Healthcare SEO basics: Why keywords still matter
The days of getting a good search ranking by stuffing your content full of keywords are gone. But finding the right keywords and using them in your copy are still important.
Search engines like Google once used keywords to find out everything about your website. The more keywords you used, and the more often you crammed them into your work, the better you'd do in a search results page.
A lot has changed since then.
Now, Google uses hundreds of factors to rank hospital websites. While Google doesn't provide an official list of the factors and what role they play in search rankings, it's clear that user experience matters most. That's why factors such as page load times, the number and quality of links to the page, and content quality and popularity all play a role in how something ranks.
But that doesn't mean keywords are obsolete. They should still play a role in your medical organization's search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Keyword research can help you understand what healthcare consumers are really searching for. You can use that info to create content that meets consumers' needs and uses language that resonates with them.
How keyword research can improve your health content
Imagine that you're promoting your hospital's brand-new OB center. You could refer to it in a variety of ways on your website:
- Maternity ward.
- Birthing suite.
- Birth center.
- Family birth center.
All these terms relate closely to the services you're trying to promote. But one of these options is related to more than 33,000 searches each month in the U.S., according to Google data. The others get fewer than 2,000 searches a month—one option gets under 100 searches each month. (See the end of this post to find out which of these terms gets the most searches.*)
Google can help with some of this, as the search engine is consistently getting better at understanding synonyms and returning results based on someone's physical location. As a result, a consumer in your area might type in "maternity ward near me" and get results for your birth center.
But the link to your page might be buried below that of a competitor who is using the words that consumers are actually searching for.
Make keyword research a habit
The terms people use to find healthcare content can bend and shift over time. And current events can influence what phrases people explore. For example, searches for terms related to Ebola spiked in 2014.
That's why it's vital to do in-depth keyword searches on a regular basis and amend your SEO tactics accordingly.
Still our top SEO tip: Put consumers first
As you think about keyword research—and about SEO in general—it may help to keep this in mind: A search engine's job is to sort through all the content on the web and deliver what's most relevant to the person who's searching.
That ties in nicely with your role as a healthcare marketer. After all, writing with your readers in mind is the key to creating great healthcare content.
So don't think of keyword research or SEO as something that you're doing for search engines. Think of it as another opportunity to better understand your consumers and what types of problems they're trying to solve when they come to your website.
Create content that solves those problems and that's easy to read, and you'll serve your customers well—no matter how they arrive at your site.
Getting the work done
There's a lot of information on the web about how to do keyword research—and a quick search for the phrase will show you who Google thinks did the best job of explaining it. One of our favorite, easy-to-read overviews is this piece published by MOZ.
*Google data from January 2015 shows that, of the terms above, obstetrics gets the most monthly searches across the U.S. (33,100) and birthing suite gets the fewest (70). Of course, there are other terms you might use to describe your OB services, and search volume might be different in your specific area. That's why it's important to do the research!