If you’re not already familiar with SEO as a medical practice manager or owner, you will want to take the time to familiarize yourself with what it is and how it applies to your marketing strategy.
While SEO is not new to the marketing world, its application is just now started to be used for medical practices and clinics. In this article, we’ll review the best practices for implementing SEO on your medical practice website.
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the practice of optimizing your website and its content to improve its online visibility and ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs). The primary goal of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of organic traffic to your website through search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
SEO is important because it can greatly increase your visibility to potential new patients. Think about the internet as a newspaper: If an article appears on the front page of the newspaper, it is very likely to be visible to anyone who picks up that paper. Search engines work in a similar manner, where the first page of search results are the most visible to anyone searching relevant keywords.
How Does SEO Increase Online Visibility?
SEO involves optimizing various elements of your website, such as the structure, content, keywords, and backlinks, to make it more search engine-friendly and rank higher in search results for relevant queries. Google, the most popular search engine, uses an algorithm to determine which sites offer the most relevant and topical information for a given keyword.
Google then takes that information and combines it with your website’s authority. A website’s authority refers to its perceived level of trust, expertise, and authority in the eyes of search engines and users. Search engines use complex algorithms to evaluate the quality and relevance of a website’s content and links to determine its authority and influence in its respective niche or industry.
When you are working to improve your SEO, you will need to offer information that is topically relevant and combine that with good site authority. By improving your SEO, you can increase your website’s visibility, attract more patients, and potentially increase your revenue.
Start With Keyword Research
Keyword research is the process of identifying and analyzing the specific search terms and phrases that people use when searching for information related to your medical practice. Keyword research is one of the most important first steps to take when improving your SEO because it gives you the foundation for the rest of your strategy.
Brainstorm potential keywords
Start by brainstorming a list of potential keywords and phrases that someone might use when searching for information related to your medical practice. Think about the different medical services, procedures, conditions, and treatments that your practice offers.
Use keyword research tools
There are several keyword research tools available, such as Google Keyword Planner, Ahrefs, Moz, SEMrush, etc., that can help you find the most relevant and high-traffic keywords for your medical practice. These tools can provide you with data on keyword search volume, competition, and related keywords.
If you don’t have the budget to invest in these tools, a Google search can tell you a lot about the SEO keywords you are focused on. Click the first few articles that pop up and write down what topics they cover. Also check out the ‘More to ask’ list, as it often includes related searches to the keyword you typed in.
Consider local SEO
If your medical practice serves a specific geographic area, consider adding location-based keywords to your list. For example, “primary care in New York” or “healthcare practitioners near me.” If your location is too small to pop up on most search results, choose a mid-size city nearby to increase the search volume for your keywords.
This is an important part of SEO for medical practices, so it has its own section further down in this article.
Analyze your competitors
Look at the keywords your competitors are using on their websites and in their content. This can give you ideas for keywords you may have missed and help you identify new opportunities. Look for healthcare websites that look professional and are well-developed in terms of content.
Refine your list
Analyze the data and refine your list of keywords to include the most relevant and high-traffic terms. Focus on long-tail keywords, which are more specific and less competitive than broad keywords. When you combine long-tail keywords with local terms, you are very likely to rank quickly.
By conducting keyword research for your medical practice, you can optimize your website content and improve your chances of ranking higher in search results for the keywords that matter most to your potential patients.
Create Quality Content Based On Your Keyword Research
Building high-quality content for medical practice SEO requires a strategic approach that focuses on creating content that is informative, engaging, and optimized for search engines. After you have completed your initial keyword research, you can start to outline the structure of your content.
Before creating any content, it’s important to understand your target audience. What are their pain points and what type of content would they find useful and engaging? For medical practices, you are likely creating content that answers a patient’s question, or directs them to your contact us page so they can schedule an appointment with you. Always ask yourself “what question am I answering with my content?”
Informative And Engaging Content
Once you know your audience and have identified relevant keywords, it’s time to create content that is informative and engaging. This could include blog posts, infographics, videos, or interactive content like quizzes or calculators. For a medical practice, photos and easy to digest information will likely resonate best with your audience.
Make sure any clinical information is accurate and achievable. For example, you wouldn’t want to write an article on how to remove an appendix since you would not want a patient to attempt that at home. Instead you can write an article on how to assess abdominal pain and identify if it is an emergency or not.
Use Disclaimers On Medical Information
Disclaimers are a must when it comes to medical websites! A medical disclaimer should include the following statements in some form:
“The information presented in this medical article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.”-Medical Office
Apply On-Page Optimization
On-page optimization refers to the practice of optimizing the content and HTML source code of a website’s individual pages to improve its ranking and relevance for specific keywords and search queries. It includes several elements that can impact a website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Here are some common on-page optimization factors:
A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. It should include relevant keywords and accurately describe the content of the page.
A meta description is a short summary of the page’s content that appears in the SERPs. It should include relevant keywords and encourage users to click through to your site.
Header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) are HTML elements that denote the heading or subheadings of a web page. They should include relevant keywords and accurately describe the content that follows. H1 headings are used for the title of the page, while H2, H3, etc are used to format topic and subtopic headings.
Content optimization involves creating high-quality, relevant content that includes the targeted keywords and provides value to the user. The content should be easy to read and provide answers to the user’s search queries.
The URL of a website matters when it comes to SEO. The URL of a web page should be descriptive and include the targeted keywords. It should also be short and easy to read.
Internal linking refers to linking to other pages on your website within your content. It helps users navigate your site and provides additional context for search engines to understand your content.
63% of all of Google’s traffic originates from mobile phones. Mobile optimization involves ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and responsive, meaning it adjusts to the size of the user’s mobile devices.
By optimizing these on-page elements, you can improve the visibility and relevance of your website for specific keywords and search queries, ultimately increasing your chances of ranking higher in the SERPs and attracting more targeted traffic to your website.
Leverage Local SEO
For the majority of medical practices that are not a part of a larger chain, local SEO is where you will get the highest return on your efforts. Local SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and online presence to increase your visibility in local search results. Here are some of the most important things to consider for local SEO:
Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to manage your business’s online presence across Google, including search and maps. GMB is essentially an online business listing that serves the same purpose a phone book would have back in 1980.
Claiming and verifying your GMB listing is crucial for local SEO as it provides essential contact information about your business, including your address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and Google reviews. It is important you double check that GMB has accurate information about your healthcare practice so prospective patients know exactly how to reach you.
Local citations: Local citations refer to online mentions of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) on other web pages and directories, such as Yelp, Yellowpages, and local business associations. Consistent and accurate NAP information across these sites is the best way to build trust with search engines and improve your visibility in local search results.
Customer reviews on Google, Yelp, and other review sites are critical for local SEO. Positive reviews can boost your visibility and credibility, while negative reviews can harm your reputation. It is very important to respond to all reviews, both negative and positive, whenever possible. Remember to keep responses vague and not in violation of HIPAA.
On-page optimization factors, such as title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and content optimization, are essential for local SEO. Include location-specific keywords in your on-page content, and ensure that your website is mobile-friendly and easy to navigate. Unite pages with similar subject matter using internal links to optimize the user experience of your website for potential customers.
Local Link Building
Building high-quality links from local websites and directories to your website can improve your local website authority and therefore improve your overall search rankings. Partner with local businesses, sponsor events, and create content that appeals to your local audience to attract links from relevant and trustworthy sources.
Social Media Presence
A strong social media presence can also help to improve your local SEO. Establish a presence on relevant social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and engage with your followers to build brand awareness and attract more local customers.
Social media marketing may feel intimidating if you haven’t been exposed to it before, but any general presence can be beneficial overall. Many medical offices choose to just talk about new providers, hours of operations, closed on holidays, and other generic information that keeps patients out of the equation completely.
How To Build High-Quality Backlinks
Backlinks to your website show Google that you have trusted authority on a given topic. For example, if you are a physical therapy office and have a backlink to your website coming from an orthopedic practice, that shows Google you have topically relevant and trusted information on your site that is applicable to an orthopedic practice.
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks, also known as inbound links or incoming links, are links from other websites that direct users to your website. These links are important because they signal to search engines that your site is credible, authoritative, and trustworthy. When search engines see that other websites are linking to your site, they assume that your site contains valuable content that users will find useful.
Importance of Backlinks for SEO
Backlinks are one of the most important ranking factors for search engines like Google. In fact, Google has confirmed that backlinks are one of the top three ranking factors for organic search results. This means that having high-quality backlinks can significantly improve your search engine rankings and attract more traffic to your site.
However, not all backlinks are created equal. Search engines consider the quality and relevance of the linking site when evaluating the value of a backlink. A backlink from a high-authority website in your industry is more valuable than a backlink from a low-quality, unrelated website in Google’s eyes. Therefore, it’s important to focus on building high-quality, relevant backlinks to improve your SEO.
Strategies for Building Backlinks
Now that you understand the importance of backlinks, let’s explore some strategies for building them.
Create High-Quality, Shareable Content
One of the best ways to attract backlinks is by creating valuable, informative content that other websites will want to link to. This can include blog posts, infographics, videos, and other types of content that are relevant to your industry and target audience.
Guest posting involves writing an article for another website and including a link back to your site in the author bio or within the content. This can help you reach a new audience, establish yourself as an authority in your field, and earn valuable backlinks.
Build Relationship With Other Websites
Building relationships with other websites in your industry can help you earn backlinks over time. This can involve networking with other professionals, participating in industry forums and events, and engaging with other websites on social media.
Leverage Local Directories
Local directories, such as Yelp and Healthgrades, can be a valuable source of backlinks for medical practices. Local directories can greatly impact local searches as your practice then gets to utilize the website rank of the directoy to your advantage. Ensure that your practice is listed on relevant directories and that your information is accurate and up-to-date.
Monitor Your Backlink Profile
Regularly monitoring your backlink profile can help you identify and disavow any low-quality or spammy backlinks that may be harming your SEO. Use tools like Google Search Console or Ahrefs to keep track of your backlinks and identify any potential issues.
Building high-quality backlinks is a critical component of medical practice SEO. By creating valuable content, guest posting, building relationships with other websites, leveraging local directories, and monitoring your backlink profile, you can improve your search engine rankings, attract more traffic to your site, and ultimately, attract more patients to your practice.
The Importance Of Patient Reviews For SEO
Patient reviews are important for SEO because they can impact a medical practice’s search engine rankings and online reputation. Here’s how:
Improved Search Engine Rankings
Reviews can influence search engine rankings because they provide fresh and relevant content for search engines to crawl. Search engines prioritize websites with fresh and relevant content, so having a steady stream of patient reviews can help improve your search engine rankings.
Additionally, some search engines like Google take into account the number of reviews and the overall rating of a business when determining search rankings.
Increased Click-Through Rates
Increased Click-Through Rates: Positive patient reviews can also lead to increased click-through rates to your website. This means that patients not only see your listing on Google, but they actually click the link to access your website.
Patients are more likely to click on a practice’s website if they see positive reviews and high ratings on search engines or review websites. This can increase traffic to your site and ultimately lead to more patients.
Establishes Trust And Credibility
Patient reviews can also help establish trust and credibility with potential patients. A crucial part of financial management for medical practices includes the consistent addition of new patients.
Positive reviews from other patients can help build a positive reputation for your practice and make patients feel more confident in choosing your practice. In contrast, negative reviews can harm your reputation and lead to a decrease in patient trust and credibility.
Provides Feedback And Opportunities For Improvement
Patient reviews can also provide valuable feedback and insights for your practice. By reading reviews, you can gain a better understanding of what patients appreciate about your practice and areas where you may need to improve. Addressing patient concerns and feedback can also show potential patients that your practice values patient satisfaction and is committed to providing high-quality care.
Patient reviews are an important factor in medical practice SEO. By improving search engine rankings, increasing click-through rates, establishing trust and credibility, and providing feedback and opportunities for improvement, patient reviews can help attract more patients to your practice and ultimately improve patient outcomes. It’s important for medical practices to actively seek out and manage patient reviews to ensure a positive online reputation and improved SEO.
Implement SEO As Your Long-Term Marketing Plan
Implementing SEO strategies can significantly boost your practice’s patient census when done correctly. Whether you’re adding a new physician, planning to add an additional location, or just want to grow your practice revenue in general, SEO can be an effective marketing strategy for both new patient acquisition and referrals from other medical professionals.
SEO is a strategy that requires testing and adaptation from time to time. SEO strategies can be low-effort and basic, such as leveraging Google my business and using local directories. Alternatively, they can be complex and in-depth, like creating a blog around all the services your office provides.
In-House Vs External SEO
Leading an SEO strategy will require time and basic knowledge of SEO. If you do not have a member of your organization who can lead SEO efforts for your medical practice’s website, consider hiring SEO experts or a digital marketing agency that can help implement an effective SEO strategy and grow your practice.