Optimize Your Website:
Wondering Why Your Website Does’t Rank?
Wondering How Google Works?
You need to understand SEO.
The following is a guest post from Randall Wong, MD
Be sure to check out the NEW Healthcare Brand Podcast: RUSS & RANDY
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the basis by which Google compares and ranks websites. Understanding SEO and how Google works can help you transform your website into the best marketing tool to grow your medical practice.
Through “optimization,” your next potential patient will find your website based upon the relevance of your content. SEO allows you to make your content most relevant so the search engines can best rank your site to answer a patient’s search or query. SEO allows you to tell the search engines that your webpage is “the best” at answering a question or problem posed by your next patient.
The only way to achieve and maintain high Google rankings is by practicing SEO. There is no other way.
Search Engine Optimization for Doctors … Really?
While most of us have a website, most of our sites won’t rank when searching for our particular goods or services.
Starting around 2006, Google set out to make “search” (aka “Google That”) legitimate. Over the past 10 years, Google has transformed the Internet to a more reliable and credible source of information.
Google’s goal is to provide objective rankings of the best web pages most likely to answer your problem or question.
No more “blackhat” or shortcuts to get a page ranked.
Google, Bing and Yahoo are the largest and most popular search engines. They have taken the lead by developing their own (super secret) SEO algorithms, that is, formulas to rank and compare web pages. Though each algorithm is unique, all rely heavily on the originality and relevance of the CONTENT on your website.
Patient’s on the Internet
- 84% of American adults use the Internet
- 59% of adults have looked online for health information in the past year
- 80% of health inquiries START with a search engine!
From the Pew Research Center:
Nothing is more important to website rankings than the content of your site…nothing.
Understanding the relationship between your content and website rankings is the first step in exploring SEO.
Here are just a few reasons why you should care about SEO and how your website ranks:
- Your next Patient expects you to be on the web. In fact, more than ever, if you can not be found on the Internet, regardless of your geographic location (i.e. convenient office location), most patients will make other choices. Your lack of a website and digital presence signifies a lack of using technology and an unwillingness to engage patients digitally. Your next patient wants to find some information about you before considering an appointment: How do you operate your business? What about you, the doctor, as a person? Treatment philosophies….and more.
- Your next Associate needs to find you. He or she will certainly “Google” you to find out more about you and your practice. A lack of information makes a strong statement about your brand – an unwillingness to engage and participate digitally.
- Your next Referral needs to find you. If your practice relies on patient-referrals from other clinicians, those clinicians will ‘Google’ your name before they begin sending patients. Even if they already know about you. You must be findable; and what others find about you must be worthy of referring patients to.
- Marketing Strategy – Every viable business has a marketing strategy. Your next associate will be happy to find that you have a sound and modern marketing strategy to grow and build your practice.
3 Components to Optimize
There are only 3 basic areas where you must optimize;
- Your practice website
- The CONTENT of your website (most important)
- Off-Page Sources
Optimize Your Website
An optimized website has certain elements expected by the search engines. If these elements are missing, your site is negatively impacted. Installing these elements on your website will require that you work with your webmaster. Make sure to have an analytics program, robot.txt file and a sitemap installed on your site. These “one and done” fixes are free to obtain, but do require some technical knowledge and familiarity of your website.
The main title tag should reflect the goods or services that you provide. Too often, websites use the name of the practice as the title tag. The is a missed opportunity for you to tell the search engines about the goods or services your provide. You have up to 72 characters to use words your next patient might use to “Google” you.
As an example, the main title tag of my website is “Retina Specialist | Board Certified Ophthalmologist” instead of “Randall Wong, M.D.”
Content to Optimize
This is the most important and critical area to be optimized. Search engines base most of their rankings on the quality of your content. It must be written well…and optimized.
Most websites, in my experience, have a dearth of current content which isn’t even optimized.
What is content?
Content, for our purposes, is every file or page on your website containing readable text. Search engines visit your site and index every word on your site. This gives a relatively general idea about what you do and the services you provide.
Your articles, Power Point presentations, posts, .pdf files, etc. all contain readable text. By optimizing your content, you tell Google more specifically what you are about instead of leaving it to the search engines to figure it out themselves.
Great ranking sites will have relevant content (best answers the query being “Googled”), posted on a website which is refreshed (new articles posted frequently) and done so on a routine basis.
These “Three Rs” of content optimization are the basis of optimization. Google rewards websites practicing the 3 Rs with high rankings.
Where do I get content?
You, the healthcare provider, have an easy and endless supply of content. Every day you answer countless routine questions and repeat explanations. These are sources of great content and provide tremendous value to your next patient. Using these topics educates your audience about the diseases you treat and diagnose. No other resource is better at providing this education than you!
Keep in mind that Google is on the side of your next patient. Their goal is to help you solve your problem with the first “search.” Search engines exist to bring solutions to your next patient’s query or question. By optimizing your content, you give Google the chance to select your webpage as the “best webpage to answer that question.”
Stale, unrefreshed and websites with poor content simply won’t rank. How do you feel when you hit a website that hasn’t been updated in years and you know doesn’t help you?
Off-Page Sources | Links
One of the most important “off-page” elements which improve your website rankings are the number and “quality” of the links from other web pages to yours. In your particular case, links from other health related or medical sites are valuable because these are coming from websites of a related industry.
“Backlinks” are a strong endorsement to the search engines regarding the trust, quality and type of content on your site.
As an example, links from my medical website to your medical website are much better than if coming from my marketing website. Google takes these links as a strong vote that your site is indeed health related.
Don’t Hate Healthgrades
Healthgrades can improve your SEO and rankings, too.
There are dozens of aggregator sites which list your medical practice. These sites collect all information available in the public domain and create business directories related by some common theme. For example, Healthgrades collects information about medical doctors.
While Healthgrades may be perceived as nuisance, take the opportunity to create a link between this particular aggregator and your website.
Every aggregator, including Angie’s List and Yelp, has a pre-made account for your medical practice. Take the time to claim these pre-made accounts or create free accounts on these sites if yours has been overlooked.
At a minimum complete your name, address and phone number (NAP) the exact same way on each site and account. Make sure to add your website address.
These links will improve your website rankings and your “local search” rankings as well.
Social Media? Do You Need it to Optimize My Site?
Until you have a working viable website, don’t bother with social media. While patients now expect to find us on the Internet and to be engaged digitally, your digital “footprint” must start with your website.
Successful use of social media will draw traffic to your website. If the website is absent or stale, it will be a big turnoff for your next patient. This can forever “brand” you negatively. How do you feel when you visit a bad website?
Developing a marketing plan is different than an advertising campaign. Your marketing plan must be ongoing and dynamic. Start slowly, be disciplined and move forward. Build your website and slowly, but consistently, add content.
Build a website which makes you proud. It will never be “done,” and should always be “under construction.” At some point, you may consider using social media, but only if you want.
I personally don’t feel that social media is absolutely necessary for a medical practice. Keep in mind that each platform you engage will take more of your precious time.
Randall Wong, M.D. is a retina specialist in Fairfax, Virginia. He is founder of Medical Marketing Enterprises, LLC, a company dedicated to introducing Internet marketing to healthcare. Questions or comments are welcomed and may be emailed to: [email protected]