Online networks have become a powerful tool, and not just for the younger generation. Many older adults are turning to the Internet to seek health information and services.
What are the impacts of this change? On the positive side, patients are more informed, feel confident working with physicians to reach health goals, and are more empowered to make better health choices. On the negative side, there is a lot of false information and using “Dr. Google” can provide more anxiety than relief.
Social media, Google and health-specific networks like RateMD have become a mainstream facet of every Canadian's life, and many physicians have successfully learned how to use these online tools to build their brand, and to improve patient retention and loyalty. So how can you get started? Continue reading for five steps to claiming your online space.
1. Create A Website
Before you can appear on Google or start promoting on Facebook, you first need a website to direct potential patients to. Your website is also important for:
- Making the right first impression: Having a website is vital for reaching new patients. For new patients, often your website will be their first encounter with you, and first impressions count. Patients will make a judgement about your clinic long before they step foot in it. And if your website is unprofessional or difficult to navigate, patients are likely to dismiss you entirely.
- Providing accessibility around the clock: Especially with online booking and telehealth. While you and your team have gone home for the day, your website can provide patients with a way to contact you or to get information.
What do you need to make a website?
- A platform that suits your needs: Do you need to hire a web development firm to build a WordPress or Drupal website? In most cases, the answer is no. WordPress and Drupal are great for creating custom experiences and non-medical content management spaces, generally unnecessary for a medical practice. Site-building platforms like Squarespace and Wix can also meet your needs. Shopify is great if you plan on selling products online. Talk to us to find which platform works best for your clinic.
- Online Booking: If you use an EMR or telehealth system, check first what they provide or platforms they integrate with. JUNO, JaneApp and Acuity are popular stand-alone alternatives.
- Metrics: Measure, measure and measure. Install free tools like Google Analytics and Hotjar to provide you with intelligence on where visitors are coming from and how they interact with your website. This will help you make decisions on where to invest your time and money.
2. Get on Google Maps
Add your business to Google Maps and make it easy for your patients to get directions to your clinic. To get added, claim your Google Business profile. To get verified, Google will mail you a postcard with a pin code that will allow you to claim the business.
3. Gather Online Reviews
Having a strong patient satisfaction and review strategy is crucial for acquiring new patients. 94% of healthcare patients use online reviews to evaluate providers1. The most visited physician review sites are Google Reviews, Yelp and RateMD.
- Google Reviews: The most visible review platform. The reviews will appear in the search results when patients Google your clinic. Google Review is part of your Google Business profile.
- RateMD: A popular website that can provide your clinic with many online referrals. You probably already have several patient reviews on your profile. By claiming the profile with proof of identity, you are given the ability to respond to reviews. Your RateMD reviews will often appear in your Google search results as well.
4. Utilize Social Media
Even if you don't post regularly, setting up social media will promote search engine optimization, and allow you to claim your brand for future-use. (e.g. Claim drsmith before another Dr. Smith does.) If you do decide to post on social media, we recommend only investing your time on one or two platforms to optimize engagement (interacting with followers).
- Facebook: With 19 million Canadian users2 and 1.59 billion users worldwide, Facebook is easily the largest social media platform and the leading social media platform in Canada. Unlike other networks where you create an account with a username and password, a Facebook page is created by logging into your Facebook account and then creating a page for your business. Go to facebook.com/pages/create.
- Instagram: It's part of Facebook and can be linked together to increase reach. This photo-sharing social networking app is a powerful tool for reaching Millenials (ages 24-39) and Gen Z (23 and younger).
- Other platforms listed in order of popularity in Canada3:
5. Understand Organic Traffic Vs Paid Ads
- Organic Traffic: This refers to visitors that find you through a search engine, often Google. With over 86k active physicians in Canada4, the competition to appear on the front page of Google is steep. SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of optimizing your website to improve its visibility on search engines. SEO takes time and patience, but when done strategically it is cost-effective and provides continual results.
- Paid Ads: Having a hard time placing on the front page of Google? You can pay to be in that top spot. Paid search ads are a great way to improve your brand awareness and generate website traffic quickly. Facebook and Instagram also have ads. While you gain immediate visibility, paid ads have a high cost.
We can help you gain online visibility.
These are just a few ways online networks can improve your business. With time and consistent effort, your online presence will grow. If you’re ready to increase your online engagement, and gain traffic and drive potential patients to your website, contact us today.