How to Guide New Patients to Your Healthcare Practice with an Enhanced SEO Strategy
SEO should be top of mind for healthcare practices looking to attract new patients. First things first. Let’s answer the obvious question for those of you approaching SEO for the first time.
What exactly is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Moz, one of my favorite resources for SEO news and advice, defines SEO as:
The practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search results.
This essentially means that you optimize your website in ways that tell Google and other search engines that you have a high-quality site with relevant content so they can serve your info up to people searching for what you have to offer. By optimizing your site for search, you can benefit by pulling in site visitors who are potential new patients and are seeking help on a subject in which you have expertise.
This leads to high-quality traffic from people who are likely interested in the healthcare services your practice offers. For example, let’s say you run a family practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. By optimizing your site for search, you can attract potential patients who are searching for things like “best family practice in Lincoln Nebraska” or “who is the best doctor to take my family to?”.
To give your practice a fighting chance of showing up for relevant searches like these, start by employing the following five tactics as you build out your SEO strategy.
Creating high-quality, relevant (this is the key word here) content for your website can have a very positive impact on search traffic. Over 1 billion health questions are asked via Google each day. If the content on your website is optimized for search, your practice has a good shot at showing up when a potential patient types a question relevant to your practice into their favorite search engine.
If you own an orthopedic practice, for example, you would want to answer questions like “What should I do to reduce pain from tendonitis?”. One great way to do this is to have a blog on your site. You can write relevant articles with keywords (sparingly used, of course) within both the body of your blog articles and in the title. In fact, to answer this particular question, you could consider writing a blog article with the headline What to do to Reduce Pain from Tendonitis.
If your content is well-written, provides accurate, authoritative information and is optimized for search, your articles will begin showing up in search. As you answer each person’s questions, you can form a relationship with your site visitors by serving them with useful content. This relationship can ultimately lead to those site visitors trusting your practice, which can lead to them transitioning from Internet searchers to loyal patients.
When people search for healthcare providers, they typically are looking locally. Unless someone really needs (or wants) to work with a very specific specialist or be treated at a uniquely qualified hospital, it’s highly unlikely they will be searching outside of the local area for a healthcare provider. This is why it’s also critical to make sure your local online presence is optimized for search.
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up your Google My Business page. This is the top local SEO factor, and this is often the first thing that shows up in search. Before the traditional search results with meta descriptions and page titles, you’ll see a list of relevant practices with star ratings that click directly to each practice’s Google My Business page. Check out this screenshot to see what I mean.
Other steps include optimizing your website, making sure other directories are filled out and optimized (think Yelp, Healthgrades and others), and of course, the content marketing component that I mentioned earlier. Here is a great resource that goes into more depth on the subject of local SEO (more than I have the space to cover here).
Navigation and user-experience
Once searchers find your site, it’s critical that your site is easy-to-navigate, provides the right content, loads quickly and generally offers a smooth experience for visitors. This is important beyond just SEO, but Google does have ways to factor this in.
For example, if 75% of your site visitors stop by, consume one page and then leave, that is called a bounce. Your bounce rate shows the number of site visitors who navigate off your site after viewing only a single page. A high bounce rate shows Google that your site offers little to no value to visitors, and thus Google will be much less likely to promote your content, service or whatever you want to get in front of your target audience.
A meta description is the text that appears as a snippet underneath search results. To help you picture this, here is an example:
This text would be entered by your team on the back end of your website. It doesn’t necessarily have an impact on how Google values your site, but it does have a correlation to the number of clicks your search results receive. If your meta description doesn’t accurately describe the page, or the copy is low quality, people who are served the search results are less likely to click.
Quality of your practice, based on positive reviews, is a big factor in local SEO. Your reviews can lure both new patients and Google. Both of which lead to new business. By asking your patients for reviews online, you can effectively build up a positive star rating (shoot for 4 stars or higher) which lends lots of credibility to your practice. No one wants to go to a 2-star practice.
There are a variety of ways to boost your reviews.
- Add signage in your office directing patients to a place online where they can leave you a positive review
- Respond to reviews to show you are engaged, and also to provide positive responses to any negative feedback about your practice to show you care
- Use a patient experience survey that points respondents toward review sites asking the respondents to review their recent visit
- Ask your team to review your practice as well, letting the public know how much they enjoy working there
Of course, you can’t force people to leave good reviews. Bad ones will trickle in, so don’t leave it solely up to chance. Aside from obviously offering high-quality, high-safety services, make an effort to gain reviews on popular review sites where potential patients are researching their next doctor.
Final thoughts on SEO for healthcare practices
This is not an exhaustive list of ways to optimize your site for local search, but it’s a great place to start. Once you’ve got all of this in place, don’t forget to monitor your results. Use tools like Moz or Site Improve to check on how your SEO work is impacting your site and monitor your site’s performance using analytics tools like Google Analytics. Make changes as necessary and stay on top of things to ensure you stay at the top of search.