SEO: The highest leverage practice marketing strategy for 2021

November 4, 2020
Crawford Ifland

Founder and CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing

If you want more leads for your practice in 2021, there's one marketing strategy that stands above the rest: Search Engine Optimization.

Every practice wants more patient leads, but if 2020 has taught the healthcare community anything, it's this: a steady, consistent pipeline of patients streaming through your practice doors is far from guaranteed.

If you want more leads for your practice in 2021, there's one marketing strategy that stands above the rest: Search Engine Optimization.

SEO — What it is

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website, its content, and your reputation around the Internet so that Google and other search engines rank your website higher in their results.

Top rankings that are earned through SEO are a prime source of patient leads and enhanced brand awareness. Because of this, SEO might just be the perfect strategy for a pandemic-induced downturn: unlike other marketing strategies that require continual ad spend, the rankings that come from SEO can deliver results even when advertising budgets dry up. Strategies like Pay Per Click advertising campaigns require continual monthly ad spend to keep the leads flowing, but SEO can keep producing leads long after practices engage in a strategic SEO push.

SEO offers physicians a long-term competitive advantage, too. Thanks to the long-term nature of SEO, it's incredibly hard for a competitor to open shop across the street and knock your practice off your top rankings. SEO isn't only a wise investment for immediate patient leads, but for long-term practice growth goals as well.

Why SEO Matters for Doctors More Than Ever Before

Many healthcare professionals have heard about SEO before, but few realize its importance and invest their time and funds accordingly. What's more, myths and outright lies about SEO abound, leaving many providers confused or ambivalent about their online presence.

But online visibility has never been more important.

According to a study by NBC News, 8 out of 10 patients turn to Google as their first step in researching a medical condition, evaluating their options for clinical care, or selecting a new provider.

Perhaps more importantly, an in-depth study by SEO consultancy Backlinko found that fewer than 1 in 100 people ever click through to Page 2 of Google or beyond.

The numbers don't lie: if your practice website isn't on Page 1 of Google, you are missing out on tons of potential patients – and revenue.

But how can healthcare professionals optimize their websites and rank higher on Google? To do so, you must start with an understanding of how SEO really works.

How SEO Works

At the most basic level, there are two fundamental components of SEO On-Page and Off-Page.

On-Page SEO factors include the content that is actually on your website: the code. The images. The content. The experience on mobile devices.

Optimizing your On-Page experience is important for Google to understand the content that is on your website, crawl it efficiently, and rank it well. Google wants to see websites that are well-organized, load quickly, are mobile-friendly, and provide useful content that matches the intent of the searcher's query.

But On-Page optimizations aren't just good for Google - patients love them, too. Ensuring that your website loads quickly and is easy to navigate on mobile devices is important for patient acquisition. Nearly 9 out of 10 patients—88%—are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience – so if your practice website is hard to use on a phone, you aren't likely to win those patient leads.

Off-Page SEO focuses more on the "reputation" of your practice around the Internet: how many other websites are linking to your website? What sort of press

mentions do your physicians get in the media? What do patient reviews say about your practice?

Off-Page factors, while not as easy to control, are an important part of search engine ranking algorithms and help Google determine how authoritative and trustworthy you are...and only the most reputable practices win the top rankings.

Investments in SEO: A Case Study

SEO is one of the highest-ROI marketing channels out there, especially in a competitive field like healthcare. Strategic investments in SEO can take some time to yield results, but the numbers speak for themselves.

Looking at our own internal client metrics, every $1 spent on SEO efforts nets a practice between $4-10 of revenue, on average. This of course depends on a practice's specialty and other competitive metrics, but the ROI is quite positive.

For instance, one of our clients is a plastic surgeon in a market of 7.5 million people. Their SEO investments have led to a 127% increase in rankings in just nine months, accompanied by a 32% increase in monthly lead volume.

How to Get Started with SEO for Your Practice

So you want to rank higher on Google...where should you start?

  • Audit your performance. Have a healthcare SEO agency run an audit of your On-Page experience, various Off-Page factors, and website speed to identify areas that need improvement. Identifying where to spend your time optimizing your site is critical to achieving the best results possible. These factors are the fundamentals of SEO – if you don't get them right, other efforts are unlikely to make a difference.
  • Identify your most important keywords. Not all keywords are created equal. When embarking on an SEO campaign, you need to know which keywords represent the best opportunities to rank based on their monthly search volume, competition, and overall value to your practice. Create a list of potentially valuable keywords and have an SEO agency analyze them to find the best opportunities for your practice.
  • Create a plan of attack. Combine the insights from your SEO audit with your ideal keywords to create a list of quick optimization "sprints." When you get started, it's important to focus on quick wins - low-hanging fruit, if you will - that are easy to implement and will provide a quick boost to your online experience. Over time, you can expand this list as you make more of an investment in SEO.

SEO: An Investment in the Future of Your Practice

When you think about your growth goals for your practice, remember the following three truths about SEO:

  1. SEO is the best way to get more patients. 80% of patients start looking for a doctor on Google, but fewer than 1% ever click through to Page 2 or beyond. If you're not on Page 1, you're missing out on revenue.
  2. Investments in SEO produce exceptional ROI. On average, every $1 invested in SEO yields between $4-10 in revenue.
  3. SEO delivers strategic long-term benefit. If you're in a competitive market, SEO is the best way to earn high rankings that outflank and outlast the competition.

Regardless of your practice growth goals for 2021 and beyond, SEO remains one of the highest-leverage marketing strategies that can help you get there.