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SEO 101 – Understand the basics of search engine optimization

Class is in session.

If you already have a clear understanding what SEO is and why it’s important, you can skip to SEO 102 – Focus on the patient (though we’d still recommend skimming this article for a useful refresher).

What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” SEO at its heart is the process of building a genuinely informative, engaging, and patient-friendly website about your practice and area(s) of expertise (i.e. Orthopedics, Dermatology, Oncology etc.). The goal is to increase visibility with search engines in order to be discovered by potential new patients, and to connect and communicate with new and existing patients.

SEO includes patient-focused actions, such as publishing original well-written content about the conditions you treat, your areas of expertise, and treatments offered; and search engine focused actions, like embedding keywords into your page titles. The later technical actions are to aid search engines (i.e. Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.) in finding what you’ve written (known as crawling), understand what you’ve written (known as indexing), and listing your website on search results (known as ranking).

Therefore, a well optimized website serves two audiences: the patient and the search engines. Sarah, Lead SEO Analyst

Why is SEO important?

While word of mouth, social media, paid advertising, and other types of marketing can generate quality traffic to your website, the overwhelming majority of traffic is driven by search engines. This is especially true for local healthcare practices.

Social Doctor represents over 100 healthcare practices, of varying size and specialties, throughout the U.S.. In 100% of our clients, organic SEO traffic is responsible for 50 – 80% of all website visitors. This is true for nationally ranked orthopedic specialty hospitals and single provider dermatology practices.

Furthermore, the quality of visitors originating from organic search engine positioning is higher than all other sources except referrals. This is knowable by tracking the average time spent on the website, page visits, and click-to-inquiry conversation rates.

The basics of SEO

Search engines are answer machines. They scour billions of pieces of content and evaluate thousands of factors to determine which content is most likely to answer your query.

Search engines do all of this by discovering and cataloguing all available content on the Internet (web pages, PDFs, images, videos, etc.) via a process known as “crawling and indexing,” and then ordering it by how well it matches the query in a process we refer to as “ranking.”

Basic SEO checklist:

  • Setup local profiles, most importantly your Google My Business profile
  • Research what information your patients are searching for. (i.e. ACL Graft Options)
  • Write original well-written content (web pages, blog articles, etc.) for patients
  • Ensure your website is well designed and easy to navigate
  • Incorporate original images and videos to make your content more engaging
  • Keep your website fresh by providing new content that builds on existing content
  • Hire an SEO company with a proven track record of success and one that clearly articulates its SEO strategy. SEO is not an art, it is a science, and therefore should be easy for a reputable company to articulate what they plan on doing and why.

Things to avoid:

  • Copying content from other sources (even reputable sources)
  • Purchasing access to and using a content library
  • Creating pages with thin content
  • Trying to do SEO on your own if you do not have training or prior experience. You run the risk of slow or no results, or worse inadvertently causing harm to your search engine positioning
  • Trying to do SEO with a plugin
  • Purchasing inbound low value links
  • Keyword stuffing

We hope you found this article helpful and informative. To learn more about SEO, read our next chapter, ‘SEO 102 – Focus on the patient’. Social Doctor is a leading healthcare marketing agency. We’re fortunate to work with many of the top physicians, group practices, and national healthcare organizations in the U.S. on their SEO. We diligently measure our efforts and our clients’ results. When you need help with your SEO, schedule a marketing conversation to learn more.

Hugo Guerrero
August 1st, 2022
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