There was once a time when healthcare practices had the luxury of relying on word-of-mouth advertising to drive new business. Those days have passed. Google has taken over as the chief authority on many aspects of life, including where to find the best local medical and dental practices. If your healthcare practice doesn’t appear toward the top of search engine results — on the first page, within the first handful of results — you’re losing out on new patient volume.
Ideally, healthcare practices should prepare and optimize their Google My Business profile to stand out across the variety of ways Google may display your practice information (see our recent post on the all-important Google Local Pack). But patients search the internet for more than just a new provider or type of specialty care. There are common searches for medical conditions, symptoms, procedures, and surgeries, all of which may land a patient at the website of a well-prepared healthcare practice.
That requires practices to execute on multiple search result tactics to maximize their opportunities at getting found. You want your practice, and your practice website, to appear near the top of results pertaining to your specialty and area of expertise, particularly with the patients you most want to attract to your practice. These tactics are designed to help you secure your place of priority in search engine results.
Helping healthcare practices achieve search results prominence
As most savvy healthcare practices know, search engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky business that’s constantly evolving based on Google’s ever-changing algorithm. Considering the major influence the search engine giant has on patient decision-making, SEO should be a constant, critical part of your healthcare practice’s long-term practice growth strategy.
We’ve provided expert SEO advice in recent blog posts, where we reiterate the importance of having a Google My Business profile and focusing on increasing the quantity and improving the quality of your online reviews. While this is important, gaining the sacred first page prominence requires a bit more effort. Here is our expert SEO advice to get you there.
5 tactics to get your practice website ranking well in search results
1. Build your healthcare website backlinks
When other websites link to pages on your site, it’s called backlinking or link building — a practice we cover in detail in this backlinking blog post. Backlinks to your site signal to Google that your website is a source of credible information. Consider a backlink a digital vote of confidence. This establishes trust in your web domain and improves your domain authority, which in turn improves your search ranking.
The first step to getting people to link to your site is to generate valuable content or assets (blog posts, helpful guides, infographics) that others might find useful enough to reference on their website. As an example, think about the kind of expert information you might share in your community, and how other local websites would benefit from linking to that information.
After you’ve established content worth linking to, you have to make relevant contacts, such as local organizations, industry partners, media outlets, and even other local blogs. Encourage them to link to your website content on their site(s).
While earning backlinks can be a time-consuming task, the long-term payoff can be significant. If you need some beginner steps, here’s some sound advice from SEO experts Moz.
You can also find out about PatientPop website and SEO services, and request a customized look at how an SEO strategy can benefit your practice.
2. Manage your practice’s online reputation
Your practice’s online reputation does more than help prospective patients learn about the quality of care and service you provide — it also helps drive website traffic.
That’s because healthcare practices with more online reviews, and with higher quality reviews, typically achieve better organic search result rankings. Online reviews are seen as the fourth most-important factor in determining local search rankings, and account for as much as 16 percent of search factors.
To improve the quantity and quality of your online reviews, consider sending automated patient satisfaction surveys to patients who’ve had a recent appointment. According to PatientPop research, patients who are asked for feedback are 50 percent more likely to proactively submit an online review via popular review sites such as Google, Yelp, and Healthgrades.
Not only can this tactic help improve your search engine position, it can help influence prospective patients to choose your practice. The 2020 edition of the annual patient perspective survey confirms that 70 percent of patients check online reviews before choosing a healthcare provider.
3. Focus on your website content
Your website gives you the best opportunity to make a great first impression with both prospective patients and search engines like Google. Take advantage of your practice website to tout the exceptional care and services you provide, highlight your clinicians, and share valuable information your patients request and need.
By developing a comprehensive web page for each service you provide, you greatly improve your chances to rank well for related keywords. On each page, you can go into greater depth for inquiring patients, establish online authority for each service or condition, and align your website with the keywords that patients are using in search.
When in doubt, think from the patient perspective. Include information that addresses patients’ most frequently asked questions, and use the words and phrases they use — even if they’re not clinically correct. For optimal SEO, it’s important to include the conditions you treat, as well as the services and procedures you provide. This will position your website to connect with more patients, while explaining your approach to care.
4. Blog about it
Search engines love relevant content. Healthcare practices with an abundance of fresh pages that answer queries and deliver relevant information are more likely to land near the top of the search engine results pages (SERP). Marketing experts confirm organizations that blog regularly have 55 percent more website visitors and five times more pages indexed by search engines.
If you don’t currently maintain a blog on your practice website, start one. Your blog is the perfect place to share valuable, timely insights and guidance — one web page per blog post, just like your services. Each blog post topic should relate to your specialty, and to the services you offer on an ongoing basis. Within a blog post, you can answer a question about a condition, highlight a procedure, or offer seasonal expertise (anything from sunscreen usage to the flu shot to heart health during the holidays). Running your own practice blog is another way to help keep patients informed and engaged, while giving Google and other search engines even more reasons to find your site and offer it up as a trusted source of information.
When combined with a social media strategy, the value of blogging increases with each post, giving you a steady stream of social media content to generate awareness for your practice while driving patient conversion.
5. Engage regularly on social media
While the link between social media and SEO has been debated, most digital marketing experts know it plays a role in driving page rank. Your activity on social media platforms helps search engines connect your practice with relevant searches.
For example, if you run a social media campaign about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine at your practice, your content is likely to match search queries from local patients seeking vaccination. If your campaign gains traction through social media engagement, such as shares and likes, your website traffic is set to improve. In turn, that improves your search engine credibility and domain authority for that vaccination topic.
While there’s no hard-and-fast rule about the frequency of social media engagement, posting twice a week on the platform(s) of your choice is enough to keep your patients and followers engaged, and contribute to your SEO.
Top search result positions are essential for patient acquisition
While appearing frequently on page 1 of search results is a viable goal to aim for, it’s not enough. For those search keywords and phrases that relate most to your key services, landing in the top few organic search result spots is necessary.
In the latest metrics from Advanced Web Ranking, the number one search result receives a user clickthrough 30.6 percent of the time. At the number three spot, that drops to around 7.5 percent. The number five listing receives only 3 percent of clicks.
By combining search tactics and implementing best practices to inform patients online, you can position your practice to fall within those coveted spots more often than local peers and competitors. As local patients find you more often, you open up opportunities to connect with new patients and bring them in to your practice for mutual long-term gain.