medical SEO strategy helps address a fundamental question and concern of urgent care and specialty medicine providers: How do I rank high enough in organic* search results to be visible to potential patients while out-positioning my competitors?
* the listings that populate (or “rank”) an online results page (below the text ads) are known as ‘organic’ placements and are the focus of SEO efforts.
Before we address this question, let’s quickly explain what “SEO” is. “SEO” stands for “search engine optimization” and is a specific digital marketing strategy used by healthcare marketers to increase a brand’s online exposure, reviews, and organic website rankings.
There are many facets to SEO that combine to improve consumer visibility and search engines ranking. These elements include On-Page SEO, Off-Page SEO, Local SEO, Content Creation, Keyword Research, Competitor Analysis, Google My Business profile(s) optimizations, and managing local business listings.
Google rank search results based on keywords being searched for by people on their platform. SEO is tasked with making sure medical providers are communicating to Google the targeted keywords they want to rank for so they can be matched with consumers who are searching online for what they offer. Targeted keywords are communicated to Google through content on a brand’s website, content posted or linked on another website, content on social media profiles, business listings, and more. A medical SEO strategy helps define target audiences, target keywords, content to create, and promotion needed to profitably connect with patients and effectively communicate with search engines.
SEO can be confusing because it encompasses so many elements, but ultimately, potential patients and Google have many clinics to choose from. So, brands must elevate their online presence high enough to be noticed, and an effective medical SEO strategy supports these efforts.
What are the elements of a successful medical SEO strategy?
In today’s highly competitive healthcare environment, doctors should be investing in business development for their practices online. SEO is a great digital marketing tool and investment because it can serve as the foundation of a provider’s digital marketing efforts in the way it informs website structure, content, and develops solid online experiences for both patients and search engines.
According to a recent study by Forbes, first-page search results receive 90% of clicks while second page results receive 6%. The first 5 search results on the first page receive almost 70% of clicks . So higher search rankings generate more organic website visits and opportunities to convert new patients.
Here are the elements of an effective medical SEO strategy for a healthcare provider:
- Defined target audiences
- Defined target keywords
- Seamless online brand experiences
- Various ways to connect
- Updated & optimized online business profiles (including Google My Business)
- Monitored online reviews (that include brand responses back)
- Tracked performance is analyzed and optimized
Defined target audiences
An effective medical SEO strategy has clearly defined target audiences. Target audiences are people a brand is looking to reach and influence based on the probability of them becoming a new patient. Healthcare clinics often have multiple target audiences as they work to nurture prospective patients and retain current ones.
Most target audiences should be defined by the following characteristics:
- Type of Patient
- Existing Patient
- Type of healthcare treatment/service/procedure/offering provided
- Education Level
- Other statistics
- Affinity (based on interests)
- Specific medical treatments
- Specific medical services
- Specific medical procedures
- Specific medical offerings
- DMA (For example – Nashville, TN Market Area)
- Zip Code
Demographic and location data is straightforward with clear and intuitive categories to choose from, such as zip codes, gender, age, etc. Affinity targeting, however, is nuanced. Affinity targeting is based on people’s interests and is addressed by doctors evaluating their patient’s journey in sections from awareness to consideration to conversion. Content, keywords, and calls-to-action need to stand out and support each section of the journey to educate and guide people as they evaluate healthcare options and specific providers.
If a clinic does not clearly define who they are looking to reach and why, then website structure, keywords, and content will be mis-aligned and ineffective in driving new patient volumes. Why? Search engines are unable to successfully connect providers with people searching for what they offer online if they aren’t clear about what that provider offers. Google will make guesses and potentially rank a doctor in certain instances, but traffic is usually not valuable since it’s not from people who will ever convert.
If a clinic clearly defines who they are looking to reach and why, then website structure, keywords, and content will be aligned and will be effective in driving new patient volumes. Why? Search engines are now clear about what a provider offers based on their website’s structure, content, and keywords and can successfully connect them with target audiences with a much higher likelihood of converting.
Defined target keywords
An effective medical SEO strategy has clearly defined target keywords. Target keywords are the words that healthcare brand’s want to rank for when consumers search for them online. Keywords are words and phrases that match the treatments, procedures, or services a medical brand offers, the physicians they employ, and the clinic locations they operate.
Experienced healthcare marketers will analyze industry-specific keyword trends and evaluate top competitor sites to see what keywords are driving consumer attention and engagement. This information is then coupled with first-party brand data (using Google Analytics and Google Search Console) to develop a defined list of target keywords.
These target keywords will guide a brand’s existing website structure, website content, new content creation (webpage, blog) and paid marketing efforts (such as PPC/SEM/Pay-per-Click). In addition, these keywords provide Google clear guidance on the keywords and subject matter a brand is looking to rank for. Search engines appreciate insight around keyword relevancy as it improves the user search experience, and brands are often rewarded with higher rankings.
If a clinic, however, does not clearly define what keywords they want to compete on for consumer attention, they miss out on the opportunity to create content that helps nurture and convert new patients through their patient journey.
Online brand experiences are seamless
An effective medical SEO strategy delivers seamless brand experiences. Today’s consumers are motivated by speed and convenience, so provider’s must align their brand’s operations, communications, and marketing efforts with these expectations.
Website navigation and content should communicate priority to site visitors and effectively guide them to relevant webpages based on their unique patient journey or overall awareness of the brand. Brand communication should be targeted to specific audiences using keywords and subject matter to elicit attention and specific action. Finally, digital and mobile features should be integrated into marketing and operations to maintain connection and top-of-mind awareness with patients.
From scheduling an appointment, downloading a white paper, or accessing medical records online, optimizing a brand’s website to provide seamless online interactions while improving patient care and satisfaction is a proven way to set oneself apart from the competition.
Brands offer various ways to connect
An effective medical SEO strategy offers various ways for people to connect with a brand. People usually engage differently with a brand depending on where they are in their patient journey so providers should offer options.
Clickable phone numbers on mobile sites, sales and support emails, chat messaging, texts to request additional information, and contact forms with multiple choices options to clearly identify lead types are all potential options a brand should consider. The key to success here is still speed and convenience, so any communication methods offered need to be handled quickly and efficiently. If a clinic does not provide various ways to connect or is slow to respond, people will often lose patience and reach out to a competitor.
Updated online business profiles
An effective medical SEO strategy regularly monitors and updates a wide variety of online business profiles. Google likes to rank businesses with accurate online data so multiple listings on various websites with matching information builds site authority and often improves rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are various listings services that provide monthly profile updates across dozens of maps, apps, voice assistants, search engines, GPS systems, and social networks so individual updates are not necessary. This becomes particularly important when managing SEO for multiple clinic locations, labs, surgery centers, pharmacies, etc.
With Google, the key point to remember is consistency. The more consistency a brand provides online, the more authority is gained in Google’s eyes, and the higher a brand’s content will get ranked. SEO matters.
Online patient reviews
An effective medical SEO strategy requests reviews from patients monitors those patient reviews closely, and then comments back on these reviews online. Consumers have so many healthcare options to consider, and online reviews offer a convenient way to quickly filter out low-performing providers. There are methods and software programs geared towards mitigating negative online reviews, although many consumers focus on reviews from reputable sites (like Google My Business, ZocDoc, WebMD and Healthgrades) where providers are unable to directly influence how ratings are displayed and calculated.
The obvious priority for healthcare providers is to earn and maintain 5-star ratings based on their commitment and provision of quality healthcare to their patients. The second priority is to monitor reviews regularly to identify positive trends or areas of concern. The final priority is to acknowledge the rating by commenting back – whether positive or negative.
This level of engagement communicates to people that a provider understands the value of reviews, understands the importance of monitoring patient satisfaction, is ready to address any concerns or negative experiences, or is expressing thankfulness someone took the time to leave a review. This level of engagement also offers another way to set a brand apart from their direct competition.
Efforts are tracked and results are analyzed
An effective medical SEO strategy tracks its efforts and measure the results.
With the many moving pieces that make up an effective SEO strategy, first-party data helps illustrate and identify how effective SEO efforts are in achieving desired results – and by how much.
SEO is as much an art as it is a science, and first-party data serves as the bridge between intuition and insight. Engagement metrics demonstrate whether efforts are reaching and influencing the right audiences, and if so, by how much. Medical SEO is not a cookie-cutter formula, but instead a series of campaign experiments using media and content to see what gets people to act on something or make a decision.
Tracking also offers the opportunity to record goals, conversions, and events to better understand the financial impact of SEO efforts. With finite marketing resources, healthcare brands can leverage SEO efforts and analytics data to identify where revenue is being generated from medical SEO efforts and then focus attention and investment there. Trends in data offer efficiency with advertising spending by identifying content that leads to conversions so brands can build on that success.
As demonstrated, an effective medical SEO strategy should be multi-faceted and have cohesiveness in its framework and execution. No brand can compete on every keyword or topic with every consumer so they must choose specific keywords/content to compete on and then focus on ranking in top positions for them using the many resources medical SEO has to offer. Brands that win at SEO never stop learning and improving.
What are the advantages of a medical SEO strategy for healthcare providers?
The main advantage of an effective medical SEO strategy for healthcare providers is ranking in top search results for target keywords from audiences that matter. The higher a provider’s site ranks in top positions for specific medical offerings or doctors they employ, the more site visits and opportunities to convert will occur.
An effective medical SEO strategy ensures a practice is one of the first results on a page when people in their area are searching for conversion-focused keywords, such as “medical treatment for sciatica”, “walk-in medical clinic near me”, “top urologist carlsbad”, or “best cardiologist 37215”.
There are other advantages for doctors that result from an effective medical SEO strategy, such as:
- Improving the quality of website traffic
- Generating higher rankings for “treatment”- focused and “condition”- focused keywords in search engine results pages (SERPs)
- Offering insights into competitor’s digital marketing strategy and online presence
Improving the quality of website traffic
A great website with high visibility which drives website visits is an important foundation for any healthcare organization. Website visits are important, but only if they are from the right people. Site traffic from people who have no chance of ever becoming a patient offers no direct value to a brand. So, medical providers need to focus on driving traffic to their site from their target audiences.
For any healthcare organization, it is important to use their website as a lead-generation tool. An effective medical SEO strategy includes tracking and analyzing different audiences, online engagement metrics and goals/conversions so brands are clear if efforts are reaching and influencing the right people to take the next desired action.
Metrics that are measured and analyzed in a comprehensive healthcare SEO strategy should include:
- Unique organic website visits and total website visits
- % of New vs. returning visitors
- Engagement Rate (CTR)
- Time spent on site per session (from organic traffic)
- Number of pages visited per session (from organic traffic)
- What pages were visited during a specific session (from organic traffic)
- Bounce rate
- “Research” vs. “Conversion” keyword analysis
- Conversion rates (from organic traffic)
- Conversion Tracking (from organic traffic)
- Goal Tracking (from organic traffic)
Once a brand understands their current traffic, they can identify any gaps and use SEO to fill them in. Within areas of success, brands should continue investing in content creation across the customer journey while replicating what’s working to other areas of the website.
The quality of website traffic is an important (and often overlooked) detail when data is being recorded and analyzed. Healthcare providers should only focus on engagement and conversion metrics from their target audiences, so ensure reports are filtered accordingly. Once the quality of website traffic is established and website structure and content are aligned, user experiences and conversions will increase as organic traffic is refined.
Higher ranking for “treatment”-focused and “condition”-focused keywords
When prospective patients are searching online for information about specific medical conditions and treatments, it’s vital a medical brand shows up in the top results.
A healthcare marketer with a comprehensive understanding of medical SEO will conduct comprehensive competitor analysis and industry-level keyword research to identify specific keywords and content that are working for competitors. This insight will inform a medical SEO strategy of keywords and content to focus on in website content, blogs and other brand communications to start improving search rankings.
Defining the “keyword battlegrounds” in advance offers doctors the chance to develop strategies that draft off competitor successes while developing their own. Clearly identifying the target keywords that doctors want to compete on helps healthcare marketers outline the strategy, investment, time, and effort needed to rank among larger competitors with larger marketing budgets.
Once a list of target keywords is finalized, a medical SEO expert will develop recommendations for the creation of website copy to increase brand rank for them. Defining keyword “battles” up front and then optimizing content and strategy along the way will improve the quality of site traffic, provide better user experiences and conversion rates, improve brand authority and rankings with Google, and increase visits from potential patients who have a high potential to convert.
Understanding a competitor’s digital marketing strategy and online presence
As a healthcare brand battles for online visibility and attention from consumers, understanding what is working for their competition is important in developing a strategy that effectively competes. Physicians should identify areas of weakness and uncover areas of untapped potential when analyzing their competition and then apply these insights into their practice.
A comprehensive understanding of a competitor’s digital marketing strategy and online presence will assist a healthcare brand with:
- Identifying keywords and content they can compete on (has a high enough search volume to be relevant but isn’t too general)
- Identifying keyword battles they have no chance at winning and should stay away from (a competing brand might dominate certain keywords based on years of focus and investment – move on, there are plenty of areas to evenly compete on).
- Uncovering opportunities the competition isn’t investing in
- Informing other paid marketing efforts
Why re-create the wheel when experienced digital healthcare marketers can analyze the marketing tactics and strategies of a brand’s largest online competitors to help them understand areas of saturation and opportunity so they can position themselves accordingly.
Why healthcare marketing?
As you evaluate your own practice, are you are leveraging the full power of the internet to develop new patients and retain current ones? A professional medical SEO plan developed by experienced marketers provide your business with the following advantages:
- Increases organic traffic from potential patients (organic search engine traffic is fee)
- Increases monthly leads and new patient consultations
- Builds brand reputation as an industry leader and improves your position as an expert
- Develops brand authority with Google and increases rankings for key landing pages and content
- Generates patient reviews on credible review sites (Google My Business, WebMD, ZocDoc, etc.)
- Optimizes individual Doctor & Location Google My Business profiles to leverage Local SEO
- Guides the optimization of landing pages to improve lead generation
- Tracks website, content, and off-page engagement & conversion activity to identify opportunities and address challenges
- Offers the ability to track goals, events, conversions, and ROI for clinic stakeholders
If you have concerns about your current medical SEO strategy or would like to start investing in SEO, don’t wait to take action. Meet with your digital marketing team and prioritize SEO or contact a healthcare marketing professional who offers SEO services for healthcare organizations.
Search has become the go-to tool for consumer research, engagement, and (often) conversion when evaluating medical options, so take full advantage! If you are tired of being invisible online – act now.
Organix Digital offers digital marketing strategies, campaign management, and reporting/insights for healthcare organizations. We specialize in SEO (search engine optimization) which help our clients:
- Develop an online presence to reach and influence target audiences
- Create a winning healthcare marketing strategy
- Increase patient volumes & patient retention
Organix Digital provides practice stakeholders with the following healthcare marketing tactics and strategies:
- On-Page & Off-Page SEO
- Content Creation
- Local SEO
- Keyword Research
- Competitor Analysis
- Metadata Optimization
- Image Optimization
- Inbound Link Building
- Call-to-Action Development
- First-Party Data Tracking & Analysis
- Conversion Tracking
- Landing Page Optimization
- Comprehensive Website Audits
- Monthly Performance Reporting Dashboard
- Monthly Campaign Review/Meetings (w/ Dedicated Account Director)
We would love the opportunity to learn about your practice and evaluate how Organix Digital can help boost the impact of your digital marketing.