A Healthcare Marketer's Guide to SEO Keyword Strategy

A Healthcare Marketer's Guide to SEO Keyword Strategy

By Annie ZelmMar 23 /2016


Why won't my cough go away?

Do I have allergies, a cold or a sinus infection?

How do I treat bronchitis? 

These are three questions I've Googled within the past two weeks, and they sum up the thought process of a typical healthcare consumer from the moment they become aware of a problem to the point when they seek treatment.

I've only been to a doctor once so far this year (turns out it was bronchitis and there's not much you can do except treat the cough), but I've turned to Google for health advice at least a dozen times. 

And I'm not alone—one in every 20 searches are health-related, according to Google. As many as 80 percent of us look for health information online—probably more now, since that statistic was from a 2013 survey.  Whether they serve patients or other physicians and hospitals, healthcare organizations have a tremendous opportunity to be found online by those who are clearly searching. 

Healthcare marketers' ability to stand out in a crowded online space largely depends on their ability to rank high in search engines. This is easier said than done, but if you're serious about creating an SEO keyword strategy to drive your healthcare content, here are six steps to get you started.

1. Talk to Consumers

You might have a good general idea of what your consumers need, but unless you ask, you'll never know for sure. What are their biggest challenges or concerns? What online sources do they trust? What typically prompts them to look for a solution (whether it's a doctor visit or new technology)? Do they read reviews? 

These are all questions you should seek to answer, whether it's through research or informal conversations. If you're introducing a new product or service, entering a new market or launching a new website or marketing strategy, it's in your best interest to conduct formal research to gain buyer insights. This will help you avoid basing your strategy on misconceptions.

If your company interacts directly with patients, it may not be feasible to talk with them directly due to HIPAA privacy laws. If that's the case, consider asking for feedback through surveys or using other means to gain insight.

2. Identify Keyword Phrases

Talking to buyers can be revealing, but it's certainly not the only way. And sometimes, as we mentioned, it's not an option. Fortunately, there are a number of other ways to find great keyword phrases, including:

These tools should give you plenty of options. 

3. Determine Which Keywords Have the Best Ranking Potential

All keywords are not created equal. Some are so generic they're nearly impossible to rank on; others are so specific that hardly anyone searches for them. The "sweet spot" keywords are those with a high monthly search volume but a relatively low level of competition.

Using the HubSpot keywords tool is one of the best ways to pinpoint them. Within the tool, you can easily see where a particular phrase ranks in terms of monthly search volume, difficulty (the lower the better; aim for 60 or below), and how you're currently ranking. You can also get suggestions for alternative keyword phrases that may be more effective. 

Of course, the best keyword phrases in the world won't do your company much good if they're not aligned with your products and services. Let's say your company sells healthcare billing software. A simple online search turns up more than 20 million results, so it's going to be hard to stake your SEO strategy on that phrase alone.

Here's a tip: Consider what makes yours unique.

Is it designed specifically for small physicians' offices or large hospitals? Is it cloud-based? Does it allow patients to log in, view and pay bills themselves? Here are some potential keyword phrases you might consider instead:

  • Affordable hospital billing software
  • Best medical billing software vendors
  • Cloud-based medical billing software
  • Self-pay medical billing services

We've found it's helpful to maintain a list of strong keyword phrases for each unique product or service and update it often. Popular keyword phrases may change as you ...

4. Map Keyword Phrases to Your Buyer's Journey

Given the popularity of Googling healthcare ailments, it's clear many consumers begin their search long before they even know what their problem is. Once they've given their problem a name, they typically begin searching for solutions and finally, comparing options. 

To be sure you're covering every stage of the buyer's journey, map it out with the most likely keyword phrases. 

For instance, you might have a list that looks something like this: 


  • Ensuring medical billing compliance
  • Converting to electronic billing


  • Medical billing software solutions
  • Advantages of cloud-based medical billing software


  • Medical billing software reviews
  • Implementing medical billing software case study

5. Optimize Site Pages

Congratulations! You have a solid SEO keyword strategy in place! Now it's time to deploy it. 

Start by updating your on-page SEO. That means taking another look at your page titles, URLs and metadescriptions (those short summaries that tell visitors what they're going to find on the page when it appears in their search results.)

Each page should be optimized for a specific keyword phrase, which should be carried throughout your:

  • Page title
  • URL
  • Metadescription
  • Body copy
  • Image alt text

6. Write Keyword-Rich Content

Once your website has been optimized, your work has just begun. Now it's time to start promoting your pages in blogs, eBooks, videos and any other online content you create.

Just as each of your website pages focuses on a single keyword phrase, your blog should call attention to one of those phrases as well wherever possible. 

The same on-page optimization rules apply, with one addition: Use the keyword phrase in the anchor text that links back to your product or service page. 

The key to doing this right is doing it naturally. Remember, you're writing for people first and search engines second. 

Keyword phrases are important to Google, but there are dozens of other factors the search engine's algorithm considers when determining ranking. Quality and relevance are among them, so don't underestimate their importance.

If a keyword phrase sounds awkward, doesn't add value or makes your content confusing, you need to either rethink the keyword or reword the sentence. 

A good SEO keyword strategy is like wearing cologne: When it's done right, it should be a subtle way to draw people closer to you, not turn them off. 

For more tips on creating helpful, engaging content that makes the most of your keyword strategy, check out our free wellness marketing eBook.

Wellness Marketing Content Strategy

The Author

Annie Zelm

Annie is the driving force behind content strategy for clients. She uncovers insights about what motivates buyers and uses that knowledge to shape client websites and editorial calendars. Annie brings several years of PR experience gained from working at the amusement park, Cedar Point.