In 2018, most healthcare marketers understand the importance of developing a search engine optimization strategy for their organization. After all, 1 in every 20 Google searches is health related. Search is often utilized as a bottom-of-the-funnel approach to drive direct response from users. But if we only focus on the last query – the query that converts – we’re missing out on a large portion of people seeking out healthcare information online.
There are plenty of opportunities in search to capture users from all points in the sales funnel – from the moment someone begins to seek out health-related information to the moment they visit a physician. I’ve included some example search paths for someone who ultimately becomes a patient for a few different service lines:
- Physical Therapy:
Awareness: “how to manage neck pain”
Interest: “are physical therapy treatments covered by insurance”
Decision: “best physical therapists near me”
Action: “Dr. Richard Smith Kansas City MO”
- Sleep Medicine:
Awareness: “how to stop snoring”
Interest: “sleep apnea treatment options”
Decision: “sleep clinics near me”
Action: “Snore No More Sleep Clinic Overland Park KS”
- Emergency Room:
Awareness: “how to tell if a cut needs stitches”
Interest: “how quickly do I need to get stitches”
Decision: “shortest ER wait times near me”
Action: “Stitches, Sutures and Staples Medical Center directions”
- Women’s Care:
Awareness: “age to get first mammogram”
Interest: “what to expect at mammogram appointment”
Decision: “where to get a mammogram kansas city”
Action: “Think Pink Imaging Center Kansas City”
With substantial volume and breadth of healthcare related queries, I’ve outlined how to capture audiences at every level in the sales funnel through SEO.
Though queries vary greatly between service lines (see some examples above), people are searching for very general, high-level topics at this point in the sales funnel, typically related to symptoms they’re experiencing. They likely haven’t even thought about contacting a physician quite yet.
Getting in front of potential patients at this stage in the funnel is a great opportunity to provide a solution while establishing your brand as a credible expert. Think about the different service lines your organization provides and what kinds of questions the physicians in these practices get asked frequently. Use doctor expertise to determine what content is relevant for your audience. Look at websites that currently rank for this type of content: How do they answer this question? What could you expand on or improve? Is there a local spin you could add to this type of content?
Several big names in healthcare have much larger content budgets and much higher domain authority than your site and frequently rank #1 for many healthcare-related queries (and for good reason!). Ranking above them for queries such as “What are the symptoms of bronchitis?” is likely an unachievable goal. However, it’s still possible to drive relevant traffic to the content you’ve researched and created, even if not through organic search. Paid search, social, and digital media are all effective ways to capture this audience and establish your brand as an expert.
Once someone understands that their symptoms could warrant a doctor’s visit, they’ll begin asking questions relating to a doctor’s visit. Make it easy for users to find answers relating to logistical questions about a doctor’s visit on your website. For example, questions like
What to expect at your first appointment?
What kind of treatment plans are typically recommended?
Is a referral needed?
Is insurance accepted for these kinds of services?
If they can’t find answers to these questions on your website, they’ll likely find a competitor that answers these questions on theirs.
At this point in the funnel, users have determined they will see a physician and begin seeking out a physician or practice best suited for them. Proximity, urgency, service quality, expertise, and brand recognition are all factors that go into healthcare-related decisions. In a perfect world, you’ll have already reached potential patients prior to this point in the funnel and established yourself as an expert in the service line they’re looking for. In case you haven’t reached them yet, there are several things you can do to encourage someone to choose your practice over your competitors’ practices.
At this point, users are interested in what makes your practice ideal for them. Users begin consuming content on your website to learn more about your organization. This includes content such as patient testimonials, doctor interviews, and frequently asked questions. Make sure you highlight your practice’s unique selling points (and no, they don’t care that you care). Additionally, make sure your website provides a good experience for both mobile and desktop users and meets SEO best practices to help your site get found for keywords relating to your specific service line.
While providing robust content on your own website is definitely important, more than half of all patients choose healthcare providers based on information found outside of the provider’s website. So how can you capture these potential patients who are looking elsewhere on the internet? In short, make sure all of your online listings are consistent, accurate, and informative. Google My Business and Healthgrades.com are a good place to start, as these are both popular listings sites in the healthcare vertical. However, each service line and geography could have other important listings sites you’ll want take advantage of.
Do a quick search for your service line and location (e.g. “physical therapy Kansas City”). What listing sites show up on page one of the search results? Is your business included in these directories? Is the information accurate? Do reviews exist – are they positive or negative?
Showing up where it matters and maintaining accurate information is the quickest (and a cost effective!) way to get found organically. Additionally, encourage reviews with patients. Patients will likely feel compelled to leave a review if they’ve had a particularly positive or negative experience. If you do get a negative review, respond in a professional manner to show that you do care about your patient experience and you’re trying to make things right.
So you’ve convinced a potential patient that you’re the right match for them, and they’re ready to move forward with a visit to your practice. Once they’re ready to convert, you want to make this process as easy as possible – whether that’s a phone call to your office, making an appointment online, or finding directions from a mobile device. Examine the conversion experience on your website on both desktop and mobile devices.
In 2018, users have come to expect being able to make appointments online. Make sure you require only fields that are absolutely necessary at this point in time, as lengthy forms could create unnecessary friction in the conversion process. If an online form or scheduling system is not feasible for your site, make sure you include click-to-call options on mobile devices, as well as map links on locations.
In conclusion, SEO plays an important role through every step of the healthcare sales funnel, from awareness to interest, to decision making, to converting. If you have questions or are looking for help increasing your healthcare website’s visibility in search, we’d love to chat.