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SEO for Doctors: Best Practices to Attract Patients Online

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Executive Summary

  • Google’s algorithm is based on more than 200 SEO ranking factors. These factors are anything from your site’s loading time to the keywords you’ve used throughout your site to the sites that link back to yours.
  • 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step to finding a new doctor. To minimize the impact of negative reviews, you’ll need a strategy in place to get new positive reviews.
  • You’ll need to focus on local SEO by targeting your location in your keywords and push yourself higher in the rankings.

Do you want to attract more patients, build your online reputation, and optimize marketing costs? If so, you need to explore SEO to put your practice at the top of search results.

In this article, you’ll learn strategies and best practices you can use to get more patients and grow your practice using SEO for doctors.

What Is SEO?

SEO is the practice of getting your website ranked by search engines for certain keywords and search terms that are relevant to your business.

Having a well-ranked site can get you in front of potential patients who are looking for the health services you offer.

Wondering if it’s worth it?

According to Binary Fountain’s 2019 Healthcare Consumer Insight survey, more than 60% of patients start their search online and 40% rely on online reviews to find a doctor.

If you’re not using SEO, they’re probably not going to find you. That means fewer patients for your practice and fewer billable events.

How Does SEO for Doctors Work?

Many of the people who don’t use SEO, don’t use it because they think it’s technical and complicated.

We won’t sugarcoat it: it can be.

Search engines are constantly searching the web (using bots or spiders), looking for new or updated content.

When people search for topics like “physicians near me” or “cosmetic surgery” and the like, the search engine checks through its index, ranks pages according to their usefulness and relevance to the search term, and shows the results.

So, how do search engines decide which pages to show first?

Each search engine has its own algorithm that it uses to determine page rankings. Google’s algorithm is based on more than 200 SEO ranking factors. These factors are anything from your site’s loading time to the keywords you’ve used throughout your site to the sites that link back to yours.

The goal is to get your pages ranked on the first page of the search results pages (SERPs), preferably within the top three positions.

What Do Patients Search for Online?

Potential patients will likely search for doctors or medical services near them since more people are looking for a doctor nearby.

If you offer specialized services that might appeal to a larger geographic area, you’ll want to focus on the keywords people might use to find your products and services online. Then, put those keywords in your website copy and blog content.

6 SEO Strategies and Best Practices for Doctors

SEO for doctors doesn’t need to be overly complicated, even if you’re a small or new practice.

Here are six SEO strategies and best practices you can use to rank higher for local searches and build a strong, vibrant practice.

1. Create a Google My Business Listing


Creating a Google My Business (GMB) listing is one of the easiest things you can do to market your practice. Plus, it’s free. There’s really no reason not to do it.

Since Google puts local businesses and maps at the top of its search results, your business will have a better chance of getting seen by local users.

To make sure that your practice is one of the 3 Google My Business profiles featured on the map at the top of the search results, there are a few things you can do.

First, update your Google My Business profile with as much information as you can. This means choosing the right categories based on what you do at your practice.

After that, update your hours of operation. And, keep them updated if things change.

Next, fill out your practice description and include a few high-quality images on your profile.

Finally, businesses with positive reviews are more likely to get featured in Google’s results, so be sure to ask your patients to leave you a nice Google review!

With your free Google My Business account you also get access to analytics so you can track:

  • Number of people who have viewed your Google My Business profile

  • Number of calls to your practice from your GMB profile

  • Number of people who’ve asked for directions to your practice

How to Create a Google My Business Account for a Doctor or Medical Practice

You can create a GMB profile by clicking here.

For an easy guide to help you get started with GMB, check out this guide to Google Maps marketing.

2. Create Great Content

Content is important to SEO, even if you’re a doctor trying to grow your local practice.

People go to the internet because they’re looking for answers. If you aren’t the one providing those answers, Google isn’t going to put you at the top of its SERPs.

We recommend creating a lot of high-quality content for your site that is related to the services you offer.

So, if you’re a plastic surgeon you might want to write several blog posts for your site about CoolSculpting.

When you fill your site with relevant, quality content, you’re more likely to be visited by people interested in that content and improving your rankings so you get found by those looking for your services.

It’s likely you don’t have the time necessary to create a lot of high-quality content for your blog while you’re trying to maintain or build your practice.

In that case, you can hire Digital Marketing Agency to handle your content marketing needs!

3. Optimize Your Website to Target Specific Keywords

If you don’t already have a website dedicated to your practice, we highly recommend you get one. We offer web design services to take this task off your plate.

Regardless of who you have to create your website, make sure it offers an accurate, honest representation of your business. Just as you did with your Google My Business account, you should include photos, practice information, and any other information that will let users and search engines know what you’re all about.

It’s important to include keywords throughout your site as the right keywords will help your site attract the right audience and lead to high rankings on search engines.

The keywords you choose to target should include your location, your specialty, the conditions you treat, any symptoms related to those conditions, and information about the procedures you perform.

Here’s an example of what that could look like.

Let’s say you’re an orthopedic surgeon from St. Louis, MO. You can use these keywords on your homepage, throughout your site, and in blog content:

  • St. Louis orthopedic surgeon

  • Hip impingement

  • Hip pain treatment

  • Femoral anteversion

  • ...and more

Since you’re a doctor trying to attract nearby patients, you should include location names in your content to target local patients.

To get you started, check out this list of the best keyword research tools. Some of the tools are free and all of them will help you find the right keywords for your practice.

4. Keep Your Website Secure

A secure website not only gets you ranked higher on Google but also signals to visitors and potential patients that you take their security seriously.

You can tell your site is secure by looking at the top left of your browser screen:

Image: secure-site

A secure website will show a secure designation and the URL will include a prefix of “https.”

Here’s what you’ll see if your website isn’t secure:

Image: not-secure-site

Google started gently guiding website owners toward HTTPS in 2014, but it became an important ranking factor in 2019.

5. Make Your Website Mobile-First

You’ve probably heard the term “mobile-friendly.” This means that a website uses elements meant for desktop users but that adapts well to mobile device use, too.

Unfortunately, mobile-friendly is quickly becoming not enough in terms of where your pages land in the search results.

Way back in 2016, Google indicated it was shifting from the desktop-first ranking approach it had been using to index pages. Instead, the focus became mobile-first design.

Mobile-first design seems to be sorely lacking for websites related to the health industry. Many websites for both hospitals and private practices are built with desktop-centric design.

Switching to a mobile-first approach will likely set you apart from others in your field.

6. Maintain a Positive Reputation

Did you know that 90% of users read online reviews and that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family (Invespcro)?

If you need a statistic close to home, consider this: 72% of patients use online reviews as their first step to finding a new doctor.

Your online reputation has an enormous impact on your practice. Plus, being in the healthcare industry puts you under even greater scrutiny.

It’s important to monitor the reviews left about your practice on sites like Healthgrades, Vitals, and even ConsumerReports, but it’s not enough to stop there.

You also need to address the reviews. Especially the negative ones. For SEO, your responses to your reviews matter just as much as how many reviews you get.

How to Deal With Negative Reviews

You can’t remove bad reviews. What you can do is respond to negative reviews and try to come to an understanding with the reviewer.

Other potential patients will look at both positive and negative reviews. If you don’t respond to your negative reviews it tells those potential patients that you don’t care if someone has a bad experience with your practice. And they’ll believe that, whether or not it’s how you actually feel.

To minimize the impact of negative reviews, you’ll need a strategy in place to get new positive reviews. You could do this manually, use software like DoctorConnect to do it, or hire reputation experts to manage this process for you.

How to Get More Positive Reviews

To get more positive reviews, we recommend asking your patients as they leave your office.

You want to make it ridiculously for patients to leave a review for your practice, so consider printing the information directly on their office visit summary. You could also follow up with patients after their visit via email.

Don’t just ask patients to “leave a review” without specifying where they should leave the review. If you’re trying to mitigate negative reviews you’ve received on Healthgrades, it would be beneficial for you to send happy patients over there to leave you a positive review, for example.

What Causes Negative Reviews?

Negative reviews are the result of a need or expectation not being met. You can decrease the chances of getting negative reviews with training and policies.

You can even use the same strategy you use to mitigate malpractice lawsuits to increase online ratings.

Throughout each interaction with your patients, you should be working to build trust and maintain open communication. This could mean taking a few moments to ask patients if you’ve addressed all of their concerns.

Of course, you’re not going to keep every patient happy. But there are steps you can take to show them that you care and start racking up positive reviews.

SEO for Doctors: Build Your Practice Through SEO


Improving your search rankings isn’t going to happen overnight, but you should be able to make some good progress and see positive results within a few weeks. The strategies we detailed above will get you started on the right path to make SEO work for your practice.

SEO is an investment of both time and energy. You’ll need to focus on local SEO by targeting your location in your keywords and push yourself higher in the rankings.

Eventually, your work will pay off with increased traffic to your website, more calls to your practice, and new patients.

Feeling overwhelmed? Digital Marketing Agency offers industry-leading SEO for doctors to increase your website traffic and generate patient leads.

We can help establish your practice as an authority which is beneficial to both improve your practice’s reputation online and set your practice up as a thought leader and authority to search engines.

Through powerful content and local resources, Digital Marketing Agency can help you achieve prominent placement for the search terms that matter the most to your success. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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