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Grow Your Patient Population With Web Site Marketing
An effective online presence can drive new patients to your practice.
By Dan Goldstein and Lesa Hastings
As Web marketing continues to evolve, it's important to educate yourself about the changing trends that will set your practice apart from competitors. Building a solid foundation for Web marketing and focusing on the needs of prospective patients will get new patients in the door. If you're not marketing online, or not taking your Web site marketing seriously, you're already trailing behind the competition.
The goal of this article is to empower you and your ASC to get a leg up on your local competition. For a successful online marketing strategy, you need to:
• Have a comprehensive online presence.
• Drive traffic to your Web site.
• Turn Web visitors into patients.
Building the Foundation
Because we run a Web site marketing firm that specializes in ophthalmology practices, we're often asked, “How do I attract the right visitors to my site?”
The answer is that you need to be as visible as possible on the Web. The more places users can find you, the easier it is to drive them to your site and the more likely it is that you can turn that traffic into new patients.
It's essential to understand where your Web site visitors come from, meaning where people start their searches on the Web, and ensure you have a presence there. While organic searches — that is, the normal search results that Google or any other search engine return — still dominate, the use of local searches and social media searches are becoming more prevalent and will eventually become the key to successfully generating new patients.
The two most important components for successfully positioning yourself online are to have a Web site with relevant information and to use search engine optimization (SEO). A professional SEO firm that engages in consistent content development and link building can help you compete aggressively.
But marketing your practice doesn't stop there. Many Web tools are available to supplement your site and basic SEO and we discuss some of these approaches in the next section. We recommend using as many as possible to create a comprehensive and effective Web marketing strategy.
Local Search Marketing
One of the largest areas of growth for search engine marketing has been in local searches, such as Google Places, Yelp and InsiderPages. Establishing diversity where you have local listings is important. Your business must take advantage of all of the information Google Places allows a practice to list, but don't focus solely on Google. While it's estimated that 60% of Web users use Google, your practice needs to be accessible to the remaining 40%. Many people consider Google to be the “end all, be all” of local listings, but in fact Google aggregates information from other local directories such as CitySearch, Bing and Yahoo Local. So it makes sense to list your practice in multiple local directories.
Not all local directories are created equal, but we've seen higher success rates for positioning local listings based on the following:
• Provide as much information in each listing as is allowed. The more complete your listing appears, the more professional, forthcoming and accessible your practice appears to potential patients. Include photos and video of the practice and the doctors. Ideally, video should include patient testimonials or doctors discussing specific procedures, or both.
• Always verify your primary listing. An owner-verified listing shows you're willing to take responsibility for the information you provide and you're actively updating the information, which lends confidence to those who find you online. While Google may automatically generate additional local listings, your practice should only create and work with one listing.
• Encourage positive reviews. These can come from existing patients. Quickly address any negative reviews that may surface. This shows that you're aware and engaged in what your patients have to say about your practice and services.
Regardless of your budget and ability to work with an SEO firm, local listings are a free and effective way to focus your efforts.
Social media is changing how consumers interact online. What was once a one-way conversation is now two-way. Consumers have a bullhorn in social media to complain about perceived bad service. This makes it even more important to ensure that you provide firstrate patient service.
While we've not seen social media generate a significant volume of new patients for our clients, we believe social media should be part of your online marketing strategy and that it can be an effective way to communicate with your current and prospective patients. First, build up your online community — your fan base (Facebook), your followers (Twitter) and your circles (Google+). Without a fan base or followers, you won't have much of an impact. Once you develop a fan base or following in your community, you must provide a steady stream of useful and engaging information to have the potential to improve your brand and generate goodwill, if not patients.
Based on usage numbers (800 million users), it makes sense to focus on Facebook as a starting point for social media and to designate a single person in your practice, ideally a patient counselor or marketing person, to be responsible for posting on a regular basis (at least once a day).
Mobile Web Sites
Because so many people access the Web through smart phones, it is essential to develop a mobile Web site. We've seen a huge increase in traffic to our clients' Web sites from mobile browsers in the last year and we expect that trend to continue. Some of our clients' Google Analytics data show as much as a six-fold increase in Web site visitors from mobile browsers from January 2010 through November 2011.
|Marketing Your ASC|
|Web site marketing can be especially beneficial for doctors with ASCs. Obviously, if you drive more surgical volume to your practice, you'll generate more facility fees. Beyond that, your Web site gives you the opportunity to highlight the fact that you perform surgery in a top-rated facility. We advise listing the address of your surgery center on your Web site separately from the practice address. This will allow you to develop a separate Google Places listing. Because of the importance that Google now places on local business addresses, in some cases, the additional Google Places listing will come up in the search results ahead of the listing for your main office. Even better, it could give you two first-page listings, thereby crowding out some of your competitors.|
You can create a mobile Web site on a subdomain (e.g., m.lasikpractice.com) or use a separate domain specifically for mobile browsers (e.g., www.lasikpractice.mobi). Regardless of which domain option you choose, you should keep your mobile Web site simple. Provide basic information about your services, make it easy to contact you and provide clear driving or mass transit directions to your office. Your mobile site should be programmed to work on iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Online Chat and Call Tracking
In part because of the ubiquity of social media, consumers are becoming more comfortable engaging in two-way conversations online. Since we began offering online chat to our clients, we've seen a significant increase in conversions (lead generation) from our clients' Web sites. Moreover, our clients have reported that the quality of the chat leads is significantly better than leads generated through traditional Web contact forms. The bottom line: If your Web site does not have online chat, you're missing out on quality leads.
Call tracking has also proven beneficial in calculating an accurate cost per lead and return on investment with our clients. Many practices count new Web site-generated patients based only on email leads. While this is a more “tangible” method of tracking new patient inquiries, we've found that our clients actually generate far more new patients from phone leads than email leads. The key is to add a unique tracking phone number specific to your Web site. If you're running multiple online campaigns, multiple tracking phone numbers work well. This allows you to determine what works and what doesn't so you can finetune your online marketing campaign for maximum results. Typically, your marketing person will set this up.
Paid search (pay per click, or PPC) is an effective tool to supplement your organic search. If done well, it can generate highly qualified leads. These are the benefits to using PPC:
• Audience targeting. Paid positioning allows you to target a specific audience, which in turn can lower your cost-per-lead and increase your ROI.
• Geo-targeting. PPC allows you to target precise areas through geo-targeting, and rule out undesirable areas.
• Triple play. By combining paid, local and organic searches, you have the opportunity to show up in three places on the first page of search engine results. When viewers see you in three places, it enhances your brand and reinforces the idea that you are a credible and accessible practice who must be doing something right.
Many of our clients use PPC to achieve long-term goals, but campaigns of shorter durations can also provide benefits. For example, if your practice is not appearing at the top of the organic search results for a particular search phrase, PPC is an easy and fast way to change those results.
Importance of Positioning
Your practice's entire online marketing campaign should focus on a single end goal: generating leads and bringing in patients. Positioning yourself well on organic and local searches are the starting points for this effort, but services such as social media, mobile sites, chat, call tracking and PPC will strengthen your ability to convert web traffic to leads.
The crux of any marketing campaign comes down to getting in front of the right audience at the right time. By positioning yourself online and leveraging your presence to generate new patients, your practice will reduce marketing spending while more effectively targeting patients who are truly interested in your services. OM
Reprinted from the February 2012 issue of Ophthalmic ASC.
|Dan Goldstein is president of Page 1 Solutions, LLC, a website marketing firm specializing in website marketing for ophthalmology practices. Dan can be reached at 303-396-1204 or by email at DanG@Page1Solutions.com.|
|Lesa Hastings is director of internet marketing at Page 1 Solutions, LLC. Lesa can be reached at 303-396-1275 or by email at LesaH@Page1Solutions.com.|
Ophthamology Management, Volume: 16 , Issue: August 2012, page(s): 59 - 61