Why Doctors Are Revving Up Their Online Marketing Efforts

The world of advertising has changed radically in the past decade. Up until the turn of the century, most doctor’s advertising consisted of yellow and white ad placement and maybe an occasional local radio or newspaper ad. Ten short years later and any doctor who decides to invest dollars in online advertising can immediately see what kind of response their campaign is driving. Thanks to easy to use analytics tools, advertisers can fine-tune their ad campaigns for optimum results. Not only that, prospective patients are happy to exchange blindly thumbing through the yellow pages for using the Internet to research and find quality doctors in their area.

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Services such as wellness.com, zocdoc.com, calladoctor.net, yelp.com,  and healthgrades.com have emerged as powerful resources for doctors in search of new patients and clientele. As new tools like these continue to show up and more and more patients and doctors choose to interact online, many practitioners are transitioning. For instance, over the last few years Maiysha Clairborne, MD has stopped using any type of print advertisement. She now utilizes Facebook, LinkedIn, and the websites mentioned above to push her practice forward. Doctors of the 21st century must have a dynamic presence online.

Furthermore, Robert Smithing an NP who runs his practice in Kent, WA, said,  ”Our best marketing success has consistently been through word of mouth. We let our patients know we appreciate their referrals and we always send a thank you note for the referral (as long as that is OK with our new patient.) Our second highest marketing source is the Internet. We have a high organic search rating for our practice and list ourselves in a variety of directories.”

Doctors need not fear the increased amount of information, especially reviews, available about them and their practice online. Despite a thoughts to the contrary, the data reveal the majority of online doctor reviews are positive.

Of course, word of mouth is still the most powerful way to build clientele. What doctors need to understand is that the Internet provides a new arena for word of mouth in the form of reviews. The 2012 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 72% of consumers surveyed said that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Instead of asking patients to sign away their ability to talk about their visit online, doctors need to encourage a healthy dialogue. A steady flow of reviews about a physician gives future patients confidence and helps drive search engine traffic as well.

Paid Internet Advertisement

There are many other ways to increase search traffic beyond encouraging reviews. Emerging companies such as Doctorexpress.com invest heavily in price per click campaigns on Google to drive traffic to their websites. These companies analyze traffic that will bring them sales in their practice such as “flu shots” or “urinary tract infection treatments.”  They then pay Google to send users to their sites to give those users an opportunity to explore their services (These ads can be seen on the right hand side of Google’s search bar or at the very top). This model of advertising can be very expensive when targeting the more competitive keywords such as “flu shot” says Stacey Hilton, senior public relations manager at Doctorexpress.com. Hilton explains that being creative and driving traffic to their site takes a great deal of creativity and knowhow in order to target the correct keywords that will actually be profitable for their company.

Though general terms such as “flu shot” may be cost prohibitive for a smaller practice, this type of advertisement can also be used by doctors for local search terms. A doctor could pay for the keyword “top doctors in San Diego” or “quality pediatricians in Kansas City.” These local keywords could potentially be a great way to get new clientele to a doctor’s practice, however, doctors must consider that others will be running against them for similar ad space. The more competitive and specific the keyword term is, the more doctors end up having to pay to obtain a Google ad.

Organic Rankings

As the Internet continues to force doctors to rethink their advertising strategies, many offices are also investing in their practice’s search engine rankings. For instance, the search term “Orange county pediatrician” could be an amazingly profitable keyword to show up in Google. Ranking for this term could substantially increase the size of a doctor’s practice, thus it pays to invest in marketing that can create what are called “organic search results.” This type of marketing has evolved into a discipline all its own. Dedication to raising a practice’s organic search results, especially in a major metropolitan area, demands a full-time position in many cases.

Organic rankings are accomplished by optimizing a variety of attributes of a given website to increase relevance to specific search terms. To do it well is a fairly technical process that requires a great deal of expertise. When someone searches for doctors in their area, Google Maps may present them with eight doctors nearby. More likely than not, there are many more within close range but those investing in marketing their practices are the ones who are going to show up. Investing in organic rankings, combined with good reviews, and a steady price per click campaign will undoubtedly help increase traffic into any doctor’s practice.

In the Internet age, doctors not only need to be experts in their patients’ medical conditions, but their offices must add marketing savvy to the list if they want to grow their practice. Many medical practices are innovative by nature, always seeking new ways to improve their patients’ health. Embracing change is part and parcel to the very best medical care. Like many other businesses evolving in new economical ecosystems of the 21st Century, doctors must adapt or be left behind. After all, a practice is a business, and marketing is an instrumental part to any successful business endeavor.

Jonathan Koenig is a health care writer for CNAthrive.com and Codingcareers.org.

  • http://twitter.com/WalshMichaelR Michael Walsh

    Glad to hear that some docs are starting to get more vocal about the success they can have through online marketing. We are taking on this same challenge in the geriatric care space where providers are still insisting on placing their advertising spend in magazines. Hopefully, more and more providers in healthcare will realize that the vast majority of folks are online shopping and researching, so that’s where they need to be if they’re to be successful!