There isn’t a business operating now that hasn’t been in some way impacted by the digital revolution. Folks no longer use phone books to look up goods and services. This is as true for the medical profession as it is for landscapers, retailers, and lawyers.
What have phone books been replaced by?
Ironically, the answer is phones themselves. Think about it. When you want to find a local Italian restaurant or your searching for the nearest bowling alley, what do you do? You use your phone to look that information up on the internet. That is the new face of marketing, and it requires a new strategy in order to succeed.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a new concept, but it is becoming increasingly relevant as we move forward in the 21st century. Companies are now dedicating much more of their marketing budget to online strategies than offline. While radio, print, and television remain important, they’ve had to make room for an increasingly vital player: the internet. It’s not uncommon for some businesses to dedicate the largest chunk of their marketing budget to driving traffic to their website.
Facebook, Google, and Amazon complete a trinity of powerhouses that are responsible for over 90% of the ad revenue market. Google itself was responsible for 96% of all smartphone traffic. Facebook dominated traffic that came through social media. Amazon has broken through where other online services failed, claiming a sizeable portion of commercial internet traffic.
For medical professionals, keeping up with the times means understanding these concepts and how they’re executed to improve your business’s earnings.
There are on average 62,000 searches performed on Google per second. Folks are looking up ideas for their home, new technology on the market, local retailers, local entertainment, good lawyers, restaurants, and yes, even doctors. While doctors have not been shy about advertising over the radio or television, this form of advertising only targets potential customers, patients, or clients who are considering their options. SEO is meant to target those who are researching and gathering information on their best course of action.
It’s also true that the vast majority of those who are using search engines to look up goods and services will never look past the first page of Google. Statistically, only 7% will look past the second page.
The question then becomes: what is SEO, how does it work, and how does it drive traffic to my website and patients into my practice?
Fair question. Allow us to explain.
Research and analytics is the first part of the process. For doctors, this means targeting those who may have a need for your services. For SEO specialists, this means mining the vast reservoir of search engine queries looking for patterns and commonplace strategies for everyday folks looking for the things they need.
This entails making an educated guess on what your ideal customer’s search key will be when trying to find medical services in their area.
For instance, one of the best marketing strategies for medical practices is to target locally. Consider the fact that there is going to be far more competition for a keyword like “plastic surgeons” than there would be for “plastic surgeons near me”, “plastic surgeons in atlanta”, “local plastic surgeons”. Hence why sound plastic surgeon marketing strategies target either the local area in which they operate or a specialized area of practice for which they are renowned.
There are a couple of different ways to do this.
PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertising essentially allows you to purchase ad space on specific keywords. For instance, if you are a plastic surgeon you may be interested in targeting keywords that pertain to your specific area of practice, the general area in which you practice, or even common questions that people might have about plastic surgery.
While it may be tempting to cast a wide net here, consider this.
If you’ve invested your money in PPC advertising, as many sites do, a broader search key will cost you more money and produce a lower conversion rate. That’s because there’s going to be more competition for the digital “real estate”. In the digital realm targeting the correct keyword searches is every bit as important as “location”.
There is a Goldilocks zone when targeting the right keywords. You don’t want it to be so generic that it targets those who aren’t interested in the medical service you provide, but you don’t want it to be so specific it excludes those who would be interested in your service. Hence why SEO specialists are in such high demand.
Onsite blogs optimized for search engines can target potential patients. This is where content marketing comes into play. Patients will have questions about procedures, or their options when attempting to deal with a certain problem. For instance, let’s say that there is a doctor who is a kidney specialist. Their patients might be interested in the sorts of dietary changes they are going to have to make in order to avoid further issues. They might be interested in what their options are. If they perform a search on the topic, and find your website, then you’ve developed a rapport with them. That’s incredibly important.
Meanwhile, you can also target search keys like “kidney doctors atlanta”, “kidney specialists near me”, and other useful keywords to your practice. This is known as generating “organic” traffic and it is one of the most important aspects of SEO as a marketing strategy. Statistically, organic searches produce conversions and interactions at a higher rate than PPC advertising, though PPC remains a highly useful strategy under certain circumstances, and especially for those who are new to an area or are just starting out their practice.
Logistically, marketing for doctors is no different than marketing for any other industry, at least in terms of SEO. Keywords are still the cornerstone of a sound SEO strategy, though there are limits to what Google will tolerate. Suffice it to say, you can’t simply stuff a page with keywords and expect that to net you consistently good results. Google will penalize pages that it finds attempting to manipulate search results in this way.
Google has shifted to considering the visitor’s experience of your page as one of its prime indicators in terms of ranking. Keywords, of course, remain vital. Here, we’ll go over some of the main strategies that SEO companies employ in order to increase traffic to their client’s websites.
Targeting the right keywords is the half the battle. The other half is positioning them in the right place. You may have noticed that the heading for this section is “keyword targeting for medical professionals”. That’s because it’s medical professionals that I’m hoping to draw with this article. One excellent spot for keywords is in headings. In addition, the following spots all make great places to put keywords that you’re hoping to target:
- The page’s title
- Headings and subheadings
- Text that anchors links
- Image names
- Image alt text
- Meta titles
You also, of course, want to use keywords in your actual paragraph copy. Hence why bloggers and skilled copywriters are in increasingly high demand. This form of content marketing is absolutely vital to sustaining your digital presence. It increases both awareness of your business and allows you to establish a rapport with your potential patients.
One caveat to keywords is that in 2018, it is no longer possible to stuff a bunch of instances of a keyword into a shoddily composed article or website and expect that Google is going to reward you for that. Even if it works temporarily, Google will punish pages that abuse the keyword system by “keyword stuffing”.
Instead, Google pays attention to the visitor’s interaction with your site. Google knows how long a user spends there, what kinds of interactions they have, what they click, and so on. Medical professionals don’t sell services online, but many allow you to schedule appointments or email for information. When a visitor shows that level of interest in your site, you gain more credibility under Google’s ranking system. In other words, these are the sorts of things that now heavily impact your ranking on Google.
Have you ever noticed that if you search online for sporting goods, suddenly the ad space that takes up the pages where you read your articles is now trying to sell you other sporting goods that it thinks you might be interested in? This is known as retargeting, and it’s become more popular over the past few years. The question is: does it work for medical professionals?
It’s hard to say. Retargeting involves spending money and if that money can be more usefully applied elsewhere, then it should be. Since medical professionals are not selling anything on their websites, retargeting may not provide the same results for medical practices as it would for (say) ecommerce stores. Nonetheless, it’s an important part of SEO.
Email marketing may sound like on the surface like you’re spamming your patient’s inboxes, but it’s actually proven to be an effective way to engage your patients. Putting out monthly newsletters through email is a great way to keep your patients thinking about their health and the services you provide. Doctors can provide tips for managing certain ailments and conditions related to their field of practice, and information concerning new medications or procedures that have just been cleared by the FDA. It allows you to establish yourself as an authority in your field, keeps your patients engaged, keeps you in the forefront of their thoughts, and builds a sense of trust. It can also be used to drive traffic to your site.
But you know what’s even more popular than email marketing? The topic of our next section, Social Media Marketing.
Social Media remains one of the top ways to engage potential clients, patients, and customers. Consider the fact that there are over 3 billion social media accounts on the planet with thousands more being added each day. That’s roughly one for every two people on earth. More importantly, the younger people are growing up with social media playing an integral role in their lives. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook especially are responsible for the vast majority of ad revenue generated by the medium. Furthermore, they represent a way for companies, doctors, lawyers, and entrepreneurs to engage with their customers, clients, and patients.
For medical practices, this can mean sharing humorous memes, images of cats with stethoscopes, or talking about areas that are relevant to their field of practice such as:
- New therapies and medications that are being developed
- Interesting news articles concerning medical technology, breakthroughs, or concerns
- Comparing different approaches to treating the same problem
- Issues related to health and nutrition for certain conditions
- Funny memes preferably with cats
These all constitute a potential way to engage your patients. For instance, marketing for plastic surgeons should focus on different techniques, approaches, and expected outcomes. This can be handled in a blog format, and you can link to it using a social media account established just for your practice.
These types of engagements are important because they build a rapport, engender trust, and keep your patients thinking about their health and ways to improve it.
If you were a company, this would be a matter of strengthening your brand. You’re not a company, you’re a medical professional, but medical practices are still businesses. If you’re a plastic surgeon then your “brand” is your reputation. You can establish that with your results, but you can also do so by engaging patients and potential patients via online marketing.
Thinking like a company helps you generate leads and find new patients. It helps connect you to people. It ensures a dialog.
Today, the line that separates social media marketing and search engine marketing are beginning to dissolve. That’s because they can be used in tandem to strengthen your reputation across multiple channels.
One of the best ways to engage interested parties through social media (other than cat memes, that is) is by utilizing expertly crafted blogging using many of the same techniques we described above. Cheaper SEO companies will downplay the importance of content, but as we indicated earlier, visitor experience of your webpage is what determines your rankings. The more a visitor engages with your page, the better off you are.
Blogs and content marketing not only allows you to pull interested people in from search engines, but it also gives you something to share with those who like or are following your social media pages.
Each social media platform tends to target different demographics with different interests, but platforms like Facebook and Twitter are so ubiquitous now that there’s no reason why any business interest, including surgeons and other medical professionals, should not be investing in them.
Not only will blog posts and exceptional content draw readers in from search queries, but they can also be shared over these social media outlets. That brings us to our next topic:
Much of what we have referred to earlier in terms of blog posts is the concept of content marketing. What content marketing is not is ad copy. Ad copy promotes a brand. Content marketing provides information. By extension, it establishes you as an authority in your field and helps you develop a rapport with your customers. For medical professionals, this means informing your patients.
It’s important to recognize that content marketing is a long-term strategy that pays off consistently, but not necessarily immediately. Immediate returns can be gained from things like PPC advertising. Content marketing requires a commitment, but many of those in skilled professions like doctors and lawyers are finding that their commitment to content marketing has provided them with a competitive edge over those who have neglected the practice.
Remember when we said that Google was beginning to rank sites in terms of visitor engagement, including the amount of time spent on a webpage? Well, this is precisely why content marketing is so vitally important right now.
Generally speaking, an SEO Company can set forth a content strategy. They then employ skilled writers to research and execute that strategy. Doctors themselves can be engaged in this process, offering ideas for intriguing blog posts, medical opinions on different topics, and other such information that would be interesting to their patients.
For instance, kidney specialists might want to talk about dialysis, nutritional information, kidney diets, and so on. This can be done in the form of blogs, video presentations, podcasts, and just about anything else you can think of.
For the medical field, what are some practical ways to engage readers in this way?
- Opinions on the effectiveness of different treatments
- Case studies and information on procedures or therapies
- FAQ’s on different procedures
- Q&A sessions with the doctor
- Success stories
- Tips and Tricks
- Top 10 Lists
Just to name a few.
This helps you generate leads in a number of ways and is becoming, in modern times, one of the most important tools for marketing and seeking out new patients even in the medical profession.
Content marketing is not new, but the internet has added to it a whole new dimension that has made it one of the most important ways for service providers to engage those interested in their services. Offline content marketing such as brochures are still very useful.
Nonetheless, quality content is what is going to not only drive traffic to your website but ensure that the visitor engages with your site while they’re there.
Google My Business, is a service that allows you to pop up in things like Google Maps or Google’s local finder, or even organic searches. When folks are looking for a certain service “near me” or in their home city, this will increase your chances of popping up. Part of any sound SEO strategy requires not only claiming your GMB listing but also optimizing it for search results.
It’s also true that many businesses have not claimed their GMB listing, and even more have not filled them out properly. This is even more true for doctors that may have their heads elsewhere. Nonetheless, it’s important for your patients to be able to find you, and GMB allows them to do just that.
GMB makes it easier for you to:
- Rank locally in search results
- Improve organic traffic
- Help your patients find you
- Give them information about your business
- Tell them how to contact you
It also allows your customers to rate and review your services. Hopefully, this is a good thing for you, because many folks make decisions based on reputation sites like Yelp. For those that have a tough go of it, many SEO companies provide reputation management services as well.
Even still, medical practices that have GMB listings get (on average) 35% more clicks, and what’s best is it’s easy enough to set up yourself and will improve other aspects of your online marketing strategy.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a cosmetic surgeon, a general practitioner, a kidney specialist, or operate any other kind of medical practice, you’re in competition with others who are providing the same services. It’s important to understand how folks are making decisions nowadays and how the internet has impacted the process of reaching out to potential patients that may be seeking your services.
On the one hand, it’s a lot more complicated than it used to be. On the other hand, the surface area is much greater in terms of creating impressions. The same things that mattered 30 years ago still matter. Word of mouth remains important as does developing a rapport with and engaging your patients. What’s changed is how we go about it.
Understanding the process will help give your practice the competitive advantage it needs and develop a lasting marketing strategy in the age of the internet.