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In the modern digital-first marketplace, to attract new patients, your medical practice needs to be on the first page of Google search results – and ideally, within the first two or three results displayed. Much easier said than done, but this is the basic goal behind all of your digital marketing and search engine optimization efforts.
If you’re not currently in one of those premier positions and you aren’t doing anything to improve your ranking, then you’re being left behind – new patients are going to your competitors even though you might offer a better, more relevant service. Here are our top five tips to improve your medical SEO and help get you to the first page.
One of the first things you need to do when setting out your medical marketing strategy is to find out who currently ranks in the positions you want. These are your competitors and it’s extremely easy to identify them – simply conduct Google searches of the phrases you want to rank for (dental surgery, chiropractor, optometrist, etc) and see what the results are.
Once you have that information, you can start to analyze the web presence of each competitor for what they are doing to get those top spots. This can become quite technical so it may be best to have a web marketing expert to tackle it for you, but you should be able to note some surface-level factors. This could include, for example, types of keywords used, the way the site is structured, how user-friendly it is, and how much unique content (blogs and articles) the practice puts out.
SEO can be broadly broken down into two categories: on-page and off-page. You will need to tackle both to ensure success, with on-page potentially being more important. This refers to all the content on your web pages – everything from your URL (the address at the top of the browser page), the way users navigate around your site, how clear and engaging your content is, how quickly your pages load, and how your site works on different devices (tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops).
All of these factors play into your search engine ranking position (SERP) and are assessed regularly by search algorithms. You can (and should) apply what you learn from your competitor research here – if their sites are objectively ‘better’ for a user, then you need to mirror or improve on what they are doing.
Off-page SEO is everything else – this includes other sites that link to yours (directories of local businesses, medical sites, etc) as well as blogs and articles you publish on other sites. One of the most important off-page SEO steps you can take is setting up your Google My Business page: this gives your site more authority with the search engine algorithms, as it makes it clear that your business is legitimate and has a physical address.
Setting up your My Business page is free, fast, and easy – be sure to fill out your address and telephone number accurately and in the same format that you have them listed on other pages (on your own ‘contact’ page, and in business directories, for example).
The keywords you use are an extremely important part of your SEO strategy. A keyword is a word or phrase that an individual searching the internet puts into the search engine, and if you use keywords correctly those searches will then point to your content. You can use a number of keyword tools to find the right keywords for your practice – often you will be given a variety of metrics associated with each keyword, the most important of which are volume and competition.
Keyword volume refers to how many searches for that keyword are conducted over a given period – the higher the search volume, the more likely it is that someone will search for that exact term. Competition is how hard it is for a website to rank on that keyword. For example, ‘doctor’ is extremely competitive and you are unlikely to be able to rank for this keyword quickly or easily, whereas ‘glaucoma doctor’ is much easier to rank for.
Make judgments about the keywords that you want to rank for – obviously, they must be related to the services you provide, but too much detail makes it less likely that the keyword will be searched for. So in the above example, focusing on ‘glaucoma doctor for over 60-year-olds in Las Vegas’ may accurately describe your business, but is unlikely to actually be searched for. Walk the line between competition and volume, and you should be on the right track.
Link building is the SEO version of word-of-mouth marketing. Essentially, you want high-quality websites and platforms to have a hyperlink to your website and content – when Google or another search engines crawl the web they will take into account those links and rate your site more highly due to the perceived authority and trust that goes along with them.
There are a number of ways to get those links. You should start with the people and businesses you know- if you have a relationship with a supplier, ask them to put a link on their site (you can return the favor easily enough). Influencers are also a large part of link building, just be sure that any relationship that you build is beneficial to you – there is a big difference between having Kim Kardashian link to your practice and a local would-be Instagram star with only a few hundred followers posting a link.
There are also negatives to link building. If the search engine calculates that you are manipulating links, by purchasing them, posting your own links in comments sections and discussion boards, or posting on business directories that are considered low-quality, then you will be penalized in the rankings.
The key is to build quality links, ideally with highly-trusted organizations or people, such as the American Medical Association, the Yellow Pages, and directories of medical practices that are related to your speciality should all have a positive result for you.