Do you want to know more about creating a great healthcare SEO strategy but don't know where to start? We'll break it down for you in this guide that details the benefits of SEO for healthcare providers seeking to breathe life into their marketing.
SEO is one of the most talked-about marketing strategies in the world, but is it worth it? Well, most businesses don't seem to think so, as 70% of businesses still don't have an SEO strategy.
Consequently, those who have seen the benefits of an effective SEO strategy couldn't be happier that so many businesses choose to limit themselves. It means there's less competition for them.
Well, there's no industry better suited for an SEO strategy than healthcare, which is becoming more competitive every day. If you want to get your healthcare facility ahead of the competition, there will never be a better time. Let's talk about healthcare SEO marketing and how to get the most out of your strategy!
How Does SEO Work?
Search engine optimization is one of the best drivers of organic traffic to your website. It works by optimizing your website's content for search engines like Google, which should allow you to rank higher in various search engine results pages (SERPs). Ranking this way is different from the search ads you see at the top, and users tend to favor these organic results.
You won't have to pay Google a dime to do this. They index hundreds of billions of pages across the internet and rank them for various keywords that users may search for. At a fundamental level, this is how search works.
Google is checking for many factors when they index these sites, but most importantly, they're searching for keywords, website quality, and high-quality content. If your site doesn't offer that, then Google is unlikely to promote it, as it would reflect poorly upon their service as a search engine.
As a result, businesses of all industries and sizes have to compete with one another to optimize for these organic results. By demonstrating to Google that they have authority over a certain topic, Google may choose to display their website to users who are searching for relevant material.
Healthcare SEO Benefits for Medical Practices
Now that you know the basics of how search works, what are the healthcare seo benefits to your business? Well, there are many, but here are some of the most important!
For the healthcare industry, there is no substitute for organic traffic, especially for niche services. It's unlikely that you're going to find local traffic in need of specific treatments through PPC ads, which means you could easily lose money. This may be okay for a general practitioner, but it's a lot more challenging to find people in desperate need of a new heart surgeon with ads.
Also, people are simply sick of seeing ads. We see an average of 5,000 ads a day, and the problem is only getting worse. This means users are becoming desensitized to (and often annoyed by) advertisements.
Conversely, organic traffic, which is the traffic you don't have to pay for, finds you, not the other way around. This leads to higher engagement, retention, and conversion rates than ads, and there's no limit on your potential reach!
SEO marketing is not like PPC campaigns. Once you have the content on your website, it's yours to keep, meaning that there is no cap on how much (or how long) you can earn from it. If a page ranks at the top of a high-traffic Google search, that could be enough to keep your healthcare facility running for years to come.
The ROI on SEO campaigns tends to be strong, especially considering that SEO doesn't have to cost anything. In theory, you can carry out an SEO strategy all by yourself, although most won't choose to do this.
However, even with professional SEO services, these costs are one-time for new content, website redesign, or any other services you need. You won't have to pay for every click!
Healthcare SEO Principles
Now that you see why so many businesses are using SEO in their strategies, let's get a better understanding of how it works. Here are the fundamentals of any healthcare SEO strategy!
Google uses over 200 ranking factors directly related to the quality of your website. User experience (UX) goes hand-in-hand with SEO on everything, so don't skimp on web design.
For an SEO strategy to thrive, it needs to be built on a strong foundation. Most importantly, you'll need to worry about:
- Page loading times
- Mobile-friendly design
- Navigation system
- XML sitemap
- Page structure
- Linking structure
The list continues, but this is a great start to any SEO strategy. Focusing on usability is critical to improving your SEO strategy. Remember, you have a website for users, not search engines.
Content Marketing Strategy
A website is only as strong as its content marketing strategy, which is arguably the most important part of any SEO strategy.
This is so important because users search for information, not specific businesses or healthcare facilities. If you have a killer website with 5 pages, how will anybody find you without searching for your facility's name? It's unlikely they will.
For that reason, offering the information users are seeking is a great way to draw traffic to your website. From there, you can attempt to convert users into patients.
Let's say you have an article about DIY breast examinations or identifying marks on your skin. In that case, you could offer the information users want and pitch your services as the solution to the problem. For example, "If you have any concerns or questions, feel free to contact us to book an appointment."
This is called a "Call to action" or CTA. Users who are still concerned or who may have a follow-up question are far more likely to click on your link to your contact page and follow up with your services. There are other important content marketing tips, but this is a good start!
There are three pillars of an SEO strategy, and this is the third. A strong website acts as the foundation, your content marketing strategy is the frame, and your off-page SEO ties everything together.
Building domain authority is the one factor in SEO that you don't have total control over, but there are ways to build it organically. The most important off-page ranking factor is backlinks, which are the links from other sites to yours. These act as a vote in your favor, as these websites are telling Google's algorithm that your content is accurate and worth vouching for.
Local Healthcare SEO
Local SEO is a little different from international SEO, and it's the strategy that most healthcare businesses will follow. Unless you offer telehealth services to anybody in any state, which is unlikely, you'll primarily depend on local traffic. In that case, it's important to follow some local SEO principles.
Using location-specific keywords is a good start. Simply adding "near me" or "in Toledo, Ohio" to the end of your keywords can go a long way. Try adding these phrases to your keyword research to see what users in your area are searching for.
After that, you should get your business listings optimized, especially on Google My Business. From there, get on every local healthcare directory and keep all of your information both accurate and uniform across the web. This will prevent any confusion about Google's algorithm.
We all want to rank higher on Google, but the question is; "for what?"
As a healthcare provider, there's no sense in trying to rank for terms like "used car near me", so you will have to develop a list of keywords to try to rank for. We'll discuss how to use these in your content marketing strategy but, for now, let's discuss the research.
Ideally, you want a diverse list of both long-tail and short-tail keywords. Short-tail keywords like "hospital" or "health insurance" have high traffic but also high competition. Ranking for these is an uphill battle, but you should still use them!
Long-tail keywords like "dermatologist office near me" or "how do cancer screenings work" come with less traffic but also less competition. Also, the users who search for these terms are far more likely to make conversions, as these are highly relevant keywords. You should try using as wide of a variety as possible while keeping these relevant to your services.
How to Launch an Effective Healthcare SEO Strategy
Now that you know the main principles of SEO advertising, it's time to learn how to put them into practice. Here are some steps to improve your healthcare SEO strategy today!
1. Find the Right Keywords
Start by brainstorming some of the obvious keywords that you would expect relevant customers to search for, such as "Dialysis near me" or something relevant to your services. From there, head over to your favorite keyword research tool.
There is no shortage of keyword research tools online, and most will offer up to 10 or 20 free searches per day. If you run out, use another one! These tools will offer related keywords, their relative search volume, competition (low or high), and the average cost per click on PPC ads.
For an SEO strategy, you're looking for the best ratio of low competition and high search volume that you can find, and you want to keep them as relevant to your business as possible. Once you've developed a list of these, continue searching for them to find other related keywords to use throughout your website's content. Again, you want as diverse of a list as possible.
Once you have a list, it's time to prioritize which terms will be your target keywords. In the short term, you're probably going to want to try ranking for long-tail keywords with low competition, but keep your keyword strategy diverse for long-term gains. To compare the keywords on your list, add them to Google Trends to check for relative search volume to help you prioritize.
2. Build a Content Marketing Strategy
A blog is certainly the easiest medium to use and for Google to index, but you can choose any that you'd like. For example, adding video content or infographics could help you skip the line in the SERPs, but that's entirely up to you and the talent you have in your marketing team.
More importantly, you need to figure out which topics you're going to cover and how you will convert users into leads. No matter what your niche is in the healthcare industry, there's a lot of information you could offer to users. However, there's one word you need to keep in mind; quality.
Google's algorithm is designed to do one thing and that's to match high-quality, relevant content with users based on their search (and a few other factors). For that reason, the best way to build a long-term SEO strategy is to offer high-quality content on a strong website. If you do that, you will eventually see results!
During your keyword research and competitor research, find a list of topics to cover and brainstorm new ideas that others may search for. Always review your content for "fluff" or filler and make sure that every sentence serves a purpose for your users.
Also, you want to post frequently, at least a couple of times a week for the best results. If you don't have the time or resources to dedicate to building this over time, consider hiring content marketing services to do it for you!
3. Create an Optimizing Checklist
Every post and new page needs to live up to a certain standard. Using a CMS platform, you can easily make some of these features uniform site-wide, but some will need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. Here's a list of the bare minimum that you should check before launching every post:
- Alt tags on images
- Link titles
- Optimized meta description (160 characters or less)
- Keyword usage
- H1 and H2 tags (at least)
- Page structure (headers, footers, clear hierarchy)
These can be easily forgotten when posting new content, which can harm your SEO strategy. If every new post and page is optimized along with your site as a whole, you will see results in the long run.
For keywords, it's important to use these wisely. Don't try to stuff keywords into your pages and posts. Instead, use them as organically as possible.
One of the greatest myths in SEO is that keyword density is an important ranking factor. Yes, these keywords should be present in your content, but they don't have to account for a certain percentage of your word count. Use them when it's natural to do so, and try not to force it!
4. Optimize Page Speeds
Across your entire website, you need to have fast loading times if you want to compete. The average user exits a site after 3 seconds if it doesn't load completely, and this trend is only getting worse.
Google knows this well, and their crawlers test loading times on pages across your site. If your website loads too slowly, it could hold back your strategy significantly.
5. Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly
Mobile-friendliness has become a major factor in SEO, and many businesses are adopting the "mobile-first" strategy. This means they are attempting to optimize their websites for mobile users as a primary goal, with desktop optimization as the "afterthought".
Mobile traffic now accounts for over 53% of all traffic on the internet, so adopting the mobile-first strategy makes sense for most businesses, including healthcare. Businesses marketing to other businesses, organizations, or governments are more likely to reach desktop users. However, everybody needs healthcare, so you'll need to optimize for the majority of users.
Fortunately, most CMS platforms have become very good at adapting new content to fit different screens. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't put extra effort into mobile optimization. At the very least, you should take a look at your existing content on a mobile device, and always preview the mobile versions of new pages before posting.
6. Build a Clear XML Sitemap
This is especially important for larger websites, but any website can benefit from building an XML sitemap for search engines to easily find and index your website. A sitemap works by offering your top-level pages to search engines so they can easily crawl through all of the pages on your site and better understand your site's hierarchy and structure.
While some argue that XML sitemaps are only beneficial to large websites, we strongly recommend building one regardless of your website's size. Every website needs Google to index its new pages, and it's even easier to build an XML sitemap for smaller websites, so why not do it? Once it's built, add it to your Google Search Console account for the fastest results.
7. Build Backlinks
We mentioned the importance of building domain authority, and no, backlinks are not entirely in your control. However, there is a lot you can do to facilitate an organic backlink strategy instead of buying links. Not only do paid links harm your budget, but they may also harm your SEO strategy, as Google is getting better at recognizing and penalizing paid links.
As a healthcare provider, you likely have the expert insights you need in-house to build domain authority. Simply offer quality content on a user-friendly website, and organic links should grow over time. Feel free to reach out to affiliates and websites linking to your competitors to help speed up this process, but try giving them a reason to link to your site!
Keep in mind that this isn't something you need right away. Google doesn't expect you to have backlinks within the first few months of your website launching. However, over time, you will need to build these to establish authority over your given topic.
8. Be Consistent
If you remember anything from these steps, remember that quality and consistency will bring your strategy as far as it can go. Post high-quality content as often as you can, keep your standards high, and continue managing your strategy as time passes. If you do this, you'll see long-term results in your SEO strategy.
Posting daily is not always feasible, especially for small businesses, but we suggest aiming for at least two posts a week. Try creating content in advance so that you have extras available to you when you need them. Then, try to keep a consistent posting schedule and optimize each of your posts before uploading.
After that, check back on your existing content and make updates when necessary. Changing dates, data, and healthcare information as they evolve over time will prevent your content from becoming outdated.
Build Your Healthcare SEO Strategy Today
Now that you know how to get started with your healthcare SEO strategy, put these tips to use today for the best SEO results. These strategies take time to build, but the results can last for a long time without upkeep, so it's worth it in the long run!
Remember to focus on quality, build a strong foundation, and keep everything relevant at all times, which is what Google wants to see. Even if it doesn't work right away, be patient. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
Stay up to date with our latest digital marketing tips and feel free to contact us with any questions or for help with your strategy!