Woman is buying OTC hearing aids

Marketing Your Practice in a Post-OTC Hearing Aids World

Long before the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act was signed into law last August, hearing professionals across America were hotly debating its consequences. The legislation drew support from both sides of the aisle and gained notable coverage by the media, raising awareness of both the need for hearing treatment and the potential for more affordable options.
The Act requires the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new class of OTC hearing aids for adults aged 18 and over with mild to moderate loss. While the FDA has at least 3 years to implement this requirement, public and private pressures may very well accelerate their timeline for compliance.
As a practice owner and hearing healthcare professional, the OTC Act poses several new questions for your business. The main consideration is whether you’ll choose to offer OTC hearing aids as part of your product portfolio. Several factors should play into this decision, including a thorough analysis of your local market, your competitor’s offerings, and the overall priorities of your practice.
No matter what you choose, your marketing strategy will need to be tailored to your decision. If your product offerings expand, you’ll want to spread the news. If you decide to target those unaffected by the Act, such as minors and those with severe to profound hearing loss, you’ll need to adjust your ad content and placements. As you evaluate your options for practicing in a post-OTC Act world, consider the following tactics for maintaining a strong marketing strategy.
Be Prepared
Nobody really knows how fast OTC hearing aids will hit the market once the FDA finishes its preparations for this new class of instruments. Large hearing aid companies have already begun to seek partnerships with smaller manufacturers of newer hearing devices, such as hearables, and are aware of the demand awaiting the release of OTC models.
Hearing aid manufacturers are very familiar with the benefits of being “first to market” with any new technology, and value-oriented hearing aids are no exception. Similarly, hearing professionals who proactively position themselves for this shift in the hearing industry will gain as well.
Whether you include OTC hearing aids in your product portfolio or not, you should prepare your marketing strategy well before you need to implement it. If you’re deciding to focus your practice on non-OTC patients, you could even begin that targeting before OTC’s are released. The goal is to catch the wave of patients seeking something specific as soon as they begin to flood the market. Trying to catch up with the tide can be a disappointing struggle.
Service Oriented
Despite the appeal of more affordable and readily accessible OTC hearing aids, consumers have made it clear that they do prefer hands-on service. In fact, a recent study by Indiana University found that patients who received audiologist services along with their new hearing aid were nearly twice as likely to want to keep their hearing aids than those who simply bought preprogrammed OTC devices without any services. Having the help of a professional to reassure, readjust, and respond to questions is a valuable offering that every practice should be highlighting.
Even if you decide to include OTC hearing aids (and especially if you don’t), be sure to tailor your marketing content and website copy to reflect the personalized care you offer. Draw attention to your follow-up support and commitment to patient satisfaction. At the end of the day, OTC hearing aids will never be able to compete with hands-on, patient-centered care.
Get Your Target Right
This might seem overly obvious, but it’s worth calling out: you need to accurately target your market. In fact, your marketing will only ever be as strong as your targeting is. As you endeavor to adjust your marketing to reflect your practice with or without OTC hearing aids, your targeting should shift accordingly.
Maybe you want to just focus on higher-end instruments, thus causing you to target those who can afford them. If you plan to bring OTC hearing aids into your practice, you can cast a wider net with your ad content and placements, but eventually, you should narrow down who tend to be the most responsive to your OTC offerings and target them specifically.
Keep in mind: market targeting is rarely a quick process. For the best results, marketers test ad placements time and time again until they begin to see strong conversion rates. In order to continuously improve your targeting efforts, you need to know where inquiring patients first heard about your services. Was it a Google search? A print ad? Seeing your listing on Yelp, perhaps? Sure, you can conjure up some educated guesses of where your market is most accessible, but that will remain a guess until you can confirm it otherwise.
Reviews Matter
It’s true, we bring this topic up often (see here, here and here). But the truth is, in a post-OTC world, online reviews are more important than ever. More patients will be coming to see you because of the care you provide — not just the products you can get them. And where do people find out about the quality of your care? Yep, online reviews.
The classic approach to getting great reviews by simply giving great service will always remain true. It’s the bedrock of any review management strategy. But with online reviews, there are other important elements (and data) to consider. Did you know that 70% of people are more likely to leave you a review if you simply ask them to? Many business owners fail to take this incredibly simple step to improve their online review status.
Another key element of a successful review strategy is to make leaving you a review efficient and simple. In fact, it’s why we developed this handy tool to make leaving your practice a review a quick 2-click process — directly from your website. Delivering excellent care, asking for patients to share their experience, and then giving them the easiest route to do so is a winning combination for a steady stream of glowing reviews.
As you begin evaluating whether your practice wants to include OTC hearing aids in your offerings or not, consider how your local market would respond to a shift in your marketing approach. For deeper analysis, you could even do a soft test on how they would react to you including some more affordable options (such as PSAPs or custom earbuds) in your lineup. Your goal with any marketing campaign is to track, adjust, and repeat.
OTC hearing aids present both opportunities and challenges for hearing practices, but with the right marketing approach, you can absolutely leverage their availability to benefit your practice and the patients you serve.
 

Woman happy about SEO tactics working for her hearing practice website

7 SEO Strategies to Get Your Hearing Practice Found Online

Search engine optimization (SEO) can literally make or break your online marketing success. When done right, people find out about you and your services easily and quickly. With the wrong approach, however, expect a website with little traffic and even less return on your investment. There’s no denying the need for effective SEO strategies and you don’t need to wait for an SEO expert to come along to get started. Take a look at the current 7 SEO strategies leading the way and begin boosting your website’s visibility today.
Choose Titles Wisely
The foundation of a successful SEO strategy is having content people actually want to click on. Your website will struggle to rank well in search results without these clicks, and ranking high while being continually passed over is useless. The key to getting clicks is selecting the best titles for your content. People tend to click much more often on titles that elicit an emotion instead of simply stating the facts about the content within. While it is still important to include select keywords in your titles, it’s better to avoid overloading your title with them at the expense of conveying a sentiment with it. Remember: long titles get looked over so each word needs to be carefully chosen. Keep it short, sweet, and relatable for the most attention. Here’s an example of what we mean:

  • Keyword-rich, dry title: How Modern Hearing Aids Treat Sensorineural Hearing Loss (states the facts)
  • Emotive title: Get Your Life Back with Modern Hearing Aids (elicits hope)

Lobby for Links
Any SEO expert will tell you that the algorithms used by search engines are always in flux and being developed further. But some metrics have maintained their importance over the years and having backlinks to your website is one of them. Backlinks are exactly what they sound like: hyperlinks on other websites that direct people to specific pages on your website. Google set the bar higher in recent years by tuning their algorithm to rank websites with “high quality” backlinks higher in the search results than those with “low-quality” backlinks. High-quality backlinks are links that exist on websites holding a high rating in Google’s view: they get a lot of traffic, they deliver in-depth and quality content, and they have high user retention and engagement rates.
As a hearing practice, one of the most reliable ways to increase backlinks to your website is through business directories. This can be a cumbersome and time-consuming task, but is often worth the ranking boost it provides. Guest posting on other websites is another tried and true method for increasing links to your site (since the writer bio for those articles typically includes a link to your website), but it’s important to seek out reputable websites. Getting an article on a low-quality website and linking to your site from it can actually work against your ranking rather than improve it. One of the best ways to get great backlinks is to simply provide stellar content that people want to reference. Embeddable images and content with unique statistics or pieces of information are often cited by other writers on the Internet, and those links back to your site can add up quickly.
Engage Your Readers
In-depth and engaging content serves several purposes at once: it pulls readers in and keeps them on your page, it increases the chances for people to link back to your articles, and it establishes your knowledge and authority on the topic at hand. Search engines like Google have become very smart in analyzing user behaviors, and pages that offer the most detail and comprehensive information tend to rank higher in search results than pages that require readers to learn more elsewhere. This is, in part, due to the “dwell time” each visitor spends on your page.
Google’s new RankBrain technology pays special attention to the average dwell time for any given page, and adjusts its ranking of that page accordingly. If people are clicking on your page in the search results, but not staying very long due to insufficient information, then you can expect that RankBrain will take notice and begin moving that page lower in the results. While long-form blogs posts are not entirely common, they are beginning to rise in the literal ranks of content online. If you have an idea for a blog post, consider ways you can elaborate on any details mentioned within it. Aim for at least 1000 words or more to achieve the kind of dwell time and user experience that will ultimately boost your SEO.
Worth Your Time: LSI Keywords
Use LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords throughout your content. LSI keywords are contextually related to your main topic, but aren’t necessarily synonyms for it. By having them placed throughout your content, search engines (and online users) see your page as offering complete information on the topic. For instance, if you’re writing an article about the importance of professional cerumen removal, your main keywords would be earwax and removal. The LSI keywords would be words like ear blockage, impacted earwax, q-tips, earwax buildup, and the like.
Deciphering the best LSI keywords to use can be as simple as conducting an online search for your main topic and looking at the “Searches related to…” section at the bottom of the page. There’s also a handy free online tool called LSI Graph that can help you decide on the best additional keywords and phrases to use throughout your content. Just remember to place those words and phrases naturally in your content, as awkwardly inserted keywords stand out and tend to repel a loyal readership.
Mobilize Your Website
People are accessing the Internet from mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets, more than ever these days. In fact, recent surveys have discovered that the majority of people online at any given time are using a mobile device. Because of this, Google announced last year that it’s moving over to a “Mobile-First Index.” This means that Google (and likely other search engines in the near future) will consider the mobile version of your website your main site, instead of the desktop version. This is important since it’s not uncommon for people to hide different pieces of content (or worse—leave them off entirely) behind drop down features to save space on their mobile-friendly layout. Not all hidden content is treated equally by Google, however, and much of it runs the risk of not being recognized at all by the search engine’s “crawling” or scanning of your site. While this move to a mobile-first index is still in the works, it’s definitely something any savvy website owner wants to be prepared for. After spending the time to create detailed and rich content, you want to make sure that it is all displaying on your mobile site to avoid it being lost to the oblivion of unsearchable information.
Above all else, your website needs to be mobile-friendly to compete in this new online landscape. Not sure if your website fits the bill? Try using Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to see how your website ranks. If it could use improvements, Google’s tool will even give you some tips on how to make your site more adaptable to mobile devices. Don’t let these tips go unnoticed, or else your website will quickly be unnoticed too.
Press Record
You’ve likely already seen us promote video as a valuable medium for content sharing (we did so here and here), but this time, we’re making a bold point: use video content or get left behind. A strong claim, we know, but the statistics are even stronger. Consider that YouTube is the second largest search engine used online (second only to Google) and only hosts video content. Or take a look at this shocking projection: networking giant, Cisco, predicts that within the next 3 years, video will make up 82% of all online traffic. This staggering claim comes on the heels of their 12-year-long project using industry analytics from a variety of metrics. In other words, it’s a well-informed prediction and more reason than ever to overcome inhibitions, turn on your camera, and offer valuable information that you know your future patients want and need.
As a hearing professional, the best part of using video to share your content is that you get a chance to showcase your personality, knowledge, and warmth all in one place. This is the kind of content and information patients are craving. They want to know who can best provide them with the knowledge and quality care they need. Plus, videos have a much higher click rate across platforms than written content does, so it also naturally boosts your visibility online.
Don’t Ignore Voice Search
As 2018 approached, digital marketers across the Internet were hailing “voice search” as the next big thing for SEO. This claim is debatable, but there’s definitely no doubt about it’s rapidly accelerating use. With Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home becoming increasingly popular, it’s no surprise that recent surveys have found that 40% of Americans perform at least one voice search online per day and that 20% of all Google queries are placed by voice.
These trends make a strong case for optimizing your content to be found by voice searches. Having your page listed on the first page of the search results is a must for voice searches, as they only respond to queries with information from page one. Even better is to have your content actually featured on that first page. This requires the right combination of engaging content with a high click rate and dwell time, a specifically pertinent topic (keyword matching), and the classic effect of time. You can also include a question and answer in your content to help target common voice queries for your niche. For example, you could ask and answer the question “How much do hearing aids cost” in your post in anticipation of the commonly searched question. Don’t overthink these voice searching strategies too much though; if you remain committed to creating valuable, in-depth content on your site, voice-search optimization will naturally become a part of it.
Competing in the digital landscape is all about getting found and delivering value. You’re already achieving the latter in your daily hearing practice, so why not translate some of that patient satisfaction to the online realm? Putting a little extra time into carefully selecting your titles, proposing articles for online publications, recording some videos, and the like can translate into a significant increase in the number of people you get to serve. Don’t ignore the potential that effective SEO holds for your practice, and consider contacting us for professional SEO services.
 

Mature adults look at smartphone

Hearing Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends for 2018

The development of consumer-oriented technology has dominated the hearing marketplace in recent years—making wearables, hearables, smartphone connectivity, hearing apps, and other smart devices more commonly expected from patients. Likewise, the demand for more sophisticated and modern marketing strategies from hearing healthcare providers has also risen. Gone are days where ‘product, price, place, and promotion’ is the ultimate marketing framework. The most proactive and savvy hearing professionals are actively finding new patients using the current trends in marketing and patient care to rise above the competition. Let’s take a look at those trends and why they’re working.
Digital First
Digital media has completely outpaced traditional media as the first choice for marketing. It’s not hard to see why: Digital marketing is less expensive, faster to launch, easier to modify, gives more rapid results, and offers detailed data on the effectiveness of any one campaign, creating a much better return on investment (ROI) across the board. For marketing hearing healthcare services, digital marketing is the new frontier of accessing a formerly-difficult-to-reach audience of people with untreated hearing issues. With Baby Boomers being the fastest growing population on social media, you better believe they’re browsing other sites worth their time online. Digital marketing is how you prove your website should be one of them.
The Market is Mobile
No business sector is immune to the dire need for a website optimized for a mobile audience. Ensuring that your practice’s website is mobile-friendly may not at first seem like an imperative marketing move—until you realize that your website’s traffic will largely be determined by this one key facet of your overall online marketing plan. With over 77% of American adults owning a smartphone, and studies showing that they spend more time each day on their phones than even watching television (with an average of more than two hours per day), it’s no surprise that search engines like Google have decided to penalize websites that are not mobile-friendly by ranking them lower in search results. Having a website that’s optimized for mobile screens means the most important information will be front and center, the interface will be clean and intuitive, and the website will load quickly (i.e. optimized for wireless connections).
The New King
“Content is King” has been the mantra of digital marketers for over a decade. Creating valuable content as a way to increase organic traffic to your website continues to be a critical element of a complete digital strategy (which we talk more in-depth about here and here) and should not be ignored. But an evolution of that content is also underway. What began simply as useful written content, has evolved to include eye-catching images, graphics, and video media. These are the visual elements that make a piece of content more shareable on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the like. And this is precisely where the throne might be experiencing a hand-off. Social media activity continues to skyrocket, and companies have taken note. Healthcare practices are wise to implement a social strategy and to shape their content around it’s “shareability.” For 2018, it appears that social media is becoming the new “king,” and content might be the new “queen.”
Get Personal
The opportunity available in the digital realm is no secret, despite the fact that hearing practice owners have generally been slow to adapt their marketing strategies to the rising trends. The result of this growing awareness is a crowded marketplace where sincerity and innovation succeed in gaining the fleeting attention of online users. Glossy ads and picture-perfect images no longer get the appeal they once did in marketing tactics—and your practice’s online image is no exception. Consumers have been revealing an ever-growing preference for authenticity and relatability in the companies they choose to interact with, online or in-person. Social media has much to do with this shift, providing a platform for a more personal and transparent interaction with potential customers. The most effective campaigns online reflect this trend of a more personal approach by gracefully weaving storytelling, vulnerability, and often a bit of humor together to reflect the brand’s “humanness.”
As a hearing professional, your opportunities for storytelling are vast. Whether you share accounts of your own journey through a hearing issue, or how you helped a patient in need (anonymously or with permission), giving a peek into the details about the people behind the practice can go a long way in developing a trustworthy and approachable impression online.
Go Live
In 2017, we highlighted the need for more use of video as a medium for content distribution, as research continues to reveal its increasing appeal. It’s simple: more people click on social media posts with video content, and the second largest search engine worldwide is YouTube. Video also allows online viewers to get a quick sense of your authenticity, personability, and knowledge—key elements of effective content marketing.
While the reasons to get on camera continue to rise, it appears that 2018 may indeed be the year of “going live” instead of pre-recording those informative video clips. The introduction of Facebook Live and Instagram Stories (two avenues for publishing your live videos) has revealed a fresh way to access more viewers on either platform. On Facebook, while the number of users is greater than ever, organic reach is down due to changes in their algorithms for what users see in their feeds. However, the reach for live videos remains high, and those videos are accessible long after the live recording is finished—adding valuable content to your Facebook business page. This trend also echoes the sentiment of the previous one: the more real, the better.
Back to the Basics
While not exactly a new trend for 2018, the quality of your website’s design and user flow continues to rise in importance as the Internet becomes more crowded. The unfathomable amount of websites online has created a sophisticated Internet user with high expectations. Surveys reveal that your website needs to capture visitors’ appeal within the first 10 seconds to keep them from clicking onward, never to return. Efficient, intuitive, and sleek website design are the first steps toward this goal. Filling your pages with engaging and useful content is a close runner-up.
 
Taking a look at the trends of 2018 for the hearing healthcare marketplace is like looking at a landscape of possibility. Your target market is online in numbers like never before, and your competitors have been slow to really harness the power that online marketing holds. Incorporating even a few of the above strategies for your practice could mean a finish to the year like you’ve never seen before.
At AudiologyPlus, we specialize in simplifying the process of getting your practice found online. Our 20+ years in the hearing industry have shaped the digital solutions we build and the client satisfaction we’re known for.