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Why Doctors Must Control the First Page of Google


When current and prospective patients want to know more about a physician, they search for the physician on Google. The content that appears when a patient conducts a search will shape how he or she views the physician. While a Google search could turn up pages and page of websites, review sites, articles in medical journals, and even news stories related to the physician, patients only see a small percentage of that content.

Research has shown that more than 90 percent of Internet searchers do not look past the first page of Google, so if a physician’s most authoritative and high-quality results are not displayed on the first page, these results will never be seen by the vast majority of Google searchers.

By practicing reputation management–the process of controlling how one is perceived online–doctors not only protect themselves from reputation threats but can also build a positive reputation that attracts new patients.

Doctors should think strategically when choosing which content will represent them on the first page of Google, recognizing that high-quality results will bolster a reputation while spammy or empty review pages and business directory listings are seen as less authoritative. Below we will take a look at the types of content that should populate first page search results, and then we will explain how to use reputation management techniques to push this content ahead of negative or low-quality results.

What Should Appear on the First Search Results Page

Your Website–Ideally, this should be the top result when someone searches for your name, as this is content that you control. This website will also appear as an expanded result, so be sure to build this site out with separate pages about you, your press clippings, journal articles that you have authored, and your professional accolades. You can choose whether to have the website focus on you or your practice, or you could create two websites to focus on each area.

Bio Pages–Each university, hospital, and professional association with which you are affiliated should have a separate bio page about you hosted on their website. If any of these organizations do not have a bio page for you, consider submitting a unique 300+ word biography that highlights your professional achievements and involvement within the organization.

Bio pages build credibility by ensuring that others are aware of your affiliation with this organization, and also provide an opportunity for you to share your qualifications with prospective patients who will visit the website and have never heard of you.

Content You Have Written–Content helps you establish credibility within your field. Examples include:

  • Content on your webpage and your practice’s website.
  • Posts on your own blog.
  • Professional blog posts you have contributed to someone else’s blog.
  • Journal articles that you have authored or co-authored.
  • Mentions in major media publications, ranging from a quote to a specialized news story covering a complex procedure that you completed.

Be strategic about where you post content that you have written. Contributing to a respected, well-maintained website will enhance your reputation, while dumping content on a spammy, rarely visited website will actually hurt your reputation.

Social Media Profiles–It is not always a good idea for doctors to friend their patients on social media (as Kevin Pho discusses here). Fortunately, there are social media websites that you can use for reputation management that do not require you to accept friend requests. These sites allow doctors to create a free profile and host a professional bio, blog, or simply share links to the pages mentioned above without enabling others to write on their page. This affords doctors complete control over each profile. Websites where you should create a profile include Doctors Hangout, LinkedIn, WordPress, and Bigsight.

How to Get This Content on the First Page

Individuals and businesses use a process called search engine optimization (SEO) to control where their content appears in Google’s search results. While the “do’s and don’ts” of this process seem to change whenever Google updates its search algorithm, the one consistently successful way to move a website onto the first page is to write compelling, engaging content that others want to share.

“Compelling content” is a vague phrase, so in order to determine what makes content compelling in the medical realm, one must determine the target audience.

A doctor’s primary audience will be current and prospective patients, and these individuals want to read content that is interesting, informative, and easy to understand. If you need ideas on topics that your target audience will find engaging, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are some questions your patients frequently ask?
  • What are some common misconceptions that patients have about your field?
  • Which complex medical procedures that you perform are patients unfamiliar with or unlikely to understand?
  • What are some advancements within your field that could now or down the road make a difference in how your patients are treated?
  • What are some preventative measures that you frequently recommend to patients who wish to avoid future problems?

Once you have answered these questions, you will have a number of topics about which you can write. While writing, make sure to keep your audience in mind as current and prospective patients are usually unfamiliar with terms that you use on a daily basis. Explain medical concepts, terms and procedures in layman’s terms so that readers will understand what it is that they are reading, and include graphics or videos when possible to further understanding.

The ideas that you have brainstormed above will make excellent blog posts, articles, and FAQ pages for your practice’s website. Here are a few things to try so that you can take the content you have written and move it to the first page.

Have Someone Look Over Your Work–Have a friend, family member or colleague read over your work to ensure that it is free of spelling and grammatical errors. Sloppy writing will not only reflect poorly on you, but could get flagged by Google as poor-quality content. Asking someone who is unfamiliar with your medical specialty to look over your work is another way to make sure that all medical concepts and terminology have been properly explained, and that the reader is able to read everything without becoming confused.

Don’t Repeat Yourself–When writing content, always strive for variety. Patients do not like it if they come across 20 different websites that only say, “I am Dr. xxx, I practice yyy at zzz and have been practicing for ## years.” Writing each piece of content with a different focus makes it more engaging for readers and also signals to Google that it is unique instead of spammy and repetitive.

For example, consider writing about your specialties on your personal website, creating a separate website for your practice, and writing separate bios for the website of each university or medical association with which you are affiliated by focusing solely on your involvement with each specific organization.

Share Your Content–When first building an online reputation, one cannot expect patients and other Google searchers to naturally find your content. This is especially true if it is not already on the first page. Google views websites that receive low traffic as less authoritative, so one should begin by sharing newly-created content with others. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, such as by posting this content on your social media pages, or sharing links in email newsletters delivered to patients.

Ask Others to Share Your Content–Google loves it when others link to your content, as each link serves as a “stamp of approval” from the website that shares your content. Websites rank higher in Google if they are frequently shared and linked, so asking affiliated universities, medical associations, the manager of your practice’s website, and even colleagues to share the pages mentioned earlier will signal to Google that these links are more authoritative.

However, Google distinguishes between high-quality and low-quality links to eliminate spam and has even punished websites that are caught link-spamming by pushing them off of the first page. A link to your personal website from an affiliated university’s official webpage will strengthen your website’s credibility, while a link to your website placed in the comments section of an unrelated blog (for example, a New York dentist posting a link on a European soccer blog) will actually hurt your website.

Now What?

Once you have used these reputation management tips and have finally taken control of your first page search results, make sure that all of your hard work is not wasted. Conduct a Google search for your name at the beginning of each week, to confirm that nothing new has made it onto your first page search results.

By using the tips above to take control of your first page, your online reputation will improve in the eyes of your current and prospective patients, ensuring that you are successful in 2013 and beyond.

Thumbnail image created by TopRank Online Marketing

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About the Author

Ian Lempert is the Online Marketing Manager for Reputation911, an online reputation management company located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. He oversees content creation and strategy for Reputation911 and its clients by staying current on best practices and trends affecting online reputation management and SEO.

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