Listen to Your Audience

According to a study from Google and Compete, Inc., most patients (61%) visit at least two health system websites before converting, and 88% of users are less likely to return to a website with a bad user experience.
Hopefully, the consumer’s online search leads to either a:

  • Click through to your organization’s website—and a positive, reassuring website experience that makes it easy to find information and complete tasks
  • Zero-click conversion when the user finds what they’re looking for or takes action on the search engine results page (SERP) without needing to click through to your site

Challenge & Opportunity

The best healthcare website experiences challenge the assumption healthcare must be complicated. They make it easy for users to find information in a way that matches their expectations. Consumers appreciate humanized, meaningful experiences that feel intuitive and reassuring.

That’s why it’s essential to put the user at the center of your strategy. The average healthcare consumer has little to no knowledge of the healthcare industry or your organization’s internal structure. And why should they? What’s important to them is getting the best care for themselves or a loved one. Depending on why they seek care, they may feel unwell and vulnerable. If you can simplify the journey to get care, so it feels almost effortless, you’ll earn gratitude and loyalty—and stand out from the competition.

Identify & Investigate

To understand consumer expectations and needs in your market, first, identify and prioritize the target audiences you want to reach through your digital marketing and communications efforts. Ask:

  • What are their interests and preferences when getting care or interacting with healthcare organizations or providers online?
  • What are their abilities when accessing, understanding, and making choices about health information?
  • What are their assumptions or beliefs about your brand, services, locations, and providers?
  • What tasks do they want to accomplish when they visit the website?
  • Do they see themselves reflected or addressed in website navigation structures, content, and design?
  • What message has resonated in the past? What didn’t perform as expected?

Do the Research

Combine data that are quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (nonnumerical, such as attitudes and experiences) to get the clearest possible picture. Plan to conduct research activities on an ongoing basis, setting benchmarks and comparing findings to understand market evolution.
There are various tactics to gather data. Here are a few examples of activities that could answer specific questions relevant to your strategy.


Example Tactic(s)

Gather attitudes, opinions, and experiences on a brand, product, or service
Focus groups, patient and family advisory council input
Understand how a user engages with a product or service
Online user testing and surveys, website analytics, social media engagement
Understand the demographic makeup of your target consumers and their health concerns and abilities
Community health needs assessment, U.S. Census demographic data, health literacy statistics, etc.
Understand the interests and terminology used by target consumers
Keyword research


Take the Next Step

Knowing your audience is essential to optimizing your website for users. Learn more by attending Geonetric’s upcoming webinar on applying a consumer-first lens to your healthcare brand architecture, downloading our new white paper, or contacting our team.

New Google Search Features Healthcare Marketers Should Be Ready For

Three New Google Features and the Takeaways for Healthcare Marketers

1. Adding extra convenience to your Google Ads

In this ad for Immediate Care from NorthShore, you can see that Google is displaying the phone number as well as two location options (with a quick link to driving directions). This is a great way to give the user a clear sense of how close some of their locations are and make it even easier to take the next step in the path to care.

Takeaway: You can enable this feature by adding location extensions to your Google Ads by connecting your Google My Business account. While location extensions aren’t a new feature, Google continues to optimize the appearance of these features, particularly on mobile. This latest iteration gives users easier access to relevant information (such as distance from locations) and actions such as directions and phone numbers.

Screenshot of search results for immediate care near me
Screenshot of mobile search for NorthShore Immediate Care


2.  Show your best side – in your location images

Another interesting feature that is starting to show up on search is the ability to look for a location via a photo slider. While this is a feature Google has been testing and slowly rolling out over the past year, this is the first time we’ve seen this within the healthcare vertical.

When clicking “View All,” we were taken to a page that featured a new set of options, more directly related to the type of location we were specifically interested in finding (an urgent care). While this option doesn’t give the user a lot of the information you might typically expect to find, it felt very intuitive to assess the options based on how good the pictures were. The images gave a sense of something that’s very hard to convey in text and answered questions such as “What is the place like?” and “Will I feel comfortable there?”

Takeaway: If you haven’t paid much attention to your location photos in the past, it might be worth giving them some attention. Not only are they important today for Google My Business listings, it’s quite possible in the near future they could play a more prominent role in search results. Consider reviewing your competitor’s photos and ensuring that yours are meeting – or beating – the standard they’re setting. At such a critical decision point, you don’t want to lose a prospective patient due to an unappealing photo.

Screenshot of images showing photos of urgent care locations.
Screenshot of images showing photos of urgent care locations.

Screenshot of images showing photos of urgent care locations.
Screenshot of images showing photos of urgent care locations.

3. The disruptors are coming

In healthcare, we’ve been aware for a while that there could be a significant source of disruption to the market at any moment. Just how quickly they’re coming was clear in these searches.

In searching for “urgent care near me” – immediately below the location pack, there was a new section to search for online care from non-traditional care providers, like Doctor on Demand. Complete with pricing information, these options give the user a lot of convenience and meets patients right in the moment of decision making. Whether or not this becomes a standard feature of search engine results pages (SERPs) has yet to be seen.

Takeaway: Likely, your organization has already started thinking about how you can provide more access to care options to your communities – including online appointments. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure access to care options can be clearly presented to your audience. Transparency of pricing — and the option to receive this care 24/7 — makes these disruptors particularly appealing, so make sure you’re doing what you can to promote your offerings in a user-friendly way. If you have questions about how else you can accomplish promoting your online care options, let us know and we’d be happy to help!

Screenshot of search result showing non-traditional providers.
Screenshot of search result showing non-traditional providers.

Screenshot of search result showing non-traditional providers.
Screenshot of search result showing non-traditional providers.

Be Prepared for Anything

Google tests features on a near-constant basis — and no one ever knows which features will stick until they do. Routinely searching for common keywords and terms yourself and checking the experience is a good way to make sure you’re keeping an eye on the ever-evolving SERP landscape. The fact is, Google is constantly changing, and the next big game-changing feature could be right around the corner!

If you’d like help managing Google’s constant changes or keeping your business listings up-to-date, reach out.

5 Reasons Your Healthcare Site Isn’t Ranking In Search

1. Your site has a technical issue preventing the page from ranking

I’m surprised how often I review a hospital’s site only to uncover technical issues that are preventing search engines from indexing the pages.

The most typical issue I run across is the “meta noindex tag.” This is a line of code that tells search engines not to index the page in search. In other words, the page will not appear when you search for it in Google. This line of code is often triggered by a checkbox or similar feature within the content editor of your content management system (CMS), which is why problems arise when you have many editors or unfamiliar users updating your website.

The meta noindex tag looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

If you’re curious whether a page has this tag, view the page’s source code and search for “noindex.” Another place the “noindex” directive might appear is within the HTTP response header.

Note that there are occasions where using a “noindex” tag to hide a page from search makes sense. For example, a campaign landing page that you only want to direct paid traffic to, or utility pages such as a form submission confirmation page.

While checking the source code of a page may work in one-off situations, it’s better to use a tool like Moz, SiteImprove, or Screaming Frog to perform a crawl of your site. This will give you a nicely-structured report of all pages that contain ‘noindex,’ as well as other issues that affect SEO.

If you do find a page with a “noindex” tag that you want to be indexed, remove the tag (or ask your web vendor how), and request Google to index the page within Google Search Console. Then, have a conversation with your team or establish an SEO governance plan to prevent these issues from arising in the future.

2. Your page topic doesn’t align with your targeted keyword

The second reason a page may not rank for a keyword is that your content isn’t effectively targeting your chosen keyword. In other words, Google doesn’t see your page as a good answer to the question users are searching for. Google always strives to serve the most relevant content to a user. So if you have a page called “Classes” and you’re trying to rank for a search for “birthing classes,” your page topic isn’t specific enough.

Ideally, the topic of your page and your chosen keyword should be identical or closely align. How does Google know the topic of your page? The text appearing in your page’s URL, HTML page title, and H1 are the first places Google looks to understand your page topic. That’s why you have to make careful decisions about what keywords you place in those critical areas.

The other reason your page may not be relevant enough is you’re trying to target too many keywords with one page. Are you trying to rank for “birthing classes,” “prenatal yoga,” and “birth center tours,” with a single page? If it’s important for your organization to rank well for each of these searches, these topics should be broken out into separate pages – each with their own URL, HTML page title, and H1 where you can place these valuable keywords.

When deciding whether to target multiple keywords with a page, think about the user’s intent and what they would expect to find. A user searching for “prenatal yoga” wants very different information than someone searching for “birthing classes.” But a user searching for “bariatric surgery” wants the same information as someone searching for “weight loss surgery,” so these keywords can be targeted by the same page. This mental exercise will help you to ensure that you’re building pages with the most relevant information for your search query and providing a good experience for your users. Now you’re thinking like Google!

3. Your content isn’t geographically relevant to a local user

Remember how I said Google wants to serve the most relevant information to a user? That includes their geographic location. For many healthcare searches, Google makes it a priority to serve people local results for services near them.

Searches like “cardiologist,” “urgent care,” “pain clinic,” or “orthopedics” all prioritize websites from local organizations. That’s why it’s important that your website makes it clear which cities you serve. If your website isn’t ranking for a local keyword, it’s possible that Google doesn’t have a clear understanding of the local areas you serve.

Naturally incorporating city keywords within your page titles, headings, and body copy will help Google to better understand those regions you serve. This can be difficult if you’re a large organization spread across many cities, so strategically optimizing your service line content and building robust location pages to rank for these searches can often help you to remain competitive.

4. Your page has little or no authority

While relevance is an important factor for SEO, so is authority. Google wants to give users relevant and reliable information. This is especially important for healthcare.


The primary way your page gains authority is through links. The more links you have from quality, authoritative sites, the more Google will see your site as a reliable source of information. The more that you can do to build links to your site, whether through content marketing or outreach, the more weight your domain will carry in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, having a good internal cross-linking strategy within your site is just as important. It may be hard for deeper pages to gain authority if there are little or no external links to them. Internal links can pass authority from high-authority pages like your homepage or service line landing pages down to deeper sub-pages on your site. If a page isn’t ranking well in search, placing strategic internal links to your page can help improve the page’s authority quickly.

301 Redirects

One of the biggest issues I come across related to authority is the improper use (or lack of) redirects. If you change a page’s URL but don’t implement a 301 redirect from the old page to the new one, you’ve just destroyed your page’s authority. Google won’t correlate your old page with your new page, so you’re essentially starting over from scratch. By implementing a 301 redirect, you pass most of the previous page’s authority to your new page, thus preserving its hard-earned SEO. This is especially critical when you are going through a redesign and changing your site’s structure or domain.

Canonical URLs

Another issue that often hurts a page’s authority is duplicate content. If you have a page that is identical or nearly identical to another page, Google may choose not to rank it in search. This often happens with provider profiles that display across multiple domains.

If you have a preference as to which URL you want to rank, you can indicate this to Google with the rel=canonical element, which looks something like this:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”” />

Placing this element on each of your duplicate pages with the preferred URL you want to rank will tell Google which URL you want to display in search results. Note that this will also prevent the other URLs from appearing in search.

5. The keyword you’re targeting is too difficult

SEO for healthcare is unique because the tactics necessary to rank for a keyword vary drastically. For searches for healthcare services, Google highly prioritizes relevance over authority, preferring to rank local websites. For searches related to healthcare conditions or treatments, Google highly prioritizes authority, preferring to rank nationally-recognized brands that have a long-standing reputation.

If the keyword you’re targeting falls into this second realm, you may be barking up the wrong proverbial tree, and your efforts may be better spent targeting another keyword.

When deciding whether to go after a keyword, consider the value gained by ranking for the keyword versus the amount of effort required. Is the time spent optimizing your site to rank going to pay off in the long run?

Estimating Keyword Value

When estimating a keyword’s value, think about the user’s intent and your marketing funnel. Searches for conditions like “heart disease” or “flu symptoms” tend to be informative searches falling at the top of the marketing funnel. These searches may not offer your organization as much return on investment as a search at the bottom of the funnel, such as “cardiologist” or “urgent care near me.”

One of the best ways to estimate a keyword’s value is by running a paid search campaign with your prospective keywords to identify those that are the highest converting. This allows you to go beyond search volume and understand which keywords will actually drive revenue.

Estimating Keyword Effort

When estimating the effort required to rank for a keyword, evaluate the sites currently ranking. Are they local sites, or is Google prioritizing high-authority sites with many inbound links? How are they targeting those keywords with their content? How many inbound links do they have?

Searches for “heart disease” return sites like Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and WebMD.

The Mayo Clinic has over 11.1 million inbound links to their domain. Even if this keyword has some value to your organization, the effort required to rank for this keyword is extremely high. You may be better off researching related, niche keywords that your local users search for, such as “heart disease treatment albuquerque nm.”

Get started and get ranking

While SEO can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be. If you follow the five guidelines above, your site should be in a good position to be competitive in search.

If you’re still having issues, or want help fixing the problems you uncover, Geonetric’s digital marketing team can perform an SEO assessment or jump in and start fixing the issues. Drop us a line and let’s get back those rankings you’ve worked so hard for!

And if you want to learn more, be sure to check our Ask the Experts: Get Answers to Your Top Healthcare SEO Questions webinar.