Healthcare is a highly competitive niche, which means that targeting the best keywords is essential for grabbing a top spot in search engine results. How are you supposed to know which keywords you should focus on, though?
The first step is learning a bit about the different types of keywords and searcher intent. Once you’ve mastered the basics of keywords for healthcare businesses, you can start selecting the most valuable keywords for your purposes.
From outlining your goals and working to understand your audience to narrowing down your shortlist and creating content, your keyword strategy can greatly impact your ability to drive more traffic to your site.
Before we talk about how to target the best keywords, let’s talk a little bit about the difference between broad and long-tail keywords.
Also known as short-tail keywords or generic keywords, broad keywords often have the highest search traffic but also the greatest keyword difficulty.
Made up of two words or less, examples of broad keywords in the healthcare industry include:
For many of these broad search terms, Google understands that the searcher is looking for local services and therefore generates location-based search results. This is good news for your healthcare practice, as it means that you’re only competing with other local healthcare practices rather than the entire country.
For example, if you google “PTSD,” the results will come up with articles on high authority sites like the Mayo Clinic, the National Institute of Mental Health, and WebMD. If you search “PTSD therapy,” the results will be a mix of informational articles on high authority sites and the Local Map Pack results of local therapists that offer PTSD therapy.
The search results for “cardiologist,” on the other hand, bring up the Local Map Pack right away with the three top local results for cardiologists in the searcher’s area, followed by a mix of local and general information.
When choosing broad keywords to use on your site, you’ll want to think about which terms will provide local results and which will generate informational content on major websites that will be nearly impossible to compete with.
Long-tail keywords are more specific phrases and generally three words or longer. These might include broad keywords while incorporating a local search term or a search for a more specific topic.
Some examples of healthcare long-tail keywords include:
Long-tail keywords can help your website gain more traffic by securing top spots for more specific terms that larger healthcare practices in your area might not be focusing on. For example, you might struggle to rank for “occupational therapy near me” in a big city because larger hospitals have the keyword locked down, and you might find that “occupational therapy for sciatica” is a term with less competition and difficulty.
Finding the best long-tail keywords to use for your practice or business can allow you to bring more potential clients to your site and give them valuable information that ultimately helps them decide to make an appointment.
The types of keywords can be broken down in a number of different ways, but one popular categorization method is by intent.
In order to classify user intent, there are four primary types of keywords, which are:
All of these possible intents could be relevant to your keyword strategy, depending on your goals.
For example, let’s say you want to spread the word about the drug rehab center you operate.
You might choose to create content for informational searchers to help them learn about different types of treatments available for themselves or their loved ones. At the same time, you can have pages with keywords optimized for people looking more specifically for rehab services and navigational keywords for people searching for your specific business.
Finally, you can also have transactional keywords that allow people who are looking to request more information from a rehab center or set up an initial appointment to find your site.
Choosing the right keywords for your healthcare website is important for both SEO and PPC campaigns. For SEO, learning the terms and phrases people are searching for can help you get to know your target demographic and create content that they find valuable. On top of that, it can bring more potential patients to your site.
As a part of PPC campaigns, you’ll want to know which keywords and phrases you want to target using paid advertisements.
When going through the following steps, always add to your list of potential keywords and content ideas. As you get closer to executing your keyword strategy, you’ll pare down this list to the keywords that suit your goals and audience.
The first step in targeting the best keywords for your practice or business is to determine your current goals.
For example, maybe you have a well-established office in your city and want to spread the word about a new location you’re launching. Or maybe you’re a therapist who wants to bring attention to some of your specialty areas to attract new clients. On the other hand, perhaps your existing practice is going strong, but you know a new competitor is opening up an office in town, and you want to make sure you maintain your high rankings in search engine results pages.
Understanding your goals and intentions before engaging in keyword research can help you focus your efforts in the most beneficial way to your practice.
Now that you have a firm grasp of what outcome you’re looking to produce from your keyword research and strategy, it’s time to take a look at your target audience. If you’re a general practitioner, this might be quite a wide net, while it might be more demographically specific if you specialize in a specific area of healthcare. You can build a patient persona to help you understand who your audience is, what questions they have, what services they’re looking for, and how they search online.
In order to choose the most effective keywords for your audience, you’ll want to understand the language they use when talking about healthcare services or entering search queries.
For instance, let’s say you’re a plastic surgeon looking to attract more clients in your local area. You might assume that you should use keywords like “rhinoplasty,” but after exploring your audience’s online behavior, you realize that they are much more likely to search for the term “nose job.”
There are a lot of different tools you can use to better understand the keywords that your audience is actually using, including:
Diving into the online spaces where your potential clients actually spend time and communicate with others can completely open your eyes to how they are talking about healthcare issues. This can allow you to better tune your keyword strategy to their needs and answer the questions they’re really asking.
Keyword research tools are an invaluable resource when it comes to creating your final list of keywords to target.
There are countless tools out there that range from free to pretty pricey, but here are some of the most popular choices:
Now that you’ve got your goals identified, your patient persona outlined, and your keyword research tool picked out, it’s time to take a look at your competition.
Of course, the first step here is to figure out who your competition is. You probably already have a good idea about who else is offering similar healthcare services in your area, but it’s still a good idea to write down a list of the businesses that are most likely to be serving patients that could be making appointments with your office instead.
Once you have your list of competitors, take a look at each of their websites. Then, using the keyword research tools you chose, determine which pages are receiving the most traffic from organic searches and the keywords they’re ranking for.
As you go through their sites, add to the keyword list you made using your keyword research tools and examine online spaces where your audience discusses healthcare topics.
At this point, you have a healthy list of potential keywords and possible content topics. Before you add these keywords to your site pages and blog, you’ll want to narrow down the list to the terms and phrases that are worth pursuing.
There are a number of metrics you’ll want to consider when examining keywords, including:
The sweet spot when it comes to keyword selection is high volume and low keyword difficulty. Generally, more specific terms will have lower keyword difficulties than more broad terms.
You’ll want to revisit the list of goals and what you learned about your audience at this stage in the process. This can help you develop a perfectly tailored list for your healthcare practice and your prospective patients.
What do you do with your keyword list once you’ve pared it down?
The next step is to build a content strategy centered around the keywords and blog topics you came up with. You don’t want to cram all the keywords you identified onto a single web page; instead, you will want to select a few keywords or phrases for each page.
It’s generally recommended that you should use broad and long tail keywords somewhere between one and three times each, depending on how long your content is.
Back in the day, when the internet was more of a wild west, people used to engage in “keyword stuffing,” where they would load up a page with keywords to try and manipulate site rankings. This is considered a negative ranking factor these days, so you’ll want to avoid over-optimizing.
Instead, it’s best to incorporate your keywords into articles in a natural, non-forced way. Search engine algorithms are constantly getting smarter, and it’s better to slightly alter your keyword phrase so it flows naturally in a sentence rather than writing content that reads awkwardly.
To make sure you aren’t over-optimizing your website, check our guide on the best places to put keywords.
If you’re running a healthcare business, there’s a good chance you have your plate full of responsibilities and essential tasks. If you’re worried that diving head first into the world of keyword research is going to distract you from your primary purposes, you might consider hiring an SEO agency to identify the most valuable and effective keywords to target for your business goals.
At Blue Pig Media, we offer a full suite of digital marketing services, including SEO, PPC, social media marketing, content strategy, and web design and development. If you’re ready to drive more traffic to your site and help your healthcare practice thrive and grow, contact us today to get started.