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Hospital Internet Marketing: What’s the Difference Between SEO & SEM?


As a hospital marketer or administrator, you may have heard that Internet marketing is the way of the future. That’s because it’s true. More and more patients are turning to the Internet to do everything from looking up symptoms to finding doctors and researching where they will have their next major procedure performed.

One major aspect of your hospital’s online marketing strategy is its presence and visibility in search engines. This is where search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) come into play. But what’s the difference between hospital SEO and SEM, and what can they do for your hospital? We’re here to break down this confusing digital marketing jargon for you.

SEO vs. SEM at a Quick Glance:

SEO: A set of tactics and techniques that help your hospital show up up higher up in the organic (free) results of search engines (Earned Results)
: A form of online advertising that gets your website listing prominent placement on the search results page, even when you aren’t ranking organically (Paid Results)

SEO: Results appear in the middle of the page
SEM: Ads appear at the top of and bottom of the page

SEO: You can improve your organic ranking (get higher up in the search results) over time by following best practices for making your hospital website more search engine- and user-friendly.
SEM: Search ads can immediately get your paid website listing highly visible placement when you have the right ad strategy. You pay for each click your ad receives.

SEO: Strategy involves keyword optimization (optimizing your site content with words and terms that you want to be found for), site structure and formatting that is easy for search engines to crawl (creation of sitemaps, structured data markup, etc.), high-quality content focused on providing value to the user (not just the search engine), inbound links from other reputable websites, positive online reviews, and more.
SEM: Strategy involves keyword bidding (how much to bid on terms you want your ads to appear for), geo-targeting (which cities, zip codes, regions, etc. you want to target), device targeting, high-quality ad copy, ad extensions to draw more attention to your ads, etc.

SEO: A long-term investment. Think of it like a marathon
SEM: An immediate power boost to your search engine presence

Best Hospital SEO Strategy: Focus on local SEO by using keywords that incorporate your specific geographic area (Burbank orthopedics, Santa Clarita pediatric care, Los Angeles hospital, etc.). Patients search for healthcare services in their local cities and regions.
Best Hospital SEM Strategy: Use your pay-per-click ad campaigns to add more visibility to your most prominent and profitable service lines (oncology, cardiac surgery, orthopedics, obstetrics, etc.) Your search ads can help you drive more targeted traffic to your website, bringing you more of the specific types of patients you want to attract.

SEO + SEM: Both of these search strategies are needed to give your hospital maximum online exposure. When used together, SEO and SEM can help you build awareness your hospital brand on the Internet. While more people may be willing to click on an organic result than an advertisement, the presence of a paid search ad helps create a stronger brand presence on the page (more credibility), which can lead to more clicks (whether that is organic or paid). SEM can also help you get found for keywords that you might not be able to rank for organically (through SEO) based on your budget.

Want to know how you can use SEO and SEM to take your hospital’s web presence to the next level? Contact Scorpion and speak to one of our hospital marketing and advertising experts!

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