Type in ideas. If the name is available, register it but don’t tie it to a hosting plan. Registrars are aggressive about this but it is rarely a requirement. If they do, go to another site to register the name, but one that doesn’t tie you to hosting.
Set aside time to try a lot of variations.
Finding the right available domain is a high value ROTI (I made that up: return on time investment.)
Expect to try a number of options. Stay as short as possible, and on point. I can help with more on this topic because it’s an art that exceeds the space here.
- The extension “.com” gets major points with SEO.
- Focus on names that speak to your practice area, not your given name. The more specific it is to niche specialties, the better. Remember: attorneys who don’t yet know you, will not search for you by name. Instead they will start with their own case details.
Yay! No one else has my domain name, what’s next?
You can pay a nominal fee every year to reserve it–about $17/year. As long as you pay the fee annually, the domain name is yours in perpetuity.
I recommend against also registering for a hosting service though registrars can be aggressive about selling you this (see “Hosting” below.) It is a cost you may lose later when you are ready to start your site.
Stop Public Access to Your Information
Solution: a privacy service is offered by every domain registrar that substitutes its own information for yours. It’s about $30/year.
Maximize your new domain name
You are now the proud owner of a domain and can set up email addresses @ that name, a website, add it to your letterhead etc.
Hosting Makes Your Website Visible
“When a hosting provider allocates space on a web server for a website to store its files, they are hosting a website. Web hosting makes the files that comprise a website (code, images, etc.) available for viewing online. Every website you’ve ever visited is hosted on a server.” – Namecheap
Hosting is necessary to make your website live to the world.
Designing a website is coding how it looks and what appears on the site. That is not enough to make it function.
It is like making a painting. It can go in the garage never to be heard from again. Hosting is like a gallery. People can now see the painting without knowing what’s in your garage and visiting it.
Website Design Terms
→ “UI” User Interface
How users interact with your site.
UI means “User Interface.” This is the relationship between your website and how visitors interact with it.
““The goal of user interface design is to produce a user interface which makes it easy (self-explanatory), efficient, and enjoyable (user-friendly) to operate a machine in the way which produces the desired result. This generally means that the operator needs to provide minimal input to achieve the desired output, and also that the machine minimizes undesired outputs to the human.” (Wikipedia)
When UI is effective, users travel through your website, hopefully delighted by the ease of interacting with your site.
UI website Design focuses on solid navigation: links, menu, content-related introduction and reference on other pages of the site, even clicking on a phone # that results in your phone # being dialled (on cell.)
UI brings together concepts from interaction design, visual design, and information architecture.” Usability.gov.
UI and UX (User Experience) are closely tied and overlap in some cases.
→ “UX” User Experience
Does the user enjoy your site? Despise your site? Or simply become bored?
UX is “User Experience.” the user’s experience on your site includes proper UI.
The UX is how you feel about the site when you get there. Good UX produces:
- Engagement. People enjoy traversing your site. It is relevant and attractive, even delightful.
- Interaction. For example, the user reads an article, spending enough time to show they are absorbing what is discussed.
- Continued Interaction. After reading one page, they pursue more content, reading more articles or content. They visit your About page, Contact page or click on an email interface.
This is accompished with good UI and UX.
You may have a website and the UI and U X is “broken.” Things don’t work, people “bounce” onto the page then leave quickly, they click on things and they don’t work, in short, the site is malfunctioning.
This is fixable. I discuss website repair and website audits elsewhere on this site. This is an expert’s interaction with your site looking at UI and UX as if they are your potential client to determine if the experience is working or where it needs fixing. In my experience, existing websites usually need UI and UX fixes.
Of note is that website design and UI shifts with time as CSS Coding evolves and the expectations of users evolve. For example, the use of mobile devices means the site must be easy to use on a cell phone.
Your SERP will go down if your site isn’t “mobile responsive.” Google has made it a priority that sites that work with a mobile world rank higher than those that don’t.
→ Data-Mining and Analytics
Data-mining could be characterized as malicious and solely for sale and profit.
Or information-gathering for benign or educational purposes.
“Data-Mining” is the process by which information is acquired and calculated.
It can be a good witch or a bad witch.
Is Your Information Private?
Data-mining software crawls the web accumulating publicly available info., which is then populated in a automated sites like webmd.com or Doximity.
Common sources are the NPI database, licensing boards, hospitals, academic institutions which all have public access data about a given person.
Feeding the Data Mining Monster
If the source information is accurate, data mining can do some of the heavy lifting of marketing for name recognition.
Source sites are the key: Doximity listings feed US News and World Reports, vitals.com and more. If your Doximity listing is accurate and emphasizes a medical-legal practice, it can help you.
Analytics is also a data-gathering term. “Data” is a neutral word. I use data to determine if your user is having a good UI and UX on your website, for example. The information is not sold; it is for internal purposes only.
How do you know if your site is performing well?
Data-mining tools help you determine if your site is performing and how your users behave as they navigate your content. Are they focusing on your CV? Do they bounce out right away and is that important?
Free, but not easy, is Google Analytics. GA applies metrics and a huge database of their own to track the performance of your website: how many people are visiting your site, the terms they used to get there, and their behavior (to a limit). To access GA info., a code is provided to you that you put in the back end of your site.
You can then review your Google Analytics dashboard to review the data.
I also rely on several other analytics services, both free and paid.
One data mining site tells me how long the person spent on a page. Another creates a video recording of the user’s actual behavior on the site (reveals no private information about the user.)
Data analaytics is a powerful tool I use to improve a site to boost performance and UX–the next user has an even better experience than the last.
Google Adwords is an “advertising” service from Google.
The method is an auction.
You select a search phrase and bid to appear in the Ads section of a Google results page.
It is ethical to advertise if the message is honest and appropriate, delivered with integrity.
Be on top
Google search result will start with paid ads, and sprinkle them among subsequent search results.
It means the business paid Google to run a crafted message in the “Sponsed” (ad) position.
Prices are established by auction. You submit a bid for specific words. If someone searches that term and you are the highest bidder, your ad appears. If others are higher bidders, your ad doesn’t appear.
Common words are the most expensive. Luckily, your practice isn’t common.
A search for “Expert Witness in [fill in your medical specialty]” might produce your ad every time that term is searched at a cost of $7.00 or $25.00 but only when someone clicks on the ad. You get recognition without paying for it if your ad appears but the searcher doesn’t click on it. If you run an ad, tell family and friends not to click on it or you’ll have to pay.
There’s nothing wrong with using Adwords to promote a med-legal practice as long as the description of your practice is accurate and conservative.
Attorneys are looking for sage advisors, not toll-free numbers. If you write up a Google Ad, stay professional.
Cost of Adwords
The cost can become prohibitive. To protect yourself, check your Adwords account routinely. One expert ran up $5,000 in Adwords and had no idea, insult to injury: no results.
Google often offers a credit for a trial. It can be $150-500. Whatever they offer, you might try Adwords. It isn’t effective for everybody but name recognition alone has downstream benefits.
Testing Results and Return on Investment
Testing and data collection are the best way to learn what works. After starting an Adwords campaign, keep a very close eye on your analytics.
Business Basics in Medical-legal Context
→ Customer Service
YOUR “Client Supportive” or “Customer Service” is NOT the same as the concept “the Customer is Always Right.”
Regarding your medical-legal opinions, the customer (attorney) and you may not agree about your findings. Your job is to produce unbiased opinions regardless of whether the attorney likes the result or not. The “Customer” may not be happy about it; that is irrelevant to an expert witness.
However, the administrative end of your relationship with the attorney can follow a Customer Service model: Invoicing, responding to emails, case management can support the ease by which the attorney’s staff works with you.
Customer service is not the usual model for expert witnesses, though most experts are professional and treat their clients with respect and a desire to be helpful in all but their opinions.
1. A great description of a domain name from namebright .com: “Technically, a domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority, or control on the Internet.
“Practically, you can think of a domain name like an address on the Internet. They provide a friendly, language-based way to point to IP addresses, which are the numeric identifiers assigned to every device connected to the Internet. You see domain names used every day in URLs and email addresses. They are the building blocks for establishing an online presence for your self, business or organization.”
Disclaimer: References to commercial services (e.g. namebright, etc.) are informal and not a paid endorsement, or even a service I have used.
** WordPress.org is a free platform used by the vast majority of website developers world-wide.
WordPress.com however charges and may advertise on your site. Do NOT use WordPress.com.