Today, healthcare decisions are increasingly made online. Patients rely on search engines to find and assess local healthcare providers, to understand their health conditions, and to research treatment options. Almost three out of four people have looked online to find out about a doctor, a dentist, or medical care, according to PatientPop. More than half do so with regularity.
If you’re looking to attract new patients, you need to consider whether they can find you online and, if they can, whether they’re left with a positive impression of your practice. This requires an analysis of your web presence.
To gauge the strength of your web presence, ask yourself the following questions.
With 92 percent of the worldwide search engine market share, according to GlobalStats statcounter, Google dominates search. It is estimated that there are at least 2 trillion searches conducted on Google annually, according to Search Engine Land. According to the Google blog, one in every 20 Google searches is health related. This translates to at least 100 billion health searches worldwide each year. Thus, if you’re trying to establish your web presence, it’s critical to analyze where you and your practice land in Google search results.
It’s not enough to simply appear in results, either: where you rank is equally important. Page 1 of Google (or the first 10 search results) sees 92 percent of all search traffic, according to Chitika. The lower you rank on a page, the fewer clicks you will receive. According to Advanced Web Ranking, the top Google result garners a click-through rate of about 31 percent, the second position receives about 15 percent, and the third position receives almost 10 percent. By contrast, the last result on the page has a click-through rate of 1.12 percent.
When assessing your own web presence, start by asking yourself where you rank on Google for your name, practice name, specialty, the area you practice in, and other keywords relevant to your practice. Is your doctor website showing up? What about your web profiles?
Speaking of web profiles, the next question you should ask yourself is, “How do my web profiles look?” Web profiles are a critical part of your web presence because they help you showcase your brand across dozens of websites and help increase your opportunities to rank. Online web profiles can include local business directories like Google My Business or physician sites such as RateMDs.
These profiles are considered reputable by search engines and will often rank above even your own doctor website. These profiles can also be where new patients first learn about you: More than half of patients say they use the information on third-party websites to form an opinion on a doctor, dentist, or other healthcare provider, according to PatientPop.
Even if you haven’t yet created your own profiles, it’s possible that they already exist and contain inaccurate information. Claiming these profiles and ensuring that they contain accurate contact information helps generate trust with patients. Adding photos and other information about your practice to your profiles allows your patients to know what to expect and can help drive traffic to your own website.
Today, most practice owners understand the importance of having a website to attract new patients, but fewer understand how important a high-performing website is to their overall web presence. When we talk about website performance, we’re generally discussing page speed, security, and search engine optimization.
According to Google, more than half of all web visits are likely to be abandoned if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. This means you risk losing a new patient who has found you online if your website does not load quickly. Page speed is a Google search engine ranking factor, so having a slow doctor website may mean you may lose some of your overall web presence.
You also need to take care to ensure your doctor website is secure, which means upgrading your website to HTTPS. This means there is an encrypted connection between a web server and the browser. It increases the security of your site, helps patients trust your website with their information, and impacts performance, as Google Chrome has started flagging any site that is not secure.
At its core, your website should be useful and accessible to new patients. It’s where you share your practice brand and what it feels like to visit your practice. Your doctor website should include information patients are likely to search for and be organized in a way that is easy for both new patients and search engines to read.
Read more: 5 pages your medical website needs
Another focus of your web presence is how you’re being perceived online. Do new patients trust you to provide them with the experience they’re looking for? According to PatientPop, almost 70 percent of patients say a strong online reputation is very or extremely important to them when they’re choosing a new provider. Even among patients who have received a referral, 91 percent of people say they will always or sometimes conduct additional online research, according to a report by Kyruus.
Your online reputation is most directly impacted by online patient reviews. In fact, 72 percent of patients say they check reviews as their first step in choosing a provider, according to Software Advice. And according to BrightLocal, 78 percent of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Thus, it’s important to the success of your web presence that you have a doctor reputation management strategy in place. Plus, a strong online reputation is an immediate differentiator in search results. A high star rating — usually shown in yellow or orange — can help draw a patient’s eye when browsing search results.
Doctor reputation management is an ongoing process. This includes monitoring your online reputation so that you can keep track of the feedback you’re receiving, both positive and negative. It’s also important that you continuously request feedback, perhaps with automated patient satisfaction surveys.
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