Are you struggling to get new patients in the door of your audiology clinic or ENT practice? Search engine optimization (SEO) of your website can help. Medical SEO can increase the number of new patients who find your website and call to book appointments.
But driving new patients to your website can be frustrating. If only it were as simple as a keystroke! There are many details to understand and it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization is simply the process of increasing a website’s traffic and 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 search results provide relevant, useful, credible, and timely information to satisfy the patient’s intent of the search.
The medical practice is optimized to appear at the top of search results for the keywords the patient is searching for—searches that the practice knows will result in new patients.
Google provides search results that best match between the patient and the medical practice. Using complex algorithms (programmed based on many different variables), 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 constantly 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.
We created this Medical SEO cheat sheet to make it easy for you. Use these steps to build your practice’s search engine optimization and appear at the top of the search engine results to attract more new patients.
1. Fast Site Speed
If your medical practice website loads slowly, it will negatively impact your search rankings—so it’s important that your site load quickly. In fact, nearly half of potential new patients expect your site to load in two seconds or less. And the longer the page takes to load, the more visitors will abandon it altogether.
Using a speed test tool, such as Pingdom, can help you determine your website’s page load time. Another good way to improve your medical SEO is by checking the load time of a few competitor websites; there are free tools you can use to do this. You want to make sure your page load time at least matches—and preferably beats—your competitors.
2. Proper Coding
Meta tags have always been important in SEO, but now their role is changing. Google can now read your entire site and determine what it’s about. So not only does your entire site need to provide quality information and contain the trust indicators search engines look for, but your site also needs to have additional coding and structure that matches the copy on the page. In addition, accessibility has become more important, and a site that is accessible is more likely to show up in search results.
3. High-Quality Content
Quality content is one of Google’s most significant ranking factors. 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. In other words, producing relevant, well-written and insightful content is crucial to success with medical SEO—and will help your site climb the search rankings. In fact, up to 81% of marketers plan to produce more original written content in the future.
Comprehensive content drives traffic from long-tail keyword searches—that is, longer search terms that include more than just the keyword—to your medical practice website. In addition to being well-crafted and useful, this content must be:
- Targeted to the specific audience you’re trying to reach
- Easily shareable by email and social media
- Optimized for a keyword with a high search volume
- Optimized to provide the best user experience, so users can easily find the most important information and answers to their search queries
- Responsive across all types of devices, including smartphones and tablets
- Well-researched, and providing sufficient detail
- Valuable and engaging to readers
- “Fresh,” meaning updated regularly and, when possible, about current events and trending topics
4. Easily Crawlable by Search Engines
The term “crawlability” describes how well a search engine can navigate all the pages of your site and crawl your text content. That means:
- Your site architecture must be logical and easy to navigate
- Internal pages and blog articles must be interlinked
- None of your links should be broken
Another important part of improving crawlability is having a proper URL and page structure. This involves:
- Using real words, not IP addresses or binary numbers
- Not changing old URLs (this will break the links)
- Including dates for articles and blog posts
- Using keywords
- Looking at how other notable practices in your specialty are structuring their URLs, and modeling yours after them
5. Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Design
Today, over 31 million Internet users in the U.S. go online exclusively using a smartphone. That means your medical practice website needs to be optimized for mobile. Make sure the online marketing company you hire to design your website creates it using responsive design, which allows your site to display the same way regardless of what type of device it’s accessed on.
Sites that aren’t mobile-optimized can suffer in the search rankings, as Google’s algorithm favors more accessible sites. In fact, Google offers a free tool you can use to check the mobile-friendliness of your medical practice website.
6. Local Listings
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.
In addition to optimizing your website for local search, you’ll want to get listed on local directories like Google Business Profile, Yelp, and Yellow Pages. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of local directories that “spider” the web and pick up business names, addresses and phone numbers. Sounds great, right? Free exposure! The problem for you is that many of these directories don’t verify that the information they find is correct. Make sure to keep your info consistent on all local sites and directories.
7. Online Reviews
Online reviews can boost your SEO results. Let’s face it, in today’s digital world many people have replaced getting referrals by talking to friends and neighbors with reading online reviews. We’re now experiencing a review economy.
Patients looking for a new physician or hearing aid specialist, are concerned first and foremost with finding someone they can trust. The first thing they look for in search results is the practice with the most reviews and the best rating. Google does the same thing, rewarding top-rated practices with higher listings. To establish your credibility quickly online, an automated system for collecting reviews is essential.
SEO for doctors involves a lot of moving parts. By following this cheat sheet, you can ensure your site climbs the search rankings, gain more organic traffic, and can be easily found and accessed by everyone—especially new patients, who will contact your practice to book appointments.
But keep in mind, we’ve only scratched the surface of SEO. Growing with SEO does take time and effort. If you need more help driving traffic to your site and attracting new patients, we can do it all for you.
Achieve more. Talk to us.