According to recent reports from the healthcare sector, more than 246,000 primary care practices and over 5,500 hospitals are currently operating across the United States.
This figure doesn’t include specialty practices and other less generalized medical facilities. Analysts expect the numbers to surge at least 14 percent and branch out significantly during the coming decade.
Since each of these treatment centers is vying for local patients, competition is continually becoming more intense. This is particularly true in the online world.
At present, almost 75 percent of consumers look online when searching for new healthcare providers, and nearly 90 percent look for answers to their medical questions via search engines.
Because of all this, appearing at the tops of search engine results pages, or SERPs, is the key to catching patients’ and prospects’ attention and gaining their trust.
Online visibility is sure to be even more vital during the years to come as more physicians and group practices become available to consumers.
Ramping up your search engine rankings depends on effective medical SEO.
What Is Medical SEO?
At this point, you’ve probably heard of SEO, or search engine optimization. It’s the practice of improving a website’s rakings in Google and other search engines so users are more likely to see it during their online searches.
This specifically refers to organic search results, or those generated through natural means as opposed to paid ads.
Medical SEO is geared toward facilities in the healthcare sector. Though it shares many general aspects with other industries, some ranking factors apply specifically to the medical field.
These include a wide range of medically relevant keywords, local elements and helpful information pertinent to healthcare to name a few.
Ten Ways to Effectively Improve Your Online Ranking and Visibility
More than 200 elements factor into a website’s search engine ranking on last count. These grow and evolve constantly, but a few elements remain vital to a practice’s online visibility no matter which changes are made to Google’s algorithms.
Keep the following points in mind when optimizing your medical website.
1) Insert Yourself in Local Directories
Considering the nature of your business, it’s important to optimize for not only medical searches, but local ones as well. Most people looking for care aren’t going to travel far to find it; instead, they’re going to search for “orthopedic surgeons near me” or “pediatricians near me”.Over the last couple years, “near me” searches have surged an estimated 900 percent.
In fact, location has become such an integral component in searches, Google simply assumes its users are looking for practices close to them.
From there, it brings up medical care providers listed for searchers’ immediate vicinities. This means you need to have a presence in all the right local directories.
One of the most crucial directories is Google My Business. Dozens of other directories and citation sites are available as well. Some, such as healthgrades.com, caredash.com and ehealthscores.com, are free for medical facilities whereas others require payment for listings.
Don’t hesitate to list your practice on your local Chamber of Commerce website as well. This is one of the oldest and most trusted resources for consumers looking for healthcare professionals.
Regardless of the directories and citations you choose, certain tidbits of information are crucial. Accurate location and phone number fall into this category. Also be sure to cover the types of services you offer.
If you’re a dermatologist, these might include acne remedies, eczema care, scar treatment and other options specific to your field. Some sites limit the number of services you’re allowed to list, so try to cover as many bases as possible in more general terms on those directories.
Submitting and tracking your listings on many directories can be time consuming and frustrating. Local SEO services often include directory management to help your practice gain exposure for local searches.
2) Keywords Are Crucial
When people search for the medical services and information they need, Google indexes countless websites looking for those relevant to the entered search terms. Those deemed most applicable are the ones it brings up for users to see.
Because of this, the keywords you use in your content and other elements of your website are critical.
Those keywords must be relevant to the services you offer as well as aspects pertaining to your field. Terms like “medical care in Tucson” might cover all the bases, but they’re far too general to generate a consistent flow of traffic. Your keywords need to be less generic and more varied.
Take a dental practice for example. While “dental care in Cleveland” would certainly be relevant, it just doesn’t offer much information.
This practice would fare better using keywords like “tooth extractions”, “teeth whitening”, “cosmetic dentistry”, “dental cleanings” and “sedation dentistry” with the location included in the mix. These keywords will draw Google’s attention and lead to better visibility.
3) Content Is King
In addition to relevant keywords, Google searches for information-rich content to bring its users. Simply having keywords scattered throughout your website isn’t going to draw in patients. They need to be distributed throughout written content offering helpful details about the keyword in question.
Ideally, you need to dedicate individual webpages to each of your services rather than trying to pack them all into a single page.
This will help prevent your site from being flagged as spam while also giving you far more opportunities to branch out with your keywords.
Though written content is a vital component of any website, it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Visual content, such as pictures of your physicians and other staff members, images of your practice, helpful videos covering various aspects of the services you provide and other materials are important as well.
Significant, relevant keywords should also be incorporated into the captions, image tags and other elements to further boost your relevance and visibility.
4) Cater to the Entire Crowd
For the most part, your webpages are geared toward prospects looking for the medical services you offer. When someone clicks on an ophthalmologist’s site in search of cataract surgery, they’ll be directed to the webpage pertaining to that type of care. Those interested in Lasik will be directed to an entirely different landing page.
Keep in mind, though, not everyone is looking to book an appointment. Some are simply looking for in-depth information. They may turn to the ophthalmologist’s website to find out what the treatment options for a parent’s cataracts might be. Others may want to learn more about ways to determine if their toddler has vision problems.
Offer information for everyone in your target audience rather than focusing only on those who are ready to visit your office. In return for your efforts, those who find the information they’re looking for on your website will be more likely to come to you when they’re ready to book an appointment. They’ll also be apt to mention you to others searching for the services you provide.
5) Have Lots of Links
According to Backlinko, links are an essential component in visibility and credibility. These are the connections from your website to others and vice versa. They should be relevant to your field as well as the medical industry as a whole.
Links can come from having medical authorities provide guest blog posts for your website linking back to their own. You can also request to write guest posts for their sites and have those link to yours. Linking to sites offering medical products, specialty care, vitamin supplements and other pertinent items and services can help as well.
As long as those links work as they should, take readers to helpful sources of information and connect to credible sites, they’ll go a long way toward boosting your visibility. Once you gain credence in your field, other industry professionals will want to link to your site. Be sure they’re credible in their own rights because being associated with substandard sites can actually hurt your online rankings.
6) Don’t Overlook Social Media
While the majority of today’s consumers look online for medical services and information, not all of them go directly to the search engines. Some turn to social media instead. Having a presence on various outlets is sure to improve your visibility from a number of angles.
7) Be Mobile
Not very long ago, simply having a mobile-friendly website helped drive traffic and conversions. With as much as 70 percent of online searches now taking place on mobile, just having a mobile site is no longer enough. In addition, Wordstream states that a third of those searches are for location!
Google now gives priority to medical practices whose sites are optimized for mobile users, so if yours doesn’t fit the bill, it’ll bring your competitors to patients’ attention.
8) Optimize for Your Readers
Medical SEO largely revolves around making sure your website is seen, indexed and promoted by Google, but those aren’t the only focal points to consider. Your site should be optimized for humans as well. This means breaking text into small, more readable chunks; having a user-friendly website layout; ensuring all your links work properly and using language patients will understand.
When those elements are in place, readers will be drawn to you. They’ll also spend more time on your site. Google takes notice of the number of visitors you have and how long they linger. It factors those aspects into your ranking, so optimizing for both ends of the spectrum will have a positive impact on your position in the SERPs.
9) Be Mindful of Your Reviews
Reviews are visible on your website, social media outlets and search engine results as well as consumer advocate sites. Those appearing outside your immediate website aren’t always easy to keep track of. Still, they have a direct impact on your search engine ranking as well as prospects’ opinions of you. View our blog post How To Get Google Reviews for 18 ideas you can start implementing today!
As a medical practice, people often come to you in less than optimum condition. Consumers are also highly selective when it comes to the medical care they receive. As such, negative reviews are inevitable.
Generally speaking, negative reviews don’t necessarily hamper healthcare facilities’ rankings. How they respond to them is the true deciding factor. Respond positively rather than defensively to help maintain your reputation in the eyes of the public as well as the search engines. Software like Review Magic can help you generate and track new reviews you receive online.
10) Use Technology to Your Advantage
No one expects you to know all the factors affecting your online ranking and visibility. Even medical SEO professionals need a little guidance and assistance. For this reason, a long list of tools has been developed to help with all those elements.
From software for seeking out effective keywords to programs designed to scour your website for factors negatively impacting your ranking, plenty of free and paid resources are at your disposal.
Competition is fierce and continually growing in the medical field. This makes online ranking and visibility not only critical, but difficult to master. Numerous aspects factor into how well a healthcare facility’s website fares in comparison to others of its kind.
Keeping these 10 elements in mind will help ensure prospects are able to find you when they’re looking for helpful information and remember you when the time comes to book an appointment.