Category Archives: SEO

Personal SEO for Physicians

Personal SEO is the process of optimizing search engine results for a person’s name, including common misspellings or variations. For physicians, variations with and without the “Dr.”, the “M.D.”, and other post-nominal letters should be included. By default, the results most people see when searching for their name are likely to include errors, omissions, or unclear information.

The good news is that you have it within you power to cultivate the search engine results. Below, we’ll look at some ways you can improve your personal SEO, but first let’s review why you should care about this issue.

Why Personal SEO Is Important for Doctors

There are a variety of reasons why people search for a physician’s name.

  1. Prospective patients may be researching possible new doctors
  2. Existing patients may want to know more about you
  3. Prospective employers
  4. Anyone from a non-profit or association you are (or would like to be) affiliated with
  5. Anyone considering you for a speaking or writing opportunity
  6. Friends, family, and anyone you meet in your personal life

Not all of these will apply to every doctor, but at least a few will. Whether you are a physician yourself, or if your organization employs them, the rest of this post will address ways that you can take control of the search engine results that people see, in order to highlight your best qualities.

How to Optimize Search Results for a Physician

Depending on the employment status and other factors for an individual physician, the exact mix of tactics used will vary. Options include:

  • optimizing employer websites for the name of the physician, by creating and optimizing content about the individual
  • creating or correcting listings on physician directories and general business directories
  • addressing existing online reviews, and encouraging new positive reviews
  • creating social media profiles and participating in discussions on social networks
  • creating content related to your areas of expertise

By using an appropriate mix of personal SEO tactics – all in a HIPAA compliant manner – you can take control of the first impression that people get when searching for your name online.

Want to learn more? Get a free lesson from our new online class, or schedule a free Personal SEO Consultation today – just fill out this form and we’ll be in touch:

 



Mobile Traffic to Your Urgent Care Website

This month, we are evaluating the percentage of website traffic that our urgent care clients are getting from mobile (smartphone or tablet) vs. non-mobile sources.   We did this via a custom report that groups tablets and phones together, which we consider to be mobile traffic.   A similar report, which separates tablets from phones, is available in Google Analytics:  Audience > Mobile > Overview.

Overall, we are seeing very high mobile traffic numbers for urgent care clinics.  Most average very close to 50%.   Few are less than 45%, and some are already approaching 60% of total traffic coming from mobile devices.   This is compared to other types of medical practices, where we are typically seeing mobile numbers in the 25-35% range.

In addition to looking at mobile vs. non-mobile numbers, we looked closer at the sources of traffic for each type.   (Choose a secondary dimension of “Source/Medium” in the standard mobile report to see similar data.)  In general, the percentages of traffic from various sources (organic search engines, paid search, direct, etc.) was surprisingly consistent between mobile and non-mobile.   In some cases, we found that paid search traffic performed especially well, and in other cases found it to be under-performing, thus identifying opportunities to adjust bids or other aspects within AdWords or the Microsoft AdCenter.

Measuring Mobile Conversions

On a related note, we have been working with all of our clients over the past few months to implement various means of call tracking.   This is especially important for mobile searches – for an in-depth review of this issue, see the SearchEngineLand.com article “Mobile Calls Are The New Conversions: 7 Tips For SEMs“.  We have found that using mobile click-to-call ads in AdWords, along with mobile click-to-call event tracking in Google Analytics, allows for efficient collection of useful data.

Question, comments, or ideas about mobile traffic or tracking?   Contact us if you do!

 

 

What is SEO?

In today’s world, Search Engine Marketing is as important to most medical practices and hospitals as a yellow pages ad was 20 years ago.  Search Engine Marketing includes both paid and organic (free) traffic that search engines can deliver to your website.   To maximize your organic traffic, your site needs to be built and managed by a team that understands SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

SEO is about two main factors:  relevance and authority.  Your site needs to have content that is relevant to the words and phrases that people are searching for.  Your site also needs to have authority, and in the online world, this is largely determined by the number (and quality) of other websites that link to your site or include a citation referencing your business.

If you, or any of the decision makers at your practice, do not have a solid understanding of how SEO works, watch this 3 minute video to learn more:

Reaching Patients Who Don’t Know About Urgent Care

Many of our recent clients already have a website before we meet them.  Some of these practices come to us for a redesign, but many have a different priority – their web traffic has plateaued, and they are looking for ways to reach more prospective patients.

Often, these practices have websites that are optimized for their “core terms”.  For example, urgent care websites may appear on the first page of search results for terms that include the physician and/or practice name, or common generic phrases such as urgent care, walk in clinic, and occupational medicine.   The traffic obtained from these searches is obviously valuable — yet, it only scratches the surface of available search traffic.

Recently, we redesigned a site for a client that had a 10 year old website.  They had been tracking their traffic for years.  Since the beginning of 2011, they had been averaging about 600 visitors per month; this was about double their total from 3 years earlier. That increase is typical, given the growth of the web in general.

The redesign involved only minor changes to their existing content, as well as one key addition:  we integrated the WebForDoctors  Urgent Care Patient Education Library into their site. And, after 2 months, the client has already seen their traffic double to 1200+ visitors per month.

How Does This Patient Education Library Help?

The reason this content attracts so much traffic is that most people don’t just search for your core terms.  Many people don’t even know that something called urgent care is even an option for their health care needs.  But, searching for health information is one of the most common activities online.  When most people search, they are looking for information on something specific, such as a symptom, disease, condition, treatment, or procedure.

In the course of their self-diagnosis and research, many people will eventually consider some sort of treatment.  At the same time, many of them have no experience with an Urgent Care practice.  When they are ready for treatment, these people would typically start at either their primary care physician, or the local emergency room.  By effectively using optimized patient education content, and Urgent Care practice can connect with these prospective patients, educating them about the topic of their search, and introducing them to their own services at the same time.

Urgent Care SEO

This post contains a summary of best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) for urgent care websites.   I’ll start by addressing on-page SEO tactics – things you can do to your own website to help increase traffic.  Then, I’ll move on to discuss off-page SEO factors – things you can do to improve search traffic that go beyond your own site.

On-page SEO is the process of incorporating keywords into your website.  For an urgent care practice, there are certain words and phrases that are obviously important – “urgent care”, “walk-in clinic”, and your contact information will always be some of the most important things to include, and should be incorporated into the template of your website so they appear on every page.  In general, this core information should be incorporated into the header, footer, and/or sidebar of your website.

In addition to including these words in the text on your website, there are some specific places in the code of your site where it is important to include keywords.  In the HTML code, the Title is the most important location for SEO ranking.  Other tags to focus SEO effort on are headings (h1, h2, etc.) alt tags for images, and the text used for hyperlinks.  The Meta Keyword tag is no longer used by major search engines, and the Meta description will not help your rank, but it is often used in the actual site description seen in search results.

Many websites do a good job with these core words, but this is only the beginning of the SEO process.   After covering your core words, you should also look into the “long tail” keywords that people may use to find your website.  There will be hundreds of words and phrases that people might be searching for when they have a need for your services.  Specifically, diseases and conditions, symptoms they are experiencing, and information about specific medical treatments and services are the most commonly searched health topics online.  Every web page you create that discusses one of these items will increase the chance that a prospective patient will find their way to your office.

To further increase the chances that your prospect becomes a patient, you should expand your SEO strategy to include off-page tactics.  The premise behind these tactics is that links to your website and citations of your business (a listing with your business name plus your phone number and/or address) improve your rank in search results.  For urgent care practices, off-page tactics include:

  • Creating and optimizing directory listings in local business directories, online yellow pages, and medical/doctor directories
  • Participating in community oriented discussions in social networking sites and blogs
  • Trading links with complimentary local businesses
  • Becoming a guest author for a local blog or news site
  • Submitting press releases to local media and through online press release distribution services

Finally, SEO is a long-term process.  As with most types of online marketing, a steady approach will bring you great benefits.  Even a few minutes a day, or a few hours a month, can pay huge dividends.

Should we rate physicians like restaurants?

Eric Van De Graaff, M.D.,  a cardiologist in Omaha, recently blogged about the value of all the physician ratings and review websites that are now appearing in online search results.  Overall, Dr. Van De Graaf believes that rating sites could be beneficial to prospective patients but, as of today, the system has two flaws.  I agree with him and will add a marketing perspective to his thoughts.

1.  There is a scarcity of reviews on the medical review sites

Medical review websites such as HealthGrades, DoctorScorecard , Vitals.com, and RateMDs.com, do not offer nearly the same number of reviews or breadth of information as restaurant review sites.  Information is sparse, and the average doctor has 2 reviews.   Furthermore, a recent study of 33 ratings sites showed that 88% of the reviews are positive.  How can this info be helpful to the prospective patient who may be deciding which medical professionals to avoid?

In my opinion, there are 3 factors at play.  First, the sites are fairly new, or at least their prevalence in search engine results is low.  Second, there are too many of them, so reviews of a single provider may be scattered in several places.   And third, most online users reading and writing reviews tend to  be younger and probably healthier.   They are more concerned about their choices for dinner and drinks than choosing a cardiologist.  Most importantly, review sites are a form of social media, or a community.  And like any community, people will be involved when they see others like themselves involved.  We’ve seen online reviews start to appear in Google Places pages for our clients whose practices skew younger, such as Urgent Care, Chiropractic, or Ophthalmology.  Our clients have stated that the online reviews were the determining factor for some new patients in deciding to visit the practice.  In the coming years, we will see more relevant content on patient experiences for a wider variety of medical practices.  Whether the online community starts to use the “medical review” sites or sticks with more general sites such as Google Places and Yelp is anyone’s guess.

2.  Patient anecdotes may not be the best judge of a doctor’s skills

Dr. Van De Graaff questions whether it is valuable to sum up one’s entire opinion of a physician based on one quick interaction.  The doctor may have just finished a difficult procedure and the patient construes his detached demeanor as rude.  Does relaying this experience to the masses really help others in the community determine his skills as a physician?  It’s a valid point.

In reality, nothing has changed other than technology.  Fifteen years ago, if I visited a cardiologist and was put off by his bedside manner, I would tell five friends, of which most would forget the doctor’s name the next day. Today, I can report my thoughts to millions and they will live online presumably forever.  Fair?  Probably not.

However, this is the reality physicians need to face, especially as the generation that grew up on the internet ages.  It’s not going away.  We instruct our clients  how to generate positive reviews for their practices.  Next to word-of-mouth from a trusted source, this is the most powerful marketing tool, especially for practices that are highly competitive and don’t rely on physician referrals.

Patient Education Web Content

In earlier posts to this blog, I discussed the use of blogs and other tools for producing content on a regular basis.  Another important aspect of your medical website content strategy is to provide patient education content.  This is a great way to build up a  solid foundation for your website, seeding the search engines with useful information about the diseases and conditions that you treat.

Patient education content is a valuable addition to your website for two reasons.  First, it helps educate your existing patients.   By using your website to help keep your patients educated, you can avoid problems that arise when people use less authoritative sources of health information.

Perhaps more importantly, patient education content can help you attract new patients.  Often, when a patient is in need of your services, they search the web.  But, they may not be searching for you by your name or specialty.  Instead, people often search for information about a disease or condition that they are experiencing.  Well optimized patient education content will serve as both a landing page to attract them to your site, and a bridge page to introduce them to your services.

WebForDoctors currently can provide a comprehensive patient education library for urgent care practices, with libraries for other specialties under development.  In addition, we can provide custom patient education content to meet the needs of any specialty.

Content Development Ideas for Medical Practices

In my last post, I discussed the idea of a content strategy – using a blog and/or other tools to enhance the online presence of your medical practice.  Today, I’ll provide you with some ideas for creating content.  Not all of these will work for every practice, but if you pick the 3 to 5 techniques that are best for your situation, you’ll be well on your way to creating useful and beneficial content for your patients.

Sources of content include:

  • Patient questions – whether you address frequently asked questions that you here when seeing patient, or you actively solicit ideas from patients for your content, answering these questions is a great way to provide content that people will want to read.
  • Local resources – tips for healthy eating (from restaurants to farmer’s markets to recipes), places to
  • Local events – healthy activities such as races or walk-a-thons, community events that you are exhibiting or providing services at,
  • Staff activities – community service or volunteer activities, healthy hobbies, or anything else unique or inspiring that members of your staff participate in.
  • Inspiring quotes – used as a basis for an article, or used on their own as a Facebook update or Twitter post.
  • Guest authors – these could be other employees at your practice or health care providers who you have a referral relationship with.
  • Links to articles – be sure to include some commentary (why is this article useful?) – this could be for breaking news, but also could be for seasonal information or useful statistics or trends.
  • Find out how people are getting to your website – use keywords from website analytics to get ideas for what your prospects may be looking for, and the language they use when searching.
  • Videos – summarize something you find online and include a link or embed it in your page, or even create your own videos.

Finally, here are some general tips to keep in mind when picking and utilizing the methods above:

  • Make content development a habit.  Pick a day of the week or time of day when you regularly work on content.
  • Keep a file of content ideas – jot down notes in this file, and use it to pick ideas to fully develop.
  • Don’t be too self-serving – if most of your content is simply promoting your services, people will lose interest fast.
  • Add value – occasionally, it is OK to post a simple link to an article or an inspiring quote on its own, but focus on adding value by creating original content.

Do you have any additional ideas for creating content, or questions about the ideas above?  Tell us about them by commenting on this article.



Should Your Medical Practice Have a Blog?

To blog, or not to blog.  This is a question I get from many clients.  In general, my answer is yes.  But, not all blogs are created equal, and not all of them even need to be called a blog.

In the most general sense, what every medical practice needs is a content development strategy.   This content can take many forms, such as:

  • a traditional blog, that allows comments from readers, and is called a blog
  • a section of your website that uses blogging technology, but without the ability for readers to comment – this may be called a blog, a newsletter, a news section, or whatever fits your situation
  • an email newsletter, which might be archived on your website
  • status updates, wall posts, discussions, or notes posted to your practice’s Facebook Fan Page and/or Twitter account

What all these types of content have in common is that they provide a means for sharing your expertise, your personality, and the philosophy of your practice with your patients and prospective patients.  In addition, a content strategy is vital to effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

So, which method should you use?  The exact answer will depend on the type of patients you serve, combined with the types and amount of resources you can devote to your content strategy.  Some questions and issues to consider when creating your strategy include:

  • Who will create the content?  Doctors, owners, office manager or other staff, a freelance writer, or some combination?
  • Are you prepared to interact with patients via a blog, Facebook, or Twitter?  This can allow for shorter posts that lead to a dialogue.
  • Do you currently produce a newsletter of any sort, or any type of regular content that is delivered to patients?  What has or has not worked in the past?
  • How much time (and/or money) are you willing to spend?  Do you prefer to spend a shorter amount of time once per week or more, or a longer period once per month?

In future posts, I’ll expand on the benefits of a blog and other aspects of a content strategy, and provide ideas for creating content.  If you have questions about how to apply a content strategy to your practice, feel free to comment on this post and/or contact us.