Category: Medical Search Engine Optimization

Medical Search Engine Optimization Medical Website Design

Unearthing the Mystery of Search Engine Optimization

If you have a website, you’ve undoubtedly heard those 3 magic letters a million times: SEO. Search Engine Optimization.

Understanding (and utilizing) the power of SEO is like the modern-day Holy Grail of the web. But so many people don’t understand it, and if you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you’ve likely heard a thousand different opinions and even more “best practices” on how to use it, many of which likely conflict with one another.

In this post, we’re going to unearth some of the mysteries surrounding SEO by helping you discover what it is, what it’s not, what works best today, and how it relates to ophthalmic websites.
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What SEO Is
First, a definition. 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. Most SEO strategies use 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.

In short, good 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. Even more importantly than the search engine finding what content is on your website, good SEO practices place the needs of the user above the desires of the search engine.

That sounds complicated, but it’s really not. We’ll explain more soon…but first, we want to tell you what SEO is not.
What SEO is Not
There are many myths and urban legends surrounding the practice of good SEO, but very few people understand what SEO is. SEO is not:

A magic bullet or a catch-all solution
A sure-fire way to get #1 in search rankings
An overnight tactic that will instantly drive more traffic to your website
A way to “beat the system” and achieve higher success

Google and other search engines have literally spent hundreds of thousands of man hours and millions of dollars developing advanced algorithms that discern which content is most relevant to the user’s search, and then display the best results to the user. We don’t mean to offend, but you’re not going to get around it and see overnight success with some new SEO “trick” or a sure-fire “best practice” that someone sold you on the Internet for 5 easy payments of $19.95.
How SEO Works
Let’s think about search engines for a second. A search engine is not a real person, but it still has to decide what content exists on a website (this is called “crawling” a website), categorize the content and file it away, and then display that content when a user searches for something that may be related to it (for example, a phrase, the name of a business, an image search, etc).

A good SEO strategy focuses on the content. Good SEO will implement a variety of practices to ensure two things:

That search engines have the most opportunities possible to categorize their content; and,
That the website has the highest possible chance of appearing at the very top of results when a user searches for a similar topic.

Good SEO strategies will focus on content – they will place keyword-rich content on web pages, place links to other websites and other pages within their own website, utilize description tags for images and graphical elements so that search engines can understand what images are of, and so on and so forth.

Seems simple, right? Well, not so fast…SEO strategy changes a lot.
What Used to Work
In the past, the Internet saw dozens of “best SEO practices,” ranging from the slightly underhanded to the downright spammy. When the term SEo was first coined, pretty much anything went – if you could link to 1000 different websites from your own, you would be guaranteed to be #1 on Google.

This took on a variety of different forms, all of which can be categorized as “Black Hat SEO”:

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing was a SEO technique used by web designers to overload keywords onto a Web page so that search engines will read the page as being relevant in a Web search.

Invisible Text

Another Black Hat SEO practice was to make text “invisible” by adding white text on top of a white page in order to fit more keywords in and get a greater chance of being discovered by search engines. Users couldn’t see it because it blended in with the background of the page, but search engines could read the code, pick up the text, and file it away to be displayed in search results.

Doorway Pages

A Doorway Page is a web page designed specifically for the purpose of gaining high placement in a search engine rankings. The doorway was meant to capture the attention of a search engine by containing keywords and phrases that it would pick up on. Often the doorway page would contain hidden text in order to load the page with occurrences of a specific keyword or phrase.

Adding Unrelated Keywords

Another practice was to add unrelated keywords to increase the likelihood that users would stumble upon a given website even when they searched for something completely unrelated.

Page Swapping

This involved changing the webpage entirely after it has been ranked by search engines, thus trying to “trick” the search engine into displaying a website with unrelated results.

These may seem like quick or easy tricks to “game the system” and achieve page one (or even spot #1) rankings, but they don’t work anymore. In response to the growing number of websites that were using such methods, Google (in the interest of the best user experience) changed their algorithms drastically, not just to cease rewarding those sites with page one status, but to penalize the websites that utilized these spammy practices.
Best Practices Today
Don’t get us wrong: SEO isn’t dead. There are still many best practices that can be used to form a complete and comprehensive SEO strategy and see wonderful results. These include having a responsive website that works well on mobile devices, adding keyword-rich body copy to your website, linking your social media profiles to your website (and posting regularly), using descriptor tags for images and other graphical elements, and having a link-rich content, both linking to external websites and other pages within your website.

At the end of the day, it’s all about helping search engines understand and correctly categorize what’s on your website…and helping users find it by providing an exceptional user experience. While search engines are not dumb, they aren’t humans either, and so they need a bit of help.
What this Means for the Ophthalmologist
Content is king.

Perhaps the best advice we can give to ophthalmologists is to be regularly posting content and tweaking content on the website, most likely through a blog or “newsroom” of sorts. When it comes to modern SEO, content is king, and there’s no better SEO strategy than regularly posting informational, keyword-rich content on a variety of topics to increase the chances that a search engine – or a real person – will stumble upon what you have to say.

Mobile matters.

Within the last year Google has updated their search engine algorithm again to reward those websites that are “responsive,” or that work well on mobile devices. Again, this is all done in the interest of user experience, and websites that don’t display legible fonts and content tailored and optimized for mobile devices will be penalized.

Sounds too good to be true? It probably is.

It’s important to remember that when it comes to SEO, there aren’t any magic bullets – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The Internet is a wonderful place, but it’s full of people and companies promising that they can make you #1 on Google or increase your traffic 200% overnight…and it just isn’t true. There’s no way to game the system.

In the long run, good SEO strategy is an investment.

It takes time to see a real return on investment on an SEO strategy…but it’s all worth it. Once you have implemented a good SEO strategy, it will focus on content and both users and search engines will be rewarded by finding what they are looking for.

SEO can seem overly complicated, and if you don’t live and breathe the Internet 24/7, it’s easy to get lost. But good SEO isn’t really that hard to understand – it just takes a methodical, well thought-out approach, hard work, and lots of patience to see a result worth the investment.

 
Not on Page 1 of Google? You could be missing out on patients.
Get a free, individualized report with detailed insights, recommendations, and actionable steps to improve your practice’s SEO today.
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Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

Medical Search Engine Optimization Medical Website Design

A Visual History of Google’s Algorithm Updates [Infographic]

In the late 1990s and early 200s, Google wasn’t nearly as smart or sophisticated as it is today. Back then, having good SEO meant stuffing as many keywords into your website as possible, and getting as many inbound links as you could. The game was easy.

However, for those early “SEO gurus” who gamed the system, the fun wouldn’t last. Every time Google found a weakness in their ability to deliver relevant, high-quality search results, they addressed it.
To make sure your practice website is optimized for Google’s algorithm updates, request a Free SEO Audit!
Wondering how to rank your ophthalmic website higher in Google? Our friends at Moz have created the handy infographic below to visually show how Google has changed over the years.

Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

Medical Practice Marketing Medical Search Engine Optimization Medical Website Design

Is Your Practice Ready for Google’s Page Speed Update?

Last week, Google announced a major change to their search engine ranking algorithm that will penalize those website that load most slowly by moving them down in search results.

While it has long been suspected that Google favors websites that load quickly, this is the first public announcement that the search engine giant has made about speed and how it factors into its rankings.

The update is coming in July, so Google is giving webmasters plenty of time to optimize their sites accordingly. But it begs the question: what can be done to mitigate the risk? And is your ophthalmic practice website ready? Are you prepared? How could your organic traffic suffer if you don’t optimize your website appropriately?

In this article, we’ll look at some practical steps you can take to make sure your practice website is well-optimized for SEO.
The Mobile Trend
It’s no secret that Google favors mobile. Over half of all Internet traffic these days comes from a mobile device, and Google announced a few years ago that it will promote those sites that offer a good mobile experience with responsive design.

Their most recent speed announcement follows a growing trend: people want information in a fast and convenient manner.

At the heart of Google’s announcement isn’t a focus on its algorithm, textual adjustments, or code optimizations per se – it’s about user experience. Those websites that are easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and laid quickly will see the best results.

Google says this update “is about the page performance in general, with the goal of offering mobile users a better overall experience when searching via mobile.”
Don’t Fret
Google mentioned in its announcement that the update will only affect pages that “deliver the slowest experience to users,” which will only affect a small percentage of queries. The company also notes that “the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

While this may seem reassuring, it’s still important to make sure your website is up to snuff. For starters, here are a few practical changes you can make:
Run a Google PageSpeed Insights Test
Google’s PageSpeed Insights Test is designed to show webmasters optimizations that can be made to decrease load time and minimize the amount of resources necessary to render a site. For example, compressing images into smaller file sizes can help a page load more quickly, as can making some subtle tweaks to the code of a website, how much space it takes up, etc.

Have a blog? Consider using Accelerated Mobile Pages.
Google introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages a few years back in an attempt to make blog posts, articles from popular news sources, and other forms of easily digestible content faster to load and easier to browse. It’s fairly easy to convert existing blog content to AMP pages when someone is on a mobile device, especially if your  practice website is using a popular Content Management System like WordPress (there are tons of plugins that can convert posts to AMP for you). What’s more, those pages with AMP built-in are more likely to be featured in Google’s Rich Snippets and see higher placement in search engine results.

Use SSL
SSL is a method of securing and encrypting website traffic that is an absolute must if you want do do well in Google rankings. Google actively demotes non-secure websites in its rankings, and not having an SSL could cost you big time if sensitive patient information is exposed – it’s a major HIPAA violation. A good SSL certificate costs about $100/year and plays a crucial part in ensuring that all information sent or received via your website is secure. Pardon us for sounding rude, but in 2018, not having a secure practice website is just plain stupid.

So, how does your website stack up?
With Google’s announcement, now is a good time to do a brief assessment of your practice website: is it mobile friendly? Do you have an SSL installed? If you have a blog, are all key technologies (like AMP) being utilized?

If not, your practice may see a significant drop in organic traffic when Google’s update kicks in…or you may have already been suffering from reduced traffic without even knowing it.

Organic traffic is an important part in any practice’s marketing strategy, and if your practice website doesn’t measure up, it may be time for a helping hand.

Contact us today to receive a free audit of your practice website – we’ll show you key areas for improvement and provide tangible steps to take so you can ensure your practice website will be attracting new patients for years to come.
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Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

Medical Practice Marketing Medical Search Engine Optimization

How to Use SEO to Attract More Patients to Your Practice

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.

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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.

RELATED: Not enough time for content marketing? Here’s why you should outsource. 

 
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:
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Get My Free SEO Audit

Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

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Ready to grow?

Get a free Healthcare SEO Audit to see how your practice ranks on Google and uncover opportunities for growth.

Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.