The majority of patients are searching online to find information about their conditions and where they can seek treatment. If your practice does not have an effective online presence, you could miss out on those patients.
What exactly does an effective online presence entail? At a minimum, you need to have a website and listings in all of the major online directories and review sites. If you’d like to expand your online reach even further, you might also want to give social media or online advertising a try. Let’s dig a little further into each of these elements.
At a minimum, you should have the following:
These are the absolute minimum things we recommend for practices who want to create or improve their online presence.
Your website is more than just an online CV for your doctors. It’s not enough to simply have a website just to check a box. Now that more patients are looking online to find a doctor, practices are following suit and creating an online presence for themselves. Practices are having to compete for search ranking much more than they did 5-10 years ago, so doing the bare minimum with your website just won’t cut it anymore.
An effective website shows potential patients what your practice has to offer so they can determine if your practice is the right fit for them. Your website gives you an opportunity to detail the treatments and services you provide and the conditions you treat.
If done correctly, this is a chance to help your practice stand out from other practices in the area and better compete for search results. Your website should, of course, still include the basics like your location and hours, phone and fax numbers, doctor bios, and your specialties. In addition, we strongly recommend adding content explaining your expertise with key procedures and services, patient testimonials, and online appointment request forms to make appointment scheduling more convenient for patients. Patients have come to expect these sorts of features on practices’ websites, and if your website is lacking, they may look elsewhere for care.
Online listings help to reinforce information about your practice when local patients search for a doctor. This is crucial if you want your practice to show up in relevant searches by local patients. The key is to fill out as much of the information as possible and to keep the information consistent with what is on your website. You should definitely link the listings to your website whenever possible, but don’t neglect the other fields, either.
Start with claiming your Google listings, but don’t ignore other major listing services like Bing, Yahoo, Superpages, Yellow Pages, and Insider Pages. You should also have listings on popular review sites like Yelp, Healthgrades, Angie’s List, ZocDoc, and Vitals. Even better, encourage your patients to leave reviews for you on these sites.
Online Reviews & Reputation Marketing
Once you have all of your online listings claimed, encourage your patients to leave reviews for you on these sites.
The more reviews you have, particularly if they are positive, the more likely you are to have a higher ranking in search results. Try sending a follow-up email after the appointment with links to your review profiles or hand out a card to patients after the appointment with a list of all of the review sites where they can find you.
As an alternative, you can try a reputation marketing service. Our reputation marketing service, provided through our partners at Doctor.com, allows you to collect reviews from patients during an office visit via a tablet. With the patient’s permission, that single review can be syndicated to a number of review sites all at once. This is a great way to quickly build up lots of positive reviews for your practice, which often boosts a practice’s search ranking over time.
Expand Your Online Reach
Once you’ve covered the basics, you might want to try social media and/or online advertising to further your reach.
Your website and online listings help patients learn more about you and your practice, but social media allows you to really connect with your patients online. You can get to know more about your patients–what they are interested in, what their health concerns are, and what type of content they would like to see. You can share content on how to stay healthy, or anything else you think would be helpful for your patients. You can also give patients a glimpse into your practice and the things that happen around the office or community events that you participate in. All of these things help your practice to build a better connection with current patients and help potential patients learn more about your practice, beyond what they see on your website. Facebook, in particular, works very well for practices, though Instagram might also be effective if your practice has a younger patient base.
Just be sure you are keeping up a professional appearance on social media. Use high-quality images, and make sure your posts are grammatically-correct, even if that isn’t the norm on social media. Also, you should generally keep your social media content limited to topics directly related to your practice, or related to healthcare. It’s fine to post about holidays and fun things happening in your community, but make sure you balance it with information that would be useful for current and potential patients.
Online ads are another way to amplify your online presence. While search engine ranking can take several months to build up, online ads can start driving traffic to your website right away.
There are a few different networks you can use for online ads. If you’ve already established social media pages for your practice, you can run sponsored posts on those networks. Sponsored posts are shareable just like other social media posts, so they can really boost the reach of your message.
You might also want to try paid search ads like Google Ads. With paid search ads, you can target specific keyword searches, in addition to locations, to have your ads show up in search results for relevant local searches. These types of ads can be particularly effective if you are trying to increase your number of patients for a particular treatment or service.
Whether you just start with the basics, or you try everything, all of these different channels can work together to boost your online presence. Just make sure you have a solid plan in place and keep a consistent experience across all of your marketing methods, and you’ll be that much closer to achieving your online marketing goals.