The Intake

Insights for those starting, managing, and growing independent healthcare practices

SEO for doctors: 5 ways to boost traffic to your site

Expand your client base and grow your practice by implementing these local SEO strategies.

person learning local seo strategies for doctors

At a Glance

  • Local SEO is vital for medical practices to get found online and attract more patients.
  • Essential local SEO strategies include regularly publishing relevant, local health content using targeted keywords and adding descriptive visuals.
  • Other essential strategies include linking to authoritative medical sources and keeping content updated over time.

You’re a physician, not a techie. So why should you care about your practice's SEO? Or maybe, now that you stop and think about it, you’re wondering … what is SEO for doctors?

After all, you've been working on your practice's online presence. You have a medical website. That's a good thing for your practice — almost a requirement now in the medical industry. Unfortunately, unless you have an effective SEO strategy for your website, it's not likely to be found by potential patients and current patients.

Let's learn more about the importance of SEO for doctors and how to use a subset of SEO: local SEO.

Defining local SEO and its importance

SEO, search engine optimization, makes your website engaging and useful for readers and major search engines, such as Google and Bing. A well-executed SEO strategy means your site will get better search engine results and will be seen by more people.

The better you’ve optimized your site and content, the higher on the search results page it is likely to appear. It's important to attend to SEO on a regular basis in everything you do pertaining to your site.

SEO is not an event. It’s an ongoing self-improvement process. ”
Nadene Evans

SEO is, really, more of an art than a science. It’s not a one-and-done exercise; it's an ongoing process that keeps your site fresh and seen by the search engines. It's important to keep up with this. Search engines occasionally like to play with their algorithms and change their parameters.

SEO requires you to shift some paradigms about what you’re capable of doing. It’s not hard, even if it seems complex at first. Here are a few initial ways to improve your local SEO:

Patient Perspectives Report

5 essential local medical SEO strategies to improve your practice’s site traffic

You've built your practice's website. Now, if they search for it, patients or prospects can find it. The next step is to move your site up in the rankings as local people search for your specialty and services. You'll want to set your site apart from other medical websites and those of local healthcare organizations. Let's look at 5 ways to do that.

1. Publish relevant, local content

To do solid medical marketing and connect with current and potential patients, post local and targeted healthcare SEO content. Offer medical information. Discuss the current health concerns in your community and ways to resolve them.

If you want to connect with current and potential patients, post content about current health concerns in your community and how to resolve them. ”

You already know that patients want their providers to care about them as individuals, rather than as a cohort. What are some of the concerns that your patients might have? Depending on your specialty, your patients might wonder:

  • When are temperatures too high or too low for me to exercise safely outdoors?
  • What are the best ways to search for ticks and remove them after I've been in the fields or the woods?
  • Which flora and fauna exacerbate specific allergies, and how can I best manage my exposure and/or symptoms?

Publish a blog post to your site every week, or even every other week. This demonstrates that you are concerned about what your patients need. The more frequently you publish new content, the more likely your search rankings will improve.

2. Use popular keywords

Keywords are those words or phrases that people consistently use when they are conducting web searches. Some of these, of course, are obvious. Say, you’re writing about how to identify symptoms that indicate a stroke. You already know that “stroke” and “stroke symptoms” will be words that potential readers will put into search engines. So you'll need to include those words in your blog headline and in your content.

To rank well and ensure that your content matches the headline, be sure to include relevant keywords in some of your subheadings. ”

Here’s a trick about that, though. When you write, make sure that your content matches the headline. Your subheadings should tie directly back to the topic of the post. How to do that? Be sure to include relevant keywords in some of your subheadings.

We've established that keywords are critical. You'll want to do some keyword research. And you'll want to go beyond the obvious when you're contemplating keywords related to your blog post. Also consider including:

  • Different disorders with similar symptoms. What might someone search for if they’re confused about what they or a loved one is experiencing? For instance, blurred vision may not be symptomatic of only a stroke; that symptom may also precede a heart attack.
  • Recommended treatments for the topic. What might a patient expect the next steps to be after a diagnosis?
  • Specific information about your practice and location. When a user is new to an area, they often search for “doctors near me.” Ensure that you include all relevant information, including your specialty and address, on each blog post.

If you’re feeling stuck or unsure about what keywords may be relevant, look at the search results for your topic. Rather than paying for a tool or a subscription, look below the paid ads. There, you’ll see a section called “related searches.” Use those searches to determine what additional words you can find and implement.

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3. Provide relevant visuals with descriptors

As a culture, the more mobile we get, the less we are able to focus. According to a recent study on attention, the average human attention span is only 8.25 seconds. 

Make sure that your website offers photos, charts, GIFs, and graphics — with the proper alt text — that support your content. Insert them throughout your blog post. They will help to keep readers engaged and on your site.

The longer people stay on your page, the higher search engines score your SEO because you’re clearly hitting the reader intent bullseye. ”

Why is this important?  You want folks to stay on your page for a longer time so that search engines will give you a higher rating. It indicates that you're giving readers what they want.

When you add media to your blog post, you should add a descriptor to assist visually or audibly challenged users. These alt text descriptors for images should:

  • Always include keywords.
  • Describe the contents of the image or video.
  • Inform the viewer about how the media relates to the article.

4. Cite your content with medical links

You'll be offering solid medical content. Just as all budding medical professionals did in school, you'll want to cite your sources. On the web, you do this with hyperlinks to demonstrate your expertise and improve your SEO ranking. Include at least 1 or 2 quality external links — authoritative sources other than your own blog or site. And include 3 or 4 internal links — sources that lead people to related content on your website.

You can format your post in your medical website content management system. Be sure to look at the settings for each link. Make sure that each one opens in a new tab or window. This will keep readers on your site longer. 

5. Keep your medical blog content fresh

Put a note in your calendar to update your practice blog posts 9 to 12 months after publication. If necessary, hire someone in the medical community to do your SEO copywriting for you. Refresh existing content with new research, and expound on what you previously published. When you do, you send a signal to search engines that your content is up to date. And you're using targeted SEO content. It's one of the SEO best practices.

There's an acronym for this: Medical E-A-T. It stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. You want both search engines and readers to know that you have those characteristics. Let prospective patients see your gravitas in their online search experience.It's important to optimize your site's searchability, but you'll also be enhancing patient experience at the same time. Check your SEO metrics regularly to determine if what you're posting is working to increase traffic on your site.

Use local SEO to make your site discoverable

One of the best ways to develop an effective SEO strategy is to invite Google to crawl your site. Once this has occurred, your medical website can be indexed for local search results

If you’re unsure whether your site has been indexed, type into your browser search bar and hit return. If the results displayed include individual pages from your website, your site has been indexed. You're ready to take the next step.

However, if you don’t get any results, don’t worry. Take these steps:

  • Review (or have the site administrator review) the site’s uniform resource locator (URL) (your site’s address name) in every field in which it appears on your hosting platform. This needs to be done to make sure there aren’t any typos. Typos could result in contradictions that confuse the search engine’s bots, and the page or pages won't be indexed. 
  • Ensure (or have your site administrator ensure) that there isn’t a message in any of your site’s hosting platform fields that instructs the bots to skip those pages or to skip your site entirely. These messages would include programming code that looks something like this:
    • <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”/>
    • <meta name=”robots” content=”nofollow”>
    • user-agent: *
    • disallow: / 

It isn’t uncommon for site owners to ask their site developers to include these blocks. Many think of them as a security measure. After all, in the medical community, patient privacy and site security are essential. However, refusing to allow search engines to crawl through your site is counter-productive. It doesn't even ensure your site’s security is effective.

These steps should resolve any issues with getting your site indexed. If they don’t, you will most likely want to get your site developer to create a site map. That will help to determine whether your site has any broken links.

Once you're sure that the site has been indexed, work to strengthen your SEO health. It's helpful to determine your SEO KPIs (key performance indicators). If this seems too far from your practice's mission of offering strong healthcare, look for SEO packages from companies that will ensure that you are using the best SEO software to accomplish your goals.

Many practices in the medical industry earn solid SEO ROI (return on investment) when they hire an experienced SEO company. They can offer SEO leads and strengthen the SEO value of the site.

SEO for doctors takes time, but it's worth it

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed by all of this discussion of web SEO. But it’s a necessary part of the business. You're doing the medical part well. To do the tech part, ask for help from an experienced SEO firm. You'll increase your local SEO, and as a result, more prospective patients will find your practice. 

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75% of people look online to find a doctor. Patients take a critical look at web presence, online business profiles, and reviews when they decide to pick a health provider. Learn where your practice should be online in the Patient Perspectives report.

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Karmin Gentili

Karmin Gentili has been a freelance writer and editor since 2016. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate HR and compliance consulting. She has worked to further elevate her skills by pursuing and receiving multiple certifications, including copywriting, video scriptwriting, effective content positioning, case study writing, and SEO. Her love of writing motivates her to use those skills to develop content for the medical field that ensures others can work toward achieving their goals.

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