Marketing in today’s world is very different than it was 50, 25, or even 10 years ago. Businesses need to evolve and adapt in order to keep up. The healthcare industry is far from immune. Online marketing, in particular, has transitioned from luxury to necessity for healthcare businesses looking to gain a critical inside edge.

One especially vital online marketing strategy to help prospective patients find doctors, dentists, therapists and psychiatrists, optometrists, and other healthcare professionals is SEO.

If you’re wondering what SEO is, why it matters, and how to make the most of it for your medical practice or other healthcare business, you’re in the right place.

Read on for a comprehensive guide to SEO and the healthcare industry.

What Is SEO for Medical Practices?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.”  It refers to the process of maximizing your website’s visibility so that when internet users enter a search for the products and services you offer into Google or another search engine, they find your business. The better your SEO is, the higher placement your healthcare business will have in search results.

In simplest terms, healthcare SEO means using search engine optimization strategies so that more people will find your medical practice or other healthcare business online. More traffic to your website doesn’t just mean more visibility. Over time, it means more leads and conversions.

SEO for medical practices: a photo of a smiling female doctor wearing a stethoscope and holding medical records

The goal of SEO is to return to the user the best search results in the best order. The driving factor is the user experience. More specifically, it seeks to answer the question: How can SEO help searchers get the information they need in the most effective and efficient way?

The takeaway is clear for healthcare businesses that want potential customers to find them: Search engine optimization for medical practices is an integral part of any successful 21st century marketing plan.

How Does SEO Work for Healthcare?

SEO for doctors works the same way it works for all businesses. However, the healthcare industry, due to its nature, receives greater scrutiny from search engines. That is because healthcare websites, such as pediatric websites, chiropractor websites, general medicine, skin care and dermatology clinics, plastic surgeons, health and wellness-related sites,  among others, belong to the YMYL (Your Money, Your Life) Industries.  And these websites can create a more substantial impact on a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

Now, here’s a closer look at how SEO works.

Google, Bing, and other search engines use bots to “crawl” web pages collecting and indexing information. Think of it like a massive online library where a librarian is tasked with pulling up the best resource for what you’re looking for.

In this case, search engines use an algorithm to sort through all the information they’ve collected and analyzed in order to determine how to order the search results for a user query or “page rank.” They do this by factoring in hundreds of ranking factors, also known as “signals.”

These include the following:

Website Accessibility and Searchability

In order for your bots to crawl your website, they have to be able to reach it and understand what it is about. Well-coded websites tell bots exactly where to look to find site information.

Another leading SEO ranking factor, page speed, is all about improving the user experience. Given the “instant gratification” nature of our society, if a webpage doesn’t load within 2 seconds or less, you’re likely to lose potential customers. In fact, statistics show that almost half of users will bounce from your page if it doesn’t load fast enough.

Mobile Design

Like page speed, mobile-friendliness is all about supporting the user experience. Considering that more people now use their mobile devices than their desktops to access the internet, a mobile-friendly website is a must.

In fact, Google’s index is mobile-first. This means that bots prioritize content from mobile-optimized sites.

For instance, if you are an optometrist owning an eye care website and it’s not optimized for mobile phone browsing, most likely, search engines won’t bring you to the top.

Specifically, bots look for the following:

  • A responsive site that automatically resizes to suit the device screen
  • Large fonts to support readability on smaller screens
  • A user-friendly menu for easy navigation
  • All essential content is included and visible

Domain Age, URL, and Authority

Based on the number of variables that go into it, the answer to the question, “How long until my website is at the top of the Google results page?” is always going to be, “That depends.”  However, the more established your website is, the more likely it is to achieve top-ranking status.

This doesn’t mean SEO is a lost cause if your website is new. However, it does mean it may take some time before you start seeing results.

Content Strategy and Optimized Content

You may be familiar with the expression, “Content is king.”  This is absolutely the case when it comes to SEO and healthcare marketing. Content is one of the most important factors when it comes to search rankings.

Content strategy: create, research, measure, promote, publish and optimize

Which begs the question: What does optimizing content for SEO mean? Search engine algorithms rely heavily on the words and phrases searchers use when entering a query to find the products and services they’re looking for. If these “keywords” are properly used on your website, the two will match up.

Conversely, without the right keywords, bots will have difficulty matching your healthcare site to  your target audience’s needs. This disconnect will lead to poor rankings, less visibility, and fewer conversions.

But all SEO content isn’t created equal. Bots prioritize content that adds value. Specifically, they’re looking for fresh and original content associated with the main search terms.

Technical SEO

Having the right keywords is only one piece of the SEO content optimization puzzle. These words must also be integrated into your website in a way that bots will recognize and rank highly. Enter coding.

Examples of coding strategies that can improve your content optimization and SEO include: keyword phrases in page titles; using header tags; creating short, enticing, and keyword-rich meta descriptions; using keywords in image alt tags to demonstrate relevance; using alt tags; and using structured data known as Schema markup to communicate directly with bots.

User Experience

Are users finding what they want when they arrive at your website? If not, they’re probably clicking away pretty quickly — which shows search engines that your website was not helpful. On the other hand, if searchers click to your website and continue to interact with it — either by staying a while or clicking links to your other pages, this is a positive sign to search engines.

User experience is determined by several factors, such as click-through rates, bounce rates, dwell time, and others.  So, if you are a plastic surgeon, for example, your website must not only be pretty but also navigable. The website must not be difficult to use, heavily loaded with annoying pop-ups or boring.


The web is all about links (aka backlinks), including inbound links, outbound links, and internal links. Each of these types of links serves a different purpose.

In the simplest form, backlinks are like popularity votes — the more backlinks you’ve got, the more popular you are. However, search engines, with their goal of making the internet a safer place, grade backlinks based on their origin, similar to how opinions from good folks and bad folks are separated.

Bad backlinks are toxic or spammy links, and they do more harm than good. High-quality backlinks, on the other hand, come from high-quality websites and are hard to secure.

Social Networks and Social Signals

Six brightly colored paper medals showing one famous social networks icon: a thumbs up, wifi icon, photo icon, a bird, an email, and a commentSure, it’s great when people spread the news about your practice by sharing your content with their friends. But this is far from the only reason to create content that people will want to share. Search engines may also use social shares as an indication of value.

While it’s uncertain whether social shares are a direct ranking factor, evidence points to a definitive link between the two: High-ranking pages usually have a high number of sales.

Not to mention that search engine algorithms are always changing. Regardless of whether the link between social sharing and SEO is direct or indirect, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain from creating compelling and useful content that people want to share.

Local Business Information

It seems obvious that your business information should be front and center to help users find you. In reality, though, this isn’t always the case. When you’re looking to capture the attention of local searchers, the easy-to-find presence of your business information can make or break your search results — and your business.

In addition to making sure your name, address, and phone number are easy to find and accurate on your webpage, your business should also have Google My Business and Facebook listings, a presence on review sites like Yelp, and be optimized for local search.

Why Is Healthcare SEO Important?

SEO is important for all businesses in today’s crowded marketplace. However, it sometimes gets a bad rap, or is viewed as outdated or ineffective. This couldn’t be further from the truth. SEO remains critical to healthcare industry businesses because it ensures that prospective patients searching for healthcare practitioners on the internet will find your business.

There is a caveat, however. SEO is always changing. That means that it can be outdated or ineffective if you don’t keep up with the evolving algorithm and SEO trends.

Here are some specific reasons SEO is important for healthcare businesses:

1. Visibility

The question "Who are you" written on a light green post-it paper and pinned on a corkboardWhile paid ads can drive some traffic to your site, SEO boosts organic traffic — meaning that searchers who never see your ads can still make their way to your website with the right keywords in place.

Not only that, but SEO can help you raise your visibility with all potential patients — regardless of where they are on their journey.

For example, whether they’re just starting to think about a tooth whitening procedure or are ready to book their appointment, SEO can help your dental practice meet them exactly where they are — both literally and figuratively, especially if you use local SEO. If you offer tooth whitening services in Dallas, and you land the No. 1 rank for “tooth whitening services in Dallas,” your business will be at the top of their list.

2. Authority

But SEO doesn’t just support visibility; it also supports authority. That No. 1 ranking demonstrates to searchers that your business is likely to be the most relevant to their needs. They may conclude from this that your business is also the best choice.

In sum, when your dental practice appears first in the ranking results for “tooth whitening services in Dallas,” you are significantly increasing the chances that users will click the link to your website.

3. Free Traffic

OK, so SEO isn’t exactly free. However, the better you do it, the less it costs you. As your website climbs the rankings for a particular keyword, you will get an increasing amount of traffic. This is a positive cycle that costs you nothing. No  matter how much traffic you get, it’s all free.

The Benefits of SEO for Medical Practices

Still not convinced that investing in SEO and other digital marketing strategies is right for your healthcare business?

The benefits of SEO for medical practices: the word benefits written with a blue marker

A recent report commissioned by reveals invaluable insights into the benefits of SEO for your healthcare practice. According to the findings:

  • 83 percent of patients have used search engines to find a healthcare provider.
  • 61 percent of consumers prefer the internet for finding primary care providers, compared to 36.4 percent who rely on traditional referrals.
  • 5 percent of searchers say the following best describes how they search for healthcare information online: “I enter the type of doctor or specialist I’m looking for and ‘near me.’”
  • When searching for healthcare information online, patients are just as likely to use a mobile device as they are to conduct their search on a desktop or laptop computer. However, mobile use is on pace to surpass desktop/laptop use.
  • While ratings and referrals were important to prospective patients when choosing care, search ranking, website quality, and social media were all top factors, as well.
  • 56 percent of patients say access to relevant and accurate information online is a “make-or-break” factor in the doctor selection process.
  • 49 percent of patients say lack of information and/or incomplete listings are a deterrent to booking an appointment with a particular provider, while 37 percent cite outdated, hard-to-navigate websites is a reason not to choose a particular provider.

If you’re looking to court members of the massive millennial generation, meanwhile, SEO is even more important. This demographic is extremely likely to use the internet to find and research healthcare providers.

However, the findings also show commonalities between different generations. Both baby boomers and millennials are very reliant on search engines when looking for information about providers, and both identified “lack of provider information online” as a top challenge of finding a doctor.

The takeaway on SEO in healthcare, according to the survey? Customer experience “encompasses every touch point of the patient journey, from awareness to booking to follow-up communication—all of which patients prefer to do digitally. Outside of quality care, customer service is the #1 factor contributing to a 5-star review as well as ongoing patient loyalty.”

SEO is a major part of this equation. It’s what allows your patients to find you and to quickly and easily access the information they’re looking for.

The report concludes, “For most patients, search engines are the gateway or starting point of their healthcare journeys, leading them to an average of 2.6 different web destinations found in search results.”

Will your web practice be one of the ones they find? That comes down largely to SEO.

Healthcare SEO Tips and Tricks

SEO takes time and practice to get right. However, it’s well worth the effort. Effective use of SEO will not only benefit your practice over time, but those benefits will amplify.

Healthcare SEO tips and tricks: a written note showing the question "Did you know?"

There are some things you can do to kickstart your SEO in order to make the most of it. These include the following:

  • Use the right keywords. Just because you think you know the right keywords doesn’t mean they’ll perform the way you want them to. Tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Search Console can take the ambiguity out of the equation.
  • Use keywords properly. Dumping a bunch of keywords into your content can have a detrimental impact — both on SEO and visitors to your website. Use them naturally, or don’t use them at all.
  • Measure your results. How do you know if your SEO strategies are working if you don’t track and measure them? Tools like Google Analytics can help you assess where your efforts are working and where they’re falling short in order to correct course, if necessary.
  • Lead with value. SEO is driven by value. Want a way to promote your SEO while simultaneously building your relationship and credibility with your target audience? Create content that accurately represents your brand. It should be original, useful, shareable, interactive, and visual.
  • Include images and videos. Images and videos make your website more appealing to look at. However, they’re also a boon for SEO. While the inside details of Google’s algorithm remain a mystery, evidence resoundingly tells us that search engines prioritize search results which include videos.

Marketing for the Healthcare Industry

Certainly, the evidence above underscores the pivotal importance of SEO in marketing your healthcare practice. However, SEO is one of just many digital marketing strategies that can propel your healthcare practice forward. Other strategies include:

  • Consistent branding
  • Optimizing your website for the patient experience
  • Using pay-per-click and display ads
  • Leveraging the power of review sites (and asking for reviews)
  • Email marketing
  • Following up on online feedback

This isn’t to say traditional strategies are no longer valuable. In fact, external media opportunities like radio, television, billboards, and newspapers can lead to tangible results. However, they’re also costly. Evaluating ROI (return on investment) can help you know where your budget will reap the biggest return.

An integrated marketing strategy consisting of a mix of digital marketing methods and traditional marketing approaches.

Healthcare SEO Services for Medical Practices

Today’s healthcare businesses face many challenges. From navigating the post-COVID landscape to understanding changing consumer expectations, it can be hard to keep up — especially when your focus needs to be on offering the best quality of care to your patients.

Medical practices and other healthcare industry businesses also face unique challenges related to SEO, including failure to understand physician SEO priorities, lack of a solid SEO strategy, juggling multiple audiences, lack of unique content, and the ever-changing market conditions.

Unfortunately, managing these challenges can direct attention away from more immediate mission-critical priorities. That’s where healthcare SEO services for medical practices come in. By outsourcing your digital marketing initiatives to a digital marketing agency, you position your pediatric practice, plastic surgery practice, optometry practice, dental practice, chiropractic practice, or other medical practice to maximize the many benefits of healthcare SEO.

From SEO to reputation management, the partnership of a digital marketing agency with experience in healthcare-specific SEO may be the key to attracting new patients while continuing to focus on the thing that matters most: maintaining and delivering high-quality care.