Become a Google Partner

How to Become a Google Partner and Earn the Partner Badge

If you have used Google Ads to market your hearing practice, you might have heard of the Google Partner program. Today, we’re going to review what it means to be a Google Partner, how to become one, and how to earn the official Google Partner badge.
First, Google Partners is a program that Google developed for people who use Google Ads to market online. Once you become a Google Partner, you will receive access to resources like additional trainings, special events, and industry research. You can also earn the Google Partner badge, which shows that a member of your team has demonstrated skill and knowledge in using Google Ads and that your business has grown through Ads.
How to Sign Up for the Google Partners Program
Although it might sound rather elite, signing up for the Google Partners program is actually quite simple. Plus, the program is free. Here is how to join:

  • Visit the Google Partners website.
  • Click the tab that says “Join Google Partners,” and then click “Join Now.”
  • Sign in to your Google Ads account (if you are not already signed in). You will need Admin access on the manager account in order to sign up for Google Partners.
  • Read through the disclaimer and Terms of Service for the program. Then click “Accept and continue.”
  • Select the correct Google Ads manager account.
  • Enter your company name, website, and location.
  • Click “Save.”

That’s it! You will then be directed to the Partners section of your Google Ads account, where you will have access to all of the Google Partners features.
How to Earn the Google Partner Badge
There are two Google Partner badges: the Google Partner badge and the Premier Google Partner badge. Each one has its own requirements. This article will cover how to earn the Google Partner badge. Here is how to qualify:

  • Company performance:

You can meet the performance requirement by demonstrating solid overall ad revenue and growth, and by maintaining and growing your customer base. Google Partners will evaluate your account over 18 months to ensure that you have met the performance requirement. You must have spend activity on your account for at least 12 months to qualify.

  • Ad spend:

You must meet a 90-day minimum ad spend of $10,000 USD across your accounts.

  • Certification:

At least one member of your team must be certified in Google Ads.
Once you have qualified for the Partner badge, it can be displayed on your website and marketing materials.
You can easily check your Partner badge status by logging in to your Google Ads account. Once you are in your account, click on the “Partners program” tab, and then find the “Badge status” card. This will notify you whether your company has earned the Google Partner badge. Once you have earned your badge, this card will also display whether you are at risk of losing the badge.
Google has announced that the Partner badge requirements will be adjusted in 2021. You can see their article here for more information on the upcoming changes.
If you would like to learn more about the Google Partners program or how to earn the Partner badge, we invite you to contact us today at AudiologyPlus. With over 20 years of experience in marketing, we are here to answer your questions.

8 Things Your Audiology Website Needs Right Now

8 Things Your Audiology Website Needs Right Now

Simply having a website is a great step towards helping your audiology practice grow. Now that you have a website, you should consider exactly what you put on your site. Here are 8 things your audiology website needs right now:
Great content
People come to your website looking for answers. It’s as simple as that. Your content should provide the answers to the questions they have.
Remember that people’s questions will vary widely, so your content should be broad enough to answer many types of questions. Consider questions you are frequently asked in your office or via the phone, and answer those questions are your website. These might include questions relating to hearing topics (e.g., “What is a hearing aid”? “Do I need hearing aids?” “What is tinnitus?”, etc.), as well as those relating to your office (e.g., “What are your hours?” “Where are you located?” “What are your qualifications?”, etc.)
Telehealth
While many offices were already beginning to incorporate telehealth into their practice model, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns around the world have only highlighted the importance of telehealth.
Telehealth services like myVirtualClinic enable you to care for your patients without seeing them in your office. This can save time for your patients (and your staff, too) and can make it easier for patients to reach you.
Social media
Social media isn’t just for teenagers anymore! Businesses need a strong presence on social media as well. You should have a dedicated page for your audiology practice on all main social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (You can branch out beyond these if you want to!)
Of course, it isn’t enough to simply create a social media page and abandon it. Patients (both existing and potential) want to see that you actually interact with your customers. Be sure to reply to any comments or questions that are left on your page, as well as reviews. It’s also important to post regularly so your practice is kept fresh in the minds of your patients.
Individualism
Unless you are located in a very small town, chances are there are multiple audiology practices in your area. This means that potential patients have a choice of whom they give their business too. In order to win their business, you need to stand out!
There are a few ways you can do this on your website. Include photos of your office and your team. Consider including biographies as well, so your patients can get to know your team before coming in. You might also want to showcase your practice philosophy online, which can highlight how you are different from the others. Positive reviews are another good way to feature what’s great about your practice and why patients should choose you.
Opportunities to sell
Although the optimal setting for selling a hearing aid might be at your office—once you have completed a hearing test and provided a professional consultation—you shouldn’t pass up on opportunities to sell on your website. This can be as simple as listing out (with images, too) the hearing aid tools available through your practice.
eCommerce can be powerful, too. This allows people to buy directly from your website rather than coming to your office.
Great imagery
The old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is still true. Showcasing photos of your office and your team on your website can be a great way to help patients get to know you before they even step foot inside your practice. In addition, a website with eye-catching imagery is much more inviting to look at than one that’s only filled with 10 pt size type!
If possible, have some professional photos taken of your office. This can make a big difference in the quality of the photos and how they appear on your website. You can even have a “patient” (either a real patient or a family member of your staff) in the photos to highlight the level of care you provide.
Patient testimonials
You simply cannot go without patient testimonials on your website. One recent study found that 59.9% of patients chose their medical provider based on positive online reviews, and 60% said they have avoided a medical provider because of negative reviews.
Highlighting a few positive reviews on your website can do wonders for drawing new patients to your practice. If you don’t currently have any testimonials to showcase on your website, just ask your happy customers! Using a service like ReviewMe can also make it easy to continue gathering reviews.
Consistent branding
Have you ever visited a website for a business and wondered if that was actually their official website? You might not have been able to pinpoint the reason at the time, but your questioning was probably due to a lack of consistent branding.
The aim is to provide a consistent experience for your website visitors across your entire website—and the rest of your online presence as well, including your social media pages and any other online listings. This should include using the same logo and practice name. Make sure your office hours, phone number, and address are updated as well. You could even consider using colors on your website that are similar to the colors in your office for an especially consistent patient experience.
These 8 factors are essential to creating an audiology website that draws in new patients and helps your practice succeed. To learn more about how you can build your practice online, please contact us at AudiologyPlus. With over 20 years of experience in marketing, we have the experience and expertise you need to grow your business.

The 4 Best Audiology Website Designs That Will Help You Attract More Patients

Website design is crucial to the success of any business. This may seem obvious for other types of businesses–but what about audiology businesses and practices? Yes, even for those!
Of course, as a hearing healthcare professional, your area of expertise is audiology, not web design. That is as it should be. However, it is important for you to be aware of and understand the basics of good web design that will help your business thrive online.
Here are the 4 best audiology web designs that will help you attract more patients:

  1. Responsive Design with the Most Important Information First

Responsive design has been an essential feature of website design for several years now. Put simply, responsive design means your website will respond to the size and orientation of the screen it is being displayed on. This means that your website will always display optimally, whether it is being viewed on a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
Responsive design is an important part of making your website user-friendly. One of the benefits of using this type of web design is that you can easily present the most important information first. Rather than trying to display the full desktop version of your site on a small mobile phone, your website will adapt to show the viewer what is most important: your practice name, contact information, and services. You should also seriously consider adopting telehealth technology, especially now. Telehealth platforms have the capability of integrating into your current business practices, thus streamlining your entire service offerings.
2. Feature Real Patient Reviews
Did you know that in a recent survey, 82 percent of respondents said they use reviews to evaluate and select their doctor? So, you can assume that approximately 82 percent of people who find your business online will be looking for reviews to help them evaluate your practice and decide whether they want to become a patient. That is where real patient reviews come in.
While there are many third-party websites where patients can leave reviews, it can be powerful to feature positive reviews right on your website. In addition to having a webpage dedicated to those reviews, you may also want to select a few especially good reviews to feature on your homepage. This way, even if a website visitor does not click through to other pages of your site, they will still see the glowing reviews left by real patients.
3. AMP Pages for Easy Mobile Access
An AMP, or accelerated mobile page, is a stripped-down version of your existing webpage. Because it is simplified, the AMP can load faster than the original version of the webpage. This is especially important on mobile devices, where people expect fast turnaround and will click “back” if your website is taking too long to load.
With AMPs, you can improve the speed and reliability of your website on mobile devices.
4. Thoughtfully Chosen and Placed Images
When it comes to your website design, you never want it to be described as “haphazard” or “confusing.” One way to ensure that your website stands out and appears polished is by thoughtfully choosing and placing images.
In some cases, you may want to have professional photos taken of your practice. For other purposes, stock imagery can work well. Whatever you choose, make sure your images look professional and convey the message you are trying to send.
Of course, even the most well-designed website will not bring in new patients if it is not optimized to do so. With SEO (search engine optimization), your website will be found by the people who are searching for a practice and services just like yours.
At AudiologyPlus, we are dedicated to optimizing your site with local SEO that can drive online traffic, as well as real new patients, to your practice. We focus on staying up to date with the latest in website design and optimization to ensure that you are never left behind when it comes to online marketing. To learn more about our services and how we can help you attract more patients online, we welcome you to contact us today.

Woman looks at her smartphone while walking in a city

How to Get Local People to Find You Online

The scenarios prompting people to search for the hearing help they need are diverse, but typically have one thing in common: they take place within your local area. Whether it’s someone looking up hearing services after another frustrating dinner at a favorite (and loud) restaurant, or someone looking up local options for hearing protection before a big concert, the people you serve are nearby, looking for you.
And you want them to find your website when they look online for help.
Search engines simplify the process of ranking different web pages by using “location targeting” to narrow search results. This is good news for everyone, since no one wants to wade through websites for businesses in another country when searching for something local, nor do we want our own websites to compete with those across the globe for a given search.
Location targeting, or geo-locating, eliminates the need for zip codes and other location modifiers such as “hearing aids in New York City,” as search engines now rely heavily on device location instead. Thus, there has been a rapid increase of the use of “near me” instead for online searches, as in, “where to buy hearing aids near me.” This all begs the question, of course: are local people easily finding you with that search?
Enter: local search engine optimization, or local SEO.
By optimizing your website for better visibility in local searches, you can quickly rise above the competition as more and more local people turn to the Internet to learn about their options for hearing care. And trust us, they are definitely going online.
Consider that recent surveys report 87% of smartphone owners using a search engine, like Google, at least once per day. And nearly 50% of those searches are for local products and services. Even better? From local-mobile searches alone, 78% result in offline purchases.
So how is your business ranking online for local searches? Location targeting happens automatically to generate local results first, but not all local results. Website ranking is a complex and ever-shifting terrain, and it can take some effort up front to see the results of local SEO pay off. Consider the best practices below for easy boosts to your local visibility online.
List and Verify Your Business
It’s imperative that search engines see your business in local and popular online directories — especially the directories they own (think Google My Business and Bing Local). The more complete your information, the better, so include your address, phone, email, and hours of operation everywhere you can. Aim to get your business a listing or profile in any and all online directories (especially local ones, such as your local paper’s website), and be sure that your information is identical, down to the details of your address being “st.” or “street” across the board. Although smart, search engines are still robots, and the goal is for them to find your identical listing throughout the Internet to bolster your website’s ranking in the search results related to a given location.
Lastly, take the time to verify all of your listings. This can be a tedious process as you work your way through the long list of potential online directories to post your business on, but it is well worth the effort. Not only do these listings reinforce the location your business serves for local SEO purposes, they also provide valuable links back to your website that boost your SEO overall.
Make Your Location Known
Your business address and any other areas you serve should be clearly defined on your website, be it on the home page, in a footer, on a dedicated location page, or all of the above. Keep this information identical to what is listed in online directories and also highlight the areas you serve in broader content throughout your website.
For instance, if you serve the Greater Atlanta Area, you should note that on your location page alongside your actual address, and you could also write a blog about “How to Find the Best Hearing Care in the Greater Atlanta Area.” The idea here is to combine keywords of the services you provide with the keywords of the areas you serve — and to do it naturally. The content you create should still be useful and informative, but also tailored with local SEO in mind.
To take this approach one step further, include other forms of location-related media on your website. Images and videos from local events in your community that your office has participated in, for example, are a great addition to a blog. They help “prove” to search engines that your website is increasingly relevant to people looking for your type of services in that your area, as search algorithms tend to rank diverse forms of media higher than written content alone.
Network with Other Local Businesses
We’ve gone into the reasons why you want quality backlinks to your website before, but for the purposes of boosting your local SEO rankings, it’s incredibly helpful to find other local businesses to link to your website from their own. The more popular and credible your neighbor’s website, the better it will be for increasing your website’s visibility in local searches.
Backlinks provide a significant “vote” for your website that search algorithms count heavily towards your ranking in the results. Although it can take a while to build the relationships and partnerships necessary to get links to your site from other local websites, the boost in your website’s traffic will pay back your time and effort generously.
Make it Quick and Mobile-Friendly
This last tip tends to be taken for granted. People have heard for years now about how “the world is going mobile,” and hopefully have ensured that their websites are indeed mobile-ready. But with the recent shift towards a “mobile first” search platform by Google, and the increasing need for a fast-loading website (that loads easily on cellular data networks), this point bears repeating.
A mobile-friendly website means more than larger text and a simpler hand-held design. It also means that your layout and content is organized and optimized with a mobile visitor in mind. Images need to be fast-loading, menus need to be easy to find, and your home page requires succinct language on an efficient layout.
With nearly 90% of surveyed people reporting to search for local businesses on their smartphones each week, ignoring the needs of mobile visitors is akin to turning off the lights in your office and expecting people to walk in, anyway. Search engines agree and penalize mobile-unfriendly websites by ranking them lower.
Getting local prospects to find you online isn’t incredibly difficult. It’s actually much easier than trying to get found without the geo-locating technology working on your behalf. And by applying the recommendations above you can boost your local ranking much faster, and find yourself with a steady stream of new patients who found you first online.
If your business’s website could benefit from professional SEO improvements or needs a modern website altogether, talk to us today about our complete digital solutions. Join our family of thrilled clients and enjoy the thriving practice you’ve been waiting for.
 

3 arrows in the bulls-eye of a target

Reach the Customers You Want with Precision Targeting

A huge perk of online marketing is the ability to target your ads to people expressly interested in your services. If a person is online, searching for information or professionals related to tinnitus, for example, you can clearly define that in your ad’s parameters and increase the odds that she or he will click through to your website. It’s these detailed targeting features, along with a notable cost-effectiveness, that’s made digital ads a popular option for businesses looking for increased traffic (both online and in-person).
Advertising services like Google Adwords and Sponsored Ads on Facebook offer an impressive array of details about the people you want to show your ads to. Whether you target people searching for topics related to your business, specify their location, or even define the kinds of interests they have, you can expect your campaigns will be shown to the right kind person.
Consider the possibilities for your business if you could directly reach the people in need of your services. Below we walk through what’s possible with precision targeting on two of the leading online marketing platforms: Google and Facebook.
Keyword Targeting
When in need of local services, an increasing number of people are going online to research their options before visiting any office or store in-person. In fact, 97% of people reported going online to look for a local business just last year. These kinds of pursuits usually start with people using a search engine like Google to find businesses that meet their needs. The words they use to perform their search include keywords for the respective industry they’re interested in. And these keywords are prime targets for online ads.
Through Google Adwords, keyword targeting can enable a business to place their website at the top of the search results and on related websites. It’s a versatile approach to finding your customers online as it offers a wide array of options for narrowing in on your ideal keywords. For instance, the keywords, “hearing loss” could be set up to trigger your ad when used in a phrase (such as, “symptoms of hearing loss”), by itself, and as broad or precise as you prefer.
Keyword targeting on Google can vary widely in cost, with the most popular (and obvious) keywords for a given industry costing the most. On Facebook, targeting audiences based on specific keywords doesn’t increase the cost, but can either increase or decrease your audience selection, ultimately defining the number of people likely to see your ad. The benefit of both platforms, however, is that you only pay for your ads when someone actually clicks them (hence, pay-per-click, or PPC, advertising).
Location Targeting
Targeting people within a certain distance from your office is an ideal choice for marketing your practice. It significantly boosts the number of people your ads will reach and also helps bring the cost down for highly competitive keywords (like “hearing loss” or “hearing aids”).
Location targeting is available for ads on both Google and Facebook, but is more advanced on Google. A targeting strategy known as “geofencing” has become popular for targeting audiences in specific areas, allowing marketers to place a virtual fence around a location and target only those people inside of it, as well as anyone who crosses into that space.
The novelty of geofencing is its use of GPS in conjunction with targeted ads, allowing a level of location precision never before available. For instance, an ad can be set to target people visiting a competitor’s business, or temporarily be set for a relevant event (i.e. a loud rock concert, etc).  
Facebook ads allow the specificity of locations on the city, state, and country level, but their limitation with location targeting is more than made up for by their detailed personal data for audiences.
Audience Targeting
Basic demographic qualifiers, like age, gender, country of residence, and language are adjustable for ad targeting on both Google and Facebook. But the similarities in audience targeting quickly end there, as Facebook’s giant trove of data about its users is far more granular than Google’s. From pages people have liked, to their profession, income level, education, interests, behaviors, and even recent life events, Facebook has a long list of personal data that proves useful when trying to market to a specific market online.
The trick with audience targeting on both Google and Facebook is to find the sweet spot of accessing just enough people without diluting your targeting goals. Keep things too broad and you’ll run the risk of people not being interested in your ads. Make your parameters too narrow and you’ll risk not enough people seeing your ad at all. Finding that elusive sweet spot requires some trial and error, but by diligently following the metrics of your campaigns and adjusting your ads and targeting accordingly, you’ll eventually settle on audience parameters that deliver the conversions you’re seeking.

Online marketing has proven to be significantly more successful for business owners than traditional marketing ever could be. And it’s not hard to see why: targeting your audience is easier and more precise, campaign tracking is rich with detail and enables you to make necessary adjustments instantly, and more people are looking online for local businesses than ever before.
If your business has yet to take advantage of online marketing, be it through PPC ads or a strong online presence, there’s no better time than now. Contact us to find out how our clients are realizing growth in their businesses they never thought possible.
 

Woman is frustrated while looking at her computer

How to Avoid Yelp’s “Not Recommended” Abyss

Consumer reviews are hard to ignore these days, covering everything from local pizza joints to orthopedic surgeons. With just a few taps on our phones or computers, we can quickly read up on what others have to say about any given product or service provider.
In fact, a whopping 97% of consumers reported going online last year to do just that. Even more interesting are the 85% of consumers who reported that they trust an online review just as much as personal recommendations from people they know.
Despite the deeper implications, patient reviews in the world of healthcare are no different. Love them or hate them, online reviews are here to stay. The most popular review sites tend to be Yelp, Google, and Facebook, but recent surveys have found that, for patients looking for a healthcare provider, Yelp is the most used review site while Healthgrades is the most trusted.
With an average of 145 million visitors monthly, it’s no surprise that Yelp remains the most popular review site online. From a consumer perspective, it’s easy to see why: more visitors translates into more reviews, and more reviews offer the most information on any given business or service.
Business owners, however, might find some aspects of Yelp’s review management less appealing. Namely, their infamous “not recommended” reviews, which are buried at the far bottom of the page underneath a grayed out title  “reviews that are not recommended.” This is where reviews that have been filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm are shown.
Yelp is upfront about their filtering of reviews, and explain that while their software’s algorithm for deciphering potentially inauthentic reviews isn’t perfect, it’s designed to target reviews that aren’t helpful. In a sense, this can be great for small businesses. If a disgruntled competitor decides to leave a fake review on your business’s Yelp page, the system should be able to detect it and bury it beneath the “not recommended” filter. Unfortunately, though, the reverse is sometimes true: Yelp’s filtering algorithm is known for burying legitimate, positive reviews as well.
Let’s face it—you work hard for every positive review you receive. Despite the large number of people reading and relying on reviews to make decisions, only a small fraction of review site visitors take the time to leave reviews for businesses. To finally receive a glowing review and then watch it get hidden in the “not recommended” section of Yelp is just plain frustrating. Especially when Yelp is known for a lack of responsiveness to complaints about its review filtering.
Fortunately, there are some measures you can take as a business owner to help improve the odds of keeping your reviews where other people can easily see them. Yelp’s filtering algorithm has never been fully transparent, leaving review experts and business owners alike trying to decipher best practices for staying on its good side.
Ultimately, collective experience has shown that the stronger the reviewer’s presence is on Yelp, the better their reviews will be received by its algorithm. Below are a few elements of what a “strong presence” entails.
Have more than one review.
If you click to see the “reviews not currently recommended,” you’ll likely notice that many of the reviews in that section are from Yelp users with only one or two reviews on their profile. The algorithm is looking at many factors to determine the degree of review authenticity, and it appears that the total number of reviews left by the reviewer in question is a large factor. This is understandable, considering that a review from someone who just signed up to leave it is more likely to have been requested, incentivized, or even intended to detract from a competitor—motives that Yelp wants to identify and discourage.
If a patient mentions wanting to leave you a review on Yelp, it can be helpful to let them know that they should leave a few different reviews for other businesses as well if they want their reviews to remain seen. It’s also important to avoid offering any incentive or reward for leaving a review (even if there’s no requirement that it’s a positive one), as this can have long-lasting consequences on your Yelp listing if discovered (i.e. a reviewer casually mentions it in their review, etc). Unlike other review sites, like Google and Facebook, Yelp explicitly requires that businesses avoid asking for reviews at all. They want reviews to arise organically, the way they would in a conversation with friends.
Bring on the photos.
Yelp profiles with a profile picture and other uploaded images also tend to fair better with their reviews. Experts agree that having a complete profile on Yelp, with all areas filled out and the addition of images from various experiences with local businesses, can strongly boost your appeal to the system’s algorithm. Similar to leaving more than just one review, having a complete profile bolsters your legitimacy as an authentic reviewer on Yelp.
Again, just mentioning that having a profile that’s been filled out entirely, including a profile picture and a few other photos, will help a patient’s reviews from being hidden can be enough to encourage them to do so. While it might seem cumbersome for them, or too much to ask, it’s actually easy for Yelp users to meet this suggestion within just a few minutes.
Make friends.
It’s easy to forget that Yelp is a social networking site. Very active Yelpers have thousands of friends on Yelp, lending significant credibility to their account. Luckily, reviewers don’t actually need thousands of friends for their reviews to remain unfiltered, but having a few can go a long way.
The best way to encourage your own potential reviewers to gain friends on Yelp is to suggest they sign up through Facebook if they don’t yet have a Yelp profile. This is a simple option when they’re on the Yelp sign-up page, and will automatically propagate a profile picture for them and suggest friends to add from their Facebook friends list. It makes creating a more legitimate account fast and easy.
 
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to make these suggestions while also avoiding asking for reviews on Yelp in the first place. The best way to encourage patients to review you on Yelp is to place their logo where your patients will see it: on your website and at your front desk. It’s one of the reasons we built a custom review application to make it as easy as possible for your patients to review your services directly from your website.
You can also encourage your patients to “review your business online,” without specifically mentioning Yelp. If they ask where to do so, you can simply mention all of the review sites that are helpful for your business—namely, the most popular ones: Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Healthgrades.
The truth is, when you’re busy delivering exceptional services to your patients, getting reviews from them will come naturally. Patients who have been surprised by your level of care and attention are inclined to express their gratitude, and these days, leaving a glowing review online is akin to a thank you card from years past.
If online reviews aren’t a part of your digital marketing strategy yet, they should be. By using proactive technology and strategy, you can harness the power and popularity of online reviews for your own business.

Woman accesses her website using secure credentials

How Secure is Your Website?

Website security doesn’t tend to be a popular topic among small business owners. Sure, everyone knows it’s important, but it seems to be more of an abstract threat than, say, someone breaking into their car. So the cars get locked every day, but the website… well, it’s often left more vulnerable.
The truth is, website security threats are a more serious issue with each passing month. Simply put, more people are going online than ever before—including those with nefarious intentions. According to Internet network giant, Cisco, last year’s 6.6 million cyber attacks will grow to 8.4 million this year, and more than doubling to 17.4 million by 2020.
And don’t be fooled thinking that hackers are only aiming for big fish. Most cyber attacks crawl websites looking for weak links, and they tend to find them in smaller businesses with fewer resources dedicated to proper website security.
So how secure is your site? Do you think it could withstand potential attempts at hacking its code? Let’s review some of the best practices for enhancing your security (and restoring your peace of mind):
SSL Certificate
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificates ensure that any data transferred between your website and your server is properly encrypted. It keeps any private data submitted by visitors to your site (i.e. contact information, payment information, etc) encoded during its transfer to avoid becoming compromised.
Having a valid SSL certificate for your website is the primary layer of security you should be offering visitors, and as of this year, has nearly become mandatory. That’s because, at the end of 2017, Google began warning visitors to any website without a valid SSL certificate that they are visiting a website that is “not secure” via its Chrome browser. And if getting your website flagged as a “not secure” isn’t bad enough, being without an SSL certificate also means your site is ranked lower in Google’s search results.
Not sure if your website has a valid certificate or not? Simply type in your URL and check if your web address begins with “https://” or “http://.” If you have an “s” it means you do indeed have a valid SSL certificate in place for your website. Depending on your browser, you may also see a lock icon or the word “secure” beside your URL as further indication of your valid SSL certificate in place.
If your website doesn’t have one, you can contact your host provider or domain registrar to purchase a valid certificate. If you have a webmaster who handles your website, simply ask him or her to purchase the right kind of SSL certificate for your needs. When we build websites for our clients, we automatically include a valid SSL certificate on their website, as it’s that important. It’s just one part of our definition of a modern website.
Choose a Secure Host
Your website’s data is stored by your hosting provider, which manages large numbers of servers that store data for countless websites. Because they house so much data, servers are prime targets for hackers. It’s wise to take the time to research your hosting options for your website and scrutinize the security claims made by various hosting companies.
Many different types of hosting options exist and, in general, the greater the security offered, the more expensive hosting becomes. Ultimately, having a dedicated server (which houses your website only) is the most secure option when it comes to hosting. This is also the most expensive option and is commonly used for very large or sensitive organizations.
Sharing servers with other websites is the most common arrangement, as it’s much more cost-effective. But shared hosting comes with the risk that the server itself will be vulnerable if any one of the websites it houses gets hacked. If this happens, your website would likely be down for a certain period of time while the host reorganized its data and patched its vulnerability.
We prefer cloud hosting for our clients, and recommend it for other small business owners as well. For the level of reliability, scalability, and security it provides, it’s the most cost-effective option. Our proprietary cloud hosting solution also ensures that our client’s websites are always lightning fast. We go into more detail about choosing the best host for your needs here.
Back it Up
When a website is attacked by malware (aka malicious software) or other invasive code, the result can be subtle or obvious. There’s a reason these programs are often referred to as “viruses” or “bugs,” as they operate similarly.
Malware can be latent, like a symptomless infection, operating in the background while silently recording sensitive information from you and your visitors. Or, it can reveal it’s presence instantly by affecting your content—leaving it scrambled, inaccessible, or completely wiped out. Ultimately, it can be a serious threat to your business and your peace of mind.
Considering that experts warn us that new malware code is released every 4.2 seconds, there’s no denying the need to not only secure your website from malware penetration, but also from losing all of your website’s content if your system were to get infected. Backing up your content is essential as a website owner, and most hosting platforms offer this service.
By directly hosting the website’s we build for our clients, we’re able to offer full website back-ups as well—and we do them every day. We take website security seriously, and if anything were to ever happen, we know we always have the most up-to-date version of a client’s site ready to be reloaded in an instant. Getting your website backed-up daily is definitely worth looking into if you want the best protection from the damage a website attack can create.
Stay Updated
If your website uses any third party plugins, extensions, or apps, keeping them updated to their latest versions is a must. Developers of third-party software are constantly improving and updating their code to enhance features, and especially to remain fortified against hackers. It’s an ongoing game as hackers find new ways to manipulate weak code and developers respond by upgrading/changing it.
When this happens, the software updates include what are called “patches.” And that’s precisely what they do: they cover any gaping “holes” in the security of the software’s code. Since these programs are working within your website, their level of security directly affects the amount of protection your website has in general.
In addition to these external applications, you also want to be sure that your website platform is always the newest version as well. For instance, if your website is hosted on WordPress, you can easily and quickly check to see if any new updates are available for the WordPress platform. Keeping your software fully up-to-date is a quick (and essential) way to fortify your resistance to any potential invaders.
Passwords Matter
This might seem obvious, but a surprising number of people fail to select strong passwords for even their most sensitive accounts. A strong password contains a mix of letters, numbers, symbols, and capitalization. Ideally, it doesn’t even spell out a recognizable word.
These days, many of us are juggling several dozen passwords online. From the small copy order you placed online to the flight you arranged for an upcoming trip, you likely needed to create an account on both websites to complete your order. And having an account means having a password.
The simplest way to ensure that you have strong passwords across your various accounts is to use a password manager. While it may seem daunting to have a software application hold the keys to your digital life, it’s by and large one of the most popular pieces of advice from security experts. Instead of reusing passwords across accounts, as many of us do, a password manager generates long and complex passwords for all of your digital needs. You, then, only need to remember one master password to access this vault of keys.
Many people wonder which password manager they can trust, and the general consensus among security experts is to simply choose one of the most popular companies currently available (there are four: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass, or LastPass) and go from there. The best part? Most of these companies offer basic password management for free.
 
You’ve put plenty of time, energy, and money into creating your website. It’s your storefront in the virtual world and, as record numbers of people continue to go online, will only play an increasingly important role in your business. Use these important tips for securing your website and don’t hesitate to contact us if you’d like professional help with your business’s online presence.
 

Person looking at graphs and tables about their website's traffic.

6 Website Traffic Metrics Worth Paying Attention To

Your website is the cornerstone of your efforts to be found by prospective patients online, and understanding how it’s performing is essential. Without analyzing the amount of traffic, page views, and patterns of user activity on your site, your marketing and content choices would essentially be a guessing game. With the ever-increasing, versatile analytics tools available (many of which are free), there’s no reason not to use this handy, behind-the-scenes information to your advantage.
While many tools specifically designed for detailed website analytics exist, we’ve focused on one of the most popular and approachable analytic tools available: Google Analytics. It’s free, informative, and easy to use, making it the obvious first choice for most website owners who don’t have the time, interest, or budget to master a more robust program.
The metrics offered by Google Analytics are more than enough for making effective marketing and SEO choices for your business. Below are the top metrics we recommend paying attention to for optimizing your digital marketing strategies.
Number of Sessions
Digital marketing is an effective tool for increasing your presence online. More specifically, it’s aimed at increasing your website’s visibility online. One of the clearest ways to measure the effectiveness of any digital marketing campaign (such as a series of pay-per-click ads, for instance) is to look at the overall number of sessions (aka visits) your website received while a campaign was active.
Tucked beneath the total number of sessions your website had is the percentage of new sessions, which reflects the number of new visitors to your website. This figure gives you insight into whether your ad is attracting new attention and also whether your website offers enough value to bring previous visitors back.
Traffic Source Channels
If you’ve been investing in getting paid traffic to your website, then the channels metric might end up being your first stop in Google Analytics. This dataset is located by scrolling down on your homepage “dashboard,” or by clicking on “Acquisition” and then on “Overview.” It’s where you can see a clear breakdown of how people are finding your website. By default, it organizes your website traffic into 8 channels:

  • Direct
  • Organic search
  • Referral
  • Email
  • Paid search
  • Other advertising
  • Social
  • Display

Your percentage breakdown of traffic will only reflect the channels which have actually sent users to your site. You can get a more detailed picture of exactly which websites and ad campaigns are directing traffic your way by clicking on any one of the channels (highlighted in blue text).
Bounce Rate
The percentage of sessions that involved a visit to only one page of your site before the visitor left is called your “Bounce Rate.” It can be found on your homepage dashboard and, once clicked, will give you a more detailed graph and analysis. Your bounce rate reveals several aspects of the user experience on your website: Is your homepage attractive and easy to navigate? Is your content interesting, relevant and engaging? Is your page navigation menu easy to find?
Naturally, website owners want this number to be as low as possible, but it’s important to realize that many website visitors may simply be visiting your site for your contact information. This will often lead them to one page and have them on their way to, hopefully, be calling or emailing you directly.
Audience Engagement
Knowing how well your website is engaging and holding the attention of your visitors is helpful for analyzing the overall appeal of your content and your website in general. It also helps reveal how effective your audience targeting efforts are for your various marketing campaigns. For instance, if you specialize in treating tinnitus and have included several helpful articles on your blog specifically about tinnitus, but are seeing low engagement with that content in general, you might consider whether your marketing targets are not, in fact, tinnitus sufferers before you overly critique how helpful or engaging your content is.
By clicking on “Audience” (in the left menu column) and then clicking on the “Behavior” drop-down menu, you’ll find the “Engagement” dataset. There are multiple layers of user behavior that you can focus on to get an idea of overall user engagement. Looking at the session durations will tell you if your pages are holding visitors’ attention. Page depth will give you a sense of how many pages are being visited in a session. Ideally, you’d want to see your visitors exploring your website’s pages and spending a reasonable amount of time on those with engaging content.
Site Content Breakdown
If you navigate to the main “Behavior” menu on the left-side column, you’ll find a drop-down menu titled “Site Content.” This is where you can learn which pages on your website are the most popular, and how long visitors are spending on each page.
If you’ve been creating your digital ads with a link to a specific page on your website, it can be invaluable to know if people are spending much time on that page at all. You can also set up tracking to monitor conversions on that page if you’d like to find out if people are taking any action (i.e. clicking) on that page. You would set that up under “Goals” in the “Conversions” menu. In general, having a good sense of which pages are the most popular on your site can be helpful when designing new marketing campaigns.
Desktop Vs. Mobile
Surely, by now, you’ve heard us (and many others) strongly encourage you to have a mobile-friendly website. With statistics across the board letting us know that the world is going mobile, 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.
Beyond these future projections, however, is more specific data directly from your website visitors themselves. When you click on the “Audience” menu on the left-hand column and navigate down to the “Mobile” drop-down menu, you’ll get a clear picture of the percentage of your visitors who are looking at your site on a mobile device (either a phone or a tablet).
Data showing which devices your visitors are on can be helpful for understanding whether their experience of your website is either bolstered (i.e. mobile optimized) or hampered by the smaller screens they’re using. After all, the best marketing strategies combine efforts to get new visitors to your site with those aimed at retaining visitors already there. Ensuring that your content and office information is easy to find and read on any device is an important first step.
 
Using Google Analytics to keep track of your marketing efforts and overall trajectory of your website is completely free, and set-up is as easy as entering in your website’s URL and waiting a day for your first set of data. By following the metrics we highlighted above, you’ll be on your way to tailoring your digital marketing efforts for your most successful campaigns yet.

Woman records video on her phone

How Video Can Skyrocket Your Practice’s Online Presence

Optimizing your digital marketing strategy for your hearing practice means making your website as visible as possible online. And in 2018, creating video content is one of the most effective ways for increasing your presence in the digital realm.
The idea of creating video content, however, makes many people cringe. Either they don’t want to be on camera or they expect the video creation process to be overwhelming or expensive. While getting past a camera-shy attitude looks different for different people, it’s helpful to understand why you’d want to reconsider putting yourself in front of the lens. And fortunately, these days, making videos that are useful, engaging, and highly shareable doesn’t have to mean hours of time or hundreds of dollars. Just take a look at the incredibly popular “live” videos (like Facebook Live or Instagram Stories) and you’ll quickly see that a smartphone combined with a few shared thoughts or vistas are enough to do the trick.
The main point you need to keep in mind as you consider bringing a video content strategy into your overall digital marketing plan is this: people online really like videos.
Truly, they love them. On Facebook alone, posts with videos get 135% more engagement than text or image posts. Further, YouTube, the most popular video platform on the Internet (and second most popular search engine) has more online viewers during prime-time TV hours than any television network!
It’s simple: times have most certainly changed, and online video is the way to go for bolstering your marketing efforts. Beyond the ballooning stats about people engaging with video online are a few more persuasive reasons why video content can, directly and indirectly, boost your practice’s visibility online.
Let’s take a look at each of them to better understand how you can take full advantage of this leading-edge approach.
Improve Your Website’s SEO
Perhaps the most important benefit of video content marketing is its effect on your website’s overall SEO, or search engine optimization. It’s a known fact that Google ranks websites with a variety of media types on them higher than those that don’t. Given the estimated projection that 80% of all internet traffic will be represented by video within the next year, it’s no surprise that search engines are favoring websites with video content along with the typical text and image formats.
To fully optimize your videos for search engines, it’s important to include all relevant and important keywords for your content in the video description and meta tags when adding it to your webpage. We dive more into keyword research here and recommend it for all of your content marketing efforts (be them through text or video).
Uploading a transcript of your dialogue along with the video itself is another way to bolster its SEO properties. Not only does a transcript enable an increase in the number of keywords you can use for your video, but it also makes the content accessible for viewers who aren’t in a position (or prefer not) to turn the sound on for your video. Transcripts also let search engines understand the relevancy of your video, making your content more easily searched and listed for related queries.
Increase Your Reach
Video content continues to garner increased attention from online users across the globe, with websites like Youtube showing over a billion hours of video to viewers every single day. People are more likely to click on interesting or informative video content than any other type of media—and they’re also more likely to share it on their own social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, or even their own blogs.
The more views your videos get, the more valuable they’re rated by search engines. And, you guessed it, the result is better ranking in related search results. Over time, this strategy can really pay off, so creating highly-shareable video content is a rapid and low-cost approach to expanding your reach online.
It’s also wise to host your video on an external website like Youtube or Vimeo, instead of only having it on your website’s blog. You can still embed the video onto your website (which we recommend), but it will actually play through its hosting site (or through a widget) when someone clicks on it to play. This alone can relieve your website of the heavy data-load that storing videos creates, which can quickly slow your website down.
Most important, though, is the effect of the link to your website that you would put in your channel’s description. By hosting your video on a third party site, you gain the space to add a valuable link to your website (called a linkback) in your profile area. Link-building—the process of gaining links to your own web pages from high-quality and popular external websites—is a critical element in any SEO strategy. As you endeavor to create a strong online presence, improving your visibility in search results should remain a top priority.
Increase Your Appeal—and Your Impact
Online analysts and digital marketing experts have been actively evaluating and debating the reasons for video’s high appeal. The inquiry ensues, but one aspect that everyone agrees on is the relatability of most video content. This is most easily seen in the rapid rise of the aforementioned “live” video features available across various social media networks, where editing capabilities are minimal and the results are raw and unpolished. The trends seem clear: people want to watch others who they can relate to and feel connected to. We saw it with the surge of interest in reality T.V. over a decade ago, and we’re seeing the same trend play out for online content.
This is where your content can really shine. Videos created and shared by knowledgeable hearing professionals have the combined effect of being informative and useful, while also disarming and encouraging. At a time when an estimated 80% of people with hearing loss are currently untreated, standing up and sharing helpful information about treatment options and patient outcomes can be transformative for people silently suffering from hearing issues.
The stigma around hearing aids and other treatments persists, and educating people about the realities of life after hearing aids is a crucial part of absolving these stubborn barriers. Sharing this information through video content is ideal—especially when delivered from a real person that viewers can get to know, trust, and watch anonymously online until they’re ready to get the help they need.
Allowing your viewers to learn from you while you simultaneously share your personality, warmth, and knowledge is an excellent way to begin building rapport with a significant number of potential patients. Marketers have long known that familiarity breeds trust, but sharing helpful information along with a dose of your presence goes even further in developing a base of loyal followers.
 
Navigating the waters of content marketing can seem daunting at first, especially when it comes to creating videos to share your message and knowledge. It helps to put any tendencies towards perfectionism aside and remain focused on simply helping as many people as possible.
This perspective shift will encourage you to prioritize your time so that you get as much helpful information out as fast as is reasonable, without getting hung up on how “polished” your video may or may not seem. Remember: the more of the real you people see, the more of them you can expect to see… through your office doors.
 

Man with social media concepts in hands

5 Best Practices for Marketing Your Hearing Practice with Social Media

Few hearing healthcare practices are without a website, but many have yet to create an effective presence on social media. Being active on outlets like Facebook or Twitter might seem overwhelming for an already-busy practice owner, but avoiding social media for your business means losing out on a valuable, low-cost opportunity.
The truth is, social media use is on the rise and showing no sign of slowing down. A recent Pew report found that 74% of Internet users engage with social media, and that 80% of those engagers are specifically looking for health-related information and health professionals who could help them.
There’s no better time to be online, engaging directly with prospective patients through social media. Whether you’re just starting out or are an established practice looking to expand your patient base, social media is an excellent addition to your overall marketing strategy. A small amount of time put aside to nurture your online presence on websites like Facebook and LinkedIn can quickly prove worthwhile as new patients discover you there and inquire more about your services.
So where do you begin? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, Pinterest… the list can definitely seem endless. With the ever-widening array of social media sites online, it’s no wonder that creating a social media presence for your practice can feel rather intimidating at first.
The key is to identify the ideal patients for your services, and then pick two to three social media outlets that tend to attract those types of patients. You likely have the first part figured out already and know your ideal patient demographics in detail. Finding out where they spend time online can take some digging, but beginning with a basic overview of the populations that frequent each social media outlet is a wise move. It would be hard to deny that Facebook is an essential website for your practice to have a presence on, and depending on your services or specialties, you might find that your ideal patients are frequenting other social sites as well.
Once you’ve defined a short list of social media outlets you’d like to build a presence on, it’s time to create an overall social media strategy. This doesn’t need to be extensive or time-consuming, but should outline the overall purpose of your profile and the type of content you intend to post and share. The biggest mistake we see businesses make with their social media accounts is to miss having a clear direction with their profile activity. Do you want to attract more patients? Perhaps you intend to simply spread awareness about the effectiveness of modern treatments for hearing loss. Any goal will do, but defining it at the outset is important.
Now let’s take a look at the five best practices for optimizing your practice’s social media presence:
Craft Your Profile with Care
The most popular social media sites enable you to describe your business and add contact information to your profile. This is your opportunity to highlight the focus of your practice and mention the most attractive aspects of your services.
When creating your profile, be sure to incorporate as many relevant keywords as possible into your business description, without sacrificing a natural tone. Social media profiles are just as searchable as other web pages that Google and other search engines list when people search for matching keywords. For this reason, be sure to include the name of local vicinities your practice serves. Unsure about the best keywords for your practice? We go into more detail about researching keywords here.
Content is King
We say it all the time, and the fact remains that content is indeed still king. Increasing numbers of people are visiting various social media outlets for the interaction—and especially the content—they provide. Defining the overall purpose of your social media presence is the first step, and creating the actual content for your regular posts is the implementation of that vision.
The best content offers your audience value, humor, or practical information (i.e. “We’re closed early today due to the storm,” etc.). There is no single formula for winning content, but after you begin posting a variety of information, you’ll begin to see what posts get the most engagement (i.e. likes, clicks, and comments) from your audience. Experiment within the bounds of professionalism and your overall goal, and don’t be shy about sharing content from other businesses or people on social media that have quality content you think your audience would appreciate.
It’s worth noting that if your practice’s website has a blog of its own (which it should), that it’s entirely appropriate to share your past blog posts along with current ones on a rotating cycle. In other words, you don’t want to create just one post about a helpful blog you wrote and have it get buried in your news feed after a couple of months. Any new followers you gain would likely never see it. There’s a balance, of course, between overly-redundant promotion of the same content and ensuring that it doesn’t get lost in a sea of daily posts. Depending on how quickly your audience is growing, you should cycle in previous blog post promotions every 8-16 weeks on your feed.
Stay Engaged
Social media is supposed to be just that: social. While posting attractive content is a main priority, as a business owner looking to gain an audience online, you also want to be sure to interact with any followers who comment or ask questions on your posts, profile page, or via direct messages.
Not only does this kind of personal interaction offer insight into the type of provider you are, but it also invites more participation from your audience. People appreciate when businesses take the time to acknowledge and respond to them, and are more apt to stay engaged with your posts when you’re doing the same. Back and forth activity on your feed is also attractive to those passing by who might otherwise not choose to actually “follow” your page, and it also tends to keep your business’s posts actively showing in your followers’ news feeds.
Promote Your Offerings
In the midst of your quality content posts, don’t skip the opportunity to keep your audience informed about everything your practice offers and what makes you stand out. Receive a professional award or additional certification? Post it. Begin carrying the latest model of rechargeable hearing aids? Post it. Get an amazing testimonial from a satisfied patient? Definitely post it.
You get the idea. The goal is to balance out your self-promotional posts with valuable content that your audience is drawn to. Many of the people following your business may not be local at all to your practice, but follow you due to the informative nature of your posts, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you promote your own services (aimed at local followers who could potentially need your services). A common recommendation is the 80/20 rule: give helpful and valuable content away (via your posts) 80% of the time, and sprinkle in some subtle self-promotion 20% of the time. After all, you are a business.
Focus on Service
As a hearing healthcare professional, this one will come easy for you. You’re in service to your patients every day, and the truth is, going on social media should be no different. Regardless of whether the goal of your social media presence is to gain more patients or share important information, by focusing on giving through the majority of what you post, you’ll see a loyal online audience grow quickly.
With nearly 30 million Americans living with untreated hearing loss, there’s currently a real need for helpful information about conditions, treatment options, and accessibility in hearing healthcare. Many of these people are online and using social media, so why not use your posts as an effective way to reach and teach them? Much of the persistent stigma around hearing loss and treatment stems simply from a lack of knowledge. This is where you—and your practice—can really stand out and help.

Tending to your social media presence doesn’t need to be a part-time job. With a small amount of time dedicated to it consistently, healthcare professionals across many fields have discovered social media to be an investment offering significant rewards. Consider making the time to cultivate your own social media presence and watch it bolster your entire digital marketing strategy,
Don’t have a digital marketing strategy? Learn why it’s imperative that you do, and feel free to contact us to learn how we can help.