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Healthcare SEO Fundamentals To Grow Your Medical Practice

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Healthcare SEO Fundamentals To Grow Your Medical Practice

On the one hand, working on healthcare SEO for your medical practice website is no different from optimizing any other kind of site.

You do your keyword and competitor research, write your metadata and produce high-quality content to draw in clients at every stage of the sales funnel.

So those rules still apply here, but a catch applies specifically to websites relating to health (and finances): YMYL rules, also called Your Money or Your Life.

We’ll discuss this more below, but it suffices to say that Google takes a much more careful eye to money and healthcare content, so content creators for your healthcare site must be especially conscientious.

If you’re looking for some SEO fundamentals overall for optimizing your medical practice’s website for organic search, check out the top tips below!

Quality Control

Many medical professionals think pay-per-click, or PPC, ads are enough to get them the visitors they are looking for.

However, starting with PPC is like putting an adhesive bandage on your problem. It will only be good for the short term.

As a medical or healthcare business, you must incorporate SEO into your digital marketing to bring potential patients to your website.

Consistently. And in the long term.

If your website and its content are not considered quality in Google’s eyes, your search presence will suffer.

Regarding quality, two extremely important concepts for healthcare are E-A-T and YMYL.

E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

The concept was created to help third-party raters score Google’s search results.

Although E-A-T is not a direct ranking factor, E-A-T reveals much about what Google considers important – essentially, what types of websites Google wants to reward with greater search visibility.

E-A-T is of huge importance for any webpages containing medical information.

The information and stats you provide on medicine and health could directly impact the potential patients who are reading them.

People visit and read your webpages because they want reasons to entrust their health to your practice.

Your information must be top-notch, filled with expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Only then do you stand a chance of ranking well in the healthcare industry.

This leads us right into the concept of YMYL, which is short for Your Money or Your Life.

YMYL, as a concept, basically means any content that can directly affect a reader’s health, finances, or safety. That’s why Google really, really wants experts and experienced professionals to write content like that.

Obviously, this concept is important to understand in the competitive healthcare space.

If your content doesn’t meet those standards (e.g., it has inaccuracies or is thin on information), it will have an even harder time ranking in the search results.

YMYL pages need to have high E-A-T.

Period.

The Most Important Healthcare SEO Strategies

You may never outrank a site like WebMD.

However, by focusing on more long-tail keywords and location-based content, it’s possible to perform moderately well here.

By implementing the right kind of SEO to get your medical practice in front of the right users’ eyes, you will put your website in a better position to outrank your competitors.

The following six strategies are the most important regarding healthcare SEO.

1. Use Appropriate Medical Keywords

When optimizing your content, you want to target the right keywords for your industry.

Your starting point should be the medical services you offer, as that’s what most searchers will be looking for.

Tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner can help you find the best keywords for your industry, comparing what is and isn’t being searched for.

As in all cases, avoid “stuffing” keywords into the content.

Google quickly catches on to this spammy tactic and will penalize your website. Instead, place specific, long-tail keywords into your content in a relevant, readable, and natural way.

Not only will this separate you from the WebMDs, but you’ll also begin to attract the patients you want – those who live in your geographic area and are looking for the specialized expertise you offer.

2. Add Many Content Pages

Your content pages should be full of high-quality information that is optimized with your keywords.

For the medical industry, you want your content to help make your audience’s lives better or easier.

Whether it’s a detailed description of your services or blog posts targeting their specific search query, high-quality content is king for healthcare businesses.

Google places a much higher standard on medical webpages than other industries.

That’s because these pages have the potential to impact the future health, happiness, or financial stability of searchers.

Low-quality content on these pages could result in dangerous or unintended medical consequences.

Always think of your target audience when creating content for your website.

What are they searching for?

What information will help them the most in that search?

By writing long-form educational content, Google will recognize you as an authoritative figure within the industry, thus increasing your rank.

3. Optimize Visual Elements

Video is one of the most popular ways people consume content.

Webpages with videos can get more organic traffic.

And people spend more time on those pages because they watch the video.

This increases a user’s time on the page and indicates to the search engines that something valuable is on the page for users.

When optimizing your website for SEO, be sure to include relevant, high-quality videos alongside your content where you can.

Whether it’s a virtual tour of the facility or an informative video on a medical condition, many users will be drawn to that content of over 600 words of plain text.

You should also include a variety of images and infographics on your website. The more interactive and engaging your site is, the more visitors you’ll be able to draw in.

Ensure any images on your site also include appropriate alt text. Image alt text helps visually impaired users and Google crawlers better understand what is displayed on the page.

This can be an excellent opportunity to incorporate some of your keywords. (But, as with everything SEO, don’t overdo it!)

4. Optimize For Website Speed, Security & Mobile Use

Your site speed, security, and mobile friendliness are all ranking factors.

If your website takes longer than three seconds to load, many people may return to a competitor that provides a speedier experience.

Now, having said that, it’s important to mention that slow sites can rank highly for certain queries. Google doesn’t penalize an otherwise perfect site just because it’s a bit slower.

But optimizing your speed certainly can’t hurt the overall user experience.

At most, your website should take about two seconds to load, but you should ideally aim for under half a second.

Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool is a great place to check your current site speed. It also provides insight into potential fixes to help improve your speed score.

Another important SEO factor is your website’s security. An SSL certificate helps encrypt your website, ensuring its and your visitors’ data is protected from hackers.

If your healthcare company’s site doesn’t utilize SSL security, Google will penalize your rankings. This certificate is a must when accepting sensitive patient information, so there’s no excuse for a website not to have it implemented.

Most importantly, your website should be mobile-friendly.

Most searches are now conducted on mobile devices, and if your website is not optimized for them, users will choose your competitor’s websites instead.

The best way to ensure your site is optimized for mobile is by having a responsive design.

This means that your site changes automatically to fit the screen it’s being viewed on, reducing the risk of poor user experiences from device to device.

5. Offsite Factors

Offsite indicators (e.g., links to your site and social media traffic) are just two areas that can help influence your search rankings.

Social media, while not a direct ranking factor, should be one of your main priorities regarding offsite SEO.

The content found on a social media page can significantly influence a patient’s choice of hospital or treatment center.

Many users also take social media reviews into account before scheduling an appointment.

You want to ensure your social profile is up to date and relevant to your business so users can find and interact with you in various ways.

As for links, you also want to make sure that spammy links aren’t potentially hurting your SEO performance.

Use your favorite link-building tool to check your existing link profile and analyze the links that pop up.

Are they all from quality, relevant sources? Or do many of them appear to be spam?

Disavow any unwanted links to help clean up your link profile and improve your rank. (Just read this first.)

6. Local SEO

You also need to keep your Google Business Profile optimized and up to date.

Patients want local services, and for them to find you, your business needs to show up in Google’s local pack.

This grouping of four to five businesses appears above organic search results.

On mobile, they’re the only thing people see before scrolling.

The information contained in these listings comes primarily from your GBP, so you should ensure the following information is accurate and available:

  • The business categories.
  • Your primary phone number.
  • The business description.
  • Your hours of operation (and any seasonal hours).
  • Your address or service area.
  • Google reviews of your business.

Another critical factor for local SEO is local citations.

These are online mentions of your business that display your essential NAP (name, address, phone) information.

Local citations can be from business directories, social profiles, blog posts, newspaper websites, and other sources.

These all help your SEO efforts.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, optimizing your medical practice website for search isn’t that different from doing it for any other type of site.

But getting those prospective patients to trust you over someone else will come down to the authority and trustworthiness of your website, so that’s where E-A-T comes in around your YMYL content.

If you keep the above tips in mind as you go, you will be on the right path. I’m not saying it will be easy, but this is truly the way forward.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock



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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

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Google Documents Leaked & SEOs Are Making Some Wild Assumptions

You’ve probably heard about the recent Google documents leak. It’s on every major site and all over social media.

Where did the docs come from?

My understanding is that a bot called yoshi-code-bot leaked docs related to the Content API Warehouse on Github on March 13th, 2024. It may have appeared earlier in some other repos, but this is the one that was first discovered.

They were discovered by an anonymous ex-Googler who shared the info with Erfan Azimi who shared it with Rand Fishkin who shared it with Mike King. The docs were removed on May 7th.

I appreciate all involved for sharing their findings with the community.

Google’s response

There was some debate if the documents were real or not, but they mention a lot of internal systems and link to internal documentation and it definitely appears to be real.

A Google spokesperson released the following statement to Search Engine Land:

We would caution against making inaccurate assumptions about Search based on out-of-context, outdated, or incomplete information. We’ve shared extensive information about how Search works and the types of factors that our systems weigh, while also working to protect the integrity of our results from manipulation.

SEOs interpret things based on their own experiences and bias

Many SEOs are saying that the ranking factors leaked. I haven’t seen any code or weights, just what appear to be descriptions and storage info. Unless one of the descriptions says the item is used for ranking, I think it’s dangerous for SEOs that all of these are used in ranking.

Having some features or information stored does not mean they’re used in ranking. For our search engine, Yep.com, we have all kinds of things stored that might be used for crawling, indexing, ranking, personalization, testing, or feedback. We even have things stored that we aren’t doing things with yet.

What is more likely is that SEOs are making assumptions that favor their own opinions and biases.

It’s the same for me. I may not have full context or knowledge and may have inherent biases that influence my interpretation, but I try to be as fair as I can be. If I’m wrong, it means that I will learn something new and that’s a good thing! SEOs can, and do, interpret things differently.

Gael Breton said it well:

I’ve been around long enough to see many SEO myths created over the years and I can point you to who started many of them and what they misunderstood. We’ll likely see a lot of new myths from this leak that we’ll be dealing with for the next decade or longer.

Let’s look at a few things that in my opinion are being misinterpreted or where conclusions are being drawn where they shouldn’t be.

SiteAuthority

As much as I want to be able to say Google has a Site Authority score that they use for ranking that’s like DR, that part specifically is about compressed quality metrics and talks about quality.

I believe DR is more an effect that happens as you have a lot of pages with strong PageRank, not that it’s necessarily something Google uses. Lots of pages with higher PageRank that internally link to each other means you’re more likely to create stronger pages.

  • Do I believe that PageRank could be part of what Google calls quality? Yes.
  • Do I think that’s all of it? No.
  • Could Site Authority be something similar to DR? Maybe. It fits in the bigger picture.
  • Can I prove that or even that it’s used in rankings? No, not from this.

From some of the Google testimony to the US Department of Justice, we found out that quality is often measured with an Information Satisfaction (IS) score from the raters. This isn’t directly used in rankings, but is used for feedback, testing, and fine-tuning models.

We know the quality raters have the concept of E-E-A-T, but again that’s not exactly what Google uses. They use signals that align to E-E-A-T.

Some of the E-E-A-T signals that Google has mentioned are:

  • PageRank
  • Mentions on authoritative sites
  • Site queries. This could be “site:http://ahrefs.com E-E-A-T” or searches like “ahrefs E-E-A-T”

So could some kind of PageRank scores extrapolated to the domain level and called Site Authority be used by Google and be part of what makes up the quality signals? I’d say it’s plausible, but this leak doesn’t prove it.

I can recall 3 patents from Google I’ve seen about quality scores. One of them aligns with the signals above for site queries.

I should point out that just because something is patented, doesn’t mean it is used. The patent around site queries was written in part by Navneet Panda. Want to guess who the Panda algorithm that related to quality was named after? I’d say there’s a good chance this is being used.

The others were around n-gram usage and seemed to be to calculate a quality score for a new website and another mentioned time on site.

Sandbox

I think this has been misinterpreted as well. The document has a field called hostAge and refers to a sandbox, but it specifically says it’s used “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time.”

To me, that doesn’t confirm the existence of a sandbox in the way that SEOs see it where new sites can’t rank. To me, it reads like a spam protection measure.

Clicks

Are clicks used in rankings? Well, yes, and no.

We know Google uses clicks for things like personalization, timely events, testing, feedback, etc. We know they have models upon models trained on the click data including navBoost. But is that directly accessing the click data and being used in rankings? Nothing I saw confirms that.

The problem is SEOs are interpreting this as CTR is a ranking factor. Navboost is made to predict which pages and features will be clicked. It’s also used to cut down on the number of returned results which we learned from the DOJ trial.

As far as I know, there is nothing to confirm that it takes into account the click data of individual pages to re-order the results or that if you get more people to click on your individual results, that your rankings would go up.

That should be easy enough to prove if it was the case. It’s been tried many times. I tried it years ago using the Tor network. My friend Russ Jones (may he rest in peace) tried using residential proxies.

I’ve never seen a successful version of this and people have been buying and trading clicks on various sites for years. I’m not trying to discourage you or anything. Test it yourself, and if it works, publish the study.

Rand Fishkin’s tests for searching and clicking a result at conferences years ago showed that Google used click data for trending events, and they would boost whatever result was being clicked. After the experiments, the results went right back to normal. It’s not the same as using them for the normal rankings.

Authors

We know Google matches authors with entities in the knowledge graph and that they use them in Google news.

There seems to be a decent amount of author info in these documents, but nothing about them confirms that they’re used in rankings as some SEOs are speculating.

Was Google lying to us?

What I do disagree with whole-heartedly is SEOs being angry with the Google Search Advocates and calling them liars. They’re nice people who are just doing their job.

If they told us something wrong, it’s likely because they don’t know, they were misinformed, or they’ve been instructed to obfuscate something to prevent abuse. They don’t deserve the hate that the SEO community is giving them right now. We’re lucky that they share information with us at all.

If you think something they said is wrong, go and run a test to prove it. Or if there’s a test you want me to run, let me know. Just being mentioned in the docs is not proof that a thing is used in rankings.

Final Thoughts

While I may agree or I may disagree with the interpretations of other SEOs, I respect all who are willing to share their analysis. It’s not easy to put yourself or your thoughts out there for public scrutiny.

I also want to reiterate that unless these fields specifically say they are used in rankings, that the information could just as easily be used for something else. We definitely don’t need any posts about Google’s 14,000 ranking factors.

If you want my thoughts on a particular thing, message me on X or LinkedIn.



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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It’s Unlikely.

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Do Higher Content Scores Mean Higher Google Rankings? Our Data Says It's Unlikely.

I studied the correlation between rankings and content scores from four popular content optimization tools: Clearscope, Surfer, MarketMuse, and Frase. The result? Weak correlations all around.

This suggests (correlation does not necessarily imply causation!) that obsessing over your content score is unlikely to lead to significantly higher Google rankings.

Does that mean content optimization scores are pointless?

No. You just need to know how best to use them and understand their flaws.

Most tools’ content scores are based on keywords. If top-ranking pages mention keywords your page doesn’t, your score will be low. If it does, your score will be high.

While this has its obvious flaws (having more keyword mentions doesn’t always mean better topic coverage), content scores can at least give some indication of how comprehensively you’re covering the topic. This is something Google is looking for.

Google says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality contentGoogle says that comprehensively covering the topic is a sign of quality content

If your page’s score is significantly lower than the scores of competing pages, you’re probably missing important subtopics that searchers care about. Filling these “content gaps” might help improve your rankings.

However, there’s nuance to this. If competing pages score in the 80-85 range while your page scores 79, it likely isn’t worth worrying about. But if it’s 95 vs. 20 then yeah, you should probably try to cover the topic better.

Key takeaway

Don’t obsess over content scores. Use them as a barometer for topic coverage. If your score is significantly lower than competitors, you’re probably missing important subtopics and might rank higher by filling those “content gaps.”

There are at least two downsides you should be aware of when it comes to content scores.

They’re easy to cheat

Content scores tend to be largely based on how many times you use the recommended set of keywords. In some tools, you can literally copy-paste the entire list, draft nothing else, and get an almost perfect score.

Scoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draftScoring 98 on MarketMuse after shoehorning all the suggested keywords without any semblance of a draft

This is something we aim to solve with our upcoming content optimization tool: Content Master.

I can’t reveal too much about this yet, but it has a big USP compared to most existing content optimization tools: its content score is based on topic coverage—not just keywords.

For example, it tells us that our SEO strategy template should better cover subtopics like keyword research, on-page SEO, and measuring and tracking SEO success.

Preview of our upcoming Content Master toolPreview of our upcoming Content Master tool

But, unlike other content optimization tools, lazily copying and pasting related keywords into the document won’t necessarily increase our content score. It’s smart enough to understand that keyword coverage and topic coverage are different things.

Sidenote.

This tool is still in production so the final release may look a little different.

They encourage copycat content

Content scores tell you how well you’re covering the topic based on what’s already out there. If you cover all important keywords and subtopics from the top-ranking pages and create the ultimate copycat content, you’ll score full marks.

This is a problem because quality content should bring something new to the table, not just rehash existing information. Google literally says this in their helpful content guidelines.

Google says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the tableGoogle says quality content goes beyond obvious information. It needs to bring something new to the table

In fact, Google even filed a patent some years back to identify ‘information gain’: a measurement of the new information provided by a given article, over and above the information present in other articles on the same topic.

You can’t rely on content optimization tools or scores to create something unique. Making something that stands out from the rest of the search results will require experience, experimentation, or effort—something only humans can have/do.

Enrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your contentEnrich common knowledge with new information and experiences in your content

Big thanks to my colleagues Si Quan and Calvinn who did the heavy lifting for this study. Nerd notes below. 😉

  • For the study, we selected 20 random keywords and pulled the top 20 ranking pages.
  • We pulled the SERPs before the March 2024 update was rolled out.
  • Some of the tools had issues pulling the top 20 pages, which we suspect was due to SERP features.
  • Clearscope didn’t give numerical scores; they opted for grades. We used ChatGPT to convert those grades into numbers.
  • Despite their increasing prominence in the SERPs, most of the tools had trouble analyzing Reddit, Quora, and YouTube. They typically gave a zero or no score for these results. If they gave no scores, we excluded them from the analysis.
  • The reason why we calculated both Spearman and Kendall correlations (and took the average) is because according to Calvinn (our Data Scientist), Spearman correlations are more sensitive and therefore more prone to being swayed by small sample size and outliers. On the other hand, the Kendall rank correlation coefficient only takes order into account. So, it is more robust for small sample sizes and less sensitive to outliers.

Final thoughts

Improving your content score is unlikely to hurt Google rankings. After all, although the correlation between scores and rankings is weak, it’s still positive. Just don’t obsess and spend hours trying to get a perfect score; scoring in the same ballpark as top-ranking pages is enough.

You also need to be aware of their downsides, most notably that they can’t help you craft unique content. That requires human creativity and effort.

Any questions or comments? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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