8 local SEO tips for healthcare practice managers - even if you're not tech savvy
Search engine optimisation may seem intimidating, especially if you are trying it for the first time. But you can gain plenty of benefits with little technical knowledge. This article discusses some of the simple ways you can get your business appearing on search engine results pages.
At first glance, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) sounds like a foreign language, doesn’t it?
SERPs, schema, ranking, meta-tags—are these even real words? So many acronyms, and so much jargon. It’s a lot to digest.
If you run your own practice, you don’t have time to learn an entirely new internet vocabulary. You’re busy enough caring for patients, running a small business, and, oh yeah, having a life.
At the most basic level, SEO refers to any activity that will help attract more visitors from search enginges to your website, without you having to pay the search engine money for it.
Some larger businesses employ full technical teams to work on SEO techniques like improving site speed, managing site structure, and rolling out new tactics as soon as Google changes its algorithm. This kind of investment can make a difference worth millions of dollars in some competitive industries.
Luckily, you don't necessarily need to do all that. In fact, you don’t even need to hire an agency or train in coding to benefit from a solid SEO plan. There are plenty of simple steps you can take to make your clinic more visible to potential customers in your local area. And, you can do it all with little or no cost.
Why SEO matters
In short, SEO helps people discover your business online. Most people looking for local services turn to a search engine to find nearby businesses, products, and attractions. By entering or speaking a few keywords into a mobile device shoppers can discover which businesses meet their needs and how to find and contact them.
Your business's position on a Search Engine Results Page (or SERP) has a massive bearing on how many people may discover your business. The first link at the top of page one gets up to 31.7% of the clicks, while the link on the top of the second page gets less than 1%. To put it into context: If 100 people in your local area search for 'physio near me' every day, the link at the top of the first page will get about 32 of those clicks and the first result on the second page will get one—maybe. Imagine the difference that could make over the course of a few months.
So how does a search engine decide which results to display first? Better yet, how can you get your business into the #1 spot?
Step 1: Think like your clients.
This step is easy to overlook, but it’s one of the most important things you can do to boost your clinic’s SEO efforts. This will form the framework for all the other steps. So, imagine the perspective of your potential patients and ask yourself the following questions:
Where does your ideal patient live? Do they have easy access to your practice? Get specific with this one!
What are their top problems that you can solve for them?
What words would they use to search for answers online?
What kinds of questions do they ask when they contact you?
What can you offer your patients that other local practices cannot? Maybe you have practitioners of more than one modality or special facilities that are tough to find. Make a note of these things.
If you have a team or a receptionist, it's a good idea to ask them for their input on these questions, too. They deal with this information each day and can likely offer some valuable insight.
Enter your findings into a spreadsheet or document, and single out the key words or phrases that are most important in helping patients find you online. These are known as your ‘target keywords’, and they’ll come in handy soon.
If you need some help finding the best keywords for your business, consider using one of these free keyword planners.
To discover some of the most common searches related to your business, head over to Google and type your modality plus the name of your local area. Then scroll down to the bottom of the first results page and select 'Searches Related to...'. This should give you some fresh ideas for your site content.
Step 2: Get your practice on the map.
The single most important thing you can do to help patients find your practice online is to get your clinic listed on Google Maps. You may not realise it, but Google Maps is very much a part of SEO. And, if you Google a business in your area, you’ll soon understand why.
The map feature appears above all other results on the page. This means, no matter how many other clinics appear in a search result, your practice can appear at the top for local searches—if you have a map listing.
Step 3: Use search engine business pages to improve your online presence.
Acquaint yourself with Google My Business, and use it to show prospective patients everything they need to know about your practice before they even land on your webpage.
When you set up your listing, make sure to update critical details like the areas your clinic serves and your contact information. You can also include fun things, like pictures of your facilities and team. It's not mandatory to include these details, but it can help draw in new clients. Think about it. The more info people have about your clinic, the easier it will be for them to choose you. It’s like a free, digital salesperson.
You can easily update your Google My Business page if you have a promotion running or news to share. It costs nothing to post, and it’s an especially good way to entice new customers.
Step 4: Create pages for each of your main keywords.
Remember that list of target keywords from the first step? Here’s where they come in handy.
Imagine for a moment you run a physio practice that offers pilates, acupuncture, and a sports injury clinic. Your ideal patient might be interested in all of those things or just one. So, how can you make sure your practice appears in local searches for each service and modality you offer?
The answer is to think of these modalities as keywords and create a standalone web page for each one. For example, you could have a page with details about rehabilitation at your sports injury clinic, another page featuring the benefits of acupuncture, and a third page with your pilates class schedule.
You should still list all the clinic’s services on the website’s homepage. But, by also creating separate ‘landing pages’ on your site for each keyword, you’ll provide your visitors with a better experience and help your clinic appear in the results for a broader range of searches related to the services you offer.
Your keyword should appear in the landing page URL. For example, if you were creating a page about your pilates classes at your Port Melbourne clinic, you should create a URL like yourdomain.com/pilates-port-melbourne or www.yourdomain.com/port-melbourne/pilates, depending on how your site is structured. Linking to these other pages from your homepage may help them to rank higher on search result pages.
Step 5: On-page optimisation made simple.
This step is a bit technical, but the potential benefits are well worth the effort.
If you have access to your site's coding or content management system, make sure the title of your pages includes your corresponding keyword as far to the left as possible. And, don’t forget to mention the name of your city or neighborhood. It could be as simple as calling the page something like Pilates classes in Port Melbourne, if that’s what it’s about.
You don’t need to cram the exact same keyword in every line on your page (in fact, doing so can damage your SEO efforts). Just remember that it’s easier for readers (and Google) to find keywords included in stand-out text areas of your page, like your headlines (sometimes referred to as H1, H2, H3, and so on). That’s how they’ll judge whether the page is relevant. All you need to do is make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for.
Likewise, make sure to optimise the meta tags on each of your website’s pages. Don’t know what those are? It’s okay. Most people don’t. Just check out this excellent guide to meta tags to learn more. Basically, they’re descriptions that tell search engines and people what to expect on your site without needing to visit it.
Take a look at this example of a meta description:
‘Spa Gym & Clinic offers physiotherapy by highly qualified physiotherapists, pilates, fitness and PT to get results in Elswood and South Melbourne’.
Notice how it includes a list of the key services, plus the relevant local areas. That’s because you’re trying to attract potential clients who are close to your clinic. Let them know you’re there.
Most importantly, double-check that all the text on each of your website pages makes sense from your patient's perspective. Think about the questions they ask and the specific ways your services help them. Then, give them what they’re asking for.
The images you use on your pages play an important role in SEO. Check out this guide to optimising your images so you can be sure they are working for rather than against your efforts to increase your site’s visibility online.
Step 6: Get friendly with local PR.
The term ‘backlinking’ is another way of saying ‘a link to your site that’s on someone else’s page’, and it’s an essential part of any SEO strategy. The number of other sites that link to yours has historically been a marker of your site's credibility in the eyes of search engines. This is also known as your domain authority. Increasingly, though, the quality of sites linking to yours matters, too.
You can get backlinks from all kinds of sites but to make a long story short, news site backlinks can be some of the best ways to increase your site’s credibility, so don’t be shy about getting to know the local news outlets in your area and the types of stories they publish.
Public relations (PR) is a way to engage with the public, either directly or by working with the press and media. Gaining a journalist's attention for self-promotion purposes isn't easy, but it offers immense rewards. Getting involved in local events is a great way to get to know your wider community and potentially raise your practice’s profile.
Begin building relationships with local journalists by following them on Twitter and engaging with their tweets. You never know what benefits this may bring.
Step 7: Show off your expertise with blog content.
Your blog is a place where having an intimate understanding of your ideal customers can come in quite handy. Build relationships with clients and prospects by providing them with legitimate answers to their most crucial questions. And in the process, you’ll effortlessly include the top keywords which will increase your search engine ranking.
Once upon a time, blogs were filled with keyword-stuffed content that wasn't fit for human consumption. These days, the game has changed. Now, your business can get a considerable SEO boost from some well-written, original articles containing quality information about your services and the work your team does.
If you’re not sure what topics to cover on your blog, try using a tool like Answer the Public to see what questions people are asking about your modality online.
Step 8: Amplify word of mouth with reviews.
Favourable world of mouth can mean all the difference between a prospect choosing you or the practice down the road. So, how can you make sure your reviews are benefiting your SEO efforts?
The easiest way to encourage great reviews is to ask your happy clients to write them. If you send out an email newsletter or a patient satisfaction survey, for example, you can include a link to your Google My Business listing. Or, you can follow up on positive feedback by asking people to leave you an online review. You’ll be surprised by how many people are happy to help.
Important: Make sure to check with your association or profession’s governing body on rules around asking clients for reviews before you do so. Some do not allow practitioners to solicit reviews.
All of the tips above can have a positive impact on your SEO efforts, but there is still much more you can do to improve your site’s ranking on search engines. If you’re curious to learn more, there’s plenty of SEO content out there. Reputable, beginner-friendly blogs like Moz and Mangools can be a great place to start. If you ever feel overwhelmed, just remember that at the end of the day, it’s most important that your site can be used by people. Often, the choice that creates a better experience for users is the one that will help boost your client satisfaction and new patient numbers.
We answered your questions about marketing during COVID-19 on our YouTube live. Check out the recording of our session with plenty of helpful information, plus links to the top tools we mentioned during the broadcast.