Boosting Searchability with Relevant Content
Content powers the digital world. Search engines like Google crawl medical websites moment to moment, assessing where the most useful content ‘lives’ for Google’s users (i.e. patients searching the web for particular keywords). The more useful and properly optimized the content is for Google’s crawl bots to search your site and establish it as a value-added resources to Google’s users, the higher your medical website will rank. Thus, for medical practice websites, it is critical that on-page SEO includes the optimization of patient search-centered keywords with geographic locations within beneficial content that is written in natural language and is published on an ongoing, continuous basis. Structuring content with optimized tags and descriptions in a coherently linked architecture for search engines to easily crawl adds a tremendously amount of value to your overarching SEO strategy.
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What Does On-page SEO Entail?
On-page SEO involves optimizing the content on your medical practice website — its readability, relevancy, structure, tagging, descriptions, and titling — in order to maximize the search result rankings of the keywords that patients can find you with. Several components involved in medical practice on-page SEO are:
- Content Creation
- Header Tags
- Internal Links
- Link Volume
- Proper Link Naming/Renaming
- Image Optimization
- Readability Formatting
- Title Tags
- Meta Descriptions
- URL Structure
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Search engines rank medical practice pages higher than others in the search results based on the degree to which the page’s content uniquely and originally answers patient searches better. Search engines uses natural language algorithms to determine if the content is readable, uses keywords appropriately, and offers patients the best answers to their searches. There is no “secret sauce” or “magic bullet” to content – it just has to be “better” for patients than the competition. A method to produce high-ranking content involves the following steps:
- Do a search for the keywords you want to rank your medical page for
- Identify and analyze the high-ranking medical pages for those keywords
- Determine what types of solutions, answers, and engaging content for patients exist on those pages which have enabled them to rank so highly
- Create content that addresses patient concerns related to these keywords as a “better” solution/answer/engagement for patients than these existent competitor medical pages
Header tags involve hierarchically creating Headers with H1-H6 designations so to break-up medical content under a main header and sub-headers on any given page of your medical practice website. The H1 tags highlights the main topic of the page, and the H2-H6 tags are subtopic tags in descending order of granularity. While these tags are important for search engines to prioritize importance, the main purpose of header tags is to enhance the patient experience. This translates into better medical pages in the eyes of Google and thus enables them to rank higher in search results.
- The internal linking structure quality of a medical website determines how well a search engine bot can crawl the site. The better the internal links are crafted to ensure that the pages connect to one-another properly, the more you pass ranking power (link equity) to all your pages and the better it is for patient engagement.
- Link accessibility involves ensuring important links are on main pages to pass ranking power to subsequent pages and not just in drop-down menus.
- Anchor text is the link’s title text that fits into the natural language of content (as opposed to displaying the raw text of the hyperlink). Anchor text helps search engines realize what the linked-to medical page is about, thereby enabling it to be ranked higher in relevant search results performed by patients.
- Because there is a finite amount of ranking power to be shared with other pages, it is critical to assess your link volume in light of the quality of the linked pages. To optimize link equity, you must build links within your medical practice website when you truly believe they are meaningfully purposed pages with beneficial content for patients and are written following natural language patterns.
- If you remove or rename a page, ensure that the internal links pointing to the page are removed or renamed so that the link directs to a proper page rather than sitting as a dead link.
- If you fail to rename all the internal links to the newly-named page, at the very least you should make sure that the old URL is being redirected to the new URL in order to make sure that search engine bots can crawl your site without red flags; failure to do so can result in search result ranking penalization.
- Images can drastically slow down your medical practice’s website speed if not properly embedded. Use JPEGs for images that do not need to preserve high-definition, and use PNGs for those that do. Use compressions tools to appropriately optimize image file size.
- Alt texts for images are essentially captions that describe images in words so that visually impaired patients can understand pictures. Not only does well-written alt text enhances website accessibility for patients, it also enables search engines to better understand your image context.
- It is important to submit an image sitemap to aid search engines in discovering the images on your medical website. Include image metadata and follow Webmaster Guideline best practices.
The following must be harnessed and formatted to maximize readability of your medical practice website: text size (>16-point font), bolding, italicizing, underlining, and color; headings; bullet points; paragraph breaks; and supporting media are critical to support user readability. Well-formatted, highly-useful content may help enable your page to display at the top of searches as snippets above other competing search engine results.
Title tags are the descriptive title elements of a page which show-up on the search engine results pages (SERPs), in the web browser tab of your page, and on shared social links and other sites. Title tags are the first thing searching patients see regarding your practice’s webpage, so they are crucial to draw traffic.
Generally, title tags should be optimized with keywords close to the front of the description, they should be reasonable in length (50-60 characters) to fit SERPs, and they should appropriately contain your medical practice’s brand.
Meta Descriptions are the HTML text elements that sit below the title tags. They further describe what your medical webpage is about, and most SERPs will display 155 characters. High-ranking pages may display up to 300 characters.
While Google states that meta descriptions do not directly impact SEO like title tags do, they do none-the-less impact the ability for patients to understand what your page is about to decide if they want to visit your practice’s website in the first place; therefore, meta descriptions should be highly relevant summaries about your page.
- URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) are the addresses for web content. Search engines display URLs on SERPs, impacting patient clicks and search engine ranking.
- URLs should have names that clear and relevant to the page that they link to.
- URLs should be organized by nesting pages in the right categories based on what each page is a sub-category of in a logical manner.
- Like title tags and meta descriptions, URLs should be a reasonable length so they are not in one subfolder after another creating excessively long URLs. This makes them easier to copy/paste, share, and more recognizable for patients.
- Use keywords in your URL in a natural language manner without stuffing.
- Transform dynamic alpha-numero-symbolic URLs into static readable text URLs.
- Hyphenate words in URLs to separate them; avoid case sensitivity in URLs, and use geographic text to optimize local medical practice and clinical information searches.
- Every URL will begin with either HTTP or HTTPS. “S” stands for “secure.” Google will heavily penalize sites that are not secured with an SSL certificate to gain the HTTPS designation. Thus, it is critical to obtain SSL certification for your medical practice’s domain. Google will display “Not Secure” in the URL if this certification is lacking. In many instances, Google is displaying a warning page to patients to avoid unsecure pages and “go back to safety” instead of displaying the page to which your URL was supposed to go to if it is lacking an SSL certificate. This is done to keep patient data encrypted and safe, and this will effectively destroy patient traffic to your website if not rectified. Furthermore, breaches and hacks on an unsecure website can be a gateway to hackers stealing patient data, and this can result in HIPAA violations so great that practices have been bankrupted due to such minor trivialities. Don’t be another medical practice that folds due to poor security and lackluster marketing strategy and execution. Let Acquire Patients help you stay one step ahead in the digital marketing arena to securely maximize new patient acquisition.