Medico Digital Insights

How to increase patient enquiries using search engine optimisation – The Online Patient Journey Part 1

SEO | The online patient journey

Read time

5 min


24th July 2020


Written by Kat


Digital marketing

It Starts with a Search

Who does your audience turn to when they have a health-related question or concern? Patients used to rely on their GP for answers. This isn’t the case today. Many people prefer to take care of their health concerns themselves, trusting “Doctor Google” for immediate answers, information and advice. And although we may joke about turning to a search engine to answer our medical questions and queries, this is exactly how our patients start their online journey. In fact, Google claims that a mind boggling 1 billion searches each day are healthcare related (Source: Dr Google will see you Now.) Patients like to self-assess, conduct research, look up symptoms and read widely around health conditions. They may participate in online forums, Q&A platforms like Reddit and Quora, or ask questions on social media.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll bring you a series of blog posts which will take a deep dive into the online patient journey. We will look at how patients begin their online journey, taking them from research to discovery and then to booking a private healthcare service. Your private healthcare service.


You want to make sure your clinic or hospital ranks well for symptoms and conditions which you specialise in.

David’s Journey Begins

Let’s imagine a potential patient. We’ll call him David.

David has experienced pain in his back for a couple of weeks now. At first, he thought it was adjusting to working from home, but the pain has become intense and is interfering with his day-to-day life. David decides to Google his symptoms. He finds several useful blog posts and articles which discuss his symptoms and possible outcomes.

Online research takes place almost exclusively on Google. Patients may use online directories or review sites for reassurance. We’ll come on to those later in the series. If your website is optimised for a broad spectrum of keywords and phrases relevant to your practice, you’ll be in front of your patient at the beginning of their online journey. You want to make sure that your practice ranks as an expert and authority depending on what your potential patients search for.

Let’s go back to David. He’s typed “lower back pain, all day, intense” into Google. Google serves him content it thinks will be helpful and relevant to his search query. At the start of their online research, patients typically focus on symptoms and conditions. (Source: Think with Google) With this in mind, you want to make sure your clinic or hospital ranks well for symptoms and conditions which you specialise in.

Key Take Away – Patients start their online journey with a problem they want to solve. Make sure your website answers questions and provides solutions to patient problems.

Getting David’s Attention

For people to find you online, you must first understand which search phrases patients most commonly use. Next, and most importantly, you need to ensure that you’re visible above all of your competition at this crucial stage of the online patient journey. You want a combination of great search engine optimisation (SEO) which ties in with a robust content strategy to drive online awareness, conversion and retention. Patients have a multitude of options when it comes to healthcare providers. Extensive online research enables them to make fact-based decisions on the level of care they want and can afford.

As a specialist healthcare marketing agency, we make sure every page of your website is optimised with search terms and keywords which will perform in search results and drive traffic back to your website.

keyword planner screenshot

How do we do it?

Two Tools you can Use Today to Start Great Healthcare SEO

With SEO, you don’t have to push the message of your service in front of people that will never become your patients. Instead, you research what your ideal patient is looking for online and then make sure it’s your services that appear first in their search results.

You probably have an idea of the common questions your patients ask at the beginning of their journey from your regular discussions in your clinic. There are however a number of tools which will give you a deeper understanding of how those questions translate to search phrases.

We love Google Keyword Planner and Answer the Public. Google Keyword Planner takes keywords and provides other suggestions based on real searches. Answer the Public is great because it structures those phrases into different types of questions that patients ask.

Let’s Start Ranking

Once you’re sure of the questions that your patients are asking, it’s time to start ranking. To do this you will need to write useful, engaging and medically accurate copy that answers those specific questions.

To make sure you’re on track, you can use a tool like Google Search Console. This will show you the exact search phrases that each of your pages are appearing in Google for.

Let’s take a look at an example.

If you’re a London-based clinic and you’re starting to see questions like “how to treat lower back pain?” and “lower back pain management London”, you know that Google understands that your website is relevant to those questions. If, however, you’re seeing things like “moving back to London” or “London to Edinburgh and back”, you know that you need to make the content more specific, or that you need to perform some technical optimisations on the page to help Google understand it better.

This process can be repeated over and over until you achieve the rankings that you require. It’s a tried and tested way of turning Google into a free, automatic, patient enquiry generation machine. To find out how we can help you with our healthcare marketing services, contact Medico Digital today.

It’s a tried and tested way of turning Google into a free, automatic, patient enquiry generation machine

Sign up to our newsletter to follow our blog series the online patient journey. In our next post, we discuss the discovery phase of the journey and provide advice on how great copy will help position you as an authority in the online space.

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