The relationship between patient and healthcare provider has been an eternally evolving one. The changes to this dynamic in the last decade, however, have completely transformed it. Never before have patients come so equipped with information (accurate or not) to their appointments. And never before have health providers been so poised to market themselves on such a broad stage. Prospective patients can literally get to know you before the first handshake — if you’re doing things right.
Welcome to the age of digital marketing for the modern healthcare practice. With nearly half of the entire human population online, and no sign of things slowing down, it’s no surprise that the online terrain is the new frontier for the promotion of your practice. This can seem odd to some since, especially in the field of hearing healthcare, it’s imperative to actually see your patients in-person. But the truth is that the Internet equalizes the playing field. Prospective patients down the street are just as accessible as those across the sea. Not to mention that getting attention on your practice’s website from anyone — no matter where they live — will significantly boost your website’s ability to show up high up in the search results for someone local looking for hearing help.
It’s important to recognize that having a presence online (aka owning a website) is not the same thing as having a digital marketing strategy. Millions of beautiful (and expensive) websites languish in the online oblivion. If your website has not been optimized by an effective digital marketing strategy to actually be seen by online searchers — well then, it’s invisible.
Certain strategies can ensure that the website you’ve invested in, and the services you’re proud to provide, can easily be found by prospective, local patients. Many healthcare providers across all specialties have become keen to these strategies are actively using them to their advantage.
Below are some highlights of these current trends in digital marketing for healthcare practices.
Perhaps one of the more interesting areas of rapid development is that of location-based technologies and the increasing number of ways it can be used. Information gathered from people “checking in” or enabling location detection on their mobile devices yields an entire world of geographical data. Marketers like Google recognized early on how useful this data was and have developed sophisticated ways of targeting specific groups of people based on location. Healthcare professionals, in particular, appreciate this new option for ad targeting since their interest is in having patients physically come to their offices. Being able to refine who your Google Adwords listing, for instance, shows up for based on where they live makes your investment more effective and efficient.
Online trends have continued to show user preference for video content over written content. It’s simple: video content grabs attention much better than text does. Internet-savvy healthcare professionals have taken note and offer regular video blogs (called vlogs) to engage with their audiences. Video is useful on many fronts: it conveys helpful information in a short timespan, it allows prospective patients to get a sense of your personality, and it can be uploaded to the second most popular search engine on the Internet: Youtube. Having your content spread out on different platforms (i.e. on your website and also on your Youtube channel) can radically boost your rankings in the search results of an online query. This, in turn, is how your new patients will find you when they type in “hearing loss treatment in XYZ city.” The more content you’re producing supports more visits to your website. And the more people visiting your website helps to naturally boost your website ranking in the search results.
Don’t get us wrong — vlogs haven’t completely taken over the domain of blogs… just yet. Many people are simply too busy to create consistent video content, or are perhaps too shy for the camera. Fortunately for them, blogs are still a reliable content marketing strategy and an informative way to stay connected with your audience. Blogs are also very useful for promoting your website’s listing in the search results, since each blog is bound to be replete with keywords people are using to search for your services online. It would be pretty hard to write a blog about tinnitus without mentioning “ringing in the ears” and “treatment,” for instance. That said, it’s a helpful tip to think about how patients are typically searching for help online, and then to use that exact phrasing somewhere in your blog.
Healthcare websites should be designed with mobile users in mind. With over 80 percent of Internet users owning a smartphone, and Google’s preference for mobile-friendly websites in its recent algorithm update, having a website that loads to mobile devices quickly and in an optimized way is essential. Healthcare practices who have sought services to optimize their rankings in search engines (as in search engine optimization or SEO) have learned this early on. Having a well-designed website that conforms to the best user experience possible is an effective way to boost your website’s ranking on the results page. It also keeps people on your website longer.
If much of this information is news to you, don’t be overwhelmed — these trends are just getting started and so can you. Digital marketing is a specialty in itself and just like getting hearing help, getting the digital help you need can make the whole process that much easier. We’re here when you need us.