If SEO sometimes feels like a moving target, it’s because SEO sometimes is a moving target. And there’s a reason for that — every time search engines like Google upgrade their algorithms, content creators have to hone their approach to staying at the top of relevant results. But you don’t have to have a subspecialty in SEO to get your practice’s website in front of patients. It’s just a matter of providing good, useful content and letting the Internet know where it is.
Check out our SEO guide to make sure you’re up on all of the important terms, and then read on to see what you should be doing — and what you no longer have to do — to stay near the top of the rankings.
Out: Meta keywords, In: Meta descriptions
Meta descriptions don’t factor into search rankings, but they do have an impact on clicks. Search engines pull your meta description into intro text on their results page (it’s the little gray text), giving you a little bit of free marketing copy to reach patients. Include your location and specialty, and let people know what stands out about your practice. Make it readable, relevant, and compelling — include a call to action encouraging searchers to visit your site or make an appointment. Have a specific, unique description for each page. And keep it concise — most search engines cut the description off around 155 characters, so put all of the good stuff up front.
Out: Keyword matching, In: Readability
This should be a relief to anyone who’s ever tried to fit “pediatric dentist poughkeepsie ny” or “what kind of doctor treats rusty nail in foot” into your web content. Google has become far more adept at determining intent and recognizing what users are probably searching for, even if the keywords don’t match up perfectly. You’ll still want to include information about where you’re located, what you treat, and what sets your practice apart — but now, you can write it the way a human would read it, instead of having to twist it into “cincinnati rusty nail in foot specialist.” (Seriously, go to the ER.)
Out: Website-only, In: Social-also
There once was a time when Google only indexed websites, and social media platforms were off limits. Today not only are they increasingly searchable, but platforms like Facebook and YouTube are quickly becoming powerful search engines in their own right — particularly for the hundreds of millions of users who look to social media a source of healthcare information.
To keep your practice site and your social media pages toward the top of the rankings, make sure your profiles are optimized for maximum searchability, and don’t underestimate the value of linkbacks to boost your credibility in Google’s discerning eye. While you’re tweeting, sharing, and posting, don’t forget to promote your own content, too.
Out: Local, In: Hyperlocal
In their efforts to provide the most relevant results possible, Google is taking localized searches all the way down to the neighborhood level. That means that you aren’t just competing for local rankings with other practices in your city — you’re competing with other practices on your street, and if your online presence isn’t that specific, you could be left out. Make sure your site and particularly your Google My Business profile include not just your address but also your neighborhood, so that searches for a dermatologist in Southside Yourtown will turn up your practice.
Out: Desktop optimization, In: Mobile optimization
It’ll still be a while before desktop is truly “out,” so don’t stop optimizing now. But according to Google, in 2015, mobile searches outranked desktop searches for the first time ever. That was also the year that Google added mobile-friendliness to its algorithm, so optimizing your practice site for mobile is more important than ever. Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test can let you know if your page has a mobile-friendly design. (Our post on common practice website mistakes has other tips to make your site the best it can be.)
When you’re optimizing for mobile, don’t forget one important searcher: Siri. Users asking Siri, Google Now, or Cortana to find them a doctor will be phrasing their searches differently than in a standard desktop or mobile search. Their search terms will be far more natural and conversational, so your content should be written to match.
Here’s the good news: The more real-human-oriented search engine algorithms become, the easier it is to stay relevant with real-human-oriented content. With the exception of building a responsive, mobile-friendly website (you’ll probably want to bring in a professional for that), SEO is something that you can do every day from your office, using a technique you use every day in your office: treating your patients like real people.