If you’re interested in attracting more patients to your ophthalmic practice, then you need to have the right marketing tools in your arsenal. This includes content marketing, social media, PR, and of course, SEO.
SEO is always changing - it’s estimated that Google makes between 500-600 changes to their algorithm each year. So how can you as an ophthalmologist use SEO to your advantage?
Put simply, if your practice wants to attract more patients, you need to know the basics of good SEO for medical practices. In this article, we’ll explore how to use smart SEO strategies in 2018 to grow your business and attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine's unpaid results – often referred to as "natural," "organic," or "earned" results. SEO uses a combination of keywords, images, links, and social media activity to drive traffic to a certain website, all of which are designed to get the specified web page higher in search engine results.
The goal is to get to page 1. If you’re on page 2 or 3, you might as well be on page 48…nobody is going to find you.
In short, SEO is a way of systematically presenting content so that search engines find the content that is on your website and present your content to users higher up in search results.
Why Does SEO Matter in 2018?
As we mentioned before, the SEO game is always changing. In the past, it was relatively simple to throw up a website, add the appropriate code
Today, SEO is not only about optimizing your website for Google to index it appropriately, but all about link building, content marketing, social media sharing, and so much more.
While SEO is becoming harder and harder to implement well, it’s all the more important to know the right strategies that will deliver more patients to your practice. But although it’s hard, it’s still incredibly important - nearly 80% of patients will do an online search before they ever contact your practice. This is where search engines like Google dominate.
The old methods and spammy practices don’t work - you need to know the right things to do. It’s not about quantity of activity, but about quality.
In order to attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice, you have to use the right mix of SEO tools and strategies…and it all starts with defining your goals.
Know Your SEO Goal
There are two primary approaches when it comes to SEO. We like to call them the shotgun approach and the sniper rifle approach. Let’s compare the benefits of each.
The shotgun approach to SEO is all about ranking for as many keywords as possible. This can take a long time, but if you’re willing to spend the time and money on building such an approach, it can be a powerful tool that can drive tons of traffic and revenue to your practice.
However, this approach takes a lot of time and money to get going – we’re talking years and tens of thousands of dollars. This approach is also quite susceptible to Google’s algorithm changes – if one keyword that you’ve been ranking for is suddenly dropped by Google, it can hurt business significantly.
That’s why we like the sniper rifle approach to SEO better. Frankly, it works better for many ophthalmic practices.
Using the sniper rifle approach to SEO, you should choose those keywords that are highly targeted to your audience and what they’re searching for. Unlike a general keyword that could have many people searching for it, targeted keywords may have lower search volumes, but they’re the right kinds of people searching for you.
Basically, you’re targeting people who you know with certainty are searching for exactly what your practice offers.
We call these “long-tail” keywords.
Put simply, it’s way better to have only a few people searching for a term that you know you will rank for than to have thousands of people searching for a term that you’re very unlikely to rank for.
This approach also takes significant time and resources to rank for, but it’s more strategic in nature – and that’s why we believe it’s the best choice for many ophthalmic practices to attract new patients with SEO.
Using the sniper rifle approach, it’s also highly unlikely that a Google algorithm change will negatively affect your ranking, because you’re so targeted. If you become #1 on Google with a highly specific, targeted keyword, it’s unlikely that someone else is going to come along and knock you off.
Know Your Target Consumers and What They’re Searching For
Nobody knows your market as well as you do. You know the needs, concerns, and questions that patients have when they come into your practice, and you know how to help address their questions.
Maybe your practice specializes in LASIK only, or maybe you offer every type of refractive vision-correcting surgery there is. Doesn’t really matter – what does matter is that you’ve taken the time to understand exactly what your target audience is searching for, and that you have a plan to capture their attention.
Starting with this awareness of your target market is a crucial step in developing your SEO strategy.
Consider asking current patients how they found you, and if they had to look up information online, what did they search for? You may be surprised at what patients tell you.
This practice will help you develop ideas for long-tail keywords that you can use to drive targeted traffic to your practice website.
There are some tools you can use to aid you in your search. Google’s Keyword Planner is one – although it was designed for paid advertising campaign planning, it’s a great way to get additional keyword ideas and see estimated monthly search volumes and competition for said keywords.
Google Trends is another great tool to explore search engine trends and interest in certain topics.
Understand Your Current Traffic
To know how to target messages to potential patients using SEO, you have to understand what current patients are doing on your site.
Which pages are getting the most attention? Which blog posts are driving lots of traffic your way? What is getting share the most?
Knowing these things can help you ascertain where there are opportunities to use good SEO strategies to attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice.
There are a number of tools online that can also help you with competitive analysis – knowing what your competitors are doing, what keywords they’re trying to rank for, and what sites are linking to them.
If your marketing team doesn’t have the time to perform these sorts of research activities, consider hiring an agency to perform this research for you – it’s an invaluable investment.
Perform an SEO Audit
Having a third-party provider audit your current SEO strategy can be a boon for your practice, as it will identify opportunities and areas of improvement. It can also help you discover which of your strategies are working, and where you need to double-down.
Even if you don’t have an SEO strategy in place, an SEO audit can greatly help you discover where to get started.
An SEO audit will help you discover things like your website’s search engine visibility for key words and topics, discover where back linking opportunities lie, and get a better picture of the competition in your market.
Interested in a FREE SEO Audit? Contact our team today.
Combine SEO with a Content Marketing Strategy to Deliver More Patients to Your Practice
Mankind is no island, and neither is SEO. A good SEO strategy is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal, but it can’t exist in a bubble.
SEO isn’t just about adding code to your website or making sure you’re #1 on Google – it must exist alongside of (and complement) great content.
Content marketing is like SEO’s brother – the two work hand-in-hand to make sure that the content you’re creating and sharing is actually being delivered to real people who are interested in your practice. Without content marketing, SEO has nothing to promote. And without SEO, content marketing just sits there – undiscovered and alone.
Track Your Results
If you’re really interested in using SEO to help deliver more patients to your practice, you’ve got to get serious about tracking results.
How can you know if your SEO strategy is really effective unless you can measure how it’s performing? Are you seeing a boost in Google’s search engine ranking results? Is your content getting shared more? Are people spending more time on your website? Has your traffic increased since you began implementing SEO?
These are just a few elements consider as you track the progress of your SEO strategy.
A few things to keep in mind…
As with any marketing strategy, there are many things to consider when implementing SEO. As your ophthalmic practices gets started, here are a few things to keep in mind regarding SEO:
1. SEO is a long-term investment – results won’t happen overnight.
Have you ever watch a fishing show on TV and been amazed at how quickly the fisherman caught his trophy fish?
Yeah, it’s not like that in real life…and neither is SEO. Behind the scenes, the camera crew waited in the rain for hours and endured tons of bites before they were able to get one that stuck. It took patience.
SEO is the same – while there are strategies that have much better chances of success than others, there’s no replacement for time. As Warren Buffet once said, “Even if you are very talented and make all possible efforts, some things simply take time…you can’t expect to have a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.”
2. SEO takes a lot of work.
Although we’ve outlined some key considerations in this article, there are many more elements that go into a successful SEO strategy that delivers more patients to your practice. SEO takes a lot of work, and it isn’t for the faint of heart…but if done correctly, it can be a very lucrative strategy.
If you’re going to embark on the SEO journey, plan resources accordingly, and don’t underestimate how much time and effort it will take.
3. SEO requires domain expertise.
From backlinks to domain authority, nofollow attributes, sitemaps and robots.txt files, from long-tail keyword generation to search engine submission and crawl rates, there are many elements that go into a successful SEO strategy (these are just a few).
SEO can be very confusing if it’s not a world you live and breathe 24/7. While we hope this article helps you understand the basics of a good SEO strategy, if you’re even somewhat lost, it’s probably best to leave it up the experts.
4. SEO requires monitoring and constant iteration.
Google’s algorithms change all the time and if you’re not adapting, you could be left behind. What works today may not work 6 months from now, so you’ve got to be on your game.
Stay up-to-date on what’s working and what’s changing, and constantly be iterating if you want too tay on top of the SEO game.
Interested in learning more?
Interested in learning more about SEO and what it can do to help attract more patients to your ophthalmic practice?
Contact us for a free SEO audit today – we’ll help you understand how your site is performing, where there’s room for improvement, and concrete action steps to help your ophthalmic practice take your SEO to the next level in 2018.