Search Engine Optimization for Healthcare Websites in 2017

January 3, 2017

Search engines are constantly changing, and, based on what we started to see towards the tail end of 2016, we have a bead on healthcare websites and what 2017 is going to look like for search engine optimization in 2017. More of what we will see involves user experience, and search engines implementing extra tools directly into the search engine result pages to book appointments and review doctors.

Knowledge Graph reviews and appointment booking will be critical.

The Knowledge Box has been around for several years now, and Google is showing that it is not going away any time soon. In fact, they are doubling down on what they are putting into the knowledge box. Google’s capabilities seem to be improving in what they are able to scrape off of other sites, and they are incorporating powerful tools into the Knowledge Graph.

We are seeing more and more healthcare-specific social profiles showing up in the Knowledge Graph, like Healthgrades and Vitals. While some people may check out Yelp, for now, it is more important to focus on increasing your number of quality reviews on the platforms that Google is showing in the Knowledge Graph.

One of the recent developments for the Knowledge Graph is the inclusion of ZocDoc. While it may seem less important, it is actually a massive change to search engine optimization for healthcare. If you are a healthcare practitioner on ZocDoc, patients might be able to initiate booking an appointment straight from the search engine result page. This means your website may receive less traffic from queries directly related to your name because that is when the Knowledge Graph appears most of the time.

The appointment booking experience on mobile must be perfect.

Our clients are seeing anywhere from 20-80% of their organic traffic visiting their website from a mobile device, including tablets. Due to the sheer amount of people using mobile devices now, a responsive website that functions well on the most popular browsers is more important than ever. Not having a site that provides a solid user experience on mobile devices could mean you are losing patients. We live in a fast-paced world where people expect an easy experience, and you want to make sure your appointment booking experience on mobile devices is top-notch.

Search engines will still prefer easily-crawlable websites.

Search engines are constantly improving the technology they use to understand the web, but just because they want to crawl and understand everything does not mean that they can. There are still healthcare practitioners relying on website builders that are not optimized for search engine optimization.

Pages that are using website builders may be hindering their own progress because the site is heavily-reliant upon JavaScript to load page content. Can the search engines see the important content on the page? It might, but why not make it easier on the search engine bots? We see higher crawl and indexation rates on websites that are built on powerful platforms like WordPress.

Your patients will read reviews about you before booking an appointment.

We live in the most informed world that has ever existed, and this has armed consumers, patients in the medical world, with all the information they need to understand the doctor or practice they are visiting. There are multiple review platforms that doctors exist on, and patients are using all of them, even if it is some more than others.

The importance of using monitoring these review platforms is crucial because angry patients are more likely to review your practice than happy patients. It is important to encourage happy patients to leave reviews on review platforms because other happy patients might see it and also leave their review. The flipside of this also occurs – if you have an angry patient leave a review, other angry patients are more likely to leave a review. Keep an eye out to make sure your online presence is on the positive side.

Secure sites will rank better, and HIPAA may force you to change content on your site.

HTTPs is the start of a more secure web, and it will be even more important for healthcare websites. Search engines have stated that secure websites are going to rank higher, so you should take as many advantages as you can get. Not only should you do it for the search engines, you should do it for your patients as well. When booking appointments, patients are submitting patient health information online, and it is your responsibility to make sure their information is safe and secure.

In addition to HTTPs, we have to be prepared to change a website’s content entirely. HIPAA laws can change, and, because we are about to have significant changes in the government in the United States, we are likely to see more changes that will affect how you can represent yourself on the web and how you interact with patients. Every healthcare website will have to maintain HIPAA-compliance if they are receiving patient health information.

Social proof will help you get more patients.

Social proof, like awards and certification logos, on your website is more important than you think. It has a tertiary effect on your rankings. People want to see the best doctors, so, when they visit your website, which should have social proof, they are more likely to stay on the website. The social proof helped you prevent a bounce back to the search engine.

People are also more likely to book appointments with doctors they believe are the best in their field. While doctors may have the inside scoop on which awards and organizations mean more, patients appreciate seeing essentially anything that proves their doctor is a safe, secure, and sure bet.

Keep growing your practice website.

Your patients want holistic and integrated approaches to their treatments, and you should treat your website the same way. Your digital presence should allow patients to interact with you and the practice seamlessly because, in the end, this is about helping people get healthy again.

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