How SEO is Changing: Part One
Updated: May 11
What you should know about the May 2021 Google algorithm update.
In this two-part series on search engine optimization for pharmacies, we'll talk about what you should know to start ranking better in search results. We'll cover both on-page and off-page SEO, as well as how social media affects SEO.
Promoting your pharmacy online can play a key part in growing your pharmacy business. And expanding your online presence will delight your current patients and attract new ones.
But you know this by now. Technology has become a big part of our lives. Online marketing is no longer an option, it's now a requirement for growing businesses.
To get the most out of your online strategy, you need to understand SEO, or search engine optimization.
Sound intimidating? It shouldn't.
You see, SEO used to be a lot more complicated, so it's gained a bit of a reputation for being difficult. But the good news is that in 2021, SEO has evolved to become easier than ever.
With Google's upcoming Page Experience Update in May 2021, it'll be all about offering the best possible user experience.
Which is pretty easy to do if you're already offering authentic, patient-based service. In this article, we'll talk about what you need to know to grow your SEO presence online.
And best of all, we'll keep it simple.
"The page experience signal measures aspects of how users perceive the experience of interacting with a web page. Optimizing for these factors makes the web more delightful for users across all web browsers and surfaces, and helps sites evolve towards user expectations on mobile."
Part One: On-Page SEO
SEO and Content
Content comes in so many formats; blog articles, infographics, and more. It's part of the fun of marketing; there are just so many possibilities.
You can read more about types of content in our iApotheca 30-Day Content Challenge.
For SEO purposes, it's good to have a variety. So what are some other points to focus on to optimize your content for SEO?
Post High Quality Content
t's important to post often, that's true; but if it's a question of quality vs. quantity, quality wins every time.
Because SEO is about the user experience, which means providing real value. Often, we're busy; that's life in pharmacy. And if you're feeling obligated to post every day, your offerings could be lacking in depth.
If you find yourself in this boat, know that it's fine to post less as long as your content is valuable. And bear in mind that consistency helps.
What does that look like? Perhaps it's posting twice a week on the same days, but it's well thought out advice your patients can use. A diabetes checklist that makes it easy to eat right. Or a medication tracker that makes tracking meds and side effects super simple.
Quality takes more work; and in the SEO game, it's worth it.
If you've heard of SEO, you've likely heard of keyword research. It's one of those SEO concepts that tends to make people a little nervous. But it needn't be complicated or time consuming
It can actually be quite simple.
Keyword research is finding keywords and phrases people search to find information on your topic. By using these words and phrases in your content, you help search engines index your page. So next time someone is searching for that topic, your business will show up in the results.
If you're a brick-and-mortar business, you'll need to integrate some local search terms.
So if you're ranking for 'pharmacy' in Toronto, use the keywords 'pharmacy Toronto'. If your topic is 'vaccine clinics' and you're in Boston, try 'vaccine clinics, Boston'.
By using local keywords, you make it easier for local users to find you in search results.
So how do you do keyword research? There are several tools available, most of them simple, all fun. One of the top tools is Google's Keyword Planner, but there are several others, including:
While it may not sound scintillating, keyword research can be interesting. It can help put you in the heads of people interested in your topic. So grab a cup of tea and start playing with some keyword tools! Keyword planning is a great skill to develop.
Note: We've talked a few times about how to come up with content ideas for your pharmacy, in the following articles:
Feel free to follow these ideas for coming up with content and then do the keyword research for each!
One thing to keep in mind to optimize user experience is to provide solutions. By helping your readers solve deep problems in their lives, you add value.
And in pharmacy, you've got lots of room to do that; there are lots of areas where patients need help. From side effects to prevention, you can provide authoritative advice that improves lives.
One thing to stay aware of is that it's important to offer solutions that patients don't always need to pay for. Whether it's free downloadable resources or local resources, patients need to perceive you as giving more than you take.
In turn, you benefit when patients trust you to fill their scripts, or they buy items from your front shop because you're their go-to pharmacy. A great user experience is about give and take; and the giving part is on you.
Create Authoritative Content
Part of SEO comes from assuring the search engines that your site is a reliable source for advice. Which is why posting authoritative content is so important. So what does authoritative content look like?
Authoritative content is often a little longer; it’s in-depth. Longer blog posts, guides and white papers are good examples. Content that’s built to offer intelligent advice and high value is what search engines want to see.
Epic content is also a great example of content that adds value and helps with SEO. You can read more about creating epic content in our article on How to Create Epic Content.
Your Website Architecture
Another very important aspect of SEO is the architecture of your website. What exactly is site architecture? It's the framework within which your site organizes and presents your content.
This includes page hierarchy. It also includes the technical structure search engines need to crawl your site.
How does this apply to SEO?
It all goes to optimal user experience. If your users are having to wait for your pages to load, they'll get impatient and click away. The same applies if your headings and content are not easy to follow.
So what do you need to optimize your architecture for SEO?
Build a Site Map
In order for your site to appear in search results, search engines need to be able to index your pages. Site maps make this easy by allowing search engines to move through your content in an organized way.
Quick Load Speeds
Ever go to a website and have to sit and wait for pages to load? I bet you didn't sit there for very long; most people don't. Slow websites are terrible for user experience, which means they're terrible for SEO.
How do you know whether your website is up to speed? There are several sites you can use to test it, including:
If your site is slow, these tools will give you insights into how you can improve.
A Mobile Responsive Site
Most people access the Internet via their phones and/or tablets. Which means your site must be mobile responsive to provide a good user experience. If your site is not optimized for mobile usage, you can expect your SEO to suffer.
Relevant Page URLs
For optimal SEO, your URLs should describe what is on the page they direct the user to. So be sure to make your URLs meaningful. For example, at iApotheca, the URL for our demo booking page is:
It's not fancy, but it gives people a pretty good idea of what they're going to find on that page. Which in turn translates to a good user experience and helps boost SEO.
"Through both internal studies and industry research, users show they prefer sites with a great page experience. In recent years, Search has added a variety of user experience criteria, such as how quickly pages load and mobile-friendliness, as factors for ranking results."
-Google Search Central Blog
Avoid Duplicate Content
Search engines struggle with duplicate content, and having it on your site will hurt SEO. You can learn more about this in our article Where to Publish Your Content. This article was part of our 30-Day Content Marketing Challenge. It includes resources for understanding duplicate content.
If you're posting content you've researched from another source you need to be especially careful. You can avoid issues by using a plagiarism checker like Copyscape or Grammarly. Both tools are great and will help ensure your content is unique.
Making sure your site is well organized and easy to navigate is essential to SEO.
Security is important to your visitors, especially if you're selling on your site. It's also important to Google that you have both a secure HTTPS and a valid SSL certificate in place. If you need more information on how this works, ask your hosting company for advice.
Your Site HTML
HTML is an important part of your website architecture, and therefore your SEO. It can sound pretty complicated, especially for non-developers.
So what should you keep in mind as far as your HTML?
Keywords in Titles & Tags
Each of your pages and blogs should have a title. Your photos images should have alt tags attached. These titles and tags should include a keyword as well as a clear description of the content. Much like clarity in our URLs, this keeps things simple for the user and the search engines.
Meta descriptions tell the search engine about your content. Again, depending on what platform you're using, meta descriptions can be quite easy.
Never forget to add your meta descriptions. They're an important part of communicating with search engines.
Easy navigation goes a long way when it comes to SEO. Your site visitors should be able to tell at a glance on your homepage or landing page how to get around. If your site is especially large, you may want to create a tour so users know where to start and where to go next.
Using the proper headlines, subheadings and H1/H2 tags is helpful for your readers. It helps break up content for your human visitors so your content is easy to read.
But it's also great for SEO. Why?
It helps search engines better understand your content. That way they can direct the appropriate traffic to your site.
While some of these items may sound intimidating, SEO is much easier than it used to be. You've definitely got some options.
As mentioned, you can use a platform like WordPress or Wix to keep things simple. We talk about this in our article: Want to Make Your Pharmacy Website the Best? Here's What You Need to Know.
In it, we cover the basics of some of the most popular website platforms out there. If needed, you can also hire a web designer to build your site and help with your search engine optimization.
Have questions about on-page SEO? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to look for Part Two of our series on simple SEO to be published on May 11th 2021. In the meantime if you'd like to read the whole series, click the image below for your PDF copy.