Read time: 6 mins
Read time: 6 mins
Read time: 6 mins
In 2014 I built a website that dramatically changed the course of my career. I was moving to Canada for a new challenge. I wanted to build a website that would overtake my competitors in my new city and put me on the map. The website was for my clinic as an Osteopath (a medical therapy/treatment). My biggest goal was to generate and attract new patients through my website. So naturally being at the top of Google searches was vital in achieving that goal.
Luckily for me, the visa to allow me into Canada took an age to arrive. In the meantime, my wife and I waited in Iceland for 3 months. This afforded me a lot of time to dedicate to this website.
In just 6 months I reached number 1 on Google for my city and number 2 in my neighbouring city. Below is my story of how I achieved this and what I learnt on the way. Unbeknown to me this also triggered a dramatic shift which saw me leave Osteopathy all together and pursue a career as a professional web developer.
At the end of this article you can see some screenshots I took back in the day to record this achievement.
I used WordPress with a paid theme called 'Bridge'. I should also note this was only the second website I had ever built.
The urge to jump straight into building this website was big, but I remained steady and spent the first few weeks getting acclimatised on how to use the theme. I also did a lot of reading. I felt like Alice and the rabbit hole. It was beyond ridiculous. The words, terminology, and concepts were all overwhelming. I was exhausted and didn't feel I had learned anything.
What eventually did start to transpire was the need for keywords. What did I want Google to rank me for? So I grabbed my pen and paper and started to think about the keywords I needed. This quite quickly led me to the structure of the website. How many pages did I need? What did I want each page to say? What did I want the overall website to communicate?
So my first task was to decide what keywords I wanted to rank for and who were my competitors. I highlighted about 4-7 competitors locally. I also made a list of 'keywords' and also 'keyword phrases'. I used about 7-10 tools for this - but only one settled with reliable results.
Long-tail pro. It’s been a while since I used this product so I can’t vouch for its quality nowadays.
Based on these keywords I decided to create a page dedicated specifically to each keyword so that each page ranked for each keyword. You will also notice that each keyword phrase overlaps with the next, maintaining a similar content theme throughout the website.
So my homepage ranked for my number one keyword, which was 'What is Osteopathy?'.
'Visiting an Osteopath' became a FAQ page where I tried to make each question evolve around the keyword phrase.
'What does an Osteopath treat?' became a treatment page, listing all the types of conditions I could potentially treat. And so on…
I think it is important to add here. I was not put off by the fact that some of the keywords I went for were hugely competitive (meaning I would struggle to rank for them). I just went for them because that is what I needed and wanted to rank for.
Once I had the structure I then had to carefully and thoughtfully create the content for each page. Each page had to rank for each specific phrase.
The first title of any page is called your heading 1 or H1. This is a huge SEO marker and you only get 1 per page.
The H1 heading should be your keyword phrase or contain your keyword phrase.
Let me repeat that. You can only have one per page. So many people think they can fill the page with multiple H1 tags. WRONG. If you have more, Google will penalise you.
After your H1 heading, the natural order goes to heading H2. These are designed to be your sub-headings. Be careful to not overuse keyword phrases in every H2 heading (multiple are allowed). Have some H2 headings that match keywords and others that have a similar idea or theme to the keyword.
H3 is the next heading level and it goes all the way to H6. You will rarely go beyond H3 but it does happen.
Remember just stuffing your page with as many keywords as you can is not the point. You can damage the page's reputation and readability. You need to craft a meaningful page, that makes sense to the user.
However, don't stray too far from the phrase and don't be shy to repeat it now and then. It is a fine balancing act.
At this point, I do generally believe I had performed probably the hardest and most difficult part of the entire SEO journey. I can't stress enough the importance of the phases I previously mentioned. This gave me such a good foundation.
Google PageSpeed Insights was the primary tool that I centralised all my testing and progression around once I started building my website. I wanted to get 100% scores and since it was Google's official testing benchmark it made sense to maximise performance according to their criteria.
This was, without doubt, the area that shed the most light on my steep learning curve. It helped me understand the importance of building a website well. How critical it is to have a website with good performance. It also made me realise how restrictive big website services like WordPress and Wix are. Generally speaking, the ability to produce a clean, highly performant website using these services is very difficult.
For a long time I did consider writing and going in-depth on how I managed to get a good Google PageSpeed score, but to be honest there are far better articles out there, like this one - How to optimise your page speed.
But like I say, I did spend a lot of time researching and prioritising my Google PageSpeed score. This was a big factor and quite difficult to achieve in the confines of a ridged WordPress framework I didn't know how to edit.
GTmetrix was the other tool I used a lot.