The many benefits of digital marketing and advertising for gastroenterology practices
Building relationships with referring providers will always remain important. But the scale and effectiveness of digital marketing make it a worthy investment for GI providers aiming to gain new patients. Here are some top benefits to consider.
- Budget-friendly. No budget is too small for digital marketing. With minimal production costs, a wealth of online “ad space,” and the ability to customize efforts to fit your desired spending, digital marketing and advertising strategies are cost-effective. What’s more, the digital world offers flexibility to ensure you make the most of your investment. You may refine your strategy as you go by altering language and images to increase engagement or putting more money behind the efforts that are generating the best results.
- Analytics at your fingertips. You always know how your digital marketing and advertising strategies are performing with real-time data. Analytics and insights help you make better decisions, learn from mistakes, and scale your successes. You can even compare similar ads side-by-side to see which works best.
- Choose your audience. Digital marketing and advertising give you control over who you want to reach. You get to choose your geographic and demographic targets, desired number of impressions or conversions, and even the interests or attributes of your intended audience.
Practice growth begins with your website and online presence
Gastroenterologists need to stand out from the competition online. Relying strictly on referrals from other physicians is no longer enough to compete in today’s digital world. Even with a referral, healthcare consumers are going online to do research about providers, browse patient reviews, and make decisions about their GI care. That’s why enhancing your web presence is a surefire way to make an impression on prospective patients.
An eye-catching website design is a crucial first step, as your website is often the first place a prospective patient goes to learn more about you. Your website should give patients the best possible introduction to your practice and highlight the exceptional care you provide.
Here are some tips for maximizing your website to meet the expectations of modern consumers:
- Keep information accurate and up-to-date. While it sounds simple, make sure all the info listed on your website is easy to find and up-to-date. You should list your hours of operation, physical address, and phone number, as well as convenient contact buttons. If you have a patient portal, link to it from your website. This not only makes it easy for current patients to find, but also lets prospective patients know your gastroenterology practice prioritizes digital convenience.
- Highlight your specialties, services, and providers. Catalog the specific GI conditions you treat, procedures you specialize in, and any cutting-edge technology your practice is using. Add separate pages on your website to provide detailed information about the conditions you treat and procedures you offer. This will also improve your SEO performance because it gives search engines more content and keywords to work with.
- Display positive reviews. Highlight positive patient testimonials or import reviews from Google, Yelp or Healthgrades, so they’re featured on your website. Glowing reviews will demonstrate your commitment to the patient experience. Since 74 percent of patients say online reviews are very or extremely important when choosing a healthcare provider, they have a real impact on patient acquisition.
- Display bios and photos of providers and/or staff. Use professional photos and detailed bios that articulate both your approach to patient care and your medical training. Help prospective patients feel like they can get to know your providers, whether through engaging copy or the use of video.
A good website is an incredible marketing tool, but a robust online presence should go beyond your URL. There are numerous effective tactics for ensuring your place at the top of a local search through search engines like Google. A few examples include:
- Claiming your business profiles. Your gastroenterology practice is probably already listed in several online directories, including Google My Business, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, Citysearch, and more. Claim these listings and ensure information about your practice is accurate and up-to-date. This helps patients connect with you, but also boosts your search engine ranking.
- Using social media. Social media is a great engagement tool for connecting with new and existing patients alike. Nearly 75 percent of business owners who use social media to promote their business feel their efforts have been successful1. But it’s important to have a plan. Choose platforms that make the most sense for your business goals, and aim to post three to four times a week. If you’re short on resources (most private practices are!), focus more on a platform that emphasizes quick content bursts (like Facebook or Twitter) and less where it requires more investment and resources (like YouTube).
- Implementing an online reputation management strategy. Not only do patient reviews help patient conversion, they are a key factor in enhancing online visibility. Gastroenterology practices with more and better reviews show up higher in Google searches, which leads to more website traffic, new appointments, and over time, measurable practice growth.
- Utilizing smart search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Think about how a patient might search online for their conditions or related treatment questions and the words they would use. Include those on your website. Use these popular keywords to highlight your gastroenterology expertise on your website and other online provider listings. This gives search engines more content to index, improving your search engine ranking.
A gastroenterologist’s guide to local search marketing and SEO
To be competitive in today’s digital world, gastroenterology practices need to focus on local search marketing and search engine optimization strategies. You may provide exceptional GI care, but most patients won’t know that if they can’t find you online. You’ll need robust, intentional tactics to maximize your online performance and improve your search engine ranking. Although search algorithms are constantly evolving, SEO experts have settled on some basic strategies to help your GI practice rise to the top of a local search.
Here are some top tips for effective SEO and local search marketing:
- Enhance your online profile(s). Make good use of online business directories by claiming your profile, adding relevant details about your gastroenterology practice, including a link to your website and online booking information, and even uploading photos or media to make your practice stand out. Optimizing your Google My Business profile is a crucial step to be included in the search engine’s “local pack” – a breakout list of providers that displays when someone searches “gastroenterologists near me.”
- Add more details to your website. Creating separate pages on your website to share information about your practice, your specialties, common GI conditions, and treatment options gives search engines more content to index, which improves your standing in a local search.
- Adopt a content marketing plan. Content marketing tactics drive traffic to your website and increase awareness of your gastroenterology practice’s brand. Blog content on your website also increases the number of pages indexed by search engines, which boosts your chances of ranking as well.
- Improve your online reputation. Your Google star rating can also play a big role in your local search ranking. Be more proactive in soliciting online reviews and address any negative feedback to increase your star rating.
Consider digital advertising for greater reach
Once you’ve focused on these organic SEO and local search marketing tactics, it might be time to consider investing in paid digital advertising. Using paid search and/or sponsored social media campaigns, gastroenterologists can reach even more prospective patients in a targeted local area. With analytics at your fingertips, you can scale campaigns up or down, tweak language and images, and refine targeting to increase your return on investment (ROI) as you go.
Paid search, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, allows you to show up near the top of search results pages for specific key terms, paying only when a prospective patient clicks on your ad.
Facebook ads are another budget-friendly digital advertising option that helps you reach more prospective patients, drive traffic to your website, and increase conversions. “Boosting” educational and/or promotional content from your page helps you reach more people. You can invest in a full-scale ad campaign to broaden your reach.
When combined with organic marketing efforts and/or traditional tactics, digital advertising helps saturate your local market with practice awareness, which supports your practice growth goals.
More on search engine optimization
Page 1 potential: 5 tactics to get your healthcare practice toward the top of search results
Helping healthcare practices get found online: Search ranking factors and trends from SEO experts
Why your healthcare practice may not show up in the Google Local Pack
Top strategies for growing your gastroenterology practice
A solid growth plan helps gastroenterologists stay one step ahead of their local competitors. While modern marketing and advertising will support new patient acquisition, thriving practices know it’s not enough to sustain long-term growth. GI practices also need to support patient loyalty and retention. It's also critical to set goals on a regular basis and monitor key metrics that contribute to the achievement of these goals.
Decide on key performance indicators (KPIs) that help you measure progress and success along the way. Website traffic statistics, search engine results rankings, new appointment volume, no-show rate, and reputation metrics are all worthwhile data points for a gastroenterologist to measure as the practice grows. Successful practitioners also optimize each patient’s lifetime value (LTV), a measurement of potential revenue of all visits for a patient through their lifetime.
An all-in-one practice growth platform allows gastroenterology practice operators to keep this wealth of information available on demand – tracking practice operations at a glance, so you can make decisions and refine strategies as you go.
Boost patient retention at your GI practice
Patient acquisition is a key component of any practice marketing plan, but long-term, sustainable growth also requires significant investment in patient retention and patient loyalty strategies.
You can’t build a business on patient acquisition alone. To build practice volume, you have to keep patients engaged and satisfied, too. That’s because we know today’s savvy healthcare consumers won’t stick around if they’re not getting the care or convenience they need.
In fact, according to Patient Pop research, patients report that they’re leaving healthcare practices that don’t meet their needs. More than one-third of patients say they’ve left a provider in the past two years; 80 percent of them cited a poor in-person experience and/or lack of access and communication as the reason for their departure.
Meeting or exceeding patient expectations is crucial to success. Strengthen the patient-provider relationship with regular satisfaction surveys, modern-day technology that enhances convenience, and ongoing communication and engagement.
Here’s how to put patient retention tactics into practice:
- Modernize the patient experience. Online scheduling, telehealth options, digital intake and registration, and automated appointment confirmations and reminders are all worthwhile investments to streamline the patient experience. More than half of patients prefer to go digital for the following services:
- Making an appointment
- Filling out forms
- Asking a question
- Accessing health records
Text messaging is the preferred communication method for appointment reminders, and nearly 60 percent of patients would like text message reminders of when they’re due for an appointment.
- Solicit feedback. Automating patient satisfaction surveys after every appointment shows patients you care about their experience. It also helps build your online reputation. Identifying trends from patient feedback also helps you address any common concerns before they lead to patient attrition.
- Reach out regularly. Ongoing engagement with patients through social media, email campaigns, and blogging also strengthens the patient-provider relationship, even in between appointments. Patients that feel a connection to your gastroenterology practice are more likely to return for a follow-up appointment, recommend you to others, and leave a good review. You can always share practice updates, new providers, or updated medical guidance with patients through one of your digital engagement platforms.
More on practice growth
What is a practice growth platform and how can it help private practices achieve 2021 goals?
5 ways every healthcare practice can get more from a practice growth platform
Making your healthcare practice a thriving business: Four must-haves for a technology platform
Online reputation management made easy: A gastroenterologist’s guide
Direct referrals play a large role in many gastroenterology practices, but patients no longer rely solely on the word of other doctors to get the care they need. Most consumers conduct their own online research before committing to a healthcare practice, even in cases where they’ve received a direct referral from another provider.
Google measures online patient reviews using a five-star rating system that gives consumers an easy performance measure at a glance. Many prospective patients will also take time to read individual reviews, but your overall star rating is the most important review factor.
In fact, nearly 70 percent of patients will only consider a provider with an average 4-star rating or above. What’s more, when searching online, many healthcare consumers will use the word “best,” as in [best gastroenterology practice near me].” On Google, searches with the word “best” will only display providers with a 4-star rating or higher.
Thus, the value of a referral from a trusted provider plus a high star rating online is immeasurable. Improve your star rating and develop a reputation management strategy with these top tips:
- Solicit patient surveys. Consider sending automated patient satisfaction surveys after each appointment to get routine feedback on the patient experience. This shows patients that you care, which can strengthen the patient-provider relationship and increase patient loyalty. In fact, PatientPop research found that patients who are surveyed about their experience are twice as likely to proactively write a review for Google, Yelp, or another provider directory.
- Respond to feedback. When you’re running a business, negative feedback is almost inevitable. When this happens, it’s critical to respond. Acknowledge the feedback, and thank the patient for reaching out. On the other hand, appreciating positive reviews helps build a positive relationship with patients, too. A simple “thank you!” goes a long way.
- Invest in convenience. Convenience is a top priority for today’s healthcare consumer, and it influences the gastroenterology providers they choose. Online scheduling, automated appointment confirmations and reminders, telehealth options, and digital intake and registration make things easier for patients, reduce wait times, and increase efficiency for your practice.
More on online reputation management
Creating and maintaining a 5-star reputation for your healthcare practice
The risks and potential rewards of negative patient reviews
Best practices for gastroenterology branding and content marketing
Gastroenterologists should consider three tactics to build their online brand: a first-rate website design, a smart approach to reputation management, and the distribution of compelling content through blogging, social media, and email campaigns.
Building an impactful brand for your gastroenterology practice
A powerful website design considers style as well as function with eye-catching visual elements and thoughtful use of colors and imagery. GI practices should choose a consistent color scheme that complements their logo to use across all their digital assets, as well as one or two simple fonts to keep it easy to read. Practice owners should also think about the imagery that best suits their brand. Do you want to focus on clinical imagery that highlights the world-class technology you use to care for patients? Or should you focus on lifestyle images that showcase how you alleviate patients’ GI symptoms and enhance their quality of life? The photos you use on your website, social media, and other digital spaces tell a story about your business and what patients can expect from their experience there.
Reputation management closes the deal
Your brand helps differentiate your practice in a crowded digital landscape, but your online reputation drives decision-making. In fact, one of the first things a prospective patient will learn about your brand is your online reputation. A 2021 survey by PatientPop found that 74 percent of patients ranked online reviews as “very” or “extremely important” factors in choosing a healthcare provider. GI practices that focus on driving more patient reviews and a higher star rating make it easier for prospective patients to affirm that their practice is a top-notch choice.
While visual branding and a stellar online reputation build the foundation of a memorable digital footprint, a content marketing strategy takes your GI practice brand to the next level. Producing compelling content allows you to reach patients in all the digital places where they already spend time – such as email or text inboxes, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, YouTube, and more.
Email campaigns deliver timely, actionable information to patients
Gastroenterologists can share timely, pertinent health information to patients through the use of email campaigns. Try segmenting email campaigns by diagnosis or demographics, so you’re providing information that’s of real value (i.e. tips for preventing an UC flare-up or managing heartburn and pregnancy). Every email should include a call to action with convenient links back to your website for appointment scheduling or visiting your blog to learn more.
Blogging showcases GI expertise and amplifies your SEO keyword strategy
Blogging allows you to publish interesting content and feature your providers and their unique expertise and medical specialties. It also has a real and lasting impact on your SEO strategy. The more original content on your website, the more keywords are indexed by search engines, which means you’ll likely improve your search engine ranking by blogging.
Blog posts allow you to delve more deeply into specific GI conditions and treatments. For most effective use of your keywords, use the language that patients are most likely to search – that is, common terms instead of clinical ones. By including resources for people living with gastrointestinal disease on your website, you show you care about your patients’ wellbeing as a whole. Some examples might include: gluten-free dietary suggestions for people living with celiac disease, information about meditation and stress reduction techniques to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or home remedies to reduce the discomfort of hemorrhoids.
A blog is also an excellent place to highlight advanced technology or medical breakthroughs at your practice that might differentiate you from your competition. Think: a new technique for gallbladder surgery or a deep dive on immunosuppressant therapy in treating Crohn’s disease.
Blog posts that pop up in a search query of a specific treatment or condition help drive traffic to your website and convert web visitors into patients.
Social media strengthens the patient-provider relationship and creates connections with those seeking GI care
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly three out of four people use social media regularly2. Thus, it’s a great place to meet prospective patients and strengthen relationships with existing ones.
But the world of social media is wide, and engaging on multiple platforms may be overwhelming for practice owners. You don’t have to be everywhere at once. Facebook is by far the largest and most popular social media site, so you can’t go wrong with a business page on the platform. Beyond that, think about which platforms make the most sense for the particular needs of your gastroenterology practice. Also, consider your ideal patients and where they are mostly likely to spend their time when online. If you take a lot of photos, Instagram is worthwhile (nearly 90 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business3), while YouTube might be a good choice if you’ve got the bandwidth to produce short informational videos.
LinkedIn is also a smart choice for gastroenterologists to build their professional brand, connect with other providers who might choose their practice for referrals, and recruit top-notch talent.
The most important thing is to post regularly, engage with comments and questions from other social media users, and direct people back to your website with links whenever possible.
If you need some inspiration for your content marketing and social media strategy, here are some common gastroenterology keywords, conditions and treatments to consider.
Common GI Keywords, Conditions & Symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Acid reflux
- Anal fissure
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Blood in stool
- Celiac disease
- Crohn's disease
- Colon cancer
- Colon polyps
- Crohn's disease and colitis
- Eosinophilic esophagitis
- Fatty liver
- Gas and bloating
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Gastrointestinal motility disorders
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Liver disease
- Rectal bleeding
- Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Ulcerative colitis
Common GI Keywords, Treatments & Procedures
- Acid reflux treatment/heartburn/GERD
- Colon cancer screening
- Constipation & hemorrhoid treatment
- Endoscopy/Capsule endoscopy/EGD
- Fecal transplant
- Gastroenterology consultation
- Helicobacter pylori
- Hemorrhoid banding
- Non-surgical weight loss
- Non-Surgical hemorrhoid treatment
- Orbera: Non-surgical weight loss/Gastric balloon for weight loss
- Upper endoscopy
More on content marketing
7 blog post types for healthcare marketing
5 fast tips: How healthcare practices should use social media during COVID-19
What doctors should know when blogging about hot medical topics
1State of Social 2019, Buffer
2Social Media Fact Sheet, Pew Research Center
3“Thank You and Happy Birthday, Instagram!,” Instagram