How to Choose and Use Target Keywords for Your Medical Practice

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Google’s ever-shifting algorithm and an influx of competition have made it more important than ever for healthcare marketers to understand keyword targeting.

Earlier this year, Google disclosed that about 1 in 20 searches, or 5 percent overall, pertain to health or health-related information. As Google receives an estimated 5.6 billion queries each day, that’s approximately 280 million health-related searches in any given 24-hour period.

Meanwhile, Google is getting better and better at responding to those queries. Several times a year, the search giant rolls out algorithm updates intended to help serve users more relevant, high-quality content. The latest of these updates, the June 2019 Core Update, began rolling out on June 3, 2019.

All of this means that search engine marketing, whether in the form of paid ads or organic SEO efforts, plays a major role in any effective digital marketing strategy — but it also indicates that the competition is fierce and the stakes are high. As a general rule, each new update favors well-written, clear content on websites with a user-friendly interface — but that doesn’t mean marketers should abandon the keyword game altogether.

Rather, it’s becoming more important than ever for healthcare marketers to select relevant, precise keywords, and use them as the backbone of their content strategy. Here’s how medical practices can boost website traffic and patient conversions by choosing the right keywords.

Thinking about Keywords as Patients’ Questions

Back in the early days of SEO, stuffing content with popular but barely-relevant keywords was an easy — if somewhat unscrupulous — way to shoot to the top of the search rankings. Those types of SEO tactics are exactly what Google’s latest updates are working to discourage, as they often result in users having to sift through low-quality, irrelevant content to get their questions answered.

Now, Google strongly favors content that answers users’ questions clearly and concisely; unnecessary repetition can cause content to rank lower, and high bounce rates can hurt search rankings even more. For this reason, one of the best ways to shoot to the top of SERPs is simply to have relevant, helpful content on a site that loads quickly — but keywords should still play a role in driving that content.

It’s wise to think about keywords in terms of your overarching content strategy rather than in terms of the syntax of each sentence. For instance, use keywords to help you determine what topics you should be addressing in your blog posts or site pages. If a healthcare topic is being searched, it means that patients are asking about it — and if patients are asking, you could be the one to answer.

Choosing the Right Keywords for Your Healthcare Practice

That said, not all keywords are made equal. Some keywords are likely to be dominated by big-name healthcare sites like WebMD or Healthline. For example, “flu” or “do I have the flu” are going to be difficult to win. However, those general keywords can lead you to more specific long tail keywords that are yours for the taking, such as “flu shot sarasota florida.”

Tools like SEMrush, Google Adwords Keyword Planner, and Answer the Public are all great places to start finding keywords that strike the right balance between competition and traffic. Once you’ve identified some keywords that may be a good fit, you can plan content around them — but be careful how you use them.

It’s usually a good idea to put keywords in your title and headers, as well as throughout the body of the piece. However, it’s important to use them naturally. If your long tail keyword is, in fact, “flu shot sarasota florida,” that certainly shouldn’t be the title of your article. Rather, consider titling the article “Should I Get a Flu Shot This Year?” and including the location of your office — Sarasota — elsewhere in the piece, such as in your final header.

As Google’s algorithm continues to be refined, well-written, relevant content will always rise to the top. Avoid black hat SEO tactics and aim to answer your patients’ questions, then watch your search rankings progressively improve.

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