The focal point for today’s medical marketing and branding is a video screen. It may be on a mobile device (and most often is), tablet, or laptop, but the first experience a prospective patient has with your healthcare practice probably takes place online.
Your practice’s ability to attract new patients depends on how well you’re positioned in the competitive online landscape. What does it take to get your practice in front of more patients — and then convince them to come see you?
In a recent PatientPop live learning session, two of our strategy experts discussed the steps any practice can take to increase and expand upon their online presence. The goal is to become more visible in your area, and to be part of patients’ choices for care as frequently as possible. (Watch a recording of that learning session now.)
Here are five featured tips to help build up your practice’s presence where it really counts: online, with patients in your local market.
1. Make sure all your practice information is correct.
This may sound remarkably obvious, but it’s the most important aspect of how businesses are featured online. To understand your web presence, check every online location that includes a profile of you or your practice. On every site listing for your practice — or for you as a physician or provider — ensure the following information is correct: your practice name, practice address, and main phone number.
This is often referred to by the acronym “NAP” (name, address, phone). (Hint: there are plenty of business listing websites you may not even be aware of. To conduct an informal audit, search for your practice name.)
Getting these basics updated everywhere accomplishes two critical goals:
- The overall consistency gives Google and other search engines the confidence to surface your practice profiles in search results. Inconsistent, incorrect, or incomplete information is passed by because it’s difficult to assess which details are accurate.
- Patients get the right contact information. Again, this is obvious, but incorrect business information is everywhere online. At times, no one corrects outdated addresses or phone numbers, which can be the result of a physician joining another practice, or a practice moving locations. Once a prospective patient calls a wrong phone number, they’re not going to search for you further.
2. Optimize your Google business profile.
While it’s important to confirm accurate, consistent information everywhere, it’s also essential to make the most of your Google business profile (often referred to as your Google My Business profile). The more detail and flavor you can provide, the better chance you’ll surface in patient searches for your specialty. (Watch a learning session on how to optimize your Google My business profile.)
The details that make up your Google My Business profile can add up to be one of the most influential search result factors. In a recent analysis of search factors from an expert panel (including Joel Headley, PatientPop director of local search), Google My Business is the #1 factor affecting the Google “local pack,” which refers to the format of local search results seen here.
Some quick Google My Business tips: add a photo album, provide plenty of links back to your practice website, include review summaries from other websites, and get specific with your business category selection. For instance, “hand surgeon” is better than “orthopedic surgeon” is better than “surgeon” — and Google knows they’re all related.
3. Get your practice website in shape.
One way to better position your practice website — to attract search engines and curious patients — is to meet today’s standards of a well-performing website. In short, these four characteristics are imperative to compete online today:
- Your practice website must be optimized for mobile devices.
Whether you design your site specifically for smartphones and tablets, or the site can respond automatically to the size of browser windows (known as responsive design), looking and working well on mobile devices is a must. This is especially important since July 2019, when Google began “mobile-first indexing,” using the mobile version of a site to index pages.
- Your practice website must load quickly.
Speed is of the essence with today’s websites: Your site should load fast on a mobile device, and even faster on a desktop or laptop. Google tells us that as a page load time increases from one to five seconds, people are 90 percent more likely to leave the site.
- Your practice website must be “findable.”
Whether you develop your own website or work with a team or agency, ensure that your site is ready to be found and indexed by search engines. (Otherwise, what’s the point?) With each new blog post and new page, you increase your site’s chances of being found, as the new material alerts search engines that your site has more to offer.
- Your practice website must have clear calls to action.
Give patients plenty of convenient ways to take action and connect with your practice. Most useful and welcome are single clicks to your online scheduler and to make a direct call to your office.
4. Promote your practice services with the right strategy — and the right keywords.
Two of the key elements of Google search are relevance and authority. When you take the right strategic approach to your practice website pages, you can help improve your website standing for both.
Each care service that your practice offers patients should be featured on its own web page. In the example below, each service listed on this web page for West Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic links to a separate, comprehensive page on that service or medical condition.
With this strategy, your practice can then provide in-depth information about each service or condition, as well as your approach to care. This sets three business benefits into motion related to branding and visibility:
- Each page lets you establish your expertise on that topic, building your online authority on the subject matter more effectively than simply offering a single paragraph elsewhere on your practice website.
- With more pages on your website, Google and other search engines have more content to find and index, giving you more opportunities to get found in search results.
- Each page gives you an opportunity to use keywords and phrases related to conditions and care services. Keywords are the words and phrases people use when typing in a search query. When a keyword comes up repeatedly and naturally (without “overstuffing” the page), Google can infer a focus on that particular page, and that the page will likely be useful to a person searching on that topic.
5. Establish a proactive social media strategy for your practice.
For a combination of visibility and immediacy, it’s hard to beat the power of social media. Whether you prefer Facebook — which we recommend for healthcare practices — Instagram, YouTube, or even TikTok, social media output gives you an added outlet with a typically engaged audience.
Like most healthcare practices, you’re probably already active on one or more social media channels. To optimize and even amplify your presence, keep these best practices in mind:
- Create an editorial calendar to plan your posts, and stick with it.
- Only participate on channels with which you can keep a regular schedule. If that means just Facebook, great. Better to stick to a consistent level of outreach than to cover more bases unsuccessfully.
- Keep posts short. Offer links and images often. If you produce a blog, always offer links to your newer blog posts — that will get people visiting your practice website more often.
- Be sure to monitor all engagement, answer any questions, and respond to comments. Any person who proactively takes part in communicating with you via your social media channel should be considered a new patient lead.
Getting your healthcare practice online is easy. Optimizing that presence to attract patients — the right patients for your practice — and establish your brand as the leader in your market takes work. But with a focused online marketing strategy and time spent interacting with patients and followers, you can see improvements to some of your practice’s key business metrics.
Social media for healthcare providers: 9 statistics you need to know
Two overlooked strategies to expand your healthcare brand