Viewpoint is a column created by AAOE® specifically for ophthalmologists and leaders in practice management.
The data is clear: Most patients searching for a health care provider start their journey with extensive research on Google or another search engine. In this article, I will refer mostly to Google as it typically enjoys more than a 90% market share worldwide.
If your prospective patients are looking for your services online, it is paramount that they find your differentiated practice website easily. That means you need to appear near the top of the first page (ideally in first four search engine results, which account for 70% of clicks) for all services that are relevant to your practice.
Climbing Google rankings is a competitive process and a long-term strategy that you should commit time and resources to pursuing. Below you’ll find six tried-and-true tips that you can start using to improve your position and bring more patients who are a good fit for area of expertise to your practice. Although Google’s algorithm is impossible to understand fully, here are some best search engine optimization (SEO) practices to make sure your website is found and more enjoyable for patients to use.1. Use relevant keywords.
Using Google’s keyword tools, you can do some light research into the terms and questions that prospective patients are using when searching for ophthalmologists and the services you provide. Compare your research against terms you’re already using on your website. If there’s a discrepancy, consider tailoring the language for a prospective patient. This could mean swapping out technical medical terminology for simpler words or defining them (using “lazy eye” for amblyopia, for example), if necessary.2. Organize your content.
Consider the architecture of your website content. Is your content grouped into straightforward topics and links? Is it easy to understand and navigate from one article to another? Are you indicating to Google that there’s a relationship between content, thus building on your perceived authority about that topic? When Google crawls your website and sees links between relevant content, it will start to see your site as an authority on the matter. Instead of viewing your practice as a publisher, look at content as different pages in a resource library and build clear architecture around the most relevant topics for your patients.3. Improve your links.
Choose shorter, clearer, more descriptive links for your website pages. Google’s goal is to serve up the most helpful and relevant content for any given query. If your website page has a long string of random letters, numbers, etc. in its address, Google may see that page as less relevant versus a page with a clean, simple, clear link. At all times, opt for clarity and simplicity. Always think of the patient, even when building your website.4. Add meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions about what the web page contains help search engines quickly understand the different elements on your website pages. For example, give each image on your site a title in the metadata that search engines can quickly crawl and understand that image’s relevance to the surrounding content. It’s an easy technical way to optimize your site and will be rewarded in search ranking accordingly. 5. Remove Broken Assets
Comb through your website and remove broken links, images that won’t load, and anything else that is going to damage the user experience. Google is less likely to refer a searcher to a website page that doesn’t work correctly. Making these changes can be labor intensive, but they will result in a better experience for patients visiting your website and help your SEO.6. Stay ADA Compliant
Finally, comply with the American with Disabilities Act for websites. Without getting into the exact regulatory specifics, staying ADA compliant is all about making your website accessible to those with disabilities. From closed captioning for the hearing impaired to audio descriptions for the vision impaired, there are affordable tools available that can bring your website up to the standard and make it easy to use for those with disabilities.
Putting these six tips into action will set you up for success and put your website on track to be found more easily by more prospective patients. The first step to generating more new patients online is getting found.
About the Author
Jim Flynn is the executive vice president and chief brand strategist at ONEFIRE, a health care marketing agency specializing in maximizing revenue generation potential for ophthalmology practices, specialty and subspecialty clinics, hospitals and medical device manufacturers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.