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Medical Website Marketing: Creating Your Internet Marketing Road Map with Proven Strategies For Higher Website Conversions

Looking for doctors has never been easier than it is today. In the old days, you had to look in the yellow pages to find a eye care practitioner near you, and there was no way to know what kind of service they offered. You had to choose whatever was closest and easiest. Now, the Internet offers you a number of ways to not only find eye doctors online, but to find out more information about them. From various amounts of research we are able to ascertain that patients are now researching significant amounts of health care information online. By the end of 2011 over 83.2% of the baby boomer population will be using the web to find health care information. So whether you are treating young or older patients you can bet they will be using the web to not only find physicians but to also research a particular health issue. According to Pew Internet and American Life Research Projects, 40% of e-Patients with chronic conditions say they or someone they know has been significantly helped by following online medical advice. Additionally 46% of Internet users interviewed say they will use the web the next time they have a medical inquiry. In the future the impressions leading to medical decisions will be coming from web-oriented searches and if you are not there you will simply not be found. The explosion of “new media” has effectively changed the way that most media impressions are now made. If your medical practice is not using the Internet effectively you are missing out on opportunities to gain new patients. If your brand is not adequately represented online you can bet your competition is taking advantage. In a busy medical practice it is difficult to keep up with all the changes in new media marketing. As a surgeon, you need to be focused on surgery, and as an administrator you are focused on various tasks to make the practice run smoothly. It can be confusing to find someone to guide you in the appropriate direction with Internet marketing. This article will attempt to provide you with a road map that if followed will set you up for success with Internet marketing.

Questions to Ask

  1. What are the top endeavors for 2012 of your Internet marketing efforts?
  2. What roles will social media play in your practice and do you have dedicated staff?
  3. What is your game plan to target mobile users since the rise in mobile website traffic due to smart phones and tablets?
  4. What is your competition doing and how well are they positioned on the search engines?
  5. Is your website ready for 2012? Is it mobile compatible? Do you have the appropriate call to action items above the fold? Does it look professional?
  6. Are your website forms HIPAA compliant? Do you have interfacing capability with my EHR system?
  7. What is your marketing tracking system? Are you able to track to lead to surgery conversions? Do you know what types of marketing give me the best ROI?
  8. Is your practice up to speed with Google places and local search websites?
  9. Do you have an internal team that oversees the Internet presence for the practice?

Preparing Your Marketing Efforts

Before you begin your 2012 journey into Internet marketing you must first assess your readiness factors. On the internal level do you have the correct team assembled? Having an internal team to oversee and work with your web partners is vital. A communication gap will need to be bridged so that effective implementation can be achieved. The typical solution for this is a practice level web-marketing liaison often coming in the form of a marketing director or administrator. Critical to your readiness is the condition of your website. This is 2012 and believe it or not you need a website that works. Your website needs to look professional. Would you have a messy waiting room with old furniture? Then why would you want a website that is outdated and ugly? Does your website have call to action and is it noticeable? Does your website have conversion readiness, meaning can people convert to the lead status and is this trackable. Do you have a legitimate budget set aside for this type of marketing work? Have you prepared a 12-month annual plan and assessed all the areas of the game plan? If you do not have these items in place your readiness factor is weak. Set aside some time to get ready for 2012 and set the wheels in motion. Without a little executive level push the train may not leave the station; however, once you set your ship a sail, you can begin to harness the power of the Internet.

Top 10 Internet Marketing Activities

The following items have been ranked with research from Glacial Multimedia, Inc., Google Analytics, Emarketer, Pew Internet & American Life Project, and HubSpot:
  1. Paid Search Marketing
  2. Newsletters
  3. Organic SEO
  4. Social Media Optimization
  5. Mobile Website / SMS
  6. Video Optimization (VSEO)
  7. Local Search
  8. Physician Reputation Management
  9. Conversion Optimization
  10. Expansion of BLOG

1. Search Engine Marketing: Paid Search

Paid search has clearly proven itself as a serious lead generator with cost per lead numbers typically lower than that of traditional marketing via radio, television, and print. It should be a staple in your budget and considered as important as the yellow pages. It’s hard for us all to believe this but your position on Google is actually more important than the yellow pages. At the end of the day cost per lead is the best way to determine effectiveness. Cost per lead is not something that Google Ad Words will compute because it does not have access to form submissions and calls. In order to calculate cost per lead you will need to know the monthly spend and the amount of forms and phone calls generated from the landing page of a particular campaign. With tracking systems, it is easy to get this information. Paid search can be very effective, but practices continually make poor decisions in this area and are faced with higher than normal cost per lead numbers. Please note that paid search will be the area that obtains the largest amount of marketing spending from American businesses in 2012. If your competition is doing this and you are not, then you need to reconsider this marketing method because you are simply losing opportunities.

TIPS for success with paid search

Use custom designed landing pages with offers. In my experience, custom landing pages tied to specific ad groups have a massive advantage over using a secondary page of your website. The reason why is simple. Landing pages can often have conversion factors built in. An example of a highly effective conversion factor is the self-test. From a 2011 MD prospects review we were able to compute that self-tests get 6 conversions to every one for a standard contact form. Landing pages are also more engaging and can have well placed and designed videos right next to custom call to action. Get some human eyes on the project! You will be surprised what looking at your Google Adwords control panel can tell you. You can review your entire keyword strategy, see what terms attract the most attention, determine where the biggest part of your budget goes and even see the system metrics of impressions, cost per click, amount spent, and click-through rate. Software is great and can be very helpful but there is no evidence that software can manage paid search better than a human. Use a tracking to determine your effectiveness. Do not rely on automated systems design to make all your numbers look good and do not strictly use the Google system to determine effectiveness. Track all of your calls and forms that come from paid search with independent tracking software. If you want real answers and real success you must determine your cost per lead. There are various systems that have this capability. Understand your lead threshold. With every market and every paid search campaign there is a threshold minimum spend that will dramatically increase your lead totals. If you spend less than this amount your lead total may be weak but if you spend more you will see larger amounts of leads. It is important to analyze this and predict where this level is in your market for your products and services. Being conservative here is not necessarily the right approach, but neither is excessive spending. Test a few different budgets and analyze the results. Once again, tracking systems will be useful in this case.

2. Using E-Newsletters More Effectively

E-mail newsletters are hotter than ever before in medical marketing. After reviewing business trends and talking to key market leader physicians, we are convinced more than ever that newsletters are vital to your marketing program. E-mail Newsletters a great extension to your communication toolkit and offer your patients an excellent channel by which they can reach them. Having an email newsletter is a very effective method of collecting information from your prospects. If you do not have an e-mail newsletter then you are missing out on a very effective medium for turning your prospects into customers and your customers into lifetime prospects. No matter whether you perform cataract surgery, sell optical products or diagnose glaucoma service, you can benefit by having a newsletter. In ophthalmology we often talk about…vision for life…how can you market vision for life and not use e-newsletter marketing? With everyone so busy in your medical practice who has the time to create and send an e-newsletter? With the current state of email sending problems due to spam complaints and opt-in approvals, sending emails has never been harder. Despite these barriers, newsletters remain a strong focus for marketing departments in medical marketing. The big question for your practice is…what is the most efficient way to do this and what options are most effective?

Before Starting Your Newsletter Project

Before you get started with your e-mail newsletter– or even if you’ve been sending out e-mail newsletters for a while– ask yourself these questions:
  • What are my goals with this project?
  • Who is my audience?
  • How can I best serve my audience?
  • How often will I or can I send one out?
  • How will I measure the success of my e-mail newsletter?

Tips for E-Mail Newsletter implementation

Create a FOCUS What is your motivation for your newsletter? Are you looking to educate patients? Are you specifically seeking leads only? Are you interested in retaining customers for life? You must create an engaging e-newsletter that grabs the attention of the reader by writing on intriguing topics. In medical marketing we feel it is vital to have education play a role. Although creating solid call to action and offers will help with conversion optimization it is important to remember that educating and entertaining your customers can be of long term value. If your newsletter is too focused on sales activities you may turn off many patients. I am sure they get enough of that from other industries such as the car and mortgage businesses. Be yourself, create a focus and pound your message. Should I consult with a professional? Do we create this in plain text or HTML? Should I use a service like constant contact? Now that we’ve discussed your practice business goals for the e-mail newsletter and how to support it with the design, let’s briefly consider the construction. Back in the old days, composing e-mail newsletters in plain text was safer and more common. Since then, people have discovered that they don’t really like reading long emails. What are the best days to send medical e-newsletters? We never send an e-newsletter on Monday or Friday. This way you captivate people when they are in the full swing of the week without weekend distractions. Friday afternoons are perhaps the worst time to send an e-mail newsletter. If you are looking for low click-through and non-lasting impressions send it Friday afternoon and it will be out of mind by Monday morning. Create interesting content! Respect your e-mail newsletter subscribers by putting out quality newsletters. An inbox is a noisy and busy place for most people and they have a limited time to be there. Don’t send junk unless you want to be deleted or ignored. Opt-OUT forms You need to make unsubscribing easy to do. If you make it easy you will get the people off the list that really do not want your information and really do not care. There is really no point in emailing customers that are not interested in what you have to say. Archive your e-mail newsletters on your website You can get extra search engine optimization value if you post your newsletters on your website or if you post them on your blog instead.

3. Organic Search Engine Optimization

Why should SEO be one of the first focuses of your Internet marketing planning? Are you maximizing your SEO potential? Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science of making adjustments and modifications to a website in order to make the site rank higher for particular search terms on specific search engines with the ultimate purpose of increasing traffic to the website. SEO combines programming with logic and business strategy. It is more than just placing tags and links on a website, it is actually a blend of many variables. Each search engine uses complex algorithms to analyze these variables. SEO is a dominant generator of website traffic and subsequent leads. The leads from organic SEO are among the best quality leads because they have more relevancy than other methods of Internet marketing. After a study of 350 medical practices it was concluded that bounce rates from SEO traffic are significantly lower than traffic from paid search or social media creating a better, qualified prospect. Our survey revealed the following bounce rate averages:
  • SEO – 27%
  • Paid Search – 55%
  • Social Media – 81%
Currently Google is the dominant search engine and has enjoyed a significant amount of time as the market share leader. Next to Google in terms of market share is BING (formerly MSN). Between these two search giants most searches are done in one of these spots or a spot that uses the Google and BING algorithms. For example AOL uses the Google algorithm to serve results and Yahoo uses the BING algorithm. These are branded as different search engines but the same exact results will appear. If you are aiming for obtaining more website traffic with your SEO program it would be pertinent for you to optimize the website for these 2 main search engines.

How SEO works – The 3c’s of SEO

If you factor in the 3C’s of SEO – CODE – CONTENT – CONNECTIVITY and do them all well, you will have success!

CODE & SITE STRUCTURE

When discussing this first C it is imperative that the website is coded properly. The website needs to have the appropriate tags put in place so that the search engine understands how to crawl or read the page. If the website is not readable by search engines it must be coded correctly. The main tags that need to be done are: title tags, meta tags, ALT tags, H1 tags, meta descriptions, and meta keywords. Preparing the code and tagging the website can take a great deal of time but, it will be worth the time if done properly and combined with effective efforts of the other 2 C’s.

CONTENT

You must have original, well-written content with a mix of keywords that reconcile with the SEO tags. Google is interested in unique content to serve its users. Duplicate content is not valued as much as custom well thought out content.

CONNECTIVITY (LINKS)

Link building is one of the most widely misunderstood elements of Internet marketing. This is also integrated into organic SEO but has citation implications with local search now. When developing a positive SEO campaign it is important to note that the amount of incoming links is critical to success. This is also referred to as OFF-Page SEO. Most marketers and web masters struggle with link building. Link building requires discipline and a focused strategy that your business should practice everyday. Critically important to the effectiveness of link building is the MIX. Volume and quality of links play a major role in how much these links can help you but let’s first examine some types of links your medical practice can acquire.

4. Social Media Development

Social media integration continues to be important for a solid online presence. Today, there are literally more forms of online marketing than there is with traditional marketing. Social media is now one of them and can have impact both in terms of visitor action and brand awareness for your practice. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most popular social media sites. A lack of presence on these social media websites is no longer an option for businesses. Quite frankly, your website visitors will expect this presence. When getting started with social media it is important to develop a clear direction and overall vision at your practice. Allocation of resources on the practice level versus the amount of work outsourced should be paramount in this conversation. Many practices reserve the day-to-day posting activities internally while outsourcing the more technically challenging areas such as blog, YouTube or application interfacing. Social media can be challenging and frustrating as it is time consuming but as a practice how far ahead are you willing to let your competition go? A new book called “Wikibrands” is now available and details the transition from traditional forms of marketing into new engagement style marketing, where customers have more brand control. This book may provide some insight into reasons for starting your program as soon as possible.

5. Mobile Website / SMS

Mobile Internet marketing may possibly be the biggest growth area of 2012. Marketing to mobile phones is no longer for early adopters. Today, more and more people are dependent on smart phones for research. Why is this? It is because they have a device right there that can give them the answers. Is your website mobile compatible? What does having a mobile compatible website mean? Users can pull up your website from their phone, but how user friendly is it? Are you able to generate leads form your current website? Customized mobile websites are recommended to give the user the exact information they are looking for on the go. Give them the ability to call you by touching your number, to map you by touching your address, learn about your practice and send you a message. Users often will leave sites that are not easy to use from their mobile device. Making your website easy to use and providing them with the information they are looking for is key to the mobile user.
“Mobile Internet users will reach 113.9 million in 2012, up 17.1% from 97.3 million in 2011” – eMarketer

6. Video Optimization (VSEO)

Video SEO is a set of techniques designed to make sure that:

  • Google finds your video content
  • Google successfully indexes your video content
  • Google will display your video content when specific keywords are entered as search terms
Video SEO has emerged along side local search as a batch of blended search results. Most Internet marketers would agree on occupying as much of the first page of results for your top keywords. With blended search involving organic, local and video now obtaining first page ranking is harder than ever. Google’s search indexing algorithm continues to evolve in complexity and SEO experts must evolve to stay relevant or their business will disappear. One thing is for sure the last 4 years indicate that Google is giving over more search results to video and local search results.

Use video content for engagement purposes!

In the year 2012 it is safe to say a lot of web video content gets digested through websites and applications. If you are a busy medical practice there is multiple reasons for you to have video content. Whether this content is of professional quality or not is not the point of this article…what is the point? The point is that your practice needs to index some videos on the Internet because people would rather watch video than read text. Google is fairly flexible in what it considers to be video content. You can use actual video footage, but screen captures, slide shows, animated PowerPoint slides, and other content will work just as well. Google can’t actually “see” what’s inside the video content, so it relies on title and other meta-data to determine what content your video actually contains.

There are a few types of videos you can have on your medical website:

  • Physician interview videos
  • Patient testimonials
  • Procedure animations or informational video
  • Practice promotional videos

7. Local Search

The confusion regarding local search continues to mount across the spectrum of small businesses and medical practices. As many people are simply trying to run their businesses and trying to keep up with emerging trends, understanding local search can be difficult and frustrating. Local search has been all the recent buzz related to search and has had impact on the future of how people find local information. In my opinion local search is the most important marketing objective for a medical practice in 2012. If your patients cannot find you who knows what will happen. One thing is for certain some business will be there but it is really up to you to determine just how prepared you want to be. As of Feb. 2010, Google reported that roughly 40% of the 10 billion searches being conducted each month have “local intent”. It is highly likely that many of these searches have intent for the services that your business offers. Now that the search engines are more locally aware than ever you need to completely understand the impact here. In addition to the impact it is equally important to understand that local search is different than organic search and is determined by an entirely different set of variables. There are now three main aspects to the way the first page of search results are displayed. Paid, Local and Organic are the three main aspects that your need to be aware for solid presence on the search engines. Without an understanding of how these three parts of the first page work you cannot dominate the search landscape in your vicinity. Local search has arrived and in a big way when it comes to medical procedures especially elective procedures that are competitive. You can learn a lot about how local search will change by following what has happened in large markets. The competition for the top spots can be fierce and challenging to succeed even for local search experts. Google has restarted its local business center concept as Google places and with this process many businesses lost reviews, had duplicate listings and were sometimes dropped from important keyword searches. Most medical practices do not even have their places pages claimed at this point and this is where confusion can set in. If you are confused as to what local search is all about consult a professional before it is too hard to achieve any results.

Important reasons you need to take local search marketing seriously:

1. Most people searching for a business in your local area are ready to act. This means if your listing does not show up on that computer you are kissing their business goodbye and driving them to your competition. 2. You can reach Mobile searchers. Local listings display on cell phones and mobile search is exploding as more people are using smart phones to find local businesses.

Most local search engine results are determined by the following criteria:

  • Geo-proximity to the searched location/zip code
  • Appearance of the searched term within the business name
  • Appearance of the searched term within the business profile
  • User feedback/reviews

Setting up your Local Search Listings

How does a business get started with local search? Are you a medical practice with multiple locations and different physicians? Most people will agree that Google is the first place to start. Your business will have to set up a free Google account and it may be a good idea to obtain a free Gmail account to use as your email address for all your listings. Your practice may already be listed in Google results because they pull information from a lot of local directories like Yellowpages.com. The key element here is to claim your business listing and optimize it to fit the right keywords, city, state, zip code, phone number. The category set is also a very important part of this profile set up so be sure to examine your options closely. The description part of your listing is very important. In 25 words you need to describe what you do. It is important to get your most important keywords in there without spamming. Just give the facts and avoid sounding like an advertisement. Avoid phrases like best, safest, lowest priced etc… Google will use your description, phone number and address to determine where you show up when people type in certain search phrases.

8. Physician Reputation Management

Why Would I Need Online Identity Protection?

“If you do not control your brand someone else will!” – Matt Jensen, Vance Thompson Vision
Bad reviews happen to good doctors! Some doctors have lawsuits posted about them and other websites contain harsh criticisms of physicians. In all these cases the doctors were not given an opportunity to comment, but their names and reputations were hung out to dry while the courts mired in tasks. Negative web information has damaging impact on doctors. Patients read about them online and simply chose other physicians with less negative online commentary. All of these doctors learn the hard way that their online reputation is important and poor comments can lead to loss of business and identity damage. When prospective customers, clients or employees are searching for you, what do they see? Do they see nasty blog articles, do they see a Google review on how long they waited at your office or worse, and maybe they are accusing you of malpractice. Do you even realize how many people are reading and absorbing negative search results about you or your business? As you know from practicing medicine, it is hard to meet everyone’s expectations or hard to perform the most perfect surgery for every patient. The Internet has now enabled angry people and disgruntled people a chance to say what they think. Why should they be allowed to tarnish your reputation? Online reputation management can enable you to be aware of any new information posted and create a customized plan to reduce negative impact.

9. Conversion Optimization

Conversion optimization is the process of maximizing the percentage of website visitors who complete a desired action (this percentage is known as your conversion rate). If you’re not doing so already, you should be tracking your conversion rates. For pay per click advertisers, this is the percentage of people who clicked your ad and went to your website and then took an additional action – such as completed and submitted a contact form, an estimate request, or took some other action that you can measure to see if your ads are successful. Conversion optimization is about getting the traffic that is coming to your website more engaged so that they can interact with your business, complete a survey, complete a lead form or ask a question. Getting tons of traffic to your website is great, but getting tons of conversions is way better! That is exactly what conversion optimization is all about – maximizing the number of your website visitors that convert to sales/leads. More leads and sales, of course, mean more revenue. Have you ever taken a look at your website conversion rate? Have you ever taken a look at your Google Adwords conversion rates? If you are working with Google Adwords this is a good place to start with the concept and is isolated from the website making it easier to track. What do you think your conversion rate is today? Is it 5%, 10%? Instead of wallowing in how bad your conversion rate is look at things more optimistic and try to make improvements or set goals to double your rate. If you are like most practices you probably have a low rate, so this makes for a lot of room for improvement. Now….what can I do to improve conversions. Listed below are a few TIPS that will get you thinking of what you can do to improve your conversion rates.
  1. What is your call to action? Have you ever tested how it works?
  2. Is it better to have call to action on the right, top or left side?
  3. Are you getting leads from home page call to action?
  4. Does your call to action reflect your Value Proposition?
  5. Have you tested adding credibility indicators to help? Reviews?
  6. Do you use specific and focused landing pages in paid search?

10. Expansion of BLOG

What is a BLOG? Does the word turn you away instantly? Well it shouldn’t. A BLOG is a forum for people to post articles and for others to comment and share these articles. In the medical practice I see BLOGS as an excellent way to share new information about your practice. Maybe new services, special offers, events, medical missions, etc. The intent for our purpose is not to get people to comment, but to increase the number of pages on your site, allowing the search engines to see that you are consistently updating your content, hence increasing page rank and positioning in searches! Instead of calling it a BLOG on the website (which a large percentage of people are still in the dark about) call it a What’s New Page, or a News and Events Page. Get your staff to post news as BLOG articles and help SEO at the same time! Even better…you can feed these BLOG articles to your social media and update both your website and social media in one step! It is important to note that before going out and starting a blog online, can this be embedded into your website to actually help you? Before taking this very important step in Internet marketing, consult with your Internet marketing specialist to determine the BLOG application that will work best for your practice.

In Conclusion

The items discussed above present, clear and logical options for growing your Internet marketing planning. The evidence of Internet search data and health search is proven to be significant. Although other methods of Internet marketing do exist these items represent proven strategies for success. The main presentation will be presented at the ASOA meeting in April and will entail more visual graphics, new data, and concept ideas for inspiration. I have chosen the article format in order to present more ideas and suggestions so that your practice can gain from this information. Sources: Google Analytics, Emarketer, ComScore, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Glacial Multimedia Inc. and HubSpot
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