Consumers turn more and more to digital to find and choose their healthcare providers. Seventy-seven percent of potential patients are using search engines before ever booking an appointment with a provider. And sixty-three percent of patients will choose one provider over another because of a robust online presence. You must invest in your online presence as if it were your physical office location.
A strong online foundation helps patients find you, increases the likelihood that patients choose you over the competition, improves your return on advertising, and creates a sustainable growth track for your practice.
We spoke with Executive Healthcare Marketing Consultants, Heather Kernan and Ryan Files, to hear their insights on the essential nature of a digital foundation for practices looking to acquire new patients and signs that indicate your practice’s foundation needs extra care.
What makes up a successful digital foundation for a healthcare practice?
At Bell Media, we tout the importance of digital foundation first. The foundation-first stance comes from years of data and insights from our company (consultants like Files and Kernan, our healthcare customer success team, and production specialists) helping practices like yours grow.
Success starts by focusing on your foundation. A strong online foundation is created by the following steps: (1) Building a great website, (2) Creating great content, (3) Optimizing for Search, and (4) Building Online Reviews.
Success starts by focusing on your foundation.
Investing in your practice's online presence
What return can healthcare practices expect on their online foundation investment?
“The biggest challenge practices have around their online foundation is how they think about the investment,” says Files. “For ads, they look at what they’re getting in return for ads, which makes sense. With foundation, it’s not a one-to-one relationship, but there is absolutely a long-lasting impact and return.”
How does a practice’s online foundation affect its digital marketing efforts?
“It’s like building a house with cards vs. building a house with a strong foundation,” says Files.
“We see healthcare practices with foundational issues dumping money into paid. They’re investing in billboards, online paid advertising, etc., but not paying attention to how their problematic foundation is hurting these investments’ performance. It’s not bad to invest in a billboard, but it shouldn’t be the first thing to invest in or seen as the most important.”
Why the push to advertise despite a shaky foundation? “A lot of times practices do it because it’s easy…buying ads is easy…but making sure your website is user-friendly, consistent with branding, SEO optimized, etc. takes time and effort,” says Files, “and sometimes, doctors don’t have the time to do that.”
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of lost opportunity because of it,” adds Kernan. “You can try to get patients from any channel you want, and best-case scenario, let’s say they find you. If they don’t understand the value of your services, if they aren’t positively influenced by what they see, they’re not going to convert.”
Simply put, advertising when your foundation is lacking creates a problem of diminishing returns.
7 Signs that Your Digital Presence is Hurting Your Healthcare Practice (& What To Do!)
Files and Kernan outlined the following signs that a practice’s digital presence needs some extra care and what form that care takes.
1. Your website isn't mobile-responsive.
Eighty-one percent of Americans own a smartphone. If your website isn’t responsive, it won’t display optimally on your potential patients’ devices. And you’ll lose out on business. A qualified and experienced healthcare website design and development team will ensure your site looks sharp, loads quickly, and performs well on all devices your potential patients use.
2. Your website is lacking in content or has too much content.
The average patient visits 12 web properties before choosing a healthcare provider, and the Content Marketing Institute indicates that 61% of consumers will make a purchase after reading a blog. Healthcare content done right can help you win and retain more patients as you engage, educate, and build trust with site visitors. Include a healthy mix of engaging written and video content.
3. You’ve dumped all your services onto one web page.
When your page is about everything you offer, search engines don’t know what it’s about. But by building individual service pages with rich content on that topic or service, you send a strong signal to Google that you offer that service. In turn, you’ll stand a better chance of ranking for that service in your local market and be found by users searching for that service.
4. Your web pages are named and organized around your business instead of the patient’s journey.
Consider how patients search – most patients search by symptoms like hyperpigmentation rather than the services like chemical peels and IPL that treat the symptom. Name and organize the pages on your site in a manner that increases ease for search engines to direct in-market patients to your site and ease for patients to navigate throughout your site.
5. You have a small handful of Google Reviews.
“When you have two reviews, it’s a volatile situation from a review-perspective, but something we commonly see,” says Files. “Practices say they have a 4-star review and only one bad review. But when your review numbers are that low, it only takes one to two reviews to crush your reputation.” Not having enough Google Business Listing Reviews is a common misstep you should address.
Seventy-two percent of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new physician, and 19% of patients use online reviews to validate choosing a physician they have tentatively selected. Why? Because there’s power in social proof. “Without satisfied patients, there is no business, writes Physician’s Practice. A healthy online reputation is a requisite of a strong online foundation.
To learn more about how to improve yours, check out our Five Tips for Building and Managing Your Healthcare Practice’s Online Reputation.
6. Your website's design is lacking.
Potential patients can tell if an unqualified developer designed your website. It gives visitors pause to think, “if this is how their website looks, what does their practice look like?!” Indeed, when you think about your website as your business front on the internet, it raises the bar on design.
A professional, modern, and attractive website is a requisite of a strong online foundation. Seek a qualified and experienced healthcare website design and development team.
7. Google Analytics. You haven’t looked at it, or, when you have, you’re seeing high bounce rates and/or low traffic.
If you don’t have Google Analytics set up on your website or aren’t checking it, you’re missing out on valuable visitor data. Analytics provides insights about the number and type of visitors engaging with your site, as well as how they’re engaging with your site.
Analytics insights guide you in continuously improving your website to provide a better online experience for prospective and current patients alike. High bounce rates or law traffic indicate your site’s user experience (UX), load time, SEO, and/or content need improvement.
Strengthen your online presence and join the ranks of the healthcare growing elite.
We’ve worked with thousands of companies over the past ten years, and we’ve seen firsthand how companies that make their online presence a priority enjoy faster and more sustainable growth and receive larger dividends on marketing efforts.