It can be lonely out on the web when you're first starting to develop an Internet presence for your medical practice.
If traffic numbers are getting you down, this may indicate you need to work harder at optimizing your health website or medical blog.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines optimization as the "act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible."
Imagine that optimization is all the tinkering and wizardry that happens "behind the curtain" of a website or blog. While your readers—who may be patients (past, current, or future)—may only see a friendly blog post about your healthcare services, there is so much more going on behind the scenes of medical blogs, and for good reason.
Optimization also refers to the measures you take in order for your web presence to be discovered, not only by readers, but by search engines. Let's take a look at the various ways in which healthcare blogs and medical websites can (and should) be optimized.
You should structure (and maintain, assess, and update) your medical website so that it naturally positions well in search engines. These hidden bells and whistles are a goldmine of opportunity for bloggers looking to "be found."
A well-optimized healthcare blog, from this perspective:
Encourages reader engagement
Makes effective use of media
Uses key foundational constructs like landing pages and calls to action
Is built with conversions in mind
Search Engine Optimization
SEO (also referred to as SEM, or search engine marketing) is popularly understood by successful medical practices as the workhorse of their inbound medical marketing strategy. All the best content in the world is worthless if prospective readers (which could become future patients) cannot find it.
Having a line in at Google, Bing, and other search engines is critical for this very reason.
The best inbound marketing strategies for SEO of a medical practice website or healthcare blog include:
The use of both organic and paid search engine marketing strategies (and in proper balance)
Practical investment in paid keywords based on statistics rather than "wishful thinking"
Acknowledgment of rules and limitations set forth by search engines in order to avoid inappropriate marketing activities (such as "link farming") that can get sites blacklisted
Conversion tracking and regular assessment to determine which strategies are working the hardest and most efficiently (also known as conversion rate optimization
Search-engine friendly code
A decent budget, because you really do need "to spend money to make money"
The most obvious way in which content is optimized, as we've already discussed, is via the intelligent use of keywords as part of your medical blogging strategy.
Not only can you plant keywords in the text, but you can do so for all the different versions of media you use, such as videos, images, sound files, and live feeds that can aggregate any or all of these.
This recent (July 26, 2016) HubSpot article, "Blog SEO: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content," provides an excellent overview for medical marketing managers who may need to brush up on on their search engine optimization skills.
What is white hat SEO?
Much of what a good SEM plan embraces is something called white hat SEO. According to Webopedia, white hat SEO involves "the usage of optimization strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine rules and policies."
Much in the same way the "white hat" in the old-time Western film came to represent the "good guys," the business that uses white hat SEO is generally looked upon as ethical and invested in the long term.
For the medical inbound marketing campaign, the white hat SEO approach is probably your best approach because of its respectability factor.
These leaders in healthcare marketing best practices still optimize their sites and blogs for search engine crawling, but:
they always take the higher ground, focusing on keywords they believe are most relevant to their readers. These keywords may be based on observations made in the clinical environment or inspired by feedback from past and current patients
they also place more value on organic ranking (rather than artificial "keyword stuffing" or paid-per-click search advantages)
they only write content for human readers and not web crawlers (yes, you can definitely tell the difference!), and practice good linking policies inside this content, in order to build trust
What about duplicate content?
Duplicate content occurs when your website has static pages and a blog, and the keywords you assign to both are the same (for example, yours is a physical therapy practice and you have an arthritis blog as well as a basic "arthritis 101" page).
When search engines visit these URLs, they see enough similarities to qualify them as "duplicate content." Search engines try to weed this out, so they will choose only one or the other to rank.
The problem with this is that you may be putting your hopes and dreams into the blog post, only to discover that your static page is getting all the attention (or vice versa). A couple of solutions:
Add code in the page template to launch a 301 redirect, which connects search engines to your chosen page in a permanent redirect (at least 90 percent of the time).
Add code in the page template that defines a "canonical link," a way to automate a 301 redirect.
By now you have likely discovered the value of carefully chosen keywords. Here are some ways to make them do the heavy lifting for your website or blog.
Take major keywords and discover their synonyms. Not only will you discover more related keywords (maybe even better ones than you had before!), but your writing will be more interesting to the reader.
Research your keywords to make sure they have good statistics regarding monthly hits, difficulty for ranking, and current pay-per-click values.
Choose long-tail keywords.
Be careful about keyword density (the percentage of times any single keyword or phrase appears in a web page). Sometimes you can't help but have some words that repeat more than 5 times, but if you can replace them by restructuring sentences slightly (and using pronouns) or by using synonyms, you'll likely fare better.
Sometimes a medical practice's website has been around for sufficiently long enough that it may have been designed without keeping in mind the specific demands of mobile users through phone and tablet interfaces.
Mobile optimization means that the static website and its blog have been reviewed to ensure they are easy to read and navigate for the person using a handheld device.
the readability of the fonts (by font family, color, size, and format)
the accessibility of buttons (small buttons are much harder to click on touch screens)
the site menu is easy to find, to read, and to click on
the company logo and site title are large enough to recognize as its brand
the use of social media tools to more actively engage patients in ways that may more closely link them to action with your medical practice (such as via livestreaming video or an optimized event app in Facebook)
the usefulness of adopting a click-to-call strategy that can lead to conversions by way of direct calls
It's doubtful you will continue to have slow traffic and conversion rates if you take these optimization suggestions and strategies for a spin at your medical website or healthcare blog. Your popularity in search engines and among your peers and readers is bound to improve; it may take some time, but patience and the vision to keep it moving forward is key if you want optimization to serve successfully as part of your inbound marketing strategy.
In fact, doing even just a couple of new things at a time can lead to increases and improvements in engagement, which is why you started an inbound medical marketing practice to begin with, right?Sources:
Content Marketing Institute
Search Engine Watch
Web Mobile Image
Want to learn more about inbound marketing to attract new patients? Check out our free e-book below for more in-depth coverage of these medical content marketing efforts and much more.