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Medical marketing advantage: 3 SEO strategies for healthcare practices the competition may overlook

With most new patient acquisition occurring online, practice growth demands an effective search engine optimization strategy. We handpicked 3 SEO tips to help you get ahead in your local market.

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When patients look for a healthcare provider today, the process most often starts with a search engine query. PatientPop research shows that 75 percent of people go online to begin their search for a doctor, dentist, or care. Some want to find a clinician and book a visit; others are searching for information on symptoms or conditions. Either way, healthcare practices that show up toward the top of page one on search engine results pages (SERP) are far more likely to get the clicks needed to drive practice awareness and land more new patients. 

To realize true practice growth, practices actually need to shoot for that #1 slot as often as possible. Statistics illustrate the impact of those higher rankings: According to monthly data from Advanced Web Ranking, the #1 search result receives 30.2 percent of organic (non-advertising) clicks; however, the #3 result drops considerably, receiving just 7.7 percent of search clicks. The #6 slot gets barely over two percent of clicks.   

Simplifying search engine optimization for healthcare practices

While search engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky business, there are several proven techniques that have stood the test of time, demonstrating to Google and other search engines your website is worthy of page 1 prominence. Although Google regularly changes its algorithm, we know that the three main, consistent factors that impact local SEO are relevance, prominence, and distance. 

Relevance relates to how well your practice listing and website match a search query. Prominence refers to how well-known your practice is, both offline and online. Distance is determined by how close your practice is to the searcher’s location.

If you want your practice to master medical marketing above the competition in the world of local search, employ these top SEO strategies that others may not utilize, or even be aware of. These are designed to enhance your organization’s relevance, prominence and distance, whenever possible. 

Healthcare practice SEO tactic #1: Create individual practice service pages for relevance

One of the most important search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to build relevance is using keywords and offering content to connect prospective patients with the services at your healthcare practice. When a patient “asks a question” online — essentially what every search query does — you want your website to surface the answer if the question relates to your specialty. That’s why every condition you treat, and every service or procedure you offer, needs its own dedicated web page. 

You may wonder why a healthcare practice needs to explain every relevant healthcare condition and service they provide in detail, when patients can visit WebMD for that information? Because you want to be the expert for those patients, making it far more likely for them to book a new appointment with you. 

When you create a single web page for each care service or procedure, you establish a higher level of authority and relevance with Google which, in turn, brings you closer to the top of search results. Think about it from Google’s perspective, with this example: If your website offers an entire page of information about menopause, that page is more likely to answer an searcher’s query than a website that may mention the word “menopause” once, and fail to provide much depth on the topic. 

The more detailed your page is, the more likely you are answering more questions — and, therefore, are best serving that Google “customer”. From an SEO perspective, it simply doesn’t work as well if you put all your services in a laundry list on one “Services” page. There’s not much information there, and barely any relevance to a patient’s query. 

How do you create a healthcare services web page? The best service pages begin with a soft introduction that connects to your reader while allowing you to naturally (and repetitively) use keywords that relate to the condition or service. From there, you can consider a Q&A format — this improves your chances of matching a search from prospective patients who use “long-tail” questions in their search query (e.g. “What are common menopause symptoms?”) Finally, by formatting each page in short paragraphs, you ensure your content is easier for readers to digest, and easier for search engines to break down and rank for mobile users. 

Healthcare practice SEO tactic #2: Optimize your Google My Business listing to secure local patients

This tactic relates to all the key search factors but helps to shore up your opportunities when distance is in your favor. Because your practice is a local business with an office, Google recognizes that you’re part of a local community. It also assumes most people don’t want to go too far when they look online for a shop, restaurant, or doctor’s office. You can’t change your location just for SEO, but you can help confirm and hardwire your location(s) throughout the internet. 

One way to accomplish this is by claiming and optimizing online profiles such as your profile with Google My Business. When Google determines your practice is near a person searching for services related to your business, they will immediately share all the information from your Google My Business profile, to help the searcher make an educated choice. When you’ve built out and optimized your profile, you’re immediately giving credibility to your practice, helping you earn the searcher’s click. 

In fact, SEO experts rank Google My Business page as the most important ranking factor for the Google Local Pack, the coveted placement located at or near the top of the unpaid search results.

Example of Google Local Pack, search results for "foot surgeon Westfield New Jersey"

How do you optimize your Google My Business profile? It begins with ensuring that all your practice basics are accurate, starting with your practice name, office address and phone number. These details must be consistent across the web — this signals to Google that the information must be accurate and they can feel confident surfacing it as an option for searchers. 

From there, add photos to your Google My Business profile. Add a detailed description of your practice and the services you provide. Also, be sure to select the best (and most specific) category that fits your practice. For example, ‘pain management doctor’ is more specific than ‘physician’ and is more likely to closely correlate with a patient’s search. 

Healthcare practice SEO tactic #3: Earn backlinks to your site for prominence

The greater your web presence, the more powerful your chances to attract attention within local search. A strong, expansive web presence also supports long-term, organic improvement in search rankings and patient acquisition. Earning backlinks is a sound SEO strategy that establishes prominence by helping Google and other search engines understand that your healthcare practice is well-known and respected in your community. When you earn citations and links to your site from other websites, you enhance your web presence and build credibility with the search engines. 

What is a citation? A citation refers to any time another website mentions your practice or providers. Links are the most valuable next step, in which organizations connect directly back to your website with active hyperlinks. 

These digital votes of confidence are a very important piece of the SEO puzzle, so it’s worth your time to develop a backlinking strategy. 

To earn citations and links, start by joining local healthcare and business associations like your local chamber of commerce or the MGMA. By doing so, you’ll often get added to a digital membership directory. Other strategies include securing listings on local and hyperlocal sites of interest, or websites that rank well for your medical specialty. This can sometimes be achieved by sponsoring a meeting or event, or partnering with like-minded organizations and finding relevant ways to link to one another’s websites.

Search engine optimization supports long-term practice growth

While search engine optimization is a complex business need, investing in tactics that drive better search rankings can support your long-term practice and revenue growth. In addition to the strategies mentioned above, you can enhance your SEO efforts and online presence by developing a comprehensive reputation management program, create an ongoing blog strategy, and stay active on social media

Also available:

Why your healthcare practice may not show up in the Google Local Pack

Page 1 potential: 5 tactics to get your healthcare practice toward the top of search results 

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PatientPop is the leader in practice growth with the only all-in-one solution that empowers healthcare providers to improve every digital touchpoint of the patient journey. As experts in the healthcare technology space, PatientPop makes it easy for providers to thrive in the consumerization of healthcare and promote their practice online, attract patients, and retain them for life.

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