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GDPR and What It Means for You

Companies and websites across the globe have been updating their websites and privacy notices for months, even years, to prepare for the May 2018 enactment of the famed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Although this law specifically protects citizens of the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA), it affects everywhere online that these citizens visit, essentially asking the whole world to catch up.
You’ve likely noticed an increase in emails about updated privacy policies and notifications on websites about data collection. Indeed, these are all in response to the GDPR.
So what is the GDPR exactly? And how does it relate to you, even if you’re not part of the EU or EEA? Read on to see why the GDPR is important for everyone.
Broadly, the GDPR serves to strengthen and unify data protection by requiring increased transparency and communications from organizations that collect or process personal data. Privacy of personal information is a fundamental right, and the GDPR intends on granting users (in the EU or EEA) more control over how their information is used or collected.
More specifically, organizations who collect or use personal data are required to have a legal reason for doing so. Gaining explicit consent from data owners before collecting their data is one way to make it legal, and is the most common approach companies and organizations are taking (accounting for all those notifications you’re getting on websites across the Internet).
For the vast majority of websites, information gathered from their visitors is used to enhance user experience on their website by remembering user preferences, allowing for easier page transition, referencing previous purchases, etc. In some instances, organizations collect and use data more thoroughly. The GDPR requires that either scenario be clearly (and simply) explained in updated privacy policies.
Organizations also must assume the highest privacy settings by default and provide access to privacy policies that are transparent about what your data is used for, how long it is retained, and who it is shared with. Data owners are also granted the right to revoke their consent to share date at any time, request that personal data of theirs be deleted, and to receive a portable copy of their personal data collected by a given organization.
Increasing data security is another large component of the GDPR, requiring data processing to be protective by design and by default. Data encryptions and methods of anonymizing data are necessary to achieve true data privacy, effectively unlinking any information from the user so that it is no longer a potential identifier. Additionally, organizations who process user data as a core element of their business are required to employ a Data Protections Officer (DPO) to oversee that all data processing is in accordance with these new regulations.
Data breaches are also handled more aggressively via the GDPR, requiring organizations to notify their supervising authority of the breach within 72 hours of discovery and, if adverse impact is determined, notify all potentially affected users.
In addition to these enhanced regulations for meeting the privacy challenges of the “Age of Information” are the increased penalties for non-compliance. Depending on the infringement, fines for violating the GDPR can get as high as 23 million dollars, or 4% of an organization’s annual global revenue, whichever is higher. Now you can see why so many companies and organizations have been eager to share their updated privacy policies with you. While coming into compliance with the GDPR can be an expensive process, it’s not nearly as expensive as noncompliance.
Although the GDPR specifically governs data from EU and EEA citizens, experts agree that similar legislation is to be expected across the world. In the wake of recent “data scandals” like the one we saw between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, individual privacy and security is gaining increased attention. And since the Internet is largely a borderless terrain where people from all parts of the world travel, unifying data protection and privacy requirements across nations makes the job easier for everyone—businesses and regulators alike.
So even if you’re not an EU or EEA citizen, you don’t have to wait for your legislators to catch up. The GDPR has caused privacy policies to become clearer and more accessible while organizations make their data processing more secure and explicit. And while you might not yet have the authority to request your data to be deleted or sent over to you in a portable format, you can expect that similar rights are coming your way soon.
At AudiologyPlus, we value the enhanced protections the GDPR has initiated. Data security is something we’re deeply committed to, and as such, we’ve gone beyond the requirements of the GDPR to ensure that every website we’ve built (either for our own needs or for our clients) offers the most advanced data protection available. To learn more about the level of security our modern websites provide our clients, feel free to visit our Privacy Center or contact us directly.

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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.
 

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Generate Talk: Use Online Reviews to Boost Your Practice

In the socially connected world of the new millennium, a practice’s reputation is vetted in real-time by patients leaving feedback about their experiences as online reviews. Essentially the evolved form of word-of-mouth marketing, online reviews have made it easier than ever to capitalize on this powerful form of patient referral. It’s also never been so easy to get it wrong. And the facts are clear: this is the time to get it right.
A stunning 90% of consumers rely on online reviews before choosing a business, and patient-targeted studies have found that at least 72% of patients read online reviews as their first step in choosing a new health care provider. What’s more, these trends are only getting stronger, with incredible growth year after year. This comes as no surprise considering the ever-widening reach of sites like Google and Facebook across a rapidly increasing number of people online.
Gaining more reviews for your practice does wonders for your visibility online. This is especially true for local search results, as search engines like Google give a higher search result ranking to businesses with “prominence” online. Prominence refers to several things, including positive rankings on review sites. Online reviews can be a powerful ally for your business’s ability to reach a wider local audience online.
Beyond local searches, having your website mentioned (and linked to) by various review sites is also an excellent way to boost your overall search result ranking, and is a critical element of a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Better ranking in the results makes it easier for people anywhere looking for hearing help or information to find your website through popular search engines. Considering that the children of aging Baby Boomers (who often live in different cities) are commonly interested and willing to help their parents search online to find the hearing services they need, it’s important for your website to be easy to find for anyone—anywhere.
By now, if you haven’t been making online reviews a focus of your marketing strategy, you might be reconsidering it. If so, you may be wondering, “How do I increase the amount of reviews I get anyhow?” This is a valid query, as simply asking your patients to leave you a review isn’t always enough. Busy lives and the endless threat of distraction can quickly defeat even your biggest fans. Some hearing practices try to work around this by setting up a “review station” in their waiting room—complete with a laptop and simple instructions. This isn’t ideal, however, as some review sites actually penalize businesses with too many reviews from the same IP address.
There are a variety of approaches to increasing the number of online reviews you receive. You could offer an incentive, such as a free pack of hearing aid batteries or discount on their next purchase. This is considered ethical (and within review sites’ terms and conditions) as long as it’s not dependant on the review being a positive one. A more cost-effective way to boost your reviews is simply to provide clear and concise step-by-step instructions for leaving a review for your practice. You already know you have happy patients leaving your office each day. Many of them would be more than willing to sit down to help your services reach others in need. But they may need a little guidance, so a quick and easy “cheat sheet” with a clear call to action (i.e. “Help Us Help Others!”) and a few steps for them to complete the reviews can go a long way.
Ultimately, no online review strategy will make up for sub-par services or care. This goes without saying, but there are a couple of tips about patient communication that can help boost your online reviews and maintain a positive reputation online. The first is to make a point to thank every patient who leaves you a positive review—and to do so publicly. Almost all review sites allow the business owner to comment on a review, specifically so owners can address negative reviews, but few people actually take advantage of those comments to return praise to patients who took the time to write a nice review. Showcasing gratitude bears well on your practice’s image and encourages future patients (especially those who found you by reading your reviews) to leave one for you as well.
The second (and critical) communication strategy for online reviews is to immediately reply to any negative ones you might receive. Your comment below a negative review must reflect patience, understanding, and a willingness to acknowledge where the reviewer is coming from. If their complaint is legitimate, you might even offer some form of consolation (a future discount, coupon, etc) if appropriate. In cases where the review is distorted, unfair, or exaggerated, it’s completely fine to state your case in the comment below—just be sure it’s done in a courteous and professional tone. Future patients will appreciate your direct communication and respect your approach to criticism.
At AudiologyPlus, we’ve worked with countless hearing practices to optimize their online review strategy. Over the years, we’ve found that the keys to a successful plan involve two critical elements: convenience and efficiency. Patients are almost always willing to leave a positive review when prompted to in a quick and easy-to-follow way. We built our proprietary website plugin, ReviewMe, with just that in mind. It offers patients a chance to quickly select the number of stars they feel their experience deserves—right from the hearing practice’s website—and then with a few simple clicks they can publish their review on the various review websites of their choosing.
And what about those occasional negative reviews? ReviewMe automatically notifies the practice owner of every review—positive or negative— that gets published. We know how important it is for you to have a chance to proactively respond to disgruntled reviewers, and we designed this software to make it easier than ever to maintain an excellent (and popular) reputation online.
If your practice could benefit from reaching a wider local audience on the Internet, then optimizing your online review strategy should be at the top of your task list. If you want to tackle this with leading-edge tools and professional expertise, be sure to contact us to learn how we can help.
 

Keyword Research to Optimize Digital Presence

Choose Wisely: How Keywords Can Make or Break Your Online Presence

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tailor your website’s content and marketing strategy down to the very words your target market is already using? Even better—imagine you could identify the words and phrases used most frequently by those interested in hearing health? This kind of information would enable you to specifically target potential patients by showing them you have precisely the information and services they’re interested in.
Well, you’re in luck: Not only is this information readily available, but using it within your website and your greater marketing strategy can make all the difference in the number of people you’re reaching with your website and your services.
In digital marketing, this approach is called keyword marketing or targeting. It can quickly become a complex and deeply analytical topic among professional digital marketers, but remains an effective strategy even when just the basics are applied.
Keywords, as you may have guessed, are those specific words your target market is using in search engines like Google to learn more about a topic. The most popular phrases used are referred to as “long chain keywords.” As a hearing healthcare professional, you can discover the most popular keywords and long chain keywords people are using when seeking information about hearing loss, treatment, or hearing health in general. All in an hour or less! This is what we like to call a “digital marketing no-brainer.”
Just what will these strategically placed keywords do for you and your practice? The most important benefit of selecting your words carefully, within your content as well as on the backend of your website’s infrastructure, is it being an effective way to boost your ranking in the results page of a search query. In other words, keyword targeting helps tremendously with your website’s search engine optimization (SEO).
As we’ve drilled into your mind with all of our articles, proper SEO is as critical as having a website is. It’s what ensures that your beautiful website will actually be seen by the people it’s designed to serve. Keywords are a relatively easy and effective foundation of any SEO plan.
Using keywords to your advantage is straightforward: you research the most popular keywords and then place them strategically throughout your website content, metadata (information in the background of your webpages), and everywhere else you’re creating content for your business, both online and offline. After all, these are the words that your potential patients are already using—so why not grab their attention by taking those words out of their mouth and expanding upon them with the answers they need?
Step One: Keyword Research
Your approach to researching the best keywords related to your hearing services can be as shallow or deep as you want or have time for. No matter how far you take it though, there are some basic strategies you should prioritize to ensure that you don’t miss the most important keywords and phrases being used.

  • Category Headers
    Begin your research by visiting some of the leading hearing healthcare websites online, (i.e. www.HealthyHearing.com) and make note of the common navigation items and blog categories. These are naturally going to reflect what your target market is interested in and looking for more information on.
  • Google Search Suggestions
    Type the main word related to your services (i.e. hearing) into the Google search box and then refrain from pressing Enter. A drop-down list of suggested entries will then reveal commonly searched words and phrases related to the main word you entered. For instance, if you type in “hearing” and wait for the suggestions, you’ll likely see that “hearing aids” is the first suggestion. Make note of these.

  • Google Keyword Planner
    There are several software options for a thorough review of keywords and the various metrics associated with them, but one of the easiest (and free) tools to use for entry-level detail is Google Keyword Planner. Simply enter the list of keywords you identified from the previous two steps and hit the “Get Ideas” button. You’ll be shown an incredibly useful list of most popular keywords related to your entries, including the average monthly number of searches.

Content Optimization
Now that you’ve successfully identified the most searched keywords and phrases for your specific field, it’s time to place those gems into your content. The trick here is not to overdo it. In fact, content that has been “over-optimized,” as it’s called, by placing too many keywords within it not only looks contrived to the reader, but is even recognized as such by search engines, which penalize content that appears “spam-like.” Unfortunately, this can actually harm your overall SEO strategy and should be avoided.
So the rule here is simple: keywords should be placed wherever they naturally fit in. Luckily for the hearing healthcare field, it’s nearly impossible to write valuable content for prospective patients without mentioning the most popular hearing-related keywords (i.e. hearing aids, hearing loss, etc.). Working in those long tail keywords requires a bit more finesse, but if you focus on keeping your natural tone throughout your content, they will fit in seamlessly as well.
No content should be left un-optimized: website copy, blog posts, metadata (page titles, page descriptions, image titles and ALT text, and so forth), any social media profile descriptions for your business, social media updates, and even offline marketing materials are all excellent options for using those trending keywords for your field.
It’s important to remember that your approach to marketing your services is to not only demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in hearing health, but also to appeal to potential patients with the kind of language they can relate to. There’s no better way to do that than to incorporate the words they are already using.
As a digital marketing firm, we liken keywords to gold. They can be incredibly valuable and, at times, can take some sincere digging to unearth the very best ones. Our approach to content and website optimization involves a multi-layered keyword strategy to ensure the best results possible. If you think your website and overall digital presence could benefit from professional optimization, contact us to learn more about how we can help.
 

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Digital Marketing Trends for Healthcare Practices

 
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.
Location-based Marketing
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.
Video Streaming
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.
Blogging
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.
User-Friendly Website
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.