How to Use Search Engine Optimization to Grow Your Medical Practice
Back in 2016, a close cousin of mine was diagnosed with a fairly rare medical condition, that, if left untreated, would likely cause their death. Around that same time, a well-known celebrity comedian, Gary Shandling, had allegedly recently passed away from the effects of this condition, hypercalcemia. One of the main causes of hypercalcemia was a parathyroid tumor.
His GP and nephrologist did the testing and determined that my cousin did not have a parathyroid tumor. But we weren’t convinced since all the signs and symptoms were present.
So I turned to the internet to help him. What did I find?
One of the best SEO’d websites I’d ever seen, all about hyperparathyroidism, its causes, and even the treatment (a 10-15 minute “exploratory” procedure), including videos of a procedure.
Every time I did a new search related to hyperparathyroid disease, BOOM! I’d hit this doctor’s website.
The center, at the time, charged $1500 for a doctor’s initial phone consultation to see if you were a candidate.
I should mention my cousin lives in California, and the hospital where this doctor practiced was in Tampa, Florida!
As his symptoms were worsening, and against the advice of his GP and kidney specialist, he paid his $1.5K, did a phone consult with the doctor, signed up for the surgery, and booked his flight.
During the procedure, the doctor found the parathyroid tumor, and my cousin’s 10-minute, life-saving exploratory surgery was a success.
And I became a believer in the power of SEO to actually save a life.
The internet has revolutionized how people search for information, and its impact on the healthcare industry is immense. Patients increasingly turn to web searches to find doctors and detailed information, read reviews, and make healthcare decisions. Since nearly everyone searches using Google, a healthcare practice’s SEO becomes critical to any healthcare business looking to succeed in today’s market.
- 80% of patients search online for information about medical practices before booking an appointment.
- 92% of patients use search engines to find a doctor or medical practice.
- 67% of patients use online reviews to assess the quality of a medical practice.
If you’re running a medical practice and you’re interested in physician SEO, you need to maintain an optimized website with accurate and updated content to gain credibility in Google, visibility in the digital realm and connect with potential patients.
What is Medical Practice SEO?
If you’re a healthcare provider, SEO is essential online marketing: the process of optimizing your practice’s website to rank higher in search engine results pages (or “SERPs”) so that you are visible to more patients seeking your services.
As with any other search engine optimization process, practice SEO involves a combination of on-page (on your website) web development, and off-page (on other websites) strategies to improve your website’s visibility in the SERPs to increase your website traffic.
In most cases, this is achieved by researching and analyzing your ideal patient prospects and competing practices and optimizing your content to best appeal to the current trends in search engine algorithms (okay, in Google).
A healthcare practice’s SEO is, however, governed by stricter rules by Google than the usual online advertising because of the sensitive nature of healthcare information.
Falling under the category of YMYL (Your Money or Your Life), which refers to any content that can affect the finances, safety, or health of the consumer, the content used must be authoritative, trustworthy, and authored by medical experts.
In Google’s eyes, it’s a simple matter: just find a doctor who has the time to write a 2–3K word blog article two or three times per month.
It’s not going to happen in this universe.
Doctors who run and/or own their own healthcare practices often have even less time to do content marketing, email marketing, video marketing and search engine marketing than other niches. Managing patient care, overseeing nurses, prescribing medications just managing the business is a heavy workload.
However, that doesn’t mean that authoritative content can’t be written and then verified by a doctor or other medical expert.
Is Physician SEO Good For New Patient Marketing?
SEO is one of the most powerful tools that medical practices can use to help grow their patient base. Not only does it increase brand awareness (people’s awareness that your healthcare practice exists), it also drives more qualified internet using visitors to your website.
Think about it: if potential patients are unaware your company exists, you’re simply not an option.
Naturally, patient referrals are the primary source of new patients. Still, with so much medical information available online, more potential patients than ever are doing their own research to find the best options for their medical care. Thus it pays to be visible online when someone is searching for a practitioner with your expertise.
Using the right techniques on your medical practice’s website (and off), can boost the number of visitors you receive from Google, which naturally means more potential patients for your practice. Any practice that does healthcare SEO stands to benefit from tapping into this free source of new patient inquiries.
How Long Does It Take for Medical SEO to Work?
Implementing an effective SEO strategy can take several months to yield desired results. Just like any other marketing effort, the success of SEO for health care organizations depends on a number of factors, such as your competition, your budget, and the content you are publishing and optimizing.
The most important factor, however, is consistency. If you dedicate time and resources to your SEO efforts over a period of time, it will produce positive results in terms of increased visibility, traffic and rankings.
What are the Benefits of Using SEO for Medical Websites?
SEO for medical websites carries with it a variety of practice benefits, including:
Higher Ranking on the Google Search Results Pages
This is probably the most important benefit of SEO for physicians. By optimizing content and improving on-page and off-page ranking factors, you can increase your website’s position in SERPs (the normal search results) and the “Map Pack” (the little map that is shown for local searches), which will make it easier for patients to find your practice when they search for healthcare services.
Increased Leads & Phone Calls
Obviously, ranking high in Google will lead to more clicks and draw more visitors to your website, leading to increased leads and phone calls. This means you can attract more patients who are specifically looking for the type of services you provide.
Local Findability in Google Maps
If you’re promoting a local doctor’s medical practice, local search marketing, or “local SEO”, is an effective way to improve your findability in Google Maps. Optimizing content with geo-specific keywords (e.g., city and state names) and claiming your business listing on review sites like Google Business Profile (formerly known as “Google My Business”) or Yelp, you can get more visibility for your practice in the local search results.
This type of mobile marketing will help you attract more patients searching on their smartphones who are looking for healthcare services in your area.
24/7 Automated Marketing
By leveraging SEO for medical practice websites, you can save time and resources that would have otherwise been spent on traditional marketing efforts like cold calling or manually distributing flyers. Effective SEO means focusing your energy on your patients, office staff and other areas of running a successful practice while giving your website the best chance to be seen online.
When You Know It’s Working
The practice of utilizing web analytics tools and conversion tracking tells your web team what’s working. But how can the doctor know for sure?
Are you getting high-quality patient leads submitting contact forms and coming in the door for consultations? Are they booking after their consult?
Tieing back booked appointments following a website inquiry is a difficult task for most small practices, but it’s essential to know these numbers so that you and your web team can understand which channels are driving the most qualified website visitors.
SEO Strategies: How to Implement SEO for a Medical Website
Knowing what strategies to implement for SEO for medical websites is critical to your success. Approaches such as topic and keyword research, good quality content, local SEO, responsive design, and offsite SEO go a long way in improving SERPs rankings.
It is important to conduct a site audit and analysis to know which strategies will work well to improve site visibility.
What are the Most Valuable Practice Topics and Keywords for SEO?
Building content on your website around your medical practice’s core topics and keywords is imperative to medical practice SEO. It is important to know the valuable keywords for your niche to target them. Choose topics and keywords depending on the services you provide, create valuable content with a unique POV, and you will increase your domain authority: the credibility that Google gives your website.
For example, if you offer general family medicine, then some of the most valuable keywords might include “family medicine,” “family doctor san ramon,” and “general physician near me.”
Another important consideration in selecting valuable keywords is knowing what patients looking for services in your practice area are searching for. A competent SEO professional has tools that show the most often searched keywords which can help ensure your content is targeting the right topics and keywords.
What is Technical SEO?
Technical SEO is the process of improving the code, structure, and content on a website so that — you guessed it — it ranks higher in the SERPs.
Technical SEO may include optimizing page titles and meta descriptions, fixing broken links or images, and adding alt text to images. Tech SEO is also about improving page speed to do better with Google’s Core Web Vitals (see: Google PageSpeed Insights).
While your website’s speed might seem minor, think about it from Google’s perspective: if two websites have the same content, but one is faster, which website do you think Google wants to send its searcher to?
What Type of Healthcare Content Should Your Practice Website Have?
Medical practice websites’ content is highly sensitive and has the potential to affect a person’s health and safety. It should therefore be guided by the E-A-T (expertise, authority, trustworthiness).
E-A-T is short for “Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.” Google introduced it as part of its search quality rating guidelines, which outline the factors its search algorithms consider when ranking websites in search results. E-A-T helps to ensure that search results are accurate, relevant, and trustworthy, according to Google.
Importantly for medical practice SEO, Google’s algorithms favor websites with high E-A-T content because they are more likely to provide valuable and reliable information to users.
Naturally, all information provided should be helpful, informative, relevant to the services provided, and trustworthy. Low-quality or “thin” (sparse) content could potentially result in unintended health consequences.
Since Google holds medical practice websites to higher standards than other websites, the best way to rank higher is to continually generate authoritative and updated healthcare content at all times.
Topic and Keyword Research for Healthcare SEO
Your core topics and their related keywords are the most critical piece of healthcare SEO practices. It is essential to conduct intelligent research to identify the right topics and keywords to target. To do this, you need to find out what potential patients are searching for in relation to your services and use those words and phrases in your content.
Researching popular topics related to your practice areas will also help you stay updated on the latest trends so that you can create content that is relevant and engaging.
Some of the points to consider in topic and keyword research to know where to target include:
What Is Your Most Profitable Medical Treatment?
In many elective or semi-elective (colonoscopies come to mind, but not happily!) medical clinics, one or more treatments or procedures are the most profitable to the practice. These services involve the treatments that are needed the most often, involve the least amount of time and produce the highest amount of return.
A good example of a high-value procedure combined with “volume” would be the assembly-line colonoscopies practiced by my GI doc.
I’m just callin’ it like I see it.
Your job as a medical practice SEO is to create content that relates directly to these medical treatments. Knowing the demographics, interests, and behaviors of the patients that want or need these procedures and how they search for the treatments that you provide can help you create effective content that appeals directly to them.
On What Types Of Patients Has Your Practice Made The Most Impact And Why?
Another important consideration is the types of patients most impacted by your medical clinic. These are the personas who have benefited the most from your treatments and procedures.
You need to understand and be able to discuss why your treatments work as well as they do with this type of patient. Characterizing such patients will help you to know which demographics are more likely to benefit from your services, as well as their interests, behaviors, and search patterns, and can help you create content that resonates with them.
Generic Doctor or Healthcare Searches
Another common search trend with potential patients involves generic search terms such as “find a physician”, “GP San Ramon,” or “family doctor near me.” Understanding these words and phrases can help you create content that better matches what patients are searching for, allowing your website to rank higher in the SERPs, which brings in additional traffic.
SEO for Doctors: How Can Your Practice Increase Organic Website Visitors?
One of the major goals of the SEO process for any company is to increase the number of organic visitors to their website. These are all potential clients who come to your website through search engines due to the content that you produce.
Thanks to the power of healthcare SEO, they are also the most likely to convert into patients.
Some strategies that can help you get more organic visitors include:
Mobile-Friendly Website Design
It is essential to ensure that your website design is optimized for mobile devices. Mobile optimization is important because most people use their phones or tablets to search for healthcare services and products.
Having a website that is easy to navigate and read on mobile devices will make it easier for potential clients to find and engage with your content.
Fully Optimized Treatment & Procedure Pages
Your treatment or procedure pages are the most important part of your website and should be thoroughly optimized for SEO. This includes ensuring that each page has:
- Relevant and keyword-rich titles
- Compelling meta descriptions
- Compelling content
- Optimized images to improve page speed
- Structured data tags
- Internal links within the content to other related pages on your website, etc.
Site Structure and User Experience (UX)
Having a good site structure is essential to search engine optimization. Your website should have a clear hierarchy, with each page easily accessible from the home page and other relevant pages.
Your website should also be designed with user experience in mind. Your content should be well-written, easy to understand, and engaging for potential patients. Incorporating features such as internal search and navigation can also help improve user experience.
Intelligent Topical and Keyword Research
Proper topic and keyword research are essential to any medical practice SEO process. You must identify the most relevant keywords and phrases that potential patients are using when searching for medical treatments, services, and providers. You can then create content optimized around these keywords to increase visitors from search engines.
You should also optimize your existing content to ensure that it is properly targeting relevant keywords. This includes adding keywords naturally into the titles, descriptions, and content of your pages.
Multiple Types of Content
Variation of content on web pages is not only desirable but also very effective for targeting different audiences. While some people prefer long-form articles, others may prefer quick video content (especially mobile users!) or engaging images.
Utilizing multiple forms of digital content such as blog posts, infographics, videos, podcasts, and even ebooks will help you cater to the varying needs of a wider audience and drive more organic visitors to your website.
Acquiring Topically-Relevant Backlinks
Backlinks are a critical differentiator in SEO, and acquiring them from topically-relevant websites can help boost your rankings in SERPs. Having backlinks from other relevant medically-related websites will show search engines that your website is credible and authoritative in the medical industry.
Even acquiring links from other geographically relevant (but otherwise unrelated) websites can help boost your local rankings in the Google Map Pack.
Social Media Marketing
Paid ad policies in social media make the practice of organic posting a good adjunct to your patient lead generation plans. Fundamentally, your mission should be to get the patient to visit your website where you control the conversation. Sharing your optimized blog content (your latest article about rhinoplasty, for example) on social media can be a reasonably effective way to bring more visitors to your website.
Local searches are how most people find medical services and products in their area. Therefore, local SEO strategies are essential for any medical practice SEO as most of your business will tend to come from your locality. Fortunately, it’s also easier to rank well for your geographic region than for a more general keyword.
Typically when you rank well, your business listing will appear in the Google “Map Pack”, or the three listings in the little “map” that’s presented as part of the SERP.
When patients search for a treatment or medical service near them, the top results are heavily influenced by proximity and relevance. It’s important to include your location in all of your titles, descriptions, and content, as well as listing your practice on local business directories such as Google Business Profile (formerly known as “Google My Business”) and Yelp.
Some strategies that can help with local SEO include:
Establishing and Optimizing your Google Business Profile
Creating and optimizing a Google My Business profile is one of the easiest and most effective local SEO strategies you can implement. This will help ensure that your business appears in Google Maps, local packs, and organic search results.
Here’s how to create a Google Business Profile listing for your medical practice:
- Go to google.com/business.
- Click on “Start now” in the top right corner of the page.
- Sign in to your Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, you can create one for free.
- Enter your practice name and address. If your business has a physical location that customers visit, you can enter the address. If your business does not have a physical location or serves customers at their locations, you can enter a service area instead.
- Choose a business category that best describes your business.
- Add your business phone number and website (if you have one).
- Click on “Continue” to move to the next step.
- Verify your business. Google will send a verification code to your business address or phone number. You will need to enter this code to complete the verification process.
Once your business is verified, you can start adding more information to your Google Business Profile, such as photos, services, and business hours. You can also use the Google My Business app to manage your profile on the go. It is important to keep your Google Business Profile up to date, as it can help customers find your business and learn more about your products or services.
Utilizing Local Citations
Citations are listings of your business on other websites, and they are, without a doubt, one of the lamest yet necessary things to do on your SEO checklist.
Yelp, Facebook, and even the lowly YellowPages.com “count” as far as Google is concerned, as do the other “Web 2.0” social media platforms. They count because Google knows it’s a pain in the-rear to create and maintain all these stupid things all over the internet. And the businesses that do so are probably otherwise well-maintained and reputable.
At least, that’s how the story goes.
All you need to remember is that citations can help boost your visibility in local SERPs and build trust and credibility.
You knew we’d get here eventually.
Reviews can have a huge impact on how potential patients view your practice.
Good reviews will attract new patients, while bad reviews will obviously deter them.
Unfortunately, there’s less you can do in the medical niche with traditional online reputation management “best practices”.
For example, Google repeatedly emphasizes that it’s important to cultivate and respond to reviews for your business in a timely manner and that responding to reviews in a timely manner, especially negative ones, is important for maintaining trust and improving people’s experience.
However in medical, things are a little different. Your practice must ensure to comply with all HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations when responding to reviews.
HIPAA stipulates that protected health information must not be shared on public platforms. This includes identifying information such as name, contacts, residence and medical information such as appointment times, test results, and diagnoses. Even saying something like “We’re glad you had a great experience” is a virtual confirmation by your practice that the reviewer was in fact, your patient. That’s a probable HIPAA violation.
In responding to any review, especially a negative one, marketing experts advise the following:
- Avoid acknowledging the reviewer as your patient
- Focus on the general policies at your practice
- Respond using generic language.
- When dealing with a negative review, respond generically with an explanation of how you generally handle complaints and reiterate the general procedures used to resolve any issues.
“We are always delighted to hear whenever a patient has a positive experience and is pleased with their results. At our practice, we take great pride in providing high-quality care to all of our patients. If a patient has any further questions or concerns, we encourage them to contact us. We are always here to help.”
In many ways, your hands are tied, especially as compared to other types of businesses.
It is important for medical practices to be mindful of HIPAA regulations when using social media, as violations of HIPAA can result in financial penalties and damage to the practice’s reputation.
Please note that the information provided in this blog post is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. It has not been verified by an attorney and should not be taken as legal advice. If you have specific legal questions or concerns, you should consult with an attorney who is licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Every situation is unique, and it is important to obtain personalized legal advice that takes into account the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
Creating and Maintaining Social Media Profiles
Given that everyone prefers to consume their information via different channels, creating and maintaining multiple social media profiles such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn can help increase the visibility of your practice. However, you must ensure to use them strategically and, again, remain compliant with HIPAA regulations.
Earning Geo-Relevant Backlinks
In addition to building local citations, you should also look into earning geo-relevant backlinks. These are backlinks that come from websites in the same city or region as your practice. Earning backlinks from local business websites or blogs can help boost your rankings in SERPs and improve the visibility of your practice.
One simple way to get geo-relevant backlinks is to ask your friends with businesses and other local business associates (in the Chamber of Commerce, for example) for a link back to your website from their website. You will of course provide them with the same.
These used to be known as “link exchanges”, and in general, were frowned upon by Google, but in this instance of geo-relevance, my experience suggests that it’s a good thing.
Bad SEO Practices: What are the Common Mistakes Made When Doing SEO for a Medical Website?
Mistakes in medical practice SEO can be very costly. Not only will you lose valuable visitors, time, and money, but you may also be penalized by search engines.
Here are some common mistakes to avoid:
Poor Website and Mobile Experience
Your website needs to be optimized for mobile devices and desktop computers. If it isn’t, you can expect a significant drop in organic visitors.
Additionally, if your website is poorly designed or difficult to navigate, potential patients will likely click away and look for a different solution to their medical questions.
Poor Topic and Keyword Research
It is important to invest time and resources into researching the right topics and keywords for your practice. If you’re targeting the wrong keywords, it will be much harder to rank in SERPs and attract organic visitors.
Search engines prioritize content that is informative and relevant. The standards are even higher in medical practice SEO, as your content can impact people’s health and safety. If you’re publishing thin or low-quality content, it will be difficult to rank in the SERPs and attract organic visitors as Google will not tend to surface your site.
Creating “thick”, meaningful and helpful content is the single most important factor in SEO success.
Not Earning Backlinks
Some geographically unrelated websites may offer to exchange links, but this is considered a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can get you penalized by search engines. As you rise up in the SERPs, you’ll also be pummeled by link vendors trying to sell you links (never fear as we have ways of mitigating this challenge!)
It’s always best to avoid shortcuts and earn backlinks naturally by providing high-quality content that people want to link to.
Not Updating Your SEO Strategy
Medical SEO is a constantly evolving field, and you must ensure that your strategy is updated to remain competitive and stay ahead of the curve. What are your competitors doing? Are they possibly trying to counter your moves? Digital marketing is ever-evolving, and only those medical providers who want to close their practices can be safe ignoring it.
Ignoring Local Listings
Local SEO is everything when it comes to medical SEO, so you must make sure to create and maintain profiles on local directories such as Yelp and Google Business Profile (formerly known as “Google My Business”). This will help attract potential patients who are searching for medical services in your area of specialization.
Healthcare SEO Strategy
Boomcycle is an experienced medical practice SEO agency that can help you create and implement a tailored strategy to increase organic visitors and boost brand visibility. Our team of experts will help you with the following:
We are well-versed in the principles that guide medical website content creation and will ensure that your content complies with HIPAA regulations. Working with your medical experts, we’ll create blogs, articles, videos, and other types of content that are useful and interesting to help you get more potential patients to visit your website.
On-Page Medical SEO
We will optimize your website to ensure that it ranks highly in SERPs and is tailored to the latest updates in the search engine algorithms. We can also help you restructure content, update metadata, increase page load speed, improve navigation, and fix broken links, images and pages.
Off-Page Medical SEO
As part of our off-page medical SEO services, we will construct geo-relevant backlinks, increase online visibility, and generate detailed reports on your progress. We are committed to delivering the highest quality service and assisting you in achieving success in organic search results.
Healthcare Listings Management
We have extensive experience managing medical listings on directories and review sites, including Google Business Profile (formerly “Google My Business” or GMB) and Yelp. This is an important part of local SEO and will help you attract potential patients who are looking for medical services in your area.
Schema Markup and Auditing
We will audit your website and identify any technical issues that may be hindering its performance in SERPs. We can then create the appropriate schema markup and fix any coding errors, ensuring that your medical SEO strategy is effective and optimized for search engines.
Monitoring and Monthly Reporting
We don’t stop at getting you to the top. Boomcycle tracks and monitors your progress, providing comprehensive reports that give you visibility into how your medical SEO strategy is performing. This will help us identify areas that can be improved and make sure you stay ahead of your competition.
If you want to take your medical practice’s online presence to the next level, investing in medical practice SEO is the way to go. Working with Boomcycle can help you achieve your goals with a tailored SEO strategy that will help increase organic visitors and boost your web traffic.
Our team of experts has extensive experience in SEO and is always up-to-date with the latest trends and algorithms.
Contact us today to schedule a practice promotion session and learn more about how we can help.