07/26/2016 04:09 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2017

4 Ways Medical Practices Use Search Marketing to Win Patients

The medical profession has long relied on word-of-mouth to bring in new patients. Traditional advertising has always been great for building brand awareness, but many people still look for referrals before trusting their health to someone new. As the Internet has grown in popularity, that awareness-building has shifted online, with many consumers heading straight there before making an appointment.

Before you can reach out to potential patients online, you'll first need to ensure they can find you in searches. Like businesses in other industries, medical practices must use search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure their online presence ranks above others in their town and specialty areas. Here are a few ways medical practices currently put SEO to use in finding new patients.

Review Sites

Often in searches for medical professionals, review sites place prominently, sometimes even beating a practitioner's own website. Reviews are extremely important to patients when considering a practice, especially if a person has a serious medical condition. Even if a patient has referrals from a doctor and friends for an important surgery, for instance, that patient is highly likely to read reviews of that specialist before making a decision. While you can't necessarily control what your patients say about you, you can boost the number of reviews you have online by asking for them. Send post-appointment emails that link to the review site you're boosting and mention reviews to your most loyal patients. Ask a few patients if they'd be willing to write a testimonial for your website to add to your content.

Community Pages

Practices look locally for their customers and the best place to reach local patients is through Facebook. Not only is it the most popular social network, its demographics are ideal for medical practices when compared to the demographics of other sites. Seek out local community pages and take an opportunity to engage where possible. Don't blatantly advertise your practice but instead interact with others, providing basic tips. Participate in a community event and promote it on the site, sharing photos of your booth and inviting attendees to come by. Most importantly, promote other local businesses and show that you support them to demonstrate your commitment to being an active part of the local community. If you're in a big city, focus on the small area of town where your business is located and join any pages related to that, rather than trying to be a part of the much larger community page.

Social Referrals

Social media platforms can mimic real-life interactions, with friends and family congregating and having conversations. A person may post on his or her own feed, asking for referrals for a local medical practitioner. When that happens, chances are your patients will mention you based solely on the great service you've given each time. The first step is to set up a page for your business and let your patients know about it by posting signage to "like us on Facebook." After you've gathered a small following, post photos of your staff having fun at work. Set up a blog where you share content about your specialty areas and share that on your page, as well as linking to other interesting pieces of content.


Search engines know customers likely want local results when they search for businesses, including medical practitioners. This has changed the SEO landscape, making it more important than ever that businesses include local information in their content. In addition to adding your location to your meta description and title tags, you should also ensure your contact information is on your page. Take advantage of Google My Business to give customers an at-a-glance view of your page, as well as helping improve your rankings when customers search for a medical practitioner in your area. If you have practices in multiple locations, it might be worth it to write content for your blog that includes that local area as a keyword in the title as well as at least once or twice in the body of the text. Just make sure any local SEO you do comes across as natural.

For practitioners interested in growing a medical practice, SEO is one of the best ways to build brand awareness. It's important to see the Internet as a way to show your support for the local community rather than a marketing opportunity. Over time, customers will naturally want to learn more about a practice when its professionals are always so helpful online.