Healthcare is one of those subjects online that fights against itself: providers have to be careful what they say, which often requires vague information while consumers research healthcare more than any other subject online. This presents a great challenge for those marketing healthcare services online, like hospitals, clinics and physicians.

The safe approach for healthcare providers is to simply talk about services, procedures and bios generally, while encouraging visitors to call or schedule an appointment for more information.

But this safe approach will rarely put healthcare providers on the first page of search results when potential patients are googling, “what doctor can fix my foot?” Search results are important: according to Google Think:

Patients primarily search on symptoms and condition terms towards the moment of conversion. Of those who research online, three times more end up on hospital sites as a result of search. And they’re not just visiting sites; they’re also planning visits. Of patients who found hospitals on their mobile devices, 44% scheduled an appointment.

How can healthcare providers optimize for search engine placement without giving advice, false hope and potentially violating HIPAA laws?

  1. Content Marketing. This is all about constantly producing new content that gets the provider found in online searches. Content marketing includes blog posts, social media updates, videos, ebooks, webinars and more. The more published content a provider puts out there, the more likely they will get found online using the same search engines and social media channels that the target audience uses to learn about the healthcare services and providers. Content, when crafted correctly, will improve search engine rankings and drive new traffic to the website, as well as nurture and nudge leads throughout the sales funnel, hopefully encouraging them to visit your practice or hospital for their healthcare needs. Great content captures people’s attention, holds their interest, and successfully prompts them to take a desired action, such as clicking on a “Next” or “Learn More” or “Make An Appointment” buttons.
  2. Responsive Web Design. Patients are using their mobile devices to research healthcare options and schedule appointments. Google announced in April that it would be expanding its use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change affected mobile searches and has had a significant impact in Google search results. Websites that are not optimized for mobile viewing will rank lower in Google search results when searched from a mobile device.
  3. ADA Compliance. Though it is not in effect yet, Google has indicated that compliance with the American with Disabilities Act website standards will become an influence in search engine results for all users. Healthcare providers that are working on or planning a new website would do well to integrate ADA compliance standards into the new website in an effort to be prepared for the next Google algorithm update.

Healthcare providers can no longer assume that their reputation precedes them. In this age of online research prior to decision making: showing up first in online searches is an important business objective.