When “learning the ropes” of digital marketing for medical practices, search engine optimization (SEO) will eventually show up. So, what is an SEO strategy, and what should it include for medical practices? This article details how to design a strategy for SEO that aligns with your goals.
What is SEO Strategy?
SEO strategy meaning encompasses a broad spectrum of techniques, from keyword research and on-page optimization to technical SEO, content design, and link building, all with the common goal of aligning with search intent and refining user experience.
While many core SEO best practices remain intact, the strategy is still subject to change. When Google releases an update, the digital marketing world quickly responds to these changes. That’s why SEO strategists not only take note of when Google’s algorithm updates will take effect, but also look to the digital marketing community (thought leader blogs and videos) to compare notes.
Understanding SEO Strategy Fundamentals
SEO is a system of different tactics that work together to increase a website’s “organic search” engine rankings and enhance online visibility. SEO is used interchangeably with “organic search” because rankings are achieved naturally as opposed to paid means (Google Ads).
The core mechanics of SEO strategy include:
- Keyword research: Finding words and phrases that patients often use in search engines to locate information related to your services.
- Search intent: Refine keyword selection and use by understanding the underlying purpose behind users’ queries.
- On-page optimization: Fine-tuning of web pages to achieve higher rankings and be more precise in audience targeting.
- Technical SEO: Calibrating various back-end aspects of your website to facilitate Google’s ability to crawl and assess the quality and contents of your website.
- Link building: When other trusted websites or platforms (like social media and online directories) link to your website creating additional context that builds authority, credibility, and relevance.
Mastering Keyword Research and Content Design
One of the core benefits of SEO is how it encourages websites to create more helpful and quality content. This not only serves the reader, but also helps businesses by creating useful resources that promote positive consumer sentiment. Content planning is a mix of understanding your target audience, keyword research, and how to present content in ways that encourage engagement.
Tools and Techniques for Effective Keyword Research
You can make an educated guess at what your patients would be likely to search for, but keyword research tools like Semrush, and Ahrefs provide the data needed to carefully select keywords. Not only will these tools suggest keywords you may not have thought of on your own, but they will also clarify the way keywords are best phrased, and help you decide if each are worth being included in your strategy.
- Monthly search volume: How many times this keyword is searched per month. Keep in mind that not all these searches necessarily originate from your target audience, either by location or “search intent.” Search intent matters as some could be using the same exact search term, but what they seek is not at all relevant to your business.
- Keyword difficulty: Pursuing rank for the ideal keyword won’t always be fruitful. To know your chances of ranking for a keyword that matches user intent for your target audience, you would need to know its difficulty score. You can find substitutes to keywords with high difficulty such as “long tail” keywords, which are more specific and contain more words.
The “sweet spot” for keyword choice consists of those your patients are most likely searching for, that have a healthy search volume, and are low competition. By using keyword suggestion tools, tweaking the phrasing, and opting for “long tail” keywords, you can mine for the best keyword opportunities.
Search Engine Results Page (SERP) Analysis
SEO experts include SERP analysis in their content strategy. This involves identifying target keywords, reviewing content types, assessing user experience while examining backlink profiles and social signals. By gaining insights from SERPs, SEO pros can plan content that resonates with the target audience and aligns with search engine preferences for higher rankings.
Enhancing Content with Design Elements
Websites are not just competing for search rank, they are also competing for the attention of consumers. Some Google users may open a new tab for each web result and compare them before deciding on which to read. Content that is easy to digest, visually appealing, and offers visual enhancements like graphics and videos tends to hold a website visitor’s attention longer. More visitor time spent on a website’s page(s) determines a performance metric that helps Google confirm if the website is valuable.
Optimizing On-Page Elements and Technical SEO
Publishing web content is not just uploading text. Elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags help Google organize the content for how it appears in search results. SEO strategy includes formatting best practices and inclusion of primary keywords.
Like a roadmap guiding you through a city, a good linking structure helps users and search engines better understand and navigate the structure of your website. Content linking structure entails linking between pages in a sensible way that provides value.
Strategies for On-Page Optimization
Effective on-page optimization boosts SEO keyword strategy. One tactic is to naturally include the primary keyword within the first 100 words of a content piece, signaling its relevance to both users and search engines early on. But content creators must be careful to avoid keyword stuffing, which can lead to poor user experience and potential search engine penalties. Keyword stuffing means that you repeat keyword phrases so often that they do not blend naturally the content.
What is LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing)?
Blending latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords throughout the content provides a richer context of the keyword topic to search engines, reinforcing the relevance of the content to the user intent and target audience for ranking potential. LSI phrases are those additional words that Google would expect to find on a certain blog topic.
Technical SEO Best Practices
Google web crawlers are looking at more than just website contents and linking structure. They also measure mobile friendliness, page loading times, image descriptions, website security, and more.
- Mobile-friendly: Google expects websites to be responsive across all devices: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. With automatic responsive web design, there’s no need to create separate websites for each device. However, it’s wise to test the site on mobile devices to ensure proper loading, functionality, and intuitive navigation.
- Page loading times: Today’s digital consumers expect fast website loading. If a page takes too long, they’re likely to close the tab and find information elsewhere. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights can help assess page loading speed.
- Site security: Google Chrome will warn users of insecure links. Additionally, various devices have firewall protections that safeguard against malicious websites. Medical practices should already have website security measures in place, such as HTTPS addresses.
Building a Strong Link Profile
A top-tier website alone is not enough for effective SEO; it requires external validation through backlinks. Backlinks, or links from other sites, act as credibility endorsements and enhance a website’s reputation as a trusted information source. These links can originate from various platforms, including blogs, social media, or directories.
What are SEO strategies for backlining? Google distinguishes ethical (“white hat”) from unethical (“black hat”) practices, impacting rankings. Suspicious links can harm your site’s reputation, but using the “disavow” tool helps protect against illegitimate tactics and preserves your standing with Google, safeguarding search rank gains.
Techniques for Acquiring Quality Backlinks
To obtain quality backlinks through “white hat” SEO, focus on creating high-quality, shareable content that addresses user needs. Engage in guest posting on reputable industry websites, build genuine connections with influencers, and leverage social media for content visibility. Implement strategies like broken link building, where you offer your content as a replacement for broken links on authoritative sites. Some go even deeper and scour for mentions of their brand in external content, asking for a link to be added.
Aligning Content with SEO Goals
Behind every Google search is a user’s need. The better your content serves what the user is looking for, the more valuable and relevant it becomes. Google has numerous websites to choose from to rank at the top of search results for any given keyword. Google will prioritize internet content that best serves the user, thus rewarding the most helpful content resources with higher search rankings.
Accuracy in keyword usage, using wording that is easy to understand, and making content easy to read all help satisfy the goal to meet the immediate needs of the Google user. It also helps to take a step back and confirm if the content matches what headings promise.
Developing a Topic-Focused Content Strategy
Content structure involves pillar content for each core topic with supporting content linking back to it. Core topics should be those that resonate with your target audience. This interconnected structure enhances user experience, and search engines interpret it as a signal of exceptional on-page SEO hygiene.
Consistent brand messaging, regular updates, and strategic internal linking further strengthen your site’s topical relevance. This approach not only helps accurately deliver on user intent but also contributes to improved search engine rankings, increased organic traffic, and helps your content more precisely reach its target audience.
Prioritizing User Experience in SEO
A webpage may contain the answers a user is looking for, but does it deliver this information in a reader-friendly way? When SEO strategists look at page performance, bounce rate is a symptom of a website that lacks an organized structure that makes the desired information easy to find. For websites that notice they are losing rankings in search and that visitors are leaving quickly, this is a sign to look into how the content is presented.
For example, a blog article should have a clear title with an introduction that confirms relevance to the search query. It also helps to satisfy the query early on rather than bury the most pertinent details at the bottom of the page. Including a blog summary for those who don’t have time to read the entire article is also helpful
Monitoring and Improving SEO Performance
Any search rank gains can be losses, and search rank losses of a competing website can turn into gains for your website. Auditing your website and its contents helps SEO experts diagnose what needs to be fixed and opportunities for improvement. But keep in mind that sometimes shifts in search rankings are beyond your control such as a recent major update with Google’s algorithm.
Setting Realistic Organic Search Performance Goals for Key Performance Indicators
Monitoring your SEO performance can be perplexing when your chosen keywords don’t rank well and disappointing when the competition ranks for them instead. Remember, organic search gains take time to sprout. Focus on ranking for some of your high relevance keywords, as competition can change, opening up opportunities for your website to rise in their place.
Tips for tracking your SEO performance:
- Establish your keyword plan and assess performance at regular intervals. It may take between six months to a few years to witness improvement in your keyword rankings.
- Define benchmarks using key performance indicators (KPIs) like traffic, bounce rate, keyword ranking changes, and conversion rate.
- Explore less competitive alternatives for keywords that are challenging to rank for. Adapting your keyword strategy is always a wise move.
- Keep an eye on your competitors with specialized competition performance tracking tools. If they are not ranking for certain keywords, it may not be realistic to expect your website will either.
- Focus on conversions. Getting fresh leads is what matters most. Sticking to your SEO plan and making small strategic adjustments over time can increase more leads incrementally.
Strategies for Ongoing Content Optimization
A high-quality medical practice website with valuable resources and a strong blog may experience a decline in performance over time due to Google’s preference for regularly updated content. To sustain optimal search engine performance and lead generation, it’s crucial to ensure a consistent publication schedule for the blog and periodically refresh existing content by making updates and republishing. During content refresh, focus on replacing outdated information, fixing broken links, and adjusting the keyword strategy based on updated SEO goals. This proactive approach helps to maintain the website’s relevance and visibility in search engine results.
Focusing on Local and Mobile SEO
Consider how mobile experiences have shaped consumer behavior. A consumer may pass a clinic almost every day, but when they don’t find it in Google search when they are actively looking for services, they are likely to choose those who are found in Google.
Local and mobile strategies for SEO go hand in hand as handheld devices are often the first thing a patient reaches for when they have a healthcare need, especially one that is urgent. Optimizing your website for local and mobile search ensures you’re well-positioned to attract patients actively seeking services soon.
What does “localized SEO” mean? Built into Google search is an algorithm that can automatically predict user search intent and will format search results accordingly. This means that when Google detects that a search is being made by a user needing medical services, it is more than likely to default to search results based on their geographic location.
Looking for more info on healthcare SEO and how to drive more patients? Read our guide on healthcare SEO here.
Mobile SEO Optimization Techniques
Mobile devices were designed for convenience, and so users expect that when they turn to Google search, they will find the information and resources they need immediately. Google has a strong preference for including in top search results only those websites that work flawlessly on mobile devices. A website that is mobile friendly includes:
- Fast-loading page speeds.
- Automatic formatting to the device size and type (known as “responsive” design).
- Easy navigation of page features and functions.
- High-visibility of contact phone number with “click-to-call” feature (placing a call in one to two taps without manually entering the number).
- Designed to capture leads quickly and seamlessly.
Strategies for Boosting Local SEO
To ensure your website will be found in local search results, it helps to include repeated mentions of your location and service area in your website copy, location-specific pages, and contact information features (such as an interactive map with all your locations). But what is even more effective is when your Google Business Profile appears in the top three on the search engine’s directory. Google Business Profile best practices include:
- Claiming any profile associated with your medical practice. You may have more than one location or have providers within your practice listed individually.
- Complete each profile fully and accurately. Incomplete or incorrect information can hinder new patient acquisition.
- Be proactive in building up your Google reviews. The more positive reviews a business obtains, the higher Google’s star rating potential, with the highest ratings being most visible in search. Also, patients are more likely to choose a provider with stellar reviews.
Summary: Building a Foundational Plan for Visibility Growth Through SEO Strategy
Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies are a core component of digital marketing success. The term “organic search” is used interchangeably with SEO because growth in rankings happens by natural processes as opposed to paid search.
SEO marketing strategy encompasses a wide range of tactics, spanning from keyword research and on-page optimization to technical SEO, content design, and link building, all aimed at aligning with search intent and enhancing user experience. While fundamental SEO practices have some permanence, best practices remain dynamic and subject to change. A complete SEO strategy includes:
- User friendly design: Does the website load quickly? Is it secure? Does it work on any device, especially handhelds? Does everything function as it should and is the navigation intuitive?
- Keyword research: Finding the best-value keywords to include in optimized website content that have solid search intent (patients actively looking for services), high search volume (entered Google search frequently), and low competition (search ranking is attainable).
- On-page optimization: Keyword-rich, original, and helpful content on the website that links related pages to one another.
- Technical SEO: By organizing the site according to best practices, the website can not only be used effectively by humans (page-loading speeds and functionality) but can also be effectively read by Google’s web crawlers.
- Authority building: Patients will look to other resources online to verify that a medical practice is legitimate and trustworthy and so will Google. Algorithms keep track of what websites are linking to your site or mentioning your healthcare brand to get an informed context about your medical practice.
- Content quality: Poorly written, irrelevant, or plagiarized content must be avoided in SEO strategy. Instead, craft website content (blogs, especially) that best serve a satisfactory user experience, is original, and is updated as needed.
SEO strategy must remain adaptable. As Google introduces updates, the digital marketing sphere promptly evaluates these changes and adapts strategies accordingly. SEO strategists not only track the timing of Google’s algorithm updates but also engage with the digital marketing community through thought leader blogs and videos to exchange insights and stay informed.
Map Out Your Medical Practice SEO Strategy with Confidence with iHealthSpot’s Organic Search Expertise
See real organic search gains by collaborating with healthcare SEO experts. Doing the guesswork on your own is a good start, but when critical parts are left out or overlooked, this can slow performance or halt progress. Working with many different medical practice types and specialties, our SEO teams know what works best and will help you craft a solid SEO plan, at your level of investment, that helps you recruit new patients consistently for long term revenue growth. Contact us today to learn more about how to leverage your medical practice website to be a machine that drives patient volume.