Podcast #13

Back to Basics: Building Your Healthcare SEO Strategy

If healthcare organizations want to rank on the first page of Google, they need a solid SEO foundation. That means having a scalable, organized, and efficient website that supports your content strategy and a strong backlink portfolio that tells Google your website is reputable.

Episode Highlights:

John McAlpin

John McAlpin: “As an industry, we’re actually switching from keyword optimization to topic optimization. In order to provide better content when we’re writing, we step away from trying to target keywords and instead target topics.”

Related Resources

Announcer: Welcome to the Ignite podcast. The only healthcare marketing podcast that digs into the digital strategies and tactics that help you accelerate growth each week. Cardinal’s experts explore innovative ways to build your digital presence and attract more patients, buckle up for another episode of Ignite.

Alex MembrilloHey, everybody, excited to have you guys on and listening today to Ignite. We have our master of this SEO disaster, John McAlpin. He fixes all of your ailments. He’s got the prescription for SEO success. This guy is awesome. One of the best SEOs in the country, if you haven’t already talked to him, you should. If you’ve got some serious SEO issues today, we’re going to be talking about building the fundamentals of healthcare SEO strategies. John, is this for a novice or is this for an advanced healthcare marketing organization? What would you say?

John McAlpinWe are about to get pretty advanced. I would say this is not for the newbies out there.

Alex: Great. I love it. Okay. A lot of podcasts are just touching on a basics, but we’re going to go advanced here. Talk to me about the essential elements of a healthcare SEO strategy. What do we need to look at that a lot of people aren’t seeing.

John: One of the most overlooked things that people are missing is your site architecture, make it scalable, make it organized and make it efficient.

Alex: Efficient is important. We had a discussion around core web vitals and mobile-first updates. We won’t go too long into that. What in the site architecture, give me some specifics. What do you say when you’re auditing site? You’re like, Ooh, why they do that?

John: The first thing I look at is what is their URL Taxonomy? Does everything follow a logical order? Do they all have– Every page they have a parent page. Is it falling in a company content silo? Are you linking to broken pages? What is your internal linking like and seeing if you’re actually creating a true internal knowledge graph?

Alex: Okay. What’s a knowledge graph?

John: A knowledge graph is a series of interconnected concepts or ideas or now it’s like entities. A lot of different people create their own knowledge graph. Google has their own knowledge graph of concepts and entities. When we’re talking about a website, having your own internal knowledge graph, what I’m saying is every concept that you’re talking about has a parent.

You’re not talking about the same concept on multiple pages and you don’t know which page is the root. You can dive into deeper details on other pages. For example, you have a page about SEO and Cardinal. Now you have healthcare. SEO is a subset of that and you’re creating this internal knowledge. One content silo would all be about different types of SEO for different industries for example, that would be a robust structure, knowledge graph versus 10 pages about SEO. They’re all saying the same thing.

Alex: All of the same thing. What’s more important content or site architecture. What comes first?

John: Well, first you need an architecture to build off of. A lot of it’s planning, knowing what types of content you want to talk about. You have the ideas of what you want to say, and then you organize it with the URLs and your internal links. They play hand in hand, it’s chicken and egg situation.

Alex: Chicken and the egg. It feels like site architecture is the foundation of the house. Content is like the second and third storey. It all comes scrambling down. If the foundation is set correctly.

John: Absolutely. If you have a great architecture, but your contents weight, then what’s the point.

Alex: What makes content strong?

John: Answering user intent for any possible scenario.

Alex: How do they find out the scenarios? I’m a medical practice and I’m an orthopedic group. How do I know what content to build that answers their questions? Where do I go?

John: The basics are to your keyword research, right? You want to know what is everyone’s searching for but here at Cardinal, we go beyond that. We go beyond the keyword research. We look into other tools other than the SCM rush and Google, and [unintelligible 00:03:56]. We’re diving deep into forms to see what are people actually talking about with each other, what the conversations they’re having.

Tools also have to see what’s the logical flow of questions one after the other to see what is a true patient journey, because you want to understand and define what that patient journey is in order to serve the best content at every stage of the decision cycle.

Alex: Where do you start? You start where your bottom of the funnel content like location and service line pages, or do you start top of the funnel answering questions that are more diagnostic? Do you even need an orthopedic surgeon-type stuff? Have you really torn their ACL? Where do you start?

John: This is actually interesting is we do bottom-up because we want to start with actions that someone wants to take an action, because the thing is you can have a lot of great top-funnel content. For other people that aren’t super marketing savvy, we’re talking about blogs here. Long-tail keywords, people coming in and asking questions, answering questions.

You can answer the question, but if they can’t take an action, then you’re just wasting your time. We want to make sure that we’re giving someone an option to take an action. like schedule an appointment or talk to a provider or something like that. Work your bottom-funnel up

Alex: Bottom of the funnel up. Make sure you’re present when someone’s actually looking for provider. Then you start working your way up in the answering questions but it’s longer-term buying into the patient’s goodwill. You say you wait to do that until you got your bottom of the funnel up. I got you there. When we’re talking about how much can– I get this question a lot on my webinars, how much content to put on a page? What is your suggestion? How do you answer that?

John: It varies from place to place right? First, it’s budget. What can you afford to really invest into your website? That varies. Also how deep does your industry go? If you’re selling, simple example, selling pizzas, you really only write about pizza so much. Content may not be the play there. It could be something else like link-building or other types of campaigns and advertising.

If you’re in healthcare chances are it’s a pretty deep pocket to pick from. There’s a lot of different things you can talk about in healthcare. As far as how often and how much you should be writing, it really comes down to what’s your budget because the possibilities are oftentimes endless.

Alex: Absolutely. Evaluating what your competitors are doing is important. If you’re in a really competitive market and they have a thousand words on every one of their pages you better have 1,001 just to get up to the top of your positions like Google’s looking at breadth of content until Google figures out a way just versus like quantity of content on a page.

Once you get up to the top three, it feels like they look more for click-through rate, dwell time bounce rate to determine who goes top three. Just to get into the top three it feels like it’s quantity of content.

John: Another way to look at this is when you’re doing competitor research don’t get the workout, look at the topic. How many copies and pieces of content are they talking about? We’re talking about like– Let’s talk about behavioral health. Let’s talk about you. You’re a behavioral health provider and you treat ADHD and you try to rank for ADHD therapy and you do your research and you find all your competitors that are Reiki for ADHD therapy.

Can you find what their landing pages that’s ranking the highest and say we did our research? We’ve got like 10 landing pages that are outranking us and we want to outrank these. We’re going to go to each one and see how many concepts on each page they’re addressing. They addressed signs and symptoms. Do they address how they can treat it and some other ADHD content?

We want to make sure that we answer all of those. Answers them more effectively and with more authority, maybe have a provider fact check your content and then also answer more topics, do more research and answer more topics to them and be more comprehensive.

Alex: Why do you keep talking about topics? Is that like a new thing? Is Google looking at that instead of just keyword spamming?

John: Yes. We’re actually switching as an industry from keyword optimization to topic optimization. Before we dive into that, don’t worry [unintelligible 00:07:56] keyword research and keywords still important because we search by keywords not always by topics. When we’re writing, in order to provide better content, we step away from trying to target keywords and then target topics.

What I mean by that is we’re trying to be not just comprehensive like I mentioned before but we’re trying to make sure that we address a concept, an entity, if you will. Then once we have a well-structured content before we publish one of the last phases, we add in our keywords. Making sure that they’re still in their robust naturally because when you optimize your topic, you stop thinking about optimizing for keywords. Often times writers will write better content, more natural-sounding content. That’s what Google wants. They want it to read naturally.

Alex: When we were talking about healthcare SEO strategies does link building matter anymore

John: It will forever matter because think about it. It’s the pillars of SEO. It’s the technical, how can Google crawl and access and understand your website? The content? What are you saying? What do you want people to say? How do they rank you? In link building, you need to outreach this trust. If you’re going to build expertise, authority, and trustworthiness, you need to have citations and links so that Google knows that people trust you.

Alex: I got you. That’s really the way they differentiate. You can build all the great content if no one links to you that Google doesn’t think you’re the authority. Everyone’s always tossing around his link. Billy May wildly yes. How do you think Google is going to differentiate between you and someone else with very similar content? They look for the authority links.

You walk into the room. The person was more people standing around him is the more popular one. Backlink is the same thing. It’s a vote from the cool people in the room. What else? What are the missing pieces that can help take your SEO strategy to the next level? Once you have done those foundational elements, architecture content link building

John: Next is semantic STS. [unintelligible 00:09:50]

Alex: We’re going to do a whole session on that. That’s going to sound fun. Anything else? Do agencies fill a gap here that you find your clients having with just in-house resources?

John: I think that one of the biggest gaps right now too is optimizing for EAT and taking advantage of a resource that’s often untapped.

Alex: Did you say it?

John: EAT, E-A-T.

Alex: Explain that.

John: It stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. While this applies to all websites, it really applies to websites in the YMYL category or your money or your life. Think about doctors, lawyers, financial advisors, anyone that affects someone’s health or finances gets held to a higher standard and they need to be more trustworthy. Now that is really difficult for Google to quantitatively measure.

They actually use those guidelines for the quality raters to judge to make sure their algorithm’s doing things properly but they confirmed one of the main things that the basis off of is your link. If a lot of people are citing your study or statistics or whatever as a citation in their work, that sending trustworthy signals to your website. Another example of why link building is important.

Alex: Why link building is important. I like it. When you’re talking about expertise and authority, does it also help to have all of those topics and questions answered on a page? Like is that lending into that. What you had mentioned earlier with robust content?

John: No it actually doesn’t because Google can’t actually tell on your content if it is authoritative, or trustworthy, or accurate but we can appeal to users by having certain things, especially healthcare, have our providers fact-check them, have their picture. Healthline actually does this really well. If you want a good example go to Healthline set that out. Have your providers fact-check information or write it and that can help users feel more trustworthy.

Alex: I like it. Then everyone listening now there, when you’re building your robust content, topics, and all of that stuff, it also needs to be coded. I see snippets, I see people always ask us the FAQs, is that like technical SEO schema for people to get listed up there at the top? The top from the funnel keyword stuff. How do you get there?

John: All these search snippets and things like that are actually automatically done by Google. The only thing that we can actually control is the FAQ schema which is when you go to a listing and it has those previously ask questions dropped down and you can have a little [unintelligible 00:12:20]. That’s on the individual listing. People also asked as a separate search snippet that we can’t control.

Alex: Can’t control it but where’s it pulling from really deep content? Then you just hope that [unintelligible 00:12:32]

John: With Google especially since Google released recently, like in the last week or two, they released the passage indexing which means that they will rank a certain passage on your content over the entire page. That’s a whole other podcast there.

Alex: We’ll say that. All right, John, this was really helpful. I appreciate it. We talked about building your healthcare SEO strategy foundational elements from having the site architecture including URL taxonomy and internal linking and knowledge graphing to building the kinds of content there that are going to help fill short-term gaps. Bottom of the funnel stuff to answering long-term questions and getting you more of the top of the funnel traffic. John, thanks for joining me on Ignite.

John: Right on

Annuncer: Thanks for listening to this episode of Ignite. Interested in keeping up with the latest trends in healthcare marketing? Subscribe to our podcasts and leave a rating and review. For more healthcare marketing tips visit our blog at cardinaldigitalmarketing.com.

[00:13:41] [END OF AUDIO]

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