Healthcare SEO – A Complete Guide

Did you know that globally, 5% of the searches on Google are related to health?

In this modern age of medicine, where a click can lead patients to information, mastering the art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must!

What is SEO in healthcare?

Simply put, healthcare SEO is optimizing a website to improve its rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) for keywords and search queries related to the medical field.

This process involves tailoring website content, structure, and on-page elements like keywords, meta tags, and backlinks to meet the specific needs and search behaviors of consumers.

By effectively employing SEO strategies, these industries can improve their online visibility. This makes it easier for potential patients to find their services, read informative health articles, and make informed decisions about their health needs.

Do hospitals need SEO?

Let’s imagine a patient with a burning question about their health. They type their query on Google Search and see hundreds of results. Your page could potentially be the solution to their query, but it is nowhere to be seen. Don’t let this be your reality!

Gone are the days when patients used phonebooks to find the nearest hospital’s contact number or contact a Doctor for appointments. Fast-forward to today, and a quick online search on “Diagnostics near me,” for example, gives you all the information you need within seconds. This makes SEO (Search Engine Optimization) your secret weapon for attracting new patients and getting your services noticed online.

How does healthcare SEO differ from general SEO practices?

SEO for health-related websites stands apart from its conventional counterpart due to the intricacies inherent in the industry. Here’s how it differs from general SEO:

  • Keyword & content strategy: Healthcare SEO requires a keyword and content strategy that is specifically designed to cater to the language, search intent, and behaviors of medical professionals, patients, industry stakeholders, etc.For Example, “Heart attack” vs. “myocardial infarction.”Your keyword research should include both of these keywords and then incorporate it in your content based on search intent. The ideal content strategy would be to find a balance between complex medical terms and normally used keywords so that everyone understands it.
  • Privacy, laws & industry regulations: Healthcare SEO entails striking a delicate balance between authoritative content, patient privacy safeguards, and compliance with health-related laws.For eg., Medicine-related content must comply with strict industry regulations, especially the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States.
  • Search intent: Users are looking for the right, trustworthy information for their queries on certain treatments, symptoms, conditions, where they can get treatment, which is the best hospital for the treatment, etc. So, where healthcare SEO differs is in understanding different search intent, which requires a lot more research compared to other business areas in order to provide the accurate information.
  • Complexity of services and terminology: Medical terminology can be complex and difficult for the average person to understand. Effective SEO must bridge the gap between professional medical language and the everyday language used by patients in search queries, ensuring content is accessible yet accurate.
  • Localization needs: For many health service providers, local SEO is more critical than it might be in other industries. Patients often look for providers within a certain geographical area, so optimizing for local search terms and managing local listings (like Google Business Profile) is a key strategy.

Unique challenges and solutions for healthcare SEO

A major challenge lies in aligning complex medical content with user-friendly language while maintaining medical accuracy.

A solution is to collaborate with medical professionals to create content that is both accessible to the general public and meets high medical standards.

Navigating Google’s YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) Guidelines

Healthcare websites fall squarely under Google’s YMYL guidelines, which demand high levels of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (EAT). Often, navigating these guidelines might become demanding and challenging.

Solution:

  • Sites must ensure their content is of high quality and is authored or reviewed by medical experts and backed by reputable medical sources.
  • You could include quotes from doctors on certain health conditions, create expert roundup posts, and create videos. Also, make sure the content is updated regularly.
  • Utilize patient testimonials and reviews: Showcase positive patient stories and reviews to build trust and credibility.

Dealing with competition

With the amount of information available today in the health industry, dealing with competition can be daunting.

In addition, your SEO competitors (sites that rank on SERPs for the same keyword you are targeting but may not be directly competing with your business/ services) could be totally different from your business competitors. So, it’s vital to ensure a careful and effective strategy is in place.

Some of the bigger international competitors that dominate SERPs include WebMD, the National Institutes of Health, Government CDC organizations, Mayoclinic, Healthline, etc. However, they are your business competitors offering the same services as yours.

Many are of the belief that competing with big leaders in the field is difficult to win against, but in reality, it’s not impossible.

Solution: Here are some strategies you could use to deal with competition and potentially even outrank your competitors:

  • Monitor competitor strategies: Monitor successful competitors to understand their tactics and identify gaps in your own strategy. This can also work vice versa, i.e., by identifying gaps in a competitor’s strategy that you can fill.
  • Focus on niche specialization: Topical authority is crucial. Identify and target specific niches or sub-specialties where you can offer unique insights or services, as your bigger competitors would focus on more general information. So you could use this to your advantage and dominate certain niche search terms.
  • Leverage local SEO: Optimize for local search queries and ensure your business is accurately listed on local directories and Google Business Profile. Local SEO gives you an edge over your international competitors. We will see more about this in the coming sections below.
  • Engage in community outreach: Participate in health forums, Q&A sites, and social media to increase visibility and establish authority.

Top strategies for healthcare SEO

An SEO strategy, irrespective of the niche, needs a holistic approach and work towards an ultimate goal. In the medical industry, that ultimate goal is usually patient engagement, booking appointments, and sales.

Let’s break this down into three parts, where we cover various On-page, Off-page, and content marketing strategies for the healthcare industry.

On-site SEO techniques

1. Keyword research

The healthcare niche is extremely competitive, and the SEO team must go through many thought processes and decisions to identify the right keywords for the content, keeping user intent in mind.

There needs to be a good balance between using broader keywords and long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords are basically longer and more specific phrases that users enter into search engines. This is usually when they are closer to getting specific information or while making a purchase.

Based on the healthcare services offered, focusing more on long-tail keywords can actually benefit your site.

Here are three reasons why:

  • They are more specific, they indicate a higher level of user intent. Hence, it is easier to target specific patient groups who might end up searching for eg. “how to prevent diabetes after the age of 30
  • The chances of ranking are higher for long/ generic keywords, as they may be less competitive.
  • The scope of improving conversion rates is higher, because these keywords target users who are further along in the buying cycle and have a clearer idea of what they want. When more users visit your site, there is an increase in traffic. This leads to more trust in your brand over time, leading to more conversions.

To sum it up, use these tips for keyword research:

  • See what seed keywords you can use based on your services, start with broader topics.
  • Check for location, patient demographics and search volume to further narrow down your keyword list.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords
  • Keep user intent in mind

2. Content creation

Changes in the SEO space with Google’s constant algorithm updates are one thing, but the changes in the medical field and trends are bigger, and hence, the content you publish needs regular updates.

These are key information patients and the audience would hugely rely on to make informed decisions for their needs.

Producing high-quality, relevant, well-researched content based on keyword research can have a huge positive impact on your site’s rankings.

Blogging and educational content

Establish authority and provide value through informative content. While writing for highly technical medical keywords is important, it is equally important to engage your users with lifestyle content like blogs on exercises, fitness, generic life conditions, mental health, etc.

Make use of the Doctor’s fame/name

Highlight the doctor’s credentials, awards, and publications prominently on your website to showcase their expertise and authority in the field. Leverage their reputation by featuring guest blog posts, interviews, and speaking engagements to enhance the site’s Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T) in healthcare SEO. We will see more E-A-T in the sections below.

3. Technical SEO for healthcare

Although there is no big difference when it comes to implementing the technical SEO process in the health niche vs other niches, let’s not forget that user experience and online reputation can significantly impact your brand. It’s important to ensure your site is trustworthy and user-friendly for patients seeking information.

Here is a quick checklist you can follow to make sure your technical SEO is in place.

Site Architecture Build a well-structured website, based on logic and hierarchy. Ensure you have clear navigation and simple menus – these are essential for indexing. This helps search engines understand your website’s content and thereby improves user experience.
Mobile Optimization & Responsiveness Optimize for mobile responsiveness. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of traffic and potential lead-generation opportunities.
Broken Links Check for broken links (404, 400 error codes) and prioritize fixing the ones that affect crucial pages and the overall UX. Use tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush for checking and fixing broken links.
XML Sitemap Create and submit an XML sitemap to search engines. This sitemap is essentially a file that lists a website’s pages for search engines to crawl and index.
Schema Markup Implement schema markup. It helps search engines understand the type of content on your pages (be it information, transactional, procedural, or guides).

Off-site SEO strategies

1. Building a strong backlink profile

Although Google has often mentioned that backlinks as a ranking signal are no longer as important, they can have a positive impact on your site’s overall authority when done right.

Here are some strategies you could implement for your off-page success:

  • Make your content stand out. Create shareable content that other relevant sites will be happy to link back to. This can be anything from the latest trends to important statistics to your own research on particular health conditions/ diseases/ symptoms. Make it engaging.
  • Another option that can be considered is Digital PR and expert roundups. These can be done by leveraging networking and building relationships with other medical professionals and industry influencers.
  • Contribute to medical forums or communities, and participate in industry events to establish your website’s authority and credibility.
  • So when they refer to your site, they are essentially sending google signals that your site is trustworthy and legit. It’s important to pick and choose quality backlinks from relevant sites over a huge quantity of backlinks.

What you shouldn’t do:

  • End up buying/ paying for backlinks – This is a violation of their spam policies. In doing so, a website is at risk of getting a penalty from Google, effectively plunging the site into a potentially year-long effort to recover from it.
  • Spammy guest post practices—Google is proactively cracking down on link spam, including spammy guest posting (i.e., parasite SEO), which is usually from PBN sites.

These practices should be avoided at all costs.

2. Local SEO for healthcare

This strategy involves optimizing your site for local search in order to attract patients from specific geographic areas. This can be implemented and achieved by using local languages or location-specific keywords, location to pin geo-specific areas.

Using location-specific keywords

This is specifically used to improve a business’s visibility in local searches. Include location-specific keywords in website content and strategically place them across various pages.

For example, your article might be ranking for the keyword “Best Dermatology clinics in Malaysia,” but by optimizing the article and including the keyword “Best Dermatologist in Malaysia,” you are further improving your chances of ranking higher in your location.

Leveraging Google Business Profile/Google My Business (GMB):

GMB is a free internet service, designed to promote local businesses. It is considered one of the best ways to improve your business’s Local SEO. Here’s how it helps patients:

  • They can find contact information and address
  • View your list of services and business hours
  • How much do people typically spend at your store & at what time does your business get busy
  • See photos of your practice
  • Get directions to your location
  • Read and share reviews

By regularly updating content and important information, the listing’s overall performance can be improved, leading to greater visibility and higher conversions.

3. Online reviews and reputation management

A recent survey from Weave shows that online reviews are a big deciding factor for 72% of millennials when it comes to trusting a brand and scheduling appointments with related service providers. Additionally, leveraging patient reviews to boost trust and visibility is crucial for growing brand reputation for hospitals and medical institutions.

Here are ways you can manage your reputation through reviews:

  • Monitor Reviews Regularly: Set up alerts for new reviews on platforms like Google My Business, Healthgrades, and Yelp.
  • Respond to All Reviews: Thank happy patients for their feedback and address any concerns raised in negative reviews promptly and professionally.
  • Focus on Patient Satisfaction: Deliver excellent care to encourage positive reviews naturally. Address negative feedback directly and take steps to improve the patient experience.
  • Showcase Reviews: Feature positive snippets from reviews on your website and social media to build trust with potential patients.

4. Content marketing for healthcare

We’ve discussed content creation earlier. Content marketing adds another dimension to it and focuses on using the content in ways other than traditional blogging.

It is a strategic approach focused on not just creating but distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience. This may include creating graphics or engaging posts on social media. The aim, ultimately, is to drive profitable customer action. Thus, content marketing involves using that content effectively to meet business objectives.

Video content

Engaging potential patients with video tours, testimonials, and educational videos is a good technique to showcase the hospital’s infrastructure, technical expertise, and presence in an area.

Social media

Using platforms like Facebook and Instagram can help reach and engage with a broader audience. Additionally, it may also be worthwhile to leverage influencer marketing to attract traffic.

Advanced healthcare SEO strategies

E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness)

In the health industry, a brand’s credibility, trust, and precision hold substantial importance, impacting patient engagement rates significantly.

With the increasing number of users/ patients using search engines today to research symptoms, treatment options, and health service providers, it’s only imperative that a strong SEO presence, coupled with high quality, helps establish this trust and credibility. When your website consistently provides relevant, informative content and ranks well in search results, it reinforces confidence in your expertise and services.

Having good online reputation, reviews, solid social proof, and even user-generated content (UGC) can enhance the E-A-T of your website.

Tips to enhance E-A-T for your overall improvement in healthcare SEO

  • Ensure that content creators have relevant expertise and credentials in the healthcare field. Display author bios with information about their qualifications and experience for the articles written by them.
  • Collect and showcase positive reviews, testimonials, and ratings from patients. Include case studies, success stories, and awards or recognitions received by the healthcare organization to establish authority.
  • See what content formats you could use. Videos and podcasts are a great way to enhance your EAT signals by having a group of medical experts/ professionals collaborate on various topics.

Voice search optimization

According to a report from Meticulous Market Research Pvt. Ltd., the speech and voice recognition market is projected to reach $56.07 billion by 2030 and the health industry is among the top 5 contributing to the ‘Speech and Voice Recognition Market.’

How to incorporate Voice Search as part of your SEO Strategy:

  • Incorporate long-tail keywords. Voice searches are more conversational and detailed, so there is great potential for matching queries with long-tail keywords.
  • Optimize your content for keywords that are in the form of questions, as most queries start with “What is” or “How to.” Build content around these keywords so that your pages directly answer the user’s queries.
  • Optimize for Mobile search. More than 30% of search queries come from mobile, so your website needs to be optimized for mobile and cannot be compromised.
  • Local SEO plays a vital role in Voice search because users ask questions with the intent to get to the nearest hospital or doctor’s clinic.

AI in healthcare SEO

The role of AI is becoming increasingly significant, revolutionizing how health-related websites optimize their content and interact with their audience. Here are some examples where it can help:

  • AI tools like ChatGPT, Bard, Perplexity AI, etc., can analyze search trends and patient queries to identify emerging health-related topics.
  • AI tools can help enhance the overall content creation process. For eg., prepare an outline for your article by including appropriate prompts on the kind of narrative, tone of voice, information about your target audience or even how to use certain medical terms in your content.
  • AI algorithms can tailor website content for individual users, enhancing relevance and engagement.
  • AI tools can help optimize website layouts for better user navigation. They can also help ensure that users find information efficiently, improving site metrics like dwell time.
  • Integration of AI-powered chatbots and conversational AI to provide instant responses to user inquiries.
  • AI can be leveraged to make SEO practices more user-focused, which is crucial in the medical world where user trust and experience are paramount.

Google SGE’s impact on the healthcare industry

Interesting data from BrightEdge shows that the healthcare industry is the most affected by Google’s Search Generative Experience (SGE), and 76% of queries analyzed were impacted by it.

Impact:

Traffic drop/ Fluctuation: The results you see on Google when you search for something will mostly be AI-generated. Users will spend more time on Google’s search results page itself rather than actually clicking on a site’s URL on the search results page. So this could potentially impact your site’s traffic as the number of clicks is reduced.

Lesser conversions – SGE results are presented as “fraggles” (passages from various sources) instead of full websites. This can make user journeys less predictable and potentially decrease conversions, as users might not land on your intended call-to-action page.

More focus on direct answers instead of detailed ones: Since SGE prioritizes concise answers, hence long-form content might get overlooked. This could come as a disadvantage for healthcare websites which rely on detailed explanations and comprehensive information.

What healthcare SEO teams can do about Google SGE?

Target complex queries along with visuals: SGE might encourage users to ask longer, more nuanced questions. Healthcare websites that address these complex queries with in-depth content could gain visibility. Leverage visuals to explain complex processes, as Google recently updated SGE to specifically include visuals along with AI-generated summaries.

Optimize for featured snippets: Structure your content to answer specific questions concisely and accurately. If your pages rank for featured snippets already, they are more likely to be recognised by AI, which can lead to displaying results for SGE.

Improve your web presence, visibility & credibility: Having a strong web presence now plays a vital role. Make sure you have a well-designed, user-friendly site that is optimized for mobile too. Your site needs to adhere to Google’s guidelines on Core Web Vitals, Helpful Content local SEO and E-E-A-T as well.

Managing your online reputation: Get timely patient reviews, ratings, and testimonials—both textual and video formats. In addition, add CTAs that lead to reviews and testimonial pages from the respective category pages.

Enhanced useful features: After testing for a smooth patient/user journey, add useful features to your website. These could include appointment booking, virtual assistants/chat boxes, payments, patient health data access, etc.

Measuring SEO success

It goes without saying that any process or strategy implemented needs to be monitored or tracked. So how do you measure the impact of your SEO efforts?

Here are some KPIs to regularly monitor and track:

KPI Why you need to monitor them
Keyword Ranking To assess keyword performance, identify opportunities for content optimization, and identify trends in search behavior.
Organic Traffic To evaluate content effectiveness, identify trends and opportunities for possible content formats, repurposing content, etc.
User Behaviour For understanding patient needs and intent, optimizing and personalizing content & UX
Reviews, Ratings, and Customer testimonials To gather timely patient feedback, drive quality improvement, manage reputation, and build trust and confidence.
Booking appointments/ leads & Conversions to measure the success of your healthcare SEO efforts and know your ROI, see if your website is attracting the right kind of audience and find areas for improvement- For eg.- if landing pages are converting leads into appointments.

Basic tools to be used for healthcare SEO:

Tools Usage
Ahrefs, SEMrush For keyword research, tracking organic traffic & keyword performance, site auditing, checking broken links, competitor analysis, and finding content gaps and opportunities.
Google Search Console For checking the performance of your site based on impressions and clicks in the SERPs
Google Analytics For tracking and analyzing the source of your traffic, user engagement & conversions. This can, in turn, help you tailor your pages with more specific, relevant content, and CTAs.

 

Remember, SEO is an ongoing process, and hence, it’s important to analyze data regularly. This helps identify areas for improvement and make informed, data-driven decisions.

Case studies and success stories

Check out some of our real-world case studies that illustrate the transformative power of effective SEO strategies. These examples showcase how tailored SEO approaches have significantly improved online visibility and patient engagement for these service providers.

Why should you partner with a healthcare SEO agency?

Partnering with an SEO company brings specialized expertise and industry-specific insights to your digital strategy. It helps ensure that your online presence is both compliant with medical regulations and optimized for maximum visibility.

Reach out to us at Growth Pro to discuss how we can work together with your brand.

Contact Us Now & Start Winning In SEO

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