When you use social media to market your organization, you can tell immediately when your efforts are paying off: If that post about the blood drive gets 5,000 likes and shares, that's a sign you're doing things right.

It's a different story, of course, with your hospital's website traffic. You can track your site's visitors and their page views and click-throughs (see our first post in this series), but how can you know what's really drawing people in?

The answer can be found in your SEO metrics — the data related to the work you do to drive traffic to your site through search engine results. Here's a quick primer on healthcare marketing SEO and how to know when you're on the path to success.

Key SEO Metrics
The most important metric in SEO involves “organic traffic:" those visitors who arrive at your site not because they clicked on a (non-organic) paid advertisement, but because they did a search and your hospital or health system appeared in their results. In Google Analytics, for example, you can track organic traffic across your site, but you can also track it by landing page and thereby get a feel for what's attracting the most visitors. If your organic traffic share is going mostly to one page — or, on the flip side, skips another page entirely — that tells you something about your SEO efforts and the changes you can make to drive improvements.

Other areas to monitor related to organic traffic include the time that visitors spend on any given page and the average number of pages visited per session. Again, if visitors go from their searches to a certain page and then stay on that page for an extended period of time, that's a good indication they found what they wanted — and that your SEO strategy is hitting the mark.

Keyword Best Practices
A great website must include great content, but it also must include the right words in the right places. If you want people to see your organization as the place to go for joint pain, you can't just assume a video on the subject will be all it takes to bring them to your site. Instead, you'll have to make sure that your page about joint pain features everything a patient could possibly need to know, and that key phrases and keywords (“joint pain," “joint pain treatment," etc.) appear in certain critical places. Among them: the titles and headings for posts and articles, the meta descriptions that tell searchers that you're relevant, the alt text you add to image tags, and the schema data you can include on your site to explain the meaning of your content to search engines themselves. Once you pick your keywords and wrap them into your content, you can use an online rank-tracking tool to see where your page ranks in a search for that keyword, and then focus on those pages needing better keyword placement.

Different Pages, Different Strategies
The best strategy for SEO is to use each individual page to answer a specific question with as much detail as you can provide, rather than trying to cram too much information or too many keywords onto one page. The information you offer about your joint pain services, for example, shouldn't be found on a page that also covers joint replacement surgery. Rather, the joint pain page should be all about joint pain, including its causes and symptoms and related health problems like arthritis. And in the Obstetrics and Gynecology section of your website, create pages providing details on issues like gestational diabetes and fertility and include everything a new patient needs to know about all of your services related to childbirth.

In the end, healthcare marketers concerned about SEO should remember that quality is always better than quantity. Yes, you should monitor Google's changing algorithms so you know if there's anything you need to adjust, but don't let a bit of code prevent you from creating the top-notch content visitors will expect.

Want to learn more about SEO and dominating the search engine results page? Read our Local Search ebook.