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Case Study: SEO and Sex: A Recipe for Success

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Company: Dr. Helaine Smith, DMD
Contact: Dr. Helaine Smith, DMD
Location: Boston
Industry: Dentistry, B2C
Annual revenue: Confidential
Number of employees: Confidential

Quick Read

Like many service professionals, Dr. Helaine Smith, DMD, is more than a dentist. She's also a small-business owner who must attend to more than continuing-education credits—including her own marketing and promotion—if she is to keep her business going and growing.

And like most small businesses, particularly those in the medical field, credibility is key. So, not long ago, Smith made it her personal mission to establish herself as a dental authority in the public eye.

Some might think that jumping on the "sex sells" bandwagon may not be the best way to go about that. Smith is living proof, however, that if approached the right way in conjunction with other awareness-generating tactics such as effective search-engine optimization (SEO), sex can be the tantalizing introduction that gets people to listen up and take notice.



Challenge

Smith is a Boston-area dentist who specializes in advanced cosmetic-dentistry procedures. She's also a small-business owner on a mission to grow her business without breaking the bank.

A few years back, Smith sought to become more recognized as an authority in both general and cosmetic dentistry, seeing that as a way to pursue more long-term growth.

"I was really trying to get a name for myself and become more of a recognized authority, to grow my business and not just be a dentist drilling away in a cave," she said.

Campaign

Smith made three key moves.

1. She optimized her website for specific keywords

Within the content of her Web pages, Smith pumped up the use of the popular search terms for which she wanted to improve her natural search rank. They included "cosmetic dentistry," "best dental care," and "implants." She also optimized the image tags, as well as the copy, for the site's before-and-after pictures and other graphics.

Then, each month, she studied the related analytics and changed or refined the keywords used to improve her results over time. "You can't just put it up and forget it," she said.

2. She published an e-book

Smith was intrigued by the success of an internal-medicine doctor named Dr. Drew who made a name for himself by engaging the general public with relationship- and sex- related information. She began thinking of ways that she might use that same sort of draw to capture some attention of her own.

From sexy smiles to bad breath, Smith noted quite a few correlations between oral hygiene and happy intimate relationships, and she used that information to write a 25-page e-book called Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex, designed to help people feel more comfortable about their sex lives through proper oral care. Like Dr. Drew, Smith kept it clean and stuck to the facts.

She offered the e-book as a free download to anyone who was interested—no registration required. On the first page of the e-book, she also encouraged readers to share her content by emailing it to friends and reposting it to their own blogs.

Originally, Smith used her website and blog to promote the e-book; then, with the growing popularity of social media, she began posting notes about it on LinkedIn, Squidoo, Twitter, and other networking sites.

3. She started a blog

A few months before the release of her e-book, Smith started blogging. In her posts, she shared her expertise and educated the public, and, in so doing, demonstrated her authority.

She also uploaded her e-book to the blog, via which she encouraged others to post it to their blogs as well.

Moreover, she included links in the blog's sidebar to every publication in which she was featured or quoted.

Results

Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex has been downloaded more than 8,000 times, and it continues to be downloaded hundreds of times each month.

The extensive content offered in the e-book has also served as great search-crawler bait; and, combined with Smith's frequently updated blog content and ongoing SEO efforts, it has helped to boost her natural search-engine rankings. As a result, Smith's website traffic doubled within a year of the e-book launch.

Through the e-book offering and her SEO efforts, Smith has also earned a fair share of media attention from the likes of Forbes, the American Dental Association, the Boston Globe, and David Meerman Scott's World Wide Rave—solidifying her reputation as an authority in general and in cosmetic dentistry, and as a small-business owner who knows how to effectively, and cost-consciously, market her services.

Lessons Learned

  • Seed your reputation. Integrate the keywords you want to be known for into your website and blog content as much as possible. They shouldn't be simply listed in bulk—the search engines will actually ding you for that. But you can see your natural rankings grow when those words are used prominently, frequently, and in context with the message you're trying to get across.
  • Find your carrot. Identify a hot topic that will draw people in, but make sure it also has a true connection to your business and offers real value so that those people will continue to engage and not feel as if they were misled. Smith's title Healthy Mouth, Healthy Sex is certainly an attention grabber, but it's the educational content of the book that has helped generate buzz and establish her as an authority in the field.
  • Keep it professional. Like Dr. Drew, Smith has been taken seriously because she has taken the topic of sex seriously, kept it clean, and stuck to real medical advice that people can use. It also helps that she took the time to professionally design the e-book, rather than cheaply throwing it together, so that it sets the right impression for both readers and the media.
  • Tie it all together. Leverage all your resources to spread your message. Don't just launch an e-book; instead, promote it on your website, blog, and social-network profiles. Also use those channels to alert everyone when you've been mentioned by the press. Familiarity breeds trust, and the more people see about you, the more likely they are to view you as an authority.

Related Links

Learn search engine optimization and analytics from the masters. Check out Search Engine Optimizing Your Website, Soup to Nuts with Stephan Spencer and Mark Kaufman and Monetizing the Long Tail of Search: Rethink Your Keyword Strategy with Avinash Kaushik in our Pro-only Seminar Library.


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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via kims@marketingprofs.com.

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  • by anand Wed Sep 29, 2010 via web

    Sex, violence, and humor have been a marketers friend since the beginning of time. Audience engagement is in most cases directly proportional to jolts per second. Use it where applicable. Nice work, Dr. Smith...

  • by Josue Cevallos Sat Dec 25, 2010 via web

    excellent tips on different approaches to marketing. I like the tips on metatags for your pictures. The ebook idea is obviously very effective.

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