A study indicates 78% of local Google searches result in an offline purchase. In other words, if you are a doctor, capturing more Google searches = more patients.
If you think this is the core secret of SEO for doctors – you’re wrong. This is the basics of SEO for all industries. Aligning your own goals with Google’s goals, in its essence, is merely an act of answering a question.
In this case study, we are going to tell you the exact tactics and techniques we used to increase this Seattle Doctor’s patients by over 1,000% in 15 months through Search Engine Optimization.
What we’ve done for physicians was not black magic.
And we didn’t do anything shady. We simply aligned this doctor’s website with Google’s goals.
Google’s goals are to show the most relevant, highest quality content for any given search query. Because the second that Google stops providing the best search results, it creates an opportunity for another search engine to take its place.
If you can align your website with those two goals, Google will rank you all day.
In fact, this doctor ranks on the 1st page for 20 high intent keywords across a dozen services, driving 1,700 qualified prospective patients to her website last month.
SEO for Doctors Sounds Confusing, but It’s Actually Simple
SEOers like to make SEO sound confusing, overwhelming, and difficult. That’s because most SEOers aren’t very good at what they do. There are really only 5 activities that are responsible for 95% of this doctor’s rankings.
- Keyword Research
- On Page Optimizations
- Site Structure
Keyword Research for Doctors
Not all patients search Google in the same way. Some will use generic healthcare searches, some patients search for specific symptoms they are experiencing, and some patients will do extensive research and search for specific treatments to their ailment.
To maximize revenue generated from Google, it’s important to think about and target all of the variations qualified patients might search on Google. Check out this Excel export of this doctor’s 1st page keywords:
There are three ways patients search for local doctors and depends on their sophistication and how much research they’ve already done on the symptoms they are experiencing.
Note that this list is not comprehensive – there are far more of each type than listed. Although, these generally cover most ailments and treatments you can think of.
Generic Doctor / Healthcare Searches
- Mens health clinic Seattle
- Womens health clinic Seattle
- Functional medicine Seattle
- Naturopath Seattle
- Optometrist Seattle
- Gastroenterology Seattle
Doctors Specializing in Specific Ailments
Patients who find a doctor after Googling their symptoms often times allow their doctor to recommend the best type of treatment to alleviate the symptoms the patient is experiencing.
Physicians in Seattle, for example, should know that common symptom-specific searches include:
- Erectile dysfunction Seattle
- Weight loss Seattle
- Menopause Seattle
- Anti aging Seattle
- Hormone therapy Seattle
- Hair restoration Seattle
- Thyroid doctor Seattle
Doctors Specializing in Specific Treatments
Patients searching for specific treatments to the symptoms they are experiencing have done the most research, evaluated multiple treatment options, and sold themselves on a particular treatment.
For example, a patient who has diagnosed themselves with erectile dysfunction may search for a doctor that provides a particular treatment:
- Gainswave Seattle
- TRT Seattle
- Vampire Facial Seattle
On Page Optimization for Doctors
In order to rank for each of the types of searches a patient makes, you will need to create a dedicated page for each ailment you treat, and treatment you provide.
The first most important factor to ranking your website in Google is relevance to the search query you want to rank for. The more relevant a page on your website is to a particular search query, the easier it is to rank.
Google determines how relevant your page is to a particular search query by looking at very specific places on your page.
- Meta Title
- Meta Description
On-page SEO for doctors isn’t mystical or hard to understand. Here’s some hard proof.
Google “TRT Seattle”
Notice how almost every website on the 1st page mentions the word ‘testosterone’, and ‘Seattle’?
Notice how this doctor uses the keyword we want to rank for more often across her URL, Meta Title, and Meta Description?
That is not a coincidence.
Google has determined that this doctor’s page on testosterone replace therapy in Seattle to be the most relevant page available to display. It also means we’re not going to be able to rank this doctor’s TRT page for other treatments.
Still don’t believe me?
Let’s try one more example to really drive home how important relevance is for ranking on Google’s search results pages.
Google “Functional Medicine Seattle”, and you should see again, that this doctor has used the keyword she wants to rank for “Functional Medicine Seattle” better than her competition across the URL, Meta Title, and Meta Description.
Website Content for Doctors
Following having a highly relevant landing page, the next most important factor in surpassing other physicians on Google is having better content.
Google will prioritize pages it believes has better content than the competition.
Content is a key part of SEO for doctors. It can be leveraged to establish authority in the field. By publishing high-quality content, people will be more inclined to link to it, providing proof of your expertise.
In March of 2019, Google had introduced more strict standards in regards to ranking healthcare industry websites. The results of this ‘Medic’ update have impacted many physician practices that relied on search traffic for getting business.
But how does Google know which website has the best content? In essence, it’s just an algorithm, right?
As smart as Google is, Google is still unable to read, and understand whether content is good or not, so Google relies on user engagement signals that indicate whether the content is good.
Through trillions of searches, Google has found that web pages that have more of these signals have better user engagement metrics. User engagement metrics include things like:
- Time spent on site
- Bounce rate
- Pages visited
- Overall engagement with the site
So what are the signals that indicate good quality content? Well, it’s very intuitive:
- Content that is longer (more words) than the competition generally has better user engagement metrics than pages with less content
- Content that includes structured data, such as lists, bullet points, tables, table of contents, pictures and embedded YouTube videos generally has better user engagement metrics than web pages that does not have, or has less structured data.
Let’s look at one of this doctor’s landing page: the “Gainswave Seattle” page
- 2393 Words
- 8 Embedded videos
- 5 Sets of bullet points
- 1 list
- 6 Quotes
- 16 Outbound citations
This page has almost every kind of structured data and is designed to keep users on the site as long as possible.
This is probably the easiest activity to implement for novices. Simply link to each landing page in the header and footer navigation menus.
Everyone utilizes this, it’s website 101. Above all else, think about how your website structure can help your visitors in the easiest and fastest way possible.
But we know that the “curse of knowledge” runs deep, and as a physician it’s your primary job to cure ailments and not maintain websites. So let’s imagine you know nothing about websites. Here’s a rundown of why we manage site structure and an example of how we did it for our client.
Clear Internal Linking Achieves Four Goals:
- Transfer the power from your homepage (most powerful page on any site) to your landing pages
- Ensures Google is able to find and index your landing pages
- Tells Google that these are the most important, and relevant pages to your business
- Makes it easy for visitors on the homepage to jump to where they want to go
This Doctor’s Website Header Navigation
This Doctor’s Footer Navigation
Backlinks for Doctors
You can’t talk about industry-specific SEO for doctors without mentioning the nuances of backlinks in this niche.
Backlinks are the least important activity for ranking, and should only be worked on after you have completed the rest of the activities in this guide. Building backlinks to pages that aren’t optimized for relevance, or that have light content won’t deliver a return on your investment into search marketing.
Do your research, build out and optimize your landing pages, then build backlinks.
Social backlinks are backlinks from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram. Physicians can and should register accounts on all of the social profiles you can think of, and link back to your website.
Think Yelp, GlassDoor, and niche-specific industry sites such as HealthGrade.com. Register an account and link back to yourself on every industry site that makes sense.
Podcast and Blogger Outreach
Reach out to publications and podcasts in your niche, and pitch your expert knowledge, and reputable brand. Remember, the first thing they’re going to look at is your website.
Why Every Doctor Should Use SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) has become a necessary part of any doctor’s marketing efforts.
Of course, SEO is a highly technical and long-term process, which is why some digital marketing experts might suggest pay-per-click (PPC) advertising as an alternative for physicians. PPC is completely fine, but it does come with its fair share of drawbacks, which we will discuss in a later section.
The long-term benefits of SEO simply cannot be overlooked because of the following reasons:
Google is the De-facto Standard Search Engine of Today
Google remains the best avenue of research for online users.
Sure, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are widely popular and have a huge user base, but they’re simply not used (as much) for information gathering as search engines such as Google and to a lesser extent, Bing.
Trends in Self-Diagnosis Are Evident
If a person is taken ill, the first thing they will do is go online and do research about their ailment.
This is not just an anecdote, there is real data to back it up. Back in 2012, Google did a study which found out that nearly 77% of patients started research about their sickness or illness online. Whereas only 45% called the physician’s office for the same purpose.
Searching Online For Everything, No Matter How Serious
The Pew Institute carried out a survey in which they found out that 72% of internet users looked online for health information, whereas 35% of internet users were ‘self-diagnosers’.
Really, it’s quite apparent that more and more people are looking for information online and as a doctor it’s important for you to be the one they find, if you’re that good. You shouldn’t ever let marketing stand between you and someone who needs help.
Mediocre (or just plain bad) doctors can invest in marketing and inevitably end up with undeserved attention, doing more damage than good, and spoiling the industry’s reputation.
The Indirect Benefits of SEO: Great Content and Authority
At the core of any SEO strategy is content, and the better your content is, the more highly Google will rank you. Many physicians who are site owners skimp on content to the detriment of their overall strategy!
If users don’t find your content engaging enough, they’ll leave your website. This, in turn, will increase your site’s bounce rate, which is never viewed favorably by Google.
So in order to have a successful SEO strategy, you need to make sure that the content you’re publishing on your website is of great quality. What’s more, great content is going to help you build authority in your niche or domain.
Because of good content, users are likely to stay longer on your website, which sends good signals to Google. This will be reflected in increased ranking for your website.
Creating quality content definitely takes a lot of time and effort, but in the end, it’s well worth it, and every physician should be trying to provide good content to their visitors.
SEO for Physicians – What about Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Ads?
If you’re looking into implementing an SEO strategy for your medical practice then you’re bound to come across someone who’s going to recommend online advertising. Specifically, they’ll tell how great Google Ads (formerly known as AdWords) are. And they’d be right, Google Ads is an amazing advertising platform that leverages the search giant’s vast reach and its consumer data to find you the best customers.
But PPC can be painfully expensive, right?
Let’s dive into the details, shall we.
The Cost/Benefit Equation
Pay-per-click ads run on a simple rule: if a user clicks on the ad, you get charged for it. The more competitive your niche is, the more you get charged. For doctors, every single patient counts as they’re likely to become long-term customers. As such, PPC rates for healthcare ads are very high.
What’s more, medical advertising is heavily regulated by search engines, especially Google.
Because human illness is a very sensitive matter, there is simply no room for scams or misleading advertisements in this space. Frankly, a run-of-the-mill ad specialist simply won’t be able to handle medical advertising. You’ll need a specialist healthcare Google AdWords expert, and they tend to be expensive.
SEO, on the other hand, is much more cost-effective.
The goal of Search Engine Optimization is to bring you to the first page of Google search results for your desired search keywords, and we’ve already discussed how that is done in previous sections.
Once you’re on the first page of Google, you’ll see your patient leads jump dramatically, as our Dr. Kate Kass case study demonstrates.
Simply put, the ROI on SEO is much greater than PPC.
As a physician it’s your job to provide help to those with health problems, but as a business owner, it’s your job to grow your business. By growing your business more, you’ll be able to help more people, so those two goals align in the end.
We hope we’ve provided ample proof of why Search Engine Optimization is the best method to address both of those needs.