Medical Marketing Ideas: Online Marketing to Improve Your Practice
Marketing your medical practice can be overwhelming. The opportunities to engage your potential clients/patients are broad and the decision on your strategy has perhaps never been so confusing. But one thing is absolutely clear and that is people are turning to their smartphone for help with their health issues.
This is confirmed in a Google Report titled ‘Micro-Moments Guide: How Australians Find and Choose Health Services‘. Let’s take a quick look at the findings and then Then I’ll go into detail about some of the online strategies and tactics you should be using to promote your practice.
Here’s a few findings you ought to know:
- Among smartphone owners, 77% have used their smartphones to find local health services in the past six months.
- On average, Australians conduct 3.1 searches when finding a new health service provider.
- Almost half (43%) of health service customers wish more businesses had mobile-optimised sites.
- After recommendations from friends and family, online search is the preferred method for Australians researching new health service providers.
You’re probably wanting more useful and medical-specific advice on what tactics you should be using to improve your online performance, as well as how to use them to promote your practice.
For the complete guide, please continue reading. Or if you’d like to skip through, simply use the quick links below.
Improve Your Website Experience
Despite Google trying to provide users with all the key information they need directly from their search results pages, your website is still the cornerstone of your online presence.
But unfortunately, so many clinic websites are outdated and don’t do much more than provide an online brochure.
So, it’s time to think about some of the ways your website can provide your users with a better experience.
I’d recommend you begin with improving your online booking process and start producing content.
MAKE IT EASIER TO BOOK ONLINE
Your online booking process is a prime opportunity to leave a positive impression with your patients.
But many clinics have websites that aren’t optimised for mobile, have clunky forms or send users to third party websites to complete their booking.
You need to make your patient’s booking as smooth as possible.
So, what should you do?
Integrate Your Software with Your Online Booking Facility
There’s still medical clinics asking patients to complete a form to book online. Then calling them back to confirm a time.
That’s a burden on your staff and it’s also not the best experience for your patient.
They simply want to be able to book online and that’s it. Confirmed.
Integrate APIs and Keep Them on Your Site
The problem is that many clinics use third-party software to manage the scheduling and booking process. Doing that requires your patients to leave your clinic’s site to make their booking.
That’s confusing and you miss an opportunity to further engage with them.
The third-party software providers can provide you with widgets to embed on your website. But these then stick out like a sore thumb because you don’t have any control over the styling.
The best solution is to hire a developer to implement your own booking process using the third party’s API (an API is an IT term that simply means your patients will be able to book using the third-party software without leaving your website). This will also allow you to use what you want from their booking process and style it in a manner that’s consistent with the rest of your site.
Provide A Phone Number
Google found that when Australians are ready to book a health service, 66% say it’s either extremely or very important to have the ability to call a provider directly from their smartphone.’
So, you should start there. Make sure that prospective patients can find your contact number easily and make sure it’s linked so all they have to do is click their mobile to call.
According to Healthdirect Australia, Each week in Australia, more than 12 million people search the internet for health and medical information, yet 78% of these visits land on overseas websites where there is no guarantee that the information is clinically sound or appropriate to the Australian health system.’
So there’s a huge opportunity to provide valuable Australian health-related information.
Will a large percentage of the site visitors reading your content be potential patients?
No, they won’t. You need to think of yourself as a local business providing content to a national audience. Don’t ignore that opportunity. The quality of your content will boost your ranking with search engines, help you get exposure on social media, and provide your potential clients with the proof that they should be seeing you and not your competitors.
Not to mention, there’s a trend for businesses of all types and sizes to turn their own marketing into revenue-producing opportunities. This may be an opportunity for you as well. More on that later.
But many content questions remain…
What should you write? Who should write it? Should your blog posts be short or long? Where do you promote them?
The first thing you really need to do is identify what you want to achieve and how you’ll measure the success of your content.
Want to simply drive more traffic to your website? I’d imagine you want to generate more online bookings.
In that case, you need to think about the questions your patients have when they come into your clinic. Are there any consistent questions topics? Search for those questions on Google to see what content your patients could find when they search. Could you write an article that would be the most valuable local/Australian piece of information on the web? That should be your aim. If you can, then start planning your article. Make sure it’s going to be 2,000 words plus and that there’s a range of sub-headings, because we all love to scan web content. Compile supporting images, graphs and resources that your article can link to. Anything that will make your article more valuable.
Include links to your clinic’s service pages in your article. That will help to give them more authority.
Share your article on social media. Advertise it on Facebook. Browse sites like Quora and Reddit for questions or threads where your article would help people, and provide a link to it. You could also try spending some money with content recommendation engines like Outbrain to get more exposure.
Further to writing blog posts, there’s an opportunity to create a hub of content. The sort of hub that will encourage people to keep coming back to your site.
Also think about publishing other resources including:
– a glossary of specific health terms
– quizzes. These can go viral on social media.
– the latest health figures, especially local info when you can get it.
– guest posts from other health practitioners that your audience might value. Look for that practitioner to reciprocate.
– products reviews. For example, air purifiers are popular lately. Salt lamps as well. Give your opinion firstly on the technology and then on the products themselves. These might lead to alternative revenue sources.
The search for a medical clinic, dentist or natural therapist will often start with Google and what is considered a local search. For example, ‘medical practice Geelong’. The person searching will receive what’s called a ‘local pack’ result being a map, three listings and often gold stars for each indicating client/patient reviews.
Getting listed in this local pack and being the more dominant player within the three results can have a significant impact on traffic to your website and subsequently to your number of business leads.
So how do you get into the local pack?
This line comes directly from Google:
“Providing and updating business information in Google My Business can help your business’s local ranking on Google and enhance your presence in Search and Maps.”
It’s also worth noting that Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors Study identified that ‘Google My Business’ was the #1 contributor to Google’s local pack and finder feature.
So let’s start there.
OPTIMISING YOUR GOOGLE MY BUSINESS (GMB) PROFILE
Enter complete data
The more information you provide, the more valuable your GMB listing is to people searching for a medical practice. So, go ahead and fill in as much as you can, including category, address, phone, email, payment types and more. Category is considered to be influential and you’ll be looking to use either ‘Medical Practice’ or ‘General Practitioner’.
But make sure the business details are accurate and consistent with your website and other prominent online listings!
Verify your location(s)
Of course, Google doesn’t want to be serving search results with location information that’s incorrect. So verify your location. Some businesses can do this by phone and email. Otherwise, the process involves having a physical postcard sent to your business via mail.
Keep your hours accurate
When people search for your business, Google will display if you’re open or closed. If you don’t have accurate hours listed, then you risk annoying clients who get to your business only to find out you’re closed. Or maybe even worse, missing business because people think you’re closed when you’re not. Make sure to utilise the ‘special hours’ feature too, so you can add public holiday hours, etc.
Manage and respond to reviews
We all value online reviews and that’s why Google places great importance on them. So make sure you’re encouraging reviews (but definitely not paying for them). Be sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews. But keep in mind your response is going to be just as likely to have an influence on others as the review itself is.
Google knows that users find value in seeing images of your practice, so of course photos will help. Add as many as you can, but make sure they’re great photos that leave positive impressions of your business. I would go one step further and hire a Google Trusted Photographer to create a virtual tour of your practice.
Now if you’ve already set up your Google My Business profile you know that it can get tricky for medical practices. Let’s discuss a couple of points.
If you have multiple locations for your clinic then you need to have multiple GMB profiles. But there’s a couple of things to keep in mind:
– Each listing should have all the relevant contact details. Therefore, phone numbers should definitely be different.
– Ideally your website will be set up to have a different page for each location. If you have this set up then the respective GMB profile should link to its location page, not your home page.
This is the most confusing aspect of Google My Business for medical clinics and practitioners. Who should have a profile and who shouldn’t. You should familiarise yourself with Google’s Guidelines.
What you need to know is this.
– If there is only one practitioner at your clinic, you can share your profile. Google recommends using this format [Clinic Name] : [Practitioner Name].
– If there are multiple practitioners, then you want to create one listing for the clinic and a separate listing for each of the practitioners. But note that when you create a separate listing for the practitioners, they should each have a separate phone number. The title of the practitioner profile should not include the name of the clinic.
IMPROVE YOUR LOCAL AUTHORITY
Aside from optimising your GMB profile, being able to display authority in your local community is crucial to improving your local search performance.
There’s a few ways you can do this:
– Get local citations and links. If there’s local business directories, then create listings for your clinic. If you can become a member of your local business association or Chamber of Commerce, then do it. You might go one step further and donate to local charity groups.
– Local content. When you’re publishing content on your website, make sure some of it is locally relevant.
Sensis reports that “over two in five (42%) Australians regularly read reviews (1-3 times per week).”
We have an insatiable appetite for reviews. They play a key role in our decision-making.
In fact, SearchEngineWatch, a leading SEO blog, highlights that “90% of consumers read reviews before visiting a business.”
So getting online reviews is more than just a tactic to improve your SEO. They influence online decisions and drive clients/patients to your business.
If you need a more definitive example of how reviews can help your business, consider a study done by BrightLocal that found ‘going from a 3-star to a 5-star rating’ in Google’s local pack can earn a business 25% more clicks.
WHERE TO GET REVIEWS
Asking for reviews on your Google My Business listing is a no-brainer. Enough quality reviews will encourage people searching for a clinic to contact you directly from Google ahead of your competitors.
Facebook is one of the most dominant players on the web. The 2016 Sensis Social Media Report highlighted that the average Australian is on Facebook a whopping 32 times a week. So, if you have a Facebook Business page, ask for reviews there too.
Aside from those, do a search of your own for something you expect your potential clients/patients might search. For example, ‘medical centre Melbourne’. You’re looking for third-party sites that rank well. I expect you’ll see healthengine.com.au and even Yellow Pages. So aim for reviews on them too.
Note: Ideally you would be displaying reviews on each of your key web pages. They would have a positive impact on your site’s ability to convert a lead. But of course, unfortunately there are restrictions placed on the health industry.
HOW TO ASK FOR REVIEWS
The most important thing is to simply make reviews part of your client communications. Are you already sending some form of email as a follow-up? Add another line to that email asking them if they had a good experience to leave you a review.
You should also be mindful of a couple of things:
– Don’t go sending a flood of emails asking for reviews. If you get a big chunk of reviews at once, it’s going to look unnatural to Google and they may penalise you.
– Don’t try and cheat full stop. If you’re a staff member, the chances are Google knows. Maybe you set up the GMB page in the first place. Or maybe someone else set it up but from the same IP address. Just don’t do it.
– Some sites don’t like you asking for reviews. Yelp is one of them.
HOW TO DEAL WITH NEGATIVE REVIEWS
The first thing I want to say is this…your response is going to be viewed by a lot of people. It’s crucial to understand this because all too often I’ve seen emotions get out of control and a business owner respond poorly. Unfortunately for them, not only do you get the reviewer offside but it looks bad to everyone that is checking out your reviews. And your response is not going anywhere!
So step away. Take the emotion out of it. Be polite to the negative reviewer. Even if they’re a nightmare! Because we all know there’s those people out there that just like being a pain. So, when we read a polite and measured response from the business, we’ll expect that this is one of those cases and we won’t let it influence our decisions. But if you go and abuse them, then it just gives more power to the negative review.
I’ve spoken about the website experience but there’s many more ways to improve your client/patient experience.
Here’s a few ideas:
– Use push notifications to communicate last minute appointment opportunities. PushCrew is one provider that you might want to explore. Users can subscribe to receive notifications. Once you write the message and hit send, the next time the user browses the web (they don’t have to be on your site) they’ll get a notification to say you have a last-minute opening. They can then click through to book.
– Facebook Messenger. Your clients are most likely already on Facebook and many of them are using Messenger with friends and family. Perhaps they’d prefer to communicate with you via Messenger than email or phone. I guess the important thing is to understand that your patients will have different preferences, so identify what they are and communicate with them where they want you to.
– Organise a Fitbit group? Or maybe a walking meetup? Why not show your audience that your preference is to see them remain healthy. You’re in a position where you could facilitate or coordinate local walking groups or implement contests utilising Fitbits, etc.
Therapists are more commonly using social media than medical clinics or dentists are. But there are specific social media opportunities depending on your local involvement in the community and the number of therapists/physicians you have at your location.
So what social media platform?
Facebook is where everyone is, so that’s the obvious choice. But you have to make a decision based on your audience and where they spend their time. If you’re in the middle of a central business district, you could perhaps make a case for LinkedIn. But ultimately Facebook is where you should be.
But you must know your objectives. Are you trying to engage with other local pages? Are you trying to get traffic back to your site? Maybe you’re doing both. I just hate hearing that people don’t know their objectives because if you don’t, how do you know if you’re wasting your time or not?
Just remember to be human. The two most shared areas on social media are humour and health. Utilise the latter, no matter how funny you think you are. Share your content (or other people’s) if you think your community will find value.
You could profile the therapists and physicians on Facebook to help give your community a more in-depth, personal understanding of their physician instead of them having to rely on the brief 15-minute appointments they have with them occasionally.
For example, after our family had been seeing a new GP for over 2 years, we found out he used to be the Head of Emergency Medicine at a local private hospital. We never knew. This is compelling info as it may provide the social proof you need to acquire new clients.
This is something that few medical practices or health services businesses are doing yet. And this has them behind the eight ball.
It is how it sounds. Automating your marketing. But more specifically and in practice, marketing automation will look like this for a medical practice:
A user books an appointment on your site. Your automation software knows their name and email and begins tracking everything they do on your site. You can check their history at any time and see when and what they have browsed. More importantly, you can start to tailor the experience they have on your site.
You can now do all sorts of cool stuff, like…
Maybe you’ve realised that your patients typically come in every 6 months. Well your automation software can email them after 5 months to prompt them for an appointment or simply to remind them you’re there.
Maybe you schedule a range of emails to be sent at specific times to your entire list. For example, when winter is upon us an email goes out to remind them of flu injections. It might also include a direct link to your online booking form.
If they’ve visited a specific page on your site but have not yet made a booking, you could send them an email seeing if they had any queries regarding that specific topic. Of course, your email would also provide a direct link to book an appointment.
Your blogging can play a huge role in this process too. While your site visitors are reading a specific post, you can arrange for a popup message to appear asking them if they would like to make a booking.
There are many possibilities when it comes to your marketing automation. At the end of the day, the aim is to start achieving some of the objectives you have with your site without it requiring more and more time from your staff. Write a blog post and start prompting your readers to book an appointment relevant to your topic. Once that process is set up, you don’t have to do a thing but see them when they come in.
Experience is crucial. But understand that each and every interaction with your practice is contributing to your audience’s experience and that many of them are happening on a mobile device. So even though you might have the most-friendly receptionist and even friendlier practitioners, a poor mobile site is likely to be enough to discourage people.
I strongly recommend that you spend some more time reading the Google report ‘Micro-Moments Guide: How Australians Find and Choose Health Services‘.