It’s a search battleground out there.

Each and every day, more and more people use the Web to seek out medical, health and healthcare related information. Your competing hospital down the road or top health insurance competitor across town knows this just as well as you do. In fact, your boss may be questioning why your organization is always ranked below the competition in various search results. Time to take action.

To date, you may have assumed that search engine optimization (SEO) is something that your IT folks handle and that it’s not a priority or focus area for your communications or marketing team. The problem is that your IT team is not tied in with your day-to-day communications and marketing activities. Thus, chances are good that there is a disconnect between what keywords your IT team is focused on versus the keywords you are working to own through your search engine marketing campaign,  content marketing and social media efforts.

SEO has always been a critical marketing driver but why is it now more important than ever for healthcare marketers? Here are three key reasons to consider:

1. Competition Is Already Stiff

SEO is anything but new. Still, I’m often blown away by how few companies and organizations regularly track, analyze and adjust their SEO efforts on a quarterly basis to match changing market landscapes. To gather general insight, I encourage you to go visit Google’s Keyword Tool. Type in various keywords or phrases that you think a potential  patient would search to find your organization, product or service. Take a look at the volume of local searches (note: Google only narrows local searches on a national scale), search competition and the relevant search phrases that populate below your inquiry.

You may find that competition for top keywords is very high. View this as a challenge and an opportunity to narrow in and determine how you can adjust your SEO strategy to focus on optimizing your site and content for medium and long-tail keywords. These insights will help fuel which keywords you integrate into your website and content and benchmark  against to measure success moving forward. 

2. Solid SEO Knowledge = Smart Content Optimization

On a daily basis, you and your team team are likely creating a number of content assets – blog posts, tweets, videos, etc. Would you prefer to have more or less eyeballs and engagement with this content that you’re investing time, effort and financial resources to create each day? I’ll assume the former.

By keeping your database of target keywords handy, you’ll arm your team with a filter to help ensure that those keywords are consistently being integrated into blog post titles and content, video titles, tags and descriptions, Twitter handle bios, and in any other marketing assets you create. Search engines of course love quality content and you’ll succeed at driving strong search engine results when you begin to own a consistent brand keyword framework.

3. Health Reform

One can bet on a major search volume spike in the year ahead as more and more states prepare to launch their own individual health exchanges. Whether you work at a hospital, health insurance company or other health-related organization, get ready…the questions and inquiries will start flooding. Your competition will be fighting to own localized search inquiries tied to the health exchange and there is an opportunity NOW to position as a thought leader in the space.

Have I convinced you that’s it’s finally time to start ignoring those three fearful letters – SEO? Great! Time to smarten up and start synching your IT team with your marketing efforts to start making an impact. It’s not rocket science to understand the basics and there are plenty of very smart folks out there who have been kind enough to guide you right along from the start. Give the two resources below a solid read and you’ll be well on your way.

The Beginners Guide to SEO – by:  SEOMoz

Learning SEO From the Experts:  A Step-by-Step Guide – by:  HubSpot

Image courtesy of Paloma Gomez.

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