Increasingly, consumers are turning towards the Internet for health care information. According to a Pew Marketing study, more than 70 percent of American consumers researched medical conditions online in the past year, often before calling their doctor. The web is also the place the majority of consumers turn when searching for a new doctor. Given that traditional forms of advertising, such as the Yellow Pages, are all but extinct, how can you as a physician harness this trend towards Internet research to strengthen your practice? We have a few suggestions.
Ways to help patients find you online
1. Practice good SEO techniques. What works for the furnace repair company and the restaurant down the street will also work for your practice. Simply writing good content isn't enough in this era of millions of web pages. To rank well with Google and other search engines, focus your content on one or two keywords at a time; use these words in titles, subheadings and meta data; never duplicate content; and keep your blog articles between 400 and 700 words each.
2. Don't ignore the directories. Subscribing to online directories, such as Angie's List and Yelp!, can also help you to attract new patients as well as support your SEO efforts. Such companies also give existing patients an opportunity to rate their experience with your practice. Local Directory Listing services are becoming more important now that Google is placing more of an emphasis on local search results for its users.
3. Embrace multiple channels. Having a presence in multiple places on the web not only strengthens your overall Internet marketing effort (think bread crumb strategy: the more links you have, the more opportunity for web visits), but makes you visible to patients and potential patients who may prefer a particular social media site, such as Twitter or Facebook, over others. Streamline your web marketing efforts by using a content calendar as an outline. You can schedule what you'll write about and where you'll post it in advance, so you won't have to waste time and energy every day deciding what topic to discuss.
4. Paid advertising. While SEO is a great long term marketing strategy, it could take months for the search engines to crawl your website and categorize it appropriately in the search results. Paid programs allow for your practice to visible immediately on the first page of results. There are many paid options to choose from, including: Facebook, Google, YouTube, Bing as well as Google’s Display network and re-marketing. In many cases, you can attract qualified traffic based on the keywords you are advertising on, or in the case of Google’s Display network, based on the content your potential patient is viewing on a site (ex: reading about knee pain on eHealth and seeing your Display or Contextual ad for knee replacement procedures).
Being visible to your patients online requires a multi-faceted Internet marketing approach. Strengthen your web presence by practicing good SEO techniques, making use of directories, embracing multiple web outlets, and advertising on specific search terms that fit your specialty.