Getting a medical website to the top of the Google search results is one of the most challenging tasks in marketing. Medical, dental, and health sites have a heavy burden of truth and accuracy in information. They’re subject to extra scrutiny with the E-A-T and YMYL algorithms, and they have extreme competition from authoritative or highly-optimized sites like:
If even half of these rank for the keywords and queries your medical site hopes to target, you will struggle to reach the top five results and potentially even the first page.
Let’s get started!
Good SEO starts with a good website. Quite a bit of modern SEO depends on building a solid foundation in a well-designed website that meets all of the baseline standards necessary for a good site. What does that entail? You need a design that looks and feels modern (and yes, that look and feel changes over time, which means you may need a redesign), a good site structure and intuitive navigation, and more.
A fast-loading website is a key search ranking factor for the modern web. Page loading speeds are critical for two reasons. The first is that internet access isn’t always fast and easy; many people search on crowded public networks, over slow phone service, or even using rural DSL and other slow connections. Second, the average attention span is minuscule; if your site takes more than a second or two to load, many people are likely to abandon the result, try something else, or abandon the search altogether.
You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to benchmark your site, and it can identify what may be slowing it down so you (or your web developer) can fix it.
The Core Web Vitals are somewhat related to page speed but distinct in their effects. They have to do with things like “how much the page shuffles around when large media loads” and “how long it takes before the site will respond to clicks or interactions.” They’re a nuanced view of how quickly a site loads into a usable state and are an increasingly important factor for SEO. You can learn more about them here, including how to test them and fix the issues that appear.
That means it’s no longer optional to have a mobile website; it’s essential. Modern web design should be responsive, so it can load dynamically in size and scale that works for any of the thousands of different-sized mobile devices that could be viewing it.
This one is simple: make your website secure. Even if you don’t ask for personal information, using SSL encryption for your traffic is a good practice. It’s easy to get an SSL certificate – most web hosts offer them as part of hosting packages or have a guide on implementing one from a third party – so it’s quick to set up. The only tricky part is that if your site has been around for a while, you may need to implement a redirect rule to ensure that anyone trying to load an HTTP version of your site will be redirected to the HTTPS version.
Trust pages are pages your site needs so that people will trust you more than some random website with no information backing it up. Generally, these pages include things like:
These pages don’t exist for sites that only peddle snake oil or are trying to offer “alternative medicine” that doesn’t have the backing of medical science. By including trust pages, you’re providing verification of who you are and information potential patients can use to authenticate you.
Site design, structure, and mechanical SEO are important, but it’s not enough to get you ranking on the first page of Google. Think of it like this: ranking on Google’s front page is the Tour de France. Site structure, trust pages, and design are like buying a bike, a helmet, and a water bottle; it’s the bare minimum you need to get started, but it’s not a comprehensive list of what you need to compete and win. Content is.
Text content throughout your site needs to be written in fluent English (and potentially in a second language if you serve a bilingual community) and cited with medical studies and other resources that back up your claims. Each page should be focused on a specific topic. For example, you won’t make a page dedicated to kidneys and all the possible kidney issues; you’ll create individual pages for kidney stones, kidney disease, kidney cancer, and so on.
Of course, this only applies if you’re a nephrologist or urologist; if you’re a dentist, having pages on your site about kidneys is going to be, at best, suspicious.
Recently, we wrote a post about the differences and similarities between blog posts and web pages. Our general conclusion is that they aren’t that different but serve different purposes. For a medical practice, that is doubly true.
Generally, you want a blog that updates regularly (about once a week at the minimum), and you want static service pages and resource pages that cover all of the bases for your area of expertise.
Writing a blog is a lot of work, so most people end up paying someone to do it. However, in a medical niche, you’re subject to more scrutiny regarding authority and trust. You can pay someone to manage your blog, but you need to ensure the content published in your name is accurate to the best of your knowledge.
A huge part of SEO is keyword usage. Keywords are the words and phrases users use to find content relating to their issues. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be tricky for a medical professional to identify the right keywords. For example, a patient is more likely to be searching for “pain in the left side of chest when breathing in” than they are “left-side pleurisy.” You may know the medical terms; they likely do not. So, you need to write content to inform them of the symptoms, what they may mean, and what steps to take next.
There’s more to a website than just what you see. Metadata includes things like your Meta Title (what appears as the large title of a page in Google search), your Meta Description (which is the description below the title), image captions and alt text, and more. These are additional opportunities on each page to use keywords, sculpt how your site will look on Google, and convey authority.
Images are essential, and where possible, every piece of content should have several. You don’t necessarily need graphical medical images; those can make it harder for your page to rank. Still, illustrations and diagrams can be good and provide extra value and context for your readers.
Videos are excellent, but not everyone has the resources to create them. If you do, great! It not only opens up more value on your pages but also lets you engage with users on sites like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.
On a national stage, the chances of you out-ranking a site like Mayo Clinic or WebMD are slim to none. You can do it in rare instances, but it’s easy for them to notice and publish new content to out-rank you right back.
Instead, your broad avenue to success is going to be local SEO. Instead of “allergy specialist” as a keyword, you would target “allergy specialist in Boston.” This emphasis on local and regional keywords does two things.
First, it helps Google know where you are and allows them to serve your content above more general or specialized content from practices farther away. A user in Boston probably won’t care about a distant practice in Los Angeles; they aren’t likely to visit any time soon.
Second, it can help encourage local patients to book appointments because they know you’re in the area. Since the end goal of your website is to get more patients, this is critical.
One of the more technical tips on this list is Schema.
Schema.org is a collaborative initiative from Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other organizations to create a standardized form of metadata. You can implement this metadata on specific pages to tell the search engines more about what those pages are about and what detailed information is noteworthy.
Medical sites can take advantage of medical Schema. Schema helps Google provide enhanced search results, such as:
You can see examples of these and some information on how to implement them on this page.
Your website doesn’t stand alone. Backlinks and non-linked mentions are both powerful ways to make your site rank better.
As a medical professional, in particular, you will want to fill out a Google Business Profile, profiles on local and general directories like Yelp, and healthcare-specific directories like HealthGrades, ZocDoc, WebMD’s Doctor Directory, and others.
Additionally, you want your practice to have social media profiles. Generally, Facebook and LinkedIn will be two of the most important. As desired, you may also consider Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Reddit, and others. The key is only using those you can keep active and use to engage with patients. An abandoned profile is almost worse than no profile at all.
Finally, you can consider paid advertising. Paid advertising is a way to get your search results right up at the top, with the caveat that they’re expensive to maintain and stop working if you stop paying for them.
Consider them a supplementary strategy, not a primary means of ranking.
If you want your medical site to rank on Google, you need to use the right keywords. You also need to create relevant, trustworthy, and accurate content and ensure your site is easy to navigate. Finally, don’t forget to promote your site through social media and other online channels. You can get your medical site to the top of Google with a little effort.
Do you need help growing your medical site? Do you have any questions for me? Please give me a call today! I speak with dozens of clinics and physicians and have helped them significantly grow their online presence. If your site is stagnating or you’re having trouble earning any real search traffic, I’m sure I can point you in the right direction.