Practice Marketing Essentials Series: SEO for Medical Practices
While a practice’s website may appear inconsequential, just something you publish and then forget about, it is actually an investment you can expect to reap rewards from. Medical practices may not realize a website is an effective way to attract new patients, but you can bet their competitors do. SEO for Medical Practices a way for a practice to show up in search results, and can be key to a practice’s overall marketing strategy.
With 61% of healthcare consumers searching online for new providers, the website of a medical practice is a prime instrument to attract new patients. To be found in search, a medical practice must put forth a persistent effort. Measures taken to be found in Google search are known as SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
What is SEO for doctors? When someone is shopping for a new provider, Google serves up a short list of medical practices to choose from. The means by which a doctor or medical practice ends up at the top of search results is what we call SEO. Your practice is just as deserving to be found in search results, and there are ways to let Google know this. In this guide, we explain how medical practices are found online.
How SEO for Doctors Works
What users see after they enter a search term on Google is called the search engine results page (or SERP). Google instantly curates the best information for that query. For example, when you ask about the weather, a forecast widget appears first. When searching for a doctor, you typically see local search results first, followed by popular review sites, then links to individual medical practices.
Put simply, search engine optimization (SEO) forms around the goal of being found on the first page of Google search results. Right now, as you are reading this, Google bots are collecting data from websites in every corner of the internet. This information is used to sort websites by quality and relevance according to user-first standards.
Based on its own quality criteria, Google’s machines take a user’s search terms and automatically fetch the most relevant ads, business listings, and website links for the first page of results. Examples of queries that would bring up medical practices in search results are:
- The basic doctor search: “pediatrician in New York City”
- The ailment search: “restless legs in New York City”
- The treatment-by-name search: “Botox for migraine New York City”
The objective of SEO for medical practices is to show up on page one for as many relevant search term variables as possible. Consumers become familiar with medical practice brands through repeat encounters, so awareness of your practice builds every time yours shows up in their search results.
How Local Search Works for Medical Practices
With key search terms, Google intuitively knows when its users are after local listings, so these nearby establishments will be placed prominently on the results page. The top three businesses featured for local search is known as Google’s “local pack.” Google ranks by proximity, user reviews, and website quality. When a user wants to see all their local options, they can click and expand for a full list accompanied by a map.
While online directories (such as HealthGrades.com and Vitals.com) factor into the results of a local search, Google My Business (GMB) is Google’s own directory of business listings that feeds into local pack results. Any local business can set up and manage its Google business listing for free, and yet around 56% of local businesses have not yet claimed their free GMB listing.
Has your medical practice claimed yours?
Patient Reviews Impact Local Medical Practice Search
Consumers widely turn to Google to search for all products and services – healthcare included. What’s more, 87.8% read online reviews to vet referrals and recommendations before deciding on a new provider. Which review platform has the most market share? Google.
Not only are Google business reviews a valuable resource for consumer research, but they also impact online visibility. Businesses with better star ratings are more likely to show up in the “local pack.”
Some consumers use the keyword “best” as a search shortcut. For example, a search for “best pediatricians near me” fetches the websites of medical practices with both a high star rating and online reviews that contain the word “best.”
Paying to Be on Page One: Organic Vs. Paid Search
Also on page one of typical search results is a mix of paid results and those that are placed there purely on merit. The latter is known as organic search (another term for SEO), or unpaid search results. This search results placement is granted based on the quality of the website, keyword-rich content, and relevance to what the user is looking for.
On the other hand, Google Ads has your medical practice bid for prominent placement on page one. You pay every time a user clicks on your ad. This is called pay-per-click (PPC), and the cost can rack up quickly. But when your website arrives at page one naturally, without paying Google, this is truly a medical practice SEO win!
Why SEO Matters for Medical Practices
A survey from Logic Inbound found that digital marketing agencies acquired 60% of new patients for their physician clients from organic SEO search versus paid search. Because online search is such a powerful patient-acquisition tool, you know your competitors are attracting plenty of patients this way – and you deserve a share of these leads too.
When patient acquisition is a top priority and keeping pace with the competition is necessary for the long-term survival of your medical business, SEO strategy is a must. Medical practices that are hungry for growth and driven to remain competitive have much to gain from a robust online visibility strategy.
How Does a Medical Practice Compete for Search Results Visibility?
Google uses a complex algorithm that is updated and modified regularly. We may not fully understand how Google does this, nor can we predict what their next move will be, however the following core best practices for search results placement are generally reliable.
Google likes websites that are:
- User-friendly: Load quickly, are mobile-responsive, and engage visitors. Google pays attention to which websites are viewed by users more often, and how long they linger on your site.
- AI-fluent: Google’s fleet of web crawlers will not understand what your website is about if it is not oriented in the way they are programmed to understand.
- Content-rich: Google’s fleet of web crawlers learn all about your website by the keywords contained in the meta tags, headings, page copy, about section, footer, etc. Regularly publishing fresh, keyword-rich blog content increases your website’s SEO power, thereby increasing its relevance with Google.
- Backlinked from other websites: The phrase, “You are who you associate with,” captures how backlinks work. When reputable websites link back to your site, this signals to Google that you provide quality information, and are an authority in your area of medical expertise.
- Popular: Are people talking about your medical practice online? SEO points are earned when your practice is searched for by name, mentioned in forums, included in press coverage, talked about on social media, etc. How often your content assets are shared also has an impact.
Optimizing a website may sound simple, but aspects of it can be highly technical (like site architecture) and complex. SEO experts know how to best pave the way for your website to be displayed in Google search results.
Common Mistakes That Hurt SEO Ranking
Google crawlers not only remember the strengths of a website, but these also make note of its transgressions. Remember that creating a great user experience for your site visitors is key. Google only promotes medical practice websites that are the most helpful and relevant to users.
According to Search Engine Journal, these are common mistakes in SEO:
- Duplicate content on a website: Publishing the same content twice will confuse Google.
- Plagiarized content or keyword stuffing: This is known as black hat SEO, and Google’s crawlers make note of these tricks, and your site will be penalized with lower rankings.
- Slow-loading pages: Users typically do not wait for a website to load because they are used to fast-loading pages. Websites that have high-resolution images and features like iFrames have this problem. Also of note, Google flags websites that still use Flash.
- Short content: If your competitor publishes longer content, Google may give them a higher search position because the perception is that they put in more effort.
- Not mobile-friendly: Google is now mobile-first and expects websites to follow this standard – this means that the pages load quickly, fit the screen, and are easy to navigate on smartphones.
- Glaring technical issues: These include pages that are not well-organized, sites that have coding errors, or ones that lack security (site URLs that begin with HTTP rather than HTTPS).
- Associating with problem websites: If your website is linked to another with a poor reputation, these link(s) should be disavowed right away.
There are so many things to keep track of with SEO, and the average medical practice team lacks room in a busy schedule to manage this. However, seasoned Google search experts are prepared to manage it all for you. They work diligently to position your website to show in search results for as many keyword terms as possible.
Medical Advantage Helps You Be Seen in Google Search Results
Your practice was made to stand out from the rest. Unless you make the extra effort to be found online, the patients who need you are likely to settle for a competitor they found in Google search. We want your practice to be more competitive through being presented as an option in Google search.
Frankly, attaining excellent website rankings through SEO is an extremely time-consuming endeavor as search visibility experts put in full-time hours toward it. Medical Advantage is here to take SEO off your plate and into the hands of seasoned medical practice marketing strategists.
We offer two tiers of SEO support. The first tier includes:
- On-page SEO for 25 keywords.
- Local SEO for one office location.
- Off-page SEO backlinking strategy.
- 2 custom-written blogs per month.
- Monthly keyword ranking reports and consultation.
The second tier includes:
- On-page SEO for 50 keywords.
- Local SEO for up to five office locations.
- Off-page SEO backlinking strategy.
- 4 custom-written blogs per month.
- Monthly keyword ranking reports and consultation.
Google reviews impact local search results, so we also offer online reputation management services to build up your star rating.
Our team of SEO specialists is committed to delivering the maximum return for your medical practice marketing budget, and we have the results to prove it. One of our clients saw an increase of 157% for SEO first-page ranked terms.
Since our marketing team only works with medical establishments, we are intimately aware of the standards practices must meet, and how the provider-patient relationship is nurtured. Our marketing experts are available to discuss how your medical practice website can get the online visibility it deserves – fill out the form below to connect with our team!