Editor’s note: I’m excited to feature today’s in-depth and informative guest post about SEO for physicians and healthcare practices by Cinthia of DigitalBloomIQ. Even SEO veterans will find some pearls within this post!
Some of you may have heard about it and others haven’t: SEO or Search Engine Optimization. I also like to call it “becoming friends with Google.”
Whether you do it on purpose or not, getting “found” by Google happens automatically. Your site gets indexed (or scanned by Google) and you will show up in searches.
So why not do it intentionally? This blog post will teach you exactly how to do that.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is SEO exactly?
- Why is Search Marketing important for our businesses?
- Changes in the algorithm that impact alternative health
- Google and Health in 2019
- Local vs. Web Based SEO [Infographic]
- Local SEO
- Business Listings
- Reviews & Testimonials
- Industry Specific Listings
- Web Based SEO
- Blogging & Keywords
- Collabs & Features
- The 2019 Medic Update
- Final Thoughts
Get ready for some awesome search results.
What is SEO exactly?
Apart from standing for Search Engine Optimization, what does SEO actually mean?
Basically, when people use Google Chrome on their phone or computer, they may be looking for medical information or directly searching for a doctor nearby.
Our goal as businesses is to help Google recognize our website and other business listing sites by building a trustworthy and authoritative online presence. That is what we are going to review in this blog post.
Why is Search Marketing important for our businesses?
Here are some powerful SEO statistics related to health and local searches from the past couple of years:
- Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day or approximately 5 billion searches per day.
- 7 percent of Google’s daily searches were health-related, equivalent to 70,000 every minute.
- Google “near me” searches have increased by two times over the past year.
- 30% of mobile searches are related to a location.
- 75% of searchers never go past the first page of search results.
These are some important numbers to keep in mind when starting to think about the SEO actions you want to take in your own business.
Google and Health in 2019
Recently, Google has made some clear moves to make sure the health and wellness information coming up in the search results are accurate and safe for users. That includes hiring an actual doctor as part of their team to make sure they are doing their best to serve the right content. Google has also recently acquired Fitbit and it will be interesting to see how they start to use all the data they have towards research that may impact the entire medical field.
So let’s look at how can start you impacting how your ideal client finds your business on Google.
Local vs. Web-Based SEO
First, let’s talk about Local SEO vs. Web-Based SEO.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location and you primarily service your clients there, then you want to focus on Local SEO actions. But if you work with clients anywhere in the world through your computer or by phone and want to sell digital services and products, then your focus is on Web-Based SEO. Of course, there are some businesses that are a hybrid of both. However, if you do decide to do both, my recommendation to get started is to focus on one priority over both, do it well, and then move on to the next one.
One of the most overwhelming parts of doing SEO is it feels like there is always so much to do and it is never done. Although this is partly true, it is also a relief to know that you can work on these actions slowly over time and see results without getting it perfect.
Here are some statistics around how Local and Web-Based SEO work together for your business:
Let’s start with what you can do to improve how people find you locally.
The areas to focus on for Local SEO are:
- Business Listings
- Reviews and Testimonials
- Industry-Specific Listing Websites
Let’s get into each of these! Make sure to note where you are in each of these. If you are starting from scratch, don’t worry, everyone starts with 0 followers and reviews. It is an exciting time for your business and the sooner you get started, the faster you’ll see results!
Business Listings for Local SEO
One of the most important aspects of doing local SEO is having consistent and identical business listings. This includes:
- Google My Business
- Facebook Page (and any other relevant social media)
- Yahoo Local
- Bing Places
- BBB (Better Business Bureau)
Here is the step by step of getting your business listings started:
1. Choose three business listings you want to start with; that way you don’t overwhelm yourself. Good starting platforms are:
- Google My Business
- Facebook Business Page
2. Next, go to each website and register your business. In some cases, your business might already exist (especially for Google and Yelp) and so you will need to claim it. Once you’ve started the process, they will send you a letter in the mail (yes, snail mail!) or give you a phone call to verify you are the actual business. It may take a couple of months before this whole process is complete so it’s better to start sooner than later.
3. Once you have access to your listing make sure to include the exact same business information on each one, including :
- Business Name
- Phone Number
Having different listing information tells Google you aren’t reliable and you will rank lower.
4. Once you have all the basic information on the three business listings, focus on improving each platform with more details (including getting reviews which I’ll get into below) on a rotating monthly basis. For example, once you have all three optimized fully, you can plan the following months accordingly:
- Month 1 – Google My Business
- Month 2 – Facebook Business Page
- Month 3 – Yelp
Rotating it this way will help keep the workload manageable and will also help you focus on what needs to be done to make it the best. Doing it all at once will just make you dizzy and plus, you’ll give yourself 100 reasons to not do it (including watching Season 3 of Stranger Things, again). Optimize each listing to the max: include beautiful images, descriptive information about how you work, and make sure you are registered under the right category. Especially for Google my Business, selecting the right Category can make a big difference in how people find you.
I invite you to really take the time to make the listing as unique and detailed as possible. This may seem like a lot of work upfront but it makes a huge difference in the long run and will distinguish you from your competitors.
Reviews & Testimonials
Getting genuine reviews of your work is another very important aspect of doing Local SEO. Even if some of you aren’t legally allowed to directly ask clients for a testimonial, here are some ideas to attracting natural testimonials to each of your business listings:
- Print out a notice request for reviews with an easy link to follow that is visible in your offices. You can even frame it and put it on the reception desk.
- Set up an automatic email that goes out after a client’s appointment, politely asking for a review with an easy link to the listing.
- Include a link to review your work on your business card or a small flyer.
All these are ways of inviting reviews without having to directly ask the client.
Remember, collect reviews one platform at a time, rotating them every month or so to focus your reviews. Over time, you can decide to only focus on the platforms that are getting you the most leads.
Industry-Specific Listing Websites
Depending on what type of medicine you practice, there will be specific directory websites where you can complete your information. Here are some examples (all these are for the US):
Therapist & Psychologist
- Psychology Today
- American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
- AAMFT Therapist Locator
- National Board for Certified Counselors
If you are looking for a more specific directory for your field of medicine, do a Google search of the type of medicine your practice + “directory”. This should give you a couple of different ideas.
Some will be paid and you can make a decision if you want to try getting leads from the directory. I recommend starting with the free options above before moving on to paid ones.
The focus of Web-Based SEO is very much on how your business website is representing your business. My favorite analogy is to think of our website as a house in a neighborhood. If no one knows who lives in the house, and it looks a bit run down, then it is very likely people will suspect and distrust the people in the house. On the contrary, if the house is well maintained and beautiful, and you regularly take blueberry muffins to all your neighbors, then your trust factor goes up by a lot.
There are different ways that Google measures trust as it is one of the most advanced algorithms out there currently.
We are going to focus on the following four areas of doing Web Based SEO:
- Blogging & Keywords
- Collabs & Features
- Technical SEO
Before we dive into each of these areas, I first recommend you have your Google Analytics setup (if you need to set this up on WordPress, here is a tutorial on how to do so ) and Search Console Setup. The Search Console, in particular, can help you understand your keywords and fix errors that Google is pointing out.
Blogging & Keywords
Having useful blog content on our website is one of the most important factors when it comes to showing up on page 1 of Google. So what does “useful” really mean here?
Here is the step by step of planning your blog content and keywords:
1. First, think about the top concerns of your ideal audience: What kind of questions do they ask when it comes to your product, service or industry? If you are passionate about what you do, you should be aware of the topics people ask about the most when it comes to what you do. Focus on the topics or themes that you enjoy writing about and that you know will have a big impact on the people you are wanting to help.
2. Once you have jotted down a couple of ideas, create a content outline before diving into the writing phase. This will help you organize the information in a way that is digestible to your users. Think of your blog post as if you are writing a book: what are the chapters and subchapters that will be covered. Also, include a preface and a conclusion.
3. Balance the text with beautiful images that give the reader’s eyes time to rest and enjoy the entire experience of your writing. If applicable also include examples, graphs, diagrams, and infographics for statistics.
4. If possible, including videos in your blog post is another amazing way to create extra value and differentiate you from the pack. I know this can be a lot of extra work, but it can really pay off in the future.
5. Try and aim to write at least 100 words. Organic search results that rank on page 1 of Google contain an average of 1,890 words. At the same time, don’t get too hung up on a specific word count. If you write an 800-word blog post that is more useful than a 2000-word blog post, then the quality of the information is what will win at the end of the day.
6. Research the specific words people are using when searching for your topic. This is otherwise known as keywords research. Keywords are words or phrases that people use specifically to search. One of the easiest ways to start looking for these words is by going straight to the source: Google. Open Google in your browser and search your topic in the way your audience would search. Now scroll down all the way down, you will see other suggested searches:
These related searches can become keyword ideas for your next blog post. If you want more ideas on how to find the right keywords for your content, check out this blog post.
7. Make sure to include the keywords in these parts of your blog post:
- Title and URL, as close as possible to the beginning.
- The first couple of paragraphs of the blog posts and as naturally as possible (no keyword stuffing! Google will penalize you for that).
- Meta Description of the blog post. This is the blog post description that you can edit in Yoast (WordPress) or the SEO section of your website.
- Image Alt Tags usually located in the image name options or in your SEO tool (some tools let you automate a bunch of images at once).
If you are starting with a brand new blog, don’t worry that every single blog post needs to be SEO friendly as per tips above. Instead, set a goal for yourself to write an SEO friendly post every couple of months; really focusing on a keyword that your audience seems to be crazy about. This will get you more traction than trying to force yourself to write for SEO every single time.
If your blog has been up for several years, go to your Google Analytics and identify old blog posts that have done well. You can also use the Search Console to analyze the keywords you are already ranking for. Focus on optimizing (or improving) these blog posts first, before creating new content.
I know blogging is one of the most talked-about areas of SEO but it isn’t everything! Create amazing blog content and share it consistently with your audience. That is already an amazing accomplishment!
Collabs & Features
Another factor that Google looks at is how many links from other websites are pointing to your site. These are called backlinks and basically points to the authority of your website. This is a sticky part of doing SEO because Google technically doesn’t want us to ask for these links but there are ways we can generate the backlinks to our site.
One of the best ways is to collaborate with other businesses in a natural way and be featured.
This can include:
- Guest Posting
- Being a Podcast Guest
- Online Summits & Conferences
Let’s break down how you would do this:
- The first step is to find other businesses or websites that your ideal audience spends time on. You can do this through a survey or asking trust-worthy clients what they read/shop/enjoy. This will give you some ideas of where you can be featured and tap into a new audience.
For example, let’s say you are a nutritionist. Your client is an athlete who wants to be at the top of their game. Other businesses you might look into are:
– Physical Therapists
– Chef’s or Health Food Store
– Yoga studios
– Athletic Clothing Brands
- The next step is to find if any of these businesses and brands have a website, podcast, or event coming up that you could pitch.
- Finally, use a couple of hours each week to pitch several businesses. Make sure the pitch is unique to each business and be clear on the benefit they will receive by featuring you. It’s a win-win!
Apart from this being good for your SEO, this can also land you some referral clients and expand your network in general. All good things for the business.
Using the house analogy from before, if our “online house” is falling apart, it is hard for Google and humans to connect with us. Here are some site errors you want to keep on eye on and work possibly with a Web Developer to fix:
- 404 Errors: this means a previous page on your site no longer exists. This can happen when you change a page URL or delete pages. Having 404 errors is a natural part of a living and breathing site but it’s important for us to be aware of how many errors we have and if there is any way we can fix them. This might mean redirecting an old page to a new page (more about that below) or replacing internal links (that link to pages that don’t exist anymore) to an actual existing page.
- Redirects: this is when we “forward” one page to another page automatically on our site. This is a very natural thing to do on sites so redirects aren’t necessarily a bad thing. They need to be used with caution and avoid having too many redirects for no reason. Again, if there is an internal link we can improve by linking to the actual existing page (instead of the page that redirects to the actual page), then we minimize those redirects.
- Site Speed: making our site work as fast as possible is a crucial part of a good experience. If we are asking users to sit around for more than a couple of seconds to load our site, you will quickly lose visitors. You can use the Search Console (link to site Speed report) and the Site Speed Tool (URL) to get some information about where you can improve your site speed. The biggest thing I see slowing down sites are the following:
- Unnecessary plugins (WordPress, Shopify)
- Unnecessary CSS files
- Large images that are resized on the site
- Images that aren’t compressed
Working with a Web Developer in this area of your site can be really helpful but remember this is something you must always keep your eye on and strive to improve over time.
- Mobile Responsiveness: 76% of people who searched locally on their smartphone, ended up visiting the business within one day. Most of the internet is now experience from a mobile phone so having an amazing experience that is easy to use is important. Most websites (like WordPress) come with a pretty good responsive experience but I recommend taking the time to open up your own site on your phone right now and innocently tap around. Is it easy to get to all the main site sections? Is the overall design and images pleasing? Is the text easy to read? You want to avoid annoying pop-ups that take up the whole screen and are hard to close.
If you see some big problems with the mobile version of your site, consider changing templates (if you are on WordPress) or talk with your Web Developer and see if there is anything you can do. Again, this is a baseline on most website templates but taking a look for yourself never hurts.
Next Steps for the Technical Parts of your Website:
- Review your 404 Errors, redirects, and site speed. Make notes on what you think needs to improve.
- Set aside a couple of hours per week to make these changes and improve the technical part of your site.
- Hire or work with your current Web Developer to help if you aren’t feeling 100% certain about the changes that need to happen.
The 2018 Medic Update
Last year many websites (including medical websites) were hit with a Google algorithm update that impacted rankings.
There are a lot of theories as to what happened here but the most important thing to note for medical sites is how we are showing that our websites have a high level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (or E-A-T as Google calls it).
Keep publishing qualitative, authoritative and trustworthy content on your site, focusing on questions you know your ideal client is asking. Producing E-A-T content as we talked about in the Blogging section is a long term strategy that will always be relevant to Google.
Google is really trying to protect us from using information that is not written by a doctor. Two important things to note here:
- Include your medical credentials at the bottom of your blog post, in a Bio section, including the years of experience and where your studied. This should also be included in the “About” page of your site.
- If possible, include citational links to official studies that have been done regarding your topic.
The Google algorithm is getting better and better at judging the trustworthiness of a site and I think this works in our favor.
Here are some final tips I want you to walk away with when it comes to ranking in Google.
- Quality trumps quantity every time. With all the information I gave you above, you might feel like there is so much that needs to happen and you need to get it done all at once. I invite you to take your time with all this and focus on the quality aspect of SEO: quality reviews, quality blog content, and genuine connections with other humans on the internet. This will serve you and your business so much more, rather than just checking off every item on the list.
- Humans over Google. When you are unclear on prioritizing Google over human experience, come back to the human experience. The reality is that a) humans are the ones who will buy your products and services, not Google. If you trust your intuition and make decisions around the human experience happening on your website, then you are set. And b) Google does focus on the best human experience anyway. The whole point of the algorithm is to bring the most useful and trustworthy answers to questions asked in Google search.
- Speak your heart. This may sound cliche but I really believe that if you write content that speaks from your heart, you won’t help but connect with the right people you are meant to serve online. In a world of so much content fluff, your audience will appreciate the breath of fresh air when it comes to you speaking what is on your mind and in your heart. Of course, you may have to do some digging around to find the real gold there, but at the end of the day I promise you, it’s worth it!
That’s all my friends! I hope you take this information and start taking action on your SEO today. And if you want more ideas on how to pinpoint exactly what your ideal audience is searching for today in Google, download my Search Personas Worksheet. This worksheet walks through different areas of your ideal audience’s life and how to brainstorm what is on their mind when searching for your business.
Let me know in the comments below what parts of SEO freak you out the most and what you think is stopping you from taking action.
Cinthia is the owner of Digital Bloom IQ. She is passionate about helping Health and Wellness businesses grow their businesses through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). After four years of corporate experience working with companies like Avon, Sears, and Hyundai, she transitioned into the small business world, focusing on her SEO and Google Analytics services. She is on a mission to inspire Health and Wellness businesses to be more intentional about their SEO marketing and heal more of the world. When she’s not working, you can find her hanging out with her cats, dogs, & boyfriend outside or journaling in her living room