There are all sorts of ways to look for a physician, but one of the most popular today is search engines like Google.
By typing in a quick word or phrase, it’s possible to find dozens—or even hundreds—of doctors in a small geographic area within seconds. But for most searchers, the only results that receive any attention are those at the top—and the only way your site can get there is with search engine optimization, or SEO.
Physician websites don’t just appear at the top of search results by accident.
High rankings require a regular program of monitoring and refining that can take weeks or even months. Once your site achieves them, though, they can lead to a new stream of referrals and appointments, not just in the short term but over the life of your practice.
Keep reading to learn more about SEO for doctors, like how it works and why it’s valuable. Plus, find actionable tips for launching an SEO strategy for your doctor’s office or medical center.
How Can SEO Benefit Doctors?
Potential patients can locate you easily if your practice lists among the top three names in Google search engines. For instance, if a patient types ‘physician in downtown Omaha’ in a Google search, then your website should feature in the first three listings. That said, it is impossible for every practice to find a place in the top three spaces. Hence, it is imperative you invest in extensive SEO practices to become more visible. This will marginally increase chances of a potential patient booking an appointment with you and becoming a repeat patient.
How Important is SEO for Doctors?
You can bring qualified leads and patients to your medical practice with the help of compelling tactics applied in SEO. Traditional marketing techniques such as TV and print media provide a lower ROI than SEO as shown by studies. Hence, SEO not only provides a higher ROI, but also increases credibility, traffic, visibility, reputation, and branding.
SEO for doctors is the key to attracting new patients irrespective of the size and specialty of a medical practice. By implementing a strong SEO strategy, you stand to gain an online reputation and increased visibility.
Today, searchers trust Google, and by appearing on top of a search listing, you provide a strong endorsement to your medical practice. Potential patients tend to trust a practice more when it appears high in search engine rankings.
Reliable and Credible
Keywords entered in the search engines unconsciously register in the minds of potential patients. They might not realize it, but they automatically lend credibility to those websites that have a higher ranking. The vote of confidence of a patient can often be directly linked to the Google rankings. Potential patients trust Google, and they believe that a medical practice that features on the top is more credible.
Spend Less On Acquiring New Patients
Usually, the money spent on gaining new patients does not reflect in the revenues businesses bring in. However, with effective SEO techniques, you can stay true to your marketing goal of gaining new patients while reducing the overall marketing expenditure. This is mainly because other forms of advertising are more expensive than digital marketing. Also, with digital marketing, you can easily streamline your goals while being flexible enough to reach targeted customers.
Increased Online Traffic
Setting up a practice on a backstreet in Iowa will not make you money. However, setting up shop on a busy street might bring you more customers which, in turn, will make you more money. Following the same line of thought, online traffic will not make you money. However, by marketing yourself to more people, you increase the chances of attracting potential customers. Further to this, visitors who come to your website are qualified leads as they have already shown an intent to avail services at your practice or at a similar one.
SEO is essentially an inbound marketing strategy that focuses on qualified leads that have an interest in your services or something similar. This allows SEO for doctors to provide a higher ROI than other kinds of marketing strategies or advertisement options. In other forms of marketing, an advertisement can interrupt a favorite TV show or take up expensive space on a magazine. With SEO, all you need to do is show up in the search listings when people are searching. In fact, it is not even necessary to convince a target audience to try your services. All you need to convey is that your practice is best for their requirements.
SEO is among the most cost-effective strategies to target a potential audience. There are other proven strategies such as cold calling, which can provide leads. However, these leads can be 61% more expensive than the ones provided by digital marketing. Also, leads provided by SEO are better qualified than other marketing techniques as potential patients are already searching for a practice similar to the one you have.
5 Steps to Get More Patients Online with SEO
1. Create and Optimize Your Google Business Profile
Google Business Profile (GMB) is hugely important for both local SEO and your practice’s reviews. When you search locally, Google provides a map and providers above the traditional organic search results. But, the only way you can get ranked there is if you have a Google My Business profile, and are working to optimize it.
You want to keep it update with correct and latest information about your business like working hours, address details, contact information, and others. Also ask your patients to leave a review on your Google business profile. It will help you to get trust from people and Google as well.
Also, you should add booking functionality to your Google My Business profile. For one of our clients, doing only this almost immediately resulted in a 44% increase in appointment bookings from local traffic. This is, without a doubt, one of the lowest-effort and highest-reward tactics you can do to improve your practice’s local SEO basically overnight.
We’ve found that Google is more likely to recommend providers who have appointments available no more than two weeks out, and no more than 5 miles away. This means that users are looking for locations that have availability right now, and that are close to them, so they don’t have to travel.
It’s also important to note that that 5-mile radius can change. It can become smaller if you’re in a large metro area where there’s a lot of competition, or bigger if you’re in a more rural area, where you’ll be able to capture more of the market.
This means that when you’re optimizing for availability and proximity, you should consider the mix of healthcare providers in your area. If you’re in a highly competitive metropolitan area, you’ll likely have to try a little harder to make the cut.
2. Target Right Keywords
When people are searching for different medical-related terms, they aren’t always looking for a doctor right away. Some audiences are researching certain medical issues, others might be looking for a health specialist in their area, and still others might look for a specific hospital or doctor.
As an example, someone might search “why do I have acne scars” but they might not be looking for a dermatologist. If you’re a dermatologist, this could still be a keyword you want to target in an educational blog post.
Why? A potential patient may not know that a dermatologist can help treat scarring. But if they read your post and realize they need to visit one, you can potentially convert them into a lead.
3. Website User Experience
Web experience is another important aspect of building the best site as a doctor. You want your practice’s website to be well designed, neat, and professional. User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) do impact your SEO.
But more than that, current and potential patients may be using your site to get in contact with you, making appointments, and other information.
This is for appearances but also for SEO purposes. SEO is impacted by how navigable, responsive, and easy-to-use your site is. You could have the best information from the most authoritative expert in the world, but if the font is too small or your site loads slowly, it will be very tough to rank your site well.
So, you’re going to want your physician website designed for SEO. Web UX/UI is primarily involved in the on-page SEO factors we mentioned above, as well as:
- Site speed: Site speed is an important part of any good web experience. In fact, the number of people who leave your site will increase dramatically the slower your webpage loads. If your site takes longer than 5 seconds to load, you can lose 40% of your traffic.
- User interface: Your UI (user interface) should be clean and functional in order to maximize your website’s SEO value. Again, that’s because websites that are easy on the eyes and easy to navigate tend to keep users on-page longer than ones that do not. Stick to a simple, clean web design with a clear page hierarchy: it shouldn’t be confusing to get from one page to the next.
- Mobile-friendliness: Have you ever clicked on a site from your phone and half the page is off the screen, the buttons are too small to click, or you can’t find the nav bar? It’s frustrating right? This is why it’s so important to have a website design that’s optimized for mobile usage. Google recommends responsive design — a grid-like design that dynamically adjusts to all screen sizes including desktops, tablets, and smartphones. You can check for free with Google’s free mobile-friendly checking tool.
If you want to have a strong online presence, you have to formulate a strategic, ongoing content strategy.
There’s really no way around that—particularly, if your goal is search engine optimization (SEO)—you need to produce great blog posts pretty frequently. FAQ pages can also be a good place to include content you can optimize.
You’ll first need to come up with topics and keywords relevant to your audience and then produce the relevant copy. Copy might be a blog or FAQS, as well as web pages including: an “About Us” section including all practitioners part of the practice, patient testimonials, treatment offerings, how to contact your office, and any other pertinent information that can help patients work with your practice.
When writing blog posts optimize for SEO and rank highly on Google, you also need to think about the intent that’s bringing them to your site. Intent can range from informational to transactional, meaning while one person is learning about a topic, another is ready to take an action like scheduling an appointment with your office.
You also need to consider what they’re using to search for you, like the elements we listed earlier. So whether you’re a plastic surgeon, therapist, or offer another niche medical service, keep this in mind as you work through your healthcare SEO activities.
5. Local Citations
Local citations are online directories and mentions that will list your business. This might include larger organizations like Yelp; local websites; niche-specific directory sites like WebMD or Medicare; online directories relating to your practice (insurance providers, hospital affiliations, other industry associations).
Medical practices that effectively leverage local citations have a better chance of growing, attracting qualified leads, and reaching the top of local search results, which is the goal!
One of the most important local citations to get on as a doctor is Google My Business. Google My Business’s motto is to “Drive Customer Engagement on Google.” You can think of GMB as a search engine within the Google search engine: it works to bring relevant results that are local to the user (versus relevant results from anywhere).
A few things to keep in mind when creating your local citations:
- Accuracy: Ensure that the information included is accurate. This happens more often than you think! Double check everything matches on your site and your listings, including any updated business hours (such as for holidays or office closings).
- Informative: Get as specific as possible. This helps the right clients find your business. In GMB, you can fill in the business category section, as well as specific services. For example, you might put your business under category “Men’s Health Physician” and then add services like “Mental health” and “Surgery for men.”
- Get great reviews: Now, more than ever, it’s important to create a system that routes your patients to provide reviews after a service. That might include a follow-up email or administrators and yourself specifically requesting clients to leave a review. Chances are, if they’re happy with your services, they will! And like we talked about above, this is currently one of the most important ranking factors.
An effective SEO strategy requires taking full advantage of local citations, especially Google My Business. Just make sure to fill your private practice listing out completely with quality content in addition to your website URL, address, phone, and office hours.
6. Increase Your Brand Mentions & Inbound Links
The last thing you’ll want to do to improve your clinic’s local SEO performance is build a substantial backlink profile. In other words, increase the amount of pages on the web that link back to your website.
While all backlinks will increase your domain authority and E-A-T, you should put special emphasis on local publications and websites. For example, if you receive a backlink in a ‘Best Dermatologists in LA’ article, your local SEO performance will receive a boost.
It’s also worth mentioning, website that mention your brand name but don’t hyperlink to your site will still help your SEO performance. You’ll still receive some link equity even if the brand mention is not a link.
And there you have it: six steps to do SEO as a physician…not to mention as a plastic surgeon, psychiatrist, therapist, urgent care center, and dentist!
Though SEO can seem complicated, if you follow these five steps to optimize your medical service site, the investment you put into it now can help you see ROI for years to come.