Building an online relationship with your patients offers all the benefits of an in-person relationship: increased trust, better communication, and the emotional connections that remind families that your pediatric practice is a trusted resource that can be counted on. One way to build an online connection to families is through search engine optimization, or SEO, an important part of your marketing strategy. In this post, we’ll unpack SEO and the perks of using it, plus recommendations for making your practice’s website front page news.
SEO: The Key to Any Marketing Plan
Search engine optimization, SEO for short, is the strategy businesses use to attempt to earn high rankings and visibility in search results on sites like Google. Like many marketing strategies, SEO can seem too arduous or labor-intensive for a bustling business to tackle. After all, as pediatricians and business owners, there’s already a lot on your plate. The good news is that after the initial setup of a great website and with regular short maintenance periods, SEO efforts will benefit your practice over the long term, and the basics are simple -- much simpler than, say, organic chemistry or calculus!
By the end of this post, our hope is that you’ll have the basic tools of SEO ready to set in your marketing strategy toolbox, and that you’ll be inspired to get started on this great tool for connecting with patients and families in their everyday lives.
The foundation of great SEO is your practice website. If you don’t have one already, now is a great time to get started: check out our previous post on building a great practice website. PCC’s Chip Hart draws the analogy that having a practice website today is like listing your practice in the phone book 30 years ago -- it’s a business decision that makes it simple for patients to find you and get to know your practice before ever stepping through your door.
According to Brightedge, a marketing software company, SEO drives 1000% more traffic, or the visitors that visit your website, than social media does. It’s easy to see why when you consider: when families want to know where the closest pediatrician is, or need answers immediately when their toddler has a fever, they aren’t necessarily scrolling through their social media -- they’re asking Google.
Hubspot cites in their 2021 statistics report that 81% of online shoppers Google their queries. When parents and families are shopping for their new pediatrician when they have a child, adopt, move locations, or desire a change, the closer to the front page of Google results your pediatric practice website appears, the more likely someone is to visit your website and contact your office first. More visitors to your website means more engagement, more appointments, and higher revenue for your practice.
There’s even more benefits. Since SEO depends on both the organization of your website and the quality of the content you provide on it, you’re more likely to engage both search engines and parents when you provide helpful content like blog posts, videos, images, and tidy links -- learn more about site organization in the section, “How Search Engines Work” below.
How Search Engines Work
The jargon of SEO can go deep, but here are the terms to know to learn how to use SEO to improve how often Googling parents find your practice. The goal of SEO is to improve your ranking, or which position in its pages Google deems appropriate for your website, as well as your visibility, or how often users find your webpage.
Search engines rank website pages that they deem the most relevant and authoritative on any given topic. Since the algorithm that “reads” your website (this is called crawling) can only read text, it’s important to organize your website in ways that the search engine can find its way around. Here’s an example from Pearland Pediatrics, in Pearland, TX:
When visitors arrive at Pearland Pediatrics’ website, it’s simple to find the information you’re looking for quickly and logically. If you want to get to know Dr. Jennifer Grey, MD FAAP, you can click “Providers” and then click on her image to read a short bio. If you’re an existing patient and need to make a telemedicine appointment or visit the patient portal, there are convenient buttons at the top of the page.
This accessibility works for SEO too. Both users and search engines can navigate easily because of the text menus that organize the site. When a user or bot reads “Services”, they can choose to navigate to further information about “Nutrition,” “Sports Medicine,” or “Walk in Clinic”. The helpful information stored in these pages lets search engines determine that Pearland Pediatrics’ website is both authoritative and relevant to searches such as “Texas pediatrician” or “lactaction consultant”.
A typical pediatric practice website will include such helpful information as contact information, services, and provider profiles. You or a web designer can also customize your website to the services and format you prefer -- you might choose to share videos, an active Twitter feed, or the latest events at your practice as well as services and patient forms.
“Pediatrician Near Me”
To help families find your practice rather than another pediatrician in the next town over, help Google recognize when to display your practice when a parent searches for “best pediatrician in Juneau, AL” or “pediatrician near me”. Keywords are helpful here, and you can learn more about them in the section below, but according to experts on Forbes, you should also list your practice’s contact information: your phone number, practice name, and full address.
Help parents navigate to your office or find your phone number straight from Google by registering your Google MyBusiness page. You can monitor reviews, add photos, and update your office hours in real time.
Google can recognize your practice’s location via the contact information listed on your website, which helps local parents find you. If your practice is one among several in your area, remember that your ranking will also depend on the competition between your pediatrician colleagues across town, so it helps to fill your website with content and pages that define your unique services or values. You might proudly show that your practice accepts Medicaid, provides lactation consultation, or offers a walk in clinic.
However, if you and your competitors are on collegial terms, you can improve search rankings for both of your offices with backlinking, which is where two companies link to resources on one another’s pages, which Google regards as contributing to your website’s authority.
Say that your practice, ABC Pediatrics, offers lactation consultations, and your competitor, WeLoveKids Pediatrics, offers a popular drive-thru flu clinic program. You might create a blog post encouraging parents to get their families their flu shots and link to WeLoveKids Pediatrics’ video describing the drive-thru clinic program. In return, WeLoveKids can write up a post or webpage referring lactating parents to a blog post you’ve created on latching tips on ABC Pediatrics’ website.
Pages & Keywords
Don’t forget that search engines rank your website when you provide relevant information for users. To do this, you must build pages that answer needs or questions your families are searching for. You can begin with the basics like contact information and forms, but feel free to expand your website with helpful content like videos, blogs, and practice news.
Search engines determine helpful content with a few factors such as page length, structure, and keywords. Marketing platform Moz explains that keywords are the words engines identify as relevant to specific topics that users are searching for, like “pediatrician near me,” “infant fever,” or “toddler ibuprofen dose”. Keyword research will help you get an idea of what your families are searching for so that you can be the practice that provides this helpful content. You can begin to research keywords on your own via a tool such as Moz’s, or with the help of a marketing consultant who can offer periodic input into the terms parents are searching for and how well your SEO is performing.
You should place keywords in the title of your pages, the H1 subheadings, the URL, and the content itself, as well as the meta description, or the text that appears in Google searches that describes the content of the page. An H1 is a commonly-used subtitle format -- the H1 of this section is “How Search Engines Work”.
Google also takes into account how helpful the links listed on your website are. It’s important that the links aren’t dead or broken -- a broken link will lead users to a “Not Found” page like this one. Great links for a pediatric practice to include are links to reputable parenting and healthcare resources, like this page on concussions from the AAP, or this HealthyChildren.org link to all of their pages on infant care.
With a tidy website, helpful content, and keywords that make your practice’s pages shine, you’re in good shape to appear on the front page and guide new patients and inquiring parents to your practice. Even better, their first impression improves as they discover that your practice can be helpful and friendly online as well as in person.
While an enterprising independent practice can handle many of SEO’s requirements on their own, it never hurts to ask for assistance, especially for in-depth aspects of website design such as security and coding. Learn how to hire a web consultant and delve into the other exciting ways to market your pediatric practice like community outreach, social media, and more with our ebook -- How to Market Your Pediatric Practice.