Skip to main content

Optimizing for Organic or Local SEO — What’s the Difference?

Are you trying to improve your healthcare organization’s visibility? You’re probably relying on paid advertising and reputation management to do the heavy lifting. And while they do make crucial pieces of your healthcare marketing puzzle, these approaches may not be enough to create sufficient brand awareness and provide a competitive advantage in today’s digital age.

Search engine optimization (SEO) can push your healthcare organization to the top of the search results on Google and other search engines. But, the objective isn’t just to rank high on search engine results pages — you want organically obtained visibility to drive more high-quality traffic to your website. With quality website traffic, more patients who find your healthcare organization through online search will be genuinely interested in your healthcare services or information.

But, here’s another thing. Healthcare consumers can’t find your business online if it’s not optimized for local SEO. Most patients look for healthcare practices that are nearest to them. To attract them, you need to optimize for local SEO and promote your healthcare organization to people who are close to you and are actively searching for the services that you provide.

Though organic and local SEO are intertwined, each requires different strategies and optimization tactics. Local SEO focuses on location-specific optimization, while organic SEO centers on overall content optimization.

Now, we’ve probably made you wonder which is a better fit for your healthcare organization. And which one will get you the results you need? Let’s look at the differences between organic and local SEO and help you decide which SEO strategy is the right one for your healthcare organization

What Is Organic SEO?

Almost 90% of patients use Google for medical information before visiting their doctor. It’s no surprise that search engines continually optimize and focus on making healthcare options more accessible for everyone.

Two central elements of organic SEO are relevance and trust. They are not only important for users’ online experience but are also key ranking factors. The better Google understands the content on your website, the more expertise, authority, and trust the search engine attributes to your website. Once you show up prominently in search results, you reach more patients.

With the right keywords, you can optimize your website content for specific words and phrases that patients use in search engines. That is what signals to search engines that your content is relevant to what users searched for.

In addition to this, you want other websites, especially if they’re topically relevant to your website, to link to you. This helps Google establish that other people and websites thought you were relevant and authoritative enough to send their users to you.

When done correctly, organic SEO can bring your healthcare organization a number of benefits, such as:

Build Brand Awareness 

Users generally trust Google to deliver relevant and valuable content first, and as statistics show, 75% of users don’t move to the second page. (That’s why we marketers joke that the second page of Google is the best place to hide a dead body.) Your website’s link won’t get clicked each time it appears on the first page of the search engine results. Still, consistently occupying any of the few top spots helps build your brand awareness. With constant exposure, your healthcare organization stays on top of your patients’ minds.

Establish Domain Authority 

Organic SEO also helps you improve your domain authority. Google is all about user experiences and as more patients visit your website from relevant search results, it takes note. With high patient engagement, Google establishes that you’re an industry expert that provides meaningful content to your online visitors. This allows you to establish domain authority and pull up the rankings of the entire website.

Reduce Costs 

Though we can hardly say that organic SEO is cheap or easy, it’s one of the most cost-effective tactics compared to all other marketing strategies. Paid advertising can put your healthcare organization in front of potential site visitors. But over time, the amount of cash you’ll spend on click-throughs can add up. Once you have implemented sound organic SEO principles, you can count on it to drive more traffic to your website, and keep yielding new patients for a long time.

Handle Competitors

Also, there’s something else to consider – with the right approach, organic SEO can effectively block your competitors’ online presence. The more effort you invest in improving organic search traffic, the higher your site appears in search rankings, allowing you to push competitors further down the list.

What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO for healthcare organizations is essential for building trust with your local audience, no matter how many locations you manage. While organic SEO focuses on generating organic traffic to your website by increasing your search engine ranking, the job of local SEO lies in optimizing your pages to earn high rankings for local queries in specific areas. Your goal is to enhance the visibility and credibility of each location and physician using consistent and accurate information.

To optimize local SEO, it’s important to remember proximity, prominence, and relevance as the main ranking factors. Proximity is the physical distance between your healthcare organization and the user. With a significant rise in “near me” searches, you should pay special attention to this ranking factor. Recently, there’s been: 

  • 150% growth for phrases like “near me now” — for example: “dentist near me now”;
  • 900% growth for phrases like “near me tonight/today” — for example: “urgent care near me tonight”;
  • 200% growth for phrases like “now” + “near me” — for example: “hospitals open near me now”.

“Near me” searches are critical for you because they allow you to reach patients at those moments when they most need your services. In addition to this, you need to incorporate two other factors — prominence helps you establish a good reputation among your patients while relevance means offering what they are seeking. Altogether, local SEO helps you get your patients what they want when they want it, in a fast and frictionless way.

Local SEO provides prospective patients with the information that they want about your healthcare organization when they want it. Even if you don’t have a website yet, an optimized Google Business Profile (GBP) will help your healthcare organization to stand out in local searches, drive more traffic, and interact with your patients by responding to their reviews and answering their questions. You can also use photos that your patients post here, reviews they leave, and questions they ask to gain deeper insights into your local audience’s needs and wants.

Here are some of the other benefits of local SEO:

Improved Visibility

When patients search for local healthcare providers and services, Google will do its best to provide the most accurate local results first while pushing non-local results below. With local SEO, you have higher chances of ranking higher and attracting more attention from your potential patients. Even if they don’t choose you the first time they see you, you’ll manage to pop in front of their eyes, so they may opt for your services another time.

High-Quality Leads

Local SEO helps you generate high-quality patients because it lets you target a specific group interested in your health services. For example, when they search for “primary care near me” on Google, information about your healthcare organization can appear in the search results if you’re properly optimized for this search phrase. Since the majority of patients who see you in search results already need your service, the probability that they will engage and convert is higher. 

Exposure in Local Listings

One of the local SEO benefits is that it gives you the opportunity to be included in local business directories. 

Google Business Profile is by far the most important business directory. It serves as an incredible place to show what your business is about, what services you offer, and most importantly — where. However, don’t think that optimizing GBP is all you need to do. There are many other directories like Yelp, Healthgrades, or WebMD that you can take advantage of.

Appearance in Google 3-Pack

Google 3-Pack is a way Google provides search results with local intent and getting there can help you in many ways. Your profile will appear above organic searches while pushing them further down below. A significant number of your patients want quick results and once they see these top three choices handpicked by Google exactly for them, they’ll consider them the perfect match.

Increased Number of Reviews

Quantity and diversity are important for both Google and your patients. If your GBP and other business directories continuously generate fresh feedback, search engines will increase your rankings. Meanwhile, reviews will increase your brand authority as well as loyalty and trust in your healthcare organization. 

Also, you can outrank your competitors if you have better reviews. This means that you can beat even big ones in your niche because patients publicly show their trust in you more. Even if you come across negative reviews, it’s totally fine. Stay patient-oriented and do your best to smooth things up. Remember that your potential patients will be interested to know how you dealt with the issue.

However, don’t wait for your patients to leave you reviews. Instead, encourage them to do this by sending an automated text or email to patients within 24 hours of care.

Differences Between Organic and Local SEO

Simply put, local SEO is about optimizing for location, while organic SEO is about optimizing for content.

The biggest difference between organic and local SEO is that local SEO has a geographical component to it. It revolves around building signals of relevance around a specific location while organic SEO isn’t tied to a fixed location. It can be influenced by the location but is definitely not attached to a brick-or-a-mortar business.

Organic SEO and local SEO don’t necessarily target the same position in the search engine results. Organic SEO aims to rank as high as it can for a specific set of keywords. On the other hand, the main goal of local SEO is to be included in local listings and Google 3-pack and provide accurate and consistent information about a healthcare organization.

Technical SEO Aspects

(Don’t worry, we won’t go on and on about it, just some crucial information.)

Another difference between organic and local SEO is the use of citations and backlinks. While citations play an important role in local SEO optimization, organic SEO relies on backlinks to help increase the amount of organic traffic. 

Citations are the mentions of your healthcare organization’s name, physical address, and phone numbers across the web. Being consistently cited at all the relevant and important places in your niche improves your relevance and authority. This also validates the existence of your healthcare organization at a certain geographical location. In return, this increases the chances of your healthcare organization showing up if any query related to similar businesses and locations comes up. 

In organic SEO, high-quality and relevant backlinks help you increase the relevance and authority of your website in the eyes of Google. In other words, the greater the number of quality backlinks, the better your ranking in search results.

What Does This Mean in Practice?

Organic and local SEO require different approaches. As we’ve mentioned earlier, the aim of organic SEO is to reach the top places in search engine results. To make this happen, a lot of organic on-page and off-page optimization is required to be done on your website. For example, this includes working on your title tags, meta-descriptions, heading tags, optimizing anchor texts, creating high-quality content, having an effective link-building strategy, and more. Local SEO requires a different strategy. Apart from optimizing your GBP, you should get listed in all the important directories in your niche and check for the consistency of your name, address, and phone number (NAP) across the web, encourage the customers to write good reviews about you and write highly-localized content.

How to Choose the Right Healthcare SEO Strategy

The choice between organic and local SEO depends on the nature and kind of business, as each strategy has its benefits. Businesses not tied to a specific location should focus on organic SEO. On the other hand, for businesses such as your healthcare organization that provide services in a particular geographical area, local SEO should be the first thing on the list because it will help you connect with patients who are searching locally and already looking for services that you offer.

At the same time, bear in mind that local SEO is essentially a part of organic SEO. That’s why any efforts to boost your local visibility can also improve your overall search visibility. Once you create a GBP listing to establish your expertise at a local level, more people will find your business and talk about it through reviews. In return, this will grow your overall search value to the search engine and improve your rankings. 

While both your organic and local  SEO efforts help you rank better, don’t forget that this works both ways. Organic and local SEO practices can also negatively affect your rankings when done incorrectly. That’s why it’s important to know the differences between the two and when you should use each strategy to drive results for your business. 

SocialClimb helps you boost the local visibility of your healthcare organization and ensure that your business listings are correct, consistent, and visible across the web. From building citations, and earning reviews, to tracking your rankings and marketing spend, we’ve got you covered. In return, leveling up your local SEO strategy gives you a solid foundation for the rest of your digital marketing efforts.

Close Menu

Learn about SocialClimb's New Predictive Patient Targeting with Postcard Deployment

Get Our Free HIPAA Compliance eBook