How SEO Can Greatly Improve a Doctor Online Visibility

SEO for Doctors

SEO Matches User to the Most Relevant Information 

Google’s algorithm works for one simple reason - users value the results. They value these results because they can find relevant information quickly and easily.

People try to game the system to drive more traffic. However, this is a mistake, which can harm them. The harm is not just from penalties, but it is also from a poor user experience. Traffic that bounces has limited value.

What information is valuable depends on what type of question(s) the user is trying to answer. These questions depend on the users intent, the industry, and his or her location.

Again, many of the questions will be dictated by the type of medicine your practice. However, all physicians are faced with: “which doctor is right for me?” 

Since there is some overlap between providers of high volume fee for service procedures, like dermal fillers, etc., the need to differentiate your services is very important. Other anti-aging and cosmetic procedures also require education and differentiation. Therefore, top-of-the-funnel (TOF) tactics that build general awareness are useful.

It is also important to remember, if you engage a patient too late in the funnel, they are not likely to know who you are.  People don’t typically do business with people they don’t know and trust. This is why you will want to have at least a few questions and pages dedicated to the top of the funnel.

As we cover in Web Design for Doctors, the first step is to write down the questions you think your user will ask at each stage of the funnel. 

Importance of Finding the Right Keywords & Keyphrases

If each page has a question, each question can be linked to a keyword or key phrase. Search engine optimization (SEO) is how we help the bot link the right keywords with the right pages.

Bots are simply programs that crawl the web. They perform the basic tasks or ranking a page based on its relevance to a category. They function in three ways.

  1. Classify the content using natural language processing and keyword usage. 
  2. Uses its algorithm to create a score based on ranking factors.
  3. Indexes the page under a given keyword in order of its ranking.

How a search engine works is more detailed, but you will note how similar these goals are to our web design best practices Web Design for Doctors. This is not a coincidence, as they share the same goal - to help the user find what they want, easily.

Because they are so tightly connected, our keyword, site hierarchy, link building, and internal linking strategies must be as seamless as possible. It is best to design them into your site than to try to optimize them later. 

Start with Your Brand Strategy

This might seem obvious. But, when you consider,

“Half of small businesses spend less than two hours per week on marketing efforts” 

it’s highly unlikely that a plurality of small businesses have spent enough time to ensure their brand strategy is a quality one. 

How to Build a Brand Strategy

There are numerous ways to develop a brand strategy, and we cover it in detail in Marketing Strategy for Doctors. If you have not completed your brand strategy, we encourage you to finish that step first. We encourage you because it will make user keyword strategy more useful.

Develop your Keyword Strategy

There are just too many ways to develop a keyword strategy to do it justice within this post. However, the rule of thumb is to find the highest volume keywords, relevant to your target audience, that have the lowest level of competition. 

Majority Small Businesses Shouldn’t Target Keywords above 1,000 searches/mo

The single biggest mistake you can make is to target keywords that are out of reach. Few small businesses have the domain authority (DA) needed to compete on short-tailed keywords or phrases. 

Instead look for 100-1,000 searches/mo

For most small businesses, DA is either under 30 or between 30 and 50. If your DA is below 30, even phrases with 100-1,000 will be challenging.  This is why it is so important to do your keyword research upfront.

Boosting your DA

Instead of trying to go after challenging keywords, it would be better to focus on quality link building. Remember how search theory works. The more quality links you have, the more authority is passed to your site, and the better your online presence. This also brings us to our next topic.

On-page SEO

On page SEO focuses on what can be done on the page itself to help the bot classify the content and index you.

Title, Header, & Meta Tags

These are tags that are added to the HTML code for the page in the <body> section. For most people, who use some form of content management system, there will generally be fields that you can enter when you create the page.

Title Tag

The title tag should contain the keyword or keyphrase mapped to that page. It should be to the front of the tag, and the tag should not be longer than 55 characters.

Header Tags

Header tags help the bot classify the page. Header tags are ranked in importance from 1 through 6. The two that matter for SEO are H1 and H2. 

There should only be one H1 tag. The H1 tag should describe the content of the page. It should match the user intent, and therefore, if this is for a long-tailed keyword, it should be contained here.

There can be multiple H2 tags. H2s are used to flag important sub-topics or answers to specific questions. There are no length restrictions on H2s.

The meta tag is not important for SEO, but it is helpful in guiding the user. It should also answer user intent and expand on the title. The meta text is the 160 character field that appears under the title on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Keyword or Phrase Length is a Good Indicator of Funnel Stage

As a rule of thumb, typically the shorter the keyword or phrase, the earlier the user is in the marketing funnel. Shorter keywords generally indicate browsing or information gathering. Longer keywords typically signal consideration or decision.

As discussed in Web Design for Doctors, it is generally best practice to have user pathways for each stage of the funnel. Someone needs to know who you are before they are ready to take the next step. 

As we mentioned above, it is difficult for smaller businesses to compete on short-tail keywords so this creates a problem. If you can only win on long-tailed phrases, and those users are ready to act, they are unlikely to choose you since they don’t know you. This leads us to our next section.

Off Page SEO: 

External links are powerful signals that indicate that your content is relevant. They are votes of confidence by others.

This is where directories, listings, review sites, and guest posting come into play. These are valuable as they tend to have much higher DAs, and if they permit, you can add a link for a shorter tail keyword to the right page on your site.

This practice is known as link building. This is a smart practice, as high level sites are not likely to accept links to lower quality content. Their goal is the same - providing relevant content to the user. This self policing mechanism is a signal that you are seen as authoritative in your field.

Technical SEO

Technical SEO deals with how the page is coded. This topic is usually above the basic level. Attempting technical SEO without knowing some coding basics is dangerous. 

However, there are some simple things you can do that will help. First, it is to ensure that you robots.txt allows Google to crawl the page. The second is to provide a site map, usually as a file called sitemap.xml.

How this is done varies by your hosting service. Check with your hosting provider and follow their instructions. Many will do it for you with a click of a few buttons.


Google’s algorithm works for one simple reason - users value the results. They value these results because they can find relevant information quickly and easily.

Bots function in three ways to achieve this.

  1. Classify the content using natural language processing and keyword usage. 
  2. Uses its algorithm to create a score based on ranking factors.
  3. Indexes the page under a given keyword in order of its ranking.

Our job in SEO is to help the bots. We can do this through a mix of

  • On page SEO using the right tags to help the bot classify the content and index you.
  • Off page SEO using link building boost credibility and thereby relevance
  • Basic Technical SEO ensures robot.txt is not blocking Google and a sitemap.xml has been submitted.

For more advanced technical SEO, you should consider hiring an SEO agency or SEO expert.

Digital Marketing for Doctors provides a holistic overview of all the digital media marketing mix.