Search engine optimization is a $5 billion dollar market for good reason—every business, large or small, must be found online where consumers are searching. As a marketing service provider with a diverse client portfolio, you know SEO basics are applicable to practically any website, in any industry. Yet, when you enter a vertical like health and medical, what SEO tips should you know to be effective for your clients?

The health and medical vertical is a critical area for websites, listings, and other online content to be found—which means SEO for this industry is crucial to get right. 80% of Internet users have searched for a health-related topic online, and “near me” searches for doctors have steadily increased since 2016, which means that it’s also increasingly important to invest resources in being found online.

However, the healthcare industry has a few challenges when it comes to standing out in search engine results.

What is Health and Medical SEO?

Medical and healthcare SEO is the crucial process of making your client’s health and medical businesses and organizations found when consumers and patients are searching for them online. It is the process of optimizing the medical or health-related website and online content to make appear at the top of the search results when people look to search engines like Google for help.

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SEO Guidelines for Health and Medical Sites

To understand the SEO needs of a website, a provider must first assess the goals of the website. A medical website aims to be educational and informative but it also has the ultimate objective of promoting the practice and getting prospective patients through the door. If you have clients that want to position their website for their medical practice, you know that their target audience is often anxious, uncertain, and concerned with finding a trustworthy medical professional—they will run at the first sight of any hard sales pitch, or other “profit-before-patient” marketing

Consumers in the medical and health industry are looking for professional and trustworthy help, not to be sold to. In some regions, the industry faces exhaustive rules on what professionals can and can’t say in marketing and advertising.

Additionally, the medical vertical is an extremely crowded market where standing out from other practices and competing against large clinics and hospitals is an everyday battle.

With these unique challenges, how can you help your clients better position themselves in SERPs without making their site look like a content mill?

First of all, you need to have a handle on SEO basics and understand where medical websites will be different in terms of SEO priority tasks.  

How is Health and Medical SEO Different?

Oh, let us count the ways! Healthcare is a field where the need for educational content within a site is extremely high, making SEO keyword competition fierce as well. Additionally, website structure and markup schema are elements that need to be especially prioritized.  Finally, medical sites are often more similar to websites for local businesses (as opposed to corporate sites) and need many of the same optimizations.

differences between health and medical seo

Source: Google Trends

“Near me” type local searches have seen an upward trend for the past 5 years. Image above: searches for “family doctor near me” over time. With these tips in mind, you then have to remember to go back to basics: security, site speed, links, content and mobile-friendliness.

Let’s make a checklist with actions you can take today.

8 SEO Steps for Health and Medical Websites

Here are the eight components that you need to be cognizant of when optimizing SEO for health and medical websites.

Site Speed and SEO

Site speed is a critical factor for any business’ SEO. If a site takes longer than three seconds to load, most visitors will abandon the site, and they’re especially unforgiving if they’re visiting from a mobile device. Most visitors expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less.

To get an idea of a client or prospect’s existing site speed, you can run a free SEO report on their site. If you see their loading speed on desktop and mobile in red, you know there’s a problem.  

If a consumer is searching for medical or healthcare information, there should be no delay in them accessing that information. Medical and health issues can often be critical, so taking the right steps to ensure your website loads as fast as possible is crucial to your customer experience and the overall website ranking.

The most likely culprits to slow site speed are:

  • Excessive images that are not well optimized or unnecessary animated elements (for instance, a gif files peppered throughout the homepage)
  • External scripts (fonts, ads)
  • And even your web hosting provider

Look at these three elements first to pinpoint where you can improve site loading speed.

site speed and seo

With this animated banner on an image-heavy homepage, we have a good idea as to what’s making this site slow!

Mobile Optimization  

Mobile SEO for health and medical sites will be focused on improving loading time for websites being viewed on mobile devices, it also needs to ‘look good’ and be user-friendly for these visitors. Visits coming from mobile have overtaken desktop traffic to hospital and health system websites with over 62% of traffic coming from a mobile device.

If someone navigates your site from their mobile phone but has a hard time clicking on the menu or quickly finding a contact number, they aren’t going to have a great user experience.  

If your client’s site is built on a platform like Weebly, Wix or Squarespace, their template will likely make their site automatically responsive and mobile friendly. Most modern WordPress themes are also fully responsive. Make sure contact information is on a permanent footer and that the phone number is visible and clickable.

Security and SEO

Google may not consider a site search engine friendly if it doesn’t have an SSL certificate. If the site appears as insecure (without HTTPS), your client needs to get a certificate right now. Otherwise, their visitors will be warned that the site is potentially dangerous and be instructed to avoid it.  

A secure site is critical for medical and healthcare sites not only because it’s basically a requirement, but also because these sites often have contact forms, appointment scheduling tools, login or payment areas, live-chats, and many other features that may deal with sensitive information.

You can check the site’s status by typing the address in and seeing whether there is a green lock indicating the site is secure. Within the free SEO report, you can double-check that search engines are also seeing its secure status by looking for an SSL section in green. If it’s in red, there’s a problem, and the SSL certificate is not correctly installed.

security and seo

Source: StackOverflow

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Google My Business (GMB) & SEO

Your client’s GMB page is extremely important and should be one of the first things to optimize for SEO. An optimized Google My Business profile is one of the best ways for patients and potential patients to find a practice.

If your client is part of a practice with multiple practitioners, but needs to optimize for his specific services, Google My Business can handle that as well. The best guide for you to read about this is here. It’s from Google, and covers many different types of listings you can choose from. Additionally, use the multi-location local SEO checklist here to get yourself organized.

google my business and seo

GMB optimization can get tricky if you have multiple practitioners at a larger clinic!

If the GMB listing has been created or claimed already, then the things you can check for at a glance are whether map location and Name, Address and Phone (NAP) are correct and consistent with the website and any other listings that appear online. Also make sure the GMB listing points to your client’s website URL and that opening hours are accurate.  

Adding additional content like photos, reviews, and ensuring the business categories selected are correct are all factors in having an optimized GMB profile. Getting all this in order will also help the site appear in “near me” searches and significantly improve the SEO for your client’s medical website.

Schema & SEO

Schema (necessary to appear in Google’s rich snippets) will give your client’s medical website more opportunities to rank better, since it provides Google with a lot of context and details about your site.

What kind of elements can be highlighted with schema?

  • MedicalCondition (information regarding a specific medical condition)
  • MedicalWebPage ( for a single-topic web page about a health/medical topic)
  • Drug (medical drug information)

If you’re not familiar with how to include schema markup in your client’s site, just by identifying which pages would benefit from including it, you’re already moving in the right direction. Then the client just has to get their webmaster or contractor to include the snippet and make sure it appears properly in search results.

Before getting into advanced link-building techniques with your client’s site, make sure their site is included (with correct NAP information) in the main local directories (YellowPages, WhitePages, Yelp, MedlinePlus, MD Select, etc), in their Local Chamber of Commerce site, and other business directories. Each listing should always point back to their main website.

Once your client’s site starts publishing content based on keyword research, they’ll get plenty more opportunities to get quality backlinks by doing some outreach.

Offline SEO Tips for Medical Websites

What can your clients do on their end in order to help their website and practice grow? They need to ask longterm, satisfied patients to leave reviews for them! Prioritize reviews on Google My Business as well as Yelp. Reviews help establish trust and credibility and can make the difference when a potential patient or partner is checking your client out. If there are already reviews, respond to all of them, positive or negative.

When there are a few reviews, a selection should also go directly on your client’s site. This can be done with a plugin like WP Review Pro, POWr, and others.

They should also join their local Chamber of Commerce, engage in direct mail efforts including their website URL, and always be taking photos of their practice, colleagues and staff in order to have material for their online pages, website and social media presence.

SEO Medical Websites Examples

Time to see great SEO in action! Check out the following websites that rank on the first page of search engines results for local searches with competitive keywords (i.e. “general physician”, “sports medicine doctor”).  All three have very well optimized Google My Business listings.

Dr. Andrew Goldstone

What the site does right:

  • Phone number is immediately visible and clickable on homepage
  • Has an appointment and contact page
  • Has dedicated pages for medical conditions
  • Is mobile friendly and has an accessible version of the site

Dr. Paul C. Murphy

What the site does right:

  • Phone number is immediately visible and clickable on homepage
  • Has a ‘book online’ page
  • Has patient reviews on homepage
  • Has dedicated pages for medical conditions
  • Has dedicated pages for services
  • Has a blog

Dr. Hai Kao, South Slope Pediatrics

What the site does right:

  • Phone number is immediately visible on homepage
  • Has a ‘book online’ page
  • Has a continuously blog
  • It highlights the unique culture of the practice
  • It invites visitors to connect on social media
  • A local guide (for Brooklyn, NY) has linked to their website on multiple occasions

Takeaways

The health and medical vertical is a crowded and competitive market, which makes it hard for your clients to stand out. However, with these SEO techniques, you can ensure that your medical and health clients rock the SERPs and are found when patients are looking for them.

Remember these crucial tips for your clients' sites:

  1. Start by determining site speed and contributing factors
  2. Assess mobile optimization
  3. Your health/medical clients need an SSL certificate to rank
  4. Start by optimizing your clients Google My Business page for local search
  5. Your clients need informative and educational website content
  6. Schema markup is key to appearing in Google's rich snippets
  7. Make sure your clients are listed on the main local directories
  8. Don't let them forget about the importance of offline service and reputation

Now I’d love to hear from you:

What was your favorite tip from this guide?

Do you have an excellent resource you think we should include?

Leave a comment below!