Winning the battle for the click: A guide for physician practices

With the easy days of organic search behind us, physician practices, including aesthetic and dental groups, will need to employ more powerful digital marketing strategies to stay competitive.

With paid ads and sponsored content dominating the Internet, generating organic traffic is harder than ever.

Paid search cost-per-click (CPC) rates increased 41% year over year in Q3 2021 as competition across channels picked up, according to one report. Further demonstrating this trend, a PwC report commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that digital advertising spending grew 12.2% year over year in 2020.

Now, showing up on Page 1 of Google — which is worth its weight in gold — requires ample resources and know-how. Search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns and media partnerships must have the capacity to break through the noise, as the market is no longer characterized by the idyllic cycles of 2021, when pent-up demand for healthcare supported simpler, more organic digital marketing tactics.

Positioning for the future will necessitate that physician practices take more decisive actions to strengthen their arsenal of assets and get battle ready for both the forthcoming economic slowdown, and the rise of epic levels of competition among equally matched players.

Your assets = Your armor

No battle can be fought effectively without the right armor. In the battle for the click, small business’ web personas must be offensively strong (to stand out), and defensively tough (to keep competition from stealing the affections and intentions of prospective and current clients). The early adopter phase, where simply having digital assets was a differentiator, has come and gone.

Given this reality in 2022, most businesses will need digital assets that:

  1. Entice Internet searchers to “click” once they’ve found the business (e.g., a five-star-average rating, coupled with an updated listing, as well as a compelling summary)
  2. Pique users’ interest to explore further (e.g., website that is easy to navigate and supports appointment-booking, or links to patient testimonials).
  3. Persistently remind the user of the care and services available (through Google and/or Facebook ads, an email newsletter sign-up, a web chat feature on the home page or other sticky interactive content).

There are other factors at play influencing ranking and consumer perception. For example, physician groups that utilize best practices in SEO, or have a higher volume of Google reviews, are still more likely to rank higher in a search or query. The presence of optimized content, keywords used in meta tags and headings, and image quality also affect online rankings.

Mending your Achilles’ heel

Sometimes weaknesses in an organization’s web persona, or digital marketing activities, are obvious, such as a poor mobile user experience or dated content. These are easier fixes.

Other times the underlying root causes of poor online performance aren’t obvious.

For example, organizations that thought they employed SEO best practices might suddenly find themselves sidelined on Page 2. This could be due to changes in Google algorithms that influence ranking, or as simple as an increase in competitors across a particular geographic area. Finding the cause is sometimes downright perplexing and requires greater analysis.

Analytics platforms like Google Analytics can help organizations identify weaknesses, as well as strengths, such as which content generates the highest click-through rate. These platforms also offer a wealth of other insights, such as web impressions by audience type. What’s even better: Having an expert on hand who knows how to interpret data and leverage it to benefit the business (e.g., determine which actions or initiatives to prioritize).

Additionally, there are several actions that all small businesses (and larger ones) can take to elevate digital performance. The first is as simple as updating local online directories: Check to ensure all contact information is current and consistent across multiple directories (Yellow Pages, Manta, etc.). Conducting a basic keyword analysis is also a “low hanging fruit” tactic in that it ensures the most powerful keywords are emphasized in the web code tied to content assets such as blogs (there are also several free or low-cost online tools that can perform basic keyword analysis functions).

Every one of these actions helps an organization get into peak performance form — ideally positioned for the click.

And once you’ve won that click…

Don’t be the practice that “wins the battle but loses the war.” In other words, make sure your digital presence is sparkling. Consumers won’t shy away from clicking away from a website that doesn’t load, or a profile of a physician that hasn’t been updated in more than five years.

Keep in mind that the “battle for the click” is different than it was even two years ago — it’s always evolving.

Employing strong digital marketing tactics in all areas — from updating local directory listings to refreshing social media feeds and encouraging clients to leave positive online reviews online — is a constant, ongoing need. For those who are strapped for time, a third-party expert or digital marketing vendor partner can offer the right, budget-friendly tools and guidance small businesses need to attract and retain clients.

The more that healthcare providers can do now to improve their resiliency, web presence, and relevance in an ever-more-competitive world where every click counts, the stronger they’ll be throughout 2022 — when being click-worthy takes on a deeper meaning, and heightened significance.

Shawn Miele is the CEO and cofounder of MyAdvice.