Healthcare keywords: the secret to affordable patient bookings online

Is ’24 hour care near me’ really as good a keyword as it seems?

It’s often one of the first healthcare keywords that show up when we do research for our search campaigns. At the time of writing this, it’s got around 500 monthly searches in the US, is estimated to cost $5-$15 for an ad click and the organic competition is strong according to the popular keyword research tools KWfinder and SEMrush.


healthcare keywords example


healthcare keywords example

That means we’ll need to do a ton of work if we want to rank organically for this keyword and pay, for the sake of simplicity, let’s say an average of $10 per click (called “CPC” in the screenshots above). That doesn’t sound too bad on the surface but we’ll need to narrow it down to our local area.

If we narrow it down to just Texas, for example, the price goes up 3-4x.

Not to mention that just because someone visits our website doesn’t mean that they’ll book. If it takes say 3-5 clicks before someone books (which isn’t unrealistic), that’s $100-$200 for one booking and for just one single keyword. If we have 10 keywords (or 50 for that matter), it quickly adds up.

Some keywords are unnecessarily expensive because they are popular and the first thing we think of. By diving deeper into our keyword research upfront we can get more patient bookings online and at a lower cost.

In this article, we’ll look at examples of the best healthcare keywords, where to find the best ones for your startup, and a simple 2-point checklist to recognize good keywords.

Examples of 10 obvious healthcare keywords

The main benefit of good keywords is that they determine how closely we reach the right people. If we reach the wrong ones we’ll never get any patients but the good ones can also help lower the cost per new patient if we find some that are not as competitive as the obvious ones.

‘Book consultation’ healthcare keywords list example

KeywordMonthly searchesCPC/USDKeyword Difficulty
urgent care near me3,110,000$5.0844
hospital near me679,000$4.8239
walk-in clinic near me238,000$4.8129
doctors near me220,000$7.5469
pediatrician near me242,000$4.6635
medical clinic near me39,200$6.0549
mammogram near me40,400$8.7037
oncologist near me18,700$17.6543
pediatric clinic15,200$3.0918
cancer center8,700$32.1085
I’ll explain CPC/USD and Keyword difficulty later in the article

These keywords are a good place to get started since they generally can drive bookings but will be expensive and potentially even unprofitable. To get remarkable results, especially at scale, we need to dig deeper. The annoying answer is that I can’t just pull up a list of the best healthcare keywords as it differs for each business. 

A small clinic might not be able to expand quickly and take on a lot of patients whereas a startup like Heal might have that as their main target and can’t grow fast enough. The small clinic benefits from healthcare keywords that bring in affordable patient bookings consistently, month after month, with little management needed whereas the startup will want to expand and compete for larger but less profitable keywords in exchange for volume.

An example is ‘flu symptoms’ vs. ‘pediatric doctor near me’. One is a keyword mainly focused on information whereas the other likely has the end goal of finding a specific type of care nearby, presumably because they want to go there for a consultation.

It’s often more challenging to win bookings from informational healthcare keywords because the searcher isn’t ready to book just yet. For example:

‘Informational’ healthcare keywords list example

KeywordMonthly searchesCPC/USDKeyword Difficulty
flu symptoms257,000$1.3452
side effects of flu shot111,000$1.6557
common cold symptoms56,200$1.7959
stomach flu symptoms39,500$0.5659
norovirus symptoms28,400$0.1647
stomach bug symptoms25,900$1.5231
influenza symptoms14,200$0.9253
body aches no fever11,600$1.27
gastroenteritis symptoms11,300$0.8443
flu like symptoms8,600$1.2437
I’ll explain CPC/USD and Keyword difficulty later in the article

These types of keywords tend to fit better with organic content rather than ads as we can often can’t convert them to a booking directly but need to give them more information before they are ready.

To better understand if a keyword is the right fit for us, we can simply look at the search results (referred to as SERPs) to see what shows up. 

If each of the results is almost the same, the search intent tends to be clear but if the results are a mix of products from a store, how-to videos, and general encyclopedia-type information it can be difficult to do a great job for us.

For example, if we search for ‘pediatric clinic’, besides a random place shown on a map with clinics and a couple of general questions on what a pediatric clinic is, we get a seemingly random list of clinics, some very far from each other:

healthcare keywords - serp example
healthcare keywords - serp example 2

To compare, if we instead search for ‘pediatrician near me’, we first get a similar list of clinics from Google maps but right after we get directories and reviews-websites along with information on how to best choose a pediatrician. All of that indicates that the person searching for this keyphrase is looking for a clinic they want to visit nearby rather than general information on pediatric clinics.

Another thing to look for to understand if a healthcare keyword is good for your startup is the monthly search volume. If a keyword doesn’t have enough volume to make a meaningful difference, we are wasting our time.

For example, if the keyword has 50 monthly searches, even if we show up at the top we might only get about 32% of the traffic since not everyone who searches also clicks according to a recent study. That means the top result might get 16 clicks every month for being the best for that specific keyword (50*0.32). On top of that, not everyone who clicks will book a consultation. We might only see 30% book a consultation, which comes out to about 5 bookings (16*0.30). 

Those five bookings now have to pay for all the 16 clicks that we paid for and then some, in order to be worth it for us. It can easily become confusing so let’s look at it in a spreadsheet since it makes it easier to get an overview.

We can then make a rough calculation to see whether it is likely that creating a campaign around a particular keyword will make a meaningful revenue difference before we even begin. We might not feel as if five extra bookings a month will make a big difference if we know we can replicate that with another nine keywords, we are suddenly seeing a total of 50 extra bookings per month. 

If we can take it one step further and get them to tell their family and friends about the great experience they had, we might be able to turn those 50 extra bookings into another 100-150 extra bookings per month if each person refers 2-3 people on average. 

It might sound like a lot but in reality, it isn’t if the type of care is relevant considering how important recommendations from friends and family are to us with care providers. The challenge is that it is hard to track referrals because not everyone gets sick and needs to see a doctor at the same time, so those referrals might come 3-6 months down the road and be challenging to track back to the initial patient that came from the ad campaign. Anyway, creating a referral program is a story for another day.

If we look at that over the course of a year, that comes out to 600-1800 patients extra, which I’m sure could make a difference for many early-stage healthcare startups.

The other aspect to consider is the competition which is often shown in ‘keyword difficulty (KD)’ for organic SEO and in CPC (cost per click) for search ads. They are not perfect numbers but more of a general guideline that works best if we look at them in comparison to other keywords. For example, if the cost per click is high for a particular keyword, we might take it as a hint that it works well if advertisers are willing to pay a lot just for a click (not even a booking).

Using many small niche keywords can often be a great strategy when starting out with a limited budget because we can spend some extra time managing them in exchange for better results. Larger competitors might not want to bother with those keywords because the results are not enough to make a meaningful difference for them. 

As you grow, you might find that you’d rather give up some of the keywords that don’t drive many results and require frequent management for some that aren’t as good but need less hand-holding so you can conquer a larger bulk of keywords instead.

Where to find the best healthcare keywords for your startup

As a rule of thumb, any keywords that we can easily find like those earlier in this article or by looking around for 1-2 hours won’t be the best ones since they are those that most others choose. That’s the amount of time most others use to find healthcare keywords before they move on. Every hour we spend extra gives us a much higher chance of finding great keywords that are less competitive and therefore less expensive.

It’s sometimes easier to find good keywords if we first brainstorm the overarching topics and then look for keywords within each one. I’ve gone ahead and prepared a few examples like:

  • Competing doctor/clinic names that would serve the same patients in your area
  • General ‘book now’ keywords for your services in your area (e.g. general consultation in denver, pediatric consultation in denver, etc.)
  • Information keywords like ‘what causes a headache’ or ‘flu symptoms’

Another way to group them that can feel easier is into stages depending on how ready to buy they are. For example:

  1. What causes a headache (here they might be looking for information)
  2. What cures a headache (here they might be looking for a solution and learn that a consultation is relevant)
  3. Best pediatric clinic in seattle (now they are looking for a specific clinic to visit)
  4. Dr. Chan’s pediatric clinic seattle book consultation (now they are looking to book with that specific clinic)

We can imagine this as a funnel with different stages. At each stage, some people get what they are looking for and drop off instead of continuing to the next step. Each stage can be worth going after but the further down the funnel they go, the fewer people search and the more expensive and competitive it gets.

To win at the top, we might provide information that fits that keyword, anticipate what they want next and give it to them before they go back to Google to search for the next stage of keywords. That could for example be by suggesting a relevant article at the bottom of the one they are reading if you know they are looking for a solution after having diagnosed the problem.

If you are simply looking to get started, see my guide on Google ads for doctors and the step by step to use Google’s Keyword Planner tool as well.

If you are looking to dive deeper, paid tools like Semrush and Ahrefs are good but expensive. If you aren’t ready to invest in those, KWfinder can be a decent middle ground. It’s more affordable, pretty good for discovering new keyword ideas but tends to offer less detailed data than the top tier tools.

To speed things up we can sometimes find great keywords by running an ad campaign on Google search for broad terms and see which other search terms it shows up for that we hadn’t thought about.

Another is to input our competitors’ websites into the keyword tools and get ideas based on what they rank for.

Checklist: what do good keywords look like?

There are a lot of things to consider with healthcare keywords but the most important factors are search intent and the monthly search volume compared to its competition.

  • Search intent: what are searchers really looking for? When you search for the keyword in google, do other pages like yours show up? If the results you see are very different from what you intended to put there, it might not be a good fit (e.g. we wanted to show a consultation booking page but everything else there is how-to guides)
  • Search volume vs competition: does the keyword have enough monthly searches so that if we work to get a good result it will also make a meaningful difference? And is it realistic at our current stage to compete for this keyword? (Either with the cost per click if it’s ads or with good content and backlinks if it’s organic SEO)


  • The most meaningful things to look for with healthcare keywords at first is the search intent and the monthly search volume compared to its competition
  • The more time we spend digging for good keywords upfront the more we will benefit from it down the road
  • When you are ready to scale, it can be good to start with the most relevant search intent and then work your way backwards to cover keywords earlier in the booking stage where they are looking for information such as on how to diagnose or find a solution to a particular symptom (whether that is a consultation, visit to the pharmacy or something else)

By Aske

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