When a patient is in need of a new provider, their immediate move is to search the internet. Yet over 90% of Google users won’t look past the first page of results. So who makes the cut? Larger health practices are at an obvious financial advantage when it comes to marketing, and thus, are more likely to appear on the shortlist. So how can smaller practices compete? Here are five ways your small practice can boost online exposure and reputation, and patient volume, without a marketing team. You don’t need to do all of them at once. Pace yourself. Over time, these small steps will help you correct many things that hold websites back, without having to spend on a large budget before you know how to shop for marketing services:
Enhance Your Website
Having a user-friendly, well-designed site is not enough. Know your patient population and cater your web content accordingly.
If you do nothing else, get rid of errors. Run a free audit (you can use a site such as SEOptimer and focus on high priority and relatively easy fixes. For example, are some pages taking too long to load because you have too many pictures? That’s an easy fix!
Stay current: demonstrate that your practice is reliable by verifying your content is up to date. Posting something as simple as a closure alert when there’s inclement weather, or a notice that a doctor will be on vacation for the week, is one way to show patients that their needs are your top concern.
Build personality through video: give prospective patients more of sense of who you are through brief clips alongside your provider bios and profiles. These videos don’t need to be shot by a professional; an iPhone camera does the trick.
Open Your Digital Front Door
Emphasize patient access and resources across all channels. Google reports that 60% of all searches pertaining to health care occur on mobile devices. The gravity of having a website that is compatible to a patient’s tablet or smartphone is immense. But even if you can’t configure a mobile webpage, maintain routes of traffic to your site by eliminating large files that are slowing your page down. Simply fixing those can be helpful.
More importantly, search for your practice on Google and Bing and update any old listings so patients can find you easily, and so that information on old locations eventually falls off the map or clearly shows as “Closed”. You’ll make a lot of progress if you carve out a Saturday morning to do this every six months. Focus on the important sources - Google, Bing, Yelp, Healthgrades and anything that’s wrong. You don’t need to be everywhere, but if your information is being displayed incorrectly somewhere, you should strive to fix it quickly.
Search Engine Optimization is a hot topic for anyone and everyone with an online presence. The way Google and other search engines rank content is based upon its relevance and authority. Let’s break this down:
Earning a position on the first page of Google and Bing stems from producing a large volume of high-quality content. Search engines crawl through content, filter, and sequence it based on its relevance, and authority (a.k.a. popularity).
You want your content to be relevant. In other words, how well does your content match certain search queries? For instance, if a patient is inquiring about a broken retainer, how well does your orthodontic practice’s website cover those keywords (“retainer,” “broken,” etc.) and their overall question? Ideally, you’d like to make sure your site pops up first by having content that tags keywords and predicts your patients’ searches.
But even more importantly, you want your site to be praised and spoken about often, referred to often, and by the right people. This internet chatter and reference occurs through backlinks: incoming hyperlinks from one website to another. These are essentially all the sites linking to your site, how they’re linking, and what pages and content they are connecting to. If this buzz is positive, and the backlinks are from other credible sources: your site’s credibility will increase, and so will its authority. Negative backlinks can harm your practice’s online profile, but there are many affordable services which offer tools to assess backlinks and counter them appropriately. One such service is SEMrush, which evaluates your risk of penalty by Google and Bing and then acts immediately—asking website owners to remove negative links to your domain.
Authority directly impacts ranking strength. Build trust and sustainable traffic by being a top result. An easy way to increase positive backlinks is, when you give interviews in public, to ask the newspaper, blog, or podcast, to refer to your site.
SEO is confusing, but there are a ton of free resources you can use to learn more. One of our favorites is Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide.
The best marketing partners are the ones you already have: your satisfied patients. Patient reviews are one of the best, free, ways to naturally grow your practice and build your reputation. You can do this several ways:
Administer easily-accessible post-visit surveys: patient reviews will not only provide valuable feedback and insight into what your practice is doing well and what could improve; but they also play a role in increasing your online authority (good chatter). This is also something DASHconnect does exceptionally well.
Offer small incentives for referral: word of mouth goes a long way. Give out small gifts such as company mugs or $10 gift cards to your patients who told a friend about your practice. Increase clientele and deliver the ultimate patient experience.
Publish positive reviews right on your homepage: small practices can immediately create a first impression by having a “Hear from our patients!” section with a couple genuine reviews.
Market Offline, Too
We are all spending a lot of time online, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only source people look to for information. Paradoxically, it increases the impact of effective offline marketing. Be involved in your community. Host open houses, have a booth at local sporting events, and donate a service to a charity auction. Make yourself known in small, personal ways and post about these events on your website or social media. The positive feedback look will, over time, deliver great dividends.
Prioritize making fixes to things that don’t work.
Don’t worry about it being perfect.
Be patient - SEO takes time to work and small updates over time will be rewarded by the SEO gods.
“Why SEO Matters [Infographic],” Retrieved February 6, 2019. https://trellis.co/blog/why-seo-matters-infographic/