Four Reasons Why Hospitals Need SEO
In 2012, nearly 72% of Internet users addressed health-related concerns online. These online health seekers were looking for information about specific disorders, diseases, treatments, and even spent time researching specific specialists and physicians. I understand that this one statistic is not enough to sell SEO to hospitals, especially when budgets are tight and staff is low. Still, healthcare providers are responsible for providing the public with the best information possible and encourage intervention when needed. Early intervention and positive provider-patient relationships are vital for the future of public health. That is why I have put together a few more reasons why hospitals should be using SEO to reach these users.
1. It all starts with a search box.
Potential patients are trying to answer health questions online instead of at their doctor’s office. This is not surprising given the cost of healthcare and time needed to visit the doctor. It is important to consider how users are going about answering their health-related questions in the information age. The rise of WebMD and other specialized health databases have taken control over a small portion of traffic from online health seekers. Fortunately, Wikipedia and social networking sites are not major competition for the search engine rankings when it comes to health. So you may be asking yourself….
How are people finding answers to health-related questions online?
Approximately 77% of Internet users gathering information about a health topic use search engines. Google is the dominant search engine used by online health seekers, which is not surprising. This means that users do not know where they should be seeking medical advice online.
2. Enhance your word-of-mouth.
It might sound strange to associate SEO with word-of-mouth, but without search authority new users will never land on your site. If a friend recommends a product or service to you in person, you are more likely to buy that product or service. Where do people find products and services that they recommend? Online. Half of Internet users looking for health information are looking on behalf of someone else. If the information is searchable and high-quality, it is more likely to spread online and offline. That has some serious word-of-mouth potential.
3. Increase appointment attendance and relieve patient anxiety.
Going to the doctor is stressful. It is natural for patients to experience anxiety about a potential diagnosis and not show up to an appointment. This is frustrating and costly to both parties. When a person thinks that they are sick, the first step they take toward diagnosis is to search their symptoms online. This can either relieve stress or stir panic. Panic leads to unrealistic self-diagnosis. Healthcare providers can take control of information spirals by providing quality search friendly information for multiple conditions. Telling success stories and providing emotional support to patients associated with specific conditions can help patients make it to their appointments and stay calm. Convert with quality content.
4. Strengthen your staff and build patient trust.
Hospitals and hospital systems are reliable sources for quality information that can meet the needs of online health seekers. Physicians and staff are the life-blood of quality information. Health can be an extremely sensitive subject making patient-provider relationships difficult to facilitate and sustain. When content is the result of collaboration between healthcare providers and SEO experts who are well-versed in health topics, a patient relationship can start before they even enter the waiting room. Not everyone can blog about health topics like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, but SEO can help hospitals better represent their staff online through bio pages and patient review opportunities. Optimize care by optimizing your physicians and staff.
Healthcare providers are faced with a challenging road ahead. With major pressure to prove quality care and efficient in-house practices, marketing can be at the bottom of the priority list. Theses top level concerns sometimes leave the needs and emotions of patients in the dust. We need to remember how today’s patient functions and how we can convert them from online information seekers to well-informed patients in the office. Quality and searchable content leads to a positive user experience. This experience can be the difference between seeking medical advice from a physician or self-diagnosis/treatment advised by a heath database. Health has a future. That future is online.
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