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Marketing healthcare services and products in the ever-evolving environment of patient data protection regulations requires healthcare SEO strategies that optimize keyword use and content creation without violating patient confidentiality. Although healthcare marketers may have to be a little more careful than their ‘unregulated’ peers when it comes to building SEO strategies and creating web content, they can focus on patient-centric approaches to providing answers and solutions when people are searching.

Survival in the competitive healthcare space entails adopting marketing practices that provide relevancy and authority to keep current patients engaged, attract new ones, spread brand awareness and credibility across local communities, and be recognized as a trustworthy source of care and treatment.

What is Healthcare Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Healthcare SEO is an effective tool that hospitals, clinics, healthcare providers, pharmaceutical firms, medical device manufacturers, health plans, and consumer brands use to achieve high rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) and drive traffic to their websites. Healthcare SEO strategies include keyword research, content optimization, both internal and external link building, local SEO, and other proven traditional SEO practices.

A well-planned SEO strategy ensures high organic search rankings when people are looking for relevant medical information and medical services, and, increasingly, the internet is the first place they look for answers. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics, more than half of adults used the internet to look for health or medical information during July to December 2022, with higher prevalence among women than men.

Three Types of Healthcare SEO      

While many forms of healthcare SEO practices exist, they generally tend to fall into one of three categories that are equally important for increasing a website’s visibility and attracting visitors:

  • On-Page SEO concerns the items that appear on the website, such as short and long-tail keywords, images optimized with alt tags, and internal links to other web pages on the site.
  • Off-Page SEO involves improving page relevance with content that does not appear on the site, but that increases domain authority with backlinks to reputable sites, influencer mentions, and guest blogging on other sites.
  • Technical SEO represents all the inner workings of a website that occur out of sight but play a vital role when optimized to align with search engine guidelines. This form of SEO uses title tags, meta descriptions and headers and influences crawling, indexing, user-friendliness, and site speed.

Why is Healthcare SEO Important?

In an increasingly digital world, healthcare websites are where hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare professionals connect with patients and visitors. A sound SEO strategy and well-optimized website helps people discover and explore health services, ask questions and schedule appointments, and identify nearby hospitals and offices. It’s where these organizations can build trust and provide patients with information to make informed decisions along any stage of their healthcare journey. According to Press Ganey, 56% of patients will consult 3 different online sources when researching a doctor and Pew Research found that 66% of internet users have looked online for information about a specific disease or medical problem.

Here are five advantages to be enjoyed with an effective healthcare SEO strategy.

  1. Improved Patient Engagement and Education. Healthcare websites can be wonderful sources for reliable medical information that empowers patients to make educated choices and take a larger role in their healthcare treatment. A user-friendly site also increases the time staff can spend attending to patient care rather than handling calls for appointments or giving directions.
  2. More Patients and Customers. Healthcare providers that enjoy high search rankings attract the attention of people investigating medical services and expand outreach to a potential patients who want validation for healthcare choices. Local SEO practices are especially useful to target new audiences and establish local community credentials for local practitioners.
  3. Gain a Competitive Edge. Prominent rankings on search engines enhance perceptions of authority and relevancy for hospitals and healthcare providers in the minds of people searching the internet for solutions and increases the attention websites get. Outranking the competition confers credibility and superiority.
  4. Cost-Effective Marketing. A well-optimized website is an important tool in a healthcare marketers’ arsenal. With a firm grasp and understanding of the needs and intentions behind a patient’s search, SEO strategies can expertly target individuals seeking answers and create websites that increase conversion rates and deliver a high return on investment (ROI).
  5. Mobile-Friendly Accessibility. Creating a website that responds to the way people search for information on mobile devices improves search rankings and allows healthcare providers to increase online exposure. As more people look for information on smart phones and Google gives mobile-friendly websites greater visibility on SERPs, a website that is accessible on every type of screen and even optimized for voice search is a necessity.  

Important Steps for Effective Healthcare SEO

  • Set Goals and Perform Healthcare SEO Needs Assessment – First step for developing a healthcare SEO strategy is determining what your SEO should accomplish. Is the goal to rank first for all branded keywords? Is increased website or single page traffic important? Are your looking to collect email addresses for newsletters or subscriptions? Are you after new patients or looking to retain the ones you have? The clearer the goal, the more targeted the SEO strategy becomes. Also take a look at your website’s current performance and identify keyword gaps and pages that are not linked to any other page of your site (orphan pages) that influence the user’s website experience.
  • Set Up Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Tag Manager – Use these tools to gain valuable data for tracking performance metrics and enhance your understanding of what is working and where improvements are needed. They enable your business or organization to create precision SEO strategies that drive high placement on SERPs. Google Analytics offers in-depth insights into website visitor behavior in order to improve the impact of focused content and the user experience. The Google Search Console provides valuable information about the keywords most frequently used by the audience you want to attract and Google Tag Manager makes it easier to manage and deploy tracking tags for conversion tracking, site analytics, and more.
  • Make Site Secure – To protect against possible patient health information breaches and safeguard sensitive medical information, it’s vital that you prioritize website security. Secure your site with HTTPS by purchasing a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate so that patients can only access personal information online through a patient portal. Secure websites also factor into Google search engine algorithms and can result in higher rankings.
  • Understand Your Primary Persona – Understanding your audience is vital for developing an SEO strategy that delivers value and gives your patient exactly the information they are looking for. You should delve into what is important to them and what are the pain points your website can alleviate. For healthcare organizations, it’s also important to know where their audience is along their information gathering journey. Looking at the qualities of existing patients and customers can help you project the characteristics you want in new ones.
  • Pinpoint Intent – Determining search intent is very important because it takes your understanding of your primary persona to another level by predicting why a person requires your medical services or information. There are four types of intent to consider:
    • Information intent aligns with the seeking out and gathering of knowledge to address a problem or assess qualifications. The best practice to satisfy information intent is through the creation of blogs, articles, and publications that spur high search rankings.
    • Navigational Intent occurs when patients know the webpage they want but not the web address. Strategic application of metatags and URLs and clean site architecture lead to better search ranking results.
    • Transactional Intent is when users have come to a decision and want to make a purchase, set an appointment, or carry out a specific action. Compelling SEO optimized product and service pages provide the sought after content in this instance.
    • Commercial Investigation Intent happens when patients and customers essentially kick the tires and research future purchases and treatment options, looking to find the best fit to meet their needs. Patient reviews, success stories, and physician qualifications make great content to increase rankings.
    • Resource Intent refers to the search for specific information found in medical reports, clinical trial databases, and medical libraries. Peer-reviewed articles and white papers make great content sources that establish authority and relevancy, and generate resource keywords that search engines find attractive.
  • Perform Targeted Keyword Research – The foundation of every healthcare SEO strategy starts with intensive keyword research to unearth the specific terms that people use when searching the internet for information on medical providers and services. The closer you can match keywords to topics of interest to the people you want to attract, the more relevant and valuable your content will be. You can perform a keyword gap analysis to compare your site to your competitors to find high ranking keywords they use for search terms.
  • Create High Quality Content – Consistently creating insightful and highly researched content helps healthcare providers carve out a special place within their medical fields and gives patients material they will find relevant to their query. Posting blogs, sharing articles, and producing educational resources on a constant basis on your website gives search engines fuel that propels websites to high search rankings. Content should seamlessly incorporate short and long-tail keywords on topics that establish experience, authority, and trustworthiness.
  • Optimize On-Page SEO – Give search engines relevant keywords blended into compelling content and add elements such meta tags, headings, and URL to help them understand the relevance and importance of the information on a webpage. Use Alt tags to describe pictures and graphics, use H1 through H6 tags to show page hierarchy, and include keywords in metatags and header tags.
  • Build Backlink Quality - Reach out to reputable and respected sources in the healthcare community to develop a rich, impressive backlink profile. Pursue collaborations with experts, explore guest blogging posts and actively participate in medical forums on other established websites. Your association with these sites through backlinks lends your site a level of authority and credibility. You can perform backlink analytics to look at backlinks on competitor webpages and backlink gaps to see which respected websites link to your competitors but not you. You can also establish authority providing quotes to news outlets through Help A Reporter Out (HARO) found at helpareporter.com.
  • Amplify Local SEO – If you’re looking to draw patients and customers from a local community, local SEO is a must to increase visibility with local search results. Local search results that provide name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and maps and directions provide valuable information to grow your business in your local market. Local SEO strategy integrates location-specific keywords and listings likes Google My Business or Bing Places and can be automatically updated with store openings and holiday hours with a business listing management service.
  • Deploy Mobile-Friendly Design – This was mentioned before, but the importance of having a mobile-friendly website cannot be overemphasized. Each year more people are using their smart phones to research healthcare providers and seek answers to medical questions. The user experience must  be seamless regardless of device or screen size. The weight Google places on mobile-friendly websites in their algorithms makes it imperative to align the website with user search and research preferences.
  • Emphasize User Site Experience – A frustrated website visitor is a lost opportunity to establish a connection with potential patients and customers. Building a website with user-centric, easy to use site architecture, emphasizing site speed and crawling efficiencies, and making mobile capability a priority elevates the site’s visibility within search engines and addresses the key areas of usability, accessibility, and readability. Find a trusted web developer or work with a healthcare SEO marketing agency to guide you and provide support to optimize your site architecture.
  • Add Schema Markup – Schema markup helps search engines gain greater comprehension of website page content context. It is the syntax that can be added to a webpage’s theme or topic that reveals more details to encourage audiences to click on your search listing. Schema markup can exhibit valuable information like patient ratings, medical specialties, and medical conditions in the search result to give more information and increase visibility. Schema.org is a website that can offer a list of suggestions for adding effective schema markup to improve results.
  • Track and Monitor Results – It’s impossible to understand if your healthcare SEO strategy is working without using tools to measure and analyze results. Google Analytics can help you monitor site visits and provide visitor engagement overviews and Google Search Console shows you what terms people are using in their searches and should be tested for keyword effectiveness. These tools give you valuable information to improve keyword rankings and lead to higher search rankings.

SEO strategies in the heavily regulated healthcare industry must take into account the restrictions healthcare organizations and businesses face when marketing services and products on their websites. While the foundation of effective search engine results relies on a deep knowledge and understanding of the keywords used and intentions behind them in search queries by patients, search engines also favor healthcare websites that offer compelling, useful content on websites optimized to enhance patient and visitor experiences.

Posted in Healthcare | Posted on 02/06/2024