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Health Care SEO: Why Search Intent Matters

Health care marketing professionals have seen significant changes to health care SEO over the past year. Recent Google trends have all but forced marketing professionals to use appropriate trending keywords and conversationally-written content to optimize their websites. Additionally, it is becoming clear that at the heart of all successful SEO is a deep understanding of Search Intent.

For Health care marketers, knowing a potential patient’s search intent gives you a great opportunity to rank high enough that you can become ‘position zero” for Voice Search (the one answer that Siri gives you in response to a query), consistently stay in the Local 3 Pack for Google (Google’s top three answers when doing a local “near me” search) and become a widely-known authority on specific search topics. All of these are critical to a health care organization’s success in an increasingly competitive landscape. (Think urgent care kiosks replacing many hospital and physician practice visits).

To explain how health care marketers can start utilizing search intent practices, let’s begin with research done on the trending health symptom searches in Google by state for the period of January-July 2019.

What are the most popular symptoms searched by state?

Looking at the data, you can find out what your patients are searching for, and then create the content that will answer those search queries, if it’s applicable to your service lines. Some states have more unique disease searches, which can provide real opportunity for health care providers in that area. Across the US, illness searches are very different and pretty interesting based on geography. See the infographic below for data on searches for Wyoming, California, Michigan, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Alabama:

Top symptoms searched in USA

How does this data help your healthcare SEO strategy?

Looking at trending disease symptoms on a national, state and even local basis fuels keyword research.  Using those keywords helps you drive quality content that satisfies the user’s search intent. However, there are some things to consider when trying to create content on a highly searched keyword:

Either your site is optimized and your carefully crafted content is performing well, or you haven’t updated your SEO recently and your content is a little light. If the latter is the case, you should probably not try to focus your content on the top trending symptom, since there is considerable competition around that term. That’s when you keep looking on the list, for the other trending keywords. Figure out what keyword term(s) make the most sense to go after, and start there. Keep in mind, it needs to fit in with your hospital’s current services.

Interested in learning more about healthcare SEO?

Still unsure how this works? Let’s take a look at an example and we’ll explain why SEO matters for hospitals and health care.

What’s the most popular searched symptom-related query for 2019 so far across all states?

Spoiler alert: It’s the flu! If you work for a hospital, urgent care or doctor’s office, you probably know this already. But is it common across the US? Absolutely! Trending Google search data shows that every state features flu symptom searches as one of the top three illness searches from January – July this year.

Just knowing ‘the flu’ though, isn’t enough. While that is a good start, you know need to discover search intent, which is a bit more specific, and much more helpful when creating content.

Keyword Research Statistics:

Google Trends showed “flu symptoms 2019” was the most popular search query among all 50 states. Let’s take a look at what people are searching for specifically when it comes to flu symptoms. Here’s a list of related queries people have searched in the last year:

• Flu symptoms
• Flu symptoms 2019
• How long does the flu last?
• Type A Flu
• Signs of the Flu
• Difference between Cold and Flu
• Flu Symptoms in kids
• What temp is considered a fever?
• What to do for the flu?
• Headache and chills
• My body aches
• What is a high fever for an adult?
• When to go to hospital for flu?

At first glance, we know that people are interested in learning more about the flu. That’s pretty obvious. More importantly, we begin seeing the frame of each user’s intent with these queries. By categorizing the queries into different intent buckets, we get a clearer picture of what the user is searching for. We’ve also learned a lot about voice-assistant technology and SEO …so some of these queries will make a significant impact on Voice SEO.

The more we, as health care marketers and SEOers, understand search or query intent…then we can bridge the gap between content and higher rankings in search.

First of all, let’s define search intent:

Search intent, also known as query intent or user intent, is the goal or intention that an internet user has when they type (or speak) their search terms into a search engine.

There are three types of queries, known as Do-Know-Go, or Transactional, Informational, Navigational:

Do/Transactional- the searcher is looking to achieve a specific action (like make a doctor’s appointment, or purchase a cold and flu aid.)

Know/Informational- the searcher wants to learn something about a subject (for our example, this is information about the flu, or how to treat the flu, etc.)

Go/Navigational- the searcher is looking to go to a specific location, or website.

Let’s take a closer look at these keyword examples so we can better understand how intent plays a role in health care SEO:

Types of Search Intent

Intent: Research About Illness

Here we see keywords all related to the flu as a general topic. We can tell that people want to know the signs and symptoms of the flu. More specifically, we know that people are interested in knowing if there are different symptoms to look out for in children vs. adults (flu symptoms in kids).

We can also tell that people differentiate between strains of the flu by Type or by season, with usage of specific keywords like, “flu symptoms 2019” or “type a flu”. And lastly, we can tell that people want to understand the difference in cold and flu symptoms, and how to tell which of the two they are experiencing.

Research about illness or disease

Intent: Research About Specific Symptoms

In this column we see people searching for the specific symptoms they are experiencing. This usually means they are at a crossroads. We can assume their mindset is, “I’m experiencing this very annoying or painful thing, and I want to learn more about this symptom because I may need medical help…or I may just need to rest and drink some water.” Seeing symptom-specific queries like “headache and chills” or “my body aches” tells us that people want to know why they’re experiencing these symptoms, what it could mean, and what they should do about it.

research about specific symptoms they are searching

Intent: Research About Treatment

These queries either have an intent to take action, like this example: what to take for the flu, but sometimes can also mean they are researching treatment if it’s a more extensive procedure, “radiation therapy” for example.

research about treatment

Intent: Definitive Answers

Lastly, queries that have intent to receive a single, definitive answer are the most important queries for voice search. You can learn more about voice SEO here, but for this example…”How long does the flu last?” we can assume people want to know, quite plainly and simply, how long the flu lasts! They’re not necessarily looking for a comparison of flu symptoms, or how long the flu lasts compared to a cold…they simply want to know how long it lasts…which Google shows us as lasting one to two weeks, according to

Most important intent for SEO

So again, you may be asking…how does this help me? How does this impact our marketing strategy or SEO strategy? With this data, we can begin to answer the most important question in SEO:

What are people really searching for?

If we can answer that question, we are golden. Knowing what people are searching for, and what information they hope to receive from that search, will help you create content that directly answers the search query, which Google loves. Google is always looking for the best, most concise answer to a search query. If you have content that closely matches what Google is looking for, you have a better chance as coming up as Position Zero (for Voice Search), or the Local 3 Pack. Look at all the questions above. How would your organization answer those questions? A Flu FAQ page that asks and answers these questions in concise but conversational content might be a good first step. While that alone may not bring you to the top, it is a way to weave in multiple questions about one subject in a clear and concise way. Additional content, crafted correctly with appropriate long-tail keywords and natural language, will help strengthen your site as an authority on the flu.

Health Care SEO:

Imagine if you could drill-down to this type of data for your hospital(s) and service lines and physicians. By understanding what a potential patient is looking for, you can spoon feed them quality and expert content (which we know google loves). People have a lot of anxiety when it comes to their health and with so many resources at their fingertips, they won’t stop turning to Google for answers and advice. How great would it be if hospitals and health care sites were actually ranking higher in search results as opposed to WebMD or Wikipedia? I’m sure a lot of people would be less convinced their mild fever would result in death. (ha!)

How TruStar can Help:

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