A Medical Marketer's Guide to SEO Competition Research

SEO Competition Research

Looking to optimize your approach to SEO? First start by determining what works for your competitors.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a valuable tool for medical marketers, enabling them to attract web traffic by appearing in potential patients’ organic search results. Yet search engines have gotten a lot smarter since the dawn of SEO, forcing medical marketers to shift away from the clunky keyword-packing of years past. 

To keep up with evolving SEO trends, you need to stay ahead of the curve and ahead of the competition. Optimal keywords and SEO strategies are constantly evolving, due to the ever-changing nature of search engine criteria, patient demand, and competition. To make sure your website appears at the top of patients’ search results pages, you can start by conducting effective competition research. 

Put simply, competition research shows you how other healthcare practices and organizations are succeeding, and highlights areas where you could be doing better. It’s possible that, even though your SEO keywords are strong, you aren’t using them often enough. Or maybe you just aren’t using them in the right places — competition research might find that more successful websites place their keywords in headlines or subheaders as opposed to body text. You may also find that your competitors are using keywords that you hadn’t discovered in your own SEO research.

Medical marketers invest a lot of time, money, and effort into SEO tools, but there are still areas where they may miss the mark. Here are some reliable ways you can learn from your competitors and make sure you’re reaching the right patients. 

Conduct Keyword Research

The first step in any SEO campaign is to make a list of the keywords that will make you stand out to patients who are searching for care. No matter how strategically you plan your keyword usage, vague or short keywords could still place your website below big-name competitors that consistently rank at the top of SERPs. When you conduct initial keyword research, make sure to document the keywords that are most unique to your healthcare practice or organization, with the help of an online keyword optimization tool like Google Ads.

After you make your list of keywords, you can again use an SEO tool to establish strings of keywords that might be most effective. You can either use SEO planning software or manual search entries to determine how your keywords fare in a Google search. For instance, an orthopedic surgery practice in Arizona might want to use long tail keywords like “top knee surgeon in Phoenix” in order to capture local traffic.

Choose the Right Competitors

For potential patients who are looking for your services, you want to be the first website on their radar. Running a search of your SEO keyword list can help you to understand which practices or organizations are your biggest competitors. Before you can excel in your area, running searches of your most important keywords will help you to find out who the real competitors are.

Competition research also requires you to identify subtleties in your search results. For instance, your most significant search engine competitors might not be your most significant business competitors. To find out who you’re up against, take qualitative and quantitative notes. Among the top ten search results, how do your competitors use your keywords? Where are they on the page? How often are they used? 

Know When your Competitors Change their Sites 

SEO competition research is a continuous process. When your competitors update their websites — and potentially improve their SEO results — you should know as soon as possible. One helpful way to keep tabs on a competitor’s timeline is to trace the backlinks to their website. If, for example, a competitor has recently seen a rise in backlinks, that likely means they’ve updated their site. You can also use a competitor’s backlinks to identify new viral topics or conduct content research for your own website.

Using Competition Research to Advance SEO Practices

SEO competition research is a multilayered process. You need to strengthen your own keywords, understand when and how other practices are using these keywords, and uncover the unique ways in which your competitors are successful. 

Once you’ve formulated the most competitive website possible, be sure to keep an eye on your SEO performance. As your competitors make their own adjustments, you might need to reevaluate your SEO strategies, reexamine what other medical marketers are doing, or explore some new keywords. Even if your SEO campaign is successful, you still need to monitor your site’s health — because, when you’re at the top of your SEO game, your competition is doing research on you.

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