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inboundMed Blog

The Fine Art of Getting Found: SEM & the medical practice

Sep 7, 2016 6:30:00 AM / by inboundMed

getting_found_is_critical_if_you_are_to_sustain_your_patient_base

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. 

Why having a website is not enough

Some physician groups spend loads of money developing a web page, but don't see the traffic they want because they failed to do one thing: invest in strategic search engine marketing (SEM) practices.

Their website could be the most sparkling, life-changing oasis in the Internet desert, but it will only sparkle and change lives if patients can find it. This strikes at the heart of what it means to "get found."

healthcare_consumers_are_looking_for_you"Getting Found"

Medical websites are generally static (unless they have blogs); this means they will not attract a lot of traffic through search engines without using SEM tactics to optimize their presence on the web. 

Search engine optimization (SEO) entails the strategic use of keywords and phrases to inspire search engines like Bing and Google to rank your medical website page and blog as high as possible so that people looking for the information you have expertise in can find it.

This is no easy feat, considering how saturated the Internet is with information coming from countless sources.

Google, Bing, and others use sophisticated formulas for deciding how to rank content, with their key goal being to provide an excellent user experience. If you offer great content that can help them achieve that goal, and you can appropriately position it so their specialty crawlers can find it, then you are more likely to rank higher in search engine results and "get found."

Other techniques for "getting found" include behavior optimization, content marketing, intelligent use of social media, search engine-friendly site design, image and media diversity and optimization, blogging to enhance page rank, utilization of RSS, mobile optimization... any strategy you can employ that makes it easy for your patients to find your medical practical online.

How SEM chealthcare_consumers_use_the_internet_as_a_kind_of_roadmap_to_problem_solvingan complete the patient journey

Millions of people search the Internet and social media daily as part of a patient journey, in which they seek out new doctors, healthcare products, and solutions to their medical problems. 

For healthcare consumers, a prominent web presence is crucial to their decision-making process, but they can only put their faith in what you have to offer if they can find you.

Savvy medical practices acknowledge that patients, as consumers of healthcare services and products, are inspired and fueled by the possibilities they discover while using a search engine. 

The search engine has become everyone's go-to roadmap for seeking solutions to problems (you, too, have "Googled it," haven't you?). This is because the Internet is a free, convenient, easy, and thorough resource of information. Patients, with increasing frequency, are also turning to social media to find these same solutions; even then, followup research ends up meaning "followup search" online.

An example: "planter's warts remedies Lansing Michigan"

  • Patients looking for footcare solutions aren't going to just type in the name of a practice (let's call ours Sweet Feet of Michigan... which doesn't exist in real life). After all, these patients may not even know Sweet Feet of Michigan exists.
  • No, what they're going to do is search for "planters warts remedies Lansing Michigan" (and you can be certain they will misspell terms).
  • When their search engine tabulates the results, these patients are most likely going to click on the links offered on page one of that search engine and go from there. 
  • Whether they click past page one depends on the quality of the page one results. If they find what they are looking for on page one, they will likely not look any further. This is why page one ranking is so important to "getting found."
  • The links they find on page one could lead to paid ads for products, newspaper advice columns, local businesses, blogs addressing the topic, images or videos showing how-to strategies for clearing up plantar warts, or other kinds of results.

    anticipating_a_patients_questions_is_useful_in_keyword_optimizing
    QUESTION:

    Will Sweet Feet of Michigan have a link on that page?

This is where solid inbound marketing using intelligent SEM comes into play. A smart podiatrist in Lansing, Michigan, looking for new patients, will utilize content marketing, keyword optimization, and other strategies to ensure they have a prominent spot on the virtual roadmap when a patient prospect first sits down to conduct that first Internet search. 

But our very own Sweet Feet of Michigan is not so marketing savvy; all they have is as static website. This means their practice is left off that roadmap, which could be interpreted by patients as one of three situations: 

  • Sweet Feet of Michigan does not exist (in Lansing, Michigan, or elsewhere)
  • Sweet Feet of Michigan has gone out of business
  • Sweet Feet of Michigan does not appear to be successful if its website doesn't even show up in a search

None of these perceptions—however inaccurate they may be in real lifeinspires confidence in Sweet Feet of Michigan for the patient looking to solve a footcare problem.

To put it another way, if all of Sweet Feet of Michigan's competitors in the Lansing area and beyond have a prominent web presence, but Sweet Feet of Michigan does not... well, you can see how it will end up, at least metaphorically:

Sweet Feet of Michigan will be the last kid picked for the baseball team at recess, if they even get picked at all.  Nobody likes playground rules. 

"Getting found": The hierarchy

There are several ways to envision the way that your medical practice can "get found," and they all offer something of value. We're talking about "getting found" locally, regionally, nationally, and digitally.

"Getting found" locallyhealthcare_consumers_in_your_area_may_never_know_you_have_a_local_clinic_if_you_dont_have_a_website_first

This is probably the most obvious reason to develop a strong web presence. 

That old chestnut, "Location, location, location..." has come to take on new meaning in the 21st century when it comes to business marketing practices.

Many medical practices still require a brick-and-mortar presence, and decisions about that expenditure of real estate absolutely matter to the bottom line: a good location offers patient convenience, foot traffic, and community presence.

However, a prominent web presence can give your medical practice a positive and wide-ranging reputation in your community. This applies not only to the products, services, and procedures you offer, but to the things that only a good web presence can offer: quality blog content on burning healthcare topics (like plantar warts) that's easily shared across social networks, for one thing.

Keep in mind that search engines work through a complicated array of algorithms, one of which considers the location of the person searching. If you search for exactly the same thing in Akron, OH and in Honolulu, HI, you are going to get different results that are tailored to the location you are searching from, thanks to local search formulas.  

"Getting found" regionally 

You may not think it's important to be found or appeal to those who don't live close enough to join the patient family at your clinic, but that is a mistake many medical practices make reflected in their stagnant patient base.

healthcare_consumers_are_looking_for_education_and_will_refer_their_friends_to_clinics_with_websites_outside_of_their_region_based_on_their_positive_interactions_with_themPatients don't always go online to find doctors. Often they are only looking for information and education, in the form of a self-help solution, something quick and affordable that will help them solve a healthcare problem, or at least help them decide the next step in their patient journey.

Consulting "Dr. Google" has its pros and cons, but that is a conversation for another blog post. Suffice it to say, patients are going to the Internet first. Don't you want to be there to help them with their problems?

Being a thought leader in your field positions you as an expert not only to potential patients, but to your medical peers in the field. "Getting found" proffers a kind of recognition status that can validate your reputation beyond your local community, by virtue of the quality of the content you share online.

Especially in the case of medical specialties (like podiatry), a web presence inside a region spreads your reputation beyond the borders of your community. This can be valuable for attracting families who may not live near you, but who have loved ones who do.

And don't forget, the location algorithm that favors local results may also favor regional results, depending upon how widely the search engine casts its net.  

"Getting found" nationally

This takes your reputation benefit to a whole new level.

alaska sleep clinic inboundmed growth

 

The Alaska Sleep Clinic is one such regional medical practice to have enjoyed great success in "getting found."

ASC rose to become the most prominent web presence in the field of sleep medicine, at one point increasing traffic from 1,000 monthly visitors to 200 times that number, despite the fact they weren't even part of the contiguous United States. 

How did they do it? By practicing thought leadership through intelligent content marketing and SEM. Kevin Phillips of ASC explains in The Sales Lion

"People suffering from sleep troubles first look to finding
what could be causing their problems. Then they want to
know how it can be tested by a professional. And finally
they want to know their treatment options... And all of this
takes place on the Internet." 

healthcare_consumers_can_easily_lose_their_way_in_the_healthcare_system_and_turn_to_medical_websites_to_help_them_navigateYou can read more about the ASC success story here.

Patients are desperate for guidance in navigating the complexities of the healthcare system. Sleep health is no exception. 

By being poised to answer patient questions about sleep health—regardless of their real-world locationASC was able to skyrocket its position and reputation in the field not only locally and regionally, but nationally, to become the consummate influencer it is today.

It doesn't take a rocket science to figure out how having that kind of web presence can greatly improve all the "intangibles" that lead to a broader patient, one founded on the trust created by a combination of quality content and outstanding reach through strong SEM. 

"Getting found" digitally

The Internet, unlike the brick-and-mortar presence of your clinic, is geographically limitless.

As the ASC example shows, you can mete out great successes for your medical practice by serving the interests of patients regardless of their location. 

Taking this a step further, you gain great opportunities when you enter the realm of social networks. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are three major avenues for developing the fine art of "getting found." For the ASC, LinkedIn was a major presence that helped them gain marketing advantage.

Having interactive home pages in these arenas of social media, a Twitter handle, boards in Pinterest, or feeds for streaming shareable content in YouTube, InstaGram, or other multimedia networks exponentially broadens your reach as a medical practice. 

"Getting found" in mobile

optimizing_your_website_for_mobile_interaction_will_give_you_a_leading_edge

Mobile purchasing is also trending and may radically change the way patients find doctors as well. Recent research shows the majority of patients using smartphones and tablets to research their healthcare options.

For this reason, it's critical that your medical marketing strategy pay close attention to the ways in which these patients can interact with your website in its mobile format. 

You do not want to have a beautiful website that is only optimized to be navigated on a desktop computer. For the patient sitting on the bus during their morning commute, make it easy for them to visit your website while using their handheld device, and you'll be doing yourself (and them) a big favor. 

Inbound marketing is all about letting this customer drive the purchasing decisions... yet one more reason your medical practice needs to optimize your virtual presence in search engines and "get found." 

Learn more about optimization here: 

And check out our free downloadable handbook of inbound medical marketing advice, written especially for those just beginning to develop their SEM:

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, search engine marketing

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