Back in 2019, nobody could foresee what 2020 had in store. As events unfolded and the pandemic took hold, we all had to learn to deal with a world that was changing, seemingly by the day. With change as the new constant, and social distancing the new norm, people have relied more than ever on the Internet to connect with friends and family, as well as to shop for everyday essentials and research service providers, including medical professionals. You can take advantage of this shift and reach new potential patients with the right set of online and digital tools.
What follows is an overview of some of the most important things to consider, so you can keep your practice running, growing, and even thriving, into 2021 and beyond.
1. WEBSITE DESIGN + FUNCTION
Your website is likely to be the first direct interaction that most potential patients will have with your practice. There are a few things that you can do to make sure that your first impression is a positive one.
Make it functional on every device
Keep in mind that patients are not accessing your site from just a desktop or laptop computer anymore. 33% of all media time is spent on smartphones and 80% of social media time on mobile devices. Make sure your site is optimized to run on these devices. It won’t just look better and be easier to use, it will load quicker, too. Every 1-second delay in mobile page loads can reduce conversions by as much as 20%. That means missed opportunities.
HTTPS is about security — and more
HTTP (HyperText Protocol Transfer) is what your web browser uses to load websites, but there is an updated version that you should be using called HTTPS. The “S” stands for “Secure,” as all communication is encrypted. And while having a secure website is important in and of itself, there are other benefits to using HTTPS, as well.
For one, secure websites tend to rank higher on Google searches than nonsecure ones. And while there are other variables that also affect your search engine results rankings (more on that later), HTTPS can help you get your practice found in more searches.
Secure sites also run better on Google Chrome — the most-popular web browser — which helps create a better user experience for site visitors. Chrome labels these sites as “secure” giving users more trust in your site and, by extension, in your practice.
2. RANK HIGHER
Research has shown that 75% of people making an internet search never go past the first page of results. So it is important to get to that first page, and to rank as high as possible in the results. There are a couple of ways to get there.
Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Organic SEO refers to a collection of long term, ongoing strategies designed to help you achieve higher rankings without paying for advertisements. It delivers the most valuable results but is difficult to achieve and maintain.
Google crawls the web looking for the words that people are searching for and, when it finds those words, and content that its algorithm has determined as relevant, ranks those sites higher on results pages. You can attempt to build good SEO on your own by adding content focused on attracting your ideal patients, earning backlinks, and learning basic HTML for quick fixes.
But there is more to it than just choosing the right words; to get to the top of search results, you need to use a combination of strategies. These include geotagging, fine-tuning meta descriptions, data highlighting, schema markup, and repairing crawl errors.
On average, organic SEO takes about six months to see results. It is a continual effort, but it is crucial, and the most powerful tool you can wield in the ongoing fight to get seen.
Shoot to the top of the rankings with Pay Per Click (PPC) ads
For practices looking for a quicker solution, PPC ads are the quickest way to the top of the rankings. PPC gets you to the top virtually instantly, and guarantees you’ll receive high rankings for certain keywords. You pay Google an agreed-upon amount every time someone clicks on it, and in return, Google places your ad in a premier spot. And done correctly the return on your investment is excellent, with most ads making an average of $2 for every dollar spent. However, once you stop paying, your ads go away.
Enrich your site with good content
Filling your website with content like blog posts, videos, and patient educational materials does more than just provide information that your patients might be looking for. They are also another potent source of SEO, including backlinks (links from another site into your own), which is key for improving search results.
Blogging can improve your practice’s credibility by demonstrating your expertise, and engage your audience with your personal take on subjects that matter to them. Videos keep users’ attention and keep users on your site almost twice as long as websites that don’t have videos. Adding patient education materials from credible associations like the AMA or other similar associations can improve your credibility and help establish you as an expert in your field.
Don’t forget to update your content regularly, to keep it fresh and stay relevant with search engines and patients alike.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR ONLINE REVIEWS
When searching for a new healthcare provider, patients trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In fact, healthcare providers rank #3 on a list of businesses where reviews matter most; it’s often the final piece that patients use when making their decision.
Reputation Management lets the world see the best of you
You can stay in control of your reviews by regularly checking and responding to Google, Healthgrades, etc. If that proves overwhelming, reputation management software can help. Reputation management does a number of things to help make sure that you can gather as many positive reviews as possible.
You’ll be notified when someone mentions your practice on major sites like Google+, Yelp, and Healthgrades, so you can then automatically post the best testimonials directly to your website. Add a widget to your website and your emails to help you gather more reviews, then post those reviews on your website and Google Business listing to help you stand out from the crowd and increase trust in your practice. It even helps you separate real reviews from fake reviews to protect your practice’s reputation.
Replying to reviews shows you care
For positive reviews, express how glad you are that you were able to meet or exceed their expectations, and let them know that you are looking forward to seeing them again. When you do receive a negative review, think about how you can address the issues that were brought up. Apologize for the shortcomings, and ask for an opportunity to do better in the future.
By responding to both positive and reviews in a thoughtful manner, you are demonstrating that you take patient concerns to heart. And while you don’t need to change your entire practice for each negative review, if you see a pattern emerging, it might be wise to address it. Your practice — your business — will be stronger for it.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
While nobody can know for sure what 2021 might look like, you can get your practice ready by taking advantage of these tips, to help you reach the people you want to reach, and to help you adapt for whatever changes come next.