SEO marketing and a hefty ad spend might initially seem enticing for doctors opening their doors or looking to grow their practices. But the reality is that these tools alone will fall flat in the new digital era of advertising. Doctors who want to gain new patients need to step back and take a more holistic approach to their digital strategy.
The good news? Spending a little time and energy in just three key areas will give doctors a solid foundation to build great campaigns upon. Before you invest in ads and SEO marketing, address these things first.
1. Get your online presence in tip-top shape.
For the patients you’re targeting, an ad is just a gateway to a broader search. 82% of people will research providers on sites like Yelp, Healthgrades, and Vitals. It’s critical to maintain compelling, accurate, and up-to-date profiles on popular patient destinations, as 63% have picked one provider over another based on a strong online presence. And don’t focus your energy all in one place. Most patients consult a few sites before making their final decision. It’s important to take stock of your full web-wide presence to boost your visibility and credibility in the eyes of more patients.
>> Related read: Your website is less important than you think — here’s why
Since people overwhelmingly (81%, to be exact) will even look up a provider referred to them by a friend or family member, you can bet that they research providers they come across in ads. Prospective patients will Google your name to find objective, third-party review sites and healthcare directories where they can validate the information they have on hand. SEO has even changed to reflect this new consumer behavior — meaning these sites get prime real estate in search results today.
2. Make sure your online reputation reflects your practice accurately.
Your online reputation is a linchpin for practice success. Patients who visit sites like Yelp, Google, and Healthgrades are keenly interested in what their peers have to say about their firsthand experiences. A study revealed that 94% of patients read reviews before making a decision (and for three-quarters of them, it’s their very first stop!). At the same time, nearly 60% have chosen one provider over another based on their online reputation.
>> Related read: Mastering reviews to become a 5-star practice
Case in point: I recently spoke to Dr. George Woodbury — a dermatologist based out of Cordova, Tennessee, and a Doctor.com champion — who touched on the work he’s done to raise his SEO profile. “But that project would come to naught,” he explained, “if it weren’t for there being a good presence for patients to find. God forbid I should be elevating myself in terms of SEO when people are seeing bad things!” If your SEO marketing and online advertising are sparking interest in your practice but you don’t have the positive reviews to back it up, you’re losing out on valuable patients.
3. Convert new patients with online scheduling and appointment requests.
People are increasingly digital in everything they do. And just like they “shop” on Amazon, they “shop” for healthcare on the internet, too. Facilitate the last mile of that journey by giving them the “one-click-purchasing” experience. For healthcare providers, that means supplying the tools to schedule or request appointments wherever they come across your practice.
Patients don’t want to change channels to book an appointment. In fact, by 2020, Accenture predicts that 64% of patients will book appointments through digital means. But online scheduling isn’t only a convenience on the patient side. It expands your office hours 24/7 so you capture appointments around the clock — even when your office is closed. It also makes things easy for your front-office staff. Instead of fielding phone calls, online scheduling opens up time for more pressing issues.
Bonus tip: SEO marketing and ads alone won’t win over the 60+ segment either.
Think these aspects of practice marketing apply only to millennials? Think again! The older demographic is more digitally savvy than ever. Research shows that baby boomers’ habits, expectations, and preferences are in line with the younger cohort’s behaviors. Plus, the 60+ demographic is even more swayed by what they see online, as negative ratings would cause 90% to find another doctor.
No matter how creative your ads or how great your SEO marketing strategy, neither is a silver bullet to attracting new patients, and all efforts will be in vain if a solid online foundation isn’t already in place. Before you invest in additional ad spend, take the pulse of your web-wide reach to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward in the places patients start their search.
Want a leg up on the competition? Book 15 minutes with a Doctor.com practice consultant who can help you jump-start the process today!