- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On December 12, 2013
It used to be that to be found all you had to do was call your friendly Yellow Pages rep. You told them what ad you needed, handed over your credit card and Voila! you could be found by prospective patients for the next year.
Today, people are still letting their “fingers do the walking” but it’s on the keyboard of a computer or smartphone. One of the key ways to be found today is through search engines.
The ability to connect with new patients who may need your services, demands that your site be positioned where they’re looking – that means high on the search engines. The only way your website will be successful in helping to grow your practice, is if you can be found. Otherwise time spent building your website will be wasted.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your content so that your website shows up near the top of the rankings on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Keywords and Keyword Phrases
One of the critical components for successful SEO is choosing words that your potential patients will type into Google (or Bing or Yahoo). Search engines are trying to help their users find the things they need.
The first concept search engines use is relevance. When you type something into Google it is trying to find you the most relevant pages for your search on the entire Internet. To do this it looks at the words you typed in and looks for pages on the Internet that contain these words.
To be found you need to have these words (or something very similar) on your website (or blog).
To come up with the best words to have on your website you need to think about the words your patients might type in. These words are not necessarily what you would type in. Your patients may not know medical terms or industry jargon. What they enter could range anywhere from symptoms (such as lower back pain) to practice type and location (such as a cardiologist in Newark).
There are many different ways to come up with these search terms (called keywords), for example you can brainstorm, you can interview your current patients and you can speak to your peers. (We’ll talk more about how to come up with keywords in future blog posts.)
Maybe you used a search engine before Google existed. If you did, you may recall how frustrating it was. Many of the search results just did not seem relevant at all.
Probably the key breakthrough that Google made was the concept of links.
While at Stanford Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founders, used a known concept that certain pieces of academic work were referenced frequently by other academic works. They understood that these “popular” academic pieces were usually the “authority” on a subject. Their breakthrough was to apply this concept to searching the Internet.
Today, once Google has found all the web pages that contain relevant keywords it needs to show you those pages in some order. That’s where authority comes in. The websites that have the most relevant keywords and the highest authority are the ones that come up first in the search results.
On the Internet, authority is inbound links to your web page. Inbound links are like arrows pointing to your page saying this page is important. So the second critical part of SEO is getting links to your website.
It also turns out that not all links are created equal. If you have “authoritative” sites pointing to your website (like the Wall Street Journal for example) that is better than if I point to you from my personal blog about famous English cricket players.
There’s volumes to say about SEO. I’ve greatly simplified things above but the key point is SEO is very important for medical practices (at least until the world changes again.)