If you run a dermatology practice and want to get more patients in the door you’ve likely thought about implementing search engine optimization (SEO) as part of your marketing efforts.
As you’ve been reading about SEO for dermatology across the web, you may be struck by seemingly contradictory pieces of advice, as well as a wide range of suggestions as far as “what works” and what doesn’t.
With so much contradictory information, it can be difficult to know how to optimize your dermatology website to increase organic traffic and generate the leads you need to grow and thrive.
At Sagapixel, we have worked with a number of dermatologists across the county, and along the way, we’ve acquired key insights into the practices that work. In this article, I’m going to outline the proven, lead-generating, SEO approaches our agency has implemented for our dermatology clients in markets both large and small. We hope to equip you with this information as you try to do it yourself or review proposals from different SEO companies for your dermatology practice.
Before getting into the minute details of our approach to SEO, it’s essential to understand the three parts of SEO.
What is SEO for Dermatology? The Three Parts of SEO
As we mentioned above, SEO isn’t simple. There’s a lot more that goes into it than just inserting the keyword on the page. You could even be doing everything right regarding content, but never move the needle if you aren’t prioritizing these three essential elements of SEO.
- Ensure Google Can Optimally Crawl and Index Your Website
Have you ever written a great piece of content that has yet to show up on Google — not on the first page, the second, or the tenth? Writing beautiful prose and checking off all the right optimization boxes won’t matter if Google can’t crawl your website.
Crawling is when the Googlebot visits every page on your website and determines its content. This is how Google gains knowledge that these pages exist and begins to evaluate where to put them in its index of pages. If Google doesn’t crawl your website, it doesn’t know the pages exist and won’t have any reason to show them in search results.
The easiest way to get Google to crawl your website is to request it. You’ll need to go into a tool like Ahrefs and request a crawl. However, there’s yet another caveat to this. Even if you request Google to crawl your pages, it may not do it if you aren’t giving it access.
You’ll need to ensure that your pages are marked as indexed. This means you’re giving Google permission to add your pages to its index and ultimately show it in search results. If you’re website is marked as noindex, then you’re telling Google you don’t want it to look at your pages, which makes your website invisible to the rest of the world.
If you aren’t sure whether your website is noindexed, you’ll need to go into your CMS and check the indexing status. For WordPress websites, you’ll find a box that says, “discourage search engines from indexing this site.” You’ll want this box to be unchecked.
You’ll also need to go into each individual page on your website to ensure that they aren’t also marked separately as nonindexed.
- Maximize The Relevance of Your Content to Your Customers’ Searches
When it comes to keywords, you should think about them in terms of relevance. The more niche, specific, and long-tail your keywords are, the more likely you are to generate leads. Why is this? For dermatology, you want someone who is close to signing up for one of the treatments you provide, whether that’s scar revision, mole removal, or acne scar subcision.
If you optimize your page to rank for a generic word such as “dermatology,” you’ll be putting your pages in front of the wrong audience. Someone may Google “dermatology” for countless reasons, most of which are not related to needing a dermatologist. They could be doing a research paper for school or forgot what a dermatologist did. However, someone searching “acne scar subcision in NYC” has a very specific need and is extremely close to conversion.
These are what we call long-tail keywords — keywords that are longer and more specific to a searcher that is close to conversion for a specific product or service. If you’re optimizing for “dermatology,” you’ll never see a dime of your efforts. It’s vital to understand what your potential clients are searching so you can create pages that are optimized around these keywords.
- Maximize the Authority of Your Website By Earning Links
Now that your website is indexed and you’re finding the right keywords to target, it’s important to build the authority of your website. This is achieved through link building, the practice of acquiring links on other websites that point back to your pages. Think of them as testimonials that say your content is important. The more Google sees indicators that other people find your content important, the more they will see you as an authority figure on the topic and start showing you higher in search results.
While it’s important to acquire links, you don’t want to get them from just anywhere. If you have spammy or low-quality websites linking to you, Google won’t see this as a signal of importance or authority.
Think about it. If the New York Times is linking to you, that’s a great recommendation to Google. If mommy blogger Sally, who is still on Blogspot and gets zero traffic to her website links to you, it holds no value. And if you’re getting links from a link farm, Google could penalize your page.
While it may seem like a murky area of SEO, it’s essential if you’re going to get your pages showing up in Google’s search results. You could target the right keywords and have your pages marked as indexed, but without links, you’ll still get nowhere.
Why Perform SEO for Dermatologists?
Now that I’ve outlined the three major aspects of SEO, you may be wondering if all that work is worth it or even necessary. Do dermatologists even need to prioritize SEO? If you want to improve your online visibility, grow trust with new and existing clients, and create leads that convert, then the answer is yes.
Improve Your Online Visibility
Without SEO you’ll remain invisible online and any potential clients who are using Google to search for a dermatologist will end up going somewhere else. Everyone uses Google to search their desired procedure or treatment before they actually commit to getting it. Anyone who doesn’t is now in the minority. If you’re not one of the options they see online, it’s impossible for them to choose your services over another.
When you optimize your website, you’ll be discoverable for a laundry list of keywords — everything from location-based to bottom-of-funnel content marketing. This means you’ll be optimally positioned as a solution to potential clients on Google and more business will start coming in.
Establish Trust with Google and Your Audience
Without optimizing your pages, Google won’t value your website and if your website isn’t discoverable, you won’t be able to build trust with your audience. Just writing content isn’t enough. It needs to be relevant to what people are searching.
However, more than just keyword optimization, you also need links pointing back to your pages for Google to consider the content valuable. Without correctly optimizing your content and receiving backlinks, Google won’t trust that your content is worthy of showing up in results. And if Google doesn’t trust your content, no one on Google will either.
Create Leads that Convert
When you do SEO right, you’ll generate leads that convert. This is because you’ll be writing pages that target people who are searching specifically for your dermatology services. More than that, they’re close to making a decision on whether or not to get a specific dermatology treatment. When your page is the one they land on, they’re more likely to convert to your practice than somewhere else.
If you’re not properly optimizing your website, you’ll likely target keywords that are too broad which will miss your potential clients altogether. And any traffic you would be bringing in because of your content would be useless. No one who lands on your page would convert, not when the intent is wrong.
How to Use SEO for Your Dermatology Practice
Know Your Targeted Audience
Finding the right keywords to use hinges on your target audience. You can’t target their searches if you don’t know who they are and their pain points. If your dermatology practice is already established, then this process should be simple. Your target audience is your ideal client.
If you specialize in dermatology for skin cancer, then you’ll be targeting someone who’s pain point is resolving skin cancer issues. If you specialize in scars, you’ll be targeting someone who has scars and wants them removed for cosmetic reasons. If you specialize in moles, you’ll be targeting someone who wants to remove their mole. And so on.
Do this for your own practice. Who is your ideal client? Why would they come to you for service? The answer to that question will reveal the pain point(s) of your target audience. You’ll use that pain point to find the keywords that will put you in front of this audience online.
Now that you have your target audience, it’s time to find the topics you’ll be producing for your content marketing and location page strategy. To do this you’ll need to conduct some research.
One of the best places to start when trying to decide what service pages and blog posts your website should have is with competitive analysis. This is the practice of researching your top competitors and seeing what pages they have and the keywords they’re targeting.
You can do this manually, by going to each website and browsing their pages. Maybe they have a dedicated Mohs surgery page and you don’t. If your target audience would be interested in this, then it’s a good page to add. Or maybe they have a blog post covering the types of acne scars. Just take a look at what they have and decide if these topics are also relevant for your target audience.
A majority of the time, our SEO agency uses one of the best SEO tools, Ahrefs, for competitive analysis. We go into the content gap tool, find three pages and plug them into the competing domains tool. This will show us all the keywords these websites are ranking for that your website is not.
There are many keyword research tools we can use to determine the best keywords to target. If you have a general topic or word in mind you can plug it into Google and see if autosuggest generates a long-tail keyword for this topic. You can also plug the term into the keywords explorer tool in Ahrefs and see what keywords it can identify for you.
Another SEO tool we use at Sagapixel is Answerthepublic which is a website that compiles all the autosuggest in Google for every term. This is a great way to find long-tail keywords without the manual effort.
Other SEO tools we use include Keyword Sheeter and the Content Explorer tool in Ahrefs. All of these keyword research methods can work for both service pages/location pages and blog posts.
In our time working with dermatologists, we’ve come across many keywords that create leads and actually convert. Below is a list of keywords we’ve used for service and locations pages, typically followed by the specific location of the dermatology clinic.
- Acne scar treatment
- Scar Revision
- Mole Removal
- DPN Removal
- Seborrheic Keratosis Treatment
Some good examples of blog post keywords our SEO agency has used to bring in business for our dermatology clients include:
- Types of Acne Scars
- Mole Removal Cost
- Seborrheic Keratosis Removal Healing Time
- Chemical Peel vs. Microneedling
- Mole Removal on Nose
- Does Milia Removal Leave Scars?
- How Many Moles Can You Remove at Once?
So you’ve done some keyword research and found topics you want to target. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as picking a relevant keyword, writing the page, and instantly being found in the first position. Like many other aspects of SEO, you can be doing many things right but if one thing is wrong, it’ll prevent you from seeing the results you need.
The next step in keyword research is determining the competitiveness of a keyword. This is important because if you target a keyword that’s too competitive for your page/website, you’ll never rank. For example, let’s say your website is new and doesn’t have a lot of backlinks and overall authority in Google’s eyes. If you try and target a keyword where every page is established, there’s no reason for Google to bump them down to put your page higher in the search results.
The top metrics you should look at to determine a keyword’s competitiveness are domain rating and backlinks. Domain rating (DR) is a score to reflect the authority of your website. A DR anywhere from 60-100 is high and considered competitive while DRs from 0-40 are considered low and are likely more doable to compete with even for a new website.
The other metric, backlinks, is the number of links from other websites pointing to this page specifically. If a page has 15 or more backlinks that’s considered a lot. At our SEO agency, we typically want to see several pages with 0 backlinks, because if other pages have 0 backlinks and are ranking, your page can do the same thing. Both domain rating and backlinks will significantly impact the likelihood of your page ranking.
Let’s do this real time. Take your ideal keyword and plug it into Google. You’ll need to enable the Ahrefs browser plugin for this step. Look at the DRs and backlinks on each page and determine if the state of your website can compete with what’s already there.
If you see these metrics you should probably find another keyword:
If you see these metrics you likely have a chance to rank:
However, there is a caveat to this as well. You’ll also need to look at the title tags of each page. Are they well optimized around the keyword? Sometimes you’ll have two pages that are aligned with the keyword exactly and are in the first two spots despite being lower DRs. This means Google values pages that are more aligned with the keyword than which DRs are higher.
Each search is different so you’ll have to assess whether it’s just competitive with well-optimized pages, if there’s a content gap, or something else going on.
While those two factors impact competitiveness, you’ll also want to check monthly search traffic. That’s the number marked “ST” in the pictures above. If this number is below 100, not many people are searching this and it’s probably not worth your time, even if it’s a great keyword. We typically like to see pages with 100-150 or above for monthly search traffic before we’ll put in the effort of writing the page.
On-Page Optimization of Your Dermatology Practice’s Website
Now that we’ve run through the basics of finding the right keywords and determining whether they’re worth targeting, it’s important to discuss all the necessary pages you should optimize on your dermatology website.
Optimize Your Service Pages
All of your main service pages should be optimized to target the keywords your patients use when searching for a dermatologist to help with a specific condition.
This means that you’ll need a dedicated page for offerings such as:
- Acne scar treatment
- Mohs surgery
- …and so on
A catchall “conditions” page is highly unlikely to be relevant enough for a search such as “eczema treatment near me” if the page is about every dermatologic condition a person could possibly suffer; especially if competitors have dedicated pages for each skin condition they treat.
With that being said, you should focus your attention first on the treatments you care about getting patients for most. Then, once those are done, you can focus on less important services. You don’t have to spend abundant effort later building traffic to every service with blog posts, link building, etc., but at a minimum, they should all be optimized.
Create Pages Targeting Surrounding Locations
Once you have all of your service pages built out, you’ll want to pick your priority services and build out location pages. Location pages are essentially service pages but also optimized around a specific city or location that your practice serves.
For example, let’s say you and your ideal clients are based in NYC. This means that people in your area are likely searching something like: dermatologist NYC, acne scar treatment NYC, mole removal NYC.
This search is heavily intent-based, meaning anyone searching a location based search is close to converting. You can see this with their desire to find one that’s local. That’s what makes location pages a huge asset in any SEO strategy.
With SEO, there are multiple ways to show up for local intent searches. You can show up both in the map results and in the blue links. Ranking in map results is a great way to get relevant traffic to your pages because many people don’t go further down then the map results for local intent searches. However, ranking in the regular blue links is also important to capture those that do make it past the map listings.
Optimize Your Site Architecture Through Internal Linking
At the beginning of this article we discussed how it’s vital that Google crawls your website. Internal linking is another essential factor that enables this to take place. Internal linking is when one page on your website links to another page on your website. These links act as pathways that allow Google to discover everything on your site. If a page isn’t internally linked, Google will never know it’s there and thus won’t show it in search results. These pages are aptly known as orphan pages.
Internal linking is also important because it helps Google better understand what a page is about. This is due to the anchor text you use. The anchor text is the phrase you use to insert a link to another page. For example, this next phrase is the anchor text: healthcare marketing agency.
I used the anchor text “healthcare marketing agency” because that is exactly what the page is about. By using relevant anchor text, ideally the exact keyword of the page, you are telling Google what the page will be about before it visits it. This will help it know where to put it in its index.
An easy way to get these internal links on the page with the exact keyword is to use breadcrumbs. This refers to a small text path at the top of pages that are one or more pages in from the homepage. This is often a good idea for service/location page strategy.
In addition to breadcrumbs, we often implement Areas We Serve sections on our dermatology client’s location pages. These sections list out all the areas they serve and then include links to those service pages. The process is simple, especially if you create a global widget that updates this across every page whenever you add a new location or link.
Develop a Strategy for Earning Backlinks
We’ve mentioned backlinks already — how without them Google won’t see your pages as authoritative or worth showing. There are multiple ways to acquire backlinks and this area of SEO always seems to be evolving. The four main ways of getting backlinks include guest posts, link magnets, vendor links, and digital PR.
Guest posts are blog posts you write for someone else’s blog. This is in exchange for including your link in the content. To find websites that allow guest posting, we use Pitchbox. This tool allows us to find both free and paid opportunities for link insertion.
Link magnets are pages you put on your own blog that focus on statistics. This strategy relies on the fact that most backlinks are number focused. By putting a page with valuable content online, others will want to use the information you found and will link to you as the source. This is a great way to earn passive links and multiple of them at that. For guest posts you’ll only ever earn one per page. With link magnets, you could receive several backlinks over time, all for the same effort.
Vendor links are links you pay for. You don’t have to write any blog posts, you just have to pay the website to include a link to your site on their site. While this requires the least amount of effort, these links are often low in value compared to what you can earn from link magnets.
Digital PR, or public relations, is the process of earning links from journalists. You can send out press releases on company news or you can write articles that are relevant to recent trends and earn links from journalists that way. This is another great way to earn multiple links for a single page.
You shouldn’t be surprised at this point when I say there’s another factor that impacts whether your pages rank or not. This factor has nothing to do with content but is instead about the technical side of SEO.
It should be stated though that not every technical issue needs to be addressed. If you try and fix every technical issue found in Ahrefs or Screaming Frog then you’ll waste a lot of time that likely won’t have any return. Instead, you’ll want to focus on only the important issues. Below we outline three of these issues you’ll need to address to ensure your pages can show up in Google’s search results.
Ensure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
While you may be doing all the work of developing your website on a desktop, most of your online traffic will actually come from mobile devices. In fact, regardless of what industry you’re in, most everyone is on mobile, not desktop. This makes it extremely important to ensure your site is mobile friendly, if not, Google may show your pages on desktop search but not on mobile search.
There are several design factors that can prevent your website from being mobile friendly, something you’ll likely want a developer or web designer to do for you.
Address Any Redirects
Redirects are an issue we routinely address at our SEO agency. Redirects are links that get directed to a different location than the URL that is provided. For example a redirect would be if you clicked the URL: /cosmetic-procedures/acne-treatment/ and it took you to the URL /cosmetic-procedure/acne/.
While the redirect itself is fine to have, especially if you’ve changed the url of a page or deleted a page, it’s the wrong link that is the issue. Wherever you have the old URL linked on your website, it needs to be updated to the new URL.
Resolve all 404 Errors
404 pages are what are often referred to as “pages not found.” To get to these pages, someone would have to click on a link that no longer works. This could be due to a URL change or a page being deleted with no redirect set up. For every 404 page that is shown in your website crawl, you’ll want to set up redirects and change out any place on your site that those URLs are linked.
Google My Business
Google My Business, now named Google Business Profile, is your Google listing. It’s the banner on the right of the screen that shows up when you search for a local business. It’ll have information regarding your business such as hours, website, location, reviews, etc. Getting set up with GMB, is also how you’re going to show up in map results for local intent searches.
Understand Your Google Search Console Data
At Sagapixel, we primarily use Google Search Console (GSC) to gather data on how pages are performing. There’s quite a bit that GSC can tell you whether from an entire site standpoint or regarding each individual page. Let’s briefly walk through this tool.
Above the graph you can see where it says “Date: Last 16 months” here’s where you can insert your date range and also do a time comparison such as month/month.
On the left of the screen you can see a list of options you can choose from. You’ll want to focus primarily on performance. This is where you’ll get the information showing on the right. Here you’ll find information regarding total clicks, total impressions, average CTR (click through rate), and average position.
Below this graph you can look at each individual page or query and its specific number of clicks, impressions, etc. Now this may seem like a lot of information but you don’t need to pay attention to all of it.
KPIs for Dermatology SEO
The major KPI (key performance indicator) for your dermatology pages is clicks. Clicks are a good indicator of how many people have gone to your page from Google. GSC only pulls in organic traffic. When a page sees a clicks decrease it could be an indication of a drop in position or it could just be seasonal, that’s for you to diagnose. You can identify clicks decreases by doing a date range comparison.
Impressions are another good indicator although less important than clicks. Impressions tell you how many people have seen your page in search. As you can see, someone seeing your page is less important than someone who actually clicked through and went to it.
Click through rate and average position are not something you need to check regularly. If you see a page has a clicks decrease you can use average position to see if that is the reason but other than that you mostly want to focus on clicks.
Based on the data you find here you’ll want to re-optimize a page, check to see if it’s been indexed, and a host of other actions to help these pages continue to move higher in Google search results and bring in qualified leads as a result.
Sagapixel Offers a Comprehensive Digital Marketing Strategy for Dermatologists
As we mentioned at the start of this article, SEO isn’t simple. There’s a lot of factors that play a role in whether you have a strong online presence or not. If one thing is wrong it could mean zero pay out for all your efforts. It’s vital to know each aspect of the SEO process so you don’t waste time and money.
Sagapixel is a full-service SEO agency that can handle every aspect of your dermatology SEO strategy. We have experience working with dermatologists and know what keywords and strategies lead to traffic growth and conversions. If you’re looking to get more business so you can keep your doors open, we can help you gain online visibility today.