Before I spent my days doing keyword research and tangling with every search engine known to man, I was a famous doctor.
By “doctor,” I mean pretend veterinarian. And by “famous,” I mean I was popular among the stuffed animal population in my bedroom.
As you probably suspected, my interest eventually shifted to writing. By the time I outgrew the white doctor’s coat from an old Halloween costume, I was sure there would be no hint of health care in my career.
However, the truth is that patient care and copywriting do have something in common, and that’s search engine optimization (SEO). Let’s take a look at health care SEO and how it can help you change the world, one patient at a time.
What Makes Health Care SEO Unique?
Just about every industry in the world uses an SEO strategy of some kind. In many ways, search engine optimization is a language, and every business needs to speak it.
However, what works for one industry won’t necessarily work for another — and that’s especially true when it comes to health care.
Why? Well, health care can actually be broken down into multiple subsections, each with its own set of rules, needs and potential patient pools. A dentist’s SEO strategy needs to be different from a doctor’s, and an independent doctor can’t rely on the same digital marketing techniques that work for a hospital. If health care SEO is a language, it has a lot of different accents.
Despite all this complexity, you don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel when it comes to health care SEO. Let’s take a look at what it shares with other industries’ SEO approaches and how it differs:
No matter what business you’re in, the goals of SEO remain the same. Here are a few examples:
- Get noticed: To be successful, your company needs customers (or, in the case of health care, patients). That means the average person has to know that you exist. Luckily, SEO is a great way to get your business in front of the right people.
- Create value: SEO isn’t just about getting business. It’s also about creating value for your audience by providing content they’re searching for and answering their biggest questions.
- Rank on a search engine: Whether it’s Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other tool, the goal of SEO is to make sure your website ranks highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). More than half of searchers only click on the first, second or third result, which means falling too low on the SERP can get your health care business overlooked.
- Increase return on investment (ROI): While the ROI of an SEO strategy changes depending on how it’s structured, it’s still one of the more cost-efficient digital marketing techniques. That’s because SEO brings customers to you instead of the other way around.
Other similarities include things like best practices, keyword research, local SEO and more.
While health care SEO might look like any other SEO strategy at first glance, it has some unique considerations:
Although patients are technically customers, they also have different habits than your average consumer. For example, a customer can buy from any company they prefer, while a potential patient in the U.S. may have to make sure you’re within their insurance network before reaching out. That means patients do their research in ways other customers don’t, which impacts search techniques and SEO.
When patients search for health care providers, they may have a pressing need — like a serious toothache or a high fever. Any health care marketing strategy should take this into account by leveraging SEO to make quick, simple connections during difficult times.
While certainly not a bad thing for your business, referrals do add extra considerations to your digital marketing strategy. After all, a patient who was referred to your organization is likely to have a unique set of questions, while a patient doing their own research will be starting from scratch. That means your SEO strategy needs to cater to referred and non-referred patients in different ways.
5 Health SEO Strategies for Your Team
Digital marketing, especially health care marketing, is like a conversation: The more voices are involved, the more it grows and evolves. As a result, there’s always something new to learn about SEO — and plenty of ways to adapt existing strategies to your unique needs, too.
Let’s take a look at a few health care SEO strategies to see how your own approach should come together:
1. Get Smart About On-Page SEO
“On-page SEO” is an umbrella term for little details on a web page working together to create a big impact, and both search engines and website visitors will appreciate the effort. Here are a few examples:
- Title tags: These short descriptions act as the title of your page when it shows up in search engine results. Google and other search engines read title tags to find out what topic you’re discussing so it can provide accurate recommendations to searchers.
- Meta descriptions: Search engines don’t read meta descriptions, but these 155-character introductions can have an indirect impact on SEO. Meta descriptions help readers quickly identify whether your site is what they’re looking for, so a good description might make them more likely to click.
- Headings: Headings tell readers what’s most important in a piece of content, and they do the same for a search engine. That’s why it’s important to optimize headings on landing pages, blogs and other web pages.
- Links: Internal links are links between pages on your own site, while external links direct readers to your domain from somewhere else. You’ll need plenty of both if you want to get a search engine’s attention.
- Bold and italic text: Like headings, bold and italic text are indicators of important information, topics or facts. Using these tools helps the search engine understand the main point of your content.
2. Do Constant Keyword Research
Things move fast in the health care industry. That means a potential patient may change their search habits from one day to the next, and it’s your job to keep up.
For example, not that long ago, health care marketing was based around familiar search terms:
- “Dentist near me”
- “Best chiropractors in Portland”
- “Treatment for stomach flu”
- “What to expect after heart surgery”
But everything changed when COVID-19 attacked. Health care organizations faced an entirely new set of questions and queries, including:
- “COVID symptoms”
- “COVID treatment”
- “Where to get a COVID test”
- “Which COVID vaccine is best”
Long story short, it’s important to do keyword research regularly. You need to know what potential patients are asking, thinking about and researching so you can be the first to provide relevant answers. There are plenty of tools like SEMrush or Moz to help you out, but using the “related searches” section on your own search engine is a great place to start.
3. Try Your Hand at Content Marketing
In my completely unbiased opinion, content marketing is the single most important part of any SEO strategy ever.
OK, so maybe that’s an exaggeration — but not by much. After all, content marketing is where you’ll get to put all those keywords to use. It’s also how you tell search engines who you are and what you do. Perhaps most importantly, it’s your way of offering information to website visitors and keep them coming back for more, which limits the chance of them choosing the competition when it’s time to visit a health care provider.
Content marketing for health care SEO comes in many forms, including:
- Blogs: Blog posts can talk about your services, answer common questions or even address popular health care topics (like how much water you need to drink in a day or what kind of exercise is best for bad joints).
- Infographics: Eye-catching and easily digestible, infographics give you an opportunity to creatively share information. They can be built into blog posts or have their own landing pages for SEO.
- Videos: Video titles and descriptions are among a search engine’s favorite snacks. Plus, videos help engage your audience and show them how things work in your organization.
- Social media posts: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even TikTok are great ways to interact with your audience. Social media makes health care more accessible — and it’s helpful for your SEO strategy, too.
4. Leverage Local SEO
Local SEO is your answer to all those search queries that include “near me.” It’s also a great way to focus on patients in your community, helping you get attention from the right people.
The good news about local SEO is that it’s the same as your overall SEO strategy, but with a little local flavor. For example, instead of exclusively targeting keywords like “best hospital,” you would include phrases like “best hospital in Dallas” and “Dallas hospitals.” You should also update your Google My Business page with accurate hours, services and other details to help searchers and the search engine learn more about you.
5. Remember to Stay Creative
Remember when I said that SEO is one big conversation? Well, the problem is that it’s easy to get drowned out when there are so many people talking. To make sure your voice is heard, it’s important to stay on top of innovative digital marketing strategies and get creative with your techniques. Keep in mind that you have all kinds of tools at your disposal, from social media posts to industry events, and all can play a role in your health care marketing and SEO campaigns.
Partnering With a Health Care SEO Expert
If these ideas made you eager to get started on your health care SEO strategy, I’ve done my job. However, my work here wouldn’t be complete without one little disclaimer.
SEO is hard work.
Take it from a self-described SEO expert who wrangles search engines all day: This isn’t something you want to tackle alone. That’s because Google constantly updates its algorithms, as do other search engines — which means the entire SEO landscape could change before you’re even back from your lunch break. In fact, the whole process is demanding — and as a health care professional, you probably have enough on your plate as it is.
The good news is that health care SEO services help you handle all the digital marketing drama. With an SEO service, you can count on a team of professionals — including copywriters, SEO strategists, web designers and other experts — who work together to tackle the nitty-gritty of search engine optimization. That way, you can focus on providing empathetic, powerful service to your patients.
Think of it like this: You do the hard work, and your SEO service makes sure you do it right in the spotlight.
Change the World With Health Care SEO
I might not have changed the world when I put on a toy stethoscope and treated the stuffed animals I’d lined up at my bedroom door, but I did learn a lot about putting the patient first. Now that I’m a writer, I see just how powerful that approach really is — and how health care SEO can take it even further.
Health care marketing helps connect you to the right people. It gives you the reach and relationships you need to make a real difference in your community.
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