SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of making a website readable to search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. It’s true that SEO can get quite complex, but let’s remember that most private practices compete for business within a 15 mile radius of their location. That means we don’t need to get too fancy or overly technical – taking care of some of the SEO basics will get most medical businesses the new patients they need in time.
First, let’s take a look at what SEO is so that we can better understand it. If you think of a billboard that you see on the highway they are basically saying who, what and where they are located. This is similar to how SEO works for local searches. It's simply telling the search engines who you are, what you do, how they can contact you and where your practice is located.
While you may want to increase overall traffic to your practice’s website, your most important visitors will be ones in your local area. These are the patients who will actually come into your office.
4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information. They search for store address, business hours, product/service availability and directions.
-- According to Understanding Consumers' Local Search Behavior, Google
This means that you want to design your website to increase local searches and attract local business. You want to reach and engage your community to grow your practice—not reach people 3,000 miles away!
Make Sure You're Found By Local Patients
Since local optimization can help you get found in searches in your area (i.e., Pediatrician, Iowa City), make sure that you cover these additional SEO tasks when setting up your site:
- Include your city name along with top keywords in website content (i.e., We are pediatricians in Iowa City).
- Include your full address on every page of your website (not just the contact us page) and make sure it is exactly the same everywhere (same words, punctuation, etc.). It needs to be consistent.
- Link your Google Maps listing to your website.
- Make sure your NAP (name, address, phone number) is consistent across all channels. This includes your website, social media profiles, review sites and directory listings.
- Use local keywords in your URLs, heading tags, title tags and content, where appropriate.
Also include your hours of operation, driving directions and pages devoted to the services you offer. This ensures that search engines can easily find your site and that patients see what they want to see the moment they click through.
People Trust Online Reviews
More and more patients are turning to Google for reviews of the medical practices in their area before making a decision to visit the doctor. You should be aware of the power of positive online reviews when optimizing for local traffic. Today, most people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (see more consumer review sentiments below), making them powerful tools to bring in new patients to your practice. In healthcare, nearly 85% of patients said they consult a reviews website to view or post comments and ratings of healthcare staff, according to a Software Advice survey. And when using review sites, 77% of patients surveyed said they use them prior to choosing a physician.
Some of the top review sites include:
- Google+ Local
- Yahoo! Local
You can go through these and other medical practice review sites to make sure you're listed and that the information about your practice is accurate. Here are some things to keep in mind about online reviews, according to a survey by BrightLocal:
84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews
73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
If you have a practice marketing software vendor, you should be able to access tools and feature to manage and promote your online presence across all important online review sites and directories.
The importance of ranking in local search is undeniable. As we’ve already seen, local searches lead to more visits. This means high local search rankings equals increased traffic and revenue for your practice.
With these benefits in mind, ensure your website and content are optimized for local searches, and get your practice listed on local review sites. Include contact info in a prominent location on your website and social media profiles, and make sure your site is optimized for viewing on mobile browsers. Search engine optimization doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s an important piece of a successful online reputation. So it’s worth the effort and time.