For the data hungry among us, knowing the key metrics we need to measure is crucial to the decision-making process. Unfortunately, focusing on the wrong metrics can wreak havoc with your marketing effectiveness.
In marketing / business terms, we’re looking for our key performance indicator (KPI).
So, is search engine ranking or website traffic the true KPI?
Bear with me. This isn’t one of those “gotcha!” types of posts.
The fact is that we in the marketing industry have touted these metrics because they’re so easy to obtain. The factors that a healthcare practice need to measure most include the number of patients and overall patient satisfaction. The number of procedures or the number of referrals from primary care physicians might also factor in.
Google Analytics and search engine optimization (SEO) software are unable to deliver those metrics, so marketers pull out the numbers they have in order to show progress.
As the person responsible for growing your practice, you need to remember that these numbers fit in a larger context that must ultimately tie into your objectives. If those metrics don’t relate, then you need to get rid of them.
Let’s talk about how ranking and traffic should fit into your marketing strategy.
Search Engine Ranking
Getting your website to rank for terms that are highly relevant to your practice is a valuable way of attracting attention from the right patients. (We’re classifying the “right patients” as the patients that are a good fit for your practice’s specialties.) By providing information that answers your patients’ most common questions, you’ll be well on your way to content that search engines love to prominently display. Your work will both educate patients and help them in the decision-making process.
Here’s the drawback of search engine ranking and why you need to press your marketing group a bit more for the context of your ranking. If you rank #1 for a keyword that no one uses in search engines, then you’re not actually improving your healthcare practice.
This is especially problematic in healthcare or any other highly technical field with complex terminology. For example, patients are not as likely to search for the term myringotomy as they are ear tube surgery. If you have the top-ranked site for myringotomy but do not rank for ear tube surgery, then you are going to miss the opportunity for patients to contact you.
When you see your keyword rankings, always ask yourself how likely it is for your patients to know that terminology and use it in Google.
In the same way that ranking can be misleading or useless, website traffic can have the same issues. If your practice focuses on ear, nose, and throat, then attracting readers for an article about knee pain is worthless. More than that, off-topic content could confuse and drive away patients who are looking for an ear, nose, and throat doctor.
Site traffic becomes more of an issue when creating a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. In a PPC campaign, your ad targeting can be narrowly focused or can have a broad reach to help increase your branding awareness. Without close monitoring, however, a broad reach can turn into attracting the wrong site visitors entirely.
For example, if your practice treated concussions, and you had a term like “skull” as a broad search term in your campaign, visitors who were looking for a helmet to protect their skull might end up on your website. That visitor is looking to make a purchase, not book an appointment.
Traffic without the right context is likely a waste of your money.
When Ranking and Traffic Work Correctly
In the right context, your website ranks for common keywords that patients associate with your practice. More specifically, pages that answer patients’ questions about the desired topic rank in search engines. When that happens, patients are able to attain the knowledge they need right away, increasing the likelihood that the patient will want to know more about you.
Closely related to that topic of ranking is your website traffic, which will only increase as you increase the relevancy of your content to answer patients’ questions. Search engines will send you more web visitors, and — in time — so will other websites. Writers are always looking for reliable sources to refer to their readers in matters of health and exercise, and a healthcare practice ranks up there pretty quickly as a reliable source.
Traffic from referring websites can become a substantial part of your traffic if you are providing information on hot topics for your field.
Review your ranking and your traffic. They are both important metrics for the success of your practice, but always remember that the number and quality of patients are the true standards for your marketing success.