When done right, driving more website traffic leads to more appointments, patients walking in the door and increased revenues.
If you’re a medical practice and looking to thrive in today’s digital world, you must embrace digital marketing. More and more prospective patients begin their journey with a Google search.
86% of patients conduct a health related search before booking a doctor’s appointment. Nearly 80% of those health-care seekers used a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo) to conduct research, whereas about 13% said they went directly to a site that specializes in health information (e.g WebMD, Mayo Clinic) to conduct their search. (Source: https://www.meticulosity.com/blog/leveraging-dr-google-for-website-traffic)
Getting found doesn’t mean spending a ton on advertising. In fact, this article shows you how to drive more website traffic using only inbound tactics.
As a digital marketing agency focused on helping health brands, we know each client is unique, with different services, specialties and procedures. One thing shared by all is the need to spread awareness, increase engagement and new patient volume.
We used the following formula to help a client see a 70% increase in overall new sessions (website visitors) and 65% increase in new website users. And while this was higher than average, we have seen many clients increase their overall website traffic by 50% using the following formula:
Create The Right Website
Everything about your digital marketing strategy starts with your website. Think of it as the hub, with everything else being the fuel, like search, social media, referrals and incoming links. So, what’s the “right” website really mean? There are multiple factors, which include:
- Design and messaging
- Platform and technologies
- Mobile friendly / responsive
Let’s take each one-by-one:
Overall design and messaging
This one may seem clear (no pun intended), but you must ensure your website looks amazing; it should look super professional, inviting and be easy to use. The messaging should direct users quickly to the right areas of importance. Key areas each medical website should have are as follows:
About Us: People want to know about your practice – your story, history and what makes you the right fit. Don’t be shy here. Include relevant information about what makes you truly unique, your experience and why patients should trust you, above all the other choices out there. Include awards, news articles and other pertinent information, like how you benefit the community.
Services: This one is essential; make sure you list your services/procedures and provide a detailed write up (or video) on each one. Use images if they help explain things more clearly. Don’t use third party content.
Physician Directory: People want to read about your docs. Make it easy to find and search (if you have a larger practice). Spend the money on getting professional photos. Provide a good amount of detail about each doctor, including schools, residences, areas of specialization, awards and links to social media accounts, if the doctor is active and providing good information.
Locations: Get your locations listed and provide all the necessary information a patient would need to know, like address, phone number, hours of operation and directions. Embed a Google Map. Include images of your building and a link to request an appointment.
Proof Points: Not all medical practices can include before and after pictures, but for those that can (like a vein treatment center or bariatric surgery center), make sure you do. Include testimonials as well.
Educational Content: As we’ll see later, creating content is one of the best ways to increase your visibility and rankings in Google. It’s also a great way to engage users searching about conditions, procedures and other relevant topics. Articles or videos of your doctors articulating information and educating patients on specific topics are great ways to share and present your content. It’s also content that can be leveraged and shared by others and on social media to gain more awareness and visibility.
Platform and Technologies
Not all website platforms are built the same – some are really expensive and some are free. Some are good and some are not-so-good. The first place to start is the big picture, meaning what Content Management System (CMS) should you use and where will you host it?
Choose the Right Content Management System (CMS)
There are literally hundreds of CMS out there, but we like open-source providers, like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Contao and TYPO3. They’re free to use and supported by large professional organizations as well as thousands of designs and developers from all over the world. We don’t recommend proprietary platforms because they can be expensive, they’re generally not any better (and many times worse) and they lock you in to agreements and relationships.
We’re a WordPress agency, but feel you can also select others, as long as they’re well reviewed and highly supported – like the five mentioned above. For a good article on the pros and cons of these five, go here: CMS comparison 2018: The 5 most popular open source systems.
Match It With the Right Hosting Company
Just as important as the CMS is the technology and company that hosts your website. We are very particular about where we host our clients’ websites and have opted for WP Engine, who specializes in hosting WordPress websites.
When shopping for a hosting company, make sure they specialize in the CMS you’ll be using. Do your research and don’t be afraid to opt for a higher-end provider that costs a little more.
HIPAA Compliance and Data Collection
As a medical practice, it’s vital to make sure you use technology specific to HIPAA compliance. Websites have many different levels, but one of the most important areas all websites share is the ability to collect information from referrals, prospective patients and patients. If you’re looking to simply collect basic data and store it somewhere safe, we recommend using one of the following:
If you’re looking to take your online marketing to the next level, beyond just collecting data, you can turn to marketing automation. “Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online (such as email, social media, websites, etc.) and automate repetitive tasks.” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_automation)
Let’s say you want to convert more prospective patients into patients when they visit your website. You hope they call you or request an appointment. But, most people are merely shopping and checking you out when they first visit. They’re not ready to make an appointment. They are looking for help and more information on specific procedures, topics, diseases, etc. This is where you might offer a free guide or webinar. To get the information, users need to supply some personal information, like name, email, phone and maybe zip code. When they do, this information gets placed in a database
Here’s where marketing automation comes – because you know what type of content the user requested, you know they may be interested in more similar information. Your marketing automation platform can send out follow up “nurturing” emails with more useful information. Over time and using tactics like lead scoring, you can increase new appointment requests and patient volume.
Marketing automation also can be used to monitor, track and post on social media, do email campaigns, follow-up texts, build landing pages, run digital ads and organize your overall marketing programs to be more successful. It also provides deep tracking and analytics so you can consistently improve your marketing efforts over time.
Here are a few companies we like that support HIPAA compliance for marketing automation purposes:
- Salesforce (best for larger practices, hospitals and healthcare systems)
- Infusionsoft (best for small to mid-size medical practices, based on cost)
Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly (Responsive)
We find most medical practices receive up to 70% to 80% of their website traffic via a mobile device, like an iPhone, Android phone or tablet. Having a responsive or mobile-friendly website is vital for multiple reasons, including the following:
Better User Experience: As mentioned above, the majority of traffic to most consumer websites is from mobile devices. Same goes for medical practices. If you’re website isn’t mobile friendly, visitors are more likely to get frustrated and just leave. Having a well designed mobile friendly website immediately creates a better experience that makes visitors want to stay.
Better Google Ranking: “Google assesses whether or not a site is mobile-friendly on a pass/fail basis. If a site satisfies its front- and back-end requirements, it receives a passing grade and can earn higher rankings on search engine results pages. The search giant started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches to ensure users receive the best possible results, whether they are searching via mobile, tablet or desktop device.” (Source: Google Just Upped The Penalty For Not Having A Mobile-friendly Hotel Website)
Increased Patient Volume: When a prospective patient takes the time to go to your website, they’re either looking to learn more about you, find contact information, get directions, research a topic or even request an appointment. If they visit your website and it’s designed to provide a great mobile experience, the percentage of them moving forward to call, get directions or even make appointment goes up.
Speed Counts – Have a Fast Loading Website
Similar to being mobile friendly, Google also puts a premium on speed. The faster your website, the better. In fact, Google just announced that the speed of your mobile site is a contributing “signal” for how they rank websites: “[Google] will now take page speed into consideration as one of its signals, the company says. The change, which Google is referring to as the ‘Speed Update,’ will go into effect in July 2018, and will downrank very slow websites under certain conditions.” (Google will make page speed a factor in mobile search ranking starting in July)
Speed also contributes to user experience – if your site is slow, people will simply leave and most likely not return.
Create New, Value-Rich Content, Often
The more you can produce content that’s of value to patients, the better. Not only will this help your patients become more educated, it’s a proven factor for increasing search engine rankings and overall website traffic. Not all content is created equal, however.
Produce content in the form of articles, blog posts, guides, webinars and even videos. Focus on educating patients rather than promoting your practice. Support your content with stories, studies and imagery. Then share your content via email, social media and your website.
Finally, make sure your content is part of a bigger SEO strategy.
Place Maximum Effort into SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is vital if you want to get more traffic. People searching generally have an intention – meaning, they are looking to do something. So, perhaps they’re looking to understand eczema and want to read an article or find a dermatologist. Or, more importantly, they’re searching for something like “stomach doctors near me” or “best doctors in Dallas”.
You can’t rank for everything, but you should have a strategy that focuses on getting you ranked both for local search and organic search for the keywords that matter most.
Get Your Website In Order
The first thing is making sure your website is ready for SEO. Make sure you follow and leverage the areas we covered earlier in this article. Assuming you’re on the right platform, find the right tools or plugins. For example, if you’re using WordPress, use either the Yoast SEO plugin or All-in-One SEO plugin.
Create and Implement Your SEO Strategy
There are a number of steps that go into creating and implementing a SEO strategy. SEO relies first and foremost on keywords. You must understand what keywords or keyword phrases you want to rank for, then develop your content to support those keywords. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we’ve taken the following 8-Step SEO Strategy from Hubspot to give you a good program that we follow ourselves:
Step 1: Make a List of Topics
Step 2: Make a List of Long-Tail Keywords Based on These Topics
Step 3: Build Pages for Each Topic
Step 4: Set Up a Blog
Step 5: Blog Every Week to Develop Page Authority
Step 6: Create a Link-Building Plan
Stay 7: Current on SEO News & Practices
Step 8: Measure and Track Your SEO Success
Leverage Google Search Console
So, what if I told you there was a free tool that gives your a clear, inside view of how Google is seeing and ranking your website? And, if you use this tool and follow what it tells you to do, you’ll see increases in your SEO performance?
Well, that’s just what Google Search Console is. Here’s how Google describes it: “Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Search Console for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but doing so can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results.” (Source: What is Search Console?)
Check out all the benefits the tool provides:
Google search console is a fantastic tool that can help tremendously with your overall SEO. If you’re looking for something a little more powerful, we recommend SEM Rush.
Maximize Google Business Places
Did you know the Google 3-Pack appears in the top spot in 93% of local searches with intent. (Source: Google’s New Local Pack Shows In The Number One Spot 93% Of The Time)
The 3-Pack represents the 3 business that come up first, along with a map, address, phone and links to a company’s website and directions. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to getting ranked. The first thing you need to do if you’re a medical practice is claim your business on Google My Business Places. If you have multiple locations, get them all claimed.
As a medical practice, it’s also vital that you claim and get all of your doctors added. It’s best to get your practice claimed first before you begin adding your doctors, however.
Next, make sure you complete and add as much relevant information as possible, including practice name, address, phone number, website, operating hours and images. Make sure you select the right categories. For more information on getting your profile(s) setup correctly, go here: 12 Steps to Filling Out A Google My Business Page 100%.
Finally, if you’re really interested in understanding how Google rankings local businesses and want to good deeper into getting your site ranked, check out the graphic below from Moz:
Claim and Optimize All Important Directories
Google is certainly the most critical directory for your local SEO efforts. But, there are others that you should focus on as well. For medical practices, it’s vital to get listed and/or make sure your information is up to date on the following sites:
- Doctorfinder (American Medical Association)
- WebMD Physician Directory
- Find A Doctor
Finally, look to get your practice listed on the following sites:
- Yahoo! Local
- Bing Places
Take Advantage of Facebook
The numbers are staggering – worldwide, there are more than 1.94 billion monthly active Facebook users as of March, 2017 (Facebook MAUs) which is an 18% increase year over year. That’s more people than the population of China.
That’s why you need to make sure you leverage and claim your Facebook Business Page. In order to grow your Facebook fan base, you need to make your business page on Facebook as discoverable as possible. Here are few things you can do to help make that happen:
Claim your Facebook Business Page. Just like Google Business Places, it’s imperative to claim your business.
- Fill out your company information completely. Make sure your company address is complete and consistent with your Google Business Page. Be sure to select the right categories and include an overview of what your medical practice offers and what makes you unique. Include a link to your website, add relevant pictures and your hours of operation.
- Invite existing contacts to like your page. Reach out to your friends, family, and existing patients and ask them to “like” your page on Facebook.
- Integrate Facebook into your other online channels.
- Use Facebook’s social plugins (including the Like Box and Like Button) to get people to engage with your Facebook page without having to go to Facebook.com.
- Get active: start sharing relevant content about topics that educate your patients. If you are writing your own content on your blog, share it on Facebook. Stay connected and engage with prospective patients in ways that don’t jeopardize PHI and HIPAA compliance.
Track and Make Improvements
The great thing about digital marketing is the ability to track what’s happening. Start with Google Analytics. It’s free and super easy to set up. Make sure you use the same account to setup your Google Search Console and Google My Business Places.
Using Google Analytics will allow you to see website traffic, where they go on your site, how long they stay and where they came from. You can see devices used, geographies, demographics, interests, user behavior and more.
The bottom line is to make sure you understand how to measure if your efforts are paying off. For a great article on how to use Google Analytics, go here: How to Use Google Analytics to Ensure Digital Marketing Success in 2018.
The key is to stay in constant improvement mode. Digital marketing is never done. The best way to continue to drive awareness, engagement and traffic is through content. A consistent release of good content overtime is the best strategy, one that will deliver rewards for both your practice and the patients you care for.
You might be tempted to skip some of these steps or only do a few of them.
Don’t. Make sure you focus on your website first. Remember, it’s the hub of all other activities, and if not done correctly, your other efforts will suffer.
You don’t have to do these overnight. Take your time and methodically move through this list using a good cadence. Once things are in place, you should focus all energy on improvements and creating good content – content that inspires and helps people make better decisions on their health and medical care. Like any good act, you’ll be rewarded with more website traffic and appointment requests.