7 SEO essentials for optimizing your healthcare provider directory
As consumerism in healthcare grows exponentially, it is more important than ever to make sure your provider directory is appearing at the top of search engine results pages. There is no reason a health system’s provider-profile pages shouldn’t perform well in search, but many organizations have outdated provider directories that miss the mark on SEO basics.
7 basic tips for boosting your provider directory profile page’s SEO
- Add doctors’ names, specialties, and locations to page titles
HTML <title> tags for a page should contain keywords relevant to the content of that page. For a provider-profile page, this typically includes the provider’s name, primary specialty, and location.
Titling your profile pages “Find a Doctor” might be the single biggest mistake you are making with your website. While it may be tempting to use a standard page title for all providers, it makes the pages all look too much “the same” to users and, more importantly, to search engines. Unique and relevant content is always better!
Users have no idea what exists behind these search results.
- Use a “readable” doctor name in your URL
A good rule of thumb for SEO is “the more readable by humans, the better.” This especially applies in the case of your web address. It should be immediately apparent from the URL what the content of the webpage is.
That bottom link doesn’t communicate anything about what lies beyond the click!
- Add meta tags to describe the content of your page
Meta tags are placed within the HTML of your website to provide additional context about what is contained within a given page or site. A meta description allows up to 160 characters of text to be placed in the header section of a webpage, describing its content. This meta description then appears under your page’s URL in the search results—think of it as a tweet that describes your provider’s profile page.
A sharply written meta description can entice people to click through to your site. On the other hand, if you don’t specify a meta description, Google will populate one for you. You wouldn’t let a stranger blindly write your bio to be shared with the world—don’t let Google write your website’s page description.
- Add star ratings and comments from verified patients
Search engines love reviews! Review content is often given higher priority in web searches. If you Google one of your physicians today, you will see that a majority of top listings are review sites, instead of your organization’s website.
Adding patient comments from existing survey data is an easy way to add the unique, keyword-rich, relevant content that most provider directories are sorely missing.
- Use structured data, as on Schema.org
Structured data is quick reference guide for the most important content on your page. This type of organization allows search engines to not only crawl your site, but truly understand it. Schema.org is a great reference resource for implementing structured data.
Structuring your address, contact information and star ratings can result in search-engine listings containing rich snippets. Studies have shown that getting star-rating-rich snippets on your listing can garner a 150% increase in click-through rate.
Now that’s a good looking search result!
- Effectively manage duplicate pages
By some estimates, up to 29% of the web is actually duplicate content! Often, URL variations are created by multiple channels to access the same page.
One way to combat duplicate content is to set up a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to the original content page. Another way to combat duplicate content is to properly use canonical tags. This tag tells Google to only use one variation of a page for indexing purposes; this is particularly helpful if your directory uses filters that create unique URLs every time a filter is applied.
For example, since the filter is added to the URL in the order they’re selected, you’d end up with duplicate pages in Google’s eyes based on the order someone chooses a location, or a specialty:
A proper canonical tag rule can tell Google to “canonically redirect”
That way, only 1 URL is indexed in Google, regardless of how someone uses the filters on your directory site.
- Check your robots.txt file
Robots.txt files inform search engines how to index your content. You can specify what to index, or what not to index. If you find yourself in a terrible place—like being unlisted by Google—quickly check your robots.txt file. You may be in for a surprise…
If it looks like this, you’re basically telling Google you don’t want to be listed. Change the “Disallow: /” to “Allow: /” to let Google in.
If you are in good shape as far the above basics are concerned, you should be off to a great start with your SEO efforts. With the right fundamentals, and a proper SEO and content strategy, you could very well be on the way to beating top-tier websites in Google search.
The Transparency team at NRC Health has years of experience interacting with every type of content management system and physician directory. If you would like to talk to a member of our team about improving your physician directory by publishing star ratings and comments, don’t hesitate to contact us!