Digital Marketing for Surgeons; What’s the deal? Do I really need it?

If your medical practice has been in business longer than 1 week, then by now I’m sure your familiar with some of the basics to internet marketing or at least you’ve been pitched 5 times about it. You’ve heard phrases like search engine optimization (SEO) or SEM, PPC and a slew of other internet terminologies that certainly sound important, but what the heck does it all really mean to you and your medical practice.

In this series of blogs, I’ll attempt to explain a complicated scenario in a simple way. What is internet marketing and do I really need it for my medical practice?

The term SEO originated around 1997 when internet marketing was in its infancy. Search engine optimization in 1997 was a new concept that relied heavily on directory listings. The more internet directories your business was listed on, the better chances your website would show up higher on search results.

So relative to the time, this was similar to having your medical practice listed in as many traditional printed business directories as possible like phone books, local circulars, newspapers, mailers or billboards. The more places people found you, the more likely they were to consider your services right? And the bigger and more colorful the ad was, the more likely that your ad stood out from the little black and white ad in the bottom corner.

For the visionaries and lucky few who were early believers of companies like Amazon and Microsoft, they saw tremendous payoffs for being early adopters of a new trend. This was the same for the few trendsetters in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that made the “crazy move” to put their business on the “World Wide Web”. Being one of the few websites to make the move to the internet was like be the only channel on a television, no competition.

The internet grew and grew with popularity, eventually becoming the number one source for people to find and share information. As the popularity grew, so did the competition to become easier to find.

As in most scenarios, competition brought with it; change. This is how internet marketing started.

Organic Internet Marketing for Surgeons Explained

Internet marketing is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels you can use to promote your medical practice. Millions of people use search engines each day to research locally to find the best local businesses providers in their area. One of the reasons internet marketing through search engine optimization is so effective is because it specifically targets consumers interested in what you provide at the exact moment they are looking for it.

Unlike some of the more traditional marketing channels like mailers and radio spots which broadly blanket an audience with the same message who may or may not be interested in what you provide, a local SEO campaign places your ad in front of consumers who are actively seeking your services.

What does this mean to your medical practice? Here are some eye-opening local search statistics.

  • 96% of PC owners conduct local searches
  • 46% of all searches on Google are local queries
  • 64% of local consumers use search engines and directories as their main way to find local businesses
  • 50% of local mobile searches look for business information such as company name, address, phone number and hours of operation
  • 78% of local mobile searches result in an offline purchase

(Sources: Searchengineland.com and Business2community.com)

A strategic local marketing campaign is essential to any medical practice that doesn’t incorporate many traditional marketing methods such as radio, television, billboard or print. These traditional marketing channels used to be the main outlet to get your name out to the public. So without a driving force other than current patients and their referrals how do potential patients find you today?

Organic search engine optimization might be one of the most critical pieces to your online marketing success. Organic SEO is the process of earning positions in Google, Bing and Yahoo without paying for clicks and the positions in the search results. If your website isn’t ranking for services and treatments, then you will be relying only on people who look up your name or business.

By optimizing your website to rank in Google organically, your potential patients are now able to find you based off what you provide instead of knowing who you are. Organic SEO is the best insurance policy for your online business to ensure that current and potential patients can get access to your services at any time day or night.

The goal for organic search engine optimization is to rank towards the top pages of search results for queries related to the types of services and treatments you provide. The reason this is so important is due to the variety of ways people search and navigate the web. Some people will search using fairly general terms like “plastic surgeon”, while others search a more specific board certified plastic surgeon specializing in breast augmentation near me.

So is SEO all my practice needs to be competitive? Probably not. SEO may be the only channel you need in a small city or non-competitive area, but for any doctor with a few competitors within a 15-mile radius, it will make it much more difficult to stand out.

Not long ago adding a few keywords to your website’s content, optimizing meta tags, submitting your website to search engines was enough to stay competitive. But the layout and landscape of Google has changed over the years and now provides paid ads, instant answers, social media posts, local results, images, videos, maps, news stories and more. By not utilizing these other channels it becomes increasingly more difficult to stand out or even be found.

So what does it take in 2018 to stay competitive in a digital world? Stay tuned for more.

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