The urgent care market is saturated, and therefore, highly competitive. Just having a website no longer means you’ll rank well in a search for local urgent cares. You must convince Google and the person searching that you’re a relevant match. And if your competitors are leveraging SEO better than you, you’re losing some of the easiest patients to attract.
But that’s not the only reason to prioritize SEO for urgent care. As you’re adding services and business lines to grow your revenue, you want people to know you offer them. Even those patients who always choose you for respiratory illness and ear infections may not know you also offer physicals, allergy testing, and vaccinations. But you can change that.
Here is what you need to know to understand what SEO is, why it’s useful, and how to execute it effectively.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the collection of efforts you make to increase the quality and quantity of your organic web traffic.
In other words, it’s how you convince search engines that you’re a great match for a search term. It’s also how you convince people to click on your link once they see it. This is accomplished by optimizing your web content — and not just your website.
Since Google is the smartest and most-used search engine to date, we will use it to reference search engines in general. If you want to dive deeper into SEO basics, Moz is a great place to start.
Once upon a time, you could trick Google into listing you on a SERP (search engine results page) by flooding a page with target keywords (e.g. “urgent care,” “ear infection,” “pink eye”) even if the copy was complete nonsense.
Now Google is infinitely smarter — and more frustrating. It has a constantly changing algorithm for context so it can determine whether your content is actually what the person is trying to find. In fact, you get dinged if you use a keyword too many times on a page. It knows a lot about the person searching. And it uses more than your copy and metadata to complete the puzzle.
(Metadata is all the stuff on the back end of your website, like the page and image descriptions.)
It’s also worth noting that SEO is not a quick fix. Nor is it unfixable (usually.) SEO is generally not set-and-forget, and your ranking can (and usually will) change — potentially daily.
If it’s so fickle, why should you bother with it? Well, for starters, if you don’t have the time or resources to constantly monitor SEO, you can still succeed. If a lot of people click your link from a SERP, and then they spend some time on the page, and especially if they explore more of your site (contact page, schedule an appointment, etc.,) Google is learning you’re legit. That will help keep you near the top of the SERP. So be mindful about how you write content and what your keywords are (all of which is explained below,) and you can maintain a good ranking average.
But the most important (and hopefully obvious) reason to prioritize SEO is that it should lead to more business. And not just people who are searching for an urgent care. Like we said earlier, you want to show up for searches related to every service you provide.
And with that, you also position yourself to create a relationship with this person before they become a patient. Let’s say someone finds a self-care blog on your site. They find it valuable. Two weeks later, they’re searching “pink eye.” They remember your site when you appear in the SERP (which you’re more likely to appear in because Google remembers this person chose you before,) so they click your pink eye blog. And that blog does a great job explaining symptoms, contagiousness, and treatment. At this point, they’ve come to trust you. They’re convinced they need to be seen, and they want you to be the one to treat them.
There are many benefits to having a great SEO strategy, but the bottom line is that the internet is the widest net you can cast. If you’re not showing up where most people are looking for you, you’ll have some very expensive gaps to fill.
While there are a lot of touchpoints in SEO, there are some simple basics if you’re doing it yourself. Here is an overview of what Google wants from you.
Keywords. Are. Everything. Keywords are words or phrases that people type into Google. You could write a fantastic article about urgent care working conditions (because you can also use your site to attract new employees,) but if no one is searching for that phrase, your target audience will never see it.
Fortunately for you, most of the obvious keywords you want to rank for are services you provide and conditions you treat. Which a lot of people are searching. But you still want to be smart about the exact keywords you’re optimizing for.
Let’s use the pink eye example. Here is a readout on search terms related to pink eye from an SEO tool, Semrush. The volume you see is the average number of times that term gets searched in a month.
As you can see, each section of results has thousands of matches. And the top ones have very high monthly search volumes. What that means for you is it will be very difficult to rank on page one for those terms. Not impossible, but very hard. So just choosing “pink eye” or “pink eye symptoms” may not position you well.
When we click into all the matches in the first column, we start to find some more attainable search terms. In fact, they practically write your blog for you:
Monthly search volumes over 100 is good, but for niche topics in particular, it’s still beneficial to rank for something with 10-90 monthly searches. You’ll be more likely to rank well, and those 10 or so people will be quality matches.
Most content strategies include one primary keyword and one to five secondary keywords (depending on what makes sense for the content.) So with a little research, you can identify several terms to potentially rank for on page one.
There are plenty of free ways to find keywords. An easy way is to open an incognito window in Google and start typing into the search field. The suggestions that appear are based on popular searches.
Remember, if you type a search into Google, it knows your search history, so some suggestions will be based on that. Incognito mode doesn’t store your preferences.
Google won’t give you monthly search volumes, though. There are a ton of free resources online if you search “free keyword tool.” Here’s an article that explains ten of them.
Again, you can use an incognito window to search for your keyword to see if/where you appear in the SERP. You can also get some great information from Google Analytics and Google Search Console. In fact, you can type a URL into Console and see all the different search terms that fetch that page, along with the number of impressions and clicks the page gets.
Google matches words in many different places on your site. Here’s a short guide to great matches:
Primary keyword/phrase: This should appear in your title, URL, metadata, copy (as early as possible,) and — ideally — your section headings and subheadings like “How do I succeed at SEO?” and “How to effectively use your keywords.”
As stated above, your metadata includes any backend copy like the page description and alt tags (which is copy you write to describe an image that screen readers will speak to the visually impaired.) It’s important to write strong descriptions because next to the title, it’s what compels people to click on your page.
Secondary keywords/phrases: Also appearing throughout the copy, these should go into section headings. If it makes sense, you can use them in the meta as well.
*Expert tip: Google search your keyword and review the “people also ask” terms. If it’s a fit, use one for a section heading.
Define, explain, and answer questions: Google loves being able to answer a direct question or vague keyword with a definition, list, or how-to blurb. Use the section headings wisely.
Inline links: If you have a page with the primary keyword “signs of pink eye,” and you have another article that mentions pink eye, link to the pink eye signs page in the second article. Most importantly, link it to the exact keyword. (If you can’t use it organically in a sentence, throw it into a separate line:
Learn about the [signs of pink eye] >>)
Get more tips on urgent care marketing >>
Local search results are extremely important for brick-and-mortar businesses. The fact that your business name probably includes the term “urgent care,” and that those words organically appear all over your site means you don’t have to write blogs to rank for that term.
However, to compete with other clinics, you need to optimize your local search.
The most important step to take for local search is to maintain a complete, updated Google My Business page. This will get you a Google Knowledge Panel, link your location on a map, and make Google reviews easily accessible.
Beyond that, you want accurate, consistent data on all other local listings (like Yelp.) You can check your local listing score on Moz. This not only gives you a score, but also shows you directories you may want to be listed in. It’s free to claim your business on most of them.
Closely tied with those local listings are your online reviews. They factor into your SERP position. And it’s not only how high your overall ranking is, but also the number and diversity of reviews. Reviews are pulled from everywhere they’re available, like Facebook and Yelp.
Unsurprisingly, Google reviews heavily weigh into Google’s local SERP positioning. And again, it’s not just the overall ranking. Even if some of your reviews are not great, they can add credibility as small pieces of a larger whole.
Google prioritizes pages that provide value to readers. You should also aim to deliver value to your readers. Write blogs to genuinely educate people — like this blog — not just to hit keywords. The more interested readers are in the page, the more time they spend, which is part of what tells Google it’s a good read.
While you don’t want to dilute your site with the same message written in different ways, it is beneficial to write multiple blogs about the same general topic. This is especially true if you want Google to think you’re an authority on a subject. Just target slightly different keywords in each.
Pink eye probably isn’t keeping your lights on, but we’ll use it again for consistency. You could write blogs about babies, toddlers, and adults with pink eye; causes and types of pinkeye; treating pink eye at home/when to visit urgent care; and several others.
What that does is tell Google you seem to know a lot about pink eye, so any related keyword will have a better chance of ranking well — including that coveted 450 K “pink eye.”
While blogs are the best way to add content to your site, you still want your main landing pages to rank well. The same basic rules apply. Choose the best keywords, use them wisely, put them above the fold in the copy, and link to the pages from your blogs using proper keywords.
Other types of content that really helps SEO are images and videos. Not only can you insert key words in your alt tags, but also people engage more with visual content.
With such a long list of considerations, it may be easiest for you to hire someone to help with SEO. If you have an ongoing relationship with your website developer, they may offer these services as well. But if it isn’t feasible to hire out, it’s smart to charge one tech-friendly person to oversee the efforts. And providing even a little bit of training can help them catch on quickly.
Absolutely. But there is more to it than just SEO. Your web presence is also about the user experience. You want an aesthetic, authoritative, brand-reflective, easy-to-navigate, high-functioning website. Patient engagement software can help you level-up your website and your overall brand.
We’re honored! Experity serves over half of urgent care centers in the United States. Our solutions are designed specifically for urgent care, helping you deliver quality patient care while improving your bottom line. See what we did for Zip Clinic >>
And our consultants are some of the best minds in the industry — whose top priorities are what’s best for you.