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Understanding Google search ranking factors for healthcare websites

Keep these factors in mind when optimizing your doctor website for search results.

Doctors view healthcare website

Everyone wants the coveted No. 1 spot in search results and with good reason: The top Google result in any search boasts a click-through rate of about 31 percent, according to Advanced Web Ranking. The lower a website ranks on the page, the fewer clicks it receives. The second position receives a click-through rate of about 15 percent, and the third position receives almost 10 percent, and so forth.

Most people don’t even make it past the first page of Google. In fact, the first page of results sees 92 percent of search traffic, according to Chitika. Thus, where you rank in search can determine the success of your healthcare website. But how does Google decide which physician websites to rank first?

This blog post explains a few known search engine ranking factors, so doctors can better understand how they must optimize their healthcare website in order to rank highly in search.

7 search engine ranking factors to know for your doctor website SEO

1. Crawlability

Search engines won’t surface your healthcare website if they don’t understand the content. In order to access the data on your site, search engines crawl and index web pages to return them in search results. But sometimes, a website is not configured in a way that search engines can read. For example, a broken link can make it difficult for a search engine to access certain content on your pages.

Submitting a sitemap to Google is one of the easiest ways to ensure the search engine can access and index your website. Including structured data in your healthcare website also helps Google learn helpful context about your content and can enable rich snippets in search results. To see how your website looks to Google, try using the Google Structured Data Testing Tool.

Learn: What is an optimized medical practice website?

2. Good content

The goal of a search engine is to satisfy a user’s search query, which is what the user types into the search bar. It’s in the search engine’s best interest to offer the most reliable and accurate information to satisfy a user’s query. The term “good content” may come off subjective, but it’s important that you feature helpful content on your healthcare website.

For example, good physician websites may include helpful information about conditions treated or services offered. According to PatientPop, 74.6 percent of people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care. As an expert in your field, you are a reputable source to answer patient search queries. The more people rely on the information on your pages, the more Google will understand that your content is useful and will bring it up in results.

Check out: How to write medical website content that performs in local search

3. Keywords

The helpful content on your website should also include relevant keywords in prominent places such as headlines, subheaders, title tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags. Keywords are the words users type into their search queries and signal to search engines that your content is relevant to their search. Keywords should also be worked in naturally throughout the copy.

For example, if you’re an orthodontist in San Francisco who offers Invisalign treatment, you are going to want to have a page on your website dedicated to Invisalign that includes the keyword [Invisalign] in several places and a photo of the treatment.

Learn: How to choose healthcare SEO keywords for a doctor website

4. Page speed

Today’s web users are impatient. More than half of all page visits on mobile are likely to be abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load, according to Google data. Unfortunately, the average mobile landing page takes 15 seconds to load, according to a 2018 Google analysis. If your healthcare website does not load quickly enough, you could risk losing a new patient and falling lower on search results.

To ensure your doctor website page speed is up to par, try testing it using PageSpeed Insights. The tool will give you a score for both the desktop and mobile page speeds on your healthcare website.

Check out: The speed of your website could cost your healthcare practice patients

5. Mobile-friendly web design

According to Statcounter, more than 94 percent of all mobile searches in the U.S. occur on Google. And according to Statista, almost 60 percent of all organic search web visits were on mobile devices in the first half of 2019. Google recognizes how important it is that users searching on mobile have a web experience that was designed to look good on their devices. Not only will mobile-friendly websites rank higher in search results on mobile, a site that is responsive on mobile may also rank higher on desktop searches.

Mobile-friendly designs are important in local searches, as well. Local search is important to local businesses because these searches typically include the words “near me,” which can show a sign of intent to purchase or solicit services. These types of searches often happen while on the go and on mobile phones. Check to see if your website is mobile friendly with the Mobile-Friendly Test.

6. Backlinks

Once your doctor website is established and has all the basics of search engine optimization (SEO), backlinks can really help your practice stand out from the competition. A backlink is when another website adds a hyperlink to your healthcare website on one of its webpages. Backlinks help you build authority in Google’s eyes because it shows that you are a trusted source.

Not all backlinks are of equal weight. A backlink from a reputable site with a lot of domain authority is very beneficial to your SEO, but a backlink from a spam page can hurt your SEO.

Learn more: What is backlinking and why is it important for practice marketing?

7. Expanded web presence

Expanding your web presence is another way you can increase your chances of ranking, not only for your practice but for your healthcare website as well. Creating a Google My Business profile provides more opportunities for you to rank and drive traffic to your healthcare website. This profile may appear in the Google Knowledge Panel — which is located on the right side of the screen of search results pages — the Google Local Pack, or on the Google Local Finder.

Your presence on Google My Business and other web profiles also creates consistency across all your online listings. This can give Google confidence that the information on your website is accurate.

It’s also important that you update or add pages to your website regularly, as this helps ensure that your content remains relevant over time. Blogging consistently is a great SEO tactic because it allows you to offer a more in-depth description of the services you offer while adding pages to your site.

There’s no quick scheme for climbing to the top of search results. Google ranking factors are somewhat of a secret and evolving constantly to better serve users. Plus, if your website is new, it can take about six months for your doctor website to climb results.

PatientPop offers customers a modern website for doctors and other health professionals that is mobile-friendly and designed to rank in search. In addition, PatientPop helps customers expand their web presence and boost their online reputation. 

Wondering whether your site needs a refresh? Check out the blog post “7 signs it’s time to upgrade your healthcare website.”

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