Marketing is responsible for almost 10% of a business’s revenue, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Needless to say, every medical practice needs a strong marketing strategy to ensure its success. 

In today’s age, a majority of patients (82.8%) research healthcare providers through search engines like Google and Bing. 

If medical practices want to capitalize on these user searches, they need to invest in search engine optimization (SEO), which will help them rank in the #1 spot for relevant queries (like ‘doctors in st. petersburg’).   

In this article, we’ll demystify SEO for doctors, and we’ll teach you how to increase your online reach and drive more clients through your door.

Introduction to SEO for Doctors 

The digital marketing landscape is rife with jargon and confusing acronyms, so it can be a bit harsh on newcomers just trying to understand what everything means. 

That’s why we’ve put together this beginner-friendly breakdown covering the basics of SEO for healthcare providers. 

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. 

It’s the practice of improving your website’s visibility and position ranking (#1, #2, #3-ranked search results, etc.) within search engines like Google. 

Good SEO means your website will appear higher on the list when people search for terms directly related to your medical practice.

SEO involves targeting keywords (also called search queries), which are specific search phrases your prospects look up online. The aforementioned query ‘doctors in st. petersburg’ is an example of a keyword (even though it contains more than one word). 

By adding popular keywords to your content and service pages, you’ll increase the likelihood of ranking in a top position for them. 

However, SEO is by no means simple. 

To really move the needle and outrank competitors, you’ll have to not only use the right keywords but also:

  • Build links from other trusted websites that point to yours (which signals to Google that your content is trustworthy). 
  • Ensure that your website has a pleasant user experience (fast loading speed, easy navigation, etc.). 
  • Create content that answers your audience’s questions and positions your practice as an authority figure. 
  • Leverage off-site signals like social shares and online directory listings. 

While SEO encompasses a lot, it pays dividends once you get the ball rolling. Top search engine rankings will consistently drive traffic to your website, and you’ll start booking appointments with new clients left and right. 

After all, there’s a reason why 32% of companies claim SEO has the highest ROI out of any digital marketing channel. 

Why is SEO important for doctors?

Increased patient acquisition: As stated before, 82.8% of patients turn to search engines to find new healthcare providers. If you ignore SEO, you’re leaving all that business on the table. Optimizing your website for search engines will help you rank for crucial keywords related to your medical practice, increasing the number of patients you acquire as a result. 

Local visibility: Local SEO is a subset of traditional SEO, and it focuses on attracting patients within your geographical area. Since most healthcare practices have brick-and-mortar locations, local SEO is an inherent part of SEO for doctors. This is crucial if you want to target people searching for “doctors near me” or “[your specialty] in [your city].”

Building trust and authority: Search engines like Google only rank websites that they trust, especially for the top 3 positions. By engaging in SEO tactics like content creation and link-building, you’ll establish trust and authority for your website, which will also benefit your reputation as a medical professional.

Cost-effective marketing: While there may be quite a bit of work involved, SEO is far more cost-effective than traditional advertising, even if you outsource everything.

Key SEO areas doctors should focus on 

SEO is an umbrella term that encompasses many areas of focus and specific industries. 

For example, SEO for doctors would be considered a subsidiary of traditional SEO. 

Different SEO subsets include the following:

  • Local SEO 
  • E-Commerce SEO 
  • On-Page SEO 
  • Off-Page SEO
  • Technical SEO 
  • Real Estate SEO 

And the list goes on and on. 

For the purposes of this guide, we’ll stick to on-page and off-page SEO – with a few mentions of local SEO throughout. 

➡️ On-Page SEO

On-page SEO refers to all the optimizations you make directly within your website to improve its search engine ranking.

It’s focused on improving the content, structure, and technical elements of your web pages.

⬇️ Examples:

✅ Keyword research and strategic keyword placement

✅ Writing high-quality, informative content

✅ Optimizing title tags and meta descriptions with keywords and compelling copy

✅ Ensuring your site is mobile-friendly and loads quickly

✅ Using descriptive image file names and alt text

➡️ Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO focuses on actions taken outside of your website to increase its authority and trustworthiness in the eyes of search engines.

This type of SEO aims primarily at building relationships and earning signals of credibility (backlinks) from other websites.

⬇️ Examples:

Link building (getting high-quality websites to link to yours)

✅Social media engagement

✅Managing online reviews

✅Participating in forums or communities related to your field

✅Claiming and optimizing your Google Business Profile

SEO can seem overwhelming, but it’s worth the investment. The rest of this article will focus on how medical professionals can get started with SEO.  

On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization is primarily focused on placing your target keywords in the right places, along with making any necessary technical tweaks.

On the technical side of things, you’ll want to ensure that your website loads quickly, has a logical URL and internal linking structure, and doesn’t contain any broken links or missing pages. 

There are quite a few factors that go into on-page SEO, including the following:

  • Keyword research
  • Quality content creation
  • Title tags and meta descriptions
  • Using header tags 
  • Optimizing images 
  • Internal linking 
  • URL structure 
  • Mobile friendly design 
  • Page speed optimization

We’ll discuss each of these in more detail below. 

Keyword research

The first step to improving your medical practice’s SEO is understanding how potential patients search for doctors and businesses like yours. 

We’ve already gone over what keywords are and their importance to your SEO. 

Yet, how do you find suitable keywords to target for your medical practice?

To find the right keywords, you need to conduct keyword research, which involves understanding which terms people use to find the types of services you offer. 

Once you know which keywords to target, you can then optimize your website and content to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for those queries.

Not sure where to start with keyword research? Check out our guide on the topic for some tips and tricks.

There are a few ways you can go about researching keywords, but the easiest way is to use a tool like our free keyword planner

Keyword research in action 

Let’s consider a quick example so you can get a feel for how keyword research works. 

Remember the keyword we mentioned earlier, ‘doctors in st. petersburg’?

Well, let’s plug it into our keyword planner tool and see what happens! 

As you can see, we get a list of related keywords, their search volume, and a few other metrics. 

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Search volume. This number represents how many users actively search for the keyword on Google. 
  • Intent. A keyword’s intent refers to the ‘why’ behind the search. The first few keywords in the example have commercial intent, which is why there’s a tiny icon of a skyscraper next to the search volume. Intent can also be informational (wanting to learn more), navigational (trying to get to a specific location online), and transactional (ready to make a purchase that very session). 
  • Difficulty. A keyword’s difficulty score represents how difficult it will be to rank in the top spot for it. The higher the number, the harder it is to rank. 
  • Search trend. This line graph represents the interest in a keyword over time. If the trend points up, the keyword is gaining momentum. If it’s pointing down, the keyword is losing popularity (and you probably shouldn’t target it). 

Ideally, you want to target keywords that have high search volume yet low keyword difficulty scores. It also helps if the keyword is on an upward trend

Taking a glance at the list provided, the keyword ‘primary care doctors in st. petersburg’ appears to check all the boxes for us. It has a decent search volume (70), commercial intent, a difficulty score of 36, and an upward search trend. 

Proper keyword usage 

When researching keywords to target, consider both short-tail and long-tail keywords.

What are long tail keywords?

A long-tail keyword is a highly specific search phrase that typically contains three or more words. These keywords have lower search volume compared to short, generic terms (known as “head terms”).Long-tail keywords often reflect a searcher’s specific intent. Someone searching for “pediatrician open Saturdays near me” is closer to booking an appointment than someone just searching for “best treatment for eczema in adults.”

Once you’ve identified relevant keywords, integrate them naturally into these website elements:

✔️Page titles: Craft concise and descriptive titles, including your primary keyword or keyphrase, to attract clicks in search results.

✔️Meta descriptions: Write clear meta descriptions with relevant keywords that accurately summarize each page’s content. These influence click-through rates.

✔️Headers (H1, H2, etc.): Structure content with headers, using keywords where natural to provide context to search engines and readers.

✔️Blog/website copy: Integrate keywords throughout your text, but prioritize creating high-quality, informative content that answers patient questions. Avoid keyword stuffing.

✔️Image alt text: Use descriptive alt text with keywords for accessibility and to help search engines understand your images.

Title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags are one of the most important on-page optimization elements since they help tell search engines what your web page is about. 

Above all else, ensure your title tags are unique and descriptive and include your target keyword. 

Let’s create a title tag using the keyword we found earlier, ‘primary care doctors in st. petersburg.’

The article we’re going to write is a guide informing readers how to find doctors in their area. 

In that case, our title tag could look something like this:

The Ultimate Guide for Finding Primary Care Doctors in St. Petersburg

This title tag is unique, lets the reader know what to expect, and contains our target keyword. 

Meta descriptions are another important on-page element, as they appear below your title tag in search engine results pages (SERPs). These brief descriptions give searchers an overview of your page, so make sure to include your target keyword here as well.

Here’s an example of a stellar meta description that we found online:

This meta description contains all the necessary keywords (highlighted in bold), and it lets readers know what to expect. As the icing on the cake, it also contains a call to action that encourages users to click on the result. Definitely take notes! 

Quality content creation 

Search engines prioritize websites that provide genuine value to users through helpful content. 

While blogging doesn’t work for every type of business, physician’s offices and healthcare providers will benefit from posting regular blogs that answer common questions and educate readers. 

To boost your rankings, focus on content that directly helps your patients.

Identify Patients’ Needs

    • Ask directly: Gather questions and concerns during appointments or through online feedback forms.
    • Online research: Monitor discussions on health forums and communities to understand the topics patients care about. In particular, Reddit and Quora are both goldmines. 
  • Check social media: Platforms like Facebook and X are often abuzz with users chatting about whatever medical issues are currently ailing them, which is valuable information you can use in your content. 
Your keyword research will come in handy here! Use keyword research tools to reveal common questions related to your medical specialty.

Identify Patients’ Questions and Concerns

Start by understanding the common questions and concerns your typical patients have. 

This can be gathered through interactions during appointments, feedback forms, or looking at online communities and social media to identify topics that are important to your patients. 

Create patient-focused content

  • Blog posts: Address common questions with in-depth articles (e.g., “Understanding Childhood Allergies,” “Managing Chronic Pain: Non-Medication Options”).
  • Service pages: Thoroughly explain your treatments and procedures (e.g., “What to Expect During a Dermatology Consultation”).
  • FAQs: Build a comprehensive FAQ section answering frequent patient questions about your practice, services, and policies.
  • Case Studies and testimonials: With patient consent, share anonymized case studies or testimonials to build trust.

Ethical considerations:

When creating medical content, keep the following in mind:

  • Patient privacy: Strictly adhere to HIPAA regulations when discussing patient cases or using any patient data examples online. The last thing you want is to land your medical practice in hot water over a false claim on a blog post or video. 
  • Prioritize patient safety: Never compromise accuracy for better rankings, as it’s not worth the potential hit to your reputation.
  • Clear Disclaimers: Always include disclaimers stating that website content should not substitute professional medical advice and encourage patients to consult with their doctors before taking any action.
  • Avoid Making Claims: Don’t guarantee specific treatment results or use superlative language (e.g., “best doctor in…”). Focus on accurate and ethical promotion to stay safe.
  • Be transparent: Clearly state author qualifications and cite reliable sources.
  • Stay updated: Revisit content regularly to ensure it reflects current medical knowledge. It doesn’t take long for content to go out of date, so don’t forget to periodically audit it. 

Using header tags 

Use header tags to structure your content, clearly delineating sections for both readers and search engines.

What are header tags?

They’re lines of HTML that serve to break up the subtopics of a post. You can think of them as subheadings or chapter titles in a book. 

H1 tags are for the title of your post and should only appear once (and contain your target keyword). H2 tags are for each subtopic, and H3 tags are for further delineation of H2s. The same is true for H4 tags (which go under H3s), and so on (they go up to H6). 

Optimizing images 

Your images are also important for your SEO, and they help break up long walls of text. 

Google’s crawler bots don’t have computer vision, so they won’t be able to actually see any of your included images. 

For this reason, you should do the following:

  • Use descriptive filenames for images (e.g., “pediatrician-examining-child.jpg”).
  • Add alt-text that describes the image content using relevant keywords.

Internal linking 

Every web page on your site needs at least one internal link pointing at it (preferably a lot more than that) in order to avoid orphan pages (which have no internal links pointing at them). 

If certain web pages on your site don’t have any links directed at them, they’ll fall into complete obscurity – negating whatever positive effect they could have had on your business. 

Besides ensuring a logical internal linking structure, internal links have a secondary benefit. 

Whenever you include internal links to related topics within your content, you encourage readers to remain on your site, which will help your dwell times (which refer to how long users stay on your website, and it’s an important ranking factor to Google). 

Link between relevant pages on your website to help readers navigate and search engines understand your site structure.

URL structure 

Use short, descriptive URLs with target keywords wherever possible. Your URL structure is just as integral as your internal links, so don’t skimp on it. 

Here’s an example of a messy URL:

It contains a lot of nonsense that could potentially confuse users and search engines. 

Here’s a much better example:

This URL uses short, readable words rather than long strings of ID numbers. 

Mobile friendly design 

Ensure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile devices to provide a seamless user experience.

Google has used mobile-first indexing since 2017, so if your site doesn’t display properly on mobile devices, you’ll have a hard time getting anywhere on the SERPs (search engine results pages). 

Page speed optimization

If you want your website to have a passable user experience and rank high on Google, it needs to load within a fraction of a second (or faster). 

Google’s Core Web Vitals test will put your loading speed under scrutiny, and you won’t be able to rank in a top spot if you don’t pass. 

Improve loading times by optimizing images, minifying CSS and JavaScript, and leveraging browser caching.

User Experience (UX) optimization

You can have the greatest content and service pages in the world, but if your users can’t navigate to them, your efforts won’t bear any fruit. 

Focus on creating a user-friendly website design with clear navigation, intuitive layout, and easy-to-find contact information.

Off-Page Optimization

Off-page optimization is also about improving your website’s visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs), albeit in a different way. 

These strategies stretch beyond your website, focusing on building your practice’s reputation and authority across the web.

This can be done through a variety of ways, including:

  • Local SEO
  • Social media engagement 
  • Acquiring high-quality backlinks

We’ll discuss each of these in detail in the following sections. 

Local SEO Strategies for Doctors

infographic on local seo strategies for doctors

As a doctor, you already know the importance of being visible in your community. 

Well, local SEO is the online equivalent of that. 

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a digital marketing strategy focused on optimizing a business’s online presence to improve visibility in local search results. It aims to help businesses attract more local customers when they search for products or services online.

Local SEO tactics will help you appear in Google Maps searches, which are integral for attracting new patients in your area. 

Here are some local SEO strategies for doctors that you can use to boost your medical practice:

Claim and optimize your Google Business Profile listing 

Your Google Business Profile (GBP) is a powerful tool for attracting new patients, and it serves as the central hub for your local SEO efforts. 

It’s often one of the first places potential patients will look to find information about your practice. Here’s what you should include:

  • Key Details: Name, Address, Phone (NAP)
  • Online Presence: Your website URL, social media links
  • Practice Info: Your hours of operation, a detailed description of your services, and a list of all locations served.
  • Visuals: Photos and videos of your practice and staff will help potential patients feel more at ease with scheduling an appointment. 

Why does this matter?

A complete and accurate Google Business Profile helps you appear in local searches and provides patients with quick access to the information they need to make informed decisions.

Get listed in online directories  

In addition to claiming your Google Business Profile, make sure that your medical practice is listed in other online directories such as Healthgrades, ZocDoc, WebMD, etc. 

These listings can help improve your visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and attract new patients to your practice.

Not only do a massive amount of users frequent these directories, but they also already rank in top spots for crucial local keywords like ‘doctors near me.’

Create a practice Facebook Business Page

Want to know a savvy SEO hack?

If you want to achieve top rankings the easy way, you need to create a Facebook Business Page for your healthcare services. 

Doing a quick Google search for any local healthcare provider in your area will let you know why this is. 

Oftentimes, a practice’s Facebook page ranks #1 in the search results, even above their own website. 

This is due to the massive amount of ranking clout Facebook has with Google, and you can (and should) use it to your advantage. 

Optimize your website for local search 

Make sure that your website is optimized for local search by including relevant keywords, location information, contact information, etc., on each page. 

You should also consider creating location-specific pages that focus on the areas served by your medical practice – including specific regions, cities, and neighborhoods. 

Also, schema markup is special code that you add to your site to add further context to search engines about your content. With proper structured data, your medical practice will have additional information whenever listed – such as reviews and your address. 

Here’s a complete breakdown of how to add local schema markup to your website. 

Encourage patients to provide online reviews 

71% of patients use online reviews as the first step to finding a new doctor. 

Encourage patients to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile and other review platforms to boost your reputation. 

Also, it’s crucial to address any negative reviews in a prompt and professional manner. This demonstrates a commitment to your patient’s satisfaction and care. 

Invest in Paid Search Ads 

Paid search ads can be a great way to boost your visibility in SERPs for locally targeted searches. 

Why should you spend money on ads when organic SEO is free?

It’s a matter of timing. 

While organic SEO is technically free if you handle all the work yourself, it’s a notoriously lengthy process that can take several months to start bearing fruit. 

Pay-per-click (PPC) ads, on the other hand, offer immediate visibility on search results pages. 

Not only that, but PPC ads grant you a superior level of control over when and where your ads appear. You have control over your ad’s keywords, locations, demographics, and more. 

PPC campaigns provide detailed analytics that will help you make informed decisions about what’s working and what isn’t. 

Most beginner SEOs (search engine optimizers) will opt for PPC ads in the first few months to bridge the gap until their organic search efforts start to pay off. 

Once you start seeing an ROI from organic SEO, it’s up to you whether you want to wean off paid ads or continue to use them. 

Social Media Marketing for Doctors

Infographic on local Social Media marketing for doctors

As a doctor, you likely already know that social media is a great way to connect with current and potential patients. 

But what are the most effective ways to use social media for your medical practice?

Here are some tips on how doctors can use social media marketing. 

Build patient relationships

Ensure you respond to comments and questions from patients and potential patients. Show that you care about your online community, and they will appreciate it.

Also, address any negative reviews promptly and professionally, demonstrating a commitment to patient satisfaction and care.

Share useful information

Your patients and potential patients are looking to you as a source of information. 

Share blog posts, articles, infographics, and other types of content to help them learn more about their health conditions and how to treat them.

Don’t treat your content as a one-and-done deal on social media, either. Upload each piece across all the social channels you use (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.). 

Drive traffic to your website

Make sure your website is optimized for SEO and that your social media links lead back to your site. This will help you get more website visitors, which can lead to more appointments booked.

Promote your content as much as you can, sharing it through your website, social media, email newsletters, and online communities. 

After all, you spent valuable time and resources creating the content, so why not do everything you can to ensure it gets seen?

Link building

Backlinks are links from other websites that direct back to yours – hence the name. 

They’re important because they signal your website’s authority and credibility to search engines (Google in particular). 

Building links to your website is one of the most important things you can do to improve your website’s visibility in SERPs.

Quality links from high-authority websites demonstrate trustworthiness and can significantly boost your ranking in search results pages (SERPs).  

This translates to more potential patients finding you when they search for healthcare information.

How to build quality backlinks

Focus on earning links naturally from reputable, relevant sources, as they’ll have the most positive effect on your search rankings, and they won’t land you in any hot water with Google. 

Here are a few effective strategies:

Guest blogging: Write informative articles for other healthcare blogs or local websites in exchange for a backlink. Do some homework on the guest site before reaching out to the site owner to ensure their credibility. 

Directories and listings: Get your practice listed in credible medical directories (e.g., Healthgrades) and local business directories.

Partnerships: Collaborate with local health organizations, hospitals, or non-profits for potential opportunities to earn links.

Shareable Content: Create high-quality infographics, videos, or research summaries that other websites may want to link to. This is particularly effective if you publish new research or insightful observations within your field.

Participate in Forums: Build your reputation by answering health-related questions on platforms like Quora to establish yourself as an expert.

It’s important to build links from high-quality websites that are relevant to your niche. 

For example, if you’re a doctor specializing in orthopedics, it would be beneficial to build links from websites about orthopedics, sports medicine, or health in general. Websites that sell orthopedic products are also fair game, so long as you don’t vouch for any product or service that you haven’t used personally. 

Steer clear of schemes promising bulk backlinks from low-quality websites. These can harm your rankings.

Outsource Your Backlink Building to the Experts

Leave the complexities of link building to our experts, freeing you to focus on what you do best: providing quality patient care.  We’ll leverage our network and proven strategies to elevate your online presence.  You can explore our link-building services here.

Analyzing and Tracking Your Results

SEO is an ongoing process. To ensure your efforts pay off (and to adjust course if needed), it’s necessary to analyze metrics and track your progress. Here’s how to do just that. 

Essential tools of the trade

Google Analytics

This free platform provides a wealth of website traffic data, including how visitors find your site, their behavior, and demographics. Familiarize yourself with key metrics like traffic sources, bounce rate, and time on page.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a necessity for any website owner conducting a search campaign on Google. It lets you dive deeper into how your website performs in Google search. Monitor keywords you rank for, click-through rates, and potential technical issues.

Rank Tracking Tools

Services like SEMrush or Ahrefs allow you to track your website’s rankings for specific keywords over time. This helps gauge your progress against competitors.

If you don’t want to sign up for an account for either of those services, we have a free rank checker you can use. 

Which metrics should you track?

Search Rankings: Focus on keywords relevant to your services and location. Note any major upward or downward trends when analyzing the data. 

Website Traffic: Are you seeing more overall visitors? Are increases coming from organic searches, referrals, or other channels? These insights will help you refine your content strategy. 

Conversion Rates: Are website visitors taking desired actions – booking appointments, filling out contact forms, etc.? If not, you need to work on the strength of your calls to action (CTAs). 

Bounce Rate: Do visitors leave your site as soon as they show up? High bounce rates could indicate poor page quality or a mismatch with search intent.

Important Note: SEO results take time. That’s why it’s best to analyze trends over longer periods (e.g., monthly or quarterly) rather than fixating on day-to-day fluctuations.

In summary, SEO is a great way to increase the visibility of your medical practice online. 

By following our tips and strategies on SEO for doctors, you will ensure your website is properly optimized for search engines and stands out from the competition. 

Furthermore, with SEO tactics such as keyword research and content optimization, you’ll continue to boost your organic traffic levels over time. Not only that, but the pages that are already ranking will keep bringing in new patients to your practice. 

With these tools at your disposal, there’s no limit to how much success you can achieve with SEO.

Ready to take the first step in boosting your medical practice’s SEO? We’re here to help. Contact us today to book a free SEO consultation.