EVERYBODY STARTS ONLINE
If you want to upgrade your TV, buy a book, check your college team’s score from the last game, or get an opinion about a controversial political topic, where do you turn?
For basically everyone it's the internet. Whether we search on Google, watch highlights on ESPN, read articles on Reddit, or look up bestsellers on Amazon, our instinct is to first seek out everything that’s available on the world wide web. It's why Amazon.com is putting brick and mortar stores out of business, and why any for-profit practice, firm, office, company, or corporation must be easily accessible online.
Doctors and dentists are no exception. According to this article on MDMag.com, 9 in 10 people consider online reviews just as trustworthy as a personal recommendation when looking for a physician or dentist. When people look for a physician or dentist, they are more likely to look online than anywhere else.
Will people find you when they search for your clinic or practice?
HOW THE INTERNET SHIFTED THE POWER
As recently as a decade ago, the goal of anyone trying to sell something or provide a service was to get their brand in front of as many people in as many ways possible. Billboards, television commercials, radio ads, magazine inserts, and more were the norm. This marketing tactic was disruptive, meaning the public was forced to see these ads when the ad makers wanted them to be seen.
Now, though, the internet has shifted the power. With almost infinite amounts of information accessible 24-7/365, nobody waits for a coupon book to come in the mail before making a purchase. Nobody pays attention to billboards. We ignore TV commercials. We seek out the information we need on our terms and in our own time.
Therefore, if you’re a physician or dentist whose business relies on generating new patients, it’s more important than ever to be instantly visible online. If you want to attract new patients, those patients have to find you online, and fast.
There’s no need to be overwhelmed. Even if you’re a small operation without a fully staffed marketing team, you can still improve your online presence with a few tricks.
1. KEEP THESE IN MIND
First, there are a few things to keep in mind as you build up your online presence.
Think like a future patient - You are a solution to their problem. So what problem or problems might people look to you to solve? What information do they need that only you can provide? How can you make that information as easily accessible as possible? It’s tempting to try and make a personal connection with people who visit your site. You may want to put a picture of your family, or list your hobbies, or support your alma mater. But if you think like a future patient, you soon realize most people don’t care about that at first. They want to know if you take their insurance, what hours you’re open, and how to schedule an appointment. Give the people what they want.
Be human and helpful - Nobody wants to be treated like a number or statistic. All of your online communication - whether direct or indirect - should recognize that human beings are looking to you for answers. The more relevant information you can make available, the better. Today’s internet user trusts the people who give out information for free. It shows that you have their best interest in mind and you’re not just out to make a buck.
2. SEO - SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
SEO is the big buzzword in anything online. In short, it measures the position your website shows up in a Google search. If you are a pediatric dentist, for example, and someone searches, “PEDIATRIC DENTISTS NEAR ME,” the better your SEO, the higher you will show up on the search results page.
This is important because most people rarely make it to the 2nd page of search results despite Google displaying thousands of results. If your website ranks low in SEO, then it will be buried under pages and pages of search results that no one will ever see.
There are a few simple ways to improve your SEO even if you don’t have a marketing team.
Speed up your site - 47% of consumers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less with a strong internet signal. If a site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, 40% will get impatient and click away. Yes, you read that right - THREE SECONDS! To speed up your site, you should:
Remove any large videos or images and replace them with something smaller. You can shrink the images you already use with a simple, free online tool called Compressor.io.
Minimize your homepage to only the most essential information and put the rest under navigation tabs. Too many words are an instant turn off to viewers. So tuck your dissertation deep into your website.
Use keywords - Keywords are the main source of information Google uses to find relevant websites. Google searches the page names and headers on websites looking for the best results.
Again, I’ll use the example of a pediatric dentists. If you are a pediatric dentist trying to improve SEO, you might want to use keywords like “Pediatric,” “Dentistry,” “Kids,” and “Orthodontics” in your page names. You could name your homepage: “Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics for Kids.” “For kids” might sound redundant, but to Google it’s another keyword associated with your website.
Keywords can be elusive, and they change all the time. If you want to find the keywords used most on websites like yours, I recommend downloading a Google Chrome extension called Wordtracker Scout. It shows up on the top right hand side of your screen, and you can click it while on any website to find out the main keywords used on that site.
Pay for an ad - You’ve seen Google ads. Usually they’re the top two or three spots in any search result. Google Ads can be as complex or as simple as you want to make them. They run for the amount of time you set, and you can choose from a few payment methods like Pay-Per-Click, Pay-Per-Impression, and others. For more on Google Ads, click here: ads.google.com
3. SOCIAL MEDIA
A standard principle is that no marketing is better than bad marketing. The same is true of social media.
If a potential patient finds your practice's Facebook page and sees the most recent post was from 3 years ago, it communicates a lack of current relevance and reflects poorly on you. If you don't have time to make regular social media posts, it's better not to have it at all.
There are some easy tools for managing social media. Hootsuite, Buffer, and SproutSocial are some of the most common. If you want to use a service like these, carve out half an hour at the beginning of the week and schedule a couple posts a day. Then, throughout the week, your followers see your tweets or Facebook posts. That half-hour of work compounds into several hour's worth of online interaction with patients. You can monitor things like Reach (how many people saw your post) and Engagement (how many people clicked, liked, or shared your post) and make adjustments here and there to maximize exposure.
As with your website, your social media account should offer the information your patients expect to receive from their dentist or physician. They look to you for medical needs, not political commentary, sports takes, stock recommendations, or pictures of your kids. Build trust with your followers by posting information that is human and helpful.
4. EMAIL AUTOMATION
Several online hosts like MailChimp, ConstantContact, MailJet, SendPulse, and others offer user-friendly platforms for creating and sending automated emails. When a patient schedules a visit, send an automated email thanking them for scheduling with you. That email should include any relevant information like a picture of you, your address, a way to contact your office if they need to reschedule, plus a CTA (Call to Action) inviting them to check out an article on your website or subscribe to your email list.
After a patient's visit, you could send another email thanking them for coming. This email should include a link to review their experience on your Yelp, WebMD, or Healthgrades profile. Most people only speak out online if they had a bad experience. So encouraging patients to share positive experiences will enhance your online presence.
If you have time to write a weekly blog, monthly newsletter, or provide other interesting and relevant information to patients, platforms like MailChimp allow you to add email addresses for these campaigns.
MINIMUM EFFOT FOR MAXIMUM RESULTS
You don't have to spend hours each day on your computer to have a solid online profile. Use the suggestions above to create a framework for your online presence, then utilize automation services to do the rest. No marketing firm or social media guru is required. It's pretty simple, and it's also critical if you want to stay competitive in your field.