search engine optimization for hospitals

6 Tips for Improving Your Local SEO

Yes, it would be incredible to rank on the first page of Google for “total knee replacement.” But chances are, that’s not going to happen unless you work for Mayo Clinic. (Or Johns Hopkins, as it turns out.) And that’s OK. Because what you really should be focusing on as a community, local or regional hospital is improving your local SEO.

local search marketing vector illustration design concept

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO, or local search engine optimization, simply refers to the steps you take to get your website to rank higher with your local audience. It helps physical businesses attract customers in their area. For example, a mom-and-pop soda shop wouldn’t expect to compete with Amazon when someone searches for “grape soda.” But they could compete if someone searches “grape soda Birmingham.” Hello, Grapico!

Local SEO is essential for healthcare organizations, which are still very much in-person businesses. And it’s not terribly difficult to do. Here are six easy ways to improve your local SEO.

  1. Optimize your website. Your website only accounts for about 14% of Google’s decision in where to rank your hospital in local search results. However, your website is the only piece of the SEO puzzle you control. So, start here by updating the SEO of your website. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Use consistent contact information and display it prominently on your homepage. Include a Google Map of your location. Use keywords in your title tags and internal links.
  2. Claim your Google My Business profile. This is so easy that you might choose to do it first. Google My Business is how you complete or edit your hospital’s business listing in Search and Maps. Ensure all contact information is correct and fill in as much as you possibly can, including social handles. Always use the same formatting for your address. Google might knock you down a few rankings if you use “First Ave.” on your website but “1st Ave.” on your Google My Business profile.
  3. Update other web directories, too. Now that you have the hang of it, check and update your contact information in other online directories. Yelp, Bing, and HealthGrades are essentials.
  4. Find out what keywords your customers are searching. We’re sure you’ve done keyword research. But have you specifically researched what people in your target area are searching? If you’ve ever gotten into a debate with a Northerner about whether it’s a shopping cart or buggy, you know the importance of using regional language. Use Google Trends to see exactly what locals are searching in relation to your keywords.
  5. Encourage reviews. Moz estimates online reviews account for about 15% of the factors used to rank search results. This is a huge jump from 10% just three years prior. The simplest—and cheapest—way to garner online feedback is to ask for it. Have staff involved in the discharge process ask patients to rate their experience online. Or consider including a flyer with discharge paperwork. You also can send a follow-up note wishing patients well and asking for a review.
  6. Increase your social presence. Search engines don’t put a ton of stock in your social media presence when it comes to local SEO, but it’s still a factor. And meeting your patients wherever they are is never a bad thing. So think outside the Facebook and Twitter box. Set up Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts, too.
User video calling a doctor using and healthcare app on his smartphone and professional medical team connected: online medical consultation concept

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.

Online Directories: A Necessary Evil of Hospital Marketing

If we suggested you use a portion of your healthcare marketing budget to take an ad out in the Yellow Pages, you’d think we were crazy—and we would be. After all, the Yellow Pages are no more! But business directories still exist—this time digitally—and they’re just as important to your hospital marketing efforts today as those massive yellow tomes.

How Online Directories Work

Online directories, also called web directories or citations, are essentially virtual lists of businesses and their contact information, including web addresses. Online directories take submissions from businesses, and most offer free basic listings, which include address, phone number, and web address. If you want to include additional profile information, such as your hours of operation, photos, description of services, or links to your social media accounts, there may be a fee. The fee can vary widely depending on the directory. Some directories, such as Yahoo Local and Better Business Bureau, charge for even basic listings.

If you don’t submit information, online directories will collect it from other sources. Often the information is wrong, outdated, incomplete, or inconsistent. Not staying on top of your listings will cost you customers in more ways than one, which we explore below.

Two Reasons Accurate and Consistent Listings are Critical

Submitting your hospital contact information to online directories is tedious but absolutely necessary. You also need to do this for other locations such as clinics, urgent care centers, and physician offices.

1. Competition for Patients

First, because patients actually use the directories to look up businesses. You don’t want even a handful of people choosing your competitor by default because you’re not listed or your information is incorrect.

2. Search Rank Results

Second, search engines such as Google use direct listings as part of their algorithms that determine your search engine rankings. Online directory listings are only a small factor in those calculations, but they still play a part. More importantly, however, is that incorrect, inconsistent, or missing listings can actually hurt your rankings.

More About Consistency in Online Directories

Remember that search engines are computers and they are scanning massive amounts of data. If your hospital address is formatted differently in different web directories, those computer programs read that as two separate entities. This effectively halves your reach. So if in one directory, you list your hospital’s address as 123 N. 8th Ave. and 123 North Eighth Avenue in another, search engines won’t recognize it as the same organization and will essentially make the two entries compete with one another.

Avoid errors and inconsistencies by keeping a log of your web directory entries and updating as necessary. And check your listings often. Some directories allow users to modify your company info or use algorithms that automatically update info it believes to be true.

Top Directories to List Your Hospital on Now

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online directory listings. You can’t possibly submit information to each individual web directory. Thankfully, there are some shortcuts.

The easiest way to update your directory listings is to use a paid service, such as Moz Local or Yext, to manage these for you. But if you don’t have the budget and need to handle listings in-house, we suggest you start with the directories listed below. (Note: We have not included social media accounts in our list, but you should have profiles with consistent contact information on all the major social media engines including Facebook and YouTube).

Check these obvious sites first for accuracy and consistency:

  • Google My Business
  • Bing (Bing is particularly important for seniors because the browser comes pre-loaded on many computers and seniors may not change it)
  • Yelp

Then these three top healthcare specific directories:

And if you still have time (and energy), grab these listings:

  • Yahoo Local (Unfortunately, Yahoo has chosen to team up with Yext, which requires you to pay for a listing. But you can get a free listing through its Localworks for small businesses, which allows you to put in multiple locations.)
  • Best of the Web (BOTW)
  • Yellow Pages

There are tons more to choose from, and the more directories you’re listed in, the more visibility you’ll have. But you’ll also need to consider resource management, as entering listings can be time intensive. If you have the time to tackle more directories, check out Vendasta’s list of top 100 online directories. If you click on the directory in the list, it will give you a short description with a direct link to that directory.

However you decide to proceed, make listing your hospital with the top web directories a priority. Your competitors do.

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information and how we can help you tell your brand story.

female businesswoman talking with senior doctor in hospital - creating better hospital marketing strategies

Grow Your Patient Base With These 3 Hospital Marketing Strategies

Every hospital and health system wants to grow its patient base. That is the job of hospital marketing: to increase brand awareness and build positive relationships between the hospital and potential patients.

There are a lot of methods that hospitals currently use to market themselves. From buying billboards to airing TV commercials, creating a Facebook page, and even sending out direct mail, marketing strategies can work together to create a total-package approach that targets a patient from multiple angles. (more…)

Healthcare Marketing: More Focus on Search, Less on Social

In the rush to do social media, healthcare marketers have neglected what may be more important – SEO.  It’s time to correct that.

180435502Writing for Search Engine Watch, Jay Taylor wrote a very interesting article about today’s emphasis on social media at the expense of search engine marketing.  It was very stimulating and thought provoking.  The article was directed to small and medium sized businesses, but it’s very appropriate for healthcare marketers.  The article is reprinted here but I’ve taken the liberty to make a few changes directing it specifically to hospital and healthcare marketing:

Social media is all the rave, and for good reason.

Fortune 500 companies are showing that social can be a very effective marketing tool, particularly when it comes to brand awareness and engagement.

But how effective is social media when it comes to customer acquisition for hospitals?

Hospitals and healthcare organizations are increasingly placing emphasis on social media marketing as a customer acquisition tool, while placing less emphasis on search marketing. Here are five reasons why this is a mistake, and why hospitals should focus on search, not social when it comes to acquiring patients.

1. Search Gets Hospitals in Front of Prospective Customers Who Aren’t Already Familiar With Their Brand

Unlike Fortune 500 companies, most hospitals don’t have the resources to invest in brand awareness campaigns that can take months or years to pay dividends. New patient acquisition is the primary objective, and search allows hospitals to get in front of prospective customers who aren’t already familiar with their brand, but are in need of their products or services.

While organic search takes time, paid search allows hospitals to get in front of prospective patients immediately with ads that are contextually relevant to their search query. So, even if the prospective customer isn’t familiar with the hospital serving the ad, that’s OK, because that hospital is advertising a solution intended to meet that prospective patient’s immediate needs.

2. Searchers are More Likely to Convert Into Customers

People use social media to, well, socialize. People use search engines when they want to find something.

When was the last time you went on Twitter to look for the nearest hamburger joint? Now, when was the last time you used Google to find a local restaurant?

The fact that searchers are actively searching for the products or services your hospital offers makes them much more likely to become a customer than someone who simply likes your Facebook page. The person who likes your Facebook page may eventually become a customer, but chances are they did not like your page because of their intent to purchase.

3. Search Allows Customers to Easily Find Your Business on the Go

Search engines make it easy to find information such as phone numbers and directions to local businesses on mobile devices. In fact, 88 percent of people who search for local information with a smartphone take action within a day, such as calling or visiting a local business, according to Google.

Additionally, 77 percent of smartphone users use their device for search. So, even if you do not target a local customer base specifically, mobile search provides an excellent opportunity to get in front of prospective customers.

4. Social Media Marketing Isn’t Easy

Some hospitals tend to gravitate to social media because they perceive it as being easy and inexpensive, while perceiving search marketing as just the opposite. However, a well-executed social media campaign is no easy task, particularly if the goal is new patient acquisition.

On the other hand, if a hospitals is using their company’s Twitter page to tweet about how good the cafeteria food was today, then yes, that is easy and inexpensive, and also ineffective.

5. Search is a Proven Customer Acquisition Tool

Whether organic search or paid search, there is little argument that search marketing is an effective customer acquisition tool, and mobile search has only enhanced its effectiveness.

Conversely, there is still much debate regarding the relationship between “likes” and purchase intent, and social media’s effectiveness in general when it comes to customer acquisition. When working with a limited marketing budget, as most hospitals do, it makes sense to utilize a proven patient acquisition method.


The truth is that search and social are not mutually exclusive. The lines are blurring between them.

The most effective digital marketing strategy would utilize both search and social to their maximum potential. Yet, the reality is that most hospitals don’t have the necessary resources to do both effectively. So, when the primary goal is patient acquisition, hospitals should focus on search, not social.