Q&A: Why Doctors Need to Know SEO

Have you ever wondered why certain results appear above others on Google searches? Well, it’s not by coincidence.

The primary goal of search engine optimization, more commonly referred to as SEO, is to increase website visibility in search results generated by search engines like Google and Bing, thus driving better traffic.

Although it is a relatively simple concept to grasp, it’s a difficult one to practice and later master. And with patients increasingly turning to physicians they initially discover online, becoming knowledgeable about SEO is no longer optional.

Today, John-Michael Del Valle, Search Marketing Specialist at CareCloud, answers some fundamental questions about SEO in a primer for CareCloud’s upcoming free webinar on attracting patients with a better website, part of a three-webinar summer series focusing on patient engagement and practice marketing.

How can physicians get patients to find their websites?
Statistics show that 77% of patients use search engines prior to booking an appointment. So there is tremendous value in optimizing medical practice web content to ensure patients find the right physicians when searching through the Internet.

Seeing as the purpose of a search engine is to provide answers to a particular search query, physicians should keep patient’s search questions in mind when writing content for their website. Physicians should aim to capture those patients conducting online research by using the same keywords in the text of their web pages, which makes it easier for them to be searched.

Also, answering commonly asked questions by patients on a medical practice’s website or blog will increase the site’s ranking and help push it closer to the top of search results.

Does utilizing social media help doctors with SEO?
Among adults 18-24 years of age, 90% say they trust medical information shared by others in their social media network. If doctors provide insightful information and content, others may possibly share it, which will help physicians and their practices earn positive reviews en route to becoming authorities in the field.

Do medical practices need to hire an SEO ‘expert’ or can anyone put the basics of an SEO plan into motion?
SEO is a very involved process because the algorithms search engines use to generate relevant search results change on a daily basis. I recommend doctors initially consult with a search engine optimizer when launching a website. These are experts who can provide practices much needed research and data that will serve as a guide to help develop an online marketing strategy.

Furthermore, a full-time SEO specialist can be a great resource, but having an additional employee on practice payrolls can be costly. The most valuable thing SEO specialists have to offer is their initial assessment plans. With a plan in place, it becomes easier to determine the investment doctors are willing to put forth moving forward.

What are some common mistakes doctors make when trying to optimize their websites?
It’s a common misconception that repeating keywords in a website’s content more often than needed equals better rankings.

While targeting keywords is important, it’s even more vital to create value in the content you are providing to users on your website. Search engines will actually penalize websites for keyword stuffing, so doctors should always remember that ‘quality trumps quantity’ on every occasion.

Is SEO all about the content or does a website’s design affect its search ranking as well?
Website design is often overlooked during the SEO process. It’s essential to remember that as fancy as a website may look, it’s equally important that search engine spiders can crawl and find the site’s content with ease. Design shouldn’t get in the way of the crawling process.

Websites designed in Flash, AJAX, and Javascript, for instance, can create barriers in the indexing process of your website. Google has recently revealed that one of the variables being accounted for in its ranking process is the amount of time it takes for a website and its individual pages to load. It’s important for a website not to be image-heavy, but if the concept calls for it, one should ensure he/she is compressing and optimizing image sizes. And of course, design/layout should be looked at closely when trying to improve conversion rates as well, not just SEO.

For more SEO and web marketing advice from Del Valle, register for the August 8 webinar. As a bonus, you can submit your practice’s website for a free, live SEO and marketing audit during the webinar.

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