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So You Have a Nice Website…Now What? Why You Need Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

 Article originally featured in the January 2012 edition of Triangle Physician Magazine:

The old adage of “if you build it, they will come” does not ring true when it comes to the online world. You may have spent thousands building a fancy website with all the bells and whistles, but that does not mean anyone, besides you and your staff, will actually visit your site.

One of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to increase traffic to websites for doctors is through SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Okay, so I realize that last thing medical professionals need is another acronym to remember, but this is one you may just want to become familiar with – especially since it directly affects your bottom line.

The purpose of SEO is to increase the number of visitors to your website by ranking high in search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. This in turn of course leads to increased exposure for your practice and ultimately more new patient appointments (granted that your website effectively sells your practice). With 85 percent of all website traffic originating from search engines, SEO is a vital part of any online marketing strategy.

Search engines such as Google use a complex algorithm to decide what order in which they will display websites when you search for a specific keyword. Let’s say you search for “family doctor Raleigh”, Google evaluates the millions of websites in existence and ranks them according to which equate to be the most relevant. They take into account a number of factors, some of which include how many times your website mentions a specific keyword or phrase, how long your website has been in existence, how often you update the site, and how many outside websites link back to your site.

Since competition online is constantly growing, most agencies will charge a monthly fee to continuously update and monitor your SEO campaign. Just because you make it to #1 in Google does not mean you will stay there. Without continuous efforts, your rankings can fall rather quickly. A successful SEO campaign is part science and part skill of the SEO expert. Therefore, be weary of agencies offering prices that are too good to be true. Also be cautious of promises to rank your website in a certain position. No one can guarantee a particular page rank since ultimately only the search engines themselves have control of the algorithms.

While it’s easy to lose your rankings, it’s not so easy to gain your positioning in the first place. The competitiveness of the keyword that you would like to rank for determines how long it will take to rank (aka the more websites trying to rank for your keyword, the harder it is and longer it might take to gain your ranking).

Try searching for a keyword or phrase you think your patients are using and see where your website ranks. I would also encourage you to research SEO articles online. I have merely skimmed the surface when it comes to fully explaining the SEO concept and how you can use it to your advantage.

Having a website and not optimizing it to be found in search engines is like printing business cards and never handing one out. It’s a waste of an investment unless you take the extra step to ensure patients can easily find your practice online. In today’s competitive health care market, SEO is a powerful tool that allows you to cost-effectively compete with your colleagues and acquire the patient volume you need to successfully grow your practice.

Amanda Kanaan is a medical marketing specialist whose company, WhiteCoat, provides medical website design, SEO, social media and online marketing along with print design, and branding and messaging services to local private practices and health care organizations. Email Amanda at [email protected], call at 919-714-9885 or visit the website at www.whitecoatmedicalmarketing.com.

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