Welcome to the complete guide to SEO for doctors and healthcare providers.
This guide covers all aspects of SEO from absolute beginner topics to reminders and tactics for more intermediate users.
It is designed to give a solid framework that any doctor can use to promote their personal business, whether that be growing the private practice or marketing a healthcare start-up.
- 1 Why you need to care about SEO
- 2 SEO basics
- 3 Organic vs Paid Traffic
- 4 Why is SEO for doctors important?
- 5 What does Google say about SEO?
- 6 An SEO warning for doctors
- 7 SEO for Medical Practices vs SEO for health startups
- 8 Coming Soon
- 8.1 Checklist: How to get started
- 8.2 Keyword Research Masterclass
- 8.3 16 Key Strategies for Medical Practices
- 8.4 SEO Strategy
- 8.5 On and Off Page SEO: Quick Wins
- 8.6 Your Search Appearance
- 8.7 Intro to Sales Funnels
- 8.8 Creating Content
- 8.9 Building Links & Authority
- 8.10 Beyond SEO: What next?
- 8.11 Measuring SEO Performance & Success
- 8.12 FAQ
We begin with exploring exactly what SEO is and why it’s important for doctors and healthcare providers.
Then we look at quick start guides whether doing local SEO for brick and mortar business or more competitive, nationwide ventures.
Why you need to care about SEO
While the world of search engine optimisation can be technically challenging and complex, it has a relatively easy on-ramp and learning curve. In fact, due to the relative nature of SEO, you may find that your particular niche or geographical location isn’t very competitive.
Even if you are trying to create a competitive brand in New York or London, there are still plenty of tactics and tips in this guide which should give you an edge over the competition.
If you are looking to purchase SEO services, such as those provided by Harley Street Digital, we recommend that you at least skim through this article.
This will give you a minimum level of working knowledge about what is required for an effective SEO campaign.
What is SEO?
at the most basic level, search engine optimisation is about adhering to a series of best practices with regards to a website, in order so that it appears at the highest possible level in search engine results.
There are two sides to search engine optimisation, namely on page optimisation which is what both website visitors and Google can see, and off page optimisation which only Google will be aware of.
While there are many search engines, the landscape is so dominated by Google that for all intents and purposes there is a single search engine. By optimising for Google you’re naturally optimising for all the others with a few minor caveats, such as being present on Bing maps for example.
How does SEO work?
To begin SEO, you must first have a website and a domain name. Once your website is live, Google will eventually find it via crawlers.
Google scans the existing, open Internet using crawlers. These crawlers typically find new websites and new content on those websites via hyperlinks.
When Google detects your website, it may decide to show some or all of its pages when people enter search queries.
Presenting your website in such a way that Google not only serves it in response to a search query, but chooses to present it at the top of page 1 is the essence of SEO work.
there are plenty of technicalities behind how Google makes these decisions. Fortunately, you can go a long way with SCO without understanding any of this.
To rank high on Google, you need to have a user-friendly website, that is easy to navigate and provides clear answers to people’s queries.
SEO building blocks
Before we get into this user guide, it can be helpful to a 30,000 foot view.
Google wants you to provide users with a great experience.
That means a fast loading, clear website, with compelling answers and context for their questions.
A great website with great content will naturally attract the attention of others, and as a result they will link to you.
These links are a key indicator of how Google assesses the importance and quality of your website.
So the three building blocks of search engine optimisation are a user friendly website with great content that has attracted a good number of links from other reputable websites.
Organic vs Paid Traffic
A note regarding vocabulary.
Organic traffic includes any type of traffic that is not directly paid for – i.e. anything that isn’t a paid ad.
A key source of organic traffic is Google’s search engine results page or SERP.
Google decides which websites are seen at the top of the results due to the perceived quality of each page.
There is of course however paid traffic visible on almost all search engine results pages. Paid ads used to be very visible in Google, with different font colours and clear labelling.
Things are more complicated these days, but for the purposes of this guide just know that reaching number one on Google is in relation to other organic results.
For most searches, there will be paid ads visible above the number one spot.
Why is SEO for doctors important?
SEO is the primary driver of all online traffic.
Not only are organic results more common than paid, they are also viewed by the average user as being more trustworthy. Doctors can lean on their inherent expertise and trustworthiness to leverage SEO in their favour.
While SEO can consume time, money or both, paid advertising is a very expensive on off switch.
It is not enough to write a little bit of sales copy and then invest hundreds or thousands of pounds or dollars into paid ads.
It is highly likely that you will lose rather than gain a return on your investment. Even if you were able to produce a net profit, as sooner you stop paying for ads the traffic stops.
Search engine optimisation on the other hand is typically a much more gradual, and therefore more permanent source of traffic.
If you produce quality content that is fully aligned with the search intent of Google’s users, there is a good chance that your efforts will be rewarded over months and years.
Finally, while SEO is generally about providing a good quality experience for both users and the Google algorithm, there are a number of technicalities which can make or break the success of your website or online business.
These aren’t hacks or tricks, but rather best practices and common expectations with regards to the online experience.
SEO allows doctors to build up their source of Traffic over the medium-term, giving a relatively stable and predictable income stream.
Why is SEO important in healthcare?
Accessing healthcare information and healthcare professionals online has rapidly become the norm over the past two decades.
Even if you were to have a large financial budget for paid advertising, if you have avoided best practices required for SEO, you will likely have the website that does not resonate well with your visitors.
Whether future patients, customers, or clients, people expect to see a professional website filled with easy to understand information, presented in a way that is usual online.
The online world has become so embedded in our day-to-day lives that people make very fast judgements based on their digital interactions.
A perfect example of this This website loading time. Even millisecond delays in a page or article loading can cause a significant drop-off in website visitors.
This phenomenon however is mirrored across website design, content and function.
For healthcare institutions like clinics or hospitals, all the way up to fledgling health-tech ventures, a concrete SEO and content marketing strategy is necessary in 2023 and beyond.
What does Google say about SEO?
The following two sections, technical requirements and key best practices have been taken directly from Google. As you can see, to get started and to get the fundamentals right does not require a vast amount of learning.
However anything to do with health or wellness is both:
a) highly guarded by Google (as misinformation could be life-threatening) which requires you to earn their trust and
b) is highly competitive in most locations and niches as healthcare is typically expensive in relation to other sectors
The above two points are the reason for this SEO for doctor’s guide existing – to help you get an edge over the competition without having to waste time piecing together the puzzle or over paying for services that you don’t need.
Now for what can be considered Google’s Minimum Requirements.
The technical requirements cover the bare minimum that Google Search needs from a web page in order to show it in search results. There are actually very few technical things you need to do to a web page; most sites pass the technical requirements without even realizing it.
Key best practices
While there are many things you can do to improve your site’s SEO, there are a few core practices that can have the most impact on your web content’s ranking and appearance on Google Search:
Create helpful, reliable, people-first content.
Use words that people would use to look for your content, and place those words in prominent locations on the page, such as the title and main heading of a page, and other descriptive locations such as alt textand link text.
Make your links crawlable so that Google can find other pages on your site via the links on your page.
Tell people about your site. Be active in communities where you can tell like-minded people about your services and products that you mention on your site.
Enhance how your site appears on Google Search by enabling features that make sense for your site.
If you have content that shouldn’t be found in search results or you want to opt out entirely, use the appropriate method for controlling how your content appears in Google Search.
An SEO warning for doctors
There has been an explosion recently in the use of AI to generate website content, both written and image-based.
While these technologies are very impressive, and in a variety of cases can even fall the casual observer into thinking that a human created them, they are definitely not suitable for creating SEO content.
Although these bits of software are technically creating something original, they are simply drawing on a large dataset which they have been trained on and are unable to draw on basic research tools such as using Google itself!
Both AI content and content that you simply regurgitate from other websites will provide you with exactly 0 benefit.
It goes without saying that plagiarism of any kind will be damaging for your website and business. while Google does not actually penalised for any detected Duplicate content bit simply ignores anything online that is not the original.
Poorly written or unoriginal content can create a large number of pages that Google does not deem worthy to show to its users.
These pages are like a deadweight which will drag your website as a whole down through the rankings and damage your potential revenue, not to mention put off any human visitors who may recognise your content from its original source.
SEO for Medical Practices vs SEO for health startups
Rather than a question of content, this is actually a question of technical focus.
When considering the differences between marketing a medical practice and marketing a health start-up what you usually considering is the difference between local and regional outreach.
There are exceptions to the rule, but typically a medical practice will be only targeting people who live within a certain, local geographical location. A health-tech start-up or any other type of start-up a doctor may consider founding will want customers on a national level, if not an international one.
Thankfully, this difference in need is a really well understood within the SEO sector. Targeting with a national or international focus (for our understanding at this level) is simply referred to as SEO.
For those who need to reach people living locally or within a specific geographical location, this practice is referred to as local SEO.
A minority of businesses may require a mixture of both, for example those businesses which have a physical store or clinic and also provide services or products through an online portal such as their own website.
We will delve into local SEO for medical practices and brick and mortar start-ups in this section entitled key strategies for medical practices.
For now all you need to know is that when people typically use Google to find local services, they either type [‘ service’] + near me or [‘ service’] + [geographical location)].
Having location specific phrases on your website will help with recognition that you service this area, as will registering with a service called Google my business.