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How to relaunch your healthcare website in the new era of search

One of the most common focal points for healthcare digital teams is how to relaunch a website.

It’s an important task, critical to keeping with the times and providing a best-in-class patient experience. Your website is an important part of the patient journey — especially for existing patients, who are more likely to navigate to the homepage of a provider they are already familiar with. But your digital footprint is much bigger than just your website given how many digital touchpoints exist for patients to find information during their healthcare research.

Today’s patient journey begins in search. Will patients searching for symptoms or specialists find your homepage in search results? And what will happen when more people are using voice devices that don’t even have screens? Your homepage remains important — but the pages on your site that surface in high-intent patient searches are just as important. And the information your website houses needs to remain consistent, correct, and syndicated across all the places where the patient is actually searching for and finding this information.

We’ve seen so many of these website launches and relaunches in the last two years and have learned what works — and what doesn’t. With that in mind, here are a few key tips for how you can prepare for post-launch and ensure that your patients always find the right information at the right time, whether they are consulting your site or searching via another digital service to find health information. Your healthcare organization needs to always be able to provide the right answer — everywhere.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Patient search behavior has changed — and so have KPIs for new site launches
Over the past two years, we have seen a decline in patients visiting health system homepages before making an appointment. This makes it more difficult to track homepage visitor KPIs as a metric of success for a new website launch. We consistently hear that health systems can’t understand why fewer people visit their website after the new launch — only to realize 6–12 months later that they are getting far more referral traffic to provider-specific pages (directly from Google and other sites).

In keeping with this shift, try thinking about a new KPI for your website launch. Consider KPIs around increases in clicks to your provider pages instead. One way to ensure you can increase traffic to provider pages is to ensure that each provider page is appropriately Schema tagged. Schema tagging your pages ensures that AI-powered search engines have the right information to prioritize your providers first in relevant search results — thereby increasing the chances people will click on your provider page site instead of a third-party website. Schema tagging plus optimizing for what your patients are searching for will ensure that you are always in control of the search experience and are able to drive people back to your new website.

2. Be prepared for a temporary decline in SEO
Be prepared: organic search rankings and traffic post-launch may decline, and they don’t pick up for 6-8 months.

So make sure you are monitoring your rankings and organic traffic, but also ensure your providers are optimized on third-party sites and micro-experiences. You must ensure that provider information is completely accurate everywhere — to accommodate for the fact that your website won’t always be the first place people see or show provider information when searching.

3. Third-party websites will own and dominate the patient experience while you are trying to recover from a drop in organic traffic

Something that happens regularly after a new site launch is that suddenly a patient will see third-party sites come up in search results well before your owned site experience. After you launch your new site, search for one of your doctors on Google. You will most likely not see a Knowledge Card for the doctor, nor see that provider’s page on your site. And 68% of people are now searching for healthcare on mobile devices, which means much smaller screens on which patients may only see third-party links — you’re not in control of the patient experience.

Here’s what you can do: Be sure to Schema tag your provider pages — but remember that just because you Schema tagged your pages once, doesn’t mean you’re good to go. You’re not. Schema needs to be constantly monitored due to ongoing updates in the Schema markup language. Full control over search results — including driving provider pages to the first result and owning the provider’s information in rich results — will ensure that you are able to accommodate for drops in organic traffic, but still funnel people back to your own site.