How to improve your practice’s online presence post-pandemic

Technical advances born from a year in lockdown have made the tools more widely available than ever before.

A challenging year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic brought about dramatic changes to the healthcare industry and the way physicians operate their practices. It was a year of deferred treatments, increased mental health cases, and substance abuse, coupled with the adoption of telehealth services, contactless waiting rooms, and new payment systems.

For many facilities, the pandemic exposed shortcomings in the patient/physician experience and served as a catalyst to speed-up many necessary changes to the industry that were destined to come eventually anyway. Forced to pivot, just as many industries did, the medical community now faces a post-pandemic normal in which many of these “temporary” advancements will become permanent parts of the way business is done going forward.

Still, there’s one area where many private healthcare practices have been slow to modernize—the marketing of their services through an online presence. The pandemic forced most of their patients onto the internet, to manage virtually every aspect of their lives, including healthcare, and they’ve gotten quite savvy about conducting business there. Has your practice kept up with that level of online sophistication? Will your practice’s website be able to effectively meet the new level of customer service expectations?

Managing a fluid online experience for patients is not generally an element in the typical physician’s wheelhouse, nor should it be. But contracting the services of a digital marketing agency— even simply identifying a marketing group your practice can easily integrate with—can be both costly and time-consuming.

Unfortunately, the marketplace that’s currently emerging in the post-pandemic world calls for even small and privately held businesses to develop a robust online presence - one that will retain existing customers and welcome new ones shopping around for a new practice.

While larger healthcare firms and hospitals can rely on externally sourced marketing teams or big-ticket software programs for their marketing prowess, recent advances in technology now make the same powerful set of marketing resources available to mid-sized practices.

Here’s how some of these practices are effectively managing their marketing efforts, quickly and at a cheaper cost than hiring a full-service agency:

Zero Click Search

Only a few years ago, a medical practice’s website could readily handle providing customers the essential information about their facility: current services, staff of physicians, office hours and emergency contact numbers.

Today, however, Google and other major search engines have started giving customers as much information about the business as possible in their search results – without making that customer click over to the company’s main site. Suddenly, it becomes more important than ever that Google has accurate information about your practice so they can accommodate these “Zero Click Searches.”

The reality is these business listings are getting 2.7 more views than the practice’s actual websites (Raydeus / Yext).

Patients Expect Accurate Information

One big issue with Zero Click Search is something that seems as straightforward as a business listing – location, hours, etc. is often mismanaged and can include outdated and incorrect information. This could easily actually damage your business’s credibility in search. Here are some related stats:

  • 37% of businesses have an incorrect name in Google listings
  • 43% have the incorrect address
  • 56% of retailers haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing

When consumers come across inaccurate business information online, they immediately lose confidence in that business. It’s that simple.

Pre-pandemic, a practice would need marketing personnel or a robust software suite to update business listings across multiple channels —business information is often sourced from over 250 digital sources including Google My Business, Apple Maps, Waze, Bing, Yahoo, Yext, Facebook, and Uber—as well as many other sources most don’t consider such as Citysearch, Snap, ABLocal, etc.

But today, there are several emerging “Software as a service” (SaaS) platforms that manage all of these digital sources with one click so business information is seamlessly updated and consistent across all channels.

The Rise of Voice Search

As voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Home become both more popular and more powerful, voice search becomes increasingly important way customers can find your business. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all internet users in the US—a third of its total population—currently use voice search (eMarketer, 2019). The use of voice-enabled speakers is predicted to grow by over 130% in 2021 (credit, Yext 2020)

What does that mean to your medical practice? Today’s consumers expect search engines to literally understand them. Unlike traditional computer search that links keywords to a business website, these new voice-powered platforms allow customers to get direct, actionable answers no matter how they ask their questions. It’s time for your business to think about a voice strategy, just as you once developed an SEO or Keyword strategy for your landing page.

The Key is Analytics

A practice that relies on customer traffic needs to know: what’s driving their phone inquiries, what their patients are saying in reviews and on social media about their experiences, and whether they are realizing an ROI on their marketing investment.

While there are independent software and service providers that focus on one or more of these aspects, they often cost tens of thousands per subscription. Alternatively, new SaaS marketing platforms provide a 360-degree marketing view for only about a $100/month, well within the reach of small and mid-sized practices looking to automate the marketing process.

The union of artificial intelligence and data are making a host of effective marketing tools both more accessible and more affordable to franchise and mid-sized business ventures. Business owners too often adopt a “set it and forget it” attitude towards their marketing efforts and online presence, but it’s time for them to move with the times and prepare themselves for the post-pandemic consumer surge. Fortunately, technical advances born from a year in lockdown have made the tools more widely available than ever before.

About the Author
Nicole Penn is the president of EGC Group and co-founder of Raydeus Local..