Links: Inbound, Outbound and Within Your Medical and Dental Website
The difference between inbound, outbound, and internal SEO links for medical & dental websites
A medical or dental practice manager knows they need a well-written website to promote their practice. This website must have great content, use long-tail and short-tail SEO keywords, and load fast on any device, specifically on mobile devices. A savvy owner will also know they need links. However, many need to learn that there are different kinds of links to be included in your medical and dental websites. These links serve different purposes and must be carefully placed throughout a website for them to be effective. All links are important. You cannot just pay someone to create links for you. In fact “buying” links is a no-no. The three different kinds of links for a medical and dental website are:
- Inbound Links – this means when other pages and websites provide a link to your page.
- Outbound Links – this means that your page has links to other pages and typically to other websites
- Internal Links – this means that your web page has links to different sections on the same web page (like table of content), and perhaps to other pages within the same website
The medical SEO experts at PatientGain.com have years of experience in managing these links for our clients. We can help work with practices to identify good outbound, inbound, and internal links that can be placed within content. Our marketers can also help develop a plan to cultivate high-quality inbound links over time that will help the SEO ranking of a practice’s website.
What are inbound links?
An inbound link is a link that a website owner will not be able to find on their website. This link exists on another site and sends traffic to that medical or dental practice’s website. Another name for inbound links that is commonly used is “backlinks.” For example, if a you have page on your local chamber of commerce, and your website’s URL is mentioned on the on your local chamber of commerce directory. This would be an “inbound link.” When someone clicks on that, they are coming from another website (and not search results) to visit your website.
As you may imagine, the owner of a medical or dental practice can not place inbound links on websites owned by other people. It is tremendously unlikely that inbound links will come from competitors unless a business relationship has been established between the two entities. Many inbound links will come from directories, bloggers, or online news articles. In addition, you can also gain quality links by simply following the strategy as outlined here.
Why does a medical or dental practice need inbound links?
The first big reason a practice needs inbound links is that it is excellent for SEO or Search Engine Optimization. The more relevant inbound links a practice website has, the more important and authoritative that website will look to search engines for topics and keywords. With that in mind, getting inbound links is more than getting as many links as possible. It is not a “numbers” game.” Instead, it is about the quality of those links. Twenty links from the blogs of extended family members are not equal to three links from well-respected medical colleges with .edu sites. Links from sites ending in .gov, .edu, or .org are considered to be more authoritative than links from sites ending in .com. With that said, .com sites can be vital if they are from reliable and authoritative sources. Good inbound links will increase the rank in organic results. Inbound links work with other SEO factors to help build organic rank for a website. However, just by creating “links” does not help your SEO. Google algorithms are very intelligent. They can detect if you have “bogus” links or “paid” links to your website. The practice of paying someone to create links will eventually backfire, and hurt your rankings. Only natural links should be created and used.
The second big reason why inbound links are important is that they provide referral traffic! As many owners know, referral patients are an essential stream of new patients and, as such, also revenue. Referrals come not only from other medical practices but also from other websites. Google Analytics will be able to track this referral traffic to give you a good idea of which inbound links are providing the most traffic. The more authoritative the website, like a local college or newspaper, the more referral traffic can be expected.
What is anchor text?
When an excellent inbound link comes from an authoritative website, the words that contain the link are known as anchor words. A good inbound link will have natural text serve as an anchor link. Check out these examples below:
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What are outbound links?
Outbound links are the opposite of inbound links. An outbound link sends traffic to other sites. An outbound link on a medical or dental practice’s website is an inbound link to a different business’s website, and vice versa. All the rules for what make an excellent inbound link also apply to what makes a good outbound link. Many owners may think sending traffic away from their medical and dental practice’s websites is foolish. However, there are some benefits to it.
Adds Value To A Website – Linking to another website to give a visitor more information provides a more depth to a website and strengthens its authority for SEO keywords.
Shows Expertise – A patient visiting a website is likely not an expert in their medical or dental needs. Linking to other websites for more information shows that a practice is an expert in that area and will reassure a potential patient that they can be trusted.
Builds Trust in Current and Potential Patients – A new patient has no previous experience with a medical or dental practice. Providing links to additional information helps reinforce that they have made a good choice for their care. Patients today are more likely to research things themselves before making a decision, regardless of whether they are new or returning patients. Providing references for more information will help!
What should a medical or dental practice be careful with when using outbound links?
First, a practice should ensure they are linking to a reputable website. Before placing a link into their content that sends potential patients to other websites, a practice must ensure they are also accurate and authoritative websites. They do not want to send patients to a site with misinformation that could be dangerous. Also, these links should be reviewed now and again. Sometimes, the information on that website may need to be updated. Other times, the website will come under new ownership, and those links may now have completely new content. It also is not uncommon to go back to a link, especially to a news article or journal post, only to find the link no longer leads to anything. These “dead links” can hurt SEO and should be cleaned up.
Second, it is not uncommon for people to pay to have their links featured on other websites. While this is more common for bloggers and influencer marketers, a medical and dental practice should not link to other sites that have paid them to list a link. These are not natural or organic links, so they must be marked with special HTML to let search engines know they are paid links. Failing to do so may hurt overall SEO rankings.
What are internal links?
While outbound links send visitors from a medical or dental practice’s website to another website and inbound links bring visitors to a medical or dental practice’s website, internal links send current visitors to other parts of the site they are on. Every well-designed website has some internal links. In fact, the navigation bar a website has at the top or the top corner of its site should be entirely made up of internal links. If a web page on a medical or dental practice’s website has no internal links, there is no way for someone to find it on the home page.
While internal links are always found in navigation bars, menus, or sitemaps, they are also commonly seen in the content of a practice’s page. These links inside content are known as “contextual links.” These links will direct visitors to other parts of a medical or dental practice’s website that may have related or exciting content. This helps keep a potential patient on a site, driving up the time they spend on that website as well as increasing the likelihood of a conversation.
Website visitors are not the only ones who will utilize these internal links. Search engine crawlers will also explore these internal links better to understand the structure of a practice’s website. A search engine will see how pages are related and how some are more important than others. For example, every single page will have an internal link pointing to the site’s home page. This shows a search engine that this is one of the most important pages for a website.
A good website will continue to add new content to their site. This can come in the form of new content pages or blog posts discussing important topics. Internal links from other pages to these new pages will help search engines discover and rank these new content pages. New content and pages need internal links or they will become “orphaned content.” These are pages that have no links pointing to them. While this may seem unlikely, it is not uncommon with larger and more complex websites.
What are some tips for practicing good internal linking?
Much like inbound and outbound links, all internal links on a website should be reviewed occasionally, including the links in a menu or a navigation bar. Broken or dead links can happen and impact SEO rankings. Internal links often break when content is moved, or URLs are changed without the appropriate redirects set up. For example, if someone changes “x_ray_services.html” to “x_ray_service.html,” that one-letter change can break any links sent to it (including inbound links) unless a redirect is set up. Another example is if the content from two service pages is combined together to create one new service page with a new URL, all previous internal links must be adjusted to reflect that.
Another good tip for good internal linking is not to overload content with internal links. If there is a link in every sentence of a 1,000-word content page, it will not help a site’s ranking. It will likely hurt it. A medical and dental practice should be careful with the number of internal links (as well as outbound or inbound links) they put into their content. There should not be so many that they disrupt the flow and reading of a page.
Do inbound, outbound, and internal SEO links all equally help a website?
Inbound, outbound, and internal SEO links are all essential for a website and there are SEO benefits from them. However, inbound links often impact SEO ranking more than the other two. Inbound links show a search engine that another site is lending its authority and approval to a medical or dental practice’s website. Generally, inbound links will show search engines that a practice’s website is an essential source for them. Outbound links will show a search engine that practice presents high-quality content to site visitors.
Internal links also impact an SEO ranking, as they help search engines better understand a website so they can adequately assign an organic ranking. Internal linking can also increase the time spent on a site by a visitor, which is a known factor in overall SEO rankings.
Overall, the effectiveness of inbound, outbound, and internal SEO links is about quality, not quantity. Search engines may penalize a website for inbound links if it has to many inbound links from low-quality, low-authority websites, like random directories. To protect the SEO ranking of medical or dental practice websites, they may need to disavow a link to let a search engine know they do not approve of that link or want it counted towards their organic ranking. It is generally a good exercise to occasionally review inbound traffic and ensure it is from a reliable and authoritative source. For outbound links, it is essential to ensure traffic is sent to an accurate and authoritative place. Sometimes, websites move, rebrand, or change their URLs. These links need to be checked to ensure they still work. It is not a good website experience for a visitor to suddenly come across a page that does not exist. Internal links should be used to connect content but not overused to remove the experience of visiting a site.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance medical or dental practice website with the best practices regarding inbound, outbound, and internal SEO links. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices nationwide!