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Online Marketing for Healthcare: A Practical Prescription

Medical StethoscopeWhen it comes to online marketing for medical practices and healthcare organizations, there are numerous issues to consider before developing a strategy ranging from risk to privacy concerns to ethics to ROI. Establishing an optimal online presence in the age of new media is complicated and most medical professionals have more than enough to worry about related to their primary role as healers, before entering this complex and often “foggy” new world.

On the other hand, time waits for no one, not even busy doctors. Markets and technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace.  Healthcare is a business. Competition is real. And marketing in this environment cannot be ignored. Most importantly, millions of potential new patients are out there searching online for information about their health; the latest technologies and procedures; and the best doctors, hospital and medical organizations suited to care for them.

So, how should savvy medical professionals and healthcare organizations proceed?

In my opinion, the answer to that question is, ‘one step at a time’, relying upon proven best practices to establish a solid online foundation, then accelerating the adoption of riskier, more advanced online marketing strategies as incremental success, industry-wide case studies, resources and personal comfort levels bear out.

What is the first step? That’s an easy one. It’s a foundational strategy that comes with 100% upside, little to no downside, and is an imperative I’d consider right up there with owning a phone or wearing gloves into surgery- establishing a professionally designed website, properly optimized for local search engine visibility.  By this, I mean a website developed to allow those who need your skills and expertise to find you online. Unless you have a website, one that has a good spot (i.e. inevitably, on the first page) within the organic (i.e. non-paid) listings area of local Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), then vast numbers of these prospective patients will likely never know you exist.

Consider the facts that 80% of American web users look online for health information; 66% search for information about a specific disease or health issue; 56% seek information about a certain medical treatment or procedure; and 44% search for information about doctors or other healthcare professionals. Then you’ll understand why your website needs to be created in a manner that is, “search-friendly” for relevant keywords related to your area of expertise, and as importantly, to your specific geographic location, right down to the neighborhood level, where your most of your likely patients live.

Similar to medicine, website development and optimization is both an art and a science; one with a steep learning curve, best handled by professionals. Copywriting, design and HTML skills all play a crucial role. Information should be clearly organized and presented with intuitive navigation. Most important is identifying strategic keywords (“Orthopedic Surgeons Brooksville”), then properly utilizing these key words and phrases in Meta  tags (aka, Title Tags and Descriptions, which search engines use to file, identify and index your website upon search queries). Meta tags need to be informative, natural and crafted in keeping with the specific (and varying) guidelines of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.  You will also want to weave your keywords into headlines and body copy, using specific location and frequency strategy. Alt tags, or invisible descriptions of images used on your website are also important to remember to use.

Once you’ve gotten this first, most basic step down, then you’ll want to proceed to submitting your site to online directories. Only then, does it make sense to begin investing more into strategies like Pay-Per-Click (PPC), social media and more advanced search engine marketing strategies. Remember also that search engine optimization of your website is not an event, but a process. As search engines tweak their algorithms to better accommodate their customers, so too will you want to adjust your strategies, so that you can better accommodate your own clients who are searching to find you. Just as with medicine itself, the practice of online marketing for healthcare is a continuously evolving discipline requiring a life-long approach to learning and improvement.

If you’d like to learn more about practical, cost-effective options for healthcare website development, and online marketing for healthcare professionals, call Steven Emsley, Senior Leads Specialist at Web.com (Nasdaq: WWWW) Web.com is a Google Premiere Partner and one of the world’s online marketing leaders for small and medium businesses. Steven can be reached at 904.347.3724 or semsley@web.com


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