Your goal as a healthcare practitioner is to guide others in their wellness journey. Although the path to health and happiness may not have changed much in the preceding decades, how patients find the trailhead certainly has. The key is to meet these potential patients where they are in their search for help. More often than not, this is online.
This means expanding your scope and presence across digital platforms so those in need of help can find you fast and find you first. These strategies will not only connect you with plenty of new patients, but help you stay connected and involved with the ones you treat already. In this resource, we aim to help you help others — better, faster, and more effectively.
Your patient records are no longer relegated to paper, neither should your outreach strategy. Not only will the strategies discussed below reach those in need of immediate care, and educate people in need, they are also a necessary and helpful lead generation tool for your business to acquire new and loyal patients.
To put the importance in perspective, Google alone receives 1 billion health-related searches daily – that’s an average of 70,000 searches per minute, or 7% of all Google searches! If you’re relying solely on personal recommendations and a listing in the phone book, your business model is not only prehistoric, it will likely meet a similar fate as the dinosaurs.
Before we get into the technicalities of marketing tools themselves, let’s broadly identify and explain some of the most important strategies for healthcare practitioners. Afterwards, we will see how these can be used in conjunction with the most effective digital marketing tools. You will find helpful links embedded in the text that lead to relevant and thorough how-to articles throughout.
We’re going to assume that you have a website. That’s a great start. If you’ve consistently updated the site since it was created in 1999, you’re getting closer. But there are a number of absolutely critical elements that must be present on your website today in order to make it perform at the level of care you provide. Here are a few elements you can accomplish yourself:
Below, find an example of a simple, logical site structure for a local practice:
Optimize for speed. Searchers expect immediate results. Today, when a site fails to load immediately, the user abandons the page for another. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool for personalized tips. To emphasize these points, just have a look at the ‘bounce rate’ among mobile users in relation to load times:
1. Target Locally
This is arguably the most important part of your entire digital strategy as a practitioner. Since your business is limited to a specific geographi- cal area, so is your base of potential patients. In fact, 46% of all Google searches are local.
Marketing your business nationally, for instance, will be an unnecessarily expensive and time- consuming exercise that will most probably not yield customers from outside of your geographical area. Thankfully the tools discussed later make it easy to target exactly the right audience, in exactly the right geographical area.
2. Become a knowledge source and thought leader in Health
As a health practitioner, you’ve made a career out of your desire to help. Your expertise puts you in a position to become a source of knowledge for the local community and abroad. This is often achieved by creating and sharing useful, relevant, and compelling content that is not only helpful for those who read it, it is useful on almost every level of digital marketing. Later, we’ll see how this content creation can be used as part of your digital marketing on every level.
Much more on this later in the section addressing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) here. Becoming a thought leader can take time to cultivate, but once you put in the hard work, it will transform your practice.
3. Understand your target audience and typical patient
With digital marketing you have to obtain a particularly in-depth understanding of your target market in order to communicate in a way that encourages engagement. Pin down your target customer by exploring not only why they need your product or service, but what motivates them in the form of social and cultural values.
This may be easier for the average healthcare practitioner than the typical business owner, as practitioners experience face-to-face, personal contact with their patients on a daily basis — learning about their health history, lifestyle, and preferences.
4. Don’t Neglect Mobile
The importance of mobile as part of a digital strategy cannot be overstated. In 2016, for the first time, more people accessed the internet through mobile phones and tablets than desktop. By 2018 the mobile share of the market reached 58%, and continues to grow.
What percentage of online traffic does each device type account for?
It is becoming normal for people to use their phones to search for restaurants when they’re already out the door, grocery stores when they’re on their way home from work, and services like doctors or dentists right when they need one. This creates huge opportunities to promote your practice.
Here are a few ways that you can use to take advantage of this new ‘normal’:
5. Utilize Data
The internet is vast ocean of data. Harnessing this data in the right way allows you make great digital strategies, as it enables you to analyze your campaigns to see what’s working and what isn’t. This allows campaigns to become more effective over time.
When planning a campaign, you need to be very specific about which metrics you will use to determine the campaign’s performance, so you can use the feedback quickly and effectively. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind which we will discuss more in detail later:
Use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your campaign, but keep them flexible.
1. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
SEO is a set of practices and methods designed to increase your visibility in search engines. Search ranking is determined by a site’s authority and relevance to the searcher’s intent. The way to rank higher than competitors is to increase your site’s authority with a well-executed SEO strategy. Furthermore, research by our partner Hubspot shows that 75% of searchers never scroll beyond the first page. This is not surprising. When is the last time you scrolled through multiple pages, especially if you had a pressing health need?
Target Locally - As far as SEO is concerned, local SEO is the low hanging fruit. This is because you are only competing with others in your area, rather than regionally, nationally, or globally. For example, it is much easier to rank for the keywords ‘Spine Doctor Birmingham’ than for the more general term, ‘Spine Doctor.’ In larger cities this will be targeted down to the particular neighborhood.
There are a few quick ways that you can start increasing your local SEO presence immediately. These include:
Become a knowledge source - Content is a pillar of SEO strategy. In the old days of Wild West-style SEO strategy, many people would just stuff their website content with the keywords they wanted to rank for. As Google’s algorithm advanced, those days are over. This is great news for the consumer. Google now recognizes content that is useful, relevant, and reliable. A few ways to optimize your content for SEO:
Don’t Neglect Mobile - With mobile now capturing the majority of searches, Google has implemented mobile first indexing. This means that rather than only judging sites by their desktop versions, mobile versions sites are now accounting for a large proportion of ranking decisions. There are a few ways to make sure that you’ve addressed this.
3. Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising
PPC advertising (most often Google Adwords) are those ubiquitous little ads that show up on the top of the page after a search on Google (or similar). These appear above what are called ‘organic searches’ (non-ad results) which are determined by SEO value.
Of the 1 billion healthcare-related searches daily, nearly a quarter are resolved in a click on a relevant PPC ad.
Target Locally - Google Adwords makes it easy to target your audience geographically. This means that your ads will be shown only in the cities, neighborhoods, or regions that you dictate. Common sense and practice shows that the closer a customer is to your practice, the more likely they are to choose to visit your practice.
Once your campaigns are successful, begin to expand your targeting locations. You will discover a point where you are not seeing enough returns to justify continued expanding of targeting.
Become a knowledge source - In general it is not recommended to use your informative articles in your PPC campaigns unless you have a large budget, and are focusing on brand awareness. The reason for this is that people searching for informative articles are higher up in the buyer’s journey. Doing this means that you have just paid someone to read an article that you are offering for free. A click on an ad directed to an informative article will convert far less often than to one linked directly to a services/ treatments page for specific symptoms with a ‘book appointment’ option.
Understand your target audience and patients - Once again, most of the key ideas in the strategy overview above apply. Primarily for PPC, the most important is focusing your ads on spe- cific end-goals of your primary patients. Know- ing the issues that they are trying to resolve, and focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel searchers (those actively seeking treatment) is key.
Don’t Neglect Mobile - With the majority of searches now being conducted on mobile, be sure that your PPC ads are optimized across numerous devices. This means:
Utilize Data – Not all of your ad campaigns will be equally effective. Luckily, the Adwords platform provides comprehensive reporting. That should help you tweak and optimize your campaigns for the best performance. This should be done often and thoroughly.
• Make notes of what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your bids accordingly. Invest more in reliably high performing ads and reserve some budget to test new campaigns. You can segment your audience based on demographics like age, gender, etc. to find your perfect audience.
A/B testing - A/B testing allows you to test the performance of two slightly differing ads to see which performs better. This is a great way to optimize your conversions over time and end up with the very highest performing campaign.
Negative Keywords – Sometimes, the keywords you don’t show up for are as important as the ones you do. If a campaign is losing money, see if there are negative keywords that you can remove. For example, if many clicks are coming from “Free Dental Care Atlanta,” and this is not something you provide, it would be wise to add “Free” to your list of negative keywords.
Ad rank and quality score – Ad rank and quality scores are directly related. If you have a high- quality score, you will rank higher and pay less than competitors for the same spot. Check your ad rank and your quality scores often for the best results. This system prevents a single advertiser form simply buying the best rankings.
3. Social Media Marketing (SMM)
SMM is a strategy of leveraging your presence on social media platforms to reach new and existing patients. A focus is placed on creating shareable and useful content on these platforms. Almost all social media platforms offer their own PPC services to promote services to a wider audience.
In fact, in a recent survey nearly one third of respondents indicated that they have used social media platforms to find health-related information, and express their opinions on practitioners, treatments, drugs, and more. Fourty-one percent of these consumers used social media platforms to inform their decision in choosing medical care, such as a particular medical facility or doctor. The opinions of peers can be powerful. As with any of these online tools such as PPC and SEO, SMM is more suitable for certain situations, goals, and target demographics.
Target Locally - Like PPC, social media allows you the ability to target your audience to a large degree. Targeting on social media allows for a wide range of options whereby you are able to construct different audiences that perfectly match your advertising goals. Targeting locally is by far the best strategy for health practitioners, given that you will only be targeting neighborhoods within a certain radius around your practice.
The best strategies you can use when targeting locally on social media are:
Become a knowledge source – Now that you have an SEO optimized article, why not share it on your social media platforms? This is high quality, engaging, and helpful content that your followers will be interested in. However, becoming a thought leader on social media is more than just sharing articles. As a health practitioner, you must know what people want to read, and HOW they want to digest information. Keep these tips in mind.
Infographics. This content is especially handy, because it breaks down large chunks of information into digestible bits, and explains it using visuals. Your information should be understood and accessible to everyone, because the more people understand your service, the more likely they are to seek it out.
Understand your target audience and patient - Social media is an ever-evolving tool that changes every time a new topic trends. Plat- forms are user-dominated and therefore your customers demand the type of content they want to see, not vice versa like several decades ago. Because companies are not in control of how much or how little information about their product they want out there, you must be selec- tive with the content that you put out online.
Don’t Neglect Mobile - Social media was born in the era of the smartphone, meaning almost everything you do on these platforms will be intuitively integrated from desktop to mobile or vice versa.
Having your mobile device close at hand can also make your job easier
Utilize Data - Where social media is concerned, platforms have built-in metrics to choose from that make determining a campaign’s success easy. Keep these things in mind when creating a campaign:
Some form of digital marketing for your practice is no longer a choice. A listing in the yellow pages or word- of-mouth, while potentially useful, will no longer cut it to grow your business in the digital era.
Start small and scale up if you need to, and reach out for external support if necessary. Hopefully this guide and the resources provided are enough to give you insights into how to initiate new strategies of patient outreach or optimize the ones you already have.
At the end of the day, a better outreach strategy makes you a better.