We are often approached by medical practices that know they need to put greater effort into their online marketing but don’t know where to start. Just as the human body needs fundamentals like sleep, good nutrition, and water; there are a few things that every local practice needs to do to stay healthy and thrive online.
Optimize Your Website for Patients and Google
A 2011 study by Pew Internet Research revealed that 77% of patients used an online search prior to scheduling an appointment, and 44% of internet users go online for information about doctors or other health professionals. In the years that have passed since that study, technology has continued to empower the healthcare consumer and it’s likely that those statistics are even higher today. It is almost a certainty that your patients will attempt to engage with you online before they ever step into your practice. To make sure that your website is making a good first impression, be sure to cover these three bases:
- Make sure Google knows you exist.
This is accomplished by doing some basic keyword research (i.e. your specialty) and incorporating those keywords into your title tags and meta descriptions. You should also create a sitemap and submit it to Google. If your site is built on Wordpress, try using a plugin like Yoast SEO and follow all of the suggestions for your site.
- Help website visitors find exactly what they are looking for.
Put your most important information front and center and be sure that it is easy to find multiple channels to communicate with your practice. As a bonus, you can install Hotjar and continue to monitor visitor data to be sure that you are continuing to improve conversion and providing an optimal user experience.
Note: Medical Practices should take care using using the screen recording feature of Hotjar as this could result in a HIPAA violation.
- Provide a HIPAA compliant solution for scheduling an appointment online.
Millennials are now the generation with the greatest buying power, and one survey found that 71% of them prefer to schedule appointments online. This is a trend that will continue to increase as healthcare consumers continue to prioritize convenience. Remember to capture any Protected Health Information that is submitted on your forms through a secured platform.
Own Your Social Media and Directory Listings Information
Directory listings are not the sexiest area of medical practice marketing, but they are one of the most overlooked and potent. Each listing that includes your Name, Address, Phone Number, and other relevant practice information is not only an opportunity for patients to find you, but if they are synchronized, it sends a strong signal to Google that your website is legitimate and relevant. Making sure that your listings are accurate can make a big difference to any local business on the search engines, but there is an even bigger opportunity for medical practices because of the numerous healthcare specific directories (Vitals.com, Wellness.com, etc.) Keep in mind that just about anyone online can suggest changes to your listings, so it’s important to take ownership and stay on top of them. Take 10 seconds and find out if your listings are accurate using this tool.
Monitor and Generate Online Reviews
Most doctors realize that positive reviews online are important. I worked for a doctor once that would literally hand his patients an iPad in the exam room and stand there while they wrote a review. His process was wrong, but the idea behind it was correct. Many of the social media channels and directory listings support reviews and some of them carry significant weight with healthcare consumers. Your reviews don’t have to be perfect, but a high rating with a high volume of reviews can produce trust with your patient before your first encounter. There are two techniques to put in place:
- Monitor review sites for poor reviews. Use these as an opportunity for service recovery. Try to contact the patient, resolve the issue, and then ask them to revise their review.
- Tactfully ask your best patients to submit reviews on your behalf. Be sure to spread out the reviews across various sites (Yelp, Vitals, Facebook, etc.)
Use Targeted Ads on Social Media and Paid Search
It was reported in February of 2017 that Facebook was closing in on 2 Billion users. The most remarkable thing about Facebook is the amount of data that they collect from their users and make available to advertisers. It is possible to build very detailed custom audiences for your marketing messages based on hundreds of data points that may be relevant to your buyer personas. Whether you are trying to drive local awareness around an event, or target a segment that is likely to need your services, social media advertising is a very cost-effective option. It is also very easy to track your results and return on investment. Paid Search advertising, like social media advertising, is scalable. For this reason, we always recommend starting with a small budget until you find your magic recipe and then put the throttle down.
Once you have these four fundamentals in place, you will likely be ahead of your competition and can rest assured that you have the big boxes checked. These essentials will also set you up for success if you decide to pursue more in-depth marketing efforts like content creation and distribution, video, email marketing, and an organic social media strategy.
About the Author Matt Brannon
Matt joined Gravity Digital as the Marketing Director in 2013. He immediately connected with the company vision and values, and played an integral role in Gravity Digital’s transition from a traditional ad agency to an inbound healthcare marketing agency.
Follow Matt Brannon: LinkedIn | Twitter