Search Engine Optimization 101 (for Physicians)


Let’s face it:  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t part of the average medical school curriculum. But, perhaps it should be. Good SEO practices are the cornerstone of any successful website.  A successful website for your practice attracts internet traffic.  An informative, well organized and aesthetically pleasing website can turn that traffic into leads, and a savvy medical staff can turn those leads into patients.  It’s really a very simple equation.

SEO, in a nutshell, is the ranking of your website by search engines for those keywords relevant to your practice.  For instance, when  a prospective patient types “Plastic Surgeon NYC” into the Google search bar, SEO for your website determines what page and at what position your practice’s website is displayed.  Here are the results below:

DigitalMed_SEO 101_Screenshot_Final


The screenshot above shows two different types of search engine results:  paid results (pay per click advertising) and organic results (unpaid).  Below the pay per click results (those that start with “Ad”) are the organic search results.  These are the results that cannot be bought.  The only way to achieve organic page one results for relevant keyword searches is to establish your website as an authority on the target subject.  This is best done through continuous posting of creative content specific to your specialty.  This content must then be “optimized” so that it can be indexed by the search engine spiders.

Search engine spiders continuously crawl the web looking for fresh, relevant content to be indexed on their servers.  It’s these spiders who are responsible for the ranking of your website organically, such as in the above screenshot.  Good optimization is really all about efficiently organizing the information on your website.  You need to make it simple for the search engine spiders not only to find your website, but to understand the content of the page they are crawling so that it can be properly indexed.  The most effective way to accomplish this is to be very focused in your writing. First, you should incorporate keyword search terms in your text that patients would use to find you.  If you’re not sure what those keywords are, Google has a great resource for that: Google Keyword Planner.  Then, separate website content into clear, distinct topics.  For instance, if you are an ophthalmologist who specializes in refractive procedures, such as LASIK and PRK, having two separate pages on your website, one for LASIK and one for PRK, will be much more effective and easier to index than having both procedures on the same page.  This is the same for any procedure or service, in any specialty.  Lastly, make sure all of your titles, headlines, descriptions and targeted keywords match the content for each page.

Why is organic SEO so important?  70 percent to 80 percent of search users ignore paid search ads.[i]  If your website doesn’t show up in the organic search results, below those ignored paid search ads, all of those prospective patients will simply click on those results that do show up ~ those of your competitors.  Therefore, frequent publishing of original, relevant content on your website is a MUST. You simply can’t reach or remain on page 1 for those keyword searches relevant to your practice without it.  Another benefit, of course, is that it’s FREE.  Pay per click advertising can become very expensive as the cost is largely dependent upon the popularity of the keyword search terms among your competitors.

In our world of instant gratification, it should be mentioned that organic SEO, although a must, is a slow process.  It can take 3 to 6 months to reap the benefits of any changes you make to your optimization strategy.  Since the algorithms used by search engines, such as Google, are ever-changing, your strategy must also be an ongoing commitment .  When search engine spiders crawl existing website pages, they’re looking for updated content.  If your content gets stale, your SEO ranking will drop.  Consistency is key!

To summarize, SEO can be greatly improved:

  • By separating website content into distinct categories and then optimizing that content for those keywords relevant to that category.
  • By continuous posting of fresh, relevant content.

So, if you aren’t satisfied with the organic search results for your site and haven’t looked at your content lately, it’s time to revisit it.  If your site doesn’t satisfy the first bullet above,  it’s time to reorganize!  If it doesn’t satisfy the second bullet, there are many things you can do to fix this. Here are some suggestions:

  • Revise the content on existing pages.  Once you know what keyword search terms patients are using to find you, you can tweak your existing content so that it’s keyword-rich for these terms.
  • Create new pages.  Some great options for this are FAQ’s, Glossary of Terms and Patient Testimonial pages.
  • Start a blog.  This is the best way to keep your content fresh.  If you already have a blog, have been consistent in your posts and are still not seeing the organic search results you want, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.  You may want to consider posting to your existing blog more frequently, as well as analyzing the current content of your blog posts to learn what has worked well and what hasn’t, in the past.  This can make for more effective blog writing in the future.  We’ll explore the virtues of blogging more in our next post:  Top 5 Reasons Why Blogging is a Must.







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