When it comes to online marketing, we hear one question from physicians and practice managers again and again: “How do I improve my web presence?” It’s a great question, as McKinsey reports that SMEs with a strong presence online typically experience growth twice as quickly as those without. But before you can actually increase your web presence, you need to define what “web presence” actually means — a task not quite as simple as it may sound.
While it’s often defined as a practice’s total online real estate — web site, social media accounts, blogs, etc. — a more actionable definition is comprehensive online visibility. Are you featured prominently in search results and local directories? Do you see strong engagement from ads and social media marketing? And perhaps most importantly, are you creating the most frictionless path to your website for the largest possible number of prospective patients?
And that’s why web presence is so tricky. It’s more about accuracy, efficiency, and location than sheer size of effort, and that requires the successful management of a variety of channels simultaneously. But when you present your content to the right audiences at the right times, your practice won’t go unnoticed.Get Your Message Seen: Search and Social
According to Google, 77% of patients use search before booking an appointment. When a health-related search is made — “local ear doctor,” for instance — your practice needs to be at the top of the list to gain maximal exposure. The easiest way to improve your search engine visibility is with paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, which uses Google AdWords campaigns to target prospective patient groups by search queries, keywords, location, and a number of other variables.
However, medical practices should also practice search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Usually, this involves populating your website with topical and targeted content (often in the form of a blog), which will also boost your organic search rankings over time and contribute to your reputation as a credible and trusted source for health-related information.
Social media is also playing an increasingly important role in your healthcare’s web presence and online visibility: according to PwC, 61% of consumers and 90% of 18-24 year-olds trust social media information posted by healthcare providers. Indeed, 74% rely on it for purchasing decisions. Facebook advertising is generally the most cost-effective way to reach those potential patients, as its targeting abilities far surpass those of any other social channel (especially for mobile users). For medical marketers, rolling out a variety of Facebook ads is easy, and its analytics suite makes it simple to continually optimize messaging.
Make sure you also create a Google+ business page and verify your listing with Google. This is a necessary step if you want your medical practice to appear in Google Maps search results.Ensure Accuracy and Consistency of Information
At the same time, you need to ensure that each of your listings displays accurate and up-to-date information, especially when it comes to names, addresses, and phone numbers. This includes the usual places — on your website, social media accounts, and paid search messaging — but don’t forget to update online and local directories as well, such as Google My Business API, Yelp, Yahoo Local, and Angie’s List. It never hurts to encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews, as long as you’re not actively soliciting them. You can also remove negative Yelp reviews if they violate terms of service or inaccurately depict your services.
This is important, because not only do patients frequently peruse such sites when seeking care — 88% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations — but Google indexes these sites such that more highly-rated practices receive more favorable search rankings. If incorrect information is tainting your practice’s online reputation, you may simply not appear in patient’s searches.
Growing a medical practice’s web presence is an ever-evolving process, and your methods should keep pace with changing online best practices. However, the goal should always be to first identify where your presence would have the biggest impact online, and then test and optimize your content strategy for that audience segment. Web presence will likely mean something slightly different for every practice, but success means capitalizing on those differences to differentiate yourself from the competition.