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What is backlinking and why is it important for practice marketing?

Accumulating quality backlinks will help your medical practice website rank higher in search results.

Female doctor researches link building

You’ve heard the term backlinking, but you’re not exactly sure what it means and how it relates to healthcare marketing. What you do know is that you want your medical practice website to rank highly in search. For this reason, a general knowledge of backlinking is essential.

Keep reading for helpful information about backlinking and the impact a strong strategy can have on your healthcare practice.

What is backlinking?

Backlinking is the process of getting other websites to add hyperlinks — links, for short — to your medical practice website on their site pages. Search engines crawl the links between different pages on your website as well as links between your site and other websites to gauge your relevance, which ultimately helps determine your page rank.

Some 72 percent of SEOs — marketing professionals who specialize in search engine optimization — believe backlinks play a significant role in search engine rankings, according to an SEO PowerSuite survey. Of course, all backlinks don’t hold equal weight, so it’s important to have a backlinking strategy focused on earning quality links.

Related: The right way to enhance your healthcare practice website and SEO

Why is backlinking important for healthcare SEO?

Crucial to healthcare SEO, backlinking plays a major role in the effectiveness of your medical practice website. Links work behind the scenes to put your practice in front of the right people.

Search engines have two key uses for links: finding new web pages and deciding how a page should rank in search results. The page content is important, but so is the number of external links pointing to it.

From a search engine’s perspective, the more links you receive from authoritative websites, the better your chances of scoring a competitive rank. Essentially, links are considered an indicator that the page content has value because people wouldn’t link to it if they didn’t recommend it.

Maintaining a competitive page rank isn’t easy. Google keeps its algorithm under lock and key, so it’s hard to know exactly how backlinking factors in, but healthcare marketing experts agree it plays a major role.

If your practice website and that of a competitor are considered equal on all other fronts, it is generally assumed the site with the better backlinking strategy will rank higher. This will likely drive more traffic to your site — and, ultimately, more patients to your practice — because people don’t tend to scroll down too far in search results.

In fact, 90.88 percent of all web pages receive zero traffic from Google, according to a study conducted by SEO firm Ahrefs. Of the 1 billion pages examined in the study, 55.24 percent did not have backlinks, which was considered a main reason for the lack of traffic.

Check out: How to choose healthcare SEO keywords for a doctor website

How do I get more backlinks to my medical practice website?

A backlinking campaign centers on getting quality links, but to find success, they must tie into organizational goals. Choose assets — content like blog posts or original research data — that support your objectives and will engage your target audience.

After identifying your audience and the types of links you’ll need — including links to your homepage and certain healthcare service pages — it’s time to perform outreach. Conduct searches on Google and social media to carefully curate a list of people who will likely have a genuine interest in your practice. For example, if you’re a dentist, you might contact the administrators of an oral health blog.

Devise a “hook” that makes them care about your message, so they want to share it with their audience. When you’ve prepared a strong pitch, reach out using social media or contact information listed on the site.

In your message, let the recipient know what action you’d like them to take. This might involve allowing you to write a guest post on their blog, writing their own piece on your practice — or the healthcare service you’re promoting — or sharing your content on their social media sites.

Do realize, all links do not carry equal weight, so a focus on quality is a must. In some cases — including blog comments, Wikipedia pages, and guest post signatures — a nofollow attribute is added to links that tells Google it shouldn’t be trusted. If this happens, it will not help boost your page rank because the link is considered unreliable.

You might like: SEO statistics healthcare practices should know

White hat vs. black hat backlinking

The manner in which you acquire links can also make or break the success of your campaign. Backlinking can take many different forms, and search engines view these techniques as black or white.

Specifically, white-hat strategies are considered low risk and typically abide by search engine guidelines. This might include creating your own valuable content or writing personalized messages to promote your practice website to a relevant audience. 

Conversely, black-hat strategies blatantly disobey search engine guidelines. They might include tactics like cloaking — serving users different content than search engines — and placing hidden text on a page — likely containing target keywords — that only search engines can see.

White-hat techniques will take longer to produce results, but black-hat strategies can cause an immediate decline in your traffic and rankings if discovered by search engines.

Also see: SEO dos and don’ts for healthcare practices

How long does backlinking take to influence my medical practice website search rankings?

Taking your practice marketing to the next level with backlinking is exciting. An eagerness to see results is natural, but you can’t expect them overnight.

It can take several days to several months to see a boost in search rankings. This is due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Industry competition
  • The popularity of target keywords
  • Whether competitors are engaged in backlinking
  • Types of links pursued
  • Domain history and strength

Managing expectations from the start is crucial to this healthcare marketing strategy. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you will see results.

Backlinking should be part of every practice marketing strategy because search engines place a lot of weight on backlinks. If you want to improve your rank, this is the key to getting your desired results.

To take a deeper dive into backlinking for digital marketing, read this helpful guide by Moz. To see how you stack up against your local competition online, check out the PatientPop competitive scanner.

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