While his competitors were hiring SEO agencies, paying for ads, and doing everything in their power to get found on the first page of the search engine results page (SERP), a private practice surgeon in a small, remote Oregon high desert town hit the front-page jackpot several times… without even trying.

Want to know his secret?

Let’s talk about an SEO tactic that may send you running for the keyboard to launch a special kind of page – before your competitors get the jump on you.

Here’s the story, along with a few ideas to help get the brainstorm brewing.

Not SEO for Dummies – SEO for Non-SEO’s

Dr. Andy Higgins holds certifications from the American Board of Surgery, the American Society of Breast Surgeons, the American College of Surgeons, and the American Heart Association. He’s a University of Colorado School of Medicine graduate, and he has practiced medicine for over 20 years.

But none of that qualifies him to rank on the first page of Google for non-local searches.

Or does it?

Don’t Believe Everything You Hear in Medical School

Doctors aren’t supposed to get emotionally involved with their patients. Too much compassion destroys objectivity.

It’s best to think of people as “breast cancer cases” and “gall bladder cases,” not Susan and Bill. Physicians must maintain distance. It protects their patients, it protects them, and it lends an air of professionalism to the examination room.

Higgins bought that idea… for a while… but changed his mind after speaking with someone who was being treated for cancer.

Didn’t the Doctor Answer Those Questions for You?

She called over the weekend, quite distraught.

The diagnosis worried her, and she needed a physician’s advice. Fortunately, there was one in the family. He lived in a different state, but she knew he would have the answers.

After fielding question after question and assuring her there was plenty that could be done on her behalf, Andy Higgins had to know one thing: Didn’t her surgeon cover all those bases already?

That’s when he got his first patient’s-view picture of the “doorknob syndrome.” From the physician’s perspective, that’s when the patient wants to ask questions at the end of the visit… while the doctor’s hand is on the doorknob heading towards the next patient.

Doctors hate doorknob questions. If possible, they’ll get the patient to schedule another appointment to discuss the concern.

From the patient’s side, though, it looks like a brush off. Doctors like to talk a whole lot more than they like to listen.

Look back on your own visits to the examination room. Do you get to say everything you want to say and ask everything you want to ask? Does the physician give you the impression that the time with you is more important than anything else on the schedule, or do you feel rushed and not really heard at all?

Higgins listened, and he learned. He vowed to make sure every patient he saw received the opportunity to say everything she wanted to say and ask everything she wanted to ask – even if that meant he wouldn’t be able to see as many patients each day, and even if it meant a cut in salary.

After all, Andy Higgins became a physician to help people, not to deal with “cases.”

Finding SEO Opportunities in Unusual Places

The more he listened to his patients, the more they loved him. And many of those patients sent cards to Dr. Higgins and his staff to express their gratitude for delivering above-the-call-of-duty service.

Someone suggested that excerpts from the cards should be posted on the website, so a Gratitudes page went up – not to toot the doctor’s horn, but to express his appreciation for his patients’ appreciation. Yes, Higgins jumped body and soul into the mindset his professors had warned him about: he allowed himself to care and to let others see it in his words and actions.

Before long, that page found its way to the first page of the SERP for terms like “Thank you for taking care of me” and “Thank you note to doctor.”

Dr. Andy Higgins, Bend, Oregon was beating out doctors from the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and anywhere else the big names pay the big bucks for SEO glory.

Higgins is a surgeon. He specializes in breast cancer surgery, gall bladder surgery, colon surgery, and hernia surgery. He is not an SEO practitioner. It’s unlikely he could even tell you what “SEO” stands for. But the gratitude pouring from his patients quickly spilled over to create online fame.

I Know What You’re Thinking – Anyone Can Rank for the Easy Terms

Of course, the SEO hired hands working for the major players in medicine don’t even have “Thank you for taking care of me” on their radar.

Dr. Andy Higgins, Surgeon – Bend, Oregon

If they worked for Higgins, they’d be shooting for terms like “Bend breast surgery” and “Central Oregon cancer doctor.” That’s the proper way, of course. You want to rank for the most popular search terms, not for arcane sentiments.

Yet, there are lessons here for us all. Maybe many lessons.

Here are two takeaways that grabbed ahold of me after hearing about Dr. Higgins. Are there others that hop out at you?

  1. A Life Lesson from the doctor who really cares: Slow down and listen to the people you’ve been hired to help. They aren’t burdens. They aren’t time-suckers. They’re people. And the better you treat them, the better they’ll like and trust you – two prerequisites to successful sales.
  2. An SEO lesson from a non-SEO: Even in the most competitive niches, there are search terms you can rank high on the SERP for. Form associations between the primary keywords and the effect the product or service you’re helping market has on others. There could be gold nuggets there, just waiting for an observant SEO to see them.

One more.

Let’s call it a bonus. Gratitude pages are a really good idea.