Smart Alaska business leaders know they need to consistently find ways to access new customers. They grasp the importance of continually expanding their brand's recognition and staying in front of people who could eventually become their clients. Managing this takes commitment, research and, of course, considerable resources.
Can people in your geographic area find you? No, we aren't talking about the street you are on. We mean online. How can people who are looking for an answer to their problem find you during their Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)?
Local SEO content is the answer. By creating and sharing content, you build your SEO rankings, are more discoverable, and can drive traffic to your medical website, increase interest in your business, and expand you patient list.
You just need to know how...
As much as you would like every person who comes across your company name to end up being your patient, you know that's not realistic. Some of them are bound to choose a different provider. Maybe their sister recommends another healthcare center in Alaska, they stumble across one closer to where they work, or they read a blog post from another provider that connects with them and addresses their pain points more than your information did.
Writing a blog post takes time and energy. Deciding on the topic, choosing proper keywords, backing it up with research, and actually sitting down to let words flow from you brain into your tablet is quite a process.
Once you create a killer blog post, what do you do? Post it, share it on social media, maybe. Then what?
If you are a healthcare provider in Alaska, you recognize the importance of building recognition among potential patients. Advertising and referrals are smart, but can be expensive and inconsistent. A strong social media strategy targeted at your buyer personas can offer a high return on investment (ROI), simultaneously growing your brand and widening your audience.
"Failing to plan is planning to fail." ~Benjamin Franklin
When embarking on the exciting journey of content marketing, getting real results takes more than cranking out content and posting on a few social media sites. Even if you know and understand your buyer persona, and have thought of dozens of killer topics for content, you need to plan your strategy.
"I started my blog last week. I should have some new patients by now!"
While this statement is a bit tongue-in-cheek, we do understand the importance of believing in your content marketing strategy's ability to deliver tangible results, as fast as possible. Content marketing results and return on investment (ROI) can seem like slippery, obscure numbers that are hard to figure out. It may also feel like it takes forever to see any benefits from your efforts.
Since embarking on your inbound marketing initiative, you have most likely done some homework. You have identified your Alaska healthcare customer buyer persona, mapped out their decision making process, or buyer's journey, and hopefully leveraged your office team's knowledge to brainstorm a list of awesomely interesting blog topics as long as your arm. Now, with your tablet at the ready, your are set to hammer out a blog post that will delight your audience and woo them to be your patient. Right?
As an Alaska healthcare provider, you understand the importance of having your name out there as a professional, experienced, trustworthy organization. How do you do that? Happy client referrals are one way, but shouldn't be the only avenue you use in gaining new patients.
Businesses need customers. Small or large, local or international, a strong, profitable customer base is the difference between thriving and faltering. And, unlike ten years ago, the majority of shoppers are not asking their neighbor for recommendations or looking in the phone book to find an answer to their needs.
There are a variety of valid, essential reasons for a buyer persona. Unfortunately, it's much easier to crank out content, or even worse, sales copy, that lists your medical marketing company's offerings without using your resources to uncover and develop your specific buyer persona.
There are a good number of marketing websites laying out trends and best strategies for search engine optimization (SEO) in the coming year.
One that we would like to recommend that you focus on as part of your own medical marketing effort is semantic search.
While content is "king," and search engine optimization (SEO) must be maximized to ensure your medical practice blog posts are getting found and read, the necessity of building engagement is a third part of the content marketing puzzle that needs to be addressed.
It used to be that simply cross-posting links to your blog was enough. However, the digital "noise" that has taken over the social media stratosphere has made it critical for marketing efforts to focus on the best time and day for posting in order to reach the most members of your target audience.
Medical practices may not be as invested in social media as they ought to be.
After all, generally speaking, the space that healthcare professionals and patients share online can be fraught with potential concerns, namely privacy and liability for misused information.
Many doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners would rather avoid the world of social media for these reasons, and hospitals tend to have strict policies for employees with regard to using these platforms while on the clock and while using hospital property.
Still, the need to engage in social media is an important one for any medical practice based on the way that inbound marketing functions. There is considerable value in using social media to establish your medical practice. Your effort to find and appeal to future patients starts with providing quality blog content, but its shareability in social channels is what gives it traction out on the web.
When we speak with new clients about Alaska healthcare marketing, one of the most common questions about blogging for business regards the length of content. How many words should a blog post be?
This might hail back to the days of composition class, when assignments were made by teachers with the specific goal for each book report or an essay to meet a length requirement.
The idea of "word count" is different in today's digital communications, however. The questions is not about "how long" a post should be, but how effective your content is at the word count you choose.
We have touched on the word count in this previous article, "Meet these 4 standards for the best medical blog posts," but let's talk about blog post lengths, why word count matters, and what "the rules" are today.
The buzzword, influencer, is used quite a bit in the field of marketing and even among professional organizations. Can a medical practice achieve status as an influencer, and if so, how do they do this? Finally, how does it pertain to inbound marketing for medical practices?
You've heard the term clickbait (or its cousins likebait, linkbait, or sharebait). You've probably clicked on it, maybe without even knowing it.
What's worse, legitimate medical practices may have even practiced clickbait-styled tactics in their efforts to increase their web traffic to their healthcare blogs.
We're here to tell you: Don't.
No doubt you have some posts that have served your medical practice blog well in terms of repeat traffic. These are usually relevant, "evergreen" posts of high-quality content that have successfully connected you with readers who, down the line, may end up becoming—or have already become—new patients.
In the world of content marketing, there is no such thing as "one and done." You can—and should—get as much mileage out of your best content. In most cases, the majority of the legwork has been done during the process of writing the post. It doesn't take much more to spiff it up and resend it out into the world.
Let's say you're a cardiologist and you've spent some time and money putting together 2 to 3 posts a week to drive more traffic to your medical practice website. You're confident your latest content is well written and bursting with utility and inspiration for the patient prospect who visits your site: today they find your latest post on the relationship between oxidative stress on the heart and obstructive sleep apnea. It's a big deal and you want everybody to read it.
How disappointing it will be, later, to learn how very few people will have actually read this vital post.
This could happen for a variety of reasons; one key reason could be that you've failed to amplify your fresh content.
A Call to Action (CTA) is an interactive element on your website (often in your blog) which directs your reader to take some sort of action. This could be to download a free publication, ask for a health assessment, or take a quiz about symptoms or side effects.
Building an interactive marketing tool like a CTA doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, it should be one of the easier things you can do to drive engagement... you'll (ideally) make CTAs for many different products or services as the need arises.
To simplify the task, we've included ten key "bones" below that make up the CTA "skeleton." The way you incorporate them may vary from one CTA to the next, because your CTAs should be tailored for each group they're designed to reach. For healthcare marketing purposes, this could be patients, other doctors, patient's families, or other caregivers. (You usually decide who these groups are by creating personas.)
At any rate, each CTA you build should still include all of the features below if your goal is to guide your reader further along their patient (or customer) journey, toward the all-important Zero Moment of Truth, when they finally decide it's time to give your medical practice a call to schedule a visit.
Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line, but a carefully targeted pathway of action items to execute so that you can achieve specific goals.
Following this crooked path of key stepping stones, you can build a marketing strategy for your healthcare company or medical practice which shrinks the distance between you and your prospective patients and can greatly increase the odds that you will expand your patient base as a result.
In our previous discussion about using keywords in healthcare marketing, we mentioned a number of keyword tools you can use to find the right keywords to serve the content development and search engine optimization (SEO) needs of your medical practice blog.
Over the next few weeks, we'll feature how the best of these work to help you understand the variety and functionality of these different tools for narrowing down keywords.
For a busy medical practice looking to attract new patients and build its base through a healthcare blog, the concept of keywords may seem to only relate to advertising using the pay-per-click model.
You can get a lot of mileage out of smart keyword usage, but you need to know what they are and why they matter to your medical marketing strategy first.
If you could only focus on 4 key elements of your blog posts to ensure they best served your inbound marketing goals as a medical blogger, what would they be?
We recommend regular frequency, appropriate word count, adequate white space, and overall utility if you are to make each and every of of your medical blog posts work its magic to serve your reader's needs.
A well-known construct in marketing strategy is the Buyer's Journey. The Buyer's Journey was popularized by HubSpot a few years ago. It essentially highlights the common path that any buyer follows if they are to buy a product or service in order to solve some problem they have.
In this era of information overload, consumers tend to research (sometimes, obsessively) about products or services they want to purchase, vetting for important details like value, relevance, and ease of application.
No doubt the same construct can be useful to apply in a medical marketing strategy. The Patient's Journey follows roughly the same path before it leads them to finally come knocking on a medical practice's door, looking for healthcare solutions for their medical problems.
According to HubSpot:
"A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal
customer based on market research and real data about your existing
customers. When creating your buyer persona(s), consider including
customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals.
The more detailed you are, the better."
Tony Zambito, leading authority on buyer insights, gave this additional take on the utility of a buyer persona in 2013 that we think is increasingly relevant in 2016:
"Buyer personas are research-based archetypal (modeled)
representations of who buyers are, what they are trying to accomplish,
what goals drive their behavior, how they think, how they buy, and why
they make buying decisions. (Today, I now include where they buy as
well as when buyers decide to buy.)"
Let's dig in to how a medical practice blogger can best make use of the buyer persona.
Pain is not only a medical term, but a marketing consideration. When you ask a patient to fill out a pain scale handout (i.e. "Circle the face that best represents how much pain you feel right now"), you are practicing discernment as part of your job as a medical professional.
So too does a medical marketing strategy rely on a more discerning understanding about the needs of its potential new patients.
Knowing where to start when it comes to writing a medical blog can be one of the biggest roadblocks facing any medical practice launching a new content marketing strategy.
There are so many different directions you could go, so many subjects to address.
On top of all this, you frequently hear how "content is king," but this does nothing to clarify what you should be writing about.
How do you create an editorial calendar for your blog from an infinite number of topics?
We like to start with that simple childhood game, 20 Questions.
Sometimes medical practices with websites become so enamored of the limitless boundaries of web presence that they can forget that they (and their clients) are still mostly local.
"Getting found" should start with maximizing local search and search engine optimization (SEO). Especially for the Alaska-based business, local SEO as a medical marketing strategy can stand to set you apart from all the others.
The term, "getting found," refers to the notion that a business needs to be "found" on the Internet if consumers are to acknowledge it exists.
Of course, in reality, brick-and-mortar business still exist. However, those with a strong digital presence can enjoy additional (and necessary) layers of legitimacy and trust from patients, both preexisting and prospective, who have turned to the Internet to solve their health problems.
But don't just build a website and consider your work done. What you need is not only a website, but a strong web presence.
This is why "getting found" is so crucial. It's easy to fall for the Field of Dreams mentality: if you build it, they will come. This kind of magical thinking doesn't serve the more pragmatic concerns of a medical practice, however.
Comparing healthcare products, procedures, and services at your medical blog may be one of the purest forms of medical marketing. It takes all the emphasis on your need to acquire new patients and places it, instead, on what your patients (current or prospective) need or want. This creates a natural win-win situation.
A common Internet search related to healthcare includes the keyword phrase, "best of." Why is this?
We all want the best of everything for ourselves and our loved ones. The "best of" may ultimately reflect "the best we can afford," mirroring consumer trends that we do demand more value or "bang for our buck" when making purchasing decisions.
This is no less true for healthcare services, products, and procedures. When patients are able to choose, they will always aim for the "best of" what they can access.
It makes sense, then, that your medical blog should always include "best of" posts, even when you don't offer what some patients might be looking for. This form of vetted information can empower and "delight" patients, improve your reputation, and lead to a wider reach for your inbound marketing campaigns.
Due to the major changes in consumer behavior inspired by the Internet, patients too have become savvy "shoppers" when it comes to the healthcare choices and decisions they have power over.
Not only do they surf the web in search of products, services, and procedures that are best suited for their needs, or the needs of their loved ones, they want to know about other keyelements before they invest their time and money. One such element they care about is pricing.
Insurance coverage is, as medical practices are reminded everyday, extremely complex. For patients, not only is it complex, but it also often limits their choices. This creates anxiety about how much their healthcare expenses will actually run, in the long haul.
If you can help them negotiate these challenges by offering transparency about your pricing on your medical website, you may find you are better equipped to build patient trust.
But you need to be willing to share what you charge. Are you?
In 2011, Google popularized the term, "zero moment of truth," in an e-book written by Jim Lecinski titled Winning in the Zero Moment of Truth.
It refers to that moment when a consumer has completed their research of a product, usually online, and has decided to commit to a purchasing decision.
Lecinski's book highlighted how shopping decisions can be viewed as individual "moments of truth" (MOTs) that are part of a distinctive consumer "journey."
Understanding this journey is critical for any inbound marketing strategy because, ultimately, the goal is to "win" the ZMOT.
What does that mean? It means meeting the customer at that particular crossroads at exactly the time they arrive by providing them with what they most need to make that decision.
Random ideas aren't strategic, however. You'll want some sort of content strategy from the beginning.
One possible approach is to compose your opening blog posts following a content marketing theme.
One of the coolest things to come out of publishing is the advent of the infographic.
This graphic element started out as a "thing" back in the days of print newspapers and magazines, with USA Today probably deserving credit more than any other publication for using it to capture large amount of data in a small space.
Back in the days of newspapers, space was always a premium; it was bought and sold, so making the most of "column inches" was necessary for a newspaper or magazine to be economically viable.
Today, we see infographics all over the Internet. Not because there are space issues... quite the contrary.
However, our culture, steeped as we are in the Internet, has become a visually engaged one. Infographics exist not to save space, but to deliver information in a way that is accessible, pleasing, and useful.
Marketing terminology and concepts can leave some medical practitioners reaching for definitions and diagrams for better understanding.
Perhaps one of the biggest arenas of discussion centers on which strategy to enlist: inbound vs outbound marketing.
Let's clarify what these terms mean.
Medical practices have used advertising and outbound marketing strategies effectively for years now.
Not all of them have adopted inbound marketing strategies, however... a risky oversight in a world where patients are social, information is digital, and lifestyles have gone mobile.
Building an inbound marketing campaign involves foresight, creativity, and careful planning. Even more than that, though, it must center on the most important thing that a doctor and patient can share: trust.
Doctors may be late to the game when it comes to using social media as part of a marketing strategy.
And for good reason: physicians are, by their very nature, risk averse.
Social media, though it has been around for almost two decades, is still something of a Wild West frontier in many ways.
However, it's now an ingrained part of the social tableau, making it more critical than ever for doctors to start learning the ropes in the world of social networking if they are to compete for medical marketing space online.
How to master social media as a healthcare professional may be an additional challenge to the busy practice, as well. Knowing how you can benefit, what you should avoid, and how you might go about building a social media presence is well worth the time invested, as its benefits to the medical marketing strategy are considerable.
So much of what we do when we write for a medical blog focuses on the content, and that's the way it should be.
Quality, informative content is still the best way to establish your medical practice as a thought leader and legitimate resource in your area of expertise.
But there are other, more subtle ways, to improve your page ranking in search engines. While they are focused on finding the best content to achieve the best user experience, they are also influenced by other aspects of your website.
One of these key aspects is the presence of links: hyperlinks embedded inside your content which help search engine "crawlers" locate your site, identify its content, and rank it according to its ascertained value.
It can be lonely out on the web when you're first starting to develop an Internet presence for your medical practice.
If traffic numbers are getting you down, this may indicate you need to work harder at optimizing your health website or medical blog.
... and it was ignored for the most part until somebody recognized it was made of gold.
That is the basic story behind the idea of using long tail keywords as part of your inbound medical marketing strategy.
Here's a quick review of what that statistical model is all about and why it has become so useful for small medical practices engaged in inbound marketing.
For the writer who's new to blogging, there's much to consider when drafting your posts.
Yet, there's more to blogging than just writing. You may also need to provide images, research, revise, format, optimize, and amplify your content.
In this case, writing a blog is more akin to multitasking. It can be overwhelming to think about all of these things at once, especially when writing medical content, by itself, is challenge enough.
However, the process of building a healthcare blog can be made simpler if you follow a prescribed process that takes all these tasks into consideration. Here's one such approach (one of countless strategies) that can free up your brainspace so you can better concentrate on the actual writing... and maybe even enhance it.
For new bloggers, knowing how to distinguish the different parts of a blog can be very confusing. This is partly because bloggers aren't always consistent about how they use their terminology.
For instance, bloggers who started out as programmers may refer to certain aspects in blog design by the vocabulary they previously used inside the worlds of HTML and CSS.
Meanwhile, bloggers who started out in journalism will use these same words, but in different ways, due to the nature of their industry's jargon and applications.
What ends up happening is that people who are part of a blog team (writers, editors, designers, programmers)end up talking "apples and oranges," which can make the work more challenging than it already is.
Let's clarify the differences between these commonly used blogging terms so that we can all be on the same page (literally, figuratively, and digitally).
Patients routinely go to the Internet to look for advice, comfort, information, and solutions. This isn't the best way to address medical problems; even patients will agree it's reckless to bypass a living, breathing doctor to seek advice from untrained strangers on the Internet.
This may, in fact, be one of the reasons why your medical practice is starting a blog. If patients are checking the Web first for advice, they will encounter all sorts of advice, much of it wrong or even dangerous.
Your presence on the web, delivering factual content with authority is one way to help them. But you can take it a step further.
Blog posts written for healthcare readers should strive to keep in mind three key qualities that can positively influence content. Introducing the Three Ts: trust, tone, and tact.
Often, we think of blogs as vehicles of textual content only. We believe the best ones rely on rich content written with window-pane clarity to build their readership base.
Yes, content is king, but the design of a blog is equally important so content is also easy to read. In fact, design is where certain decisions about readability originally take place.
Key elements to blog design exist to build in necessary access for readers, especially for blogs with complex content, such as medical blogs. Today we review four ground-level design basics: fonts, paragraph breaks, bullets, and graphic elements.
While blogging is technically a (digital) print medium, it hardly begins and ends with text. The best blogs don't rely only on words, but on images that support blog's message.
A medical blog is no exception: there are plenty of reasons why pictures carry at least the same weight as the text, and images are poised to not only better serve readers of healthcare content, but also boost search engine marketing (SEM).
This image captures the nuances of a headline. It's simple, but eye catching, with enough depth of meaning to inspire curiosity.
Believe it or not, a blog headline is not just a string of words, but several different components that join words and ideas to communicate your message at multiple levels. Headlines use language, color, dimension, simplicity, subtext, and tone to convey ideas, all important considerations for the medical practice blogger to keep in mind.
The headline works harder than we sometimes give it credit for. It's this critical blog element that mostly determines whether a reader will stay and read your post. Research shows that headlines have all of 8 seconds to achieve this!
If you don't prioritize writing your blog's headlines, maybe it's time for a change.
Susan Chritton, author of Personal Branding for Dummies, said of branding:
"Think about the game of darts: You have to aim in order to hit the board. (If you let your darts go without aiming them, you probably won’t be very popular.) If you hit the board, you score. And if your aim is very good and you hit the bull’s eye, even better!"
Writing a medical practice blog requires that you have a solid understanding of who your audience is. How do you define your audience? You create bull's eyes known as personas.
You've heard the phrase a million times, that "Content is king." And of course it is; the popularity and success of any blog depends on the quality of its narrative.
We all know there are adequate, competent information sources on the Internet for patients looking for insight, advice, and education. But we also recognize that this content is usually overgeneralized (for good reason), which often means it's not very exciting to read, as a result.
Today's blogs, by comparison, are far more engaging, personalized, interactive, and locally relevant when compared to these useful, if static, websites.
Why? Because it's not only just the kind of content being posted in blogs that matters... it's also who's writing it.
Blogs can have many bells and whistles, but which traits are most likely to set your medical blog apart from the rest?
Here are four specific areas to master if you want your health blog posts to shine.
When it comes to blogging, there is no clear starting line (or finishing line, for that matter).
Blogs, as a part of an inbound medical marketing strategy, enter the world in medias res (in the middle of the action).
For medical professionals, the decision to launch a blog comes amid the day-to-day work of managing a practice, seeing patients, staying on top of healthcare protocols and procedures, and paying the bills.
So where do you begin? It's not as if you decide, hey, I think we need to launch a blog as part of our medical website, twirl a magic wand, and poof! It's ready to go.
Instead, you begin by sitting down and answering some questions.
One of the first questions that a potential client of ours ask when engaging our company is "how much does inbound marketing cost?" At first, the answer is "it depends". It depends on a number of factors, but i would bet that the reason why you are reading this post now is because you want to know! Its for this reason that i will lay out a typical breakdown on the costs of Inbound Marketing.
Lets face it, health care is not immune to the need for marketing our services. While we didn't "sign up" to be a salesman of our services, it can and should be done in a manner that's a permission based model.
All the tips that I'm going to share in this blog post are not from a higher learning or Ivy League Business School program. Rather its a culmination of 20 plus year of experience in the field of sleep medicine. I hope that you get something from my personal perspective on marketing your sleep center.
There are few things that can jump start your medical practice like inbound marketing. Inbound Marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Nor is it a campaign or program, both of these imply a beginning and an end. Rather its a way of doing business and if you follow these steps laid out below, you too can see the exponential growth that our clients have achieved...I mean real GROWTH!
If you know that 70% of the decision process has already been determined prior to a patient contacting you, would you listen?
A recent study by Google demonstrated that 70% of the vetting of your practice or business has been conducted online prior to the first point of contact by the propective client. This has been coined as the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).
One of the most common mistakes we see many medical websites make is putting the wrong types of content in the wrong places across their website. And the biggest contributing factor to this error is not knowing the expectations visitors of the site have when they land on specific pages.
The best way to give your visitors what they're looking for is to know what type of information they're seeking out when visiting your website. It is of particular importance to know what types of content belong on your blog VS the types of content that belong on your site pages.
And while blog posts and site pages may seem to be very similar, if using best marketing practices, you will quickly realize that the two are indeed very different, and visitors to your site pages and blog posts will be expecting different experiences on these pages.
Here we explain a few critical points to ensure that your visitors get the best experience when navigating the various pages of your website.
In our last article we discussed ways to attract visitors to your sight by writing compelling articles that answer the kinds of questions your patients commonly ask.
But what happens after your visitors finish reading your articles? What more can you do for them? How can you assure them that you are the expert in your field and have more answers to other questions they might ask? And how can your website best facilitate a strong relationship with them built on trust, respect, and admiration.
For that you will need 5 things that too many other medical websites are missing...
So you're ready to start blogging and get more organic traffic to your medical website? Writing at least one to two blog article a week can do wonders for your practice when it comes to getting found online.
But what should you write about? How do you figure out your first 10 blog topics to share with your intended audience?
All too often we hear companies talk about wanting to start a blog, but aren't sure exactly where to start. But really, coming up with topics is incredibly easy once you realize that the topics you're looking for, you hear them everyday.