Why Is Your Medical Website Structure Important?
New medical website setup not only requires high quality, unique SEO content, but also requires proper structure of the website itself.
The structure of a medical practice’s website plays an essential role in several areas of medical marketing. A better organized and structured website will result in more effective SEO (search engine optimization) results and a better user experience, particularly for the current and potential patients visiting the website. A medical website should not be thrown together or decided “on the fly.” With that said, a medical website’s overall structure can change over time as the priorities of a medical practice change. But all efforts to improve the structure should result in higher conversion rates. So ultimately improving the conversion rate of your medical or dental website is the goal. Th website structure is on of the avenues.
The structure of a website designed half a decade ago may not be workable today. A medical practice should not be afraid to look at its current medical website structure and consider restructuring it for better results and benefits. Other medical practices have found several widely adopted website structures helpful. Some experts refer to the medical website structure as technical medical SEO.
What does “website structure” mean for a medical practice’s website, and why is it important?
A medical practice’s website is not going to be a single page with all of the information available listed on it. A practice’s website will have multiple pages with information on it. These pages must be organized and laid out so patients can easily navigate them. Some potential patients will abandon their site visit and return to search results if a website is not organized to their liking. Medical websites, as do all websites, only seconds to make a good impression on a site visitor before they move on to other content. Various studies give a range between 3 and 15 seconds, but 8 seconds is generally a good benchmark. Do not give them an excuse to leave by having a poorly structured website.
The structure of a medical practice’s website is essential because a well-organized website will benefit a medical practice in three crucial ways:
User (Patient) Experience – A medical practice might have top-tier content and be the fastest-loading website on the internet. Still, if a patient can not find information or finds the experience of navigating the website annoying, it doesn’t mean much. A potential or current patient should quickly and seamlessly be able to find the information they are looking for or accomplish a desired task. If they become frustrated by an inability to achieve their goal, they will return to search results. For example, if a patient visits a website to make an appointment, a well-structured website will have that task only a click away from any website page. A website that is poorly structured will see its appointment page only available on one page, requiring a patient to backtrack to the home page to access it.
Search Engine Optimization – The easier patients navigate a website, the easier it will be for search crawlers to read a site and understand its context. The organization and structure of a website are widely believed to be essential factors in SEO rankings. The better laid out and structured a site is, the easier a search engine will be able to associate it with the target keywords of medical practice.
Keyword Cannibalization – Every medical practice website has target keywords they want to rank for in search results. However, these keywords usually appear on a medical practice’s website on different pages, and some pages are more important than others. Keyword cannibalization is when pages optimized for the same keyword negatively impact each other for search results. A search engine will usually only show 1 or maybe 2 URLs from a medical practice. The structure of a website will help a medical practice ensure the more critical page is ranked higher and shown in search results.
What types of website structures can medical practices use for their sites?
There are several types of website structures that medical practice practices will use. Some are far more popular than others, but all can be useful to some medical practices.
Hierarchical Website Structure
This style of website structure is also known as the “tree structure.” It is one of the most widely used and popular ways to structure a website. A website structured in this way will see patients move from pages that categorize services or products and then move on to smaller and more specific pages. Many medical spas will adopt this structured style for their websites. For example, they will have their home page, where they will list services, treatments, and products. From there, patients could explore another page about all of the massages the medical spa offers. Finally, they can read more about a specific massage they are interested in from that massage page.
As you can see, each step of a patient’s journey in this example narrows the information down smaller and smaller, like branches on a tree. The structure style makes it easy to add or remove specific services, treatments, or products at the end of a “branch.” Be careful not to change any big or middle “branches,” as this can take time to be understood by a search engine crawler.
Sequential Website Structure
Also known as a linear website structure, this style goes from page to page, like links on a chain. It is a straightforward site structure that search crawlers easily read. However, it does not allow a medical practice much customization or expansion. Generally, a medical practice with little content will find this structure easier to manage and beneficial. In addition, a medical practice that specializes in a single treatment may find using this structure very helpful. For example, a laser eye surgery practice that offers only a handful of treatments would use this structure. They would want potential patients to go through a series of steps to see if this treatment was right for them and make it as straightforward as possible. Each page would progress logically until they make an appointment at the very end. In the end, there could be several options for them to pick from, but all of them would deal with some form of laser eye surgery.
Database Website Structure
This style of website structure I one of the most complex styles a medical practice can use and is geared towards a target audience that will be doing a lot of searching on a medical practice’s website. A medical practice must pay close attention to tagging pages to build usable and searchable databases. More and more site visitors want to visit a website where they can use a search function. If a website is built with search in mind, it can see increased conversions from potential patients. An advantage a database structure has over other structures is that it can be customized to meet the needs of medical practice, and if those needs change over time, it is not as difficult to make changes compared to other sites. A site can grow as a medical practice grows, but it does require someone with programming knowledge to set up and maintain the database. An example of a medical practice using this structured style would be a medical practice with many doctors available with overlapping services. For example, a medical practice might have 30 doctors available. Instead of looking at each doctor to see what service they provide, a potential patient could search the database based on different traits. They could search for a female doctor specializing in pediatric care who has weekend hours. This search will produce several doctors to choose from, saving time and giving a positive patient experience.
Matrix Website Structure
The matrix website structure is one of the website’s first and oldest structures. This style of website structuring often works best when users use internal links and the search function. Unlike the previous structure above, there is no “end” to the website, as patients can continue to explore the website through internal links. A matrix website structure is ideal when a medical practice wants to present a large amount of data and does not want to worry about how pages are tied together. A website with a matrix structure will see all pages somehow connected through internal links. A medical practice that presents patients with a large amount of data on several topics may find this format very useful. A key to making this style work is determining how content pages are related to each other.
How can a medical practice choose which website structure to use for its website?
The structure of a medical practice is often dictated by the type of medical practice and what services, treatments, or products they offer. Not all website structures are good fits for every medical practice. A database or hierarchical structures are often a good fit for medical practices with a lot of data that can be organized into categories. A sequential structure is suitable for medical practices that want to present potential and current patients with small chunks of information in chronological order. A matrix structure often works very well for large medical practices with a lot of interconnected content and information.
What tips can a medical practice follow when developing and designing its website’s structure?
Avoid saturating a content page with links.
Internal linking on a medical practice’s website is crucial to its SEO and leads to a positive patient experience. It makes it easier for someone to navigate by allowing them to quickly go to another page without having to return to a navigation bar or landing page. However, a medical practice does not want to overload a page with links. Keep a nice balance of links on every page with the presented content. A link in every sentence of a content page will be visually displeasing and make the content difficult to read. Encourage patients to explore a site deeper, but make it easy for them to read and digest the content on the page they are currently on.
Optimize A Medical Practice’s Website For Patients, Not Search Engine Crawlers
The behavior of search engine crawlers is something that many marketing experts study. Creating a website that a crawler can easily read, understand, and assign authority to is essential, but not at the cost of the patient experience. A website should be optimized with the patient, not a search crawler. Generally speaking, if a site is easy to navigate for a patient, a search engine crawler will also have an easy time understanding it.
Use Header Tags To Organize Content
The structure of content pages is just as important as the structure of a website. For pages with a good amount of content, a medical practice should use Header Tags. These are often referred to as H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, and H6 tags, with H1 being the most frequently used. These tags are used to break up information into sections and subsections. An H1 tag would be used to highlight the title of a page, while the others would group information into sections. For patients, this will visually organize information into sections, making it easier to read. This content organization will also make it easier for search crawlers to understand the importance and context of the page.
Continue Researching and Monitoring Target Keywords
Keywords can be organic. Popular keywords today may not be as effective in the following years, and other keywords may emerge over time. Medical practices should monitor their keywords monthly to see which are performing and which are not. There should be continuous research for any keywords a practice may not be appropriately utilized, so they do not lose a competitive edge over other medical practices.
The Fewer Clicks A Patient Needs To Make The Better
Potential and current patients should be able to find the information they are looking for or accomplish a task (like making an online appointment) with as few clicks as possible. The more clicks there are in a process, the more likely they will abandon the website and move on to other search results. The structure of a medical practice’s website dramatically affects how many clicks someone needs to make. A medical practice should always look for ways to remove clicks from a process to make it easier for patients to accomplish their goals.
Implement Breadcrumb Navigation On A Medical Practice’s Website
Breadcrumb navigation is a feature that should be a part of any medical practice’s website. Breadcrumb navigation is when a site, usually at the top of the page, shows a user exactly where they are on the website and how they got there. For example, if someone was looking at hot stone massages at a medical spa’s website, their breadcrumb may look like this:
Home > Relaxation > Massages > Hot Stone Massages.
That example would show a patient that they are here because they visited the relaxation part of the website, then the massage section, and finally wanted more information about hot stone massages. A savvy practice owner will have those breadcrumbs linked so someone could quickly go back to one of those previous pages. It makes navigation and the overall patient experience easier for a site visitor.
Use Schema Markup
Schema markup is a relatively advanced medical marketing strategy and plays a role in website structure. Schema highlights certain parts of content on a website to tell a website crawler what parts are essential. For example, schema markup would be used to highlight:
- The address of a medical practice
- Hours of operations
- Name of products
- Costs of products
- Name of Doctor
- Regular Reoccurring Events
Highlighting this rich data with scheme markup can dramatically improve a website’s organic traffic by helping search engines identify what is essential. Schema Markup should be done by a professional, as it is not very user-friendly to a first-time user, and the misuse of scheme markups can negatively impact organic ranking.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance healthcare website with a site structure that will promote organic growth. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices across the country!