If you’ve ever “Googled” yourself, did you like the results? Depending on what you searched, you might have gotten some unexpected results. Worse still, maybe your practice didn’t even show up. This is a common reaction and the trouble is, despite being commonly recommended, search engine optimization (SEO) can feel like a mysterious black box.
We talk to a lot of medical practices and we review even more medical practice websites during our day-to-day and we commonly encounter several of the same SEO problems on lots of local healthcare sites. Fortunately, some of the most common SEO problems have relatively simple fixes. We’ll look at 6 of the most common SEO problems we see on local healthcare sites and how to fix them.
Inconsistent Name, Address and Phone Number data
As with medicine, within SEO there are “specialties” like local SEO; in fact you may have seen a previous post where discussed why local SEO matters for medical professionals. Unfortunately, one of the core elements of local SEO is one of the most common SEO problems we see—inconsistent use of name, address and phone number data.
The basic issue looks something like this: our example practice, Knoxville Pediatric Specialists has a website that lists their legal name of Knoxville Pediatric Specialists, LLP and their main office phone number (865)123-4567, but they have been using Knoxville Ped Specialists and (865)321-7654 on social media. Whether because of a move, multiple people posting content, or some other reason, what seems like a small thing can cause big ripples through the web. In the case of our example practice, the ripples start with their Google Maps listing, which has duplicates due to the inconsistent names and wrong phone numbers. The problem is, Google uses this data to match up information it knows about your practice and present it to searchers. Without consistent data, the data Google can provide may not be complete.
Create a consistent standard for your Name, Address and Phone Number. Claim and update all your digital properties including your website, social media profiles and map listings with your new consistent name, address, and phone number.
Lack of relevant content
While there are technical aspects of SEO, content is one of the biggest component of any SEO campaign. Without content, even the most technically optimized site won’t perform well in search. Unfortunately, not just any content will do. It is important that the content be relevant to your potential patients and well-structured. Any images or videos need to be tagged appropriately and there should be lots of text, because this content will be read and digested by Google and other search engines to determine your rankings; while they are getting smarter every day, they still require text to understand what any given page is about.
Regularly create relevant content that is keyword optimized and well structured. A great source of content is your existing patients:
What questions are they asking?
What do they struggle with?
What are your most common treatments/conditions?
Targeting the wrong people
Similar to the previous point, your content needs to be targeted at the right people. While this is somewhat subjective, based on your marketing goals, you should have a specific target in mind. This is important for deciding not only how to write the content, but what content to write. For example, we regularly see medical websites with impressive listings of doctors’ publications and highly technical discussions of symptoms and treatments that, while very impressive, aren’t likely to be understood by a potential patient.
Conceptualize a typical consumer for your content and always create content with that person in mind. For example, if you want to increase the number of new patients, you need to create content for patients, not other doctors. This sometimes means writing things in ways that wouldn’t be published in medical journals, but rather use the same language that your patients use when searching for a condition. You shouldn’t publish incorrect information, but patients aren’t always using the medically accurate language. Use the language they use when the come into see you at your office.
No Links To or From Your Site
In the context of SEO, links are like votes and there are two basic types—inbound links (also called “backlinks”) and outbound. Both are important, but chances are you’re going to hear about backlinks more than outbound links. There are two key SEO benefits to links:
Links indicate related content
Links indicate trust in the site on the other end.
Each time you link to a site or someone links to your site, there is a behind the scenes transaction of ranking power passed between sites. Essentially by linking to a site you’re saying “I endorse this message.” Furthermore, Google also reads and digests the sites you’re linking to and the sites that link to you to get a better understanding of how well respected your site is for a given topic. Lots of links from well-respected (highly-ranked) sites indicates to Google, “This is a site we can trust.”
Make sure to link out to high-quality related content. These links will help Google better understand your content and how your practice fits with other related topics. Promote your content on social media and other places. Additionally, consider engaging in a link building campaign; contacting local organizations you support, equipment providers, and other organizations can yield a surprising number of great backlinks.
No Mobile Version of Your Site
In late 2016 the number of internet users accessing the web with mobile devices surpassed those using traditional computers and this has only continued to grow. With huge pushes being made by the likes of Google and Facebook to bring internet access to billions in previously unserved populations, mobile is the future of the web. To that end, most of the biggest changes in SEO ranking factors over the last year or two have been related directly to providing a better experience for mobile users. To put it most simply, not having a mobile-friendly site in 2017 means you’re missing out on about 50% of the traffic you could be seeing.
At the very least you need a mobile site. If your site is based on WordPress, you may find a theme update or plugins available that will create a mobile version for your site. Our recommendation would be to redesign your site and move to a responsive design, which will adjust to accommodate any size screen.
Pages Load Too Slowly
Even a responsive or mobile site can fail in this aspect of SEO. As page loading times increase, the number of people who abandon the site increases exponentially. Blame lack of patience and immediate gratification, but speed is the name of the game if you want to rank well and keep the new patients flowing in.
Minimize the amount of extra “stuff” on your pages. While a cost calculator in the sidebar may look cool, it could also require 47 different scripts to load before your page shows the content. Similarly, if your header image needs to be 1024×768, don’t upload an image file that is 4000×3000; optimizing your images and videos to minimize their file sizes helps decrease the loading time greatly.
If your site currently suffers from one or more of these SEO problems, you’re not alone, but it is important that you fix these issues. Even if you can only fix one or two items, you should! SEO isn’t a switch, rather it is a culmination of many “signals” or factors—the more optimized you can make your site the better it will perform.
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