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There is a lot of information (and misinformation) floating around out there about what search engine optimization (SEO) actually is and how it can help you as a dermatologist. You may be asking whether or not this is something your practice really needs. You may think that a high quality website and active presence on social media is enough to find and attract new patients.

While these certainly effective and necessary elements of a good online marketing campaign, they’re only a piece of the puzzle, and without a strong presence on the search engines, you are practically invisible.

SEO is not some set of unknowable mysteries. It is a conglomeration of strategies and practices that put in in line with the current best practices. And as you keep with the SEO strategy, your dermatology practice will soon become the one that people see, trust, and visit when they need your skin care solutions.

Why Do You Need SEO?

There are several effective ways to reach a new audience, and like many other medical treatment fields, dermatologists often rely on word of mouth to build their reputation and connect them with new patients. However, as more corporate entities enter the pictures and dermatology offices add features like medical spas to their offerings, competition is just going to keep getting more intense.

Optimizing your dermatology website will help you stay competitive. These techniques and strategies will help put your website at the top of the search engine rankings so when a potential patient begins looking into his or her options, you will be the first website they see.

Is this really important when you’ve done so well with traditional advertising and word of mouth?

The simple answer is: yes, it is really important. Because now, even if they hear about you from a friend or see your ad in the mail, chances are they’re still going to look online to learn a little more about you. SEO is the first step to ensuring they find everything they need to know about you.

Elements of SEO

The best SEO campaigns for dermatology clinics should include both on-page and off-page elements.

  • On-Page SEO – These are the elements that you have the most direct control over and can easily update to meet search engine standards. These elements include:
    • Mobile compatibility – Your website should look as good on a phone’s screen as it does a computer monitor.
    • Load times – This is a ranking factor that is growing in importance. Keep file sizes small so things load fast.
    • Quality content – This includes fresh, updated content that provides answers to specific queries.
    • Site navigation and link structure – Can users reach every page on your site within a few clicks or less?
    • Keyword usage – Don’t go overboard on keyword usage (which can actually harm your website), but make sure you’re targeting the most effective keywords in you content, titles, and meta descriptions.
  • Off-Site SEO – These are the elements that you have less control over, but are nevertheless an important part of SEO. These activities can show Google that you are an authoritative and important resource, but you need to put a lot of time and effort into implementing these strategies effectively.
    • Creating linkable content – While you can’t control who, exactly, links to your site, you can create some amazing content that other websites will naturally want to link to. You can, of course, contact others who may have an interest in your content and encourage them to share it with others.
    • Build relationships – In the old days of SEO, this would have said “build links.” These days, links from any generic site just aren’t enough. You need to build an actual relationship with relevant and authoritative partners who will link to your site because sending people your way would be beneficial to their readers.

Focus on Your Local Community

There are some important differences between the kind of SEO a dermatologist clinic should do and the kind of SEO an international ecommerce site should do. Where one will want to dominate the search engines for a range of generic keywords that encompass all of their offerings, the other will want to focus on keywords that have local qualifiers and help establish where they actually provide treatments.

In other words, there aren’t a lot of dermatology practices that need to focus on words like “dermatology,” because if your clinic is in Oregon it really won’t matter if someone from Maine discovers your website. You will have simply spent a lot of time and effort to get people looking at your website who will likely never have need of your services.

There are a few different types of signals you can focus on to ensure that the search engines know to display you in the results for a more locally focused audience.

  • Local citations – Where offsite SEO is focused on getting links, and while links can help your dermatology clinic, you may get more results from local citations. A citation generally refers to any mention of your company that includes your contact information (and sometimes a logo). This will tell Google that you are relevant for that location and for those services, and it can even send targeted traffic to your site.
  • Reviews – This is important to help build your online reputation and create a new way for patients to find your website. Many people go straight to review sites rather than click through a number of search results. When they find positive reviews about you, and, not at all coincidentally, your contact information and web address, they’ll have a greater reason to click through and learn more about your clinic.
  • Mobile readiness – Google has made a point of prioritizing websites that are mobile friendly. This is especially important for locally focused campaigns, because the greatest number of locally targeted searches are done on mobile devices.

Keeping Up with Search Engine Evolution

Modern search engine optimization is a fluid, dynamic set of practices and strategies. The things that worked amazingly well last year by not be all that helpful this time around. (In the worst case scenarios, some tactics that got you to the top of the search engines one year may actually turn out to be detrimental somewhere down the road.)

Google has to constantly evolve to keep up with user expectations, and, as people overuse certain tactics, the search engine has to change again to ensure that it’s always delivering the most relevant results for any given search.

It can be difficult to stay fully up to date with all the changes in the search engines, especially since no one can say what all the factors are that make up Google’s algorithm, but there are some important parts of SEO that will carry you through these changes and ensure that no matter how they change, your campaign will stay in line with best practices and keep your website where your future patients will find it.