These days, attracting new patients requires optimizing your medical practice’s “web presence” across multiple digital channels — here’s what you need to know.
It’s safe to say that by now, most professionals within the healthcare industry understand the importance of a solid web presence when it comes to attracting new patients and holding onto existing ones. The internet, and search in particular, has fundamentally altered the patient path to treatment, empowering healthcare consumers to conduct their own research and make their own decisions when seeking out treatment options.
As a result, many medical practices are scrambling to establish their online presence and capitalize on these consumer-driven trends — however, it’s important to recognize that in an increasingly competitive local health market, simply throwing up a website and a few digital ads isn’t going to cut it anymore. Here are five ways that physicians can optimize their digital marketing efforts and stay one step ahead of the competition.
1. From One Patient to Another
Peer reviews have become the gold standard of quality control — in fact, 90% of 18-24 year-olds say they trust medical information shared by peers on the internet. While, at the end of the day, the content of online reviews may be out of your hands, there’s a lot you can do to garner a favorable rating for your practice on these sites.
First, claim your profile on popular review sites like Yelp, ZocDoc, Healthgrades, and Vitals. Many of these sites offer “freemium” services (or free services with the option of paid upgrades), making them a quick and easy way to increase your visibility online. It’s also a good idea to encourage satisfied patients to actually go to some of these sites and spread the word about their positive experience at your practice. Not only does this enhance your online brand, but it helps bury and mitigate the damage from any potential negative reviews you may have.
2. Get a Listing on Google My Business
There’s no denying that when it comes to digital marketing, Google reigns supreme. While search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) are, of course, vitally important, many medical marketers spend all their time and energy on these areas, overlooking a number of impactful platforms and tactics as a result. One such platform, Google My Business, is a medical practice’s one-stop-shop for directory listing optimization. Subscribers’ business information appears on Search, Maps, Google+, and Google Places. This means that prospective patients can easily find your practice, regardless of where they are or what kind of device they’re using.
3. Mobile Matters
Today, about 72% of American adults own a smartphone, and about 62% of those users report using their mobile devices to seek out health-related information. In response to these trends, Google updated its search engine algorithm to give preferential treatment to mobile-optimized websites back in early 2015. Since then, any physician who wants to boost his or her practice’s ranking in Google’s organic search results must ensure that their website is “mobile-friendly.” To see if your current website is up to snuff, copy/paste the URL into Google’s handy Mobile Friendly Tester.
4. Blog, Blog, and Blog Some More
Here’s some advice that translates over from the pre-digital world: it’s a lot easier to find something when there’s a lot of it. Consistent blog publishing is a great way to not only claim more online real estate, but also to strengthen patient trust in your brand and establish yourself as an industry thought leader. Write posts that will resonate with your target audience and demonstrate your specific areas of expertise. Enhance the SEO value of your content by crafting keyword-heavy titles and interlinking with other pages and blog posts on your site. That said, don’t overload your articles with anchor links and overly-promotional calls to action (CTAs).
5. Never Underestimate the Social Network
Social signals, or the activity generated on social media around ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘retweets’, can have a huge bearing on where your site appears in Google searches. While the exact SEO impact of social signals is difficult to pin down, there are certain ways to easily increase your online presence through clever social media usage.
Aim to regularly post content that people would want to "like" or, ideally, "share." Each share will expose your post to new potential patients, while simultaneously boosting your ranking in Google searches. Remember: you’re trying to connect with patients, so your content needs to appeal to people outside of the medical profession. As with blog posts, you should post regularly to maintain an engaged following. Finally, be sure to utilize all of the major social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.