Do you get a touch of the green-eyed monster whenever you search for a service you offer and Google spits out your competitors’ names but forgets to mention yours?
You’re good at what you do – and yet you feel invisible. And it makes you feel anxious. After all, if Google ignores you, how will any new patients ever find you?
You’re right to take this seriously because it definitely is a serious problem. When they’re trying to find a new physiotherapist (or any other healthcare provider for that matter), most people turn instantly to Google and follow the first one or two links in their search results. If your practice doesn’t appear there then you definitely are missing out on new patients and that may threaten your business’s growth or even its viability.
What can you do?
The answer is SEO. Search engine optimisation. It’s the art and science of making Google recognise, respect and prioritise your practice over your competitors.
Why is SEO important?
You’re now one of over 37,000 physiotherapists registered in Australia.
If we move back a few years to 2017, the Department of Health reports that there were around 31,000 physios and nearly 43% of them worked in group or solo private practice. That gives you 13,300 private practice competitors.
Thankfully they’re not all in your patch – but quite a few of them are and you’re all competing for the same limited supply of patients.
Physical therapy SEO helps you stand out from the crowd and draw more of these patients into your practice.
Good SEO means that more prospective patients see your website in their search results, more of them click through to your site and more of them book your services.
What does Google want from you?
Sometimes it seems that you’re forever trying to figure out how to appease the Google gods so your website can succeed.
But Google isn’t like a difficult date who expects you to guess their needs then gets miffed when you get it wrong. Google actually tells you very clearly what it wants from you: relevant, authoritative, trustworthy content that meets users’ needs.
Google provides a service to its users. It exists to direct them to the best possible solution to their search query. It wants to give them reliable, relevant results so that they turn to Google with their future queries.
When your website succeeds in this, Google begins to place it higher and higher up the rankings, meaning more people see it and more of them click through to visit your site. As your website traffic increases and more people linger on your website without bouncing off, Google gains confidence in it and becomes more likely to show it high in the next person’s search results. Now you and Google are scratching each other’s backs and you’re both happy.
But how do you get there? How do you meet Google’s needs and so boost your rankings? We’ll show you.
The basic guide to physiotherapy SEO
Below are 6 steps towards higher rankings for your physiotherapy practice.
1. Keyword research
A Google user has an intent behind their search and Google tries to work out what that is and respond accordingly. That’s why, if I type in ‘Apple’ Google assumes I’m after a smartphone or tablet rather than a piece of fruit (but gives me a couple of links about fruit just in case).
In the same way, if someone types ‘physiotherapy’, Google’s first assumption is that they want to find a nearby physical therapist. Typing ‘physiotherapy back pain’ delivers a more varied mix of listings – some service pages from local physios alongside some educational blogs (by physios) and some clinical guidelines for back pain treatment.
Keyword research really means finding out which words or phrases people are typing into Google when they hope to find someone like you.
Now, as a practising physiotherapist, you already have a bit of an edge here. Your keywords are going to come from the services you offer and the conditions you treat. You can dig deeper and find out how much competition there is for each keyword using a number of tools including Google Keyword Planner.
Once you’ve chosen your keywords, think about your site structure. Your homepage may touch on many different aspects of your service but, after that, you should create different keyword-specific pages for each aspect of your practice.
That means you need a page targeting the keyword ‘headaches’ and a page targeting the keyword ‘back pain’ for example. A specific page on one topic is more relevant to a user searching for ‘back pain help’ than if you were to mix your back pain advice into a bigger page about other musculoskeletal problems.
2. On-page SEO
If you’re in the backend of your website, you’ll see that it asks you for things like title tags, meta descriptions, URLs and keywords for each page. This might not mean a great deal to you but it’s Google’s preferred love language.
On-page SEO does wonders for your ranking. Incorporating these things helps Google know what your page is about and enables it to feel confident that it’s recommending a relevant website in its search results.
“The most basic signal that information is relevant is when a webpage contains the same keywords as your search query. If those keywords appear on the page, or if they appear in the headings or body of the text, the information is more likely to be relevant.”
Think about a service you offer or a condition you treat. That will generate a keyword like ‘back pain’ or ‘sports physiotherapy’. Now think about the kind of people you see with those needs – and write about 600 words in everyday language that would explain the condition or service, outline how you can help and show them how to book. Use your preferred keyword(s) whenever it seems natural and then use them in the page URL (e.g. www.practicename.com.au/sportsphysiotherapy) and title tag (the larger blue text that appears in search results).
Need more help? Our SEO specialists can address these aspects of on-page SEO and many of the over 200 other factors that affect your ranking.
3. Google Business Profile optimisation
While telehealth is increasingly popular, most patients choose a local physiotherapist they can see in person. That means your website needs to show up in local ‘near me’ listings.
To be honest, Google tends to assume that most searchers mean ‘near me’ even if they don’t type that. Local services tend to be higher up the list than far away ones. When someone in your area types in ‘physiotherapist’ they’re shown a map of nearby providers with a list of their names, contact details and websites.
You need to be on that list. And to feature in local listings you need a complete and accurate Google Business Profile.
Once you’ve populated it correctly, your physiotherapy practice will appear in local Google listings and in Google Maps with a lovely red pin marking your practice location. Now it’s very easy for new patients to know where you are and book an appointment.
4. Website design and content
Your website isn’t just there to look pretty. It’s arguably your most important sales tool and it’s job is to attract visitors and win them over. That’s called a ‘conversion’ and its nature depends on your goals. Ideally you want a few different options for the fully committed (book now) and those who are interested but not yet ready to book (e.g. ‘Enter your email to download our free guide to physiotherapy for knee pain’).
Many attract people who read and then leave without taking action. Yours shouldn’t be one of them.
You can increase your website’s conversion rate by ensuring it:
- Works well on a mobile (most people search on their phones these days)
- Is secure – you must have an SSL certificate to stop Google scaring away potential visitors with a warning that your website is unsafe
- Loads quickly as people are impatient (test your site speed for free here)
- Reflects your practice’s values and vibe
- Features a lot of useful content that meets the needs of your target audience
- Has strong and regular calls to action, with the first ‘book now’ button appearing above the fold (before people have to scroll down).
5. Content marketing
This means creating content (blogs, videos, ‘how-to’ guides etc) that helps you build a relationship with prospective patients.
As a physiotherapist, you have an in-depth knowledge of the human body. You know why people get back pain, why poor posture can lead to headaches, when to start running again after a knee injury, how to relieve sciatica or how to diagnose and treat BPPV.
This is knowledge that most people don’t have. When you write or record content that helps them understand issues that matter to them, you’re gaining their trust and respect for your expertise. You also have something fresh to post to your website and your social media channels, which gives Google the impression of activity rather than stagnation.
In fact, you should get into the habit of adding your name, photo and credentials to each blog as this helps Google recognise your expertise, authority and trustworthiness (EAT).
6. NAP & citations
You might feel like a nap after doing all that SEO work but you don’t get one just yet. In an SEO context, NAP stands for ‘name, address and phone number’. And a citation is simply any mention of your business online in places like Yellow Pages, Yelp or Healthdirect.
Don’t overlook these – they’re a fairly easy way to increase your SEO success.
Aim to list your practice in all the major online directories and then make sure each listing has your correct NAP – Google uses this information in its rankings. Then remember to update them all if your contact details change.
Now you’ve done all that, your physiotherapy practice should start to improve its Google rankings.
But here’s the other important thing about SEO: it’s not a set-and-forget activity. You can’t do it once and then move onto other things. Good SEO requires a long-term partnership with Google. You nurture that relationship through the ongoing work of content marketing and on-page SEO activities. It demands time and commitment but it pays dividends in terms of increased visibility for your physiotherapy practice and increased bookings that help you grow your business to its full potential.