ranking factors for doctors

The biggest medical marketing trade secret unveiled

How does Google rank your private practice, compared to other specialist doctors in your area? Even with organic search ranking algorithms being kept a closely guarded secret, there are three major ranking factors that you want to keep in mind when you evaluate your visibility and lead generation.

ranking factors for doctors

The biggest medical marketing trade secret unveiled

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice

Kris Borgraeve

February 25, 2022

Easily overlooked, and often misunderstood

ranking high as a doctor

Picture this: Google’s search engine gives you results based on your search intent. We know that this is artificial intelligence and that it keeps getting more sophisticated.
Now when I google for a “vegan pizza restaurant” I do not expect a sushi place or a meat-all-you-can-eat type of link at the top of my Google search results, right? 

Relevance is easily overlooked as a given. I am an obstetrician, therefore I expect to be in Google’s top 10 (on page 1 of Google, as we say in our industry). Relevance is not something you earn with your accreditation and qualification, nor is it a quick-and-dirty IT trick that can be ordered online, delivered tomorrow and work for you immediately.

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"Google relevance is best explained as a deep quality check into your medical website’s content. Relevance is thoroughly checked on various levels by Google, and therefore it has become impossible to cheat on Google by implementing a few IT-tricks"

The top ranking factor being relevance, it makes sense to unpack it even further as a set of factors:
  • The website or the individual page is truly about the topic that the Google user was typing into Google.
  • Google can detect this because there is enough content. If your IVF page only has one paragraph and never talks about falling pregnant, assisted reproductive technology, or general terms such as fertility treatment or fertility specialist, then it will be flagged as less relevant even if you are the busiest fertility specialist in town.
  • Google can also trust your web pages as a safe vehicle of relevant content. If the copy is brilliant yet your 10-year-old website is insecure, full of broken links and built before iPhone 4 was introduced, chances are that Google’s algorithm will send prospects (the couple in need of fertility treatment) to a healthier, safer, responsive website. Not to yours.
  • Overall website health includes loading speed and image size as well. Again, you can have amazing photography of knees (I am now jumping to orthopaedics as an example), but rank poorly because your team member uploaded images that were 5Mb in size each, slowing down the website experience for the person who needs a knee replacement. As a result, your competitor down the road ends up replacing the knee because she had a faster website.

Yes, relevance is often misunderstood. It is -after all – the biggest medical marketing trade secret. Now that you are in the know, nothing stops you from reassessing your content and becoming the most relevant specialist in your area, in Google’s eyes!

Understanding maps, local SEO for doctors and the pack

google maps for doctors

Distance is a second ranking factor. Now, unlike relevance, this is not a factor that needs a big action plan. If you work in Sydney, you don’t try to rank high in Vancouver for obstetrics.

So why mention ‘distance’? There are two things you should know about location when we talk about ranking high on Google.

  1. Watch out where you use Google: If you live 20 km away from your private practice, always bear in mind what you are searching for (assuming for a moment you have an interest in your Google visibility and occasionally check if you show up for the services you offer) and where. Google detects your location and the Google Pack reflects search results in an acceptable radius around your location as a Google Search user.
  2. The Google Pack, Google Business and Google Maps are all connected items, as part of the Google ecosystem. To manage this is part of a comprehensive medical marketing strategy and your marketing agency should always be able to explain how they make sure your assets are in good standing.
  3. Local SEO for doctors requires strategic work on the content, or on-page SEO, from day one when you first launch your website. Ideally, it is not an add-on you order after you have launched your website, just like you wouldn’t buy the land after you have built the house. The foundational work means that your marketing team builds each paragraph around relevant keywords. 

The local pack may give you the feeling that you don’t rank well. Check that you are close to your practice when you do this self-diagnosis. If you are not in the local pack even as you Google your practice behind your desk, there is work to be done.

ranking factors for doctors

Prominence or being the most visible specialist in town

doctors online profile

Prominence is the third big ranking factor for doctors, when we look at your organic Google visibility. Again, it’s easy to miss the mark and to focus on squeezing a lot of content into your DIY website. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

Prominence is one of those areas where Google improves its artificial intelligence to really understand your practice. It wants to know if you are a big, well-respected, busy practice, or a one-clinic-per-week operation in a back-office of a small rural hospital.

Prominence in the eyes of the search algorithms is best reduced to a simple habit: Offer value to your patients and prospective patients in a regular, consistent and professional way.

  • Regular: We all know of people who started blogging at some point and then gave up. It never brought me any new patients so I stopped in 2019. I hear that often and it ties in with how you blog and how you offer value.
  • Consistent: Blogging requires consistency toward the audience but also towards Google. You want to make sure that the search engine can really see what the copy is about, by using correct titles and headers, meta descriptions and a healthy medical website back-end.
  • Professional: If your blog is not responsive, uses massive images, contains broken links or has a less-than-ideal text/images ratio, it won’t be seen as extremely valuable for your prospective patients. The bottom line: if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Prominence in its true form means that your social media profiles, your website, your Google Business profile and your YouTube channel all work together to flag that you are a thought leader. If you are mentioned on the local news, show up on forums and other platforms, then Google knows that the buzz around your practice must be real.

The immense impact of high-quality content

content experts for medical

High-quality content is key. Not just because it helps you establish your leadership position in your local community, with GPs and in direct searches by consumers.

Quality content is the only way to build sustainable digital value for your brand, because local search rankings are now entirely defined by the content. Not by an SEO tactic or a trick. 

Kris Borgraeve - Co-founder Digital Practice
Kris Borgraeve | Co-founder Digital Practice

"In the past, SEO agencies used to rely almost exclusively on building external links to your website. With the latest updates of Google’s algorithms, the weight has shifted toward high-quality content and high-quality user interfaces."

Content is not just how you write about symptoms, conditions or treatments.

Content is the whole experience. The website’s responsiveness, the navigation menu, the photos, the internal links, the use of video, the way consumers find their way in the information.

Remember that Google literally analyses every single move your patients are making on your website if your agency has installed your Google Analytics tag correctly.

That data tells us over and over again that both the consumer and the Google algorithm prefer high-quality content over poor content, or technically unhealthy content

Let's meet

Let’s talk about your ranking

google experts for doctors

I promise that we won’t talk about IT tricks. What we will discuss in your free strategy session is the best way to increase your Google visibility as a specialist doctor in private practice.
Book an obligation-free 30-minute consult now and let’s discuss your practice growth.

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