Lost or Found?
Three approaches for getting your practice discovered.
By Mark Wilson
You have got the background, the staff, and the experience to treat patients better than anyone in your area. Your office is looking good, your equipment is state of the art, your new electronic medical record (EMR) is top notch, and it is even a sunny day outside.
Guess what? None of it matters if no one can find you. The problem is that in today’s world, getting “found” is getting more complicated. We all remember when a few solid referrals and a few bucks spent on local newspapers and the yellow pages were all we needed to prime the pump.
Today it is a different game. But with a little commonsense, some consistent efforts, and a new philosophy, you will be generating traffic in no time.
Here are the three basic approaches to getting found:
- Home Base: Your website. Some tips on making it better and more relevant for prospective patients.
- Search Science: Your new favorite hobby. Easier than you think.
- Content Marketing: Blogs, newsjacking, and more. The secret sauce for getting found organically.
1. Home Base
First, let us take a look at your website. It really is your home base—the fulfillment vehicle for everything else that you do. It is where you should be sending everyone, and it is worth all the time, effort, and money you can put into it.
Do Not Make Me Think. Make sure your site design makes the content easy to read and easy to navigate. A key idea here is to make sure that you do not frustrate anyone, ever, when they are looking for information. Put the basics in a spot that is easy to find: your services, location, hours, and insurance coverage.
Mobile Friendly. Depending on whose stats you read, up to 80 percent of your traffic could be coming through a smartphone or tablet. So design for it. Any decent web designer and many do-it-yourself web-building sites automatically work this way. It is called “responsive design” because the text, images, and navigation will scale and reconfigure automatically based on the screen size of the viewer.
Messaging Matters. Determine your differentiator(s) and talk about it. Loudly. Do you specialize in spine, hips, or knees? Do you get folks back to work faster? Perform better at their favorite sport? Then say so. And be clear about it. Remember, it is okay to talk about yourself and your philosophy—it is why they come.
Look Around. And learn something. Start with a simple Google search on physical therapy in your town and see what you come up with. Find out what the competition is saying and how they are positioning their practice. Now take a look at your own messaging again and make sure you are saying something unique. Something those competitors cannot say. Got it? Great. Now be sure to look and sound different too.
Location, Location. Help me find your office, once I have found your website. Put your location in headlines (this helps with search results). Tell us where to park. What is the nearest public transportation? Add in drive times—whatever makes sense in your area. Make sure your address is on every page—along with the phone number.
Simplify Your Services. You do many different things but your prospective patient only cares about one. Make your categories clear and easy to understand—for the layman—while still providing enough detail to demonstrate your specialties. As Einstein once said: “Make everything as simple as possible. But not simpler.”
Build for the Future. It is generally worth it to spend a little money to pay a local web developer to assist you with the design and build of the site. You are the one who will still have to provide the content: words, pictures, videos, etc. And honestly, that is the hard part. So make sure you use WordPress or a similar simple content management system so you can update, tweak, and improve the content on your own.
2. Search Science
Search engine marketing refers to the science of promoting your business by making it more prominent in search engine results. And the science of “search” is critical to making your site more visible and coming up sooner in a potential patient’s Google search.
Your challenge is to keep making your ranking better. And it is something of a constant challenge at that. Studies show that the top listing on Google receives about 33 percent of the traffic for any search term, and the second place result receives about 18 percent of clicks. To make it even tougher, the first page of results gets 91.5 percent of the total clicks. So if you’re on page 2, 3, or 4?1 You need to do some work.
How do you get there?
First and foremost, Google loves real authentic content: content that is relevant to your topics and well tagged. Make sure you reference your location and your services multiple times within your copy. And strive for as many links to your site as possible.
Google and the rest of the Internet are powered by HTML links. Good rankings and success in all search engines results pages depend on getting links from other sites to your site. The more the better (without resorting to junk link schemes that try to fool Google—and usually fail).
The best way to do this is to create content that others are hungry for: news, tips, how-to videos, maps, blogs, relevant and well-tagged images. What can you put out there and then promote (see Content Marketing below) that is worthy of attention?
AdWords is Google’s paid advertising program that allows you to place targeted ads on the Google search results pages. If you have ever used Google to search for something, you have seen these ads before. You will often see one or two AdWords ads at the top of the search results page—or along the right side of the page.
Investing in Google Adwords campaigns is a simple way to get started with search engine marketing. It will quickly increase your understanding of how Google works—and will increase the chances of your practice appearing higher up in search engine (www.google.com/adwords/get-started).
Keywords (search terms) are the most important part of a Google AdWords campaign. So when you plan yours, think about how the patient is likely to search for you—without knowing your name. Then be specific about specialty and location.
Once you have created your list of keywords (and phrases), you will then tell Google how much you are willing to pay to have your ad appear when someone types it in. Do not worry, you will also establish a maximum monthly budget for spending. The account gets burned down every time someone clicks and when your budget is used up, the campaign ends and your ads no longer appear.
3. Content Marketing
You probably have friends in marketing who have been telling you for years to get out there and be part of the conversation. You have something to say. Now say it. And the creation of this original “content” has become a very powerful marketing tool and a new science of its own.
And when you do it successfully, you will not only engage the patients you care about, but you will go a long way in boosting those organic search results we were just talking about.
So what is content marketing and why should you care? According to the Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it.2
Let’s get started:
A Simple Plan. Start by putting together a calendar of content you want to create for this month. Now set aside a little time to strategize, brainstorm, create, and publish.
Try Newsjacking. Sounds like a futuristic sci-fi survival flick, right? Much simpler: It is the simple act of actively paying attention to what people (blogs) and the news media are talking about, then piggybacking with your own point of view. The idea of creating content around trending topics, or newsjacking, means you are out there supplying content to people who are already actively looking for it. Good sources for trending topics? Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and, of course, Google.
Ask Something. Everyone loves to give you his or her opinion. So let them. It is a great strategy for generating content and engagement. Try a survey. Do it right on your home page and send out an email to let your audience know it is there. Or do it with your own private list using a service like Survey Monkey (www.surveymonkey.com) then put your newfound knowledge to use with your next round of relevant content creation. The opinions and ideas you get will be fresh and might surprise you with the insights you uncover.
Rhymes with Log. If you haven’t started one, now is the time to start a blog. You dispense information and opinions all day long. A blog is simply the commitment to do it in writing once a week/once every two weeks whatever you (and your staff) can handle. Again, you may want to email your list to tease out the blog content (that lives on your site) and boost your search results.
Tips Like These. People (and the internet) love lists. If you are short on time, there is nothing wrong with writing a paragraph that summarizes a topic, tosses in your own point of view, and gets followed by your own list of key sentences and hyperlinks on your given topic. This is an excellent exercise to delegate to your staff members. It is a research topic that they can accomplish in an hour.
How-to Videos. Do what you do best—and show others how it works. With a decent video camera, some basic lighting, and a “patient” who has signed a model release, you have got everything you need to produce some valuable videos. Promote it as a series. As a learning experience. As a follow-up reminder sequence to encourage compliance. It is a matter of planning and follow-through. And once you have the assets (edited videos) you have got something you can use on your site or provide as part of a guest physical therapist series on someone else’s.
Getting discovered requires that you adopt a new philosophy: Content is king. And this is my kingdom!
In order to rule this new land, you will be adding credentials to your list that are focused on creating value for your current and future patients and making sure that you have made yourself easy to find, valuable to listen to, and worth the discovery process every patient goes through.
And once you decide to work these efforts into the ongoing flow of your practice it will get easier, more effective, and success will find you!
Mark Wilson is the executive creative director of Cramer, a digital marketing and advertising company in Boston, Massachusetts. He also is a firm believer in the benefits of working with a good physical therapist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.