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The vast majority of individuals in need of a healthcare professional will turn to the internet for help. Their first efforts to find what they are looking for will typically be through a search engine – usually Google. That means if you are not ranking highly for searches related to the services you offer, your competitors are winning patients that could have been yours.
Here is our guide to maximizing your online marketing efforts and reaching new patients through the effective use of medical SEO.
For any business, in any sector, demonstrating authority is an important part of attracting new customers. In the medical world, this is even more crucial – after all, patients are trusting you with their health and wellbeing. Becoming a trusted authority is also a key part of medical search engine optimization: so not only will you be higher ranked on search engines, but you will also be more likely to convert that position into click-throughs, and ultimately into new patients.
You can demonstrate your authority, both to the search engine algorithm and to the searchers themselves, by writing engaging, informative, and relevant content. This will usually take the form of articles and blog pieces and should be an ongoing endeavor – you cannot simply write a couple of blogs in January and think that you are finished for the year. Try to release blog posts or articles every two or three weeks, and make sure they are the type of pieces your potential patients would want to read.
This means you should be writing about your specific niche, the services you provide, and improvements to your patients’ lives – but not in an in-your-face way. You are looking to inform and engage with this type of content marketing, so keep the sales pitch to a minimum.
Another essential part of showing the search engine algorithm that you and your business can be trusted is by building links. Link building is when other websites link to your website and content – so, for example, you could have your business mentioned in a local news article, you might have your suppliers or customers post links to your site in reviews or mentions, and you can also make sure you are listed on business directory sites.
The authority of the site linking to yours is also a factor – so having a link to your website on the American Medical Association website will have a more positive effect than having a link on a local dog-walkers page, for example.
On the subject of business directory sites, it is important for your web presence that you keep all of your information up-to-date, accurate, and, ideally, in the same format across all listings. If the information doesn’t all match up, you run the risk of the search engine noticing the discrepancy and devaluing your page as a result, and of course – potential patients not being able to easily find you.
This applies not only to updating listings if your address changes or you get a new phone number, but also to how your address is presented. For example, if you have a listing that states your address as Office 1, Suite 2, Building 3, street name, and another listing that omits the office number, Google or other search engines may see the listings as contradicting each other.
Manage Your Reviews
Along with the increase in patients searching for providers online comes a rise in the importance of reviews. Having a large number of positive reviews, ideally with associated comments, not only impacts the likelihood of new patients choosing you over your competitors, but also helps your search engine rankings.
The important part here is that the reviews should be honest – any manipulation or false reviewing will be flagged by the search engine and have a negative impact. You can encourage your current patients to leave reviews simply by asking them at the end of their visit, or by offering incentives.
You can, and should, also make some effort to tackle any negative reviews. Never be confrontational when you do this, as you will look petty and may lose new customers – simply explain the situation, apologize, and describe the steps you have taken to ensure that the event that caused the negative review is not duplicated in the future.
Your on-site user experience is also measured by Google and the other search engines, with particular weight given to the mobile experience. This means your site needs to be well structured, with links to your various pages, ideally with a sitemap that has been submitted to Google.
Your on-site content needs to be relevant, accurate, and make use of appropriate keywords. Keyword choice will have a great impact on your search engine ranking – it is one of the main ways in which you can ‘tell’ the search engine what you do, and therefore which search terms you want to be shown in the results for.
You can, however, be penalized for ‘keyword stuffing’ – when your content does not read organically and naturally but appears to be a seemingly random string of words designed to attract the search engine but not the user.
The majority of people searching for medical or healthcare-related professionals are doing so on a local basis. For example, if you were to search for a dentist, you would anticipate that the results would be within a few miles of your location – there is no value in showing you a dentist's office in Atlanta if you are in New York. As a result, you should endeavor to make sure that your content is locally optimized.
You can do this by claiming your Google My Business page, writing content that specifies the area you are in (describe yourself as a Manhattan-based dentist office, rather than just a dentist office), and ensuring that your website has a map/locator for your physical address.