To many marketers, SEO is a scary monster under the bed. It keeps us up at night, wondering if we’re doing enough … or if we’re doing it right … or if we’ll ever see the fruits of our labor on the Google search results pages.
But one thing we know without a doubt? Why SEO is important in healthcare. An optimized website brings in more leads. More leads can mean more patients, customers or sales.
At Aha Media Group, we help healthcare organizations make sense of SEO and its multidimensional nature. Let’s explore the 4 types of SEO — on-page, off-page, technical and local — and what they look like in the healthcare industry.
1. On-Page SEO for healthcare
On-page SEO refers to elements your site visitors can see. It’s called “on-page” — or “on-site” — because it involves the content that lives on your website. Elements of on-page SEO include:
- Body text
How can you optimize your website’s on-page SEO? By sharing high-quality content your audience is looking for and using keywords that help them find it. Here are some more specific tips:
Research healthcare SEO keywords
It’s time to spy on your competitors. What keywords are they targeting on each page? Where are they ranking in search results?
Pay attention to potential keywords you could use on your site. Then use free keyword research tools to find more keywords and related terms your audience is searching for:
Related: How to choose keywords for SEO
Incorporate keywords into your content
Healthcare SEO experts recommend targeting one primary keyword per page plus some closely related terms (secondary keywords). For example, if you’re targeting “pediatric dentist,” you could also target “children’s dentist,” “pediatric dentistry” and “dentist for children.”
Sprinkle these keywords and phrases naturally into your content, including them in:
- Meta title
- Meta description
- Image alt text
Find more tips on how and where to use keywords in our Healthcare SEO Cheatsheet.
Publish high-quality healthcare content
This is a given, of course. Content that’s surface-level, inaccurate or simply a regurgitation of what already exists online isn’t helpful to readers — and won’t keep them on your site very long. In fact, derivative or plagiarized copy will land you in the hot seat (and bottom of the SERPs) with Google. But how can you ensure your content is high quality?
Focus on answering a searcher’s query in the best way possible. Publish accurate, original content that’s easy to read or skim for an answer. Make it:
- Expert: Incorporate subject matter expertise from your physicians or researchers.
- Current: Update your content when healthcare practices change.
- Eye-catching: Use relevant headings and subheadings to help readers skim the information.
Ultimately, high-quality content is written for people, not search engines.
Use internal links to relevant pages
- Help Google’s crawlers understand how the pages on your website connect.
- Introduce readers to more content on your site that might help answer their questions.
Pro tip: Google’s bots analyze your anchor text to better understand what a page is about. Use relevant anchor text for the page you’re hyperlinking. For example, let’s say you’re linking to your Team page. Use anchor text like “medical care team,” not generic phrases like “learn more” or “click here.”
2. Off-Page SEO for healthcare
If on-page SEO involves on-page elements, it’s only natural that off-page SEO involves off-page elements. If you’re thinking, “that’s surprisingly straightforward for the marketing industry,” it’s true! It’s not every day that we’re blessed with terms that make sense. (But we’ll take it!)
Off-page SEO — or off-site SEO — includes elements outside of your website that help you rank. The major elements are backlinks and reviews mentioning your website. Both of these give your site an authority boost and show Google you’re a credible source.
Ask patients and former customers for reviews on third-party sites like Google or Yelp. The more your organization is mentioned positively, the more trust you’ll build with prospects (and Google).
Pro tip: You can ask for reviews but never offer an incentive. Offering any kind of prize for reviewing goes against Google’s and Yelp’s policies and can get your review (or your account) removed.
Build a backlink strategy
When another website links to a page on yours, it’s called a backlink. Backlinks are important to your healthcare SEO strategy because they build your site’s authority. If other credible sites link to your site as a reliable source, Google is more likely to recommend your content to its users.
How to start building your backlink strategy:
- Press releases: Reach out to health publications and local websites to write a press release about exciting news at your organization. A press release could highlight a recent award or your new location. The publication will often link back to your website.
- Articles featuring a provider: Get one of your physicians or subject matter experts featured in an article. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a website where journalists request quotes or information from an expert, often in exchange for a backlink.
- Guest blog: Publish a guest blog on another organization’s site on behalf of your practice. Many health blogs accept guest posts and allow you to link to your website in the post. To find a website that allows this, search “submit a guest post + [your niche]” on Google.
- Competitor research: Look for other backlink opportunities by performing competitor research. Use free tools like Moz’s Link Explorer to find out which sites or blogs are linking to your competitors. These websites may be willing to link to your organization’s site, too.
Use social media
Think of social media as an extension of your website. When someone searches your brand on Google, your social accounts can rank right below — or even above — your site. Sharing your website’s URL on your brand’s Instagram, LinkedIn or other social profiles will help you drive more traffic to your website.
You can also share links to new website content, like blog posts, on social media. While this won’t directly affect your website’s rankings, it can lead to people resharing your links and driving website traffic — which both indirectly help your SEO.
3. Technical SEO for healthcare
Technical SEO accounts for the optimization you do in the background. Some of it includes things visitors will notice, like site load time and mobile usability. Other elements of technical SEO go under a user’s radar but are important to search engines.
Many healthcare organizations hire an SEO team for this level of maintenance, but there are things you can do for your technical SEO without getting too far in the weeds.
Optimize your page speed
Waiting for a webpage to load can be frustrating for users. A long load time can lead to users bouncing off your site. Copy and paste your webpage URL into Google PageSpeed to check your load time and see specific recommendations.
Make your site mobile-friendly
Two-thirds of Google searches are done on a mobile device, so make sure your website is optimized for mobile users. Creating a mobile-friendly site requires a responsive design that makes your site easy to navigate, no matter the device. Read more about optimizing your website for mobile.
Ensure your pages are crawlable
Publishing a new page isn’t enough for it to show up in search results. It needs to be indexed by Google (and trust us, that doesn’t always happen automatically).
For your pages to be indexed, they need to be crawlable by Google’s bots. Create an account on Google Search Console to check which pages are indexed and work with an SEO team to solve crawling issues.
4. Local SEO for healthcare
Local SEO in healthcare is crucial for organizations with a brick-and-mortar location or a physical storefront. Optimizing your local SEO helps you rank for a keyword in a specific city or state.
Location-based keywords (like “walk-in clinics near me”) are common in healthcare because patients want care that’s convenient for them. When your location is registered with Google (and when you rank for local keywords), your practice can show up in these searches.
Optimize your Google Business Profile
Creating a Google Business Profile is necessary for your organization to show up on Google Maps — and to show up for “near me” searches. Follow Google’s guidelines and include this information to set up your Business Profile:
- Business name
- Business description
- Phone number
Target local keywords
Local keywords, or location-based keywords, are search terms that include a location, such as “cardiologist in El Paso, Texas.” You can target local keywords on the main pages of your website. Or, if you have multiple locations, you can create specific landing pages for each location.
SEO Cheatsheet for Healthcare Organizations
Looking for step-by-step instructions for optimizing your healthcare content? Find actionable steps, pro tips and healthcare-specific examples in our cheatsheet.