This post covers SEO outside of a medical practice’s website. We recommend visiting our post on medical practice SEO for more information about how to get started with SEO specifically for a medical practice.
Is a website really your best bet?
Just about everybody realizes that a key component of a practice’s growth strategy is an online marketing campaign. People who know you and people who don’t are all looking for you online. You need to have a website that reflects the quality of your practice/product. Once you do, you need to be effectively marketing it – nothing is worse than throwing a big party and having nobody show up. However, in the past six months there have been some pretty big changes that should have you focusing on web strategies outside of your own website. (Of course, we still recommend a solid SEO strategy, which you can find out more about here: SEO for Medical and Healthcare)
Why your website is important
Please don’t misunderstand, your website is still very important, and marketing it through traditional search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) (not old, spammy “traditional” SEO, but SEO that markets your website as the focal point) is absolutely necessary.
- Your website is especially important in the exploration phase. This is how people will see the detail of what you offer and what makes you stand out. When a patient has decided that they want to have a procedure done, or at least that they need a condition treated, they are in the exploration phase. They want to see their options and make sure that they’re choosing the right person.
- You can create as much content as you want. In essence, you can attempt to answer every question that someone has. This can position you as the expert and absolute authority on a topic, instill confidence, and communicate everything that you need to.
- You keep full control: You control the content, how it’s laid out, what people learn, what people don’t see, and everything else in between.
- You create a representation of your brand: People start to identify you with a look and feel, understand who you are, and you make a specific, detailed impression on the user.
- It can be optimized: Since you have full control, you can do as much as you want for on-page search engine optimization of your website.
And this just scratches the surface of your website. We have seen over and over again the direct result of a quality website and how it can affect the number patients that walk in the door. However, there are some other tools that have grown significantly in importance.
How Google Has Changed
The two most well known Google Updates are Penguin and Panda. These were updates to Google’s algorithm that determines search results and were designed to eliminated low-quality websites and websites that were using spam tactics to increase their positioning. In October of 2013 Google released another update called Hummingbird (which was really an overhaul of the algorithm as opposed to an update).
One of the major side effects of the Hummingbird update was that it increased the positioning of many directory type listings like Yelp and HealthGrades. This presents a brand new opportunity for medical practices, who typically fall under the category of local businesses and can benefit greatly from this change. By attaching your practice to these big sites who already have significant authority with Google, you can increase your visibility in search results.
Try a few searches for local businesses. See what comes up. We did a couple of quick random searches, and you can see how these local listings are showing up more often in search results. Imagine the impact you could have if you optimized some of these sites and were seeking to bring in some new leads through them.
Your SEO strategy should now consider listings like these. People are already using big sites like Yelp to find objective, third party reviews of your practice. Now they will be seeing them more often in search results. Consequently, they serve two purposes – to increase awareness of your practice and to give additional information.
What to Do with These Listings
Okay, so you’ve decided to move forward utilizing the leverage of some of these big directory sites to bring traffic to your website and calls to your medical practice. Here’s what you need to do to get started.
- Test search your keywords. Do a search for terms that you think are important to rank for (you can find more info on keyword research here). See what local directory type sites are coming up. Do the same for your practice and key doctors in your practice. Claim all of those listings. Most sites have a “claim this listing” or “sign up” button fairly prominently on the site.
- Completely fill out your profile. Include as much info as is allowed. Don’t just fill in the basic name address and phone number, though that is important. Also include information specific to your practice, conditions you treat, procedures you perform, and any other relevant information. A link to your website is critical too. The more information you have, the better. Don’t forget to use words that you think people may be searching for.
- Create a review strategy. Make sure that your patients know that you are on these sites and appreciate a review. Give a business card with a follow-up appointment date and a list of sites that you can be reviewed on. If you delight them with service, most people would be happy to review you. Those reviews both help in your search rankings and can quickly tell a prospective patient if they should come to you or not. Angry customers will search out reviews; delighted customers still usually need to be prompted.
- Consider a measured number. You can purchase a second phone number specifically for tracking new incoming calls. This can help you measure the effectiveness of your local listing campaigns. Don’t do this across too many sites though – a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) is important for helping your main website appear in local search results.
While this shouldn’t replace your current SEO strategy, it can be an effective supplement. What sites have you found particularly helpful as supplements in search engine results? Let us know in the comments below.