More than ever, patients are searching for digital health services online. Studies show that over 75% of people seeking health services and information start their search on Google.
Considering this, digital health brands must implement an effective organic growth marketing strategy for patient acquisition.
While effective digital health marketing involves investing in multiple channels simultaneously, the organic channel can scale into an ROI-positive patient acquisition channel.
This is especially valuable for digital health startups seeking channels that demonstrate long-term growth and stability to their investors.
Opportunities on the Search Results Page
As a Digital Health brand, you have several opportunities to generate high-intent traffic from Google for your patient acquisition efforts.
For example, the “medical weight loss” search results page presents several opportunities to generate organic patient traffic for a digital health brand.
- To appear in the ads at the top of the search results pages, you must invest in paid search advertising through Google Ads. In contrast, the rest of the results on the page are organic listings that you can obtain free of charge. Google ads can potentially increase patient acquisition but at a cost.
People also ask
- Creating content that directly answers common questions related to weight loss, like those listed in the “People also ask” section, can help a digital health brand appear in these snippets.
Local Map Listings
- If you serve patients in a clinic, ensuring the brand is listed in local business directories and Google My Business can increase visibility in the map listings for relevant searches.
- Producing high-quality, informative content on topics related to medical weight loss can help the brand rank in organic search results.
Things to Know
- Developing detailed guides or articles covering medical weight loss outlined in the “Things to know” section can align content with what users are searching for
Common Digital Health SEO Challenges
Digital health SEO is complicated, especially if you are in an industry saturated with competitive health complications.
Other challenges include:
- Google’s high standards: Google’s algorithms set a high bar for medical content, prioritizing authority and credibility.
- Demonstrating real medical expertise: Medical expertise is essential to produce high-quality content that meets Google’s standards. This requires content to be written by or at least medically reviewed by qualified professionals.
- In-house stakeholder buy-in: Often overlooked by marketers is the need for help from individuals at your organization who are outside of the marketing team, including website developers, subject matter experts, and PR professionals. This cooperation ensures that the marketing team has the necessary resources to execute an effective SEO campaign.
- First-person experience: Content written from first-hand experience, such as a day-in-the-life article from a clinician or authentic reviews by patients, provides valuable insights and personal perspectives that enhance trust and engagement with the audience. For example, a digital health brand might publish articles where doctors discuss the realities of weight loss journeys, offering professional advice and empathetic understanding.
- Consistency in content publishing: Regularly publishing high-quality content is challenging for most marketing teams. This includes maintaining a steady flow of content that meets established quality and expertise criteria. Startups in the digital health space acutely have this problem, as there are often limited marketing resources dedicated to content execution.
- Optimizing local map listings: If you have a physical location where you see patients, it is essential to have an optimized Google My Business listing. Oftentimes, digital health marketers either do not prioritize local SEO or do not know how to properly optimize their local listings. Learn more about digital health local map optimizations in the section below.
Local Map listings
If you have a clinic where you see patients, create a Google My Business (GMB) account. This will significantly impact local search visibility by providing a platform for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.
Important: Google does not want you to create a GMB account if you don’t see patients in a brick-and-mortar clinic.
If you don’t have a clinic where you see patients, you may decide to pursue an ultra-aggressive strategy by creating the GMB account anyway. This is a black-hat SEO technique. Remember that Google will eventually catch up to you and hide your map listing.
To optimize a GMB listing, you should:
- Complete every section: Providing detailed business information helps Google match the listing to relevant searches. This includes hours, services, and contact information.
- Select relevant categories: Choosing the correct business category ensures the brand appears in the right searches.
- Add high-quality photos: Images can show prospective patients the facilities and give a sense of the brand’s professionalism.
- Gather reviews: Encouraging satisfied patients to leave positive reviews can improve credibility and attract more traffic.
- Verify the location: Google will send a postcard with a code to prove that you are located at the address you provide. Ensuring your location is verified helps your business appear for local searches.
Paid Search vs. Organic: Which Is The Better Option?
When we first meet with digital health companies, we often find that they are investing in paid ads. While paid ads offer short-term benefits, they are expensive and fail to deliver on the long-term, scalable growth our clients (and their investors) seek.
Think about it like this. SEO is like planting a garden. You put a seed in the ground, nurture it, and soon take advantage of long-term rewards.
Advertising is like buying flowers. There’s an immediate reward — by way of traffic — but it’s short-lived beauty, and paid channels require continuous spending.
On the other hand, SEO is a more sustainable, cost-effective approach to patient acquisition. It offers long-term benefits and a continuous channel for patient acquisition.
Other benefits of building an SEO channel include:
- SEO answers questions and addresses pain points.
- SEO leads to better conversion rates on all channels.
- When you rank alongside top competitors or publications, it strengthens your brand’s reputation and authority.
- There may be restrictions on advertising terms for paid ads that do not apply to on-site content for SEO.
- Organic search offers sustainable, long-term value and cost-effectiveness. If you stop investing in organic, you will still see growth.
This isn’t to say that SEO is the only digital marketing strategy for digital health companies. Many do both successfully, providing a stable foundation for driving immediate and long-term traffic and building a successful patient acquisition funnel.
Case Study: Opioid Addiction Treatment
At Fire&Spark, we recently partnered with an opioid addiction treatment provider seeking to recruit patients for their online clinic and establish themselves as a thought leader in their space.
Our team worked with them to leverage their in-house expertise and build a scalable content library to educate visitors and advocate for the most effective way to treat patients. The scalable content formats that saw the most success were Q&A, location pages, insurance content, and comparison content. We found that this type of content required fewer resources than traditional blog content, which is crucial for smaller marketing teams that cannot dedicate excessive time to content writing.
Overall, by leveraging their existing health authority and building scalable content, our client achieved a sustained 35% month-over-month increase in patient revenue.
Sustainable Patient Acquisition
A one-time PR hit will put a smile on your face and eyes on your website, but it’s not replicable.
Paid advertising can work well if you keep a close eye on your customer acquisition costs, but ads only work when you’re spending money.
Instead of focusing on short-term wins through PR and paid ads, opting for a more sustainable approach to patient acquisition is best. Patients who find your website through organic search are more likely to convert than visitors from other channels because they are in the market for your services.
However, this isn’t to say that all organic search strategies yield the same results. Some SEO agencies are more concerned with traffic wins, regardless of whether that traffic converts. Digital health SEO strategies must focus on bottom-of-the-funnel keywords to attract users that will turn into customers.
Here are three more insights from our previous digital health SEO experience:
1) Use personalized content: Build trust and loyalty among your audience by tailoring content to their specific needs and concerns.
2) Share educational resources: Enhance engagement with your audience by providing valuable and informative resources that establish your expertise.
3) Make utility your content goal: For every piece of content you write, it is important to ask yourself, “Will this be useful for potential customers?” If not, then chances are that content will not rank and convert. Ensure that your published content has tangible takeaways that provide value to your audience.
4) Stay informed and get there first: Closely follow the latest news, research, forums, and your patients’ needs and concerns. Let this information guide your content creation. By being the first to talk about new medications, industry news, regulations, patient pain points, and emerging treatments, you become the go-to resource for your niche/specialty.
5) Invest in finding quality writers: If you do not have the resources to write content in-house, make sure you invest time and research into finding the best writer for your company. Find more tips for hiring digital health writers below.
Hiring Writers for Digital Health Content
Google’s (relatively) new E-E-A-T framework rewards “experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness” when creating content.
What does that mean? You can’t hire just anyone to create digital health content. But here’s what you can do:
- Find medical professionals to write: This will be a challenge. Finding qualified medical professionals to write or review your content is HARD. There’s a very small pool of professionals who are willing to do this type of work. Start by building a medical advisory board and ask them to help out.
- Hire experienced medical writers: Since hiring MDs to write your content is challenging, find medical writers with digital health (or relevant) experience. But be sure to have their writing medically reviewed by a professional.
- Publish with a “Reviewed by” box: Replace the “authored by” box with a “reviewed by” box. It’s much easier to find MDs to review your content for accuracy and credibility than to write it. Pay them a high hourly rate and ask them to review several articles per hour. It’s worth it because you can use their credentials in your “reviewed by” box.
At every step of the process, double down on the importance of content authenticity and medical accuracy.
A strong SEO strategy is part of a multichannel strategy to grow your patient recruitment program and achieve sustainable long-term growth.
Yes, there are challenges — like keeping up with large publications and creating highly authoritative medical content — but the rewards are far more significant.
Often, the companies we work with already have the tools and insights to create compelling, educational healthcare content. They just need to direct their efforts in the right places.
If you have questions about building your digital health brand’s SEO channel, schedule a free consultation below.
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