By Steven Jacobs
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the fine-tuning process intended to maximizing the number of visitors who come to your website or landing page. Appealing to Google and the other search engines is a constant challenge.
The goal is for online searches to have your web address on the first page of search results. But the process does not involve creating web pages stuffed with keywords and paid links to other websites with similar content. Here’s a review of some of the ways SEO for healthcare has changed in the past decade.
How has healthcare SEO changed in the last 10 years?
Keywords are still important to the process, but simple words yield simple results. Consumers and patients today are well informed and know to query search engines in order to find the information they want. The point is, their search queries are becoming longer and more detailed. As a result search engines are getting better at identifying user intent and returning more relevant results.
The following examples focus on Google because it is responsible for the lion’s share of all online search queries.
Popularity of content and effectiveness Google’s ranking algorithm—the secret formula that produces organic search results—loves the long-form, original content that resonates with its intended audience. Gone are the days when you could write a quick article and stuff in as many of your keywords as possible. When Google released the Panda Update in 2011, its algorithm became smarter with the ability to see through mediocre, spammy content. Now, Google is looking for the best, most authoritative and original content that is beneficial to the search word or phrase a user enters.
Mobile (aka Mobilegeddon) On April 21, 2015, Google changed its ranking algorithm significantly to give preference to mobile-friendly web pages. This forced businesses, hospitals and medical practices to optimize websites and landing pages for mobile in order to maintain their ranking. By rolling out this sweeping change, Google was preparing the world for a mobile-first mentality. In May 2015 Google reported that more searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries (including the US and Japan). Further, roughly 34 percent of all online purchases happen on a mobile device. Mobile optimization continues to be an important part of SEO strategies, but soon it will be mandatory in order to compete. By 2019, Venture Beat predicts mobile ads will account for approximately 70 percent of all digital advertising.
SERP Overhauls Chances are you’ve done a Google search today. A search engine results page (SERP) the response page for your query. In the past, Google would highlight paid ads in the first and second search position in yellow to differentiate paid ads from organic results. But click analytics revealed that people were skipping paid ads in favor of organic search results appearing lower on the page. As a result, Google eliminated the right side ads to make the paid ads less visible. Now, they look more like organic search results with a small “Ads” graphic appended to the front of the metadata.
Google also reduced your need to click through to websites by improving their Knowledge Graph. The Knowledge Graph launched in 2012 to deliver succinct, concise answers to search queries. For example, if you were to search for today’s current weather, Google would deliver the information at the top of their search results, ahead of the organic search results. The Knowledge Graph eliminates your need to visit weather.com. That’s great for the user, but for the businesses working diligently for a high organic rank—not so much.
Local SEO Google is a powerhouse that, thankfully, has started perfecting their algorithm to look out for the little guy who has a highly optimized site with useful, relevant content. It used to be that big businesses—with big budgets—could buy all of their targeted keywords and monopolize the first page of search results. This delivered content that was not as relevant or helpful as the visitor hoped. Google leveled the playing field by giving well-optimized websites an edge in local search.
Compared to standard SEO campaigns, local SEO relies more on links from other local websites and landing pages that have been optimized for local keywords data. While links and keywords must be relevant to your hospital or practice, getting links from high-authority websites doesn’t guarantee a better organic rank (although it doesn’t hurt).
Black Hat SEO Is Going Away Attempts to influence your organic search rank by breaking search engine rules and guidelines (using paid links and keyword stuffing) are rendered ineffective by Google’s advanced algorithm. In 2012, Google launched the Penguin Update that ranks sites higher if they employ natural link tactics. In other words, when you attract quality links and build your network naturally and honestly, you gain increased Google authority and rank higher in search results. Content also has to be high quality and relevant to user searches. Google will know if you’ve lifted text from another site. Relevant, original content with is the way forward.
Voice Search Gaining Popularity In 2015, voice search rose from “statistical zero” to 10 percent of all searches worldwide. That’s approximately 50 billion searches each month. Today, voice search is commonplace. If you own a smartphone, you’ve probably used the feature to find information when you’re unable to type a search query. What’s more, personal assistants like Amazon Echo are on the rise. Over 300 million Echos are creative connected smart homes, plus hotel chains are buying them by the thousands. For SEO, the growth of voice search will produce more exact, long-tail keywords and conversational language queries. This helps businesses gather a huge amount of data on users’ habits, purchases and interests.
The decade ahead for SEO…
Hospitals and medical practices now need to focus more on intent beyond specific keywords. It will be critical to investigate, optimize and adjust. First, you need to understand why visitors come to your website. Then focus on areas that need better optimization to boost your rank.
When you understand the answers your patients are looking for, you can tell a relevant story and track which tactics work (and which don’t) using website analytics data. If you want your brand and website to stay relevant (and ranking high on search result pages), you’ll need to stay on top of these and future SEO advances.
The future of the Internet and SEO is about context; knowing what a person needs and when they need it. If you create relevant and compelling content, Google will reward you with a high search rank. It’s not an easy task, and we can help. If you want to learn more about how Healthcare success can help your hospital or medical practice get to the top of search results, contact us at 800-656-0907 to get started.