As consumers increasingly turn to the internet for health-related answers, establishing a highly-visible online presence is now a non-negotiable requirement for physicians.
No sector of the American business world has been left unaffected by the digital push — not even healthcare. While companies and providers have been slow to adopt digital trends, sites like WebMD and Yelp are changing the way that consumers seek out information and treatments for their maladies.
To prevent customers from relying solely on diagnostic websites for advice until symptoms become serious, healthcare professionals need a strong online marketing presence and a comprehensive understanding of the digital sphere. Solid digital strategies demand a great deal of expertise, ranging from community engagement on social media to utilizing big data analytics and targeted paid advertising campaigns.
But for physicians, busy schedules and steep learning curves often make the mastery of such techniques an elusive pursuit, which is why many choose to outsource their online campaigns to experienced, digital marketing experts.
A Changing Landscape
Because of the massive amount of information now available to the general public — and the unprecedented accessibility of said data — consumers are searching for primary care physicians and specialists very differently than they were even just ten years ago, according to Forbes. User-generated review sites, such as Yelp or Healthgrades.com, which let patients grade physicians and talk about their experiences, are becoming a standard starting point for people in search of care.
Indeed, recent data suggests that more and more healthcare consumers are placing more weight on their internet searches than word-of-mouth referrals or the proximity of a practice.
The same can be said of people who when they get sick or injured — sites like WebMD and Mayo Clinic have replaced the doctor’s office as the first stop for people who suspect they’re coming down with something.
This is one of the most important reasons for developing a digital healthcare marketing strategy: about one-third of patients use mobile phones or tablets daily for research or to book appointments, and those who do book appointments conduct more than three times as many searches as those who don’t. Another 51% of patients say they feel more valued when doctors use social media to connect with them.
Why SEO Matters for Physicians
Such significant numbers highlight the importance of patient engagement via online channels, and the value of a robust digital medical marketing plan. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a fundamental part of any digital marketing strategy, as it boosts the overall visibility and ranking on major search engine platforms like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
This should be of particular interest to physicians, especially considering that one in 20 of all Google searches involve medical and health-related topics, according to SEO Hermit. In other words, adhering to SEO best practices will help ensure that your web content reaches your target audience, instead of getting lost in the shuffle.
But it’s not just about maximizing the ROI on your marketing spend and generating new leads — there’s a moral component to the argument for SEO as well. Potentially harmful misinformation and improper self-diagnosis is an unfortunate, yet pervasive issue in the internet age, and qualified physicians and experts need to remain visible in order to set the record straight and provide consumers with credible, helpful information in their time of need.
Today, SEO and online marketing campaigns are the key to grabbing the attention of prospective patients and ensuring they get the attention and care they need. But just as diagnoses and care should always be administered by physicians and other medical specialists, digital strategy is best left to the experts — the stakes are simply too high.