Despite all the outdated healthcare SEO advice circulating out there in our industry, the answer is: yes — healthcare companies absolutely need SEO! This part of your marketing strategy is so important that Uhuru’s Healthcare Marketing Strategist, Whitney Cole, and Inbound Marketing Manager, Shelby Crawford, dedicated an entire podcast to explaining why.
LISTEN HERE, or read our optimized breakdown of this episode below.
“Effective Search Engine Optimization requires a commitment, not a campaign.”
— James Reynolds, founder SEO Sherpa
If you’re unsure whether you need to commit to healthcare SEO, consider these statistics:
- 77% of patients conduct an online search before making an appointment with a physician, according to Becker’s Hospital Review
- An estimated 7% of Google’s daily searches are health-related, according to Google Health Vice President David Feinberg, M.D., who was featured in The Telegraph
- According to Becker’s Health IT report, Google’s total daily health-related searches amount to 70,000 each minute
SEO stands for search engine optimization — the improvement of your website traffic quality and quantity. Think of healthcare SEO not as a cost, but as an investment. Like a modest real estate investment, it can yield a massive return once high-converting keywords raise your company’s rank to the top of Google’s first page (where most of your future patients, customers, and clients find their answers and solutions).
Healthcare SEO 101
You probably have a basic understanding of what a search engine does. It scours billions of pieces of content and evaluates thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to thoroughly and clearly answer a searcher’s query.
To nurture your healthcare SEO and online reputation, you need to develop content that’s easy for search engine crawlers to find and understand. When you hear these engines are “crawling and indexing,” it means they’re discovering and cataloging all available content on the internet — your web pages, PDFs, images, videos, and infographics — then ordering it by how well it matches the searcher’s query, or “ranking” it. The goal is to get your content to rank as high on the first page of the search engine as possible.
That’s SEO in a nutshell. Now let’s crack it open to see the details inside.
Why Is SEO important for Health Companies?
One of the biggest advantages of SEO is that it requires no up-front costs for ad space. If you implement SEO correctly and Google’s algorithm decides you’re providing the most value to searchers, your content will appear on page one. That’s where it will help you do the following:
Build Your Brand
Building a brand requires consideration for what content you provide, what searchers say about it, and how your target audience responds to it. SEO helps with all of this.
You can drive more traffic and leads, improve your social network performance, and enhance engagement with your brand through:
- Optimizing keyword phrases to increase organic search traffic
- Developing valuable top-of-the-funnel content
You can learn to execute these tactics on your own, which will take some time, or you can work with content marketing experts to help you establish and promote your brand.
Increase Credibility and Authority
The internet has drastically altered the sales process. Consumers have access to a wealth of helpful resources that can help them discover and assess multiple options before they speak with a sales representative.
SEO optimization combined with content marketing enables you to become part of that learning process. Valuable, actionable content helps answer questions for and build trust with potential customers early in the research phase.
Today’s customers expect high-quality, consistent content from their favorite brands. So having quality content and making it easy for your target audience to find is really going to set you up for success.
Drive Target Audience Traffic
Healthcare SEO helps you achieve high rankings, which attract more traffic — and ideally converts that traffic into customers and leads. High-ranking content is the best way to drive organic traffic without spending on ads.
According to HubSpot, 62% of consumers use search engines to learn more about a new business, product, or service — and 41% use search engines when they’re ready to buy. Healthcare SEO helps you get in front of your target audience as they’re actively searching for information that you will provide most effectively.
Stay Ahead of Competitors
As you optimize your site, you’re not just working to improve where your site ranks on results pages — you’re also aiming to rise above your competitors’ rankings. According to the Daily Egg, the first result on any given results page gets an average of 20.5% of the clicks. From there, the second result gets 13.32%, and the third gets 13.14%.
Improve User Experience
Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the best possible experience and results for its users. That’s why the latest algorithm updates prioritize directing users to sites that not only provide relevant, valuable content, but also a flawless user experience.
Today, technical factors like mobile-friendliness, usability, and site speed play a much bigger role in rankings than ever before. While this means that optimizing your site might require a bit more professional help, it also means that you’ll be continuously improving your site’s user experience. And when you consider the impact that user experience has on conversions, this can have a significant impact on your sales and revenue in the long run.
Easily Measure Results
Finally, one of the biggest advantages of SEO is that you can measure virtually every aspect of your results. Unlike traditional methods, which often rely on looking for correlations between ad campaigns and sales, it’s easy to see the return you’re getting from your SEO investment.
You can use tools like Google Analytics to monitor your traffic, referral sources, conversions, and any other metric that matters to your business. This way, you can accurately evaluate what’s working and what isn’t — giving you the confidence that you’re allocating your marketing budget to the strategies that have the biggest impact on your most important goals.
Types of Healthcare SEO
Most people don’t know that there are different types of SEO — each of which need to be specifically targeted to quickly achieve your SEO goals.
On-Site (On-Page) Healthcare SEO
On-site optimization includes all of the content your readers see when they visit your website.
Achieving high rankings for your website means you’ll have to produce high-quality, informative, keyword-driven content that solves problems and offers solutions better than other competitors’ pages.
Common techniques for boosting on-site healthcare SEO include optimizing things like title tags, SEO metadata, description tags, site speed, mobile responsiveness, keyword meta tags, alt tags, H1’s and H2’s, anchor text links, bold, italics, footers, sitemaps, and more.
One of the most important things to remember when executing your healthcare SEO is that voice search is taking over search. As more people use smart home devices, search engines are improving how they serve up search results. To learn how optimizing for voice search will help you improve your traditional SEO and provide a more accessible experience for users and patients, read Whitney Cole’s post on voice search in healthcare marketing.
You may need specialists to execute the tasks above, but one of the most important SEO techniques you must do yourself is updating content about your specialty to reflect the latest research, trends, and consumer demands.
Off-Site (Off-Page) Healthcare SEO
Defining off-page healthcare SEO is a bit more difficult than standard SEO. Arguably, the most important and most difficult part of off-page optimization is link-building. Getting links to your website helps bring in visitors, shows Google that searchers value your content, and also shows it that your site is authoritative.
Off-Site healthcare SEO techniques include press releases, healthcare directory listings, blogs and articles on well-known industry sites, healthcare social media campaigns, and reputation management.
Local Healthcare SEO
Local SEO is the process of optimizing your website and content to be found in local searches — vital for healthcare companies, medical clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and senior living facilities. Once your SEO strategy includes local listings, your location will pop up when people search for your service or product nearby.
Every healthcare business that competes for search engines to grant it localized display results will need to do a healthcare SEO audit for local search. This will include checking your:
- Meta tags and description (to ensure location name and brand name are included)
- Name, address, phone number (NAP) on-page consistency with directories
- NAP consistency in footers
- Ensuring pages feature 600 words of text
- Ensuring URLs includes location
- Evaluating customer reviews
Local SEO for healthcare techniques includes citations, healthcare directory listings, online review site listings, consistent NAP, and Google My Business page optimization.
Technical Healthcare SEO
This aspect of healthcare SEO ensures that search engine bots and crawlers can navigate through your website in a way that’s logical and strategic for your purposes. You may not want all of your website pages (like “thank you” pages, for example) to be found in search results.
To rank well, your website should have the following at a minimum:
- A secure website certificate (HTTPS)
- A site map
- Mobile-responsive design — website pages should load in seconds
- Natural language (not sentence after sentence of keyword stuffing)
What Will Your Healthcare SEO Audit Identify?
It’s critical that you audit your website for technical and on-page issues as well as identify your competition and your backlinks. The steps below will help you do a thorough job:
Check for These Technical Issues
- Website Speed: The rank of your website on search engine page results depends a lot on site speed. The faster a site is, the better the user experience — so slower websites are penalized, which causes them to slide down the rankings.
- Low Text-to-HTML Ratio: This could highlight deeply rooted problems with your website’s on-page technical SEO.
- Messy URLs: URLs that end in something like “..index.php?p=367594” mean nothing to you — or to search bots. They’re not intuitive and they’re not user-friendly.
- Substandard Mobile Experience: The search engine will rank websites based on their mobile versions, so being mobile-ready sounds like an obvious choice — but not many websites are actually optimized for mobile browsing.
Identify These On-Page Issues
- Duplicate Content: Make sure your website does not fall in the duplicate content category. Why? Not only does copied content affect your rankings, but Google may penalize your website, too. In fact, your site may lose the chance to rank on search engine page results (SERPs) altogether.
- Missing Alt Tags and Broken Images: These are the two most prevalent problems business owners must fix. Alt tags are HTML attributes to images that describe their contents. If an image component fails to render properly on your website, the alt tag for the image will describe both the contents and the function. They also reinforce the required keyword by helping search engine crawlers understand the page information.
Identify Your Competition
When you’re working on SEO and trying to rank for keywords, you will be able to identify who is currently ranking for the same keywords and who is also trying to get to the first page of Google.
This is quite valuable, as you can see the types of content they’re creating and make your answers better match the search intent to get higher rankings.
Identify Your Backlinks
If your website has hundreds of pages, one or two broken links are commonplace and hardly an issue. However, dozens of broken links are a huge blow, because it deteriorates the user’s quality perception of your website.
Broken links can affect your crawl budget. When search bots find too many broken links, they divert to other websites, which leaves your site’s important pages un-crawled and un-indexed. This negatively impacts your website’s page authority.
The Best Healthcare SEO Audits Tools
At Uhuru, our SEO experts have been doing audits for healthcare businesses large and small for over a decade. Here are the tools we rely on:
- Google’s Webmaster Tools
- Hubspot’s Website Grader
- Google’s Natural Language API
- Google’s Structured Data CodeLab
- Readability Checker Test
- SEMRush Writing Assistant
- W3C Website Accessibility Initiative
Once your audit is complete, you have a good understanding and foundation of where you stand, and you know where you want to go, you can begin implementing some of the following tactics:
Actionable Healthcare SEO Tactics
According to the Search Engine Journal, SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, meaning they convert to customers — and in this case, patients — while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
Choose the Right Keywords
Compile a list of search terms that your ideal persona may use to find your site, then test them by searching each keyword phrase in Google’s Keyword Planner to see which have a solid amount of local monthly search traffic as well as low competition from competing websites.
Shoot for keyword phrases with 200 to 10,000 local monthly searches. Incorporate the optimal words organically into the pages on your website to let the search engines know what your website is all about and drive more patients and clients to your organization.
Define Your Metadata: Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
The keywords targeted for your SEO strategy should not only be present throughout the original content on your website, but also in the metadata of each of those pages. The metadata consists of the HTML meta tags that lie between the open and closing head tags in a document’s HTML code. Metadata helps the search engines know what the page is about using the title tag, meta description, and headers.
The title tag acts as the title of the page at the top of the browser and in the blue text in the search engine results. Edit them to be no longer than 65 characters and naturally incorporate your keywords while naming the page. A meta description, which describes the content of a page, should be no longer than 150 characters.
Lastly, headers added throughout a piece of content using header tags will help to further instruct the search engines about the contents of the page. These are added using H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags.
Create Original Content
Create original content for your website on behalf of your healthcare organization to stand out among your competition online — specifically in the search engines.
By educating your audience through quality content marketing, you’ll be able to highlight your value and expertise over time and gain rankings in the search engine.
Create content that answers these questions for your audience to drive traffic to your website when potential patients are looking for information about your area of expertise. This also helps to build credibility and authority for your organization as an expert on the subject area.
Include a Sitemap on Your Website
Creating a simple site map is an often-overlooked tactic for indexing your website properly with search engines. A site map gives Google, Yahoo, and Bing a map of how your website is laid out and connected. It can also help users better access your website. You can create your own site map, but it can be tedious, especially if your website is extensive.
Try using third-party tools to generate a sitemap for your web property. We’d recommend using one that is online and doesn’t have to be downloaded.
Local Search Marketing
According to Yext, 50% of all local searches are performed on a mobile device, so provide a mobile-friendly, local experience for your customers or patients. Local search is one of the most important search verticals for healthcare organizations since patients have to visit their healthcare provider’s office.
Listing this important contact information will help Google continually associate the correct location with your organization. When it is a natural fit, add the city and state to your title tags on your website to further optimize your experience. Since Google My Business is important for ranking purposes in Google, continue monitoring reviews posted to your page to ensure they aren’t negatively affecting your rankings over time.
Drive Rankings With Social Media
Social media helps facilitate conversations with your clients and patients and drive traffic to your website from a larger audience than you would normally reach. In terms of SEO, Google and other search engines consider hundreds of factors when determining a web page’s quality.
If a page on your website is shared across social media in an impactful way, the search engines take this into account to signal that a particular page on your website features quality information on your expertise. Social media’s impact on SEO is basically a form of link building, except it uses websites like Facebook or Twitter, so make sure to continually share quality content across relevant social channels.
Focus on quality over quantity. When you’ve got a small budget, limited time and staff, communicate directly with your community. Join online discussions about your industry and expertise.
Implement Mobile Optimization
The best way to start optimizing your site for mobile is to choose a responsive design. Responsive websites conform to the screen size on which they’re viewed. The “hamburger” menu often appears instead of a top bar, and images become smaller.
Responsive design is different from mobile optimization. Mobile optimization simply starts with responsive design — it gives you the building blocks to create a completely mobile-ready site. A mobile-optimized design looks extremely different from a responsive site when viewed on a mobile device. It’s configured with the mobile user in mind and often has a separate URL.
Start Building Your SEO Strategy
It may seem like a lot — but when you take these steps slowly and incrementally, you’ll boost your ranking, improve your visitors’ user experience while diverting them from your competition, and craft a strategic brand that both patients and clients can depend on.
Not sure how to get started? Download our Definitive Guide to Healthcare SEO here. Or, reach out to us to schedule a strategy session; we can help to jumpstart your SEO efforts so you start seeing results you never thought possible.