Healthcare SEO is like Vitamin C for your marketing strategy. Learn everything you need to know in this guide.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What healthcare SEO is
  • How SEO supports business goals for healthcare businesses
  • The healthcare field’s unique legal considerations and Google guidelines
  • A step-by-step guide for implementing a healthcare SEO strategy

Today, people expect convenience, from Zoom for work meetings to Uber Eats for quick meals. 

Not surprisingly, they want effortless services from the healthcare industry, too, in the form of virtual consultations, healthcare apps, and ecommerce medication marketplaces. 

So how do you sync patients with the services they need quickly and efficiently? With a bulletproof healthcare SEO (search engine optimization) strategy.

Not sure where to start? 

We’ve got you covered with a complete healthcare SEO manual, featuring step-by-step instructions, with expert tips from Matt Smith, one of our marketing leads here at HawkSEM.

Ready to reach more of the right patients? Read on.

person typing on laptop with stethoscope on table

What is healthcare SEO?

Healthcare SEO involves strategies that boost a healthcare provider or business’s web presence. The goal is to create more visibility and achieve higher rankings on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).

In other words? Healthcare SEO builds more brand awareness, authority, and organic traffic, all of which lead to greater success. 

Examples include helpful blog content, having user-friendly website forms and features, creating reliable and authoritative visual and written content, and multichannel (web and social media pages) content.

It sounds a lot like traditional SEO, but healthcare SEO is unique with these two caveats:

  • Stricter Google guidelines like Your Money or Your Life (YMYL), and Expertise Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (EAT) that could affect rankings
  • HIPAA-compliance and legal issues

Plus, you’re catering to potential patients that might have more urgent intent behind their search terms, which your digital marketing strategy should handle with care. For example, someone that discovers an alarming new medical issue will hurry to Google for answers.

Bottom line, healthcare SEO gets you in front of your audience and maintains your authority. But what does that mean for your business?

Why does SEO matter in healthcare marketing?

Whether you own a medical practice or niche SaaS business, you know that potential patients aren’t relying on referrals as much anymore. 

One consumer survey found that patients search for medical services online twice as much as relying on referrals, services they’d only find if a provider has a solid SEO strategy

Of course, you can reach them quickly with PPC marketing, but building trust and fostering long-term relationships requires a holistic SEO strategy. 

Customer expectations continue to increase in healthcare. McKinsey shares that today’s healthcare customer seeks “transparent, predictable, and mobile-friendly experiences,” qualities that many healthcare businesses and providers haven’t caught up with. 

Mobile-friendly means an easily accessible website on mobile devices, but speaks to a greater user experience that SEO helps you achieve. 

Transparency comes with regularly updated, reviewed, and authoritative content on relevant healthcare topics.

And finally, healthcare SEO helps you provide a reliable experience with consistent marketing practices that cater to your audience’s interests and needs, based on audience demographics and keyword research

Healthcare SEO gives you: 

  • More leads and website traffic
  • Improved customer loyalty
  • Increased brand awareness and authority

How does SEO further a healthcare company’s mission?

As a healthcare business, your mission and values are central to your reputation and impact. You could have the greatest mission in the world, say to help people manage their chronic illnesses, or make access to fertility clinics universal for all, but without healthcare SEO, no one’s going to know about it.

Why? Because your business will be buried on the SERP. You can circumvent this obstacle by rolling out an effective SEO strategy. 

At the core of this strategy is the goal to build trust with authoritative content and transparency. When you do this, your mission reaches more people, and you help more people. 

What healthcare business doesn’t want that? 

Next, we’ll share our expert healthcare SEO tips to make your mission go the distance.

What SEO best practices should health marketers know?

1. Make an impact with local SEO

If you’re a brick-and-mortar healthcare provider, local SEO is a vital box on your healthcare SEO checklist because patients want quick service that’s close to home.

Say you’re a marketer for a heart specialist in Columbus, Ohio. Your boss has specialized medical expertise, which means patients will travel from all over — but why not attract the ones close to home, too? Those are easy wins, at least for these Columbus-based specialists that prioritized local SEO:

local seo healthcare seo

But people don’t need to specify their city to see businesses with local SEO. A Columbus resident can type “heart specialist near me” and still see the results above.

Notice any contenders that really stick out? How about the third one, McConnell Heart Hospital at Riverside? The 4.8-star rating is assuring, and the reviews seal the deal:

One patient wrote: “They literally saved my life.”

Positive reviews are essential for local SEO. Struggling to get them? Try incentivizing your patients to leave reviews. You might send a personalized, friendly email with a discount card or gift card. 

Here’s the thing: people who have bad experiences are quicker to leave reviews, so it’s important to encourage satisfied patients to provide testimonials to mitigate bad ones.

If you get a negative review, don’t panic. Just respond with grace and compassion. Search Engine Journal says most people will forgive a negative review if they see initiative from the business to rectify the issue through a response.

Steps for local Healthcare SEO

Back to local SEO — there is a laundry list of items to check off to start appearing in local searches. Fortunately, these tasks are fairly easy.

  • Update your Google business profile with details about your business hours, services, updates, photos, and more.
  • Revamp your local keywords, add medical keywords, and eliminate irrelevant locations with negative keywords.
  • Maintain updated NAP (name, address, phone number) — and email.
  • Share updates relevant to locals, such as new staff, events, and services.
  • Strategize local link-building so Google can beef up your authority.

Keep in mind that local SEO isn’t for every business. If you’re a telehealth company or healthcare SaaS that services people nationwide, local SEO isn’t as important.

In that case, keyword research is a great starting point.

2. Use strategic medical keywords

What would your target audience type into Google’s search bar? Brainstorm a list of keywords organically. For example, if you’re a healthcare SaaS for dental telehealth, you might offer consulting services for various dental issues. 

But to build authority, you could cater to people searching for general information about dental topics and symptoms, like:

  • How to get white teeth
  • Common cavity causes
  • Sore tooth remedies
  • Phone consultations

The list can go on and on. Use this strategy as a starting point, but conduct more in-depth keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner. You can use it to determine:

  • Keyword difficulty: How difficult it is to rank for each keyword
  • Intent: Why the person is searching for that keyword, i.e., transactional or informational
  • Keyword volume: How often that keyword is searched for each month
  • CPC: Cost-per-click for a keyword

But don’t limit your keyword strategy to Google. If you’re a healthcare provider, your audience might also be on Bing. Search Engine Journal studied healthcare brands’ organic performance on Google versus Bing. The results?

  • Lower CPC on Bing 71% of the time
  • Higher CTR 41% of the time

Is your head spinning with all these search engines? Let us help with a curated Bing SEO strategy. We’ll align it with your overall search engine marketing strategy in a way that converts your target audience on every engine and platform.

Ok, so you’ve got a solid keyword list — now what?

Adding keywords to on-page SEO

It’s time to pepper your keywords into your website and content, which includes: 

  • Homepage and website copy
  • Ad copy
  • Landing page copy
  • Blog content
  • Social media content
  • Product descriptions
  • Case studies

Let’s say you post regularly to your healthcare blog. Use on-page SEO tactics to ensure your keywords rank. Add keywords to:

  • Titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Headings
  • Blog content
  • CTAs
  • Linked anchor text

The content structure and headings should help readers navigate your content. According to Smith, a lack of headings, images and links, unclear topic focus, or keyword stuffing are all tell-tale signs of poor on-page SEO. 

Use clear, keyword-anchored CTAs to encourage action and promote strong SEO.

Here’s a great example from Cedars-Sinai: 

cedars sinai healthcare seo

Source: Cedars-Sinai

Can you guess what keyword the medical center is trying to rank for? 

If you guessed “Virtual Second Opinion,” you’re right. Notice how it’s in the header and CTA?

These on-page SEO elements work a bit like an outline. But what does healthcare content look like?

3. Create credible, trustworthy content

Semrush shares that healthcare content should answer your audience’s questions at every point in the customer journey, whether they’re new leads seeking general info or ready to convert.

What kind of content would interest your audience? It ultimately depends on your business. A big hospital like Cedars-Sinai has a broad topic base to cover: 

cedars sinai healthcare seo2

Source: Cedars-Sinai

So many ideas! You’ve got symptom comparisons in the Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate article, a staff showcase, and an in-depth guide on long COVID. Chances are, Cedars-Sinai did keyword research to figure out what symptoms and illnesses their audience was typing into Google search. 

Of course, the more niche your healthcare business is, the more specific your content becomes. For example, Dreamed Diabetes creates decision-support tools, aka SaaS virtual advisors for people with Diabetes. Naturally, this brand’s blog content will surround Diabetes topics: 

Are blog posts the only type of content healthcare businesses can create for SEO? While 35% of healthcare businesses named blog posts the most profitable content format in 2021, you can also create lead magnets.

Smith says tried and true tactics include “timely content with unique stats, infographics, and buzz-worthy news.” 

It’s worth noting that blog posts were tied with video content, closely followed by success stories.  

Other content ideas include:

  • Webinars
  • Product guides
  • Case studies
  • Data visualizations
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Podcasts

All of your content should use SEO best practices to shine online. We’ve covered keywords and headings, as well as the audience’s intent being top-priority. 

It’s also important to remember Google’s EAT guidelines: Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Make every piece of content you share helpful, rich, and valuable.

These are the most important ranking factors for healthcare organizations and businesses. 

Speaking of authoritativeness…

Publish authoritative content

Healthcare content is given extra attention due to its YMYL nature. Since your content could affect someone’s health, Google punishes brands with low rankings if their content isn’t authoritative. 

Before you hit publish, ask yourself: 

  • Have healthcare professionals reviewed the content? If not, the writer should state that the content is from a personal experience, or reference claims with reliable sources. 
flo healthcare seo

Source: Flo

Feminine-health SaaS brand, Flo, has a blog library brimming with helpful articles for various feminine health topics. We love the authority on this one — tagged with “fact checked” and “medically reviewed” by an obstetrician and gynecologist. These details make the content trustworthy for both Flo’s target audience and Google’s crawlers. 

Healthcare SEO insights from SEO expert Matt Smith

Smith reminds us that medical reviews aren’t always necessary, though. 

“It depends on the level of technical knowledge needed to create the content. A blog on the ‘top 10 workout routines’ requires much less knowledge than say, ‘how does the circulatory system maintain homeostasis.’”

In Flo’s case, the gynecologist oversight was necessary for the specialized knowledge required to write about hormones and childbirth. 

If you’re uncertain whether you need a medical review, Smith recommends evaluating competitors to see how they leverage content authors. 

  • Is it the most up-to-date advice and information? Update articles with the latest medical insights for relevance and accuracy. 
flo healthcare seo2

Source: Flo

Notice how the article from Flo was updated last year? 

“Healthcare sits firmly in the YMYL category on the internet, which means it must be fact-checked and accurate,” says Smith. “If not, the business is opening itself up to potential legal action.”

  • Is it communicated in an engaging and accessible way? Healthcare topics shouldn’t have hard-to-read medical jargon. Instead, distill complex topics and concepts into accessible, engaging language.
flo healthcare seo3

Source: Flo

Using the same article from Flo as an example, we notice emotional appeal to the audience’s pain point, short but informative sentences, and bullet points to break up the text. This article demonstrates flawless EAT for healthcare SEO.

How else can healthcare businesses build authority?

4. Power up your link-building 

Any publicity is good publicity, right? Not in the healthcare space, where bad press can be disastrous. But if other authority figures in your vertical quote you and say lovely things about your business? That’s the chef’s kiss for healthcare SEO

Since your business affects people’s well-being, it’s crucial to build trust. And the best way to gain trust is through link building

What does that entail? Link building happens when authority figures add backlinks and citations to your site from their website or blog.

“You should identify particular pages and content you want to rank based on business goals in the healthcare space,” says Smith. “From there, determine the best way to acquire those links.”

Check out Dreamed Diabetes’ news and media page: 

Reuters, Yahoo! Finance, and the Jerusalem Post are all high-ticket publications that infuse quality and authority into the brand’s online presence

It’s possible that these news sources wrote about Dreamed Diabetes through their own research in the niche. However, link building also encompasses relationship building with aligned publications. 

How? Smith says to conduct PR outreach, send pitches to your most relevant news sources, and propose a guest post. You can also offer a link exchange where you mention one brand in a blog post if they mention you. 

Smith points out that has an incredible backlink profile with 2.8 million dofollow links. The platform also has stellar authoritative content and a user-friendly site structure, which speaks to UX (more on that later). 

External links are great for brand awareness and authority, but Google’s crawlers crave even more links for ample rankings.

Don’t forget about internal links

Internal links create a network on your website, with the goal of keeping people circulating through that network. In other words, placing relevant links to other pages of your website encourages more engagement, keeping them on your site longer.

For example, you might link to your services page from a blog post, or link to your about page from your home page. These links help your audience — and search engine crawlers — navigate your website.

The easier it is for a search engine to crawl your site, the more likely your site is to score high rankings

Here are some internal linking best practices:

  • Including links to older blog posts in newer blog posts
  • Editing older blog posts to add new blog post links 
  • Using keywords in anchor text (the copy that you add the link to)
  • Reviewing your site regularly for broken links
  • Opening links in the same page, rather than in a new tab or window
  • Linking to relevant services in blog posts, especially in CTAs

5. Provide a stellar user experience (UX)

Web experts at Lion+Mason describe UX as potentially life-saving. Consider access to patient care. It doesn’t start in a hospital or healthcare clinic anymore; it starts online. A strong UX makes healthcare information more accessible for potential patients, accelerating their process of finding a suitable service. 

Plus, great UX satisfies your audience and Google’s algorithms. Search engine crawlers will notice if your site’s UX falls short. For example, Google and Bing examine how people interact with websites. 

High bounce rates could indicate that people have trouble finding the information they need. Crawlers also look at where people’s cursors and clicks lead them, and whether they can successfully navigate a website. 

If people can get around your site with ease, search engines will reward you with first-page results, as long as you check off all the other SEO boxes. 

Here are some tips for maintaining strong UX on your healthcare website:

  • Site speed: Potential patients want quick access, so if your site takes several seconds to load, you might need help from a web developer to speed things up.
  • Navigation: Do all your web pages connect logically through drop-down menus and internal links? The most important information should be easily retrieved from your home page with a click or two. 
  • Accessible and readable written content: Does your web and blog copy feel logical and accessible? Make sure you have someone edit all content before publication to catch any long-winded, jumbled paragraphs or grammar issues. You should also ensure consistency across font types, styles, and colors, along with bullets and paragraph spacing to break up large texts. 
  • Mobile-friendly: Your web pages should display properly on both desktop and mobile devices

Nail the user experience, and you’ll see an uptick in traffic and conversions.

6. Consider partnering with a healthcare SEO agency

Surgeons don’t usually perform operations by themselves. 

More often, the operating room is filled with experts and specialists like nurses, anesthesiologists, and physician’s assistants. In other words, it requires expertise and teamwork. 

And so does healthcare SEO. We’ve equipped you with industry best practices, but even the most seasoned marketer is spread thin.

And when the progress you’ve made becomes compromised, even the best strategy won’t hold water without consistency, cohesion, and the proper resource investments.

You may be able to handle it all in-house, but you may see slower results, more obstacles to scaling, or fall for common mistakes along the way. You can avoid these pitfalls by partnering with a trusted healthcare SEO agency.

You’ll have all hands on deck helping you set attainable goals, providing invaluable feedback on your site and current content, contributing to serious gains in traffic and ROI, and ensuring there are never any lags in execution.

A healthcare SEO agency is devoted to your success, and you’ll never have to go it alone with these experts in your corner.

The takeaway

A strong SEO strategy embodies what today’s healthcare patients: value reliability, accessibility, and convenience. 

Healthcare and medical SEO help you better serve your customers with content that answers their burning questions, success stories that build trust, and EAT.

Use this guide to build a comprehensive healthcare SEO strategy, but remember that SEO isn’t an overnight success story; it takes consistency and expertise. 

We know how busy healthcare marketing teams are, and keeping tabs on all these best-practices is a full-time job. Google keeps a close eye on healthcare businesses, and for a good reason — people’s wellbeing is at stake.

With support from a marketing agency, healthcare businesses can soar with high rankings on organic search results, new patients, and client loyalty. 

Ready to scale your healthcare marketing strategy? Reach out to us today to get started.

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