As a medical practitioner doing your best to grow your presence online, it can be frustrating to see that your SEO efforts aren’t working as anticipated.
SEO is dependent on a number of factors, and it’s difficult to know what the issue is without knowing the essential details of your individual strategy. However, medical and healthcare-related SEO strategies are prone to some common pitfalls, which we can help you understand and try to combat.
In this article, we discuss common SEO issues that affect medical practices and their websites in particular. If your SEO isn’t having the expected effects, it may help you gain some clarity into the subject matter and figure out what needs to be worked on for best SEO results. Read on to find out why your medical website’s SEO may not be working, and what you can do to help it improve.
SEO takes time to work
most common reason that practices think their SEO isn’t working is that its effects just can’t be seen yet. It’s important to understand that SEO isn’t a quick-fix process: making a few changes won’t make your site shoot to the top of the search engine results page overnight.
It’s very possible that your SEO is working: it just may not have produced visible results just yet. This is especially true if you’re just starting out, or if your SEO strategy has recently undergone a major change.
If you don’t feel confident in your current progress, you can talk to your SEO manager to find out when you can expect results. Although the exact timelines for any SEO aren’t set in stone, they may be able to give you a ballpark figure on when you can truly see your SEO working.
How long before I see my SEO results?
The amount of time it should take to see your SEO results is highly dependent on the exact strategies used to increase your rank. While some strategies may see results within a matter of days, other strategies may take months to reach their full effect.
When you start a new SEO strategy, your SEO manager will often begin with tactics that will help you see results as soon as possible. This is encouraging when you first start out, and can give you the boost you need to need to kickstart your long-term outcomes.
These strategies may include:
- Social media posts – Depending on your sphere of influence, your social posts may direct notable levels of traffic to your site within a few hours or days.
- Site security updates – if your website was previously difficult to access due to SSL issues, this may make an immediate difference.
- Publishing content – With a bit of luck, this may gain notable traction within a few days or weeks.
However, these quick-fixes aren’t enough to bring about lasting website growth on their own; They provide a boost to your website traffic, which should be supplemented by a long-term strategy. These approaches don’t produce results as quickly, but they tend to be longer-lasting and increase your site’s credibility in a more organic manner.
These strategies may include:
- Internal content strategies – A regular posting schedule can help your rank maintain long-term growth. Once it’s established, it can continue providing value and website traffic for years.
- Linking strategies – These work by directing traffic from other sites to yours, and by sending website users between your pages. They build lasting website authority over time, but can take a while to get up and running.
- Optimising existing content – This involves making changes to your current information to provide more value to users. It may not be noticed by Google straight away.
- Increasing your website speed – This can be a lengthy process with many steps, but it appeases one of Google’s most valued ranking metrics and can have very valuable SEO results.
Generally speaking, it can take 4-6 months to start really seeing improved rankings and new leads from your SEO strategy. In some cases – such as if your field is very competitive or very niche – you may not see results until even more time has passed.
If a significant amount of time has passed and still your SEO working, it may be time to your strategy. As a medical practitioner, your SEO strategy may be affected by certain issues in particular – keep reading to find out more about these.
Outdated practices may not work
Google makes constant updates to the algorithms with the goal of creating the best user experience possible. Sometimes, these updates change the metrics that it uses to rank pages. If your SEO strategy was developed before a major update or without accounting for imminent ones, it may not be working because it isn’t up-to-date with current best practices.
Let’s take a look at a recent example: Google has announced that it will be introducing three new metrics to its search ranking factors in May 2021. These factors are:
- The amount of time it takes to load the largest piece of content on a page (the largest contentful paint, or LCP)
- The time it takes for your website to respond after a user interacts with it (the first input display, or FID)
- The amount of moving around that the page does while it loads (cumulative layout shift, or CLS)
Since these changes were only confirmed in November 2020, your SEO strategy may not account for them if it was developed earlier in the year. As such, your strategy may need to switch approach to have the expected effects. You may need to adjust your approach to account for these new ranking factors, or defer other planned projects bring your website up to speed before it takes a hit.
This is why it’s important to review your strategy regularly: sometimes the planned course of action won’t be the best one to follow when the time comes. SEO practices can quickly become outdated, and you may need to unexpected changes.
How do I make sure my practices aren’t outdated?
Unfortunately, many Google updates that can affect your SEO come with little to no warning. Most SEO professionals don’t even receive word on updates until they are officially rolled out. This can make them difficult to account for in advance.
As experienced digital marketers in the healthcare sector, we keep tabs on expected Google updates and respond as soon as we can to any unexpected ones. This is one of the reasons that we can deliver quality SEO services: we recognize when things happen and can adjust SEO strategies accordingly.
If you aren’t able to give full attention to your SEO strategy (for example, if you are running your SEO strategy in addition to seeing patients or managing a practice), you may not have time to monitor what’s happening in the SEO world. This can put you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to reacting to changes.
To have the best chance at responding effectively, you can:
- Check up on what’s going on – you can monitor SEO news and Google’s official blog to try and figure out how your SEO strategy may be affected.
- Review your strategy regularly – Compare what you know about expected updates with your current strategy, and adjust it as needed.
- Consider outsourcing – a professional with the time and knowledge to monitor for updates is likely to have more knowledge of what’s happening in the SEO world, and can adjust your SEO strategy to keep it working properly as needed.
Focussing on the wrong terms
This is an issue that is particularly common in SEO for medical websites. As a medical professional with extensive study in a field, you likely think of your conditions and services using their official terms. However, your patients may not think of the conditions they have and services they need in the same way. If this is the case, your SEO may not be working because it focusses on the wrong terms.
For example, if you specialise in treating “acromioclavicular joint arthritis”, you will likely write about and try to rank for that term. This will help your content appear in the search results for that term. However, if your patients are more likely to know it as “shoulder arthritis”, they may not search for the term you focussed on. Therefore, your SEO may not have the anticipated results.
This can be especially frustrating to account for – you may feel the need to use the ‘correct’ term for the condition to establish your medical expertise in the subject, even if it’s not what the average patient may call it. However, it may be necessary to sacrifice your ideal terminology to make your SEO strategy as effective as possible.
How do I know which term to try and rank for?
- Listen to your patients – What do they call their condition when they come to the clinic? How do they ask for certain services? These are terms you may wish to focus on.
- Listen to your non-medical friends – Much like your patients, they likely don’t have the background medical knowledge that you do. If you notice them referring to a condition or service in a certain way, this may indicate that the term is more effective to focus on.
- Talk to your marketing team – They have the tools and knowledge to conduct research into which search terms are ideal to focus on in your SEO strategy.
Your own credibility
In particular, Google takes pages related to health-related topics very seriously, as harmful or bad information could affect the reader’s life or livelihood. To provide information in the best interests of its users, it endeavours to show information from authors with authority in the subject.
Google evaluates an author’s authority using a framework called E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
In 2018, it released an update which made author credibility especially important. This hit medical websites particularly hard – so hard that it was nicknamed the ‘medic update’. Many medical and health-related websites suffered, partially as a result of (seemingly) not having as much subject authority as other sources.
To get the most out of your medical website’s SEO, you may need to work on improving your own credibility as an author. If you produce quality content but don’t appear as a quality source in Google’s eyes, the search engine may not assign your website as much subject authority as a competitor.
How do I increase my credibility?
- Publish credible, valuable information – This provides value to your users and has the potential to be widely shared. Other professionals may also reference or link to it, which will increase your credibility.
- Publish on other sites – As well as allowing you to ‘borrow’ authority from another professional’s publishing platform, this puts you in front of a different set of eyes that might have never otherwise seen your work. It’s also a great way to get links back to your website.
- Add a bio page – This should include your credentials and any other details which clarify your subject authority. Both Google and readers may use this information to affirm your expertise.
- Be active on social media – Your social media presence gives you a public profile. Although search engines may not look at your follower amount or engagement rates, readers and users do.
Your user experience
Google’s goal as a search engine is to help people find the content they want and have the best possible experience while doing it. If it didn’t do this, people would leave Google to find a search engine which better met their needs. As a result, Google tries to recommend pages that will provide their users with the best possible experience: if your website isn’t providing users with a quick, clear answer to their question, your SEO may not be working because your user experience is poor.
This affects medical websites in particular, as they are often home to complicated setups and complex information which is difficult for the average person without medical knowledge to understand. This makes it difficult for a user to find the information they want, which decreases the positivity of their experience.
When measuring user experience, Google factors things like how long the page takes to load and how long the user spent on the page. If information can’t be retrieved and presented within a short timeframe, the user will likely get bored and leave before they are provided with any value. If Google notices that they stayed to read, the page was likely providing them with the information and value they needed.
If Google notices that another website’s users seem to be having a better experience – finding the information they need and staying to read it – it will likely recommend the other site instead. In this case, you may need to improve your site’s user experience to improve your SEO.
How do I increase my user experience?
- See how quickly you can get information – How long does it take for a user to find what they’re looking for? How fast does your site load? Is your medical information optimised for your readers? Make sure your user can find what they need as soon as they want it.
- Make sure it makes sense –Will your patients know to look under a certain heading to find information about a certain service? If not, you may need to reconsider your structure for better user experience.
- Check how well your site works – For info on how to do this, read our separate article on how to decide if it’s time for a new website.
- Optimise offsite – Having your essential information in easy-to-reach places (such as online listings or a well-made GMB listing) can help users find your content even faster. These external locations can also provide links back to your own website.
- Optimise for disabilities – This is especially important for medical websites, whose users are more likely to use screen readers or other forms of assistance.
What do I do if it just doesn’t work?
It happens sometimes: No matter how hard you try, your SEO just doesn’t seem to gain any traction. In this case, you may need to do a little more digging to determine the root cause of your problem.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and there are plenty of other reasons that your SEO may not be working as expected. Fortunately, this also meant that there are plenty of ways you can improve your strategy to get better results.
If you’d like to see how your SEO can be improved, you can sign up for a free marketing health check. One of our SEO professionals will review your site and call you to discuss how you can improve your SEO strategy to get the most out of your investment.
If your strategy needs a different approach, you can call our team to book a strategy session. In it, our specialised healthcare marketers can help you figure out the best way to help your business gain traction.
If you’re not sure about how to proceed, you can contact us for more advice. We always love to help medical businesses improve their reach, and we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a message or call our office to see how we can help.