Five Tips to Use Google-Plus for Your Practice

January 6, 2016

By: John Sung Kim Google’s social media channel isn’t a distant runner up to Facebook. It’s an opportunity to market and grow your practice.

Often seen as a distant runner up to Facebook, Google Plus (Google+) still remains a viable marketing channel for medical practices because of the sheer number of patients who, though may not actively use Google+, use a myriad of other Google products such as Gmail, YouTube, etc.

According to statistics that Google released in May of 2015, an astonishing 24.29 percent of the American workforce uses Gmail at some point in their day. If that relates directly to your own patient panel, that’s nearly one in four patients who send or receive correspondence through Google.

From search engine optimization (SEO) to patient engagement, here are the top five tips on how to easily leverage Google+.

Grab Your Vanity URL: What’s a ‘Vanity URL’ you ask? It’s simply taking a default URL Google+ gives you that may look like: https://plus.Google.com/+87676 and changing it to https://plus.google.com/+UCDavisOBGYNSacramento/posts.  While Google has published instructions for how to grab a Vanity URL, for simplicity here are the four major tasks one needs to do in order to claim a vanity URL:

1.  You have ten or more followers (people who have added you to their circles).
2.  Your account is at least 30 days old.
3.  Your profile has a profile photo.
4.  Your account is in good standing.

As you think about your Vanity URL, be mindful of the keywords your practice wants to be found for. In the excellent example employed by UC Davis, they not only inserted their brand name, “UC Davis,” but also the keywords “OBGYN” and “Sacramento.”

The reason they did this is because they understand that new patients in their local area may be conducting Google searches such as, “Sacramento OBGYN,” and UC Davis wants their Google+ page to appear at top.

SEO Your Google+ Page: SEO is a methodology for boosting your practice’s social media pages and website to the top of Google search results for terms important to your practice. In addition to inserting keywords in your Vanity URL, think about inserting keywords in the hyperlinks that lead to your site. For example, this made up URL http://pluscare.com/76564 could instead be http://pluscare.com/OBGYN-Sacramento. Such keywords in the URLs of your Google+ posts greatly increase the SEO effectiveness of your Google+ page, as well as your own website.

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures: Video is often more engaging than pictures and text alone, but since video production is often taxing on the resources of small practices, it’s far better to leverage pictures regularly in Google+ posts. The Mayo Clinic uses stock imagery (pictures available for low cost for use on blogs and websites) to accommodate their Google+ post. Remember to add as many pictures of your office and staff as possible in the photos section of your Google+ page.

Mind the 80/20 Rule of Promotional Content: It’s tempting for business owners to flood their Google+ page with promotional content that will hopefully drive more customers or patients to their practice. Fight this feeling.

As Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin found, the sweet spot is an 80/20 mix where only 20 percent of your content is promoting the business. The other 80 percent is really about lifestyle content that Virgin wants to be associated with their brand.

For practice owners, that 80 percent can be content around your specialty. For example, a primary-care facility could post seasonal updates on the availability of flu shots, the emergence of a new type of bacteria in the community, or the findings of a new published study on arthritic treatments in seniors.

Non-promotional posts can also be opportunities to engage more patients in your patient portal.

Add Reviews: Google+ isn’t just an attempt by Google to compete with Facebook, it’s also a foray into the world of social media reviews.

Google allows anyone with a Google account to write reviews about local businesses. Such reviews, along with a picture of the patient and their star rating of your practice, appear prominently on both the Google+ page and in search results.

And remember, Google at the heart of its algorithm loves fresh content (which reviews are) so the more reviews you have on your profile page, the more likely it is to be competitive in search engine rankings.

Finally, avoid responding to negative reviews directly. The best way to combat negative reviews is to increase the amount of positive ones.