Jun 22 2012

Search Engine Optimization for Healthcare Practices & Medical Offices

AnnexCore

The Internet has provided a new arena in which healthcare professionals market their services. A website optimized for search engines and keywords relating to a medical practice can provide great benefits without spending loads of money. Sometimes it’s hard to believe these claims, which why we strongly recommend you measure your Return on Investment (ROI) on all marketing campaigns and see which were more effective. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has shown that internet marketing channels generally has higher ROI over traditional methods such as newspaper, yellow-pages, telemarketing, and direct mail.

First let’s talk about the website!

Important Pages

The bare minimum should be “About Us” page and another page with contact information. Then pages that display the practices specialties, and types of treatments provided. This serves as a dual-benefit: you clients get to know what you do, and you get to target a larger range of keywords to reach a larger audience. Potential patients will find the doctors they need without wasting too much time searching around. An optional segment could be a resources page which help people learn more like Kaiser Permanete’s Health & Wellness segment, but we’ll cover more on this below under the content segment.

Sites for Mobile Users

As more people continue to purchase phones that are capable of browsing the web, you have to start creating mobile-version of your site. Sometimes this is easy if your website is built on existing Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress which allow you to use plugins like WPtouch. It may seem like people may not look for their doctors or dentist on their phones, but you would be surprised as people may have a spare 5-10 minutes to do some quick research on where to make their next appointment at through their phone. We ask our clients to ask their customers how they found them, and searching Google on their phone has shown up quite a bit.

The Header & Footer of the Page

Placing the name and address of the practice in the header & footer can help search engines to decide how relevant your content is, and is therefore a good idea. In addition, it’ll improve the usability of your website, allowing users to contact you quicker!

Now to the SEO portion!

Researching Keywords

After properly structuring the organization of your site, next step is researching keywords. It’ll require you to pay attention to both the volume of searches, and level of competition each keyword has. Targeting long-tail keywords maybe a better starting strategy, as you’ll reach the top quicker and without as much difficulty. The best bet is a lower-competition keyword, one that has fewer than 100,000 competing results but that gets searched upwards of 200 times a month.

Google Adwords Keyword Tool is a great research tool. It is important to select “local searches” as opposed to “global searches” to find out how many people in US are using that search term. Enter the search term into the search box with quotes. A search term with a fewer competing results is a good one to target, even if it only has a couple hundred searches per month. The goal is to have a set of keywords for each page, each of which relates to the subject of that page.

Optimizing a Page

Once you have your list of keywords down, you will want to turn your attention to optimizing your pages. Here’s a small list of items you can optimize.

  • The Title Tag
    Each page on your site needs to have a title tag of its own, one that includes the chosen keyword for that page. It is also a good idea to include the name of the practice. This is what the customers will see first, as it is what a search engine will use to create its results; it should be created with this fact in mind. Keep in mind that 55 characters is the limit for these, any more and they will not show up properly in search engine results.
  • The Meta Description
    This is still important, even when it has no impact on your site’s ranking. The meta data description can help potential visitors to understand what your site is about when they see it in search engine results. Just like with PPC ads, the statement of the site’s purpose should be easy to understand and the searcher should feel compelled to act.

These descriptions will need to have fewer than 165 characters to show up properly in search results.

Content – The King

Let’s get this clear … Don’t write content solely to boost a site’s ranking in the search engine results, it always looks like spam and will lose you customers more than win them. You need to ensure that your content is written so that people will want to read it. Focusing on writing quality content on a particular subject will usually provide lots of opportunities to use the keyword, so stuffing them in is unnecessary.

Technical SEO

Consider the fact that some visitors may browse the site via slow connections; for example, many may browse using mobile devices on a 3G connection. You will want your site to load as quickly as possible no matter what type of connection speed is used. Google’s Webmaster Tools Site Speed Tool can help you troubleshoot issues with your site’s performance in this respect, and provide you with tips on what can be done to make it faster.

Setting Up Search Engine Profiles

A medical or dental practice needs to rank well in Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Scoot and Smiley Local. Those are sites that can send traffic to your page. You will need to set up profiles with these services in order to do this. The most important of these services is Google, and you can set your Google Place profile up at: www.google.com/places. Once you get this done you should also verify your business with them so that they know that the healthcare practice is real.

Building Links

Getting backlinks is essential to building search engine rank. One benefit of the healthcare industry is that it provides many ways for a doctor’s practice to get links back to its website. For example: healthcare-related websites that feature profiles may be used. The websites of local business groups are also useful for this purpose. Vendors may also be willing to link to you, as may any organization which has given you an award. The ways are countless, and if you’re lost you can always hire us for SEO or Social Media Management.

Social Networking

Word of mouth has always been the most important marketing tool for any kind of business. These days, word of mouth happens through Facebook and Twitter. Utilize your social network profiles to form relationships with patients who can then recommend the practice to others quickly.

The Final Part – Measuring

Track Conversions

You will need a way to monitor the results of your efforts. Among the things you should be watching are the visits (Google Analytics is helpful for this, and free) and the responses sent via the site’s contact forms.

Tracking Phone Calls

An addition to inquiries directly from the website, you will also want to know how many people are inquiring via phone. This can be a bit more difficult, but it is possible to implement call tracking through services like RingCentral The service is available from various companies which will usually charge a monthly fee and a small one per call. This may seem to be an expense that is not necessary, but it can provide you with lots of information on how well your investment is paying off.

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