Healthcare SEO: Why it’s proven to be the most effective strategy for new patient growth

When it comes to marketing strategies for healthcare, SEO (search engine optimization) has proven to be the most effective method to gain new patients, in terms of cost per acquisition, ROI and longevity/quality of lead. 

The right healthcare SEO strategy not only allows people to find you the second they realize they need help (the first thing most people do is Google their symptoms), but it also allows you to be the first trusted voice they turn to for help. If you nurture that lead correctly (take a look at the difference between performance SEO and regular SEO), then you can seamlessly guide someone through an entire patient journey that takes them from finding the initial answers to their questions, all the way to your clinic doors. 

The other beautiful advantage of healthcare SEO against other marketing strategies is that SEO is evergreen (when done properly). We still have client articles that are gaining conversions that were written back in 2018. When you invest in SEO, you’re investing in long-term success. It doesn’t have the immediate start-up that things like paid ads have — it may take up to three months to build traction — but once it’s built, it keeps going. The work that’s done becomes a stepping stone for future work, all of it working together to gain more patients to your clinic. Investment in SEO is never wasted when it’s done the right way.

By understanding the role that healthcare SEO can play in your patient pipeline, you can develop proper SEO for healthcare that will bring more patients to your doorstep. We’ll help you gain the knowledge you need by discussing SEO for healthcare strategies, including keyword research, content marketing and optimization.

SEO vs. paid ads for healthcare

Let’s talk about dating — stick with me here. There are lots of different types of dating out there — some people who have long relationships that build trust and some people who have instant sparks and elope. Obviously there are several other types, but for the sake of the analogy, we’re going to stick with just these two. 

We like to equate organic SEO in the healthcare space to long-term dating that leads to a marriage. You start slow by meeting someone where they are, you build trust, you go on a journey with them (patient journey, that is), and then ultimately you marry them. You build long-term trust and long-term commitment. And that’s what you want in a patient; you want someone who is so committed to your organization that they are referring their family and friends. 

Paid ads are like eloping. In some cases, you’ll find someone who is looking for something so specific and is ready to make an immediate move; that one landing page convinces them to schedule an appointment and actually follow through with the visit. We refer to this as proposing on the first date. Someone is served a limited landing page and you’re asking them to commit their health into your hands. That’s bold — and sometimes effective — but it’s not a great long-term strategy. You certainly wouldn’t make a habit of this in your dating life (I hope). So why make a habit of it in marketing?

Sometimes people forget that marketing is really just building relationships with people. You aren’t marketing to algorithms; you’re connecting with people. The best way to connect with people is by building trust, and the best way to build trust is through SEO content. 

Healthcare SEO strategy: Keyword research

What are potential patients searching for that can lead them to you? Keyword research is your first step when you’re diving into healthcare SEO. It helps you to determine your target audience who would benefit from your relevant services. It involves learning the keywords that appeal to your patients and how those keywords can lead them to your website. 

Keyword research for healthcare SEO involves:

  • Pinpointing your demographics, such as age and hobbies.
  • Identifying and evaluating your competitors.
  • Researching keywords through tools such as SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner.

It’s important to identify which keywords are conversion focused and which are just research focused. You want to make sure that you reach people at every stage of the pipeline. Often, when people mention that they’ve tried SEO and it hasn’t worked, they often say something like this:

“We got a lot of organic traffic to our site, but we just didn’t get any conversions [appointments] to make it worth it.” Does that sound familiar to you

A common mistake that people make that leads them to this predicament is that they are only targeting research-heavy keywords, i.e., top of the funnel. An example of top-of-the-funnel vs. bottom-of-the-funnel keywords for a PT clinic could be “what causes lower back pain” vs “physical therapy for sciatica.” Do you see the difference? One keyword is research heavy and one keyword is ready to take action. You have to make sure you have a good blend of top- and bottom-of-the-funnel keywords in order to have an effective healthcare SEO strategy. 

Healthcare SEO strategy: Content marketing

Content marketing is a crucial part of SEO for healthcare, because it brings online traffic to your site by answering what people want to know. For example, a person can search, “Why does my back hurt?,” and you can provide them with content that not only answers their question, but also provides the solution through your services.

Content marketing ensures that you understand healthcare SEO trends, your audience and their motivations for finding your practice.

Benefits of content marketing for healthcare SEO include:

  • Establishing your credibility and knowledge to gain the trust of patients.
  • Boosting conversions from website visitors to patients through relevant content links.
  • Showcasing how you stand out from competitors. 

Think of content marketing in SEO as your digital bedside manner. This is your opportunity to validate what the reader is experiencing and offer your expert opinion in a way that builds trust and ultimately leads them to schedule an appointment. 

There is an art to this. Your content needs to be formatted differently depending on what people are searching for. Someone who is looking to do deep research on a minor problem likely wants to peruse information, whereas someone who is Googling something more critical and urgent needs answers immediately — no fluff. For example, when we write for our PT clinics about morning stretches to reduce back pain, we notice that readers take time to read the article, watch the videos and maybe even do the stretches while they read (the average time on page would indicate that’s what’s happening). On the flip side, when we write for our mental health organizations about how to help teens with suicidal ideation, we notice that the parents (likely) reading need the answers quick and then they take action. The situation is much more critical. 

Think about it like this: You’re having a rough day, so you call your mom. If it’s just an inconvenient day, you might share your problems, likely hope to be validated and then work through solving them together. But if you call your mother in the midst of a panic attack, you’re probably hoping she steps in immediately and offers help. There is no chitchat in that latter situation. 

The art of content marketing in SEO has to be meeting people exactly where they are. So many marketers get caught up in writing content for Google’s algorithms that they forget there is another human on the other side of the screen. Marketing — especially SEO content marketing — at its best is all about the human experience.  

Healthcare SEO strategy: Technical optimization

Optimization is built into the SEO term because healthcare SEO strategies should help you thrive in the search engines, not just survive several pages deep. Optimizing for patient growth means that you’re using the search engines in an effective way to help you grow your practice.

Technical optimization means appealing specifically to the search engine through particular aspects of your website. 

Technical optimization includes aspects such as:

  • Title tags — Your title tag should include relevant keywords as headlines to showcase the content to the engine.
  • Description tags — This is a content summary underneath the title tag. It should be up to 160 characters, including primary and secondary keywords and a call to action.
  • Links — Inbound links connect readers to pages on your site to drive traffic and provide relevant information. Outbound links should bring readers to credible external sources to back up your statements.
  • Image alt tags — Since the engine can’t read images, it’s important to provide alt texts that describe the image on your page for context and indexing.
  • Schema markup — This is the code used in your site’s HTML so that the search engine can understand your site and how it can display your content.
  • Sitemaps — A dedicated sitemap showcases all of your site’s webpages so that the search engine can scan through the URLs. It also boosts user experience on the site.

Healthcare SEO strategy: Local optimization

It’s time to move on to the technical side and focus on how you can become known as a nearby practice for people in your area.

Local optimization means focusing on location-based searches, which is essential if you have a physical practice, especially in multiple locations. This is helpful for prospective patients who type in “near me” after searching for a healthcare service. Essentially, you’re trying to appeal to your surrounding community.

Local optimization involves:

  • Citations and listings that show your site’s authenticity.
  • Visibility on Google Maps through a Google Business Profile.
  • Designing landing pages for each of your services and locations.

Want to learn healthcare SEO? BURG+CO. is a healthcare SEO agency that can help

Increasing traffic to your website plays a role in increasing conversions and leading to new clients. However, it’s difficult to attract visitors to your site when you don’t know what to do. Fortunately, this is what we specialize in at BURG+CO.

Our team has years of experience in helping businesses improve their digital presence to attract new leads and retain existing ones. If you’re looking to perform better in search engine results and attract more visitors to your site, we’re ready to talk to you to see how we can help. Contact our team today for more information about digital marketing or to schedule a complimentary consultation.

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