On the one hand, working on healthcare SEO for your medical practice website is no different from optimizing any other kind of site.
You do your keyword and competitor research, write your metadata and produce high-quality content to draw in clients at every stage of the sales funnel.
So those rules still apply here, but a catch applies specifically to websites relating to health (and finances): YMYL rules, also called Your Money or Your Life.
We’ll discuss this more below, but it suffices to say that Google takes a much more careful eye to money and healthcare content, so content creators for your healthcare site must be especially conscientious.
If you’re looking for some SEO fundamentals overall for optimizing your medical practice’s website for organic search, check out the top tips below!
Many medical professionals think pay-per-click, or PPC, ads are enough to get them the visitors they are looking for.
However, starting with PPC is like putting an adhesive bandage on your problem. It will only be good for the short term.
As a medical or healthcare business, you must incorporate SEO into your digital marketing to bring potential patients to your website.
Consistently. And in the long term.
If your website and its content are not considered quality in Google’s eyes, your search presence will suffer.
Regarding quality, two extremely important concepts for healthcare are E-A-T and YMYL.
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
The concept was created to help third-party raters score Google’s search results.
Although E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor, E-A-T reveals much about what Google considers important – essentially, what types of websites Google wants to reward with greater search visibility.
E-A-T is of huge importance for any webpages containing medical information.
The information and stats you provide on medicine and health could directly impact the potential patients who are reading them.
People visit and read your webpages because they want reasons to entrust their health to your practice.
Your information must be top-notch, filled with expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
Only then do you stand a chance of ranking well in the healthcare industry.
This leads us right into the concept of YMYL, which is short for Your Money or Your Life.
YMYL, as a concept, basically means any content that can directly affect a reader’s health, finances, or safety. That’s why Google really, really wants experts and experienced professionals to write content like that.
Obviously, this concept is important to understand in the competitive healthcare space.
If your content doesn’t meet those standards (e.g., it has inaccuracies or is thin on information), it will have an even harder time ranking in the search results.
YMYL pages need to have high E-A-T.
The Most Important Healthcare SEO Strategies
You may never outrank a site like WebMD.
However, by focusing on more long-tail keywords and location-based content, it’s possible to perform moderately well here.
By implementing the right kind of SEO to get your medical practice in front of the right users’ eyes, you will put your website in a better position to outrank your competitors.
The following six strategies are the most important regarding healthcare SEO.
1. Use Appropriate Medical Keywords
When optimizing your content, you want to target the right keywords for your industry.
Your starting point should be the medical services you offer, as that’s what most searchers will be looking for.
Tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner can help you find the best keywords for your industry, comparing what is and isn’t being searched for.
As in all cases, avoid “stuffing” keywords into the content.
Google quickly catches on to this spammy tactic and will penalize your website. Instead, place specific, long-tail keywords into your content in a relevant, readable, and natural way.
Not only will this separate you from the WebMDs, but you’ll also begin to attract the patients you want – those who live in your geographic area and are looking for the specialized expertise you offer.
2. Add Many Content Pages
Your content pages should be full of high-quality information that is optimized with your keywords.
For the medical industry, you want your content to help make your audience’s lives better or easier.
Whether it’s a detailed description of your services or blog posts targeting their specific search query, high-quality content is king for healthcare businesses.
Google places a much higher standard on medical webpages than other industries.
That’s because these pages have the potential to impact the future health, happiness, or financial stability of searchers.
Low-quality content on these pages could result in dangerous or unintended medical consequences.
Always think of your target audience when creating content for your website.
What are they searching for?
What information will help them the most in that search?
By writing long-form educational content, Google will recognize you as an authoritative figure within the industry, thus increasing your rank.
3. Optimize Visual Elements
Video is one of the most popular ways people consume content.
Webpages with videos can get more organic traffic.
And people spend more time on those pages because they watch the video.
This increases a user’s time on the page and indicates to the search engines that something valuable is on the page for users.
When optimizing your website for SEO, be sure to include relevant, high-quality videos alongside your content where you can.
Whether it’s a virtual tour of the facility or an informative video on a medical condition, many users will be drawn to that content of over 600 words of plain text.
You should also include a variety of images and infographics on your website. The more interactive and engaging your site is, the more visitors you’ll be able to draw in.
Ensure any images on your site also include appropriate alt text. Image alt text helps visually impaired users and Google crawlers better understand what is displayed on the page.
This can be an excellent opportunity to incorporate some of your keywords. (But, as with everything SEO, don’t overdo it!)
4. Optimize For Website Speed, Security & Mobile Use
Your site speed, security, and mobile friendliness are all ranking factors.
If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, many people may return to a competitor that provides a speedier experience.
Now, having said that, it’s important to mention that slow sites can rank highly for certain queries. Google doesn’t penalize an otherwise perfect site just because it’s a bit slower.
But optimizing your speed certainly can’t hurt the overall user experience.
At most, your website should take about two seconds to load, but you should ideally aim for under half a second.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is a great place to check your current site speed. It also provides insight into potential fixes to help improve your speed score.
Another important SEO factor is your website’s security. An SSL certificate helps encrypt your website, ensuring its and your visitors’ data is protected from hackers.
If your healthcare company’s site doesn’t utilize SSL security, Google will penalize your rankings. This certificate is a must when accepting sensitive patient information, so there’s no excuse for a website not to have it implemented.
Most importantly, your website should be mobile-friendly.
Most searches are now conducted on mobile devices, and if your website is not optimized for them, users will choose your competitor’s websites instead.
The best way to ensure your site is optimized for mobile is by having a responsive design.
This means that your site changes automatically to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, reducing the risk of poor user experiences from device to device.
5. Offsite Factors
Offsite indicators (e.g., links to your site and social media traffic) are just two areas that can help influence your search rankings.
Social media, while not a direct ranking factor, should be one of your main priorities regarding offsite SEO.
The content found on a social media page can significantly influence a patient’s choice of hospital or treatment center.
Many users also take social media reviews into account before scheduling an appointment.
You want to ensure your social profile is up to date and relevant to your business so users can find and interact with you in various ways.
As for links, you also want to make sure that spammy links aren’t potentially hurting your SEO performance.
Use your favorite link-building tool to check your existing link profile and analyze the links that pop up.
Are they all from quality, relevant sources? Or do many of them appear to be spam?
Disavow any unwanted links to help clean up your link profile and improve your rank. (Just read this first.)
6. Local SEO
You also need to keep your Google Business Profile optimized and up to date.
Patients want local services, and for them to find you, your business needs to show up in Google’s local pack.
This grouping of four to five businesses appears above organic search results.
On mobile, they’re the only thing people see before scrolling.
The information contained in these listings comes primarily from your GBP, so you should ensure the following information is accurate and available:
- The business categories.
- Your primary phone number.
- The business description.
- Your hours of operation (and any seasonal hours).
- Your address or service area.
- Google reviews of your business.
Another critical factor for local SEO is local citations.
These are online mentions of your business that display your essential NAP (name, address, phone) information.
Local citations can be from business directories, social profiles, blog posts, newspaper websites, and other sources.
These all help your SEO efforts.
As I said at the beginning, optimizing your medical practice website for search isn’t that different from doing it for any other type of site.
But getting those prospective patients to trust you over someone else will come down to the authority and trustworthiness of your website, so that’s where E-A-T comes in around your YMYL content.
If you keep the above tips in mind as you go, you will be on the right path. I’m not saying it will be easy, but this is truly the way forward.
Featured Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
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