“If my practice launches a new campaign / website, what kind of results can we expect to get?”
It’s a question we hear quite often when clients are considering adding on a new marketing service. It makes sense–if you’re going to invest money in something to help your business, you’d like to have at least some sort of idea of what to expect.
Unfortunately, when it comes to online marketing, there really aren’t any definitive answers we can give in terms of how long results could take, what kind of ranking you might achieve, how many new patients you might get, etc. All of these things really depend on several factors, including your market, the type of marketing methods you are doing, what your competitors are doing, and how much you put into your marketing strategy (both in dollars and time).
Additionally, online marketing is constantly evolving. What worked well years ago won’t necessarily work as well now. Search engines are getting more and more advanced, and more practices are engaging in online marketing than they were 15-20 years ago, so the results you could get back then are different from what you might get now with the same amount of effort.
With that said, based on trends we have seen over the past couple of years, we can share some thoughts on what factors might be at play with getting the results you want, and how much you might need to put in to get there based on the marketing methods you are using.
If you are totally new to online marketing–either a brand-new practice or perhaps a physician just starting out, a website is likely the first thing you are going to do in terms of online marketing.
15-20 years ago, when online marketing was a relatively “new” thing for medical practices, it was pretty easy to launch a fairly simple website and rank well in search results. Nowadays, it’s pretty much expected for medical practices to have a website. Some might argue that it’s almost as necessary to launching a new practice as having an office building in which to see patients. As a result, the online market is much more saturated than it was 15-20 years ago, and it’s a lot harder to rank in search results than it used to be.
These days, we’re seeing it take as long as a year or more for a new website to gain traction and first-page ranking in search results for searches beyond the practice or doctors’ names. But even those results only happen for practices who do more than just a basic website. A website alone is just the base-level that you need to get started, but you’ll likely need other elements like content marketing, local SEO, reputation marketing, and maybe even ads to push ahead in this saturated online market.
Years ago, websites could potentially rank well in search results without much content. Now, as more practices become savvy to online marketing, the market is a lot more saturated with different websites and content. Content marketing is no longer a “nice to have” feature–it is a must-have.
If you want your practice’s website to rank for a particular condition or procedure, you need to have content about it. Not just generic patient education content, but information that is unique to your practice.
But even then, content marketing has become more of a long play. There are a lot of different factors that play into how long it takes new content to rank and how high it might rank. There have been several studies on how long it takes for content to rank (including this one by ahrefs). The short answer is that your content could rank in as little as 3-6 months if you have little competition and your website is already well-established and following SEO best practices. On the other hand, if you’re in a competitive market, have a less established website, and/or haven’t been paying attention to SEO, it could take over a year for your content to start ranking, if it ever does at all.
Luckily, there are some methods to start bringing in traffic more quickly, if you need to. Which brings us to our next point…
With online ads, the kind of results you can expect depends largely on the types of ads you are running, and what your objectives are.
For example, if your objective is to just get more traffic to your website, you can achieve that almost instantly. It’s a great option for brand-new websites or brand-new content that you want to promote. But in most cases, traffic isn’t all that you want from ads. If you are paying for traffic, you likely want some sort of assurance that it’s helping you bring in new patients.
As with everything else in online marketing, the results you can expect depend on a variety of factors, including the ad platform you choose, your budget, the amount of competition, and the demand for what you are advertising. For orthopedic, spine, and neurosurgery practices, we have found that Facebook ads and Google paid search ads tend to produce the best results, so let’s take a look at each.
In general, Facebook ads tend to have a lower yield with getting new patients. They are more of an awareness-based play, since they show up in the Facebook feeds of any users who meet your targeting criteria, some of whom may not need your services at the moment they see your ads. Unlike other industries, we are limited with what demographic information we can use for ad targeting, so we can’t only show ads to people who are known to have a particular condition or medical need.
That said, WordStream put together some benchmarks for Facebook ads by industry. Based on their research, the average click-through rate (the percentage of people who click on your ads after seeing them) is 0.83% in the healthcare industry. That number might seem quite low, but keep in mind that users are seeing the ad in their feed and not intentionally seeking out that information.
That said, the conversion rates (the percentage of people who take a desired action, such as calling your practice or booking an appointment after seeing your ads) can actually be quite high on Facebook. According to WordStream, the average conversion rate for Facebook ads in the healthcare industry is 11%. That said, to achieve that high of a conversion rate, you will need to be committed to optimizing your campaigns and swapping out ads that aren’t working with your audience.
Google Ads can potentially be high-yield in terms of bringing in new patients–as long as you have set up the right targeting, and you’re bidding on the right keywords.
According to WordStream, the Google Ads benchmark for click-through rates for physicians and surgeons is 6.73%, and the average conversion rate is 13.12%.
Those numbers sound great, but keep in mind that these numbers are based on well-optimized campaigns for high-demand services. It’s unlikely that you will get these results right away, because you’ll have to tweak your campaigns based on performance to continue to improve.
You also have to make sure that you are advertising for services and bidding on keywords that your target patient base is actually searching for. Google Ads tend not to work well for more niche procedures and services because they often don’t have a high enough search volume. In our experience, even higher-volume procedure searches like joint replacement can perform well with Google Ads, but you’re often not seeing conversion rates that are quite that high.
Practices that run more broadly-focused campaigns targeting keywords like “orthopedic surgeon near me” do often see those kinds of click-through and conversion rates, but you have to be a broadly-focused practice for those kinds of ads to work for you.
With reputation marketing, the result you get and how quickly you get it will depend on how much effort you put into getting new reviews.
A study by SEMRush found that the businesses in the top position in the Map Pack (the map results that you often see on Google before the regular search results) tended to have more positive reviews than those in lower positions.
Reputation marketing should enable you to build up more positive reviews for your practice, but how quickly you start to see results will depend on a few factors:
- How frequently patients are receiving and filling out surveys to post to review sites
- How many reviews you currently have and your average ratings
- The number of reviews and average ratings of your competitors
If your reviews are already in a decent place and your competitors aren’t doing much to build up new reviews, then it might be fairly easy to increase your ranking in map listings with reputation marketing. On the other hand, if your competitors are already engaging in reputation marketing and you have very few reviews or low scores, it might be more of an uphill battle that will take more time.
Another benefit that could result from building up your online reviews is more patient appointments. According to PatientEngagementHIT, 72% of patients consult online reviews before booking an appointment, and 72% also said they prefer providers with an average rating of 4 stars or higher. It can sometimes be harder to track new patient appointments back to online reviews if patients are consulting multiple sites, but multiple studies and surveys have shown that an increasing number of patients are consulting reviews.
Overall, what kind of results can you expect? It depends.
That’s probably not the answer you want to hear, and as data geeks, it’s not an answer we like to give. But it is true.
With any online marketing method, there are so many factors in play that it is impossible to predict with certainty what type of result you might get, and how long it might take to get them. To recap, some of those factors include:
- Whether your website is brand-new or not
- How much content you have, how long it has been published, and how unique it is
- How saturated your market is
- What your competitors are doing
- How much time, effort, and/or budget you can put into marketing your practice
- How many different marketing strategies you are doing
As a general rule of thumb, the smaller, less saturated your market is, and the more different marketing methods you are using, the quicker you can expect to see results. All of your different marketing methods can work together in a way to help you build up ranking and attract new patients through more diverse channels.
It can be a bit daunting to invest in something like marketing without knowing if or when you will see a return on investment. But one thing is for sure: if you do nothing to market yourself online, your practice will not be able to get ahead or stay ahead of competition in the long term. We recommend working with a trusted marketing company who will let you know when something is not working as planned, and help you quickly pivot to something else.