By: Amanda Kanaan
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For most patients, the search for a doctor now begins online. In the same way consumers shop the internet for a new pair of shoes or to find a new restaurant, patients engage in similar behavior when it comes to their medical care.
If your practice isn’t investing in internet marketing then it’s likely that one of your competitors is (especially if you are going “head to head” with a hospital system). The less doctors that engage in internet marketing, the easier it is to compete for search engine rankings. Therefore, by not investing online, you’re not only losing out on potential patients but you are also making it easier for your competitors to attract those patients in your absence.
If that’s not reason enough, here are three additional reasons why you should invest in internet marketing.
1. It’s Where Patients Search for Doctors
Eighty percent of U.S. adults search for health information online. More importantly, 44 percent of those searches are from potential patients seeking treatment from a healthcare provider. Since most clicks occur within the first three search engine listings, if your website isn’t ranked in the top three or at least on the first page then you might as well not exist.
Google’s search algorithm is constantly changing and while no one knows the exact measurements in their “secret sauce”, we at least know the ingredients. This is where a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency can be of assistance. They are the experts in knowing just what strategies to utilize in order to improve your organic rankings online.
However, SEO is only one part of the battle. Google now takes into account other factors, such as social media, when ranking your website in the search results. So if you haven’t joined the Facebook band wagon just yet then here’s yet another reason to consider hopping aboard.
Due to these recent search algorithm changes, most digital marketing agencies are now shifting away from stand-alone SEO services in favor of more comprehensive strategies. That may mean a larger investment up front to pursue several services at once, such as SEO, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, social media posting, etc., but the thought is that you’ll get a better return on the back end – in the same way that you encourage your patients to not just take their medicine but also eat well and exercise.
2. It’s Influential
The beauty of internet marketing is that it applies to every specialty and almost every target demographic. That even includes older populations – the 55+ age group is the fastest growing demographic on Facebook.
With statistics like one in five internet users have consulted online reviews of health care providers and treatments, and forty-one percent say social media would affect their choice of a provider, it’s clear that internet marketing can be highly influential when utilized properly.
You have a unique opportunity to shape perceptions of your providers and practice online by having a well-designed website that makes an impactful first impression, an engaging social media presence that allows you to control the conversation, and positive online reviews that support your reputation.
Internet marketing is also an effective strategy, because it’s a “pull” versus a “push” approach. With advertising outlets, such as TV, you are pushing your service on a viewer who may or may not want to receive it or even be a potential candidate. With marketing tactics, such as SEO, patients are actually seeking your service when they search for something like “Cardiologist, Dallas, TX”. That makes your online efforts more influential than traditional advertising because you are targeting your ideal demographic.
3. It’s Cost-Effective
Practices often have limited marketing budgets and traditional, outbound marketing tactics (such as TV, print and radio) are not only expensive but also difficult to track. Inbound marketing (such as SEO) is not only less expensive but the ROI is also much more measurable. On average, inbound leads cost about sixty-one percent less than outbound leads: $135 versus $346 per lead.
For those with a substantial marketing budget, pursuing both an outbound and inbound marketing strategy is a possibility. For those with a limited market budget, it’s important to spend those precious marketing dollars on a strategy where you’ll get the most for your money – i.e. inbound marketing.
A good internet marketing strategy will pay for itself in new patients. For example, if you know a new patient is worth $200 to your practice then you can easily calculate the minimum number of new patients you need to at least cover your costs. With that in mind, you also need to be willing to invest enough in the campaign to show an ROI. It’s unrealistic to think that you’re going to invest $200 a month in internet marketing and expect a decent return. The cost ultimately depends on your goals and how competitive the market is that you are in.
If your practice wants to grow new patient volume, influence the conversation online and do it in a cost-effective way then internet marketing should be your primary strategy. Never before has marketing to patients online, especially for the medical industry, been more effective as it is today. It’s undeniable that patients are searching online for healthcare information, your practice just needs to invest in a strong online presence in order to attract these patients to your practice.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Surveys
Hubspot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report