What is SEO for private clinics?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Applied to private clinics this involves a number of activities including on site optimisation (adjusting the text and images on your site), off site optimisation (link building and publicity), content marketing (blogging), local business optimisation and technical optimisation so search engines can “see” (crawl) and “store” (index) your website.
Combining these activities helps your website to rank higher in the search results and, as a result, get more visibility and traffic to your site.
Are you looking to increase bookings, consultations and enquiries to your private practice?
Unless you are part of a huge healthcare provider with expansive resources, that can be a struggle.
The pressure on private clinic owners and managers is immense. Not only do you have to give a huge amount of caring and compassion to people struggling with, often, very difficult conditions but you also offer the highest quality, most effective services and treatments possible.
Then there’s the endless legislation, CQC compliance, data regulations, accountancy, insurance, staffing, the list is endless…
What if you could actually grow your clinic with a constant, steady stream of bookings, consultations and enquiries?
What if that steady stream of bookings was consistent and didn’t have to be paid for over and over again (as you do with paid ads).
Not only would your life be easier, but your private clinic could grow exponentially, allowing you to generate more enquiries, more consultations, grow your team, open clinics in more locations or, even, just maybe, just take a break!
Sounds great, right?!
The problem is that most private clinic owners and managers aren’t clued up about the best way to do this…
Through highly targeted organic search traffic from Google.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the three steps needed to achieve SEO success.
How to do SEO for Private Clinics
SEO is complicated. No doubt about it.
It used to be said that there were over 200 Google ranking factors. This idea has now been abandoned as the main Google algorithm is comprised of countless other smaller algorithms in addition to artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Here at Healthcare SEO, we are big believers in focussing on the areas that bring you tangible results.
In SEO this can be broken down into 3 clear areas:
- Research, Recommendations and Roadmap
- On Site Optimisation and Content Marketing
- Off Site Optimisation (Getting links to your site)
Let’s take a look at these in more detail:
Research, Recommendations and Roadmap
This is the most important aspect of any SEO campaign. Rushing into a campaign without doing some primary research is akin to treating a patient without taking any history.
There are several areas that need to be checked, including:
- Keyword research
- Technical site audit
- Tracking Key Performance Indicators
- Benchmarking progress to date
- Link analysis
- Citations Audit
- CRO analysis
- Google Business Profile Audit
- SEO Roadmap
Let’s take a look at each one:
Technical Site Audit
If search engines can’t find your website or see your pages then your chances of getting bookings, consultations or any targeted traffic to your clinic are pretty much dead in the water.
That’s why, at the start of every campaign, we conduct a full technical site audit which examines the site from Google and Bing’s point of view.
You can actually do this for yourself by:
Video demo coming soon
- Going to your Google Search Console account
- Going to the “Coverage” report on the left hand side
- Clicking on the Valid, Warning, Error and Excluded boxes in order to see what Google is seeing when it is checking your site.
- Some of these errors and warnings can be a bit confusing so, if you need a hand in deciphering them just add our email address and we’ll be happy to take a look and point you in the right direction.
Tracking Key Performance Indicators (“KPI’s”)
What is it you want from your SEO campaign? If you’re anything like the private clinic owners we speak to, you probably want more bookings and consultations.
How are you tracking that? Are you counting up the number of enquiries at the end of the month? If so, great! But you can also get a lot more granular and start tracking things like:
- Phone calls through the site (when someone clicks / taps on your phone number)
- Direct emails through the site (when someone clicks / taps of your email address)
- Booking forms
You can also set up a marketing funnel. This may track:
- How many visitors came to the site
- How many of those visitors viewed a specific page
- How many of those visitors then completed a booking form.
This is a simplified version but you can quickly see how this will show you:
- If people aren’t progressing from the homepage to the service page. This could indicate that:
- The navigation menu isn’t clear
- The on page copy isn’t engaging enough
- The link to the service is buried somewhere lower down the homepage.
- If people aren’t progressing from the service page to actually making a booking. This could show:
- The next step (or “Call to Action”) isn’t clear enough
- The visitor wants to gather more information before booking (and view your competitors services)
- The text on the page doesn’t “speak” to them and their needs
- If visitors are going to your booking page or contact form but not completing their booking this might be because of:
- A technical issue with the booking form
- Too much personal data being requested
- Too much information being requested
So tracking your KPI’s in order to troubleshoot issues can have a massive impact on your clinic’s success.
The best way to do this is by using Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. Alternatively, at Healthcare-SEO we set all this up for you so instead of tearing your hair out with tracking codes you can just review the information quickly and easily.
We also combine this with a Conversion Rate Optimisation Report right at the start of every campaign so we can pinpoint quickly and easily some of the easy wins that will help users to convert into actual patients.
Benchmarking progress to date
With your KPI tracking all set up, it’s time to take stock of where you are currently.
Google Analytics offers a huge amount of data at a very granular level. It’s very easy to get lost in all this data but the key aspects you’ll want to know are:
- Conversions – Are bookings increasing overall? Are your other KPI’s increasing or decreasing? Which channels are driving the most bookings
- Traffic – Is traffic to the site increasing? Which channels are driving the most traffic to the site? Are they increasing or decreasing?
- Which terms is your site ranking for?
- Which pages are improving in the search rankings? Which are declining?
To help you with this we’ve created a Google Data Studio Report.
Now you’ve got your Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) set up and you’ve benchmarked your progress to date, the next step is to make sure your site is optimised for conversions.
Conversion Rate Optimisation Analysis
Ok, cards on the table time; here at Healthcare SEO, we’re not designers. We focus 100% on growing your practice with highly targeted traffic. But what happens once that traffic reaches your site?
If your site doesn’t have the basic elements of conversion rate optimisation, the chances are they will probably leave.
Now, you don’t have to be a mastermind of design like Steve Jobs but your site should “Tick Off” a number of key elements. These include:
Is there a call to action (“Book a Consultation”, “Find out how we can help” etc) shown prominently on each page?
Does your site make it easy for users to contact you by phone and email?
Do you demonstrate “Trust Signals”? This may include ratings and reviews from third party sites or prominent organisations that you’re involved with such as the NHS, BUPA, Spire or Circle Healthcare.
Do you show insurance companies that you work with?
There’s a lot more suggestions here so check out our free guide to CRO for Private Clinics below:
Let’s assume you operate a private mental health clinic.
You probably already have a good idea of what your service users search for. However, keyword research can really help you to tailor your website to the exact services being searched for online.
It’s really important to consider the types of searches that users are looking for and how your site can help them.
Here at Healthcare SEO we have a multi-stage approach to keyword research which is as follows:
Keyword Research Part One: Gathering Keywords
- Your target keywords. What do you have that none of your competitors offers? Do you offer a specific service that is very specialised? Do you have a practitioner who is highly renowned and regarded? Do you have specialist equipment? Is your clinic situated in a central location? If so, this is definitely something you’ll want to promote. You’ll need to research how many people are looking for this service and the terms they use to do so.
- Your current keywords. What is your site already ranking for? If your site has been around for any reasonable amount of time, the likelihood is that it will have picked up some rankings for different search terms. It makes sense then, to optimise the pages that already have a “foothold” in the search results ie some ranking for specific phrases instead of creating all new pages which you then have to rank from scratch.
- Competitors keywords. What keywords do your competitors rank for that your site doesn’t? Straight away, this will give you some great insights into what the competition is doing.
Keyword Research Part Two: Keyword Grouping
Now that you have your list of keywords, you’ll notice there is significant overlap between the different terms.
For example, if we want to target people searching for “mental health”, some synonyms might include:
Now, we don’t need a single page for each and every one of these terms. Search engines understand that many of these terms are interchangeable.
As a result some terms can be grouped together. For instance;
- Troubled mind
- Unbalanced mind
- Unsoundness of mind
- Sick mind
- Disturbed mind
Can all be considered ‘keyword variations’. Although these terms are not necessarily politically correct, they do indicate what users are searching for. Therefore, it is important to include them on the page as tactfully as possible.
Keyword Research Part Three: Keyword Difficulty Check
It’s important to consider the fact that some keywords and phrases are a lot more competitive than others. For instance, lots of private mental health clinics may be trying to rank for the search term:
“Private consultation for mental health”.
So, how do search engines decide which site to rank top? There are lots of ways but the most important are:
- Content – does the site have a page discussing “private consultation for mental health”? Is it clear and obvious to search engines (and users) that this is the main aspect of the page?
- Links – assuming two pages both fulfill the criteria above, search engines use links as a ‘tie-breaker’ to decide which page to rank (more about links below).
If your site is relatively new, it’s unlikely that it will rank for competitive search terms. More established sites already have the trust and authority in the eyes of the search engines.
So how can we combat this? Are we in a situation where the top medical sites just get more and more authority and smaller clinics get crowded out?
Potentially yes, but there is a workaround….
The idea here is to focus on topics that are highly specific to your clinic. The sort of terms where the ‘big’ sites aren’t even interested in ranking for. Using our previous example, this may be search terms such as:
“Private mental health consultation West London”
“Private clinic for depression and anxiety West London”
Soon, you’ll start ranking for these less competitive terms and demonstrating to search engines that you are a trustworthy source of information. It’s then easy to build out your website and start moving onto more competitive search phrases.
At Healthcare SEO we actually map out how long it’s going to take to start ranking for specific terms which brings us nicely onto…
Putting It together: Site Structure Analysis
Now we have our target keywords, we’ve grouped them together and we’ve identified a timeline for targeting and ranking for those terms.
The next thing to do is map those terms to the pages of your website. We do this on a simple spreadsheet so that we can dive deeper and identify other important aspects such as:
- Target audience
- Who is the page targeting? If you offer multiple services different pages will need to target different visitors. For instance, let’s say you’re running a mental health clinic. This may mean you have a page that targets service users directly such as “mental health counsellor near me”.
- That’s quite clear but you may want to consider having pages targeting less obvious queries. For instance, those looking for mental health services may actually be those close to the patient. Therefore, you may want to have a different page targeting search phrases like “mental health help for wife / husband / son / daughter / parent / friend”.
- Each of these people may approach the issue from a different perspective and so you will need different pages using different language. Ideally, you should even have a separate page for each target audience member!
- It can be helpful to develop user personas for this purpose.
Image of User Personas (coming soon)
- Top, middle or bottom of the funnel
- Funnel stages are a marketing concept (eurgh!) that determines where users are in the buying process. This may be:
- Top of funnel – users that are aware they have a problem and are seeking some sort of solution. Your target client may be targeting something more informational in nature, i.e. they may not be ready to book a consultation yet but instead, they are information gathering. This may include searches such as “how long for an NHS referral for depression” or “how to get help for someone with anxiety”.
- Middle of funnel – users that are aware of the solutions available and trying to decide on the best option. This may cover searches such as “best private private clinic for depression”, “[clinic name] reviews” or “cost of a private consultation for depression”.
- Bottom of funnel – those that have made a decision and are ready to book a consultation. This will usually be something very specific such as “[clinic name] bookings” or “[clinic name] availability”
- Funnel stages are a marketing concept (eurgh!) that determines where users are in the buying process. This may be:
Image of Marketing Funnel (coming soon)
- Call To Action / Next Step
- Perhaps the most important aspect of your site structure is determining what the call to action or next step is.
- For instance; somebody who has arrived on your homepage is unlikely to be ready to book a consultation straight away. Instead, the best page to signpost them to would be the “About” or “Meet the Team” pages.
- This way, they can understand what your clinic is about, who is involved, how you are qualified to help them and what makes you diffferent before exploring individual service pages.
- Once you have persuaded users that you have the expertise and experience to treat them you may then want to direct site visitors to the individual service pages.
- Mapping a ‘user journey’ in this way is very helpful and ties in closely with KPI tracking and conversion rate optimisation (CRO) stages mentioned here.
Image of User Journey (coming soon)
To help you out with this stage, we’ve prepared a basic Site Structure analysis.
Feel free to take this and use it for your clinic. Again, if you need help or suggestions just let us know!
Image: Diagram of how links work
Google essentially counts “links” as a vote of popularity for your website – they are known to be a top ranking factor with search engines.
Links come in many different forms, but not all are created equal. We want to focus on acquiring links from relevant, powerful websites and blogs – quality is far more important than quantity here.
Getting links to your site though can be an arduous and complicated task. So you’ll need a good strategy for approaching this.
This strategy should include:
- Dealing with toxic links
- Looking at your current links
- Looking at your competitors link profile
- Looking at links that overlap
Let’s dive into this a little bit more.
Checking Your Clinic for Toxic ‘Spam’ Links
Generally speaking, Google doesn’t penalise websites for spammy links, the algorithm is clever enough to ignore them. That means that unless there are egregiously spammy links pointing to your website, no action is needed.
Having said this, it is always best to check to ensure that there is nothing that could be causing an issue. Here are some of the issues that should be considered:
- Over-optimised anchor texts.
- Spammy anchor text (adult, gambling, etc)
- ccTLD distribution (.ru, etc)
- Link velocity (spikes, drop offs, etc)
- Low quality links
- Negative SEO attack
A quick and simple way to check this is at the following site: https://websiteseochecker.com/bulk-check-page-authority/
You can check a number of SEO metrics here. The one we’re most interested in is the ‘spam score’ or SS (see below)
This tool will tell you as a percentage how much your ‘spam’ score is. 100% is total spam, 1% is fine.
The Link Profile of Your Clinic Currently
Do you already have some backlinks pointing to your site? If so, where are they coming from? Local news articles or press releases? Industry magazines? Mentions of your clinics practitioners on other website or directories that you’re already listed on?
Whatever the case, you’ll want to examine who is linking to you and why they are linking. Often, gaining backlinks can simply be a case of doing more of what is working!
Here is a tool that you can use to check your backlinks for free. It’s not perfect but it should give you some quick insights that will help.
Looking At Your Competitors Link Profile
Now you’ve got an idea of who is linking to your site, it’s time to view this in comparison to other clinics and hospitals that are competing for the same keywords.
Remember, when looking at links, the number of links is not the most important factor. Often, it is actually the quality, authority and relevance of those links that is crucial.
For example links from the official NHS website, healthline.com and NIH.gov carry far more weight than other links.
This can be measured on a scale of 0-100 where 100 is the most authoritative links in the world (Google, Facebook, Amazon etc).
Here at Healthcare SEO we do this by examining each competitor and the quality of the links to their site…
|Site Quality||Competitor 1||Competitor 2||Competitor 3||Competitor 4||Competitor 5||Client Site|
With this information we know that to best our competition we need
- One or two very high quality links (in the 51-60 range)
- Three to five high quality links (in the 41-50 range)
- Around 40 good quality links (in the 31-40 range)
- Around 100 mediocre links (in the 21-30 range)
- Several thousand low quality links (in the 11-20 range)
- Several hundred thousand poor links (in the 0-10 range)
Usually, sites pick up these lower quality without any effort at all so there is no need to dedicate effort to gaining these links.
Looking At Links That Overlap
As part of this link audit we also look at sites that links to multiple competitors.
We do this because it is likely that if a site links to several competitors then a) they have an interest in talking about healthcare and your particular services b) they have some degree of ‘neutrality’ as they are linking to multiple competitors.
At the link building stage we then consider ways we can obtain the same or similar links to your site.
Citations are online business listings that contain practical information about a business. This can usually include (but not be limited to):
- Phone number
- List of services
- Opening hours
- Website link
- Whilst citations are not links, they can contain a link to the business’s website.
These listings can appear on many types of sites, including:
- Online directories
- Review sites
- Event sites
- News and blog sites — otherwise known as ‘citation sites’
As citations have local SEO value, they can improve ranking in local search engines such as Google Local / Maps. Search engines like Google compare the data displayed on citation sites with the business data it holds. When there is a high level of data confirmation, it builds confidence in the business’s location and services offered — this can boost the business ranking in local search results.
Image: Brightlocal citation audit
You can check your local citations for free at the following link:
Google Business Profile Audit
Unless you only offer consultations online, it’s quite likely that your private clinic has a physical location. One of the most important items to complete is therefore claiming and verifying your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business).
Why is this so important?
Not many people realise but the algorithms that deal with local searches are actually different to those that deal with general queries.
These local algorithms put much more stock in factors such as:
- Is the person using a mobile device?
- How far is the business from the person searching?
- Is the business open or closed at the time they are searching?
- How accurate is their listing
- Do they offer the exact services the person is searching for?
- Is there agreement between different platforms about the business’ main details (name, address, phone number or NAP)
- Number of photos
Having a Google Business Profile that you first have to claim, then verify ownership of (usually by receiving a postcard confirmation code) and complete the details about, all give Google very strong signals that your business is legitimate.
With this in order your clinic is much more likely to appear in the ‘Map Pack’ which shows prominently in all local searches.
Image: Local Map Pack
Now you’ve completed your research it’s time to put it all together and prioritise which aspects are most important. Obviously this will vary depending on your goals, budget and how urgently you need to see results.
This is probably where you’ll need some help from an experienced SEO to help you implement all the actions required.
Unlike other SEO agencies, Healthcare SEO compile all the strategies and tactics you need for success and allow you to take these to a freelancer or complete them in house. We’ll even support you in doing so should you need it.
Now you’ve done your link building research, you can start reaching out to other sites to request that they link to you.
However, before they do this you’ll want to have some resources in place for them to actually want to link to. This where Stage Two comes in….
Stage Two: On Site Optimisation and Content Marketing
Now that we have our research completed and a strategy mapped out, we can begin to implement this on the clinic’s website.
This process can be broken down into two smaller stages:
- On Site Optimisation
- Content Marketing
Let’s look first at On Site Optimisation
On Site Optimisation
As we saw earlier in the Site Structure Analysis, in order to rank well in search results, you need to target one page of your site to each potential search your customers may be looking for.
This is because search engines try to determine the central theme or “main content” of each page of a website. They do this by examining certain areas or “zones” of the page. These zones include the:
- Page headings
- Internal Links
- Alt-image text
Ensuring that your main keyword and variations of these keywords appear here, you’ll be on track for good rankings for good search rankings.
So if we put the keywords in the right place we’ll rank well and get more targeted traffic?
Potentially, yes. If your site has the authority (backlinks) to do so and the keyword isn’t too competitive (eg “mental health” too broad and too much competition, “mental health private treatment Manchester” much easier to rank for).
Although you may be able to persuade search engines to rank you well, you then need to persuade searchers to click on your results.
To do this we look at the meta-title and meta-description:
Image: meta-title and meta-description
These are often the first impressions users get of your website in the search results. So it’s important to get this right. How do we do this?
We look at what is already ranking. This gives us a good clue about the type of content Google wants to display at the top of the search results.
Image Search results annotated with top performing content
Why is content marketing so important?
- It takes time to rank for keywords, especially with a brand new domain. When done correctly, content can rank quickly, even on low authority websites.
- It’s scaleable – you can only create so many service pages and rank those for a limited number of keywords. Content lets you add more keywords and topics on top of that at scale.
- Content generates links naturally – you can be more aggressive with link building when you have supporting content, it’s a sign of trust.
- The path to booking a consultation has a lot of touchpoints, you don’t just click a link and book an appointment. Content marketing allows you to build a funnel and move people through it at scale.
So should we just publish lots of pages targeting different keywords?
That is certainly one strategy. However, the better approach is to actually structure your content marketing. This helps both search engines and your users move through the content marketing funnel.
Most websites use the following structure for their blog content:
Image above and below courtesy of https://keywordcupid.com/tutorials/pillar-content-guide/
By having your topics grouped in this way you can create topic “clusters” or “silos”.
This makes it far easier, not just for users, but for search engines to understand the relationships between your blog posts and the main pages of your site.
The other important concept in SEO to consider is the ‘pyramid’ structure. Each link from one page to another acts to “boost” the target page up in the search results.
So, for instance, let’s take our private mental health clinic as an example.
We have a main ‘service’ page “Private Mental Health Appointments”.
We may then have one large content piece something along the lines of:
“Getting help for a loved one with mental health issues”
This would be a large definitive and authoritative piece of content that then links back to your main “Private Mental Health Appointment” service page.
From there we would create a series of more specific pages which link back to the comprehensive “Getting help for a loved one with mental health issues” page. These would be shorter and more specific pieces such as:
“Getting help for a parent with depression”
“Getting help for a child or adolescent with depression”
“Getting help for a friend with depression”
And so on.
By linking pages together this way in layers it passes the SEO benefit in the following order:
Getting help for a parent with depression > Getting help for a loved ones with mental health issues > Private Consultation for Mental Health.
As a result our most important page, the one we most want to send people to “Private Consultation for Mental Health” is pushed up by the search results and given more visibility.
The more we can build out your content marketing and add more pages the more visibility we can get for our main target “Consultation” pages.
Stage Three: The Publicity Stage (Off Site Optimisation and Link Building)
Now we’ve turned your clinics’ website into a highly optimised, content laden, consultation generating machine it’s time to tell the world!
We’ve already researched back in stage one who is linking to your competitors, why they are linking and how many links they have. At this point we can start reaching out to these sites and asking them to link to our clinic as well as or instead of our competitors.
This is another area where having an agency that specialises in SEO for healthcare is a huge advantage. Here at Healthcare SEO, we have been building relationships with other website owners and businesses for years and, as a result, we have a huge database of sites that would be willing to link to your clinic. Almost every other (non-healthcare) agency you contact will be starting from scratch.
There are many different ways of getting links some of these include:
- Guest posting (this is where you write a blog or “post” on another website and link back to your website).
- Brand building and Web2.0 links
- Press Releases
- Local Citations
- Link Exchanges
- Local directories
- Connections to sister companies
We believe organic website traffic is one of the most crucial factors separating high quality sites from lesser websites. After all, what’s the point in getting links from sites that won’t provide any traffic?!
All of the blog owners we work with have at least a 20+ domain authority (Ahrefs DR or Moz DA).
Here at Healthcare SEO we guarantee that all the links we get are from genuine websites with at least 1000 visitors per month. Because we specialise in SEO for private healthcare clinics we can get (on average) at LEAST four of these very high quality links per month.
Not only this, but because we work with private clinics we can keep our costs down. We pass this benefit on to you – the clinic owners and managers – which keeps the service affordable.
Unlike other link buildings companies, we don’t even you require you to write the content as we have all of this taken care of by one of our team of health and medical writers.
Why is SEO the best investment for your private clinic?
It’s easy to be wary of a digital channel that you’re not familiar with, especially when everyone tells you it takes at least three months to see an ROI. However, there are a number of reasons why investing in organic search is a good idea. We’ll cover these below:
The biggest opportunity of all. Your patients may use various platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok) but they ALL use Google.
In fact, Alphabet who owns Google have a 97% market share of online search when we include YouTube, Google maps and Google Search (Source: Sparktoro). You may also notice that Google appears twice in the top ten with both Google.com and Google.co.uk bringing their total to 35.84 BILLION visits.
Many private clinics focus their attention on social media when the biggest opportunities are elsewhere online. Image courtesy of The UK Domain
You can check out the latest up to date rankings over at SEM Rush.
The undeniable rise of “Dr Google”.
So it’s clear that people are using Google and search engines but what does that mean for private clinics?
According to the NCBI more people are searching their symptoms online than ever before. 70% of adults consult the internet for medical information and more than one-third of individuals self diagnose when they encounter a health condition (Source: NCBI).
Google Health boss David Feinberg said that around 7 per cent of Google’s daily searches were health-related (equivalent to 70,000 every minute (Source: Telegraph).
- King of the Hill. Dramatic drop in search traffic with each loss of position. Graphic from Advanced Web Rankings.
- It’s not just about being number one. Other ways to gain visibility in search – featured snippets, PAA, images, videos, related searches,
- Google doesn’t WANT to be the final destination for health enquiries. Their own disclaimer states:
“When to consult a healthcare professional
Medical information on Google doesn’t apply to everyone and isn’t medical advice. If you have a medical concern, make sure to contact a healthcare provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or your local emergency number.”
- Quote from Google Source: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/2364942?hl=en#zippy=%2Cmedical-information-sources
- David vs Goliath. You DO have the opportunity to compete with larger sites. Google HATES ranking an individual site in multiple places on page one.
- Now is the time to do this. With predicted growth in the private healthcare market
- record NHS waiting lists
- 1 in 5 patients being advised by an NHS professional to consider seeking private treatment
- growth in private GP services
- introduction of the UK government’s Increasing Capacity Framework
- growth in self-pay patients. A majority of UK Private Health providers expect continued growth of 10-15% over the next three years, following sustained growth in this sector over the past 4-5 years (https://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/analysis/cover-feature/private-providers-making-the-most-of-the-pandemic/).
- Now is definitely the time to do this! It will be much easier to get in now and establish yourself as a major site than it will be in two, five or ten years time.
What stops most private clinics from doing this?
For most private clinics there are several barriers to getting good SEO results. These are most often:
- A lack of awareness.
The private medical industry has always existed but the SEO industry has really only sprung up during the past twenty years.
Previously private clinics and consultants would receive the majority of their work through GP referrals or insurance companies. SEO simply wasn’t needed.
With the increase in NHS waiting lists and subsequent boom in the self-funded market, competition has increased but the private health industry has lagged behind in terms of online marketing.
The relationship between healthcare and social media has always been a hot topic in the media. As a result, private clinics have always focused on social media. Even now, with the cost of Facebook advertising at an all time high, social media and online ads are often considered the de facto solution for private healthcare providers.
- A lack of understanding
The algorithms used by digital marketing platforms are closely guarded secrets. This opacity creates a good deal of misunderstanding and confusion about what does and does not help sites rank well.
Search engines are deliberately vague in order to not just protect their intellectual property and have someone else create a rival system, but also to prevent people from “gaming the system”.
This secrecy allows many highly renowned SEO “gurus” to declare what does and doesn’t work without being challenged, which only helps muddy the waters even further.
As a result, it’s completely understandable that private clinic owners would feel confused about SEO.
- A lack of time
Clinic managers often have to wear many hats and need to cover branding, marketing, sales, e-mail, social media, direct mail, advertising and more. Despite organic SEO having the biggest potential for targeted traffic, it often gets overlooked or ‘crowded out’ by those more popular channels.
You may feel worried about an ongoing commitment without guaranteed results, or perhaps you simply don’t have the cash-flow available to invest with an agency at this time.
That’s understandable, with UK SEO agencies charging at least £1200 per month (+VAT) and UK freelancers charging at least £100 per hour (+VAT).
The Sales Pitch 👇
Thankfully, here at Healthcare-SEO, we have a finely tuned and efficient system for getting highly targeted traffic to your clinics website. This means we can keep costs down and charge less than many of our competitors.
So how do you optimise your private clinic’s website?
You have 3 options:
- Hire an agency
- Hire a freelancer
Now there’s pros and cons to each of these. Let’s take a look…
Healthcare SEO Agencies
The truth is that there aren’t that many agencies that specialise in SEO for Healthcare and private clinics, particularly here in the UK.
As medical SEO is a very specialised and somewhat technical field, most agencies choose to ignore it and cast a much wider net that includes other industries.
What tends to happen instead is that most web design companies choose to add on some basic rudimentary SEO services once they have launched a site in order to ensure they have an ongoing source of income.
SEO Agency for Private Clinics – Pros
- Multiple people working on the account. Unlike a freelancer you don’t have to worry about them disappearing.
- More experience. Most successful agencies have more experience to draw on.
- Better communication. Agencies often offer better communication.
- In person meetings. Many larger agencies will have dedicated offices if you feel that meeting in person is important.
SEO Agency for Private Clinics – Cons
- Much higher priced – they have to make a profit margin as well as take care of their overheads, offices, marketing, sales, staff, equipment, software and more.
- Long term contracts – Most SEO agencies will want to have consistent revenue in order to cover their overheads. As a result, many will want to lock you into a long term contract of three, six or twelve months.
- Very few agencies. Currently not many agencies specialise in SEO for the UK private medical clinic market.
- SEO as an afterthought. SEO is often ‘tacked-on’ as an upsell once the website is built or in addition to other marketing services such as email and social media.
- Getting dropped for bigger clients.
- Needing to “look busy”
Should private clinics use SEOs that specialise in healthcare?
While the fundamentals of SEO are the same across all industries, healthcare is one industry where the “rules” are a little different.
Healthcare sites are actually categorised as YMYL (“your money / your life”) sites and so are treated with the strictest level of scrutiny. These “pages or topics could potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety” (Quality Rater Guidelines, 2021).
As a result you need to ask yourself if your SEO agency or freelancer are familiar with issues such as:
- Google’s Healthcare and Medicine Ad Policies Link
- Google’s Help Centre: Medical Information on Google Link
- Google Quality Rater Guidelines Link
Healthcare SEO Freelancers
If you’re a smaller private clinic, then hiring a freelance SEO consultant can be a great option. SEO for private clinics is quite a niche topic so just like agencies, it may be difficult to find someone who specialises.
With that in mind though many freelance platforms have a plethora of overseas SEO freelancers from Asia and Eastern Europe to Australia and the USA.
The problem here is that you really get what you pay for. Many cheap overseas freelancers simply don’t understand the culture here in the UK. They often have little to no knowledge of how the healthcare system works here either.
Having said that, you may be able to find some “diamonds in the rough” if you’re prepared to face some trial and error.
SEO Freelancers for Healthcare – Pros
- Cheap, cheap, cheap! If you’re on a really tight budget, you may be able to find an SEO freelancer that can carry out some of the basic SEO tasks.
- Individual attention. Freelancers are unlikely to have as many clients as agencies. This should mean that you get more of their attention.
- Bespoke solution. If you know exactly what you need and just need someone to implement it, a freelancer might be a good way to go.
- No long term contracts. Unlike an in-house SEO or an agency, freelancers rarely have a “lock in” period meaning you can stop working with them when it’s convenient to you and your business.
SEO Freelancers for Healthcare – Cons
- You get what you pay for. Good SEO’s know their worth and will charge accordingly.
- Culture and language issues. This can often be a problem in healthcare where small variations in language can have big differences in meaning.
- All your eggs are in one basket. What happens if your freelancer has some sort of life emergency or illness? You could be left out on a limb.
DIY/In House Solution
Another option of course is to hire someone in house. This can be a great option if you have the resources to enable it. However, as with all these approaches, there are benefits and drawbacks.
Hiring an in-house SEO for a private clinic – Pros
- Can fully align and dedicate themselves to the vision of your clinic.
- Full time work on building your SEO.
Hiring an in-house SEO for a private clinic – Cons
- Much more expensive, especially once you include paid holidays, sick leave, pension and tax.
- They may have too much time for the work required. 80% of the results of SEO come from just three activities. Having someone in house for this could be overkill.
- Difficult to hire or manage someone if you don’t have a full grasp of what SEO is or how it should be executed for a private clinic.