Search engine optimization (SEO) is not the mysterious entity it once was – it’s become a widely used business practice in virtually every industry. From welding to wizarding school (yep, it exists), marketing managers are vying for ways to improve their search rankings. There are several general mistakes people make regarding SEO, and they fall into one of a few camps:
- You don’t actually know what SEO is (and you need to do something about it).
- You think you know SEO, but your information is bad/outdated.
- You know SEO, but violate Google Webmaster Guidelines anyway.
Wherever you fall in this spectrum, you’re running the risk of keeping your websites lower in the search results. And search results pages matter; the top 3 hits get the most website clicks, and 75% of users never go past the first page of web results.
If you’re in the healthcare field, you have special considerations other fields lack. Connecting to patients is the key to growing your practice, sure, but ensuring patients use your expertise can also make the difference in health outcomes. So what SEO mistakes is your healthcare organization making? If you’re committing one of these, it’s time to reassess your strategy.
Mistake #1: Your Individual Doctor Pages Are Underdeveloped (or Don’t Exist)
This is probably one of the most common mistakes I see when I’m personally searching for health information. Your institution and departmental landing pages may be incredible, but that doesn’t amount to much if your patients can’t connect with individual providers. To get that patient to pick up the phone and call your office for an appointment (or better yet, fill out an appointment request online), provide as much information as possible. Phone numbers and contact information are important, but it’s not enough to get patients in the door.
As an example, I drive almost an hour to see my doctor, simply because of a Google search. I became pregnant with our second child a month after moving to a new city, and when I began researching high-risk obstetricians in our area, I was less than impressed with the information available on their websites.
Despite the fact there is (what I now know) a well-reputed Maternal-Fetal Medicine office less than a mile from my house, I still dutifully trundle my 15 month old into our car once a week and drive 40 miles to an office on the opposite side of the city. When we get there, adoring office staff whisk away my son to play while I get prodded with ultrasound wands and fetal monitoring systems.
This process, including transportation, takes about four hours out of my day each week. Yet I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive patient experience, and it all started with an internet search. So why did I go with this office instead of the one down the street?
- My physicians’ landing pages went above and beyond contact info. I could see where they went to medical school and completed residency as well as their board certifications.
- I knew from each doctor’s website whether or not they accepted my insurance.
- Each doctor’s website included testimonials from other patients and a note from the doctor explaining their approach to health care.
- Admitting privileges were listed, so I knew I had the option of delivering at the hospital right down the street from my house.
If there’s a lesson here, it’s that the more information your physician pages have, the better. Remember, quality content improves SEO, and in this case, it led to a conversion.
Mistake #2: You’re Analyzing the Wrong Metrics
In marketing, ranking number #1 on search results for “Springfield pediatricians” seems like you’ve won the SEO lottery. But in healthcare, this isn’t your most important metric. Conversion – getting patients to pick up a phone and call – is your best measure of success. Healthcare marketers often fall into the trap of assuming ranking high in searches is enough. Appoint a person in your office in charge of important healthcare metrics, including:
- Conversion rate. How many visitors are turning into patients in your waiting room?
- Keyword ranking. Are you using the right long-tailed keywords?
- Geographical considerations. Are you promoting your local SEO? Is your traffic coming in from the right places? There are dozens of Springfield’s in the United States – is your traffic coming from the correct city?
Mistake #3: Using a Two Dimensional Approach
SEO is a singular aspect of a comprehensive digital marketing campaign. It’s not the great panacea for the suffering medical practice. Too often, marketers fall into the trap of keyword jamming or stuffing their pages with poorly disguised duplicate content to rank higher in Google results. To create a truly inclusive SEO strategy, consider the following aspects:
- Responsive website design. Are your pages easy to navigate and attractive?
- Article writing/blogging. Do you want to be established as a thought leader? Provide potential patients with actionable tips for their health each week.
- Public relations. Are you using social media and other outlets to share patient stories or other health-related anecdotes?
SEO isn’t rocket science, but it’s not a static discipline, either. Guidelines change all the time, so have a designated person on staff to keep in touch with the latest developments so you can tweak your SEO strategy accordingly. Remember that quality content is the key to attracting visitors – and upgrading them to patients in your practice.