Local SEO and Marketing for Healthcare Organizations

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Joel Headley shares digital marketing tactics for healthcare organizations to draw patients into your practice. Explore the patient journey and how to engage them along the way through Google My Business features and more. These are a few take-aways from Joel’s webinar with Local Marketing Institute, but click on the video below for an in-depth discussion and more great ideas for healthcare marketers.

It’s key that we start with a patient view first in healthcare marketing. Our idea of the patient journey defines and helps us understand how we market and how we build automation tools to improve that patient experience. As a marketing agency or a marketer for a medical or dental practice, your marketing objective is to get patients to the office. Let the office focus on working with the patients when they get there, and the provider focus on patient care. As marketers, we study the patient journey and use digital marketing to help people find and ultimately visit the medical or dental practice.

Looking at the patient journey, patients will first search for care providers online. The first step–awareness–is the beginning of a typical marketing funnel. Ideally, you want to be able to engage people before another practice does. That means ranking well in search engine results, showing off your expertise, and providing relevant content and contact information. Give patients an opportunity to know who you are and where you are online with correct and easy-to-access information, such as your practice name, address, phone number, and even answers to patients’ frequently asked questions.

With all your marketing efforts, you want to address each step of this customer journey. Strategize the best ways to engage those folks online where they are. Then focus your effort on filling the gaps throughout the patient marketing funnel. You want to nurture people throughout the entire process, from discovery to conversion, and pinpoint any problems along the way. You could have a lot of appointments booked, for example. But, if people aren’t showing up, those bookings aren’t worth much. How can you make sure they show up?

Nurture Patients Through Healthcare Marketing

Let’s take a closer look at the healthcare marketing funnel. This is the process people go through to find you and eventually become a patient of your medical or dental practice. As marketers, we need to look at how we can help them along the way.

Provide Answers To Their Research
One of the first steps in the marketing funnel is consideration. In healthcare marketing, we call this, “a patient doing research.” They’re trying to figure out if your provider is someone they want to visit. They’ll view your website, read online reviews, and look at the practice’s major specialties.

In healthcare, a major source of new patients is through referrals. Even if a patient doesn’t do the first step of finding you through a categorical search, they’re still doing this online research. They’re looking for what other patients are saying about you online, even if they first discovered you by a word-of-mouth referral from another trusted doctor, family friend or their mother.

Make It Easy To Book Appointments

Once you convince people that you’re someone they want to see, make it easy for them to book an appointment. Again, you want to meet the patient where they are. Do they want to call you? Make sure you have an easy way to book an appointment through the phone. Do they want to do it through your website or after hours? Ask all these questions, and make it easy for them to book with you. If it’s on your website, have a click-to-call, or have an online booking widget. Find out what works best for your practice. Again, think of this as a marketing funnel. People will drop off if they find it hard to make an appointment with you.

Send Appointment Reminders

Once they book the appointment, make sure they get to the office by sending them an appointment reminder. This can reduce no-shows and other scheduling issues. If they need to reschedule or make changes, offer them a way to rebook. Through your communications, whether email, text, phone, etc., help them understand that it’s not necessary to come today. But, they can come another time, right? Give them your schedule, so they can work out the right time for them.

Reengage At Conversion Moment

When patients come to your office, they should know exactly what to expect because they’ve been informed all the way through the process by your marketing and communications. This is the conversion moment when they’re actually at your office. During the office visit, make sure they rebook their annual appointment or any other needed treatments. Reengage current patients through ongoing marketing to help them be brand aware.

There may be an opportunity to reengage a current patient on one type of service for another that your practice offers, like cosmetic services. A patient may come in for their annual well check, for example. During the office visit, you might say, “By the way, we have Cool Sculpting. Do you want to try it out just before you leave?” Then, provide marketing over time that reinforces your brand its services.

The most important piece, however, is to make sure you’re engaging them when to come back. Whether it’s the annual checkup or six month cleaning if you’re a dentist, help them to reschedule with you. And, do it at the point of conversion if you can.

Follow Up By Seeking Feedback

Once they’ve been to the office, give them the opportunity to leave feedback. Ideally, you want to solicit this feedback automatically after the appointment. Patient feedback allows them to express what they liked and disliked about their visit. This is useful for your business to improve by understanding that feedback.

Gather feedback by sending patients a text message, email or even talking with them during the office visit. Use the feedback to improve your process. Ultimately, you want to encourage those folks, particularly those who want to advocate for your business, to leave reviews online. They can be left on your practice website or on other websites, like Google.

As advocates for your business, they are selling you through their words online. This feeds back into this initial search that we talked about. People are going to do a category search on Google, research you and make decisions about your practice based, in part, on the words of these advocates.

Focus on Google My Business Listing

Now that we understand the healthcare marketing funnel, let’s unpack three critical areas to focus your digital marketing. The big three include Google My Business, practice websites, and citations and listings. If you only have the budget and bandwidth to focus on one, focus on managing your Google My Business listing.

Why? Google is the king of online search. Research shows that 63% of searches from desktop are on Google. For mobile, 94% of all searches are happening on Google. When I look at referrals for the thousands of sites we manage, it’s still mostly all Google. There’s a little bit of Yelp, a little bit of Facebook, but otherwise, it’s all Google, all the time.

You’ll notice that Google dominates particularly in mobile search. As a result, Google’s made moves to look at your website as a mobile user would. Google looks at your website as if they’re a mobile phone first and sees the content on the website to determine what shows up in search. So, it’s super important to think about mobile when you’re thinking about not just your website, but also the tools that you create, whether it’s online booking, a Contact Us form, clickable phone numbers, or clickable addresses so they can open maps or open their phone app.

Get Specific With URLs

As you know, the information you put in Google My Business shows up on search results. GMB set up is pretty straightforward, but there are a few tips I wanted to mention. In the set up, you’ll find the product and services category and make appointment category. Those are separate attribute URLs that Google is giving you to advertise your business. If you have a way to push people to a specific page on your site that explains your services or push them to make an appointment, you want to fill in these specific URLs.

Complete Citations

NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency is important because Google reads this name, address, phone number and website across other pages of the internet. These are called citations. You don’t need a link back to your business from other websites. But if they can link, it helps. If Google matches your business to a mention on another site, it’s considered a citation and is important for prominence. So fill in all the information as complete as possible, including categories, photos, and links.

Choose Categories Wisely

Choosing a Google My Business category is uber important. With your primary category you want to answer the question, “I am a…” There are nine titles with physician, for example.

Also, be aware that different primary categories may not offer the extra link options. A clinic or a medical center may not have the appointment booking tool, and medical clinic doesn’t have services, for example.

Be specific with these primary categories rather than attempt to cast a wide net. I’ve seen healthcare providers saying they’re a medical devices store, and that’s really an entire different category of retail that they’re not in. Recognize that even though it sounds medical-ish, Google has a hierarchical understanding even though it’s a flat list.

Monitor Messaging Carefully

You can monitor your reviews and turn on messaging through Google My Business as well. Be aware that the messaging is not HIPAA-compliant, but you still can answer basic questions like, “Are you open today?”

The problem is that HIPAA compliance isn’t clearly defined when it comes to GMB messaging. There’s something called a Business Associate Agreement, you can look into to make Google as a software provider officially HIPAA compliant.

Regardless, be conscientious of what you can and can’t discuss over messaging. HIPAA says you need to be secure, and you can’t share patient data inappropriately. Listen to your patients, and respond to specific information like appointment times and office hours. But, avoid doing any sort of diagnosis or consultation about their specific case or reveal anything about them through messaging. They can reveal all they want, but you don’t want to use your information to reveal something to them. That’s where you would be crossing the line.

Someone from your practice needs to download and monitor your business on the Google My Business app on their phone. These messages will get pushed to their phone, so they can respond directly through the Google My Business app. Also monitor if GMB messaging is useful. Maybe you only get a message or two a month, and it’s not worth the time having someone ready to respond at all times. If this is the case, turn off messaging altogether. Its better to turn off the option than have an angry patient because of your slow or lack of response.

Check Out Joel’s Webinar For More Tips

There are a number of other features you can manage through Google My Business, including patient reviews, Google Q&A and Google posts. These features can really drive your business forward. Click on my Local Marketing Institute webinar below to learn more tips on how to manage GMB for healthcare and also best practices for your website and building prominence through citations and links.

Joel Headley
As Director of Local SEO and Marketing, Joel oversees local search to ensure PatientPop customers have the latest tools and technology to optimize their online presence. Before joining PatientPop, Joel spent over a decade at Google, where he led education programs for small businesses and developed the company’s go-to-market strategy for Google Maps, web search, and Google My Business.