In recent years, Google has been making massive changes to their search algorithms, shaking up rankings in industry after industry.
No industry seems to be harder hit than healthcare though, which constantly sees large fluctuations in keyword and domain rankings. If you’re in this boat and wondering what you can do to improve your medical SEO strategy, you’re in luck.
We’ve compiled a list of 5 tactics that you can use today to boost your healthcare SEO strategy.
1. Go Back To The Basics
It’s easy for even the most experienced SEO specialists to get caught up in the weeds of optimizing blogs, pages, and websites.
On-Page SEO Basics
On-page SEO refers to optimizations that are made on a per-page basis with the goal of ranking the page higher in search engine results.
In addition to changing the copy and structure of the page itself, optimizations are commonly made to:
- Page Titles
- Meta Descriptions
- Image Alt Text
- URL & Slug Structures
- On-Page Headers
Some of these optimizations and changes can directly impact rankings in Google and other search engines, while others can indirectly increase organic traffic by improving user search engine results page (SERP) experience. This can result in improved click-through rates (CTRs), decreased bounce rates, and increased time-on-site, all of which are ranking signals that Google (and other search engines) use to determine a page’s position in search engine results.
SEO Strategy Planning & Topic Cluster Basics
The basics don’t end at on-page optimizations - they also include the content planning and development strategy that’s being used to create and attempt to rank for topics.
As Google favors topic-based content, pillar pages have become an essential part of SEO.
Pillar pages act as a content hub for an overarching topic which consists of multiple articles that are related and linked to each other. Topic clusters focus on topics versus individual keywords which can improve your site architecture and boost search engine visibility.
By using topic clusters, you’re essentially trying to rank for a broad topic by creating lots of high-quality content on related topics, and then linking them together in a way that makes sense.
To read more about topic clusters, and developing an optimized SEO strategy, check out 3 ways to rank higher on Google.
Strive For Quality Backlinks
Regardless of the search engine that you want to rank on, it’s important to work towards generating quality backlinks from other, authoritative websites.
The best way to generate these quality backlinks is to create quality content that users deem useful, interesting, and shareable. Content ideas that are often worthy of sharing and linking to are:
- First party research & findings
- Topical or newsworthy content
- Highly engaging or uniquely interesting content
Another way of generating those authoritative backlinks that will help your page rank higher is - though it’s easier said than done - to get published in a print or digital magazine.
Once you have relevant and interesting content written, it’s common to reach out to many different print and online medical publications to see if they’re interested in publishing your work.
As an example of uniquely interesting content, you could have a c-level executive from your organization write a blog or article about a relevant topic like, physician burnout. This would give readers a unique perspective on a topic not typically shared from that point of view.
Finally, every blog or article that you write should be promoted on social media channels - Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.. This is a great way to get some initial eyes on the content and begin generating some initial backlinks as well. Make sure, though, to alter your messaging for each platform to match your buyer persona.
2. Create Content For Humans, Not Robots
The adage “content is king” is more true now than it ever has been. When it comes to ranking a blog or page well organically, it all starts with the page copy.
When you’ve finally got an idea in mind of what topic you want to write about and rank for, and you’ve mapped out your topic cluster, then there’s one key thing to keep in mind when you sit down to write the content of the page.
Content Should Be Easy To Read and Written For A Human
This might seem pretty obvious, but it’s often more easily said than done.
The content that you create should have one goal - answer the user’s question in a way that makes sense.
The copy that you write should feel natural to read, almost like you’re speaking to the reader directly. Unless required by the audience, it should be free of industry-specific jargon as well as grammatical errors.
Content that’s difficult to read and understand, that’s full of pointless jargon, or full of grammatical errors will sow a sense of distrust in the reader, leading them to seek solutions and answers to their problems and questions elsewhere.
3. Optimize For Voice Search
The way that people search for answers is changing, and as voice search continues to grow in popularity, we regularly demand faster, more accurate results read to us almost instantly.
With the growing popularity of voice search spurred by ever more powerful and attainable smartphones, speakers, and other devices, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen an increase in the number of people turning to their smart devices for help answering their healthcare questions.
According to ChatMeter, more than 19 million people have used their smart devices to receive answers to their medical questions in recent years - and that number is expected to continue to grow as the overall search market grows.
So what can you do to make sure that your website is ready to answer user questions when they’re asked?
Follow SEO Best Practices
As so many things often do, optimizing for voice search comes back to the basics.
If you aren’t following current SEO best practices, then you’ve got little chance of being chosen as a voice search result.
This means reevaluating your content for relevancy and quality, ensuring that your page is laid out correctly, making sure that it’s free of major technical issues, and that it's optimized for on-page SEO.
Claim & Update Your Company Google My Business Listings
If you have the ability to, make sure that you log into your Google My Business account to verify that all of your business information is accurate and up-to-date.
Since so many voice queries are related to specific information about a business, it’s imperative that this information be accurate, since it will likely be the first place that Google looks for an answer to a query.
Pursue Long-Tail Keywords
This is one of the most effective strategies that can be adopted when optimizing for voice search.
As the name suggests, these are keywords or phrases that are longer than average search queries - often 5 of more words in length, which is great, because so many sites prefer to target shorter, more highly competitive keywords, meaning that there will likely be lower competition for these more specific queries.
When choosing long-tail keywords to target, it’s important to keep in mind exactly how the user will be using voice search to target these keywords.
Often, the user will be more conversational with their smart device, speaking to it as they do in their normal lives. This means that you’ve got the opportunity to put yourselves in your customers’ shoes, and create optimized content that answers questions that you’re commonly asked.
Add Schema Markup
Founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Yandex, schema is a markup language - it’s code that site owners can add to website pages that will provide major search engines with additional, highly accurate information about a page’s content.
Schema will essentially let you describe what data on a webpage “means”, making it easier for search engines to understand what the page is about, the intention behind the page, and who the page is designed for - all of which can help boost a page’s rankings and traffic.
4. Take A Look At The Technical Side Of Things
After you’ve got a grasp of the basics of SEO, it’s time to tackle something a bit more technical.
Technical SEO refers to the optimization of a website specifically for the crawling and indexing phases - when a search engine bot analyzes your site, notes what pages there are, and what content is on each page.
Some things to check when analyzing your website’s technical SEO are:
Search engines are dedicated to delivering streamlined, relevant results to users as quickly as possible.
As page load times increase, the probability that a user will bounce from the page without taking any action increases dramatically. For example, a page that loads within 2 seconds can expect to see almost 10% of their traffic leave, even before the page has a chance to load. A page that loads in 5 seconds can expect to lose about 22% of their would-be traffic.
Pages that load slowly not only provide a bad user experience, but search engines like Google will actually penalize slow-loading website’s search rankings.
The rule of thumb for page loading speed is to have a page load in under 2 seconds.
You can check out your page loading speeds, and see exactly what Google is seeing on your page by using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool.
Site responsiveness often goes hand-in-hand with page loading speeds.
A site that’s sluggish or slow to use can expect to see many users leave the site without taking a desired action.
Some things to check that can impact how snappy a user’s experience on your site are:
Serve images in next-generation formats, like WebP, JPEG 2000, or JPEG XR. These formats help to better compress images while retaining image scaling and resolutions across a broad range of devices and screen sizes.
The density of a page’s HTML code can negatively impact the page’s loading speed and responsiveness. Cleaning up unused or unnecessary HTML can be a good start at increasing the page or site’s overall usability.
Unminified or unoptimized JS & CSS files can bog down a website or webpage performance in a way similar to unoptimized HTML. There are many tools available that can help identify and correct these issues.
Cybersecurity is on the mind of many organizations and individuals, and where HIPAA is concerned on healthcare sites, it’s especially important.
Ensuring that your site has a valid SSL certificate and enabling HTTPS across the domain is a way to ensure that traffic to and from the website is secured and encrypted.
When viewing a page with an active SSL certificate, users will see a small padlock icon on their URL bar, telling the users that their session is secure.
Failure to apply an SSL certificate to a website will result in users seeing a “not secure” warning in lieu of a padlock, and search engines like Google may penalize the sites in organic rankings due to being unsecured.
5. Pay Attention To Google, Competitors, & Yourself
If you've applied the 4 tips above and still aren't seeing increased organic traffic and rankings, there are still a few things you can do.
Start with Google and search for keywords that you know that you want to rank for, and for keywords that you think you should be ranking well for. Make note of the sites and content that is ranking above you, and ask yourself the following:
- What content are they offering that I don’t?
- How is their content organized?
- Am I competing against highly authoritative sites like WebMD, Wikipedia, or The Mayo Clinic?
If a competitor is offering more or higher quality content than you are, you might need to reevaluate the content on your site, or simply give it more time to rank well.
Next, take a look for any recent Google broad core algorithm updates - what are experts saying about recent changes? What industries were most severely affected? What ranking metrics were impacted or changed?
From there, you’ll need to analyze your findings. Determine if you need to revisit and revise content, re-optimize for on-page SEO, or simply continue publishing new content to increase your authority in the field.
Healthcare SEO Is A Long Haul
For any given industry, it can take months (or longer) to rank well for a piece of content. Becoming an authority figure for a topic or field can take even longer. Ranking well and becoming an authority figure in healthcare can take longer still.
Building and maintaining high volumes of quality organic traffic is going to be an ongoing endeavor that will require constant writing, rewriting, and analysis.
Due to how Google treats and ranks healthcare sites, it’s important to continually be working to improve your website’s authority, and your organization’s credibility through generating quality backlinks, continually optimizing your SEO efforts, and staying on top of new and emerging search trends.