Everyone looking for a specialist practice probably wants to access content leading to the finest doctors. However, physicians find it hard to reach potential patients not only because of probable technical limitations but also because of the advertising law. But do the restrictions related to medical advertisements include SEO for the medical industry? Should you take these regulations seriously? In today’s entry, we’ll address all the queries!
The medical industry - what does it actually mean?
The term “medical industry” covers all establishments where you can receive treatment, book appointments, or undergo surgeries. Therefore, these are clinics, health centers (including those dealing with aesthetic medicine), doctor and dentist surgeries, and all their variations, both private and public. These institutions are extremely unique, not only because of the fact that we benefit from their services when we’re ill but also because of the nature of their activity.
Advertisements or SEO activities in the medical industry don’t aim at increasing sales of products. Surgeries and clinics don’t usually deal with distribution, instead, they want to attract patients. However, the task is hindered because of the law that makes it hard to advertise medical services in order to protect patients and those seeking help. Nevertheless, the latter ones, or to be more precise 73% of patients, frequently look for specialists online. So is it possible to attract any of this traffic without violating the law?
Healthcare marketing act - a useless law or a real obstacle?
According to the Healthcare Marketing Act of 2017:
To ensure that patients receive accurate health care information by prohibiting misleading and deceptive advertising or representation in the provision of health care services, to require the identification of the license of health care professionals, and for other purposes.
This regulation is intended to ensure that patients receive reliable and objective information about healthcare institutions. However, we aren’t told what actually “deceptive advertising” is which might be problematic for medical facilities trying to devise their marketing strategy.
The medical industry allows you to provide only basic information, whereas content related to special offers, discounts, or miracle therapies isn’t acceptable.
The data that can be given by a doctor to enrich their patient base includes:
Name and professional title,
Place, days and times of appointments,
Types of services provided,
Degree and title as well as specializations,
Information on titles, expertise in subspecialized areas of medicine or offered health services,
Phone numbers or other contact details,
Price lists and payment methods.
It’s possible to place such information on bulletin boards, in newspapers, phone directories, guides, and websites.
Considering all the regulations, it’s hard not to notice that the line between legal and illegal healthcare marketing is very thin and many companies have to constantly balance it. Obvious marketing activities such as flyers, discounts, or empty promises are automatically excluded from the list of acceptable steps. However, fortunately for those who want to do SEO for their medical businesses, certain activities are still permitted despite the restrictions.
Is it legal to do SEO for the medical industry?
Despite all the restrictions imposed on the medical industry, it’s still possible to legally do SEO in this sector. To a significant extent, SEO is based on providing links and information about a given institution on various websites. It’s also permitted to improve website positions in the search results as SEO itself interferes solely in the search engine rankings. Furthermore, SEO doesn’t encourage people to buy directly, therefore, it doesn’t violate the marketing act.
Medical copywriting vs. SEO
Copywriting or a blog thematically related to the business activity of your clinic or practice isn’t a violation. However, when creating such content, it’s worth making sure that it has a purely informative function. For example, entries describing individual treatments or appointments, location of the practice or opening hours are compliant with the rules. However, when writing about research or treatments, it’s a good idea to refer to articles or scientific papers that will make the message more credible. On the other hand, you mustn’t state that your clinic employs the finest specialists in the town because it’s seen as an attempt to persuade people to take advantage of your offer.
When creating your website content, you can focus on providing professional advice.
Social media in the medical industry
Social media platforms are extremely helpful when doing medical SEO. They also inform potential clients and patients by providing basic contact details and descriptions of individual treatments (in the form of posts). It’s allowed to use them to describe achievements and skills of your staff members. Besides, social media links are helpful in doing SEO for the website they lead to.
How to improve the credibility of a medical website?
All of the abovementioned elements help to improve the domain authority. Websites with high DA are appreciated by Google and consequently displayed in better positions in the search results. Therefore, it’s one of the most important SEO elements you can take care of without breaking the law.
At the same time, Google does its best to logically select websites of companies operating in the medical industry that will be shown at the top of the search results. It’s evidenced by the so-called medic update that appeared online in August 2018. This update affected companies in the healthcare industry and websites that collect customer data. Generally speaking, the modifications had an impact on sites in the "Your Money Your Life" category, meaning:
websites collecting personal data,
pages offering health advice,
pages offering life advice (e.g. parenting or shopping guides)
pages offering financial advice.
How to improve the domain authority of a medical website with E.A.T. in mind?
The update added additional value to sites that exhibit three of Google's award-winning qualities, known as E.A.T.. These are expertise, authority, and trust, which together are supposed to create the image of a professional site, run by specialists in a particular field that offers quality services and products while keeping users' data safe. These three features whose importance has been shown during the medic update can significantly support SEO activities for websites operating in the healthcare industry.
To improve domain authority and the visibility of a page that employs all the novelties mentioned in this particular update, it’s necessary to pay attention to factors such as:
full signatures of authors of articles, preferably including their academic titles, positions, or achievements,
lengthy and substantive expert website content,
implementation of security systems that protect user data, such as an SSL certificate,
customer or patient reviews on the website, e.g. in the form of popular star ratings.
Their proper application and use can significantly increase the quality of a page and thus make the search engine want to share it with users.
What else to keep in mind when doing SEO for doctors?
The content and credibility of its authors isn’t everything you should keep in mind when doing SEO for a website operating in the medical industry. Users appreciate not only expert comments but also website loading time that’s particularly important when a potential patient needs to quickly access help or check symptoms of a disease. 70% of people browsing the net choose mobile page versions for this purpose, therefore, it’s recommended to make sure it also loads within the time recommended by Google, i.e. less than 2 seconds. Additionally, a Google My Business profile can attract potential patients as thanks to it they can check the scope of services provided by the institution, its location, and opening hours.
When publishing website content, it’s crucial to make sure that all metadata is properly optimized. In the case of medical facilities, it’s important also for the users, not only for SEO. This content can encourage people to click a link leading to a given institution. Thus, it’s a good idea to ensure that metadata and descriptions appeal both to the search engine and potential patients.
If you publish new entries, complement the text with images and videos. Thanks to such pieces of content, the chances that the page will appear in the search results increase dramatically. Moreover, short videos can attract patients by showing them the advantages and operation of the medical facility.
SEO for the medical industry - the takeaway
When summing up all of the abovementioned arguments, it’s possible to notice that SEO for the medical industry is one of the few marketing forms that aren’t prohibited by the law. Performing SEO activities can help you increase interest in your website in an attainable way. Thus, it’s a perfect opportunity for both companies operating in the healthcare industry and individual clinics.
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