If you haven’t heard of search engine optimization (SEO for short), you may be wondering why only a trickle of patients comes through your doors every day. SEO for doctors sounds technical, but in essence, it is a simple marketing strategy that helps people who need your care find you more easily online.
The way people access healthcare has changed. In the good old days, people in need of medical attention went to the family doctor who had treated their parents and grandparents. When in doubt, they pulled out the phone book and flipped through the yellow pages to find the nearest doctor’s practice. Nowadays, your potential patients Google what they need. After a quick search, they click through to the local healthcare provider that Google thinks is most likely to solve their problem. As people become more mobile, they are less likely to stay in one place long enough to establish word-of-mouth networks, so when it comes time to see a doctor, they resort to online searches. SEO makes sure that Google knows that your practice exists, and that you merit a place in the top search results when people in your area search for a medical facility.
If you think you can ignore SEO for doctors because you have a great marketing strategy and use social media effectively, think again. While you may get many of your patients through social media, advertising or referrals, a staggering 80% of people find their healthcare provider by searching online for local listings. Another huge proportion of people find their doctors by typing general search terms into Google and landing on the doctor’s website a few clicks later.
What’s the moral of the story here? Search engine optimization is hands-down the top driver of new patients to medical practices. Whether you’re new to SEO and you want to get in on the action, or your search ranking has plateaued and you need a boost, these SEO tips for doctors will help you make your business more locatable online.
First, The Basics: What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is an umbrella term that includes tactics and practices that bump your website up the rankings of non-paid listings in search engine results. SEO is a combination of several things and should not be treated as an exact science. While Google is the giant of the search engine world, other search engines like Bing are widely used, and each search engine has developed its own intricate algorithm to rank websites in search. While there is overlap, many factors will influence one search engine and not others, or exert more influence on one over the others.
To complicate matters further, search engines like Google like to keep everyone guessing by constantly updating their search algorithms. This essentially prevents businesses from gaming the system or becoming complacent. For example, if you had perfectly optimized your website for Google search in 2016, you will be devastated to learn that Google has subtly changed its algorithm approximately 25 times since then! If you haven’t kept up with the pace, you will be losing patients by failing to come up in searches. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula. To succeed in SEO, you have to keep your web presence relevant, up-to-date and useful to the public.
Improve Local Search Rankings
Local SEO is a facet of SEO that focuses on ensuring that your practice comes up when people in your geographic location search for medical care or diagnostic information. Recognizing that people generally want to visit a doctor close to home or work, Google and other search engines have tailored localized searches to privilege information that is relevant to someone searching within the local community. For example, a local search for doctors’ surgeries will bring up a map with three of four local options marked by a pin with clickable business listings on the side. Crucially, not all medical practices in the area will show up. Google selects the top-ranking options so as not to bombard the customer with options that don’t suit their requirements.
So, how do you make sure that your practice beats out your competitors in localized search rankings? Your first step is to set up a Google My Business profile, which is a free business listing that combines information such as your location, contact information, ratings and reviews. To come up in a local search, it’s vital that you keep your information accurate and up to date. It also helps your SEO prospects when your patients review your practice. While requesting reviews may seem awkward at first, actively seeking reviews for your Google listing is one of the most effective ways to boost your local search ranking. A quick post-appointment email with a link to your Google My Business profile is a convenient, unassuming way to offer patients the option to have their say.
The Power of Keywords
While local search is a great way to bring local patients to your practice, your website is the engine of your SEO machine. One of the most important skills to master for effective SEO for doctors is choosing relevant keywords. To do this, you need to take off your white coat and put on a patient’s hat. Imagine that you are a person in need of care for some ailment. You may not wish to book a doctor’s appointment immediately. What you’ll probably do first is Google your symptoms. You might describe how it feels, the intensity of the pain or perhaps how long you have experienced the symptoms. Now, think about your services and medical specialty. What are your potential patients searching for? You can test the keywords you come up with using online tools. These tools are able to tell you how high each keyword ranks, how many people are searching for it and how stiff the competition is when these words are typed into the search bar.
Get a Modern, User-Friendly Website
Your website’s architecture has a profound effect on SEO. Factors like how fast your pages load, how easy your site is to navigate, how slick your website design is and how effectively the web version morphs into mobile tell Google whether your site is worth its salt. When Google crawls your website, all of these structural factors determine the score your website is assigned. A low score means your website has little chance of coming up on the search engine results page, or SERP for short. To keep your website near the top where it belongs, make sure you have a skilled website builder or use an intuitively designed template to host your site. If your one-page site takes half an hour to load and your contact info is typed in Comic Sans that’s impossible to read on mobile, now is a good time to up your website game.
Offer Valuable Content
When you’re jostling for a place among the top medical specialists on the web, hosting informative blog content and captivating images are going to give you the edge. Blog content brings organic traffic to your website by providing relevant information that people out there are searching for. This is where your keywords come into their own, especially if you work in a specialty field. Say you’re an optometrist. Someone with a headache behind the eyes may not know whether they need to see a GP, a holistic practitioner or an optometrist. They certainly aren’t going to Google the name of your practice. They’ll probably search for the symptoms they have. If you have an article on your blog about the fact that eyestrain could be giving you headaches, that patient may land on your website and see that your services are exactly what they need. Valuable content is the best way to get your services out there. Whether it’s healthy eating tips or suggestions for avoiding the flu, your informative and eye-catching content will get people onto your site.
Effective Calls to Action
A call to action (CTA) is a statement on your website that converts a visitor into a potential patient. While a CTA is not strictly an SEO tactic, it is a vital part of ensuring that all your hard work on your SEO pays off. When someone searches a medical term in the hope of finding relief for their symptoms and happens to land on your blog post, a CTA is a clickable statement that gets them to schedule an appointment. Make sure that all of your content and web pages have clearly visible and user-friendly links to your appointment booking service. Otherwise, what’s the point of hiking all the way up those search rankings, only to lose your potential patients to competitors who encourage them to book an appointment?
As a medical professional who wants to focus on patients, not only can SEO feel like a chore, but it can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing. Remember, it’s easier than it sounds, especially when you have help from qualified specialists. The professionals at Crystal Clear Digital Marketing want to help. We are experts in search engine optimization and digital marketing software. Contact our office today to speak with a team member!