Physical therapists have long days, and sometimes longer nights (depending on how many notes you have left). Assuming you are the owner of a physical therapy clinic, those days can seem even longer. With everything going on, you probably have no time to educate yourself on the latest digital marketing tactics like physical therapy SEO, Facebook medical advertising, email marketing, social media optimization, etc.
Let’s face it, you may not even be interested in all of the above. Your job is to treat your patients and help them get better! However, at some point, every pt practice needs to implement basic digital marketing tactics for their physical therapy website to stand a chance in today’s digital-driven world. How else will your potential clients and patients find you online? Today you will discover the best physical therapy SEO practices to optimize your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
There are many ways get in front of your audience on the internet. However, implementing a solid SEO strategy can be more cost-effective compared to other digital marketing tactics such as paid advertising. SEO for physical therapy is a vital part of digital marketing. It essentially is a marketing tactic in which one implements specific technical, on-page, and off-page optimizations to improve your website ranking and/or search engine results.
Meaning when your potential clients use specific words or phrases in search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo; you will appear first before any of your competition organically. If your practice is in a city that is competitive, you can understand how important this is. If you are buried on page two or three of Google, and your competitor is on page 1, you can imagine who will get the call first. (Statistics and research say very few people to page 2 and beyond).
On-site SEO (or also known as on-page SEO) is a practice of optimizing elements on your physical therapy website in order to rank higher and earn more organic traffic in search engines. On-page SEO usually is done by optimizing both the content and HTML code on a page.
On-site SEO is very important, as search engines are understanding user intent of a page to help provide the best answer for a user. Proper on-site SEO helps users understand what a page is about and whether it addresses the searchers query. Good on-site SEO practice will help search engines understand what a human would see if they visited a page so that search engines can render what an actual human would consider high-quality content or answer for that search query.
The main goal of on-page SEO is the art of appealing to both search engine and users to:
- Understand what the webpage is about
- Identify that page as relevant to search query or queries (i.e. SEO keywords or set of long tail keywords)
- Find that page useful and worthy enough of ranking well search engine results
Elements of On-Site Physical Therapy SEO
Back in the day, on-site physical therapy SEO usually meant adding keywords to specific locations on the page or pt website. Presently, keywords aren’t so much important to on-site SEO as they use to be. It is more important to remember that terms are actually content topics.
In the past, whether or not a page ranked for a term depended on using the right keyphrases on a website. This was in order for search engines to understand what the content was about. User experience was a secondary attribute, making sure search engines located keywords and ranked a site.
Today, search engines are far more sophisticated. Search engines can tell a page’s meaning from not only the use of keywords, but synonyms, how the content appears, or word combinations. Keywords still matter, but whats more important is how relevant that page is. The key is to ask yourself how relevant the content is to the user intent of the search queries.
This is why its important for physical therapy SEO. On-site SEO is less about keyword repetition, and more about understanding who your users or potential patients are, what they’re looking for, and what health-related topics you can create that tends to their needs. Pages that meet these criteria, usually have content that is:
- In-depth. Thin content is one issue that Google will throw a fit over. Today it is assumed that content by being thorough and lengthy enough to stand a chance ranking
- User-friendly. Is the content readable? Especially on mobile? Is it organized and structured on your website well? Is it easy to navigate? Not having these elements optimized to run your patients away!
- Unique. Copied or duplicate content from elsewhere on your site could impact your sites ranking ability.
- Authoritative & Trustworthy. Does your content act as a reliable resource for information on a particular topic?
- User-intent. Optimizing quality content also means appealing to searchers or a patient’s expectations. Content topics should align with the search queries added to the content.
Non-Keyword Related Elements of On-Site SEO
Keywords are great, but there are several other elements non-keyword related that can influence a page’s on-site optimization.
- Link usage on a page: How many links have you use? Are they internal vs external?
- Page URL structure
- Mobile friendliness
- Page metadata
- Page load speed
These all go back to what was mentioned before. Creating content and a webpage that has a great user experience. The more usable a page, usually the better that page has to rank for your patients.
Don’t let the word technical scare you. Part of the reason why some physical therapy clinic owners don’t understand SEO is due in part to technical SEO. Technical SEO refers to any physical therapy SEO website work that is done outside of the content or on-page SEO. Technical SEO is the foundation of a website. (i.e. foundation of a house, or in your case a pt clinic office). Laying a strong foundation to give your content the best chance to rank in search engines is key. Like on-site SEO, things have changed as search engines have become more sophisticated.
Most healthcare marketers implement a full 200+ point audit to unveil all technical items, however below you’ll find the most important areas for your physical therapy website in 2018.
Page/Site Speed Optimization
If there is anything you can take away from this blog, its page speed. If your website loads slowly, potential patients will leave quickly. Site speed is one of Google’s many ranking factors. 40% of patients will close a website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Google doesn’t take full page speed into account, but your potential patients will.
If the traffic or users click the “back” button to choose a different result (like your competitor) this is something you do not want. If this happens too often, your rankings will drop in favor of competition. More than that, there are several other line items that are much more common that can affect page or site speed:
- too man CSS image requests
- unoptimized images
- content served without HTTP compression
- excessive plugin use
Mobile optimization is the process of making sure that your visitors or patients who access your website from mobile devices have an optimized mobile experience.
Year-over-year your patients spend more time on their mobile devices. However, there are many physical therapy websites that aren’t designed to fit different screen sizes. Mobile optimization looks at site design, structure, page speed, and more to ensure your not creating an experience that turns your patients or visitors away.
Mobile Physical Therapy SEO Best Practices
- Page Speed. Not only is page speed an attribute for on-page SEO, it is a main component of technical physical therapy SEO. Page speed is even more important for mobile users than desktop. Other than optimizing images, you will want to minify code, leverage browser caching, and reduce your redirects.
- Design Site for Mobile. Mobile devices these days are created for mobile, seeing as how it so important. “Above the fold” use to be a factor, however with websites utilizing endless scrolling pages, this is a non-factor.
- Use Flash or Not to Use Flash? Use HTML5 instead of Flash. Some user’s phones may not render your website correctly.
- Be Careful with Pop-ups. Using exit technology and content pop-ups for email captures are smart. However, Google has not stated that interrupting the user’s experience cannot hurt website rankings. Be careful when using these features, and do not interrupt the experience.
- Design For Big Fingers. Sometimes having bigger fingers can lead to unnecessary clicks on your PT website. If buttons are too big, or too small, or in the pathway this can interrupt the user experience. Ensure your website’s touch points are in proper scale.
You may think that you’re pt website has good site structure. But what does ‘good site structure’ really mean?
Good site structure means that you have created your website in a way that users will have an easier time navigating through. In other words, clean structure and call to actions should be implemented if they need to find patient forms. Having great site structure is pivotal regardless whether you have 5 page or 15 pages on your website.
Structured Data – Schema
Implementing schema on your website is a way to telling search engines what your website is about. Its a way of adding specifics about your content. Schema can affect search engine rankings by effecting click-through rates. Something that becomes very important when your tracking conversions.
Schema is used to render rich snippets. Rich snippets are what you see when you Google a recipe, or looking for specific events. Adding schema to your website happens on the HTML page level, and there are thousands of different schema properties to learn. Using Google’s markup helper will help ease the pain of learning, and may save some money rather than hiring an expert.
This is an element of SEO that even some experts overlook, let alone a busy physical therapy clinic owner. Indexing is one of the most basic search engine concepts. It deals with how efficiently a website can crawl and index your website to appear in search engines, and understand what your website is about.
How do you improve indexability?
- XML Sitemaps
- Connect your website to Google Search Console
- Eliminate duplicate content
- Double-check your robots.txt and make sure pages are index properly
Crawl Errors & URL Site Restructuring
Websites change over time. Whether your clinic is rebranding or simply erasing old pages, to bring in new ones. When this happens URLs linking to specific pages will disconnect, pages become lost, sometimes entire blog posts can go missing. When your potential patients are searching for specific pages that were lost in this act, it can create broken pages. They may redirect to another people they do not belong on. Thus leaving the user with no option but to find their answer elsewhere.
Off-site SEO or also called “off-page SEO”, usually refers to a large number of optimizations or tactics you implement outside of your own website to impact your rankings on search engine results.
Optimizing your pt website for off-site rankings usually deals with improving search engine, and brand awareness; or perception of a site’s popularity, relevance, authority, and trustworthiness. This is done by linking to or promoting your website and brand, “voting or vouching” for the quality of your content.
Why Does Off-Site SEO Matter?
Search algorithms and other various ranking factors are constantly changing. The SEO community usually agrees with the fact that trustworthiness, relevance, and authority affects a website’s ability to rank. Based on research and other digital marketing findings we can assume that off-site related SEO factors carry more than 50% of the ranking factor weight.
Links & Off-Site SEO
Building backlinks are the foundation of off-site SEO. Whether you have or haven’t heard this before. Search engines use backlinks as an indicator the target’s content quality. Therefore is a physical therapy website has several high-quality backlinks, then that website will usually rank better than others with fewer backlinks.
Essentially, there are three main types of backlinks:
- Natural links are created without any action on part of the business or pt owner. For example, if Web PT decided to link to your website or blog article that provided a lot of great insight is a natural link.
- Manually built links are acquired through link building tactics. This includes local websites or customers to link to your website; or asking other physical therapy experts to share your content.
- Self-established links are created by adding your physical therapy practice or clinic; and physical therapy services to online directories, forums, press releases, etc with specific anchor text. Be careful, as some self-established link building tactics can be considered black hat physical therapy SEO tactics. This is a tactic that is frowned upon and could have your website penalized!
Links that offer the greatest effort or contribution, usually are the links that pass the greatest link equity. There are several attributes that contribute to how much equity is passed in an acquired link:
- The number of links to the targets page
- How related the linking site’s topic is to the site being linked to
- How fresh or new the link is
- The anchor text used on the linking website
- How trustworthy the linking website is
- The actual authority of the linking page and website
Non-Link Related Off-Site SEO
Earning links from other healthcare related external websites is normally the most practiced off-site physical therapy SEO strategy. Any tactic that happens outside of your physical therapy website will help improve your search engine results. This includes:
- Social media marketing campaigns
- Guest blogging
- Linked and unlinked brand mentions
- Influencer marketing: an often used tactic
A note to local pt website using off-site SEO strategies:
Off-site physical therapy SEO relies a lot on normal human behavior. This applies to general SEO and local SEO. Local PT clinics with quality services receive a lot of word-of-mouth referrals from current patients. This is equivalent to off-site SEO.
How To Implement Physical Therapy SEO
Implementing a full physical therapy SEO campaign involves a lot of patience. There is a lot that goes into improving search engine results. However, as stated before optimizing or implementing one tactic at a time can go a long way. Especially if your competitors are not implementing any SEO tactics themselves. You will be ahead of the pack! Contact your local SEO company, or as a healthcare marketing agency contact us today! We would be more than happy to show you what you need to do to increase patient load and pull ahead of the competition!