A hospital’s website is its anchor in the digital landscape; provided it’s built well, it firmly secures the attention of both your audience and search engines.
A hospital’s website is its online foundation, the bedrock of the entire institution’s power to attract and engage with online consumers. While social media prowess and an ear for great content are crucial, a well-structured site ensures that your hard work is rewarded with heavy traffic and high engagement rates from patients.
But when it comes to online marketing, patients aren’t a healthcare provider’s only audience. Sites also need be “readable” to search engine algorithms like Google, Bing, and Yahoo! to ensure they’re listed as prominently in search results as possible. This is called search engine optimization (SEO), and fortunately, Google’s algorithms scour sites in much the same way that people do. That essentially means that if your hospital’s site is easy to navigate, Google will reward you for your efforts.
Hence, our rule of thumb for hospital site structuring: if readers can’t access your most important content, neither can search engines (who won’t display them to readers, and so on). It’s also important to remember that a site’s “searchability” is relative in that its highly dependant on both location and patient demographics.
Structuring for SEO
First things first, the links to your most important pages — service line pages, contact pages, blog content, reviews, education pages, etc. — should be visible and easily accessible from your home page. The same goes for your primary navigation interface, which is usually a bar at the top of the page or a drop-down menu. If your hospital has multiple locations, you need to include a page for each. To put it plainly, if your key content isn’t obvious, no one will ever see it.
As Search Engine Watch notes, you also need to link back to that important content from internal pages, such as other blog pages. It’s also a good idea to create “anchor” pages: longer, definitive pieces of blog content, such as medical case studies or “thinkpieces,” that smaller articles can all link to. This anchor page should in turn link back to your services pages.
Moreover, each individual page needs to have clear, targeted themes, including highly topical or local keywords and keyword groups, maximizing your site’s immediate relevance to users. Moz refers to this strategy as giving off a “scent,” a bait that attracts users within your facility’s immediate proximity. As important as search terms are, however, overall import and content quality trump specific keywords, as Google uses semantic search processes that favor great context over strict keyword inclusion, according to Search Engine Watch.
Once your hospital’s site is a glittering jewel (and updated regularly), it needs to be optimized for mobile, which accounts for nearly half of all search traffic, as ClickZ reports.
Build Onto Your Foundation
In reality, the structure of your hospital’s site extends beyond the organization and format of your content, especially as far as SEO is concerned. It’s imperative that you create or update your listings in Google’s My Business directory, including correct addresses and phone numbers for each location and/or medical practitioner. The same goes for Yelp and Yahoo! Local: Google indexes these sites (as well as other local directories) and gives preference to more relevant or highly-rated medical facilities.
And just as directories look inward at your hospital site, their content faces outward. The context of whatever content you create will determine how easily or willingly potential patients find your information through search. What are the most common concerns of your target audience? What treatments are they most often seeking?
Check Google Trends often to assess the relevancy of your topics. Another good technique for making sure your topics are on point is to look at the organic traffic and the search terms that currently drive traffic to your site. Google restricts access to these keyword terms, while Bing does not.
It’s also a good idea to review your most popular pages and re-optimize them with new keywords and CTAs (calls-to-action) on a regular basis — if those are the pages getting the most views (even if they’re older posts), making sure they stay relevant and up-to-date will help keep the traffic flowing and maximize the return on your content creation efforts.
Optimizing your hospital website’s structure is a task that’s never truly finished, and as it inevitably grows in size, administrators will need to regularly trim some fat to ensure that it doesn’t become too complicated or unwieldy.
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