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Using schema markup on your hospital or medical practice’s website helps boost your visibility in local search — here’s how.

It’s no secret that the internet has fundamentally altered the traditional path to treatment. As more and more patients turn to search engines for health-related information, local providers, and treatment options, the level of competition among medical practices and hospitals for organic search rankings has increased significantly.

In an increasingly competitive online healthcare market, medical marketers should always be on the lookout for opportunities to optimize their sites if they want to maintain a solid position in search rankings. Incorporating schema markup into your website is a relatively easy way to do exactly that. In this two-part series, we’ll explore what schema is, how it works, and how medical organizations can utilize it most effectively.

From Rich Snippets to Schema

We know that search engines primarily rely on the presence of keywords to determine a website’s relevance to a given query. But even if you have the right keywords on your page, how do you convey their meaning to the user? And how do search engines interpret “unstructured” data — like photos, videos, or Powerpoint presentations — that can’t be crawled? These are the problems that rich snippets, and eventually schema, were developed to solve.

Google created rich snippets in 2009 to provide users with key information from a website before they actually click to the page. For example, if a web page contains a calendar, a rich snippet can display upcoming events directly within search results. There are now many different types of rich snippets, spanning everything from recipes to video content to reviews. Over time, developers created different forms of structured data markup, or code annotations, to indicate what information belongs in a rich snippet. Microdata is the most common markup format, and consists of a set of tags that directly describe metadata within HTML. But Google is starting to encourage the use of JSON-LD — a fragment of JavaScript that can be embedded as an “island,” independent of your existing code — instead.

If microdata and JSON-LD are the “grammar” of rich snippets, then schema is the vocabulary. Born from a rare joint effort between Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex, schema is a shared markup language that makes rich snippets readable in any markup format, in any search engine, and in any browser. As a result, schema will work in nearly every search scenario after a relatively easy implementation process.

How Will Medical Organizations Benefit?

Medical organizations can instantly boost their search rankings with the right use of schema markup. With schema, you can highlight key information that’s relevant to your existing or prospective patients, including contact details, business hours, location, and specialities. You can even include reviews or location information via Google Maps.

When applied through JSON-LD, schema can also increase your chances of being included in Google’s Knowledge Graph, a vast database of relationships between pieces of information that Google can draw on to display the most accurate response to a query. Results from the Knowledge Graph include things like Symptom Search, which quickly outlines common symptoms for a given condition, and business profiles, which can include business hours, phone numbers, and reviews. By highlighting the right metadata with schema, you can prime Google to turn your information into a Knowledge Graph entry, directing traffic toward your site and improving SEO.

As more and more patients turn to the web to find medical information, it’s imperative that they receive meaningful and accurate results. Using schema markup, you can boost search visibility and increase the quality of traffic coming to your site, but you can also improve patient’s experiences by making it easier for them to find the information they need.

Stay tuned for my next post on how schema can be leveraged strategically to grow your medical practice.

This content was originally published here.

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