The days of looking you up in the Yellow Pages are long gone. Today people search online for both healthcare topics (80%) and medical practices (36%).
And all-important word-of-mouth has gone virtual too, with 92% checking online reviews for local businesses.
Bottom line: if people can’t find you and check reviews about you online, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of your customer base.
And for that you need a solid SEO strategy.
In this article you’ll learn:
- the basics of SEO for your practice
- what Local Pack and NAPs are and why they’re key
- why Google wants you to start a blog, and how to do it
Let’s get started.
Optimizing your site correctly provides a huge boost to your SEO.
Of course you need to cover all the on-page basics, including optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions.
This may sound obvious, but did you know that 25% of all small business websites are missing an H1 tag?
Even doing this will start to set you ahead of the crowd.
Nowadays medical practices need to be not just mobile-friendly, but mobile-first.
77% have used their smartphones to find local health services in the past six months, and “near me” searches for health-related services have doubled since 2015.
Yet so many web designs are desktop-first, and then quickly modified to fit for mobile as an afterthought.
You need to make sure your mobile is just as sleek as your desktop, and ultra-easy to navigate.
Google have admitted that site speed is a key ranking factor.
The general consensus is you should aim for a loading speed of 2.5 seconds or less…..but the average is actually 8 or more.
Think of this as another easy SEO fix to outrank alot of sluggish competitors.
You can test site speed by typing your domain into Google’s free Test My Site for mobile and PageSpeed Insights for desktop and mobile.
Image Source: Google’s Test My Site
They also identify suggestions for improvement:
Image Source: Google’s PageSpeed Insights
Ways to increase site speed include optimizing images, using browser cache, minimizing your html and CSS, and investing in premium hosting or a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
Medical keyword research
For medical practices, keyword research for your main pages is fairly straightforward, and is based around targeting locally.
Say you’re a dentist, you’re going to want to target ‘dentist + city’, ‘dentist + local area’, as well as ‘dentist near me’ and ‘dentist’.
Treatment-specific keywords are obviously also essential, such as ‘root canal’, ‘toothache’, ‘teeth whitening’, ‘teeth cleaning’ etc.
Likewise, medical preferences such as “urgent care”, “emergency appointments”, “open weekends,” and “online appointments”.
You get the idea.
You can also create different pages targeting different areas, as long as you avoid duplicate content.
For example, one page targeting ‘dentist Austin’ and another targeting ‘dentist Round Rock’.
Bear in mind that voice search is on the increase, now at a surprising 20% of all google searches.
People talk more naturally than they type, so expect more long-tail keywords such as ‘dentist near me that’s open now’.
Getting a head-start on this is a very clever SEO tactic.
Use of medical keywords
Keyword stuffing will penalize your site thanks to Google’s Hummingbird and Rankbrain updates.
Instead, LSI keywords are the name of the game. Sprinkle your keyword around sparingly and use LSI keywords as well.
LSI keywords are closely related terms to your keyword. Basically, terms that allow Google to figure out the topic of your page/article.
Aside from good old common sense, here’s an easy way to find LSI keywords.
For example, let’s say your keyword is ‘arthritis’.
Google ‘arthritis’ and scroll down the bottom of the page.
You’ll see a list of common searches related to arthritis, and the terms in bold often make great LSI keywords.
For brick-and-mortar services like yourself, the Local Pack (or Map Pack) is king.
What is it?
You’ve all seen and used it before.
It’s simply when Google includes a map showing all local services, and highlights three in particular.
For example, if a person googles “chiropractor Chicago”, this is what they see:
Even if you search for just ‘chiropractor’, you’ll likely get a Local Pack result based on your current location.
But the amazing thing is these appear above the normal search results.
Like I said, king.
How do you get in on this action? It’s called a Google My Business listing, it’s free, and you can ‘claim’ it here.
The million dollar question, of course, is how to appear in the top three?
Well, make your listing as accurate, comprehensive and detailed as humanly possible.
Aside from the obvious details like name, address, opening hours, etc, you can also:
- Add photos of both the inside and outside, and encourage visitors to take their own where appropriate
- Answer questions that people ask
- Add posts, such as company updates, or special offers on treatments
- Schedule appointments directly through your listing, if this is appropriate for your practice.
However, you might be surprised to know the quality of your Google My Business profile isn’t the only factor for appearing in the top three.
Infact, it’s only 25%.
Other major factors are your links, reviews and on-page SEO.
Image Source: Moz
As usual with SEO, it’s all related.
And how do you even know if you’re appearing in the top three? This is complicated, as Local Pack results vary depending on where exactly the searcher is standing.
Therefore, tools such as Local Viking are needed to track all your rankings. Rankings of 3 or above indicate a Local Pack listing.
Image Source: Local Viking
As you can see, you’re more likely to be in the top three where the user is closer to your actual building, which makes sense.
NAPs is another technical-sounding name, but don’t be fooled; it’s really a fancy way of talking about your name, address and phone number.
NAPs stands for name, address and phone number, and NAPs citations are places where your name, address and phone number are all listed out.
Mostly these are directories, along with anywhere else your NAPs might be like your Google My Business profile, and things like social media listings.
NAPs are a key ranking factor for medical practices, since Google uses NAPs to confirm that you’re a legit practice .
So the more NAPs you have on different websites, the higher you rank.
Directories also provide backlinks, and often outrank your website. For example, Yelp appears in the top 5 a staggering 92% of the time for a ‘business + city’ search.
With that in mind, there’s a basic list of medical directories in the US to use as a starting point. Local directories are another huge source that you should take full advantage of.
There’s one huge caveat, though: all your details must all be completely identical across all directories, otherwise Google will penalize you.
This is crucial, and includes your NAPs on Google My Business.
For example, your name must be exactly the same with no different initials.
Your address must be the same with no difference in order or abbreviations (e.g. Street versus St).
If you have some different or out-of-date info (say you change your opening hours slightly), this is a huge red flag for Google.
Sound daunting? Fortunately, there’s great tools like Yext to check and fix all your NAPs for inconsistencies.
Image Source: Yext
92% of consumers (so basically everyone) now reads online reviews when looking for a local business.
So if you don’t have any, or the ones you have are bad, you’re pretty much out of the game. Because even if customers find you, they won’t pick you.
Remember the stars included in your Local Pack? Those are Google reviews.
Since Google decides your ranking, and they appear in the Local Pack, these are the reviews to focus on.
Yet so many businesses seem to forget about them, leading to an accidental terrible reputation like the first one here:
Luckily, you can generate a google review link, which you can easily send to happy customers and ask for a review.
You can also reply to your reviews publicly, which it helps to do, good or bad. A well-worded response can help neutralise a bad review.
Other review sites are also important: Yelp, Facebook, Zocdoc, etc.
Image Source: Yelp
The more reviews you have across more sites, the better your ranking signal.
On the flip side, however, bad reviews can really hurt, so watch out.
Directories are going to be your initial main source of backlinks, since there are so many out there.
The main way you can achieve further backlinks is via a blog (more on that in a minute), especially when articles are shared to social media and/or an email list.
Press releases and sponsorships are another great source of backlinks.
Local news sites are in constant need of stories, and local events and companies are always in need of sponsors.
Social media is also a ranking signal in itself, as it signals to Google that your website has authority and trust. So be sure to have decent social media profiles and build up a nice little following/engagement, particularly ones where you can get reviews as well, such as Facebook.
Quality medical content
Publishing high-quality medical content is a guaranteed way to stand out, as most medical practices don’t have blogs.
And don’t be intimidated by all those well-marketed health and wellness blogs; Google have made it clear they would rather hear from you, the real experts.
Infact, the Medic Update of 2018 penalized many health blogs for a lack of Expertise, Authority, and Trust (E-A-T). Which you, as an actual medical practitioner, have an abundance of.
Content should be high-quality and aimed at answering queries your would-be patients are likely to have.
For example, an orthopedic hospital might handle topics like hip replacements, shoulder and elbow overuse injuries, and arthritis.
A dentist will handle topics like root canals and tooth sensitivity.
Image Source: Adam Harwood Endodontics
However, it’s best if expert keyword research is applied to identify suitable keywords with appropriate keyword difficulties, monthly search volume, etc. The best keyword research tools normally come with a hefty price tag, for example Ahrefs.
How to optimize an article for SEO
Along with the usual use of keywords in title tags and LSI keywords, blog articles should also be long. Long-content ranks better than short content, and the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
Obviously the title tag needs the keyword, but it also needs to make a great headline to increase CTR (clickthrough rate). There’s a zillion ways to do this.
However, here’s a couple of dead-simple tips.
Say you wanted to write an article on ‘How to improve your gut health’.
- include numbers e.g. ‘9 science-backed ways to improve your gut health’
- Add something in brackets at the end e.g. How to improve your gut health (diet plan)/(infographic)/(video)/(interview)/(slideshow)/(updated)
For example, ‘How to improve your gut health’ is converted to ‘9 science-backed ways to improve your gut health (that actually work)’.
Which headline would you click on?
Hopefully the latter!
Helpful images, infographics, videos, animated gifs and interactive content all make for higher-ranking blog posts.
They lead to longer time spent on the page, are more shareable and linkable, and are themselves used as a sign of high-quality by Google.
For example, including high-quality images can help you land a Featured Snippet, as in the case of this dentist.
And interactive content is the icing on the cake.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Like this ‘Pain Quiz’ created by Chicago Chiropractic:
Image Source: Chicago Chiropractic
This type of interactive content is extremely rare on medical websites. Therefore, competition is ultra-low and it’s a very effective technique for ranking higher.
Local Packs, NAPs and reviews are major factors for getting your medical practice seen online.
Keyword research for your main pages should focus around local searches, whilst a blog will further boost your backlinks and domain authority.
If you’re serious about taking your SEO to the next level, here at Ranq we offer a boutique service, delivering a completely customized SEO solution from experts with years of experience. Call us today to discuss your SEO needs and find out how we can help.