The healthcare industry has a unique landscape online, with many regulations and different types of businesses—all with their own niche audiences.
If you’re working in healthcare, you’ll know that search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to your business’s success online. But for the everyday marketing manager, SEO can feel like a minefield of buzzwords and technical jargon.
With a little know-how, you can help qualified leads find you via search engines.
Regardless of whether you’re a local medical practice or a global healthcare conglomerate, your users all have one thing in common: they need to be able to find you.
SEO Strategy for Healthcare
A range of approaches fit under the umbrella of healthcare SEO, as there are many different types of healthcare businesses—all with differing needs and goals.
It’s vital that healthcare organizations have strategies tailored to their niche, in order to consistently attract relevant audiences through search engines.
Healthcare SEO can be classified into four main types:
- Medical SEO
- Healthcare professionals SEO
- Pharmaceutical SEO
- Other industries e.g. insurance, alternative medicines and CBD.
This article will delve further into this as we cover content production and optimization, as well as key tenets of technical SEO, keyword research, external SEO, and local SEO.
We will also explain what to expect from a digital marketing agency, and tools you can use to monitor the digital health of your organization.
Whar are the Most Important Factors for Healthcare SEO?
For most websites, there are four key areas where marketing managers should focus. These are:
- Technical SEO
- Keyword Research
- Content Production & Optimisation
- External SEO
Technical SEO generally remains the same across all industries, so technical SEO services will generally look quite similar for any healthcare organization.
While schema, mobile-friendliness, and speed optimizations are a few technical areas you can get started on, the points mentioned below will help you maximize your healthcare marketing efforts.
It’s very easy for an SEO professional to audit, evaluate and resolve any glaring technical issues unless your website is built with a custom content management system (CMS).
Before you produce (or pay someone to produce) a word of content, it is vital that you conduct keyword research. Keyword research will tell you the terms that users are searching for—which will direct the articles that you produce. These should be strictly relevant to your product or service and provide a direct solution on topics that your users are interested in.
Rather than trying to spread your authority far and wide, it is much more important to establish your topical authority in an area close to your business. Pick one or two main topics, and ensure they are fully covered content-wise before you move on to topics that are more tangentially related (known as satellite topics).
As such, keyword research has two main goals:
- To identify the top five to ten keywords that the business would like to rank for, and;
- To define all of the content required to align with keyword research.
Content Production & Optimisation
Content production and optimization typically cost healthcare businesses the most, but it’s also the stage where you’ll find the most SEO value.
As long as the content is accurate and high in quality, your website will have the potential to rank in search results.
It takes time for search engines to evaluate the quality of a piece of content. Some studies show that Google will take about eight months before sending all the traffic that an article objectively deserves.
It’s important to see SEO and content marketing as a long-term strategy; results build up over time.
In the healthcare industry, external SEO factors shape results more than other industries. By relying on external factors, Google evaluates the authority of a website to rank for YMYL related keywords.
While no healthcare SEO agency knows what these factors are exactly, experience and best practice have shown that Google considers the following:
- Backlink profile.
- Citations and mentions.
- The author’s authority signals.
- Social media authority signals.
- Reviews and testimonials.
- Any other external factor that signals the business’s trustworthiness.
What About Local SEO?
If you’re servicing a certain area or have multiple locations, your business will need to take a more specialized approach—although overall SEO best practices still apply.
To get started, focus on developing your Google My Business page (or pages if you have more than one). For local businesses, citations, reviews, and mentions play more of a role in your SEO success compared to that of larger enterprises.
Sometimes, updates from Google can affect your SEO results—and local SEO is no exception.
In fact, the latest Google update placed greater emphasis on your business’ distance from the user, and your prominence: how well known you are. Relevance to the search term also plays a part in rankings, but less so than distance and prominence.
What to Expect from a Healthcare SEO Expert?
It’s important to know that it’s very difficult to rank for keywords outside of your website’s topical authority. Instead, your agency or freelancer should provide a strategy to establish topical authority.
This strategy will be based on keyword research and relevant topics, backed by an understanding of Google’s EAT and YMYL guidelines.
A quality agency or freelancer will share their knowledge with you, explaining these concepts at the core of your SEO strategy.
The goals of your strategy should be clearly defined—including any keywords to rank for, and key performance indicators on monthly traffic, leads, and engagement.
You should also expect a benchmark analysis to understand what competitors or companies in similar industries are doing, to gain organic visibility.
SEO services include monthly reports on the work completed and work in progress (WIP), as well as performance analyses of your website on a monthly basis. You should expect full transparency on the amount of content to be produced.
SEO Tools for Healthcare Organisations
There are many great tools out there that marketing managers can use to improve SEO. Here are our top picks, and how you can use them.
When it comes to progress tracking and reporting, there is only one tool worth mentioning: Google Search Console. Because this tool’s data is based on real-time searches and rankings, you can gain an accurate indication of how your website is performing.
Google Search Console lists keywords that aren’t included on any other tools, as well as providing relevant keywords you haven’t properly covered in your content. Overall, Google Search Console shows how the search engine perceives your site as well as highlights any errors.
For local healthcare providers, Google My Business is the tool for you. While it has similar features to that of Google Search Console, it is made for businesses servicing one or more specific locations. Without it, you can’t build a presence online—it is a multipurpose tool, essential to every digital marketing effort whether you’re running ads or aiming to rank for “medical professionals near me”.
Tools for Keyword Research
Ahrefs is a keyword and backlink analysis tool that can be used for Google and other search engines. Where Google Search Console draws on real-time keyword data, Ahrefs provides estimates of the search volumes to create its large database—so it can’t be used as one true source.
However, Ahrefs is very useful for benchmarking, analysis, and finding new topics. Ahrefs also invented Domain Authority—a popular measure used to evaluate a site’s backlink profile, as the tool draws on its record of links between websites all over the world.
SEMrush has similar functions as Ahrefs: but takes a different approach with its primary focus on paid search advertising. By providing the user with traffic data trends, SEMrush delves deeper by estimating the traffic you’re receiving from other channels such as paid search, as well as forecasting the level of competition for paid keywords.
While tools can be useful for keyword research, it’s important to know that most keywords can also be found without any tool. In fact: many SEOs in the industry choose not to pay for a tool for keyword research, choosing to rely instead on other sources. These include:
- Google’s “Related Searches” section of search engine results pages.
- Google’s “People Also Ask” section of search engine results pages.
- Audience analysis via Quora and Reddit, to learn what users are discussing and asking.
With SurferSEO, the content creation process is made easy. SurferSEO draws on real-time ranking data to create content guidelines. By taking the top ten pieces of content for a term, SurferSEO’s AI outlines how many times you need to include the primary keywords (known as keyword density), as well as advising the optimal content length and number of headings, paragraphs, and images. Since these factors play an important role in content ranking, SurferSEO is instrumental.
Rank Math has a similar function to SurferSEO but is a plugin specifically for WordPress websites. While the content AI is a paid feature, you can manage redirects and your site’s technical SEO aspects for free with this tool.
External Factors Monitoring
BrightLocal is a popular tool for local businesses, whether you’re running a medical practice or a local chemist. The tool covers everything you need, in order to maintain your website’s authority and rankings in local searches. Its features allow you to check rankings globally, honing in on specific towns in their level of detail. From BrightLocal, you can manage citation acquisition and ensure that your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) remains consistent wherever it’s listed across the web.
Majestic evaluates your website’s authority on specific topics. If you’re in the health industry, its Trust Flow feature is key to understanding how much search engines trust your website for certain articles and topics. It provides a better indication of authority than many other tools, and while it is very similar to SEMrush and Ahrefs, takes a different approach.
Resources for Healthcare SEO
- To understand the current health industry through an SEO lens, check out Google’s list of COVID related best practices for health and government websites.
- To maximise your content marketing efforts, read Moz’s guide to EAT and Google’s quality guidelines.
- For an in-depth understanding beyond the basics, this free SEO guide will give you the expertise you need.
Still, got questions? Check out our glossary section below, or comment or email us.
EAT stands for Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness, and was introduced by Google in 2014 to ensure that all published content was based on these qualities.
Your Money Your Life (YMYL) is a set of guidelines by Google, similarly aimed at protecting consumers. YMYL ensures that content on the search engine meets high-quality standards if the topic has the potential to affect users’ health or financial standing.
The Topical authority is the level of expertise that search engines believe your site to have, on a particular topic. This is used as a measure to determine where you rank in search results and can play a large role in your SEO success.