August 2020


How long does healthcare SEO take?

by Crawford Ifland

Search engine optimization (SEO): What is it? How can it help your practice? Is it worth your time? This article covers the basics of SEO and how it can help attract more patients online.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website to appear higher in search engine results, and it’s a vital element of a practice marketing plan to attract new patients.
A smart investment in SEO pays huge dividends: Eight out of 10 patients begin their search for healthcare providers on Google, and the #1 spot on Google receives 10 times more traffic than the website at the #10 spot. Being on page 1 is crucial, too; fewer than 1 in 100 patients (0.78%) click on results on the second page or beyond.
Compelled by the financial benefits of ranking on page 1, many practices engage in SEO, but few do it well. Myths and misconceptions about SEO abound. There are countless questions about how SEO works and what to expect.
But among practices that engage in strategic SEO campaigns, one question resurfaces time and time again: How long does it take?

The magic question: How long does healthcare SEO take?
Like any other marketing initiative, SEO results will vary depending on several factors. Four of the biggest factors that will determine the efficacy and timeframe of an SEO campaign include:
1. Competition, both among practices in your market and among keywords you would like to rank for
2. The current “health” of your practice website (including site structure, technical SEO, inbound links, etc.)
3. Your current rankings for valuable keywords
4. The content of your website
Assuming a website is in a small- to mid-sized market, has no major onsite liabilities, and produces content regularly, an SEO campaign generally takes around 4–6 months to begin seeing results.
However, all practices are different—and so are their websites. A solo practitioner with a four-page website and no blog is very different from a multi-location practice with hundreds of pages, a blog, and a robust content marketing plan. When answering the question of how long SEO may take, it’s unreasonable to expect the same results for each site.
For instance, the larger practice may have an easier time ranking well due to the volume of content they produce. Conversely, the small practice may have an easier time ranking well because with such a simple site, they don’t have to deal with the problems and technical debt the large practice may have inherited over the years.
As an example, let’s compare the results of two of our SEO clients, Practice A and Practice B. Practice A is a cataract and refractive surgery practice in a midwestern market of about 3.3 million people. Practice B is a plastic surgery practice in a southern market of about 7.5 million people.

Practice A results:
• Rankings improved by 67% in 5 months
• Page 1 ranking for seven keywords (compared to one keyword before)
• Keyword rankings improved by an average of 27 spots

Practice B results:
• Rankings improved by 127% in 8 months
• Page 1 ranking for 12 keywords (compared to zero keywords before)
• Keyword rankings improved by an average of 118 spots

Although Practice B is in a more competitive market, their site had better structure, fewer technical SEO problems, and the practice pushed out content on a more regular basis. These factors made it easier to rank for the keywords that were most valuable to them. As a result of a strategic SEO campaign, monthly website traffic and patient leads have increased by 152% since the beginning of their campaign.

How to structure an SEO campaign for best results

Structuring an SEO campaign appropriately to deliver more patients from organic search is crucial. Here are a few things to watch out for when beginning a strategic SEO campaign to attract more patients.
Perform an onsite SEO audit to uncover technical issues. Onsite health is a major factor in Google’s ability to rank your site. Incorrect or inconsistent code implementation is quite common among older websites, so it’s important to address these hidden liabilities with an audit. Ninety-nine percent of patients will never notice these issues, but they have a huge effect on Google’s ability to crawl your site and index your content. If you want to rank well, you have to make Google happy.
Perform a keyword audit to discover the best opportunities to rank. Rather than trying to rank for every keyword, find keywords that represent the best opportunities for your practice. Look for keywords with relatively high monthly search volume and low competition. There is SEO software that can help with this.
Build a backlink strategy. Backlinks (the number of sites around the internet that link to your site) are another crucial factor in ranking well. It’s not enough to just create content anymore. You need to get other websites linking to you to increase your authority and reputation in Google’s eyes. Having a detailed plan for obtaining more backlinks is a vital part of your journey to better rankings.

Ready to attract more patients online?

As with any large endeavor, it’s important to make sure expectations align with reality. There’s no way around it: SEO takes time. However, as a strategic part of your practice marketing plan, SEO is well worth the investment. An SEO campaign can deliver incredible financial, reputational, and strategic benefits that can’t be obtained elsewhere.
SEO isn’t like playing the lottery. It’s more like contributing to a 401(k) consistently over your career. It takes time, but the power of that compound interest can be staggering. If you’ve been ranking on page 12 of Google, it’s highly unlikely you’ll break onto page 1 in the first few months. And if someone tells you they can get you on page 1 in 6 weeks for five easy payments of $19.99, run in the other direction.
How long does healthcare SEO take? The simple answer is that it depends, but it’s well worth the investment.

About the author

Crawford Ifland
Founder and CEO
Messenger Healthcare Marketing
Lexington, Kentucky



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