Search Engine Optimization is an essential marketing tool for physicians in private practice. Done right, healthcare SEO helps promote your services on search engines like Google so that you can get more traffic and more patients. If you want to grow your practice, here are 7 things you should know about healthcare SEO (including some you may not expect) to help you improve your online visibility.
1. Good SEO takes time
Every practice – and every practice website – is different. Regardless of how much content you have or how long you've been in business, it can still take time to get good search engine rankings. Depending on the state of your website and your content, it can take months before you start seeing significant traffic gains from your SEO efforts.
Regardless, it's well worth the time and patience to do SEO right. There are no shortcuts. Designing a comprehensive plan to improve your rankings – and then sticking to it – will help you build an online presence that will help your practice grow.
2. SEO requires investment
If you want better rankings, you need to be prepared to make a significant investment. Many physicians don't get serious about SEO because they aren't willing to invest the necessary time and money into doing it right. As a result, they give up too early and their strategy fails.
But this is not an option if you want your practice website to be successful on Google. In SEO, there are no shortcuts or "quick wins". Good SEO takes a methodical approach, and that means investing time and money into the process.
Healthcare SEO strategies that actually work often cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month. This may seem expensive, but consider the return on investment. Higher rankings could mean doubling your patient volume each month. Chances are that investment more than pays for itself.
3. SEO is not a "set it and forget it" strategy
There's no way around it: good SEO takes a lot of work. You can’t set it and forget it. You have to continually work on your healthcare SEO strategy and improve your content and website over time to maintain top rankings.
This is because Google's search algorithms change all the time. In an average year, Google makes thousands of small tweaks to its algorithm. If you let your site sit stagnant without making improvements, you'll fall behind in the rankings.
Not only that, but the healthcare industry is a competitive space. If your competitors are constantly iterating but you aren't? You'll likely fall behind.
If you want to rank well, you have to be engaged. You need to develop valuable content, monitor your rankings, and keep your site fast. When it comes to healthcare SEO, letting your website sit idle is a recipe for failure.
4. SEO shouldn't be your only marketing strategy
Relying on SEO as your only marketing strategy is a big mistake. Unfortunately, it's one we've seen doctors make far too often.
The main problem is that of opportunity cost: when doctors all their efforts on SEO, they lose out on other opportunities and "low hanging fruit". There may be other marketing strategies that can deliver patients faster, or at a lower cost.
It's also risky to put all your eggs in one basket. If SEO is your only marketing strategy, an algorithm update could lead to a big drop in patients. That's too big of a risk to take with your livelihood.
Instead, include channels such as social media and paid advertising so that if one channel goes to zero, you will have others to fall back on.
SEO can certainly help you build a strong healthcare brand, but alone, it's not enough. It shouldn't be your only marketing strategy.
5. Speed and mobile-friendliness really matter
If you want to rank high on Google, you have to focus on your website's speed and ease of use.
These days, patients expect websites that load quickly and give them the information they're looking for. As a result, healthcare websites must be fast and easy to navigate.
This is especially true on mobile devices. Patients are using their phones more than ever, so practices need to make sure their website works well on all devices.
In the world of SEO, speed is king. Google penalizes slow websites by pushing them lower on rankings pages. This often means fewer visitors and less revenue.
If your website is slow or hard to use on a phone, you're almost certainly missing out on patients – so if you want to do well, focus on patient experience and ease of use.
6. SEO is always changing
If there's one truism in the SEO world, it's that SEO is always changing.
Google makes thousands of tweaks and adjustments to its search algorithms every year. If you aren't on top of the latest developments, you will likely fall behind. And if you fall behind, your rankings will likely suffer as a result.
Search engine algorithms are constantly changing to account for what people want. Practices that don't update their website's content regularly may see lower rankings. Healthcare providers need to stay on top of SEO changes if they want an edge over their competitors.
7. Want to win at SEO? Listen to the data.
Too many healthcare providers who want to do SEO well forget one crucial thing: SEO is a data-driven game. They tend to focus too much on what they think patients are searching for instead of looking at the raw data.
It's true that you do need to make some educated guesses at first. But you should always check those hypotheses against the raw data to make sure they're on the right track. If your assumptions are incorrect, then you can change strategy accordingly.
Too many doctors make the mistake of thinking they know what patients are searching for without reviewing the data. Adjusting your strategy when you have accurate data is a lot easier and will lead to fewer mistakes along the way.
Building a strong healthcare SEO strategy isn't easy – it takes time, significant investment, and continual improvement to see your practice's rankings improve. In the end, though, the benefits of SEO outweigh the costs. SEO remains one of the most powerful strategies your practice can employ to attract more patients and grow revenue. Keep these 7 things in mind when you're doing SEO for your practice and you'll be well on your way to better rankings.