SEO — search engine optimization — is not optional for your practice website. Your current patients must be able to find your website easily to get information, request appointments, or reach your patient portal. New patients must be able to find information about you, the insurance you accept, and the services you offer. Other people in your community should get the chance to benefit from the information you provide, and to become familiar with you in case they need a new doctor in the future. So what’s involved in SEO for doctors?
What’s special about SEO for doctors?
There are best practices for SEO which are important for all websites, including doctors’ websites. But doctors’ websites face some special challenges and also have some special opportunities. Here’s what you need to know about SEO for your practice website.
- You need to do local SEO. Google ranks web pages on quality, no matter what. But when people search for a local business, Google shows them different results from the choices it gives people who are not looking for a local business. There are some specific local SEO best practices that you will need to be aware of when you build your website, beyond the general SEO best practices.
- The competitive landscape is extremely varied. Depending on your specialization and your community, you might be facing lots of aggressive online marketing… or most of your local competitors may not even have websites. The strategy for these two situations will not be the same, so it’s important to get a clear understanding of your online competitor landscape before you plan your website. And don’t forget that for many doctors, the top competitor is actually a health grade website.
- You can’t forget about HIPAA. For your web content, your blog, and your social media, following HIPAA regulations is essential. If your SEO company isn’t aware of these requirements, you could end up in trouble. Read more about these specific issues:
You need a quality website.
Studies have shown that people feel greater trust for a polished, professional, modern website than they do for a site with outmoded design, a DIY look, or poor quality content. For a physician, trust is paramount.
When we did some searches for various kinds of local providers, we were surprised how little information many doctors offered, and how sketchy their websites looked. Some had a Facebook page as their main web presence. (Full disclosure: our clients came up first for nearly all our local searches. When we eliminated them, however, we saw very few trustworthy-looking websites.) We’re not going to show you any bad examples, but you should take an honest look at your website before you start thinking about SEO. You don't want to increase visits to a website that makes you look bad. Click To Tweet
- Is your website up to date, with current information and a professional look?
- Does it work well on mobile devices?
- Do you offer enough information that you stand out from your competitors?
- Does your website answer essential questions like what insurance you accept and what hours you’re open?
- If you have contact forms or appointment booking tools, do they work?
Update or redesign your website if you need to — and use your SEO company’s advice so search engine optimization will be baked in.
You must have a content marketing plan.
Because so many physicians don’t have a website at all, and so many have websites with serious SEO problems, you might be able to rank in local search just because you have local stature or because your website is built around important local search keywords… and your competitors haven’t done that yet. If you only need to show up ahead of MedicineNet, you might be fine today.
The trouble is, a situation like this will be temporary. A group of doctors in this position will stay in this position just as long as none of the doctors decides to make a change. As soon as one of those doctors decides to make an effort with his or her online marketing, that doctor will take the lead. Everyone else will have to scramble to keep up.
And once the physicians in your neighborhood begin to work on their websites, you’ll be in the same position most small businesses are in: content is king. The website that has the best regular additions of good content will rank for more keywords and show up for more searches.
Your content marketing plan should recognize that people who need a doctor don’t usually just type in the name of a doctor. They usually begin by searching for the health issue that’s on their minds, and they are likely (Google tells us) to visit a dozen sources of information before they actually make contact with a doctor. Getting your content strategy in place as part of working on your website helps you make sure that the site really works hard in your overall marketing and patient education strategy.
Read more about healthcare content marketing:
- Plan a Healthcare Content Marketing Matrix
- Medical Content Marketing Keywords
- Healthcare Content Marketing Survey
You might need a partner.
As a physician, you certainly don’t have lots of free time. It makes sense for you to find a partner to make sure your website does its job for your current patients, and also helps to keep your practice healthy. You need an SEO specialist with experience and knowledge about healthcare websites. Give us a call at 479.966.9761 or use our simple contact form to get in touch with us.