According to recent surveys, more than 70% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor.*
For today’s doctor to succeed online, now more than ever, it is vital for you to establish a strong presence across the web and have total control over all the places you appear online. Having a strong web presence is about effectively differentiating your practice with a compelling story. More critically, it is also about making it easy for your time-strapped patients to find and engage with your practice at their point of need.
In our experience working with tens of thousands of doctors over the past 5 years, we at Doctor.com have found three critical components for today’s doctors to establish online success:
- Your Profile Listings on the sites and apps that patients use most (Healthgrades, Yelp, etc)
- The Patient Reviews that form your online “reputation”
- Your Website
Let’s break these down and see how they help with building up a successful online presence:
Your Profile Listings
Did you know that there are more than 50 different websites that are publishing information about you and your practice? Chances are you’ve never visited most of them. So, where does this data come from? Some data is available for purchase directly from data aggregators, medical boards, etc. Other data is freely available from government sources, such as the National Provider Identifier (NPI) database.
While your data is now publicly available and syndicated, unfortunately, more than 85% of online medical listings have at least one incorrect data point: Wrong address, wrong phone, transposed first and last name. These errors, if left uncorrected, can confuse patients. They also confuse search engines that equate inconsistent data with firms that are neglectful or out of business. Most search experts agree that inconsistent name, address and phone number will hurt your search engine ranking relative to your competitors.
Start by ensuring that most popular websites have the basic information correct: Your name, address, phone number, office hours, etc. This is a non-negotiable, bare minimum requirement. A new patient will not try very hard to look for you online even with the fondest of recommendations or referrals.
To maximize the potential of your practice listings, you need to make them actionable. Adding photos, a personal statement about you and your practice, and detailed information about the treatments and procedures you offer is a great place to start. When possible, you should also give patients a clear call to action to book an appointment with you once they have found you.
Many Doctor.com’s clients have successfully found more new patients simply by implementing ScheduleSync™, a service included in every Doctor.com offering that enables online appointment booking directly from their profiles on Yelp, Bing and other sites across the web.
Patient reviews are another critical component of your online success. Nearly every website that has a profile of you will also allow patients to share a rating (usually 0-5 stars). Some even allow “patients” to provide a written review about their experiences with you.
Today’s patients have been trained by every other industry to seek the social proof of reviews. Just as they wouldn’t buy a TV rated 1 star on Amazon or book a restaurant rated 1 star on OpenTable, they aren’t going to contact a dentist rated 1-star on Healthgrades or Yelp.
Few patients actually leave online reviews. Most are simply too busy, too bashful or too technologically challenged to master the process, or not sufficiently motivated. Yet unfortunately, dissatisfied patients are highly motivated: they’re 3X more likely to leave a negative online review. As a result, you have a greater risk for negative reviews than you might expect.
Those positive reviews do the most good when they’re seen by the widest possible audience. So invest in services that syndicate reviews to top healthcare sites and local business websites that matter most to your patients. This will maximize your chances of being found and contacted by a new patient.
The final pillar of online success is your current website. Everyone has a website but not all websites are created equal. Today, patients expect a website that is clear, to-the-point, and just as usable on a mobile device as it is on a computer.
Your website should reinforce your “story”: your unique care proposition you offer your patients. Patient testimonials are a great way to do this. Ideally you can display testimonials in such a way that it’s clear they’re recent and verified by a third party.
Your website also needs to be “smart”, offering interactive features like online booking, intake forms and secure messaging. Many Doctor.com’s clients have successfully modernized their website simply by implementing a few lines of code without incurring any costly redesign.
To achieve the strongest performance for your marketing programs, carefully examine the three foundations:
- Consistent, accurate citations on local business and healthcare directories.
- A steady stream of great online patient reviews, ideally published on popular websites, not just your own.
- A modern, “mobile-friendly” website with smart, interactive features like online booking, messaging and intake forms.
These components go a long way to amplify the dollars you may already be spending on email marketing, social media, search-engine optimization (SEO), and advertising Google AdWords.
* How Patients Use Online Reviews in 2016 – Software Advice