At Gravity Digital, we believe that healthcare providers who embrace the reality of an empowered patient are the ones who are ultimately going to succeed and thrive.
We can fight Dr. Google, patient reviews online, and the rising competition on digital channels… or we can use those things to our advantage and improve our position, our reputation, and provide a superior patient experience from the first contact online to the point when they are advocating for your practice.
In this medical practice marketing playbook, we are going to look at three areas of focus:
- Your First Impression
- Your Website
- Other Online Channels
- The Phone
- Reviews and Your Reputation
- Content and Advertising
- Local Search
Let’s get started!
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<h2>Your First Impression
You’ve heard the old adage ‘You only get one chance to make a first impression’.
It’s true, by the time your patient arrives in your office they have most likely already developed an opinion of you based on their first interactions with your staff, your website, or your various online channels like social media or directory listings.
Once that impression has been set, it is very difficult to change. This initial impression can impact retention, the reviews they leave, and the general attitude they bring into the consultation.
To keep from starting off on the wrong foot, we recommend auditing your various channels to ensure that they are helpful, they are being monitored, and they present your brand as caring and professional.Your Website
Many times, your website serves as the first point of contact with your patient. When they visit your site, they are usually looking for a very specific piece of information (and it’s not where you did your residency or the papers you’ve published).
Open a new tab and take a look at your site right now. How long does it take you to find these things?
Location (Address and Interactive Map)
Types of Insurance accepted
Online Scheduling Option (HIPAA compliant)
How did you do? These are the types of information that your website visitors are looking for right off the bat. Make sure they are easy to find.
Next, be sure that someone on your team is frequently checking your website analytics and/or using a tool like Hotjar to monitor site engagement. The insights provided by these tools will let you know where people are getting stuck on your site or what content is resonating with your audience that may need to be highlighted. Data helps us stay in tune with our visitors so that we can offer them a better experience.
Finally, be sure that your website “feels” professional and welcoming. Use high-quality photos of your facility, and clean design, and throw in some personal touches when you can.
Other Online Channels
When it comes to making a first impression on social media and other channels like Yelp and vitals.com, accuracy is key. It sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how often the name, address, or phone number is wrong – which leaves patients frustrated. The major sites you want to check are Facebook, Google, and Yelp. There are literally hundreds of others which can be managed through a service like Yext or Birdeye (more on that in the reviews section).
Another consideration for Facebook (or your website) is setting up a chat bot to help answer frequently asked questions. Chat bots can easily be created to let visitors know your hours, location, types of insurances accepted, conditions you treat, and even offer a “click-to-call” feature. Because Facebook media is a “social” platform, don’t be afraid to mix in some personality in your chatbot. You can create a short welcome video to start the conversation.
Don’t let the technical side scare you, chat bots are very easy to create using solutions like Many Chat or Hubspot (both have free options). They can also “hand off” to a real person once they hit a limitation.
Once everything reflecting your name, address, and phone number is correct, the most critical thing you can do is monitor your channels.
If someone leaves a comment or message on your social channels and you don’t respond – it’s like not answering the phone at your practice. Twelve hours is the absolute maximum amount of time that should go by without providing at least a basic “we’ve heard you” response. If someone has a complaint or if Protected Health Information is a concern, provide ways to communicate privately and offline.
Give someone on your team the authority and responsibility to monitor your social channels TODAY. You can create scripts to help answer the most common questions and comments.
To make a good first impression on the phone use these principles:
Eliminate your phone tree or make it very simple with as few options as possible.
Make it policy that there is a 3-ring maximum rule during business hours.
Voice messages should be returned the same day.
Put your friendliest, most empathetic and helpful staff on the phones.
Reviews and Your Reputation
Our clients often ask us how they can get better reviews online. We always say that the only real way to get good reviews is to provide quality care and a good patient experience. Marketing is only going to highlight the service that you give – if you have good service, you’ll get more good reviews – but you’ll get more bad reviews if marketing drives traffic to a poor experience.
With the obvious out of the way, there are some tactical things that you can do to amplify your good reviews and encourage patients to leave them.
Look into a service called Birdeye – it not only handles the accuracy of your directory listings, but it can help you monitor your reviews across all channels, respond to them, promote the good ones, and if your EMR has an API it can send automated messages to your patients requesting that they leave a review. It is also HIPAA compliant – which sets it apart from a service like Yext.
Give your patients reminders to leave reviews at checkout and in email newsletters. Make it easy. Provide links, tablets, kiosks, or whatever is the least disruptive for them.
Content and Advertising
One of the biggest complaints we hear from doctors is that their patients arrive in their office with their head full of sketchy information they read online, and they try and tell their doctor how they should be diagnosed and treated.
The best way to combat Dr. Google is by creating and promoting your own information online – This will not only provide your patient with better information (setting up a better consultation with a better outcome), but it will also establish you as a trusted resource in your community. That’s good for your patients and good for your business.
In this section, we’ll cover what types of content you should be producing and how to use that content to create more compelling and cost-effective ads.
There are three considerations for your content:
The Medium, The Channel, and The Topic.
The Medium & Channel
There are a few things to consider when choosing a medium for your content. How much do you have to say? How are people consuming information on the channel where you are publishing? What resources do you have at your disposal (do you have time to write, do you have a designer or editor)?
Here are some basic guidelines:
Use blog posts on your website, mix in video and photos.
Keep it visual on your social media channels – video is ideal, but infographics and other graphic designs can work as well.
When one piece of content is working well, create more content around the same topic using other mediums. If people are really engaging with a certain video, do a blog post around it.
Focus on one or two channels – Facebook is usually sufficient.
You’ll want to create some basic pieces of content that are good for general audiences – these are usually very informative or help give a sense of the human side of your practice. These can include meet the doctor videos, staff spotlights, office tours, etc.
The majority of your content, however, should be focused on the specific needs of your patient population. Usually, that means covering condition-specific topics. You also want to cover the entire patient journey within each condition. For example, let’s say you have patients that suffer from back pain, you could create a series of videos that looks like this:
A patient testimony – they tell a story that paints a clear picture of their life dealing with back pain before and after treatment.
Provide something helpful – some stretches your patients can do at home to help alleviate pain.
A demonstration of some of the treatment options you provide – help set expectations for the visit and then offer a call to action at the end.
This simple series provides content for people with back pain no matter if they are still trying to understand their problem, if they are researching solutions, or if they are ready to schedule an appointment.
Replace underperformers and cover each condition that affects your patient population.
If you are involved in the community or have philanthropic causes that you support, creating content around those initiatives goes along way to establish trust and build your brand.
Create as much content as you possibly can, and keep in mind that you are not creating for your peers in the medical industry, you are creating for the people in your community – avoid jargon, don’t be afraid of humor, and speak to them as you would a friend or family member (the ones you like).
There are two major platforms that you need to consider using for advertising online: Google and Facebook. Each of these platforms is unique and should be used in different ways. We’ll dive into each one below.
When someone starts looking for a doctor, they usually begin with Google. They will put in a search phrase like “rheumatologist Houston, tx” or similar. These are high-intent searches. Your goal should be to occupy as much real estate on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) as possible.
There are two areas of the SERPs that display paid results – the ads at the top and bottom of the page and the map. You are able to define the search phrases that are relevant for your practice and display ads when someone uses those phrases. It is pay-per-click, so you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and lands on your website.
It is important for your landing page to be relevant to copy in the ad you are displaying. For instance, if you are running an ad that says “Pediatric Oncologist in Kansas City”, your landing page should talk about oncology and working with children in Kansas City. You also want to ask the visitor to take action on the page (like schedule an appointment). It seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve seen it all.
Use ad extensions to help people get to the information they want quickly – they can click to call, see your location, or select content from your website based on a menu in the ad.
Facebook is a different animal entirely. You are not receiving high intent searches on Facebook, rather, you are building your brand, engaging with your community, and hopefully starting conversations. There are two types of ads to start with on Facebook: Retargeting ads and Content Promotion
When someone visits a page on your website, you have the ability to “cookie” them, which basically means you can let Facebook build an audience of their users who have visited specific pages. You can run ads to those audiences.
Here is an example:
Let’s say you have Google search ads running traffic to a page on your site asking people to make an appointment. You will have some of that traffic that does not convert initially on the page, but we know they are still a good candidate to schedule an appointment. We can run ads in their Facebook newsfeed to continue to ask for that appointment until they convert, or a specified amount of time passes.
It is possible to get very complex building out funnels on Facebook using your content, but you can build a very good presence just by keeping it simple.
The simplest way to promote your content is to boost it. You’ve seen the button on your posts. Give it a try.
Start with $1/Day for seven days. If it’s going well, extend it for 30 days. Keep your content boosted until engagement starts to dip. You will likely be boosting several pieces of content at a time.
If you have taken our advice and developed condition-specific content, it won’t be long until you have some very interesting audiences you can build. You can identify Facebook users in your community who have visited your blog post on arthritis or watched all of your video on chronic fatigue. That makes it really easy to follow up with them with ads that are tailored to their experience. It’s effective and very cheap.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a discipline on its own, but there are a few exercises and tactics that every medical practice website should employ.
First, understand that are two types of broad searches we refer to for medical practices: branded searches and unbranded searches. A branded search will include the name of a practice or provider. The searcher is looking for a SPECIFIC practice or doctor. An unbranded, on the other hand, does not. It usually includes the type of provider/specialty and city or town: “rheumatologist Houston, tx”
For branded searches, your site should rank at or near the top. Google is in the business of providing the most relevant results for searches – that’s why they’re the go-to search engine. For most practices and providers, their own website will be the relevant piece of content on the web.
Unbranded searches are another story. There can be a lot of competition for local searches around specific specialties. Here’s how to get a leg up on the competition on your own:
Start with a quick Google search for the most obvious unbranded searches. Get an idea of where you rank and the competitive landscape around the keywords you want to rank for.
Claim your Google My Business listing. Make the listing as robust as possible, and ensure it’s 100% accurate. Check the map marker as well, and submit a correction if it shows your practice in the wrong location.
Review your website and check the following:
- Check the title tag of the home page and make sure it includes your location, brand, and keywords.
- Be sure the home page of your website has enough content. Many home pages have only a paragraph or two, but we recommend aiming for 1,000 words of good content.
- Add the NAP (Name, Address, and Phone) to the header or footer.
- Include a “Location” page in your main menu and include the NAP and an embedded map from Google.
- Look at the title tags on the rest of the website, and make sure they accurately reflect the content and purpose of each page.
Use a tool like Moz Local (moz.com/local/search) to check your local listings and citations. The goal is to make sure your NAP match everywhere. This is a strong signal to Google.
Generate reviews. This was covered earlier, but reviews on your Google My Business listing are a clear signal that your practice is “alive and well” to use a healthcare expression.
There you have it. The principles that we’ve laid out here are the foundation that any medical practice can use to build their brand and grow their business online. If you have questions that weren’t covered in this playbook, we’d love to chat about that. It will help us expand this resource.