The Intake

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

Medical SEO fundamentals to get more patients and grow your practice

Don’t know how to get new patients to your website (and into your practice)? Start with search engine optimization. Learn medical SEO basics here.

doctor learning medical practice SEO

At a Glance

  • Medical SEO is essential for healthcare providers to attract new patients and improve their website’s search engine rankings
  • Medical SEO tactics include technical SEO, on-page SEO, local SEO, reputation management, and content creation
  • It takes time and consistent effort to see results from medical SEO, with different tactics yielding results over different time frames, from a few days to several months

As a provider, patient care is a top focus. But a thriving practice needs patients for whom to care. That’s why marketing practices like search engine optimization (SEO) are so critical to provider success and growth.

But what are the medical SEO fundamentals?

What is medical SEO?

SEO is a series of marketing tactics that improve a website’s ranking, or how high it appears, on search engine results pages (SERP). Focusing on medical SEO will help to improve your ranking for certain key healthcare-related terms.

You can use several tactics to optimize your website for better search results, including:

First, here’s why doctors should spend their medical practice’s time on SEO.

Medical SEO fundamentals graphic
female doctor smiling and looking at computer

Why is SEO for doctors so important?

As an independent practitioner, it can be hard to commit to learning more complicated marketing tactics. You want to spend more time working with patients, not trying to get them in the door. 

77% of patients search online for doctors either often or sometimes. ”

But patients today have higher expectations of their healthcare providers. In competitive markets, you need to do what you can to attract new patients. And since nearly 90% of providers say they’re in a competitive market, invest in basic marketing tactics to keep up with and stand out from the competition. 

SEO is just the start.

Around 77% of patients search online for doctors either often or sometimes, according to Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives report. Those numbers jump even higher among Millennials and Gen Z — they search online 85% and 81%, respectively.

So when patients search online for a healthcare provider, practices that invest in medical SEO tactics will appear higher in the search rankings, get more website traffic, and attract more new patients.

person looking at medical practice website content

Common medical SEO tactics

SEO isn’t just one thing — instead, it’s a group of different tactics to improve your ranking in search results. Tactics range from quick fixes to long-term campaigns. Here are the top methods to focus on first.

Technical SEO

Want a quick win? Implementing technical SEO tactics can have a big impact on your SEO success.

  • Optimize speed: While the Google algorithm is always changing, it aims to serve users exactly what they want. What site visitors don’t want is to wait. Google recommends that sites load in under 2 seconds. Check with tools like PageSpeed to see how fast yours loads and how to improve.
  • Go mobile-friendly: More than half (60%) of web traffic comes from mobile. Google serves mobile-friendly sites first for searches from mobile devices, so if your site isn’t easy to access on mobile, your rankings will dramatically drop. Make sure your website has a responsive, mobile-friendly design.
  • Implement HTTPS: Add an SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted certificate authority to help ensure your website is secure. Since Google and other search engines want to know they’re sending users to trusted sites, those without HTTPS will see a boost in their SERP rankings after implementation.
  • Improve accessibility: Accessibility is particularly important for medical SEO. Ensuring accessibility is by no means a quick fix since it requires choosing specific colors and text size, adding alt text to images, and considering other design and content elements. But it’s certainly worth it to ensure people of all abilities can access your site — and good alt text can also boost your SEO.
  • Fix broken links: Fixing broken links won’t have as much impact as some of these other methods, but it’s an easy way to get a quick win. Look for broken internal, external, and image links to ensure a better user experience.

On-page SEO 

On-page SEO is often what is most familiar to non-marketers. It entails optimizing individual pages for relevance, usability, and rankings. Here’s what you can do:

  • Build individual service pages: In-depth pages for each service not only allow you to target service-related keywords, but also help prospects determine if you’re the right fit. When patients answered what makes a good healthcare provider website in Tebra’s Patient Perspectives survey, 39% ranked services as the top must-have. Dedicate a page to each for more SEO opportunities.
  • Write clear meta titles: Your meta tile (or title tag) is what users see first on SERPs. It can be the same as the title at the top of your web page, or you can change it to be more engaging in search. Keep titles under 60 characters to avoid truncation on smaller screens.
  • Develop keyword-rich meta descriptions: Meta descriptions appear below the meta title on SERPs. They should quickly summarize the content topic and include target keywords. 
  • Optimize web page content: Add relevant medical and local keywords to your content. Organize your content using one headline (H1), and a variety of subheads (H2s and H3s). This helps Google figure out what the page is about.
  • Add images: Images are a great way to attract attention. In Tebra’s Patient Perspectives survey, 42% of patients said that photos influence their medical professional selection. Depict your doctors, office staff, and practice.
  • Optimize images: Describe each image (alt text) so visitors and search engines can understand your content. Alt text is a text-based summary that helps screen readers explain the image to those who use them. It also helps Google identify the image, which supports SEO for doctors and medical practices.

Local SEO

Local SEO focuses on ranking high for searches in a specific geographic area. For example, if someone searches “dermatologist + Chicago,” that would pull up all dermatologists within the Chicago area.

Since most medical practices serve specific cities and locations, local SEO is important for connecting with patients. Here are 3 local SEO strategies doctors should employ in 2023.

  • Claim your Google Business Profile: Your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) is a listing that features your website, address, reviews, images, and other information. It makes it easy for patients and prospects to search for your practice and get quick information. (You’ve probably used this same feature to look up restaurants near you.) Claim your Google Business Profile and make sure all your relevant information is there. Be sure to include keywords to give your listing an SEO boost.
  • Use geography-specific keywords: Add your location in different places around your website — not just your contact page. Include your neighborhood, city, and state wherever doing so makes sense. 
  • Claim your profile in other online directories: Search for your business in other online directories like Yelp, Facebook, WebMD, and Healthgrades. Patients often frequent these sites to look for reviews or leave their own, so make sure your information is correct everywhere online.
Tebra's 4th annual Patient Perspectives report
person looking at reviews on their smartphone

Reputation management

Online reviews are critical to private healthcare practice success and medical SEO. And according to Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report, 93% of patients say reviews are at least somewhat important when choosing a healthcare provider. This type of social proof is a key factor in patient decision-making and also impacts your site ranking.

Your star ratings are important for your reputation, but they’re not the only factor patients consider when it comes to reviews. The top 3 things that factor into their decisions include:

  1. How recently the reviews were posted (43%)
  2. Average star rating (38%)
  3. Total number of reviews (15%)

Collecting continuous reviews is important to improve your site authority and attract new patients.

Patient review best practices

How do you get more patient reviews? You ask for them. More and more patients are willing to leave reviews, and 1 in 3 patients has posted a review of their doctor in the last year. Here are some best practices to encourage your patients to share their experience at your practice:

  • Make it easy to review your practice: Send patients digital surveys after each appointment to collect feedback when it’s still fresh.
  • Use automated request tools: The best way to ensure you don’t forget to ask for feedback? Automate it. Cut out the busywork and embrace automation to request feedback from patients.
  • Offer incentives: Sometimes patients need a little nudge. Host a raffle and enter patients’ names when they complete a review, offer to donate to a charity of their choice, or discount extra services. Just make sure you comply with local laws.

Respond gracefully to bad reviews

Bad reviews happen, but they have no immediate consequences on your medical SEO. As for damage control, the best thing to do with a negative review is to respond to it.

It may seem contrary to your instinct (many people tell you to ignore negative comments), but responding can help your reputation. In fact, 64% of patients say they would go back to a medical practice if the practice responded to their concerns.

doctors looking at camera for content creation

Content creation

When Google reviews a site, it considers how recently the content was posted. That’s why blogs and other forms of content are incredibly important to SEO success: they show that your site is active and up to date.

Content marketing is the act of creating helpful, relevant content for your audience, which also happens to provide fresh content for the Google algorithm.

How to create valuable content on a budget

Content marketing can cost you tens of thousands of dollars a year — but it doesn’t have to. You can create quality content and make the most of it with these tips.

  • Trade guest posts: Guest posting is a great way to get more content on your site and earn backlinks while you’re at it. (A backlink is when another website links to yours.) Backlinks build your authority, and if you have fewer than your competitors, it will impact your ranking.
  • Repurpose every piece of content: Don’t just write or commission a blog post and hide it on your website. Use different parts of your content in different ways across your marketing efforts. For example, a blog post can be turned into an infographic, a marketing email, and several social media posts.
  • Refresh content at least once a year: Updating old content is a great way to refresh your site and boost your medical SEO. Go back and flesh out answers to patient questions, update seasonal information, or add new data and tips to older articles.
coworkers looking at SEO notes

How long does SEO take to work?

Once you’ve moved past the basics, e.g., a fast-loading site, metadata, and claiming your Google Business listing, SEO is a practice in patience. It takes consistent work to capture more keywords, see your business climb the ranks, and attract more visitors to your site.

Some key factors that might prevent your site from ranking quickly include:

  • Site maturity: How long a website has been active factors into your search ranking. The newer your site, the less authority Google gives you, and the lower you’ll appear in the rankings.
  • Competitors: In a competitive local market, it can be hard to create enough content to keep up with other practices at the top — especially if they’ve been at it for a while.
  • Backlinks: Sites that have been around for longer and have published more quality medical content will have more backlinks than a practice website that’s just starting to pay attention to SEO. 

So how long will it take medical SEO to work? It depends on a number of factors, such as whether you have a dedicated SEO specialist, content writers, a marketing team, etc. Here’s a loose guide as to when you can expect to see results, by tactic:

Technical and on-page optimization: Month 1

  • Fixing technical SEO issues will have fast results on your website. Repair broken links, ensure your site is optimized for mobile, improve your page load speed, and ensure you have website architecture that makes sense.
  • Work through on-page optimizations by adding relevant keywords, meta descriptions, header tags, and linking internally across pages. You should start to see upward movement on those keywords within the first month.
  • Claim your practice’s Google Business profile for a boost within a few days. 

Content creation: Months 2-3

  • Content creation is a long game, but once you’re posting regularly you should start to see results around the 3-month mark. Mix up content between blogs, infographics, videos, case studies, and more to gain traction faster.

Link building and reputation management: Months 4-6

  • Building high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites in the healthcare industry will have a big impact, but it takes time to earn that trust. Create unique, informative content that other websites want to source, guest blog, or reach out to others in the medical field to be featured on other sites.
  • Positive reviews across popular medical review sites will impact your search ranking. Make sure to ask patients for reviews and monitor review sites regularly.
person looking at boxes of medicine looking confused

Frequently asked medical SEO questions

Still wondering how to make medical SEO work for your practice? Check out these frequently asked questions.

Q: Does posting a lot of new content matter for SEO?

A: Posting new content impacts your success, but it’s not the only factor. Take on what your medical practice is comfortable with and commit to consistent quality content.

Q: Are there search engines other than Google I should try to rank my practice on?

A: Google is the most popular search engine, so spend most of your time and efforts there. However, there are other search engines like Bing and Yahoo, and other places people conduct searches, like Yelp, Instagram, and TikTok. Claim your listing across search engines and directories to cover your bases.

Q: I need help! What should I look for in an SEO service?

A: Experience in SEO is critical, but an understanding of the healthcare industry is even more so. When vetting any service to support your practice growth, look for healthcare-specific experience or past clients, comprehensive data security where relevant, and strict compliance.

Q: Who can I hire for healthcare SEO expertise?

A: Tebra is a full-service healthcare operating platform that’s invested in healthcare practice growth.

Q: Is there a quick way to keep track of all my SEO checklist items?

A: Visit and download Tebra’s free and comprehensive medical SEO checklist for independent practices.

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Written by

Rebecca Slawter

Rebecca Slawter is a seasoned freelance content and copywriter focusing on B2B SaaS. Bringing nearly a decade of experience, she leverages her skill set to create dynamic, compelling copy that resonates with her clients and their audiences. California-born and bred, she uses her love for writing to help global brands tell their story.

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