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  • Writer's pictureDr. Christine Senn, PhD

SEO: What is it and why does it matter?

Hello everyone! In the last video I spoke about one of my colleagues who's an SEO expert, and Kayra is with us today to talk to you about SEOs.

Christine: So tell me Kayra, what is an SEO (or what are SEOs), and why are they important?

Kayra: So, it's funny because most people see the phrase “SEO” and they get intimidated, thinking that it's a new, scary acronym that they need to learn, that they need to memorize. But, if you've ever been to a public library, and I think most people have, you actually already know what SEO is! So, SEO, we know, is “search engine optimization,” but let's apply that to the library example.

Search engines like Google are basically your librarians. So, if I come to you with a list of books and I'm looking to get that list of books, it's your job as a librarian (or this case, as Google) to go find those books for me. You're going to look over that list, or what Google refers to as “crawling,” and then you're going to see what types of books these are, right? What genre are they? Are they fiction? Are they nonfiction? Is it science literature? Who’s the author? What are their chapters about? All of those things essentially help you find where that book is. That's essentially what Google is doing.

Christine: That’s a fun analogy!

Kayra: That's what SEO is just at a very fundamental level. It's super important to focus on, so that way you can make sure that your business is getting discovered for the topics that are relevant to you and the topics that are most important to you.

Christine: That was really a great analogy and I do hope everyone's been to a public library. They at least use Google for searching! So then, what makes a website friendly for search engines to find them?

Kayra: Probably the most important thing is actually going to be your website URL. You want something that's really short, you want something that's easy to remember, and you want something that makes sense for your company. A lot of times, I've seen companies not use their company name as the URL, and something like that can actually make it really hard for your website to be discovered if it isn't even tied to your business name. So that's a really big thing to focus on.

I would probably say the next thing is the structure of your website. So if I go to your website, does the navigation make sense? Is there an About tab that can teach me about your leadership, the locations of your site, what it is that you do, your mission? Under your Locations tab, do you have all of your locations listed individually? Do you have a separate Therapeutics tab that has each therapeutic indication listed? You want to make sure that everything for your website is organized, that it's easy to find, and that if you have a new person coming to the website, they would be able to just find the thing that they're looking for. When they're looking for whatever it is that they're looking for, you want to make sure that that content that lives on your website is helpful to that person, is engaging, is updated. Something really big for a lot of people, especially if you don't have a marketing person/company, because you kind of forget to update the content on your website. Most of all, is the content relevant to what you're doing? Ask yourself: Does it make sense for this type of content to live on your website?

Christine: How often do you think the website needs to have an update to it?

Kayra: It depends on what kind of updates we're talking about. If it's just simple content updates, you need to make those as they come. For example, if you're a clinical trial site and you have a new study that's opening, you want to get that on your website ASAP, right? If a study has closed, you want to make sure that that's closed. As the information becomes relevant, update your content as you get it. But if we're talking more of like a big refresh, I would suggest every 3 years for a very big overhaul on your website.

Christine: But it's really just the updates you do each time that help with the SEO in some way, because you're promoting you have that type of therapeutic area or that that type of trial is open, so a keyword search is going to find that.

Kayra: Right. Correct, exactly.

Christine: So, are there other things that can affect a website’s SEO?

Kayra: Everything I've mentioned are definitely things that can negatively affect your SEO if they're poorly done, but there's actually a few things that other people don't really consider. One of those is: how old is your website? So let's say that you are a new clinical trial site, or you're an existing clinical trial site but you're doing a new initiative that you're starting a new website for. If that website is fairly young – I'm talking maybe like 6 weeks or less – it's actually going to take a while for the librarian (aka Google) to find that website because the librarian is still getting used to that content. It's figuring out where it goes. It's still fresh. So the newer your website is, the harder it’s going to be for the website to rank, so you do want to give it a little time for the librarian to kind of crawl through your content.

I would say another one, and this is a really good one, is: how fast does your site load? This is something a lot of people do not consider, but a lot of times companies think that websites need to have all these crazy gorgeous graphics and plugins. The thing is, if those graphics and those plugins are keeping your website from loading very quickly, it's actually going to be a huge hindrance to your SEO. Google likes websites that load quickly and when I say quickly, I mean think less than 3 seconds.

Christine: That is a great tip. And the librarian doesn't want to have to crawl through stacks of books, right?

Kayra: Exactly.

Christine: You want it all to come to you quickly. That makes sense. So what are some easy things, then, that a clinical trial company could do to jumpstart their SEO efforts?

Kayra: Probably the easiest thing is to take some time and do a big review of all of your web copy. See if your copy contains all those keywords that you want to rank for. More often than not, when we're talking about clinical trial sites, we're thinking about the phrases “clinical research,” “clinical trials,” “clinical studies” or the locations that you're operating out of. Right? Because if you want a lot of local patients to find you, something that they may Google is “clinical trials near me,” so you want to make sure that your location is listed throughout your website as well.

Going back to what I just talked about, check your load times. Do some spring cleaning! If there's any unnecessary content that is just bogging your site down, ask yourself: Can this be removed? Is it OK if we take it out? If so, just get rid of it and improve those load times.

Probably the last thing, and something that we haven't really touched on yet, is using hashtags in your social media. A company’s social media efforts are going to play a really big part in your SEO efforts, so making sure that you use hashtags that are relevant to the things that you want to be known for is super helpful. You don't necessarily want to put 30 hashtags in your copy but, if you can, put in maybe 4 or 5. Maybe you're making a post about diabetes research, then #diabetesresearch. If someone else is searching for that, your company can appear. Maybe you start building connections that way. So those hashtags are going to be really important too.

Christine: Brilliant! I'm so glad you came on Senn Says to tell us about SEO. I thought that was fascinating!

Kayra: Thank you for having me!

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