A successful website first needs to be easy to find for ideas clients and patients who need what you offer.
Of course, once they get to your website, you want them to take some sort of action, such as subscribing to your email list or making a purchase.
That’s another topic for another day.
Update 2023: It’s getting pretty nutty keeping up with all the changes with AI, Google, and other search engines. This is one of my longer, more “epic” blogs, but there’s a lot of useful nuggets here. (NO fluff)
I’m going to give you some tips and insight that will help you get found online.
You may have even heard that “SEO is dead.”
The truth is that as long as people are searching for stuff online, SEO isn’t going anywhere.
It may be changing radically, but it’s certainly not dead.
The tips I have listed in this website are based on Google ranking factors that have been around for a while, and have made a HUGE impact on how health and wellness websites have had to adapt in order for patients or clients to find them.
In a nutshell, it’s getting harder and harder to rank, unless you have a niche and a local practice. The global competition is fierce, the search real estate is scarce (it really is) and between Google and AI, many people are finding the answers to basic questions without ever leaving the Google platform.
I almost considered scrapping every SEO article I’ve ever written, because it’s so hard to keep up.
However, there’s a lot of info in this blog that is still relevant today.
You can call it a “best practices guide” for how to help your patients and clients who need your services find you easily.
Also, because of AI, I think that more and more people will be looking for practitioners who occupy a specific niche and have unique personality.
Humanity will actually be the new online currency.
So let’s dive in.. this is one of my nerdier articles, for sure. (No fluff!)
Spoiler alert: This article is just as much about how to boost your credibility online as it is about SEO. It may seem kind of boring, but this will all help you with both website traffic, and ultimately conversions (booking more patients) because you will be a trusted expert in your niche.
There is a LOT to SEO, and it changes rapidly. There’s “technical” SEO, which covers ranking factors like site speed, loading time, and a lot more.. too many to list here.
Then there’s “on page” SEO, which helps Google understand what each piece of content on your website is about. The better Google understands your content, the higher you’ll rank in search, which means more organic traffic. This is about things like title tags and keywords.
And then there is something called “off page” SEO, which is all about external sites linking to yours.
Some of these factors overlap. For example, faster loading speeds will improve user engagement, and the more high quality content on your site, the more likely other reputable websites will link back to yours.
Here’s a visual on these different types of SEO ranking factors.
You will notice that a HUGE percentage is dedicated to niche expertise and writing consistent high quality content. As in 38%. So although things like loading speed is super important, and many SEO’s will have you think that technical SEO is THE thing to focus on, but the truth is that there’s a lot you can do that is already woven into how you are showing up in the world: Writing and sharing your great content. Let’s level it up a notch this year!
Another point I want to bring up: Search isn’t even just about Google. Did you know that YouTube, Pinterest, and even TikTok are also search engines?
Did you also know that:
1. People research before they buy, especially for health services
2. People using search tools are generally more ready to make a purchase
There’s a lot to unpack on this topic. This article will focus on Google, the health industry as a whole, ethics, and how to position yourself so that you will come out ahead despite the setbacks that have affected the health and wellness industry in the past few years. I’ll do my best to put this all in plain English, and throw in a little bit of lightness and humor, because I know it’s not the most sexy topic.
Grab some coffee..
First of all, I want to say something very important,. I really want you to hear this and take it in.: You can’t rely ONLY on social media to grow your business. Any digital marketer worth their salt will tell you this.
Social media gets a lot of attention these days. It’s a “sexier” topic, for one. Some would even say that social media is the “new SEO.” There is some truth to this, since SEO and social media are more interconnected than ever before, and because of the many search tools that are available today.
People don’t generally DISCOVER acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths, and other wellness professionals on social media.. they SEARCH for them, based on their own set of criteria. Usually, this is still via “Dr. Google.”
YOU are Dr. Google.
Update: It’s very difficult to compete in a global market today with search intent based on generalized research, such as “Can acupuncture help with migraine headaches?” You’ll probably need to use geo-targeted keywords, such as “acupuncture clinic in Tucson specializing in migraine headaches.”
Your ideal client is probably doing some research online not just to find out where the closest clinic is, but to check out some websites to see who knows their stuff. They also want to find practitioners they resonate with. That’s why establishing your niche, ideal client, mission, voice, and story is so important.
With that, this statistic is still relevant today:
80% of Internet users have searched for a health-related topic online. (1)
This is why creating good content and optimizing it for SEO is absolutely critical.
Before I get to the “good news,” here’s the not-so-great news for health and wellness practitioners:
Ranking on the first page of a Google search today compared to 10 years ago might feel something like this:
If you have been doing this for a while already as a practitioner, you may have noticed that information about alternative health and wellness for those doing general research is not turning up on the first page of Google search results like it was when you first started. (Ah, the good old days when we weren’t pushed below everything WebMD and LiveStrong ever wrote about everything, including our own area of expertise)
In this case, we’re talking about people that are still in the earlier stages of the buyer’s journey. They may not yet know that acupuncture can help with headaches, or what options are available to them. Unfortunately, many of the questions they ask are probably going to be answered by one of the giant health corporations I mentioned above, Google, or possibly even AI. (Although I’ll show you in a moment why that probably won’t happen)
There is an old SEO joke: “Where is the best place to hide a body? A: On the second page of a SERP (Google search result) Yikes! I’m here to help you do something about that.
So what’s turning up on page one for health-related search queries?
You’ve probably seen search results that show you a handful of those huge corporate health websites, even when your intention was to find solutions from “alternative” health sources.
Some well-known examples of “institutional” sites include:
WebMD (which openly partners with pharmaceutical companies)
Healthline (originally launched in 1999, it owns Drugs.com, Livestrong, Greatist, MedicalNewsToday)
VerywellHealth (partners with the Cleveland Clinic, started as an About.com company)
Many Hospital websites (such as UMMC, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, Sloan-Kettering, NYU, etc.)
Governmental institutions (NIH/Pubmed, CDC, ODS, FDA, etc.)
This is because of several core updates released by Google a while back:
• MEDIC (August 1, 2018) This update negatively affected a lot of health websites, especially those in the natural or “alternative” realm.
• E.A.T. (Not a core update, but a theory that algorithms are based on) It stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthyness.
Update: Another E for Experience has been added. The more indications that you know what you are talking about via personal experience as a health expert (in other words experience working directly with patients and clients) the more credibility you’ll have as far as Google is concerned. This is definitely a plus for those who feel as if they are competing with low-quality content.
Remember that this also means that AI will never have the level of experience a real human professional or expert or even passionate hobbyist has.
There’s some silver lining here, but at first glance it does seem kind of depressing.
• BERT. BERT is Google’s neural network-based technique for natural language processing (NLP) pre-training. BERT stands for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. … In short, BERT can help computers understand language a bit more like humans do.
Generally, these changes resulted in some high-quality sites losing traffic overnight. Some sites also saw an INCREASE in traffic and rankings.
This created quite a stir. To this day, health and wellness website rankings and traffic can be volatile.
Here is a list of sites that have taken a big hit:
Mark’s Daily Apple
To make matters even more challenging for many wellness professionals, the pandemic and AI put many in a tough spot.
• The general trend seems to be heading in the direction of cracking down on fake news, hate speech, and false information.
This makes sense at times.
Unfortunately, your business, your message, and the way you help your patients and clients may have been lumped into this category, almost overnight, even if you fit the E.A.T. criteria. Whether this is intentional or the result of algorithms that aren’t yet sophisticated enough to detect the difference between “non mainstream” and fake news isn’t really clear.
To be fair, this is also happening with news and financial websites, so it’s not a matter of Google picking on the alternative health industry.
Regardless, these changes still can make it challenging for conscientious wellness practitioners. Let me illustrate this for you:
Let’s say you are a doctor of oriental medicine with some functional medical training. You do your research and have published a number of articles, making you an authority. You are trusted and reviewed by your peers, and have a long list of happy patients that you’ve helped.
Let’s say that you’ve always focused on optimizing immunity each fall so that cold and flu season is less impactful on your patients. I’m also assuming that:
- You genuinely have helped hundreds of patients get well and feel great. People actively seek you out.
- You are taking all the necessary precautions and are responsible about how you see patients in the post COVID era.
- You aren’t selling snake oil or anything potentially dangerous. You stick to your ethical duty to “first, do no harm.” You sell herbal products and supplements that deliver good results for your patients.
- You don’t have any conflicts of interest about the information you provide or the services or products you sell, nor do you make any claims that you can “cure” a serious illness
This may not be good enough in today’s climate.
It’s complicated, but stick with me, because this is important.
Because of all the changes in the world, the Google updates, the pandemic, and the concerns about AI generating inaccurate content, there’s a chance that
1. Your intentions may be taken out of context, even though you never presented your protocols or methods or therapies as a “cure.”
You may not be “fact checked” or censored, but you will likely find that your rankings have fallen for broad keywords like “alternative treatments for migraines” or that your website is losing a lot of traffic if you are relying on competitive keywords, which are very difficult to rank for regardless of the new changes.
And you wouldn’t be the first or the last website that has taken a serious hit this year.
2. Google is relying even more heavily on the same huge corporations as a result of concerns about the kind of content AI will be producing in the future.
Here’s my prognosis:
The “perfect storm” of Google algorithm changes, the pandemic, and the advent of AI have accelerated the obsolescence of the “village healer” and the “acupuncture treats these 80 conditions” concepts. (which were already on their way out)
Now, in order to succeed and gain the status of an expert, it’s more important to have a solid niche. Being vague won’t help more people find you.. In fact, the opposite is true.(2)
This has to do with both positioning and SEO:
The local markets are saturated with “village healers” who claim to heal every condition. If you are a consumer looking for someone to help with thyroid issues and weight gain, who would you pick:
Acupuncturist A: The village healer who can treat 80 conditions who loves to talk about acupuncture but only gives a few short blurbs with generic info that you could probably easily find from one of the big health websites..
…but doesn’t answer any of your burning questions about your condition, what you seek in an acupuncturist, the results you want to achieve, and WHY you want to achieve them… (and also doesn’t have much of an original personality)
Acupuncturist B: The go-to expert on thyroid health, who answers all your burning questions in detail, and makes the process enjoyable. You just resonate with them, and know that they are the ONE. At this point, you may not even care where they are located.
Today, more and more people are going with acupuncturist B, because the shift the need to address very specific problems, in new and innovative ways. The focus will be more on transformational care, rather than transactional care. Location and convenience are far from the only factors taken into consideration when people choose a wellness practitioner (3)
As of this writing, it’s likely that location will become even less important of a deciding factor, especially since people have more options, such as telehealth, group programs, DIY courses, weekly-check ins, and more. Although post-pandemic this isn’t such as huge thing as it once was, for sure, the event did change how care can be delivered. I think this is good, because it means more choices, more access, and more support.
Acupuncturist B is positioning himself or herself as an expert in a specific niche not just to compete in today’s changing market, but to build trust and establish authority. The E.A.T factor. Or rather, the E.E.A.T factor.
Because of this, wellness professionals have to come up with content that positions them as experts, often to an audience that may extend beyond their local area. At the same time, as I mentioned, they are less likely to rank for those coveted, “non-local” keywords like “5 alternative treatments for migraines.”
It’s putting practitioners in a tough spot. Even before all these changes, it was still VERY hard to complete with the Wellness Mamas and the Dr. Mercolas out there, but now it’s almost impossible to compete for the keywords that have the most search volume.
There is another reason why the “village healer” model is on its way out: Search engines favor laser-focused, specific, thorough, and authoritative content. This is how wellness practitioners will need to show up online in order to compete not just with their peers, but with their websites in the SERPs.
Many businesses have had to change their content marketing and SEO strategy. Please keep reading.. Because there IS Hope!
These changes have also affected your potential patients or clients.
It isn’t just businesses that have been impacted.
Search engine result pages (SERPS) are becoming less and less diverse, and in my opinion, it doesn’t make it easier for the user to find exactly what they are looking for if the SERPS are dominated by the “big health institutions.”
I’m confident that many people are still interested in solutions that lie outside the mainstream.
I firmly believe that individuals can and should make up their own minds about what to do with this information. They can’t do this if they don’t have access to the information that they intend to find and are actively looking for.
One example would be “natural treatments for cancer.” This is getting into complex territory, so I’m going to use a less controversial and loaded example to illustrate my point:
Exact words typed into a Google search query:
What is the best way to treat an ankle injury?
Intent: Your average person who recently sprained their ankle. They aren’t savvy about sports medicine or performance. They don’t know enough to know about the ice vs. no-ice controversy. Their search results will probably look something like this:
Let’s look at another example. The exact words typed into a Google search query:
Does ice really work for treating an acute injury?
The intent: An athlete heard from his acupuncturist and coach and from some other respected sources that ice isn’t the best option for healing an injury. He wants to find out as much as he can, and obviously has some previous knowledge. He’s a bit savvier than the person who would type in “What to do for an ankle injury.”
He wants to review the research and make his OWN decision about his health.
Wow.. look what came up! This is an even more controversial topic than I thought.
Here’s the thing.
If someone doesn’t know what they don’t know.. that they may have more choices than the typical R.I.C.E. protocol, they will never see these results.
As we can see from our first example above.. any dissenting perspectives that veer from the “scientific consensus” even though they may also solidly rooted in evidence-based research, will be pushed far down in the search results. There is also the question of whether this consensus is based on science, or whether these sites are simply copying each other.
I respect evidence-based medicine. I also respect innovation, hard work, and continued testing and do NOT trust sources that lead with lazy thinking. The jury’s not in yet about this ethical dilemma, but it’s something we can’t just ignore.
Regardless of what your views are on this controversial topic, you will need to start paying more attention to how to get your message out there in a new climate that isn’t easy for those practicing healthcare outside the mainstream.
Remember, at least for now, Google’s algorithms favor WebMD, Healthline, the Mayo Clinic, and similar sites.
You are NOT Powerless, nor do I think we need to resign ourselves to a Matrix-like doom and gloom scenario.
Here’s what you CAN Do to make sure your website gets noticed and gets traffic
Update: Even with the advent of AI and all the crazy-fast changes in SEO, these are all still great tips and in fact, would even be considered “Best Practices” for being found online.
There’s not much we can do about Googles core updates or algorithms. They happen. But I don’t want you to freak out about them. Sometimes they even benefit a website. There are also experts that actually help businesses recover from core updates.
There are things you can do right now that will empower you and increase the odds of your website ranking in Google (and other search engines)
1. Embrace science
Science can work just as much in your favor as for big health corporations and big Pharm.
More than ever, wellness professionals need to be meticulous about where they get their information. They must cite their sources, issue disclaimers, and play the game.. but in their own way.
Going back to the E.E.A.T. theory. As a wellness professional, it is absolutely, positively essential for you to hold yourself to this standard, and more. You can acknowledge the mainstream but still offer a broader perspective and more choices for those who are serious about doing their research.
• Do your research. Don’t just cherry-pick your data. Do a deep-dive. Look for conflicting information, patterns, and possible biases or conflict of interest. Use the scientific method to ask questions, propose a hypothesis, conduct experiments, and test theories.
• Be honest about your findings, the quality of the studies you cite, and the actual conclusions.
Many wellness professionals were trained how to find and interpret good studies that back up their claims. Many studies, including those for mainstream treatments and protocols, often conclude with “more studies need to be done” or “results are still inconclusive.”
• Use clear language that shows you understand how science works, including qualifying phrases such as “may help in ________.” or “studies show that _________ is effective for_______.
Competent and informed wellness professionals won’t speak in absolutes when talking about science by saying “The science” “proves” that ______ is more effective for say, treating injuries. Rather, a respectable scientist would say “More studies are showing that _______ is counterproductive for treating both acute and chronic injuries and that ______ is more effective”
• Use the disclaimers you were taught to use in your ethics class, especially when speaking out potentially serious issues like cancer or depression.
• Cite your sources
• Present objective facts, and aim to be as unbiased as you can.
• Don’t discredit mainstream or traditional medicine in general. You can state your case, but present all sides.
• List the pros and cons of each choice you present to the reader. Let them decide from there.
• Offer integrative solutions, and link to doctors and other professionals you are currently partnering with.
• Keep looking for studies and put more of them on your website! It’s amazing how few practitioners actually do this. In the eyes of both Google and real humans, this will make you a real pro.. and a quotable, sharable, and “linkable” authority in your field and niche.
• Show that you respect the current research, but have an open mind.
Remember this: It wasn’t long ago that patients were advised bed rest and immobilization after many types of orthopedic surgery, or that an ACL repair procedure that was considered fringe even 10 years ago is now common.
There has to be room for voices outside the conservative mainstream, or there’s no room for science, which is all about asking questions, forming hypotheses, testing them, and making new discoveries.
Some still insist on calling this type of information “dangerous” or “conspiracy.” I don’t think that blanket statements like this, applied to all theories and practices regarding alternative medicine, is appropriate.
• Be cautious and intentional about how you present your case based on observational studies.
Here’s the definition I found for empirical evidence:
Under this definition, we could include thousands of years of observation as empirical evidence of the efficacy of say, Chinese herbal medicine.
To me, this is valid. As you know, practicing medicine isn’t the same thing as conducting a study.. In particular, the “gold standard” of double-blind studies. Medicine is both a science and an art, with a big dose of ethics thrown into the mix.
But this doesn’t mean that we can, or should be, complacent.
Studies are a GOOD thing. I believe that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is a treasure trove of brilliant healing concepts and practices. Studies won’t necessarily make or break our careers as acupuncturists, but they play an important role in advancing the medicine and giving it context in the modern world.
Going back to the E.E.A.T. theory and SEO, it’s probably a good idea to present your case primarily via published studies rather than data based purely on observation.
This does NOT mean that you can’t give your own professional opinion based on your own experience as a practitioner or even as a patient. Just be clear about what is objective fact and what is subjective.
(I did my best to do just that in this article)
What if my practice is pretty much 100% “woo?”
I’m going to write another blog on this topic. Many of my clients are, in fact, on the “woo” end of the spectrum. It’s a good question, because there is a very good market for “woo.”
2. Include your modality in your keywords and use long-tail keywords
Keywords are phrases that are included in your title, HTML title tags, or in the body of your web page or blog that reflect what you consider your ideal patient or client would be typing into a Google search query.
Some keywords are really, really hard to rank for, because they are so broad. There’s a lot of search volume for these keywords, but unless your website has been around for a long time and has the DA (domain authority.. this is an actual number) of John Hopkins University and all the other big institutions, it’s going to be very difficult to be visible in a Google search.
Example: Acupuncture for headaches
However, there are some keywords that maybe not a lot of people are searching for (low search volume) but are a heck of a lot easier to rank for.
Example: Functional sports acupuncture for back and hip pain in Tucson
Remember, your ideal patient or client avatar may not be satisfied with yet another mainstream health search result. They may keep scrolling, just so they can find what they are looking for, especially with search results that are getting more and more generic (and biased, in my opinion)
There are plenty of people out there (your ideal clients) who are looking specifically for information about how acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, or chiropractic can help them. Alternative medicine isn’t going away any time soon.
The downside: You may not be able to attract those who haven’t the first clue that acupuncture or chiropractic could solve their problem. This means that you’ll be reaching more people that already understand the value of these modalities and less people that are less educated and will land on the more mainstream options.
This isn’t necessarily a BAD thing.. Especially if your ideal patients (the people you work best with) happen to be more savvy.
How do we educate those who don’t know what they don’t know.. who are interested in viable and long-lasting health solutions, but don’t even know that your awesome services exist?
By using keywords/phrases that contain the words your ideal patient or client is looking for based on their intent and stage in the buying cycle or customer journey.
If someone isn’t ready to buy yet but is exploring options, consider writing a blog just for people in this stage. I wouldn’t bother writing a blog for people who are not open to non-traditional options or what you offer. Focus on phrases that will pique interest for those who are more open, curious, and looking for a different solution.
Create more content using long-tail keywords. “It’s worth noting that lots of relevant keywords with low volume scores can also add up to strong traffic when combined.”
3. Focus on health rather than pathology
One of the main things that alternative health has going for it is its focus on wellness. (Although I must say the term has lost a lot of meaning and makes many eyeballs glaze over, including mine)
Some of us may do well by shifting our message to empowerment and transformation, rather than a series of transactions that provide very little autonomy and a sense of agency. This shift has the potential to reach a bigger audience. This is especially true on social media channels like Facebook, which won’t approve paid advertising unless the message is a positive one.
I know that there are many practitioners that focus on specific conditions. They are highly trained in their niche.
There’s no doubt that the same people who are required to undergo vigorous training for 3-4 years and invest a lot of time, money and energy into their work, and who are bound by the same ethics, laws, and regulations that other health care providers are, deserve their title as health care professionals or “Dr.”
It could also be worth it to tweak your focus away from being the “healer” to wellness and transformation. This is what I did in my acupuncture practice. I fared well when I focused on both functional medicine that could be backed up with good studies, in combination with a focus on wellness.
This is a win/win because it helps you set your patients and clients up for long-term success by showing them a clear path they can take to achieve transformation.
This shift will be reflected in your message, the language you use, in your branding, and even the way you work with patients and clients. In my opinion, this can be a very positive thing.
It may also give you some more leeway when it comes to the criteria Google is now using to rank heath and wellness sites. (and of course, as I mentioned earlier, with Facebook)
Granted, some may say that it’s harder to “sell” wellness than a solution to an actual problem. Keep in mind that the “problem” can be a desire for increased athletic performance, to look younger and more vibrant, to have great skin, to feel good about ourselves, to avoid burnout, and to do the things we love.
You can make a list of problems and desires focusing on optimizing health.
This approach isn’t going to be right for everyone, but it could be just the thing for some practitioners.
4. Include social proof: anecdotal statements and the “human factor” still count
Update: Oh hell yes. Because of the extra “E” for experience and probably an unofficial “P” for personality as a result of the emergence of AI, this is likely going to be our ticket, if we can see it and leverage it.
Make sure to encourage happy patients to leave a review. Make sure to stay on top of your “reputation management” strategy by addressing any negative reviews quickly and professionally.
Testimonials still count. People still have a right to make healthcare decisions based not only on what Google thinks they need to know, but on all the criteria that is available to them.
Testimonials are not the ONLY way to to add the “human factor” into your message so that your ideal client or patient feels as though they’ve found “the one” who is a perfect fit.
Put yourself in their shoes. If all they see is mainstream information and generic acupuncture sites, and you wanted to do some thorough research online about balancing your hormones, let’s say because of recent weight gain) what would you be thinking, at your laptop or phone? What would you type into Google?
What would you scroll past?
• Reviews and testimonials..
• Verbal communication: blogs, podcasts, how phone calls are answered, language, etc.
• Bedside manner (a “vibe” you get from their online presence or a review)
• Office decor and comfort
• A general “vibe” or more intuitive ways to determine who is the “best fit.”
Especially when there is a large number of candidates to choose from with similar levels of expertise and authority.
I’ll give you a personal example. About 20 years ago, I had a choice between working with 2 orthopedic surgeons who were both likely equally capable, at least in the eyes of Google.
I made my final decision based on the the fact that surgeon #1 was more on the leading edge of his profession. He worked with professional athletes and amateur athletes like me. He seemed to genuinely care about whether or not I could “get back into the game” or not. The clinic had a better vibe for me than surgeon #2’s clinic.
Surgeon #2: The clinic was conservative, dimly lit, filled with people twice my age, and didn’t serve my needs.
Their “bedside manner” wasn’t great either: The X-ray tech yanked on my arm to position me for an Xray to rule out a shoulder dislocation.. Ouch. Yeah.
You can still highlight these “human” factors into your messaging and even into your keywords:
“Get treated like the athlete you are and get back in your game fast.” Then make sure you deliver on that promise.
5. Optimize your local SEO
There are more options today than there were 10 years ago for our clients and patients. For example, a perimenopausal woman may not need to visit a local clinic to get everything she needs. She will still benefit greatly from visits, but now she may also have access to group programs, educational resources, extra support, and physical products that can be delivered from anywhere in the world.
Disclaimer: The laws regarding your scope of practice and how you can promote your practice vary from region to region, and can be a bit gray. Of course, you’ll need to do your own investigation and/or get legal advice to find out what works for you.
Even if you expand your practice and become more location-independent, don’t neglect local SEO. If you have a brick-and-mortar practice, don’t stop focusing on local search terms like “chiropractor in Tucson.” Those keywords are still valuable, and you’ll want to aim for #1 for most of them.
Of course, you also want to optimize your Google My Business profile.
You may also want to do a site audit to determine the health of your local SEO. I recommend BrightLocal for this task.
This tool will help you with making sure that all your citations and directory listings are up to date
6. EAT and NAP
No, I don’t mean eat and then take a nap. Then again, the nature of this blog may require another cup of coffee before we go on.. I’ll wait! (and yes, I couldn’t resist sneaking in a pic of one of my favorite doggos, because after researching all of this SEO stuff.. I’m craving some time with them!)
I already introduced you to the concept of E.E.A.T.
In a nutshell, this means that websites that contain information that could be a matter of life or death.. (Or other consequences, such as financial gain or ruin) must be held up to a higher standard than other websites in other industries. (YMYL/Your money or your life)
Keep developing your Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and make connections to others who do the same.
You may want to avoid associating your website and brand with sites that look sketchy or that do not meet certain standards based on E.E.A.T.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number. When there is outdated or conflicting NAP information floating around on the internet, it will also undermine your website authority, and in turn, your rankings and traffic.
Make sure that your information is kept up to date. Again, BrightLocal is a good tool for this.
7. Make sure that your content matches your headline, that your headline delivers what it promises, and that you blog answers the questions your ideal patient is looking for.
First, don’t use clickbait.
I know that this probably isn’t your style or that of most wellness professionals, but don’t make fantastic claims like “Lose your bellyfat in a week” or _______can cure________.
This won’t make you look great in the eyes of Google, or likely your ideal patient or client.
Make sure that your title and the first line of your blog are in alignment. (I’ll show you what this looks like in a moment)
Your title can still be intriguing without being clickbait or using any cutesy or clever titles:
When they do land on your page, make sure it is SUPER clear how their question will be answered or resolved, right away, without having to scan through a paragraph of text to find out if the page you are on is useful and relevant.
Make sure the visitor isn’t inundated by ads or irrelevant information.
Be sure that you blog isn’t just a philosophical rambling or a long talk about how great you are. Put yourself in the head of your ideal patient avatar (You must do this exercise!) and answer their questions as thoroughly as you can. Google favors these types of blogs over “shallow content.”
8. Always keep in mind the intent of your ideal patient or client avatar, so that you can help them find you.
If you’ve been following me long enough, or any other digital marketer for that matter, you already know how important it is to take the time to create a DETAILED ideal patient or client avatar.
Do NOT skip this step. When you have your avatar, use it to inform EVERY piece of content you write or produce, and for keyword research.
Remember, you aren’t writing for yourself. That’s what your personal journal is for. You are writing for THEM. You may think you know what motivates them, but if you keep talking about how great acupuncture or chiropractic or whatever your modality is, you are missing the mark. People don’t care about these things. They want to know how these things can help them solve a problem or fulfill a desire.
This is a continual process.. I’m also still working on refining my message!
9. Start using other search engines
I’m a forward-thinking kind of person. I’m all for exploring other options besides Google, which in my opinion, is teetering on the verge of having too much power. (arguably, this has already happened)
It may be worth it to check out other search engines like Bing or Brave or DuckDuckGo and see what kinds of search results you come up with. Go ahead and check them out, and compare your results to Google.
• Do you see more diversity in the results?
• Was it easier or harder to find what you are looking for?
• Do you think that potential visitors may have an easier time finding you on other search engines?
• Might you possibly want to optimize for other search engines? (That’s another blog for another day)
• Could it be that giving other search engines a chance is a way to vote against a monopoly?
10. Author your own content and create an author profile
Remember, Google wants to know that the content on your site is coming from a qualified professional and not some underpaid employee who writes low-quality or syndicated, regurgitated blogs. Don’t waste your money on the latter.
If your primary method of delivering your content is via your blog, either take the time to write your own content or pay someone who is a qualified expert to write your content and then review it.
My take: You spent a lot of time doing research and writing papers while you were in school. In my opinion, this is part of the job of a medical or health professional.. To keep learning, researching, and documenting cases. This can be carried over into your marketing efforts in some ways, but you’ll still want to write in a way that makes the patient or client the center of the story, not the medicine, and not you.
With practice, you’ll be a pro and knock out a blog in a few hours at your favorite coffee shop (or cafe, as we call them here in Europe) You’ll learn a lot too, and this will help you help your patients even more.
I don’t think that you need to do this every week, especially if you have a library of articles that you keep refreshed and updated consistently. (Good news, right?)
You can certainly outsource to an expert. You can then review it and/or use your own author byline, if that’s part of the agreement.
You may also want to include an author box to send a signal to Google and readers that the content is coming from a real expert.
At the very least, you still want to have a bio with your credentials posted somewhere on your website, to give Google a clear signal that you know what you’re talking about.
11. Do NOT give up on content marketing and SEO
Content marketing is the price of admission in today’s modern marketing world. If you don’t have published work, a blog, a video channel, or a podcast, it’s going to be very hard to establish yourself as an expert in the expanded role of wellness professionals, or even get found online.
Like it or not, your online presence is more important than ever, and the bar for health care professionals has been set higher than ever. Today, it’s not enough to outsource your health blog to a 3rd party who isn’t an expert in your field.
This means that those who have been relying on syndicated blogs written by an underpaid content writing team likely took a bit hit in their rankings this year.
And those who are relying solely on AI to generate content are probably in for a rude awakening as well.
SEO, although many still perceive it as a “technical thing,” is also closely connected to content.
SEO, when you get down to it, is mostly about the written word and providing high quality information for people at all stages in the customer journey.
The content itself should be informative, relevant, and even entertaining to your audience. Most importantly, it should answer their questions about what you do in a thorough manner.
Don’t listen to the old advice about “keeping it short and sweet” because of short attention spans. What people DON’T have patience for is having to go to multiple sites with skimpy content in order to get the complete information they are seeking in order to solve their problem. This is especially true for those doing research about their health.
The days of the 400 word blog stuffed with keywords are over, although I still find some chiropractic websites that write “for the machine” rather than for the humans the serve. (I see this less on acupuncture and other wellness websites, but acu’s have a tendency to make different mistakes)
SEO is also about “teaching the machine” (AI) what your blog is about, using keywords, title tags, H1 tags, (as I showed you in the example above) and organizing your information so that Google can provide the most accurate and relevant results to the person typing in the query.
My personal thoughts as a wellness professional and SEO:
I never imagined that I would be writing an SEO article that touches on ethics, the politics of the medical industry, pandemics, artificial intelligence, and the future of alternative medicine.
I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but I DO think that it is important to take some of the issues I brought up into consideration when you position and promote your practice, and especially if you rely on organic traffic and SEO to attract new patients as opposed to paid traffic.
There’s so many rapid changes and I get it.. it may feel like you don’t have time to play this game or try to guess what’s going to happen next.
Here’s a simpler way to look at the “game:”
The main objective should be about matching the intent of the searcher with the information that is best able to satisfy their search intent, so that the consumer is free to make their own informed choices.
Whatever your opinion is about Google or AI or speculations about what “could” happen, I want you to know that the world still needs people just like you, not just the big health websites that are dominating the SERPS.
I want to end this blog on a note of optimism. There are a lot of changes taking place, but with that, also a lot of opportunity. It may sound dramatic, but these past few years have been a HUGE turning point for the health and wellness industry. We have a unique opportunity to step up, armed with knowledge, and really make a difference.
Or we can sit back, because getting our wisdom out in the world was too overwhelming, scary, boring, or whatever other reasons or excuses we come up with to avoid taking positive action.
I firmly believe that YOU can be the one that people find when they are searching for the perfect expert for them who can solve their unique problem.
The bigger sites can’t possibly be the ONLY solution for EVERYONE.
Even though such matches made in heaven may seem difficult.. When that perfect patient or client DOES find you.. The odds that you’ll have a loyal, 100% on board patient or client ready to work with you NOW is pretty damn good.
If you made it this far in this blog, I believe that you will be one of the leaders in the health and wellness field. I salute you!
Need help with your SEO strategy?
SEO isn’t about applying random tactics now and then. It’s about your overall strategy. Without this, you’ll be frustrated.
You’ll be wasting your time AND losing out on opportunities to attract more of your ideal patients and clients, make a bigger impact, and create more income.
Let me help you! I love creating StoryBrand based websites for wellness practitioners, but even more, I would love to show you how to make it a true marketing machine. SEO and content that supports search are ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS.
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