A steady stream of new patients is the lifeblood of any successful medical practice. However, like any other business attempting to expand its customer base, medical practices looking to acquire new patients in a crowded marketplace can face a lot of challenges. With hundreds of thousands of healthcare practitioners operating in the U.S., finding a way to separate your practice from the pack requires utilizing the latest marketing tools and techniques.
Marketing your medical practice once meant simply placing an ad in the Yellow Pages. However, today potential patients are turning to search engines to find local healthcare providers. According to a study, nearly 54 percent of potential patients under the age of 35 use search engines to find local medical practitioners, compared to 10 percent who use the Yellow Pages. Even older people have started to embrace search engines as a means of finding local healthcare providers, as 27 percent of people between the ages of 55 and 64 years used a search engine when looking for a medical practitioner.
In order to acquire new patients, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a necessary tool every practice needs to stay ahead in the ever-evolving marketing landscape. Almost 80 percent of searchers do not look past the first page of Google results when searching for local doctors. If your website does not rank well against your competitors, you could be losing out on potential patients who do not know about your practice. A strong SEO strategy means your existing and potential patients can find you easily and will feel compelled to give your website a look.
Now, how does SEO benefit your medical practice? When a potential patient types “physician in downtown Omaha” into his or her Google search engine, your name and website should show up among the first three listings. It is important to remember that not every physician’s name will appear on the first page of search results. You will need to implement extensive SEO practices to get your website to show up at the top of the search results. Being visible in the search results will increase the chances that a potential patient will book an appointment with you and may end up being a repeat patient.
Importance of SEO for medical practices
SEO is a compelling marketing tactic that can bring more qualified leads and patients to your medical practice. Moreover, studies have indicated that SEO has a better ROI than traditional marketing techniques such as TV and print ads. SEO provides visibility, credibility, branding, traffic, reputation and a high ROI to your medical practice.
Regardless of the size and specialty of your medical practice, implementing effective SEO strategies is key to attracting new patients and improving your bottom line. SEO can also help increase online visibility for your medical practice and build its reputation.
When potential patients search online for your medical practice, it must appear high in the search engine rankings. Being at the top of search engine results puts your name in front of potential patients. Google is world’s leading search engine, so it is a strong endorsement when your practice name appears at the top of the search engines. Searchers trust Google, and as a byproduct of that, they trust your practice when it appears at the top.
Most potential patients make mental notes of the keywords they enter into search engines. In the minds of potential patients, your website ranking is a vote of confidence. They feel if Google trusts this medical practice to be relevant, then it must be. Your potential patients may not realize it, but high search rankings make your practice more credible in their eyes.
Reduced patient acquisition costs
Acquiring new patients is one of your marketing goals. However, obtaining new patients may cost you more money than what they will pay to you. With effective SEO techniques, you can reduce the overall marketing budget because digital marketing strategies are less expensive than other forms of advertising. This means that you can bring in new patients much faster and for less expense. With lower marketing costs, you have the flexibility to invest in targeted outreach and spend more time streamlining your goals.
While online traffic by itself is not going to make you any money, would you set up your office on a backstreet in Iowa or right across from Times Square? All those people walking around in Times Square may not make you any money, but some of them may become your customers. Appling the same analogy here, you still have to make an effort to attract new patients to your practice, but it is better to do business on a crowded street than on a deserted island. In addition, visitors coming to your website are qualified leads and were searching for a practice like yours when they found you. So they already have an interest in your services.
SEO rewards your medical practice at a higher rate than other forms of advertising or marketing strategies. This is because SEO is an inbound marketing strategy and allows you to market to qualified leads who are looking for products and services similar to yours. In order to convey your message to your target audience, you need not interrupt their favorite TV show or take up expensive space in a magazine where they are reading an article. All you have to do is show up online when they are looking for medical practices like yours. In fact, you do not even have to convince your target audience to try your services. The only message you need to convey is that you are the perfect practice for them to visit.
SEO is one of the most cost-effective strategies as it targets potential patients who are already searching online for services similar to yours. SEO strategies can help you save money as opposed to traditional strategies such as cold calling. While cold calling is a proven strategy, the lead generation is 61 percent more expensive than that generated by SEO. In addition, because SEO targets patients who are already searching for similar services, the traffic is better-qualified than other marketing techniques, resulting in cost savings.
SEO best practices for medical practices
Creating an efficient SEO strategy requires you to be able to grow with an ever-evolving healthcare industry. Patient expectations, in addition to Google’s algorithm updates, keep healthcare marketers continuously making new adjustments.
Complacency will destroy your rankings, and this will be dangerous for any medical practice interested in surviving and growing in modern marketing. Considering that 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine, prioritizing SEO best practices is critical to the success of any medical practice.
By successfully implementing best practices, medical practitioners can significantly improve lead quality, build valuable relationships with patients, improve online reputation through online presence and better understand their target audience.
Here are nine essential best practices to help improve your SEO strategy in 2017.
1. Choose relevant keywords: SEO is all about selecting the most relevant keywords for your medical practice. To choose the most suitable keywords for your website, you will need to get into the minds of your potential patients. You will need to consider all the possible keywords they might type into the search engine in order to find a new doctor in their area. The more relevant keywords you choose, the more qualified leads you will get.
2. Decrease website load time: In addition to keywords, the next element that can affect your SEO strategy is how quickly your website loads. A website that loads quickly can support your SEO efforts. A website that does not load within a few seconds will fail to attract and engage potential patients.
3. Publish informative and original content: Rewriting existing content is acceptable to a certain extent, but copying content from other websites will damage your SEO rankings as well as your reputation. Besides, rewriting current content will not be able to engage your patients for long. Therefore, strive to be different and try to create unique content that other websites have not done yet. Implementing an established SEO strategy or hiring an SEO expert to help you with the task will significantly improve your search engine ranking.
4. Ensure accurate title tags: A title tag is a short description of your web page and can play a tremendous role in your SEO efforts. Title tags show up in three places – browser tabs, external websites and on the results pages of search engines. When optimizing your website for SEO, you need to ensure that each web page has an accurate and descriptive title tag. Since most search engines display only the first 60 to 70 words of the title tag, be sure to include the primary keywords at the beginning.
5. Optimize your website: Your website should be simple and easy to navigate in order to attract potential patients. The content must be fresh and regularly updated. For your website to rank higher in search engine results, it must adhere to basic quality standards. In addition, make sure your website is optimized for mobile users.
6. Ensure optimum keyword density: Keyword density is a significant part of your SEO strategy. If you include your keywords too much, search engines will view your website as spam and may blacklist your website from results pages. However, if you use your keywords too little, search engines may not look at it as relevant to the corresponding keyword. The recommended keyword density is about 2.5 percent.
7. Consider chatbots: Chatbots can improve patient experience, boost engagement and provide valuable data for search engine optimization. When thinking about patient engagement in the online context, we usually think of a click. However, chatbots are designed to take engagement to the next level with an interactive conversation with the visitor. This presents the opportunity to get to know your visitor better, ask specific questions, include personalized messages and bring your brand to life.
8. Know your target audience: What kind of content you need to create depends on your target audience. The better you know them, the more useful content you will create. Without knowing your target audience, you may end up creating content on irrelevant topics, which would win you neither visitors nor good rankings. By creating a detailed buyer persona, you will be able to zero in on content that matters to your potential patients.
9. Improve patient engagement: Engagement is the ability to hold a visitor’s attention. In SEO context, engagement is a measure of the amount of time spent on a page. Recent research has found a positive correlation between engagement metrics and search rankings. According to Google, if a visitor spends more time on a web page, it is probably because he or she found the page useful. Moreover, because Google only wants to promote the best results to its users, it will place websites with strong engagement higher up in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Phone books and Yellow Pages are not coming back. Moreover, while television and radio ads have their place in today’s changing marketplace, they are not as powerful as a well-placed SEO campaign. Investing in SEO will be a smart decision for a medical practice. It is never too late to get into this game. However, if you wait too long, you may end up playing a long game of catch-up.
SEO is an essential component in your overall digital healthcare marketing plan. Your website, social media management and paid advertising campaigns must all be designed to enhance your online presence. When you choose an online marketing firm to guide you through this process, it is essential that you find a company that takes a comprehensive approach to digital marketing.
In order to find out how the digital marketing team at Practice Builders can help your practice attract new patients and enhance its online reputation, call us today. We can answer all of your questions about how SEO can improve your medical practice and use our decades of experience to give your medical practice the boost you have been looking for.