Are you tired of staring at an empty or partly filled waiting room? Want to fill it with patients already pre-sold on the value of your services and level of experience?
If the answer is yes, then your patients need to be able to find you on the search engine results page. In fact, a recent study shows that 72 percent of all internet users search for health information on the web. Of that group, 77 percent start at search engines (primarily Google).
And it’s not only younger people. Eighty-eight percent of those age 50-64 use the internet, as do 57 percent of those over the age of 65, according to Pew Research. So, whatever demographic you serve, in whatever medical specialty, you’ll find them on the internet.
The question then becomes whether or not you want them to find you. By establishing your online presence, and by capturing all of the searches for information related to your medical specialty, you’ll discover one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to grow your practice.
So how can you start tapping into this extensive source of new patients?
The first step is to build a patient-focused website, which you can learn more about by visiting our Direct Response Websites page. But simply having a website that internet users can’t find won’t get you very far.
The next step is Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization is simply the process of increasing a website’s ranking on the search engine results page (ex. Google, Yahoo, Bing). Using Google as the example, here is how SEO works in an ideal world for the patient, the medical practice, and the search engine.
The patient searches for health information on a specific topic, often targeting a specific location, like “hearing aids in Boston.” The first page of search results provides relevant, useful, credible, and timely information to satisfy the patient’s intent of the search.
The medical practice is optimized to appear on the first page of search results for the keywords the patient is searching for—searches that the practice knows will result in new patients.
Google ensures a match between the patient and the medical practice. Using complex algorithms (mathematical ranking procedures), search results provide the most useful and relevant information to users.
Google’s mission is to match search intent to the best available web pages, and it has developed complex algorithms to accomplish this. Google ranks web pages based on hundreds of factors, and has been modifying its ranking algorithm for years. This means 1) the ranking system works pretty well, and 2) you’re not going to outsmart the collective intelligence of Google with cheap tricks like “keyword stuffing” and similar tactics.
The path to optimization is simply to give Google what it wants: the ideal scenario above where you are satisfying the intent of your patient’s searches, providing useful and relevant information.
SEO Tips For Your Medical Practice
There are hundreds of SEO factors to consider for your website, and reviewing each one would make this article far too long, not to mention unread. Thankfully, some factors are more important than others.
Rather than attempting to cover it all, we’re going to focus on the most common areas of improvement we routinely see so that you can quickly start to improve the performance of your website.
Here are six SEO tips to improve the search rank for your medical practice.
1. Simplified website structure and navigation
Navigating your website should be easy and intuitive for both people and for Google. Common mistakes include presenting too many options and web pages, long and complex page names, and a convoluted navigation menu.
The idea is for a user to visit your site and find the desired content in the shortest amount of time with the fewest number of clicks. The more complex you make your site architecture, the higher your bounce rate will be (the percentage of users that abandon your site within seconds).
Start by evaluating your website from the perspective of your patients. Can they find what they need within a few clicks? If not, it may be time to redesign the structure of your website.
2. Keyword-focused page titles and headings
Your page titles should be short and descriptive, and should be based on the keyword phrases your patients will be searching for. Remember, Google ranks pages, not entire sites, so you’ll want to optimize each page for a particular keyword or phrase.
A primary page on hearing aids, for example, should include the title “hearing aids,” while the supporting pages can target more specific keyword phrases like “hearing aid styles” and “types of hearing aids.”
Similarly, you’ll want to include your keywords in your page headings and body copy (without overdoing it), as this provides further information to Google regarding what your page is about.
3. Clean, readable URLs
In the world of SEO, the easier you make things for Google—and for people—the better the results tend to be. This is especially true of your URLs.
Let’s take a look at an example of a well-structured URL: http://www.yourdomain.com/types-of-hearing-aids
Take note of a few things about this URL:
- There are no random letters or numbers. You know the type of content you’re going to get from this URL just by reading it.
- The keywords you want to rank for (if you’re an audiologist), are included in the URL, which Google values.
- The URL matches the title of the page (if the title is set to “Types of Hearing Aids”).
- Hyphens are used instead of empty spaces (which Google will render as %20, affecting readability).
- The URL is short, easy to read, and easy to copy for the user.
When creating URLs, try to stick as closely as possible to these 5 guidelines.
4. Fresh content
The rate at which you post new content is a significant ranking factor for your website. All else equal, the websites with high-quality, in-depth, and timely content will always rank higher.
Hence the popularity of blogs. Blogging can boost your search rankings for your target keywords, enhance your reputation as a thought leader in your medical specialty, and drive organic traffic and qualified leads to your website.
But remember, Google also evaluates the quality of your website content. Google can detect low-quality writing, errors in grammar, and copied or plagiarized content, so you’ll only get credit for well-written, original content.
5. No broken links
Broken links lead to the dreaded “404 not found” page, which has several negative effects. Broken links hurt your SEO, make it harder for Google to crawl your site, make you look unprofessional, and can cause a would-be client to abandon your site.
You can check for broken links directly through Google Webmaster Tools. Once discovered, you can make the appropriate fixes. Sometimes, it’s as simple as updating the links that point to an old URL that has changed.
6. Local SEO and online reviews
Medical practices are made for local SEO. In local SEO, the goal is to rank for keywords localized to the area you serve. It presents the easier task of ranking higher for keywords in a specific region, and it offers the benefit of targeted searches. The patient searching for “hearing aids in Hartford,” for example, is probably ready to buy from your Hartford practice.
To optimize your website for local search, start by including region-specific keywords in your page titles and descriptions. You’ll also want to include your name, address, and phone number on your web pages, and you’ll want to add some HTML code (Schema.org) that lets Google know this is your official business NAP (name, address, phone number).
Next, you’ll want to get listed on local sites like Google Plus, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. Make sure to keep your info consistent on all local sites and directories, as Google could interpret the variations as separate businesses. After setting things up, you’ll begin to see these sites appear in the search results.
As a final step, start collecting online reviews. Large numbers of positive reviews boost your SEO and help your practice gain credibility, trust, and ultimately more patients. Visit our Online Review Builder page for more information on automating the collection of online reviews.
By following these guidelines, you should start to see a difference in your search ranking position. But keep in mind, we’ve only scratched the surface of SEO. In competitive markets, you’ll need the help of a professional to take your SEO to the next level.
Want a free evaluation of your medical practice website and SEO? Talk to us today.