Healthcare SEO 101 for Hospitals, Doctors, Clinics, and Other Medical Providers
Healthcare SEO, a.k.a. medical SEO, is a term that refers to the process of optimizing your health niche website for search engines like Google.
It’s important because as an industry, healthcare has some particular challenges and opportunities related to digital marketing.
For example, patients often use the internet to research specific diseases or treatments before making decisions with their doctor. The fact that people are now more likely to type “How do I treat a cold” than call their doctor shows just how important it is.
In this article, we’ll discuss what healthcare marketing and SEO entail, and how they can help you reach more potential customers who are researching medical conditions and health providers online.
What is healthcare SEO?
Healthcare SEO is the process of optimizing your website for search engines.
The ultimate goal of medical SEO services is to help patients find quality information about healthcare providers and medical conditions online.
Healthcare SEO: Crucial for Both Providers and Patients
Some medical practices may be reluctant to invest in healthcare marketing and SEO due to misconceptions about what they actually get out of it.
However, SEO services for hospitals, clinics, doctors, and medical practices aren’t just beneficial for the healthcare providers themselves. The benefits also extend to the patients.
- Healthcare advertising and SEO help potential customers research medical conditions and treatment options through trusted resources (i.e., websites) in a timely manner.
- A strong web presence helps increase the awareness and credibility of health practices in specific markets or specialties.
In this competitive field, an optimized website can distinguish one provider’s work from another by providing additional information about the practice or provider.
- SEO services also help physicians and other medical professionals reach their target audiences at the right time (i.e., when they are actively looking for a new provider).
- A high ranking on Google can also help generate more leads and new patients for a healthcare organization – even though it can be challenging to convert those visitors into paying customers, a search-engine-optimized site is still valuable as a lead generator in healthcare.
Done right, medical SEO is an incredibly helpful thing for both healthcare providers and patients who need their services.
The Challenges of Search Engine Optimization for the Healthcare Field
Healthcare providers are under a number of restrictions that can make it difficult to optimize their sites for the search engines. For instance:
FDA advertising restrictions
The FDA restricts the types of claims that can be made about products.
In addition, manufacturers are not allowed to endorse a specific healthcare provider or facility in their advertising without running afoul of regulations governing marketing and promotion by prescription drug companies.
It can be difficult to create original, high-quality healthcare content
Google’s Panda algorithm and Penguin updates penalize pages with duplicate, copy-pasted, or thin content in order to reward originality.
The medical industry is known for plagiarizing content from other providers and websites, which means that medical sites are often penalized by Google – even if the site has an otherwise strong SEO strategy.
In addition, because businesses in the healthcare field often have a lot of regulatory requirements and complex processes for patient data, it can take time to write content that meets Google’s guidelines for healthcare SEO
The medical field is jargon-heavy
A common issue for healthcare professionals is the fact that they have to use a lot of specific terminology in their content: Medical-related jargon may seem intuitive to them but it can be confusing to their patients.
Medical professionals tend to use more complex terminology, which can result in a high bounce rate for visitors who are not experts in the field.
Most medical providers are too busy to focus on digital marketing
Medical SEO also has to take into account that physicians and other healthcare workers have limited time – they may be too busy taking care of patients or managing administrative tasks like billing and scheduling appointments to write original content.
Many care providers don’t understand SEO and digital marketing
Lack of knowledge and expertise within a medical practice on search engine marketing techniques, website design, and development, analytics tools, or content editing can lead to ineffective strategies.
Visitors may be unwilling to engage with healthcare websites
The emotions and sensitivity of people who are looking for medical information may make them less likely or able to leave reviews on your site, which is necessary in order to rank higher.
SEO guidelines are constantly changing
In addition, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and it can be difficult to stay up to date on Google guidelines.
All of these create significant barriers for healthcare providers and their digital marketing efforts. However, while there are challenges associated with healthcare SEO, it can be a powerful tool when used properly.
Google’s Guidelines for Healthcare Websites
Next, Google has been scrutinizing medical and health-related websites more rigorously since August 2018 because they can impact people’s well-being.
For instance, Google requires medical websites to:
- Include disclaimers for testimonials and before/after photos.
- Clearly disclose when drugs are being advertised, as well as any possible side effects or interactions with other medications.
- Clearly state the benefits and risks associated with any medical procedure.
- Include information about treatments that are available for their specific condition or illness.
- Provide information about how the site is attempting to protect patient privacy and personal data, including what type of encryption they use and whether they offer two-factor authentication.
- Be free of grammatical and spelling mistakes, like a misspelling of “diabetes” as “diaabets”.
- Provide a disclaimer on their pages to make sure consumers know that the information is not meant as medical advice.
- Provide content that is easy to understand, especially for people with disabilities or who don’t speak English well.
- Disclose any relevant affiliations with drug companies and other commercial products.
Google’s guidelines are in place so that consumers can make the best health choices possible, even if they’re not a doctor and don’t have access to medical professionals.
At the same time, this creates more digital marketing challenges for the healthcare industry, especially when you factor in the ethical considerations that go into healthcare marketing.
Ethical Requirements of Healthcare SEO
Before you dive in head-first with keyword research, page optimization tactics, and keyword density – there are some ethical considerations that need to be taken into account when creating an SEO strategy for a medical industry company.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that healthcare SEO is different from other types of SEO.
A medical company has a legal responsibility to take certain considerations into account when engaging in business practices such as the following:
- Medical content that is “Third Party” created must have a disclaimer noting the same
- Biases in favor of one healthcare product/service over another are not allowed
- False or misleading claims about a medical product/service are not allowed
- Pages containing medical information should have “trigger warnings” for graphic content, such as violence, blood and gore. These pages may require explicit consent from the viewer before viewing is permitted (e.g., those who wish to view this type of content must click on a “yes” button)
- Pages containing medical information should not be littered with ads or affiliate links to other sites and this includes blog posts. Medical companies are discouraged from using any type of advertisement (including banners, pop-under, etc.) on their website or in online marketing efforts
- Maintaining compliance with regulations set by local and national governments including HIPAA guidelines for both physical and digital records
- Providing transparency for patients and consumers with regards to data sharing and patient privacy
- Creating a formal process for handling complaints, feedback and reviews from patients/consumers in an ethical manner. This should include a clear path of escalation procedures when dealing with these complaints
- Providing transparency about sponsored content (e.g., if the company is paying someone to write blog posts or infographics on their behalf)
- Consistency with Google guidelines for medical content including non-personalized results and information about privacy, security and safety of personal data. These can be accessed by scrolling down to the bottom of any search engine page.
Interestingly enough, ethical search engine optimization SEO is just as important in this sector (perhaps even more than other industries) because ethical practices are imperative when dealing with topics such as life and death, disease prevention, mental health care, and treatment for conditions.
The public relies on medical content to make important decisions about their well-being so it is critical that the information provided be accurate and unbiased.
This applies to all healthcare digital marketing efforts, including SEO strategies, running a healthcare website, content marketing, link building, and more.
How to Choose the Right Healthcare SEO Company
With so many factors to consider, it can be difficult to find the right healthcare SEO company for your medical practice. Once you do find the right agency, it’s a powerful partnership that offers advantages for both you and your patients.
The following are what you should look for when searching for a digital marketing agency for the medical industry:
- Experience working with and understanding of the medical industry
- Familiarity with the latest healthcare SEO strategies, including staying up-to-date with Google’s guidelines for healthcare marketing
- Ability to provide you with the latest analytics information
Other essentials include:
A Full Suite of Digital Marketing and Healthcare SEO Services
The agency you choose should have a team of specialists that all specialize in different areas, which means they will be able to provide more services than using one person or company who can only perform certain tasks.
Look for an SEO company that also offers:
- Local SEO
- Paid Search
- Paid Social
- Web Development and Design
- Social Media Management
- Email Marketing
- Creative Services
- And more
This allows your agency to be more efficient and meet your needs better.
Extensive Content Marketing Experience
The agency you choose should have experience with content marketing as it pertains to medical-related websites, blogs, or social media channels.
Your healthcare company will need articles that are written in a way that makes them shareable on social media, as well as have a large reach.
They also need to know how people find content and what type of language they use while searching for it.
For these reasons, your healthcare company needs an SEO team that can collect customer demographic data like age, gender, and location.
Familiarity with Medical Language
Finally, your SEO agency needs to understand the type of language that medical patients use for search terms so they can optimize content that will rank higher on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPS).
The better an agency understands what is going on within your specific healthcare market, the better content they can create.
Why Choose Digital Delane As Your Healthcare SEO Company
Combined, all of those elements make healthcare SEO a complex and confusing task.
Allow us to simplify it for you.
At Digital Delane, we understand what it takes to provide high-quality digital marketing services for medical practices, including hospitals, dental offices, pediatric offices, physical therapy clinics, doctors, and more.
We provide complete end-to-end healthcare SEO services, from building your website content strategy to ongoing optimization and management of your entire online presence.
We do all of this work for our clients so they can focus on what matters most – providing great care to patients!
Learn how Digital Delane can help your practice succeed, or call us today at 323.524.9990 to schedule a free consultation.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Healthcare SEO FAQs
What are the advantages of healthcare SEO?
One of the main advantages is a higher volume of traffic. If you rank for search terms such as “best hospitals,” or “local orthopedic surgeons” then people looking up that type of information are going to find your website and it’s likely they will read more than just what was originally searched.
The other major advantage is a higher conversion rate. If you rank for medical terms such as “cholesterol,” and someone searches for that term, then it’s likely they will click on your website because of its high ranking on Google.
As for patients, the ease of finding your website is an advantage. They can just type the name of their condition into Google and find you without having to spend hours looking for a provider in their area.
It’s an easier and faster way to get the care they need, while also helping medical providers bring in more revenue.
What are the 3 types of SEO for healthcare websites?
The three basic types of SEO are On-Page Optimization, Off-Page Optimization, and Technical SEO. These aren’t just for the medical industry but are essential to any SEO plan in general.
Here’s a quick look at each one:
On-Page optimization is about the content on a website. This includes everything from the actual content itself, such as your articles on medical conditions, and elements such as headlines, meta tags, and keywords.
Off-Page optimization is about how the content on your website connects with other websites that link to it. These can be social media sites or online medical journals, for example. For off-page SEO to be effective, it needs to generate links back to your website.
This can also have a positive effect on On-Page Optimization because, as more and more people link to content within the site, it will eventually become higher ranked in search results. This is due to Google’s PageRank algorithm, which determines how high up or down sites are in search results.
Finally, it can be achieved through developing content that is of value to other sites, which then links back to your site in order to promote it.
For example, if you have written a blog post about how doctors and nurses deal with seasonal flu outbreaks during the winter months, you could reach out to online medical journals or medical schools to see if they would be interested in linking back to your post.
Lastly, technical optimization is the process of ensuring that a website is user-friendly for search engines.
This includes things like making sure that your website loads quickly, that your pages are optimized for mobile browsing, and that you have a plug-in installed to guarantee that search engines can index the content of your site.
Technical SEO is not just important for ranking. It also ensures that patients and visitors find your website easy to use.
How do hospitals do SEO?
The hospital’s website is a key component of its marketing strategy.
It provides potential patients with information about the medical facilities, staff, and services they offer.
The hope is that when people are looking for healthcare options, whether it be to schedule an appointment or just out of curiosity, they will find their way to your institution on Google organic search results pages – and make a decision then and there.
SEO for hospitals is similar to general SEO practices, except it’s critical to follow Google’s guidelines on digital marketing for the healthcare field. For instance, the content on your website should not promote a specific treatment over another and you must disclose any potential conflicts of interest.
What is SEO and its examples?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it refers to the process of optimizing web content so that search engines rank your site higher when people are searching through them.
In other words, SEO is a way for medical companies and healthcare providers to get more exposure on the internet by having their website show up on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
This increases visibility which can convert into more patients, customers, or clients.
Some examples of SEO are the use of keywords, content-richness, and backlinks.
What are the best healthcare SEO keywords for search engines?
The most popular searches in the medical industry relate directly to diseases and injuries because of their prevalence. This includes common search terms like anxiety, arthritis, and angina.
Some great healthcare SEO keywords for competitive markets are ones that have low competition with high volumes of searches per month. For example: [disease] treatment options or signs and symptoms of [disease].
In addition, the most popular searches are those that relate to diseases and injuries because of a condition’s prevalence or severity – for example, “heart attack” or “shoulder pain.”
It’s also important to take into account the medical specialties that are being searched.
Ultimately, however, your final keywords will depend on market research. This is why it’s essential to hire an experienced healthcare SEO company to help you understand what your target audience is actually searching for.
What are healthcare SEO best practices?
As more and more patients turn to online searches for information on medical services, it becomes essential that providers have an SEO plan in place so they can be found by their potential customers.
There are many ways to increase the visibility of medical practice on the internet:
- Optimizing current website pages with keywords to rank higher in SERPs
- Creating informative content that provides visitors with answers to their health-related questions
- Having a blog where people can find more information about specific topics related to healthcare and medicine
- Sharing links across social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for people and potential patients to follow
- Making sure that your healthcare website is mobile-friendly by using a responsive design platform like WordPress
- Creating high-quality medical content with good grammar and spelling so it’s easy to read
- Participating in online healthcare communities and forums to increase visibility.
- Improving the appearance of a website with content that’s engaging and easily readable
Finally, if healthcare providers want to increase their visibility, it’s important not to get too focused on SEO and forget about other online marketing efforts like reputation management, social media, brand development, and advertising.
How do you create an SEO strategy for the healthcare industry?
It’s difficult to create a successful DIY healthcare SEO strategy because there are so many confounding factors that come into play.
It is crucial to hire SEO experts who do understand these complexities and the nuances of best practices for your specific type of website (e.g. physician websites, hospital websites, etc.).
Talk to us today to successfully implement a solid SEO strategy for your healthcare business/career.