Posted on September 22, 2010

Owning Your Medical Website Brand In the New Media Economy

Branding is being redefined as we know it, right in front of our faces. Numerous people have written about the paradigm shift from traditional marketing to new media marketing. A turn away from the old marketing of the TV industrial complex and into a new world where the Internet grabs attention and plays a major factor in medical decision making. The web is where it is at these days and the massive amount of data coming on medical related search is fascinating. Pew Internet and American Life have some amazing data involving e-patients and searches conducted for medical and health care related terminology. According to Pew Internet & American Life, 46% of Internet users say they will use the Internet the next time they have a medical inquiry, a figure that is statistically congruent to the 47% of Internet users that say they use the Internet to contact medical professionals. E-patient is starting to become a vocabulary word in circles of Internet marketing professionals and many web marketers are starting to explore new ways on engaging this patient population. Before you can get cranked up with ideas for your Internet marketing program it is worthwhile to consider your medical brand and how you will present this brand across the Internet. Many early web marketers have suffered PR catastrophes as a result of rushing into poor search engine optimization decisions and now with the advent of social media word can spread fast about your brand reputation.

For medical professionals, name preservation and reputation management can be everything. After working in the world of medical search for a long time I have seen numerous blunders. Physicians who have messed up their reputations with either poor acts of judgment or medical malpractice problems have contacted me. I have even seen physicians that have been sabotaged by patients and other doctors. No matter what your case is you need to protect your brand and your name. As a medical practice there are certain steps that you will need to take to ensure the best-case scenario.

A. Domain Control (medical website domain name)

The first item on the menu is domain name control. The immediate first step is to purchase all domain names related to three major areas:

  1. Physician names
  2. Brand or practice names
  3. Keywords of sensitivity

Failure to purchase these kinds of domains is not just a lost opportunity but it means they are available to potential people intending harm. Be smart and seriously protect yourself while at the same time leaving the door open for future opportunity.

B. Build a quality website

When someone finds your website what do they do? Your website is often the first opportunity to introduce yourself to prospective patients. You cannot possibly meet all your prospective patients, but your website can. Is your medical website a presentation that you are proud of?

Nothing says quality better on the Internet than an impressive modern website. As a medical practice it is important to remember that you have a standard of ethics to uphold. Your website should reflect the moral ethical stance of your practice. Additionally, your website should address a major issue now facing medical websites: Website engagement. How do we handle conversions and patient engagement? What happens after I engage a visitor? Website engagement is one of the single most important factors for a website. In order to capture the short attention span of your user you must be clever about engagement. Your website engagement strategy should include, call to action, offers if possible, social media opportunities, patient testimonials if possible, website video, and perhaps some engaging wow factor flash files. Once you can hold the attention of a visitor you can begin the process of converting your traffic to patient interest. Some methods of conversion involve self-questionnaire forms that provide some level of feedback regarding a medical problem and newsletter sign up systems.

C. Perform SEO (medical website search engine optimization)

Starting the process of optimization your website for keywords is crucial for long-term success. Businesses that prolong this process will face an ever-increasing battle to reach any type of valuable position. If you do not have a website get one now so that you can start the process of aging the website. By performing search engine optimization you solidify your place on the Internet and will start benefiting from new people finding you. In the event that search engine optimization is a new concept to you we welcome you to attend the 2010 MIMS conference in Boston, where Harvard University graduate and Glacial Multimedia, CTO, Onur Birsen will be doing a focused course on this topic. Search engine optimization is the science of making adjustments to your website in order for it to rank well on the search engines. This practice requires a blend of programming competency and business acumen. The three main components of SEO also known as the 3C’s of SEO are code, content, connectivity. If all of these components of SEO are followed properly your chance of obtaining high rankings will be good. If one or more of these variables are neglected results can also be poor. As a medical practice, it is important to hire a professional SEO company that will not engage with black HAT SEO techniques and practice legitimate white hat techniques. Search engines will black list websites for employing unethical techniques. Because of the relative importance of your web equity, also known as page rank, your practice can literally have to start over with a few bad moves by with SEO. Consult with practices around the country to make sure that your SEO company uses legitimate techniques.

D. Create a social media and blog presence

2009 marked the year that social media hit the mainstream culture running. Both Facebook and Twitter became over night successes and have driven there way into medical practice promotional strategies. Many medical practices have used this effectively to create fan pages and business profiles but the big question of conversion remains at stake. Is it worth the time to hire an employee to work on this? Is my traffic on this page credible? Questions like these linger in the minds of many doctors struggling with what to do and how to allocate employee resources in this area. Marketing impressions have literally shifted into the Internet realm and now we must react if we choose to own our brands. Social media is important because of the importance of user-generated content (UGC). To protect your brand you need to influence what others say about you on the Internet and develop a serious public relations strategy to “control your reputation” If you do not do this someone else will do it for you. By engaging in social media, blogging, web PR and microsite development, you are working with a defensive PR strategy that will ensure your brand maintains its reputation.

Your website should be the center of this reputation control. Social media can play a role as the distributor of this so-called “Internet propaganda”. By setting up a blog that gets regular attention you will be setting the pace for a productive strategy. The blog posts should be a regular event for the benefit of both organic and social search. Content specialists may be required in order to make your content engaging and interesting to your “following.” By growing your website blog and social media pages you will be able to compete at the forefront of activity for your medical market in your local community. Many practices are incorporating the idea of an onsite social media czar into the framework of marketing or administrative positions. The following organizational chart below may help you develop your own internal system.

When developing a social media strategy it is important to combine practice level expectations with a team of competent web experts to keep your machine running smoothing. You may wish to establish an Internet marketing team or social media team-utilizing people at your web development company and practice level experts. Try developing a six month social media marketing plan and see how it can be rolled out.

Reviewing your competitor’s social media strategy is also a good idea. You can gain ideas from them and watch what others are saying about them. You may even learn about some things not do in your social media brand control.

E. Do Interviews

Bolster the reputation of your physicians by engaging in more interviews. Work with the national media, local media, and local business associations, manufacturing companies, charities and health care foundations to promote your brand. Get involved and get your name on other websites for positive purposes. Getting on older websites with established page ranks can be a great way to control the search engine positions. Your content specialist and PR expert should have some ideas of how you can begin to approach this task.

Many medical practices are stuck with the idea that all Internet marketing has to have a return on investment. When traditional media had a large portion of the total media impressions maybe this was the case. It’s 2010 now and we are well beyond the “TV Industrial complex”. I would like to introduce the idea of having 2 main facets to your Internet marketing plan. Internet Advertising and Internet Brand Building can be separated into two categories and built into an overall theme.

It’s important to note that some of the best brand building techniques for building your Internet marketing are not advertising based, but still have tremendous value by way of conversions.

F. Control Paid Search

The medical community has often looked at paid search with skepticism, but Internet advertising in this realm is simply commonplace. After studying the lead generation for elective surgery in this realm it is safe to say that paid search provides a good return on investment. Compared to traditional media the cost per lead is often much lower. Paid search effectiveness will vary from one marketplace to the next, so it is important to get an idea of total cost before engaging with this advertising. A conservative paid search program for brand control is something that many practices overlook. These types of paid search campaigns can be very effective in branding. By using physician names, center names and specific keywords, we can seize positions rather inexpensively. Of course this will not necessarily increase lead production but it may prevent a competitor from using your brand keywords for their business gain.

G. Link building and affiliate websites

Developing a sense of link building is critical to the long-term impact of your Internet legacy. Practicing discipline on this level could be the most important thing that you accomplish. In order to do this effectively, you might want to revisit the concept of the (Internet Marketing Team) and practice level marketing person. From a practice level perspective doing well at Internet marketing involves a team of technical experts and practice level staff. Your staff members can integrate and bring to fruition important values such as link building. When developing a link building program it is important to understand the value of “link mix” Developing a blend of different types of links is healthy for the organic stability of your website as long as relevancy is practiced. Listed below is a chart depicting link building mix.

H. Go Mobile. Stay Future

Mobile Medical Website Development

Are you ready to join the mobile revolution? Have you been wondering how many people view your website on a mobile device? The population of people using mobiles devices has skyrocketed over the last year. With iphone 2009 sales at 25.1 million and BlackBerry sales at 34.1 million the table is clearly set for mobile devices to capture a significant share of searches. Emarketer also published an article highlighting US mobile users that accessed local business directories in both March 2009 and March 2010. In March 2010 over 15.2 million subscribers accessed local business directories and in March of 2010 17.3 million subscribers accessed local business directories. All of this progress in mobile search has sparked my interest in the topic for well over 2 years at this point and I have reached the conclusion that it is wise to create an optimized mobile website.

Serving 2 Different Websites

It is now possible to serve both a mobile website and a regular website to computers. The server that your website is hosted on will need to be properly set up to serve the mobile website to only mobile phones. When you conduct a search on a mobile device it will pull the same indexed results, but serve the mobile website instead of a computerized version.

Testing mobile websites on Blackberrys has proven to be far more difficult than preparing one for an iphone. There are many versions of the blackberry and to make them all compatible can be challenging. Your existing website may also have multiple browser problems on Blackberrys as well and you might not even realize this especially if you check the website using the safari iphone browser.

J. Bringing it all together – Your Internet marketing system

Considering the major paradigm shift in media impressions from old media to new media, it is now common to have a separate Internet marketing strategy. The structure below indicates the elements necessary to grow your website equity and drive traffic to your website.