Creating a first-class website for your medical practice will bring numerous and ongoing benefits, writes Jason Borody.
In the digital age, websites serve as the face of your medical practice and the way clients research and engage with your services. Having a modern, user-friendly website that effectively introduces potential patients and referrers to your practice is essential to your business.
Simply throwing together a website with some poorly thought-out content will not impress potential patients who are researching practitioners for themselves and their family. Patients want to know their healthcare is in capable hands.
By creating a first-class website for your medical practice, you have the ability to:
• Interact with existing and future clients easily.
• Provide information through an easy-to-use interface.
• Gain valuable feedback from clients.
• Present a polished brand for your practice.
• Exhibit your values, your expertise and character of your practice.
Setting the Tone
There are several steps to creating a useful website that will bring more patients to your practice. Your first task is to recognise the fundamental purpose of the site itself. Some sites are used to acquire email addresses for marketing campaigns, while others aim to ‘sell’ a particular service. Generally, medical-practice sites are used to convey how you operate as a clinic, outline your range of services and facilitate phone enquiries and bookings.
One of the best ways to create a successful website is by appealing to your ideal clientele – who do you want to attract to your practice, how old are they and what are their primary concerns? Use your creativity to conjure up a strong image of your clients and
their reason for looking at your site. By anticipating their questions, your website can pre-emptively provide the answers. Considering your current and potential patients’ needs will help shape everything you do with your website.
Once the direction of the site is clear, it’s time to start thinking about content. Always remember the purpose of writing content for a website is to drive traffic to the site itself. While there are secondary reasons for content, the primary focus is to demonstrate your expertise as the best option for potential clients.
There are three tried and tested methods that will assist you in crafting quality web content that drives people to your site.
1. SEO copywriting
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Copywriting focuses on making the content of a site easier for search engines to index. In the old days, this meant packing blog articles and page information with keywords to boost your rankings in search engines.
Today, search engines are too smart for keyword packing. In fact, many of them will downgrade your site ranking because they see ‘link stuffing’ as cheating the system. Most search engines read pages like humans, so they understand how many times a keyword should reasonably appear. This means your website copy should read naturally and provide valuable, relevant information that is easily found.
While most people are able to write web copy, the job of a professional copywriter is to determine how best to engage with a specific audience. They will research keywords for hours to see which words and phrases are being used by your particular audience. They will then craft content that reaches out to your targeted audience and draws them in.
Many people might think it is easier to write their own web content but even if the groundwork is laid down by the site owner, it is always advisable to let a professional edit the content. Even a subtle change can make all the difference, but you must have the knowledge of what does and doesn’t work.
2. Link building
The more links there are to your site, the more valuable your site will be regarded by search engines. You can build links internally from one page to the other on the actual site but it is far more important to get other sites to link back to yours. The more popular
the sites are that link back to yours, the better for your site.
Think of it as website referrals. If the receptionist and the CEO both write job references or you or vouch for you to another company, the CEO’s referral will be more valuable. Your website works the same way. The more trusted the source that links to your site, the more ‘link juice’ you receive for boosting your site’s standing with Google and other search engines.
One of the best ways to receive inbound links from other sites is to write content for other websites. After an article is posted, there will often be a small blurb about the author with a link back to their own website. Again, the quality of the post and the
site itself will have a direct impact on your own site’s rankings due to that particular link. The more popular the post, the more people will click through to your site. The more that people click through, the higher your SEO ranking.
Finding guest-blogging opportunities requires some research. In every industry and niche there are well-known blogs. A great way to look for sites that accept guest writers is to type in search terms, such as the following suggestions, into your search engine:
• ‘Writers’ guidelines for …’ (insert keyword for your niche)
• ‘Guest writers for ...’
• ‘Guest blogs for …’
• ‘Guest post guidelines …’
These searches should draw up a list of sites and blogs that allow people to write guest posts. When writing a guest post it is critical that you abide by the site’s guidelines. Failure to do so will mean your post will not be published and, perhaps even more importantly, you may not get the chance to write for that particular site again.
In addition to writing for other sites, sharing valuable information on your own website from other experts or related blog posts can work well. Firstly, the person you ‘repost’ may return the favour. Secondly, your patients will see that you are genuinely interested in providing them with the most helpful, relevant information, even if it is from another source. This is where you start to build bridges to new patients and referral sources.
3. Social-media marketing
Social media can have a huge impact on your search engine ranking. It is, therefore, a good idea, no matter how scary it might seem, to get interactive on some of the social- media sites. Even adding a button to ‘share’, ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ things from your website will be a step in the right direction.
In Australia, potential patients are concerned about the personality and demeanor of apractice before searching for credentials. Social media is a great way to showcase both your own personality and that of your practice. For example, Facebook posts show how you convey information and engage with clients – whether it be in a formal, informational or conversational manner. Each patient has different preferences and they care about your personality.
Tips for social-media marketing:
• Keep your accounts separate. Perhaps use LinkedIn to comment about news articles and breakthroughs, and use Facebook to ask questions and chat with people researching your type of practice. This will allow you to keep people engaged across channels, giving more credibility to your site.
• Try automated updates. By utilising social-media management tools, you can write personalised updates on your social media pages but have them scheduled to appear at the beginning of the week or month. This not only means that you don’t have to remember to update the pages but helps to keep your social media presence active even when you are busy with other projects. Remember though, that social media presence is all about timeliness and interaction, so although the automated updates can help, your patients will still need to be replied to, and no social-media management tool can compensate for that.
• Interact with other people and professional colleagues. It’s important to build professional relationships. Social media is a great ice-breaking tool that isn’t used by enough people. Not only can it be used to gain new patients and keep existing patients updated, but a brilliant Twitter, Linkedin or Facebook page can also bring new professional contacts into view who may even be able to offer professional referrals own the line. The power of good social-media networking skills cannot be underrated.
Once the above points have been followed and the website is operational, you can leave it alone and hordes of people will come through the door of your practice, right? The answer here is a resounding ‘No’.
For a website to work optimally, it needs to be consistently updated and maintained. People like to know the information they are seeing is recent and that you care about potential patients. Additionally, search engines identify well-maintained websites. Even bi-weekly blog posts give your site some attention and show others you are engaged.
Create a blog
Blogs are a great way to update a website with fresh, interesting, engaging content without writing long professional papers. People often ask how many times a blog should be updated per month and there is no real right or wrong answer. The amount of blogs per month doesn’t matter, only that the schedule is consistent. If a person starts off
blogging twice-weekly then drops the posts down to once a month, there will be a definite decrease in the amount of readers and a drop in search engine rankings. Email your patients to identify their interests and concerns. If you keep getting questions about
flu vaccines, write a post. Just keep it timely and relevant.
Do some tweaking
Every website owner should be conscious of keeping track of things that work effectively and things that don’t. There are many ways to track a website’s popularity. Google analytics is a great platform for discovering how people engage with your site. It has the ability to tell you:
• Where your traffic is coming from around the world.
• How people are finding your site and through which keywords.
• Which of your inbound links from other websites are most popular.
• What content is being read the most?
Armed with this knowledge, you can then tweak the site as necessary. If people keep coming to your site because of a post about a breakthrough breast-cancer treatment, write a longer series on the topic. To attract more readers from a certain geographic area,
write pieces that address comments on local news articles and post a link to them on those websites. Or you may want to write more guest posts for a particular site that has been sending traffic your way.
Analytics are key to understanding your readership so you can get them to repost your materials, attract more people and best meet their needs. A little effort can go a very long way.
Running a practice is time-consuming, and just staying on top of medical advancements is tough. The good news is that creating and maintaining a first-class website for your medical practice doesn’t need to be a fulltime job. There are a number of tools available nowadays to help people build a site that is truly useful and will grow with your business.
To show you genuinely care about your patients and public health, offer a patient-focused service and a patient-focused site – this can improve practitioner/patient relationships significantly and open up substantial opportunities for practice growth.
At Vividus, we find that most of our healthcare clients simply don’t have the time to self-manage their SEO and web content. We work with them to provide customised medical content on a regular basis, as well as other SEO services. We specialise in healthcare marketing for medical specialists, dentists, medical centers and pharmaceutical businesses. We understand the laws and codes that regulate medical marketing in Australia, and develop content and SEO strategies that are compliant, professional and effective. For more information, contact Vividus on 07 3282 2233 or visit www.vividus.com.au.
The content in this article was published in The Private Practice Spring 2013 edition.