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Digital services are a critical part of a healthy and successful practice. When they are neglected, your online and real-world traffic both suffer the consequences. The solution? Ensure your digital strategy is comprehensive and includes a robust website, social media, SEO/SEM and reputation management.

Synergistic Digital Strategy Builds on Itself

As experts in the medical industry, we at Fuel Medical Group pride ourselves on being able to work with and advise our members on how to strategically use digital assets both individually and in tandem to achieve outstanding results.

Each component of a digital strategy builds on those around it.

A well-optimized and designed website improves SEO, influences a visitor’s initial impressions of a practice’s reputability, and provides consistent tone and imaging with social media pages.

SEO, SEM, social media and reputation all impact one another, how the website performs in search results and what kind of potential patients are going to visit that website.

Your Website Is the First Experience Many Patients Have with Your Practice

Online, your website acts as the voice of your business; it is a storyteller speaking to your practice’s history, services and experience. A digital strategy helps you tell your story by bringing in patients that are open to listening to it and in need of the expertise you provide.

“Patients want every experience to be as smooth as possible when they visit your office or when they visit your website. Your website should provide information that supports the office experience and that is easy to consume. This includes services that make patient interactions easier like contact forms, online intake forms and patient portals. In order to keep your online information and services in line with your in-office experience, Fuel recommends updating your website every 2-3 years.”1

As a leader within your audiology or ENT practice, it is important for you to have a solid understanding of how your digital strategy influences your lead generation, patient journey and retention.

Wake up the Power of Your Website

After dealing with the flood of COVID-19, including the need to quickly inform patients of updates while social distancing and pushing to adopt more telehealth services, it has become clear for many practitioners that a website is a critical aspect of their business in ways they may not have realized before.

We tracked website traffic to COVID-19 pages for our members, and those that chose to have them implemented on their sites saw less traffic loss during office closures compared to websites without COVID-19 pages. Some practices even experienced overall website traffic gains.

What should your website provide visitors?

  • Key information on your business, products and services
  • Telehealth instructions and information
  • Follow-up appointment scheduling
  • A secure patient portal link for test results and HIPAA compliant information

BEST PRACTICE TIP: make sure there is a “request appointment” hot phone number or “contact us” form in either a floating menu or close to the services you offer.

As the flagship of your brand voice, story and positioning statement, your website should contain clear information, including:

  • What you stand for
  • What differentiates you from your competition
  • Your value statements and cornerstone beliefs
  • A succinct statement as to why you are the obvious choice

A practice website should be updated every two years to ensure it will always have a modern design while allowing website developers to add new best practices in user experience and speed improvements.

Does Your Marketing Budget Include Digital?

What do you spend on marketing your practice? That spend should direct people to either call your practice or visit your website because next to your front office staff, your website is the best initial sales tool you have.

Your website picks up where traditional marketing channels leave off; it isn’t just a representation of your physical practice for online visitors, it is your practice. Driving search traffic to your website and making sure a visitor’s experience is a positive one sets the tone and expectation for each physical visit.

When Should You Start Digital Marketing?

If you haven’t considered digital marketing before, now is always the time to start. The longer you put it off, the longer you put off a major revenue stream. In today’s healthcare industry, the patients that can’t find you online or don’t trust what they do find are the patients that will choose to be treated by someone they can find with a welcoming website that inspires trust, confidence and capable care.

SEO/SEM: There’s More Than One Way to Win

SEO and SEM are two sides of the same coin. Both services work to get new visitors to your website, but how they do it, and the rate they do it are radically different.

The SEO Turtle – Slow and Steady

SEO or search engine optimization is a catch-all term for the different tactics marketers use to help your website rank well and widely in Google’s organic search rankings.

“SEO should focus on the services that help grow your business and bring in customers first. While every department contributes to search engine optimization because it touches so many areas both on and off of a website, enhanced content is key. This includes improving existing pages, adding FAQs or creating blogs that support your services.”2

Organic results aren’t like paid advertising. Where an ad placement is based entirely on your key term and competitive bidding, organic search results are based on a wide range of factors, which include:

  • How fast your website loads
  • How long visitors stay on your website and how many pages they view
  • The content on your service pages and blogs
  • How many and the quality of links going to your website from other websites
  • Where links inside of your website go

How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

SEO usually takes anywhere from six months to a year to really start going to work. It is a long-term strategy, but the benefits can be enormous.

Results typically take time, but sometimes a few blog posts can really take off and drastically impact website traffic. The traffic spike in the example below is predominantly from two blog posts that covered a very specific topic and rank nationally, not just locally for a range of search terms.

Even when traffic isn’t local and is unlikely to result in a new patient, it can help improve rankings for local search terms for a website and their local listing position in Google’s MAP Pack. This can be just as valuable and sometimes more valuable than a high organic result.

The SEM Hare – Fast and Fickle

SEM or search engine marketing is better known as paid advertising or pay-per-click (PPC). Google has its own advertising system called Google Adwords, which allows you to choose what search phrases and words you want to bid on, your bid limit and what your ad looks like.

Paid advertising isn’t like SEO. Where organic search results take time to rank and need work done in a lot of areas, SEM goes to work immediately, and its success is based on:

  • What keywords and phrases are selected for a campaign
  • What kinds of keyword/phrase matches are set to display your ad
  • What time your ads are set to display
  • How the ads are structured and what language is used
  • What page a click takes a visitor to
  • How aggressive your bid strategy is for advertisements
  • What your budget is for advertisements

As soon as you’ve set your ad campaign preferences and ad budget, SEM drives traffic to your site by positioning ads you’ve won placement for at the very top of the search results. Ads show above the MAP Pack and organic results!

“The simplest description of what makes a good SEM campaign is one that the client feels serves its purpose or meets its goal. Whether it’s more traffic, sales or signups.”3

A good strategy means the difference between an effective campaign seen by local searchers who are ready to contact your practice or searchers who don’t really need your services and worse, may not even be in your area.

Is Your Marketing Company Helping Your Business to Compete?

At Fuel Medical Group, we always advise our members to use these services together. They aren’t mutually exclusive, especially for a new website—just like pieces of a puzzle.

We provide SEO that includes website changes, blog posting and citations as well as SEM campaigns that are personalized for your business, services and location. Monitoring and regular adjustments make sure your campaigns are always performing their best. Contact your account manager to learn more or sign up for these services.

Reputation Management: Controlling the Uncontrollable

There is an old saying that goes, “What people think about you is none of your business.” This should be amended to “What people think about you is none of your business until they write it on a Yelp review.”

While most major healthcare decisions are initially made by a personal or physician referral, online reviews are just as important. What people write about your business in a public forum affects your business for better and for worse.

Research shows 91 percent of people read online reviews and 84 percent trust them as much as a personal recommendation. 68 percent of those customers will form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.4

What Is a Reputation Management System?

A reputation management system typically serves two significant purposes.

  1. It notifies you when you receive a new review across a number of websites, including Yelp and Google, and can be set to notify you about all reviews or just reviews lower than 100 percent satisfaction.
  2. It can connect to your website and route customers who have had a negative experience away from review websites to a custom page where they can rate and share their negative experience directly with you. This gives you the opportunity to respond directly.

When you know about negative reviews, you can respond to them. That response builds trust, even in the face of an unhappy patient.

“Reputation management allows your practice to create transparency with your patients and, in turn, builds trust. Trust is the foundation that provides a reliable relationship between future patients, current patients and practice.”5

What Does an Alert Do If the Patient Already Wrote a Bad Review?

Bad reviews are a part of online commerce. They are unavoidable and even the best businesses with perfect service are going to receive them, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Patients want to know what happens in a worst-case scenario, and they look to your response to a negative review to discover what that is.

63 percent of customers say that a business has never responded to their review. 45 percent of consumers say that they are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.6

Reputation Management Is Your Best Response Alert System.

Good reviews are easy; the person who leaves one isn’t expecting a response; they just wanted to tell you how much they enjoyed their experience.

Bad reviews need attention. The person who leaves one wants a response and a negative review is their way of opening a dialogue. If you don’t respond to a negative review, you aren’t just telling that person you don’t care about their experience, you’re telling future patients that if they end up unhappy, you won’t care about their experience either.

That’s what makes reputation management so critical in today’s business ecosystem. It’s extremely difficult to stay on top of reviews. You have a business to run. This service takes the guesswork out of the equation and helps reduce negative reviews and encourage positive ones.

We encourage all of our members to utilize our reputation management service. Rates are extremely competitive and if a member funnels just one negative review off a review platform a month, and responds to one they could not funnel, the service has already paid for itself. Are you happy with your practice’s online reputation? If not, consider reaching out to your AM to discuss your business’ online reputation today.

Your review score isn’t set in stone and the experts at Fuel Medical Group can help you carve out a stronger rating through reputation management.

Social Media Presence: Not Just for Cats!

Social media can be intimidating. What do you post? When do you post it? How do you measure a return on your time and how do you make improvements when you don’t know where to start?

You don’t have to know the answers to those questions to make social posts that positively impact your business. Consider posting the following content:

  1. A walkthrough of your office. This can be uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, other social sites and put on your website. You’ll get links back to your site and provide patients with a virtual office experience.
  2. Explainer videos about conditions and how you treat them. These improve your web presence for your most valuable service topics and make you a topical authority! Post these videos everywhere you can, including your service pages.
  3. Locally conscious social posts. Does your office or staff support local businesses or charities? Let your patients know through social media. This is a great way to cement your business as a community member and contributor; something patients will remember when they weigh their options.

Those aren’t the only helpful content pieces you can make. If something helps your patients, make it known. If something shows your core values as a practice, share it. Social media is a great place to let people know who you are, what you believe in and provide the resources to back it all up.

“With billions of daily users, there is no better place to connect with potential healthcare consumers and their influencers than social media platforms. From unpaid posts to targeted advertising, social media allows businesses to virtually engage with their audiences beyond the means of traditional media to instill greater brand awareness and loyalty.”7

In addition to making your practice more visible online, by giving a face to a service, creating lasting touchpoints for continued patient retention and proving your value, you’ve opened new doors into your practice and made them sharable.

HINT: Posts that tell your story and reach patients on an emotional level, or provide interesting, accurate, and sharable information may be worth paying to boost visibility.

Instead of focusing on how many likes you get, think about social posts as a way to keep the digital doors to your practice open.

Why Does Consistent Posting Matter?

The most difficult part about social media is that business pages need consistent activity to remain relevant in a platform’s rankings. At least one post a week (that’s just four per month) is recommended. You can share medical news in your specialty of interest to patients and interesting occurrences in your office.

And what do the experts have to say? Kimberly, our social media specialist, elaborated for us, “When we post weekly articles, the pages increase reach, engagements and even some new likes. Facebook focuses on consistent and engaging activity to deliver to people’s feeds. The content will go to the followers, then any friends of followers the algorithm thinks will be interested, and sporadically the algorithm will share content with a totally unrelated user they think will be interested.”

It’s Time to Start Posting.

As a stand-alone service, social media isn’t going to make or break your business. But as a strategic part of your digital plan, it can be a key piece to reach that tipping point that gives you a strong leg up on your competition.

Just like the areas we’ve discussed; social media can also help push your website higher in Google’s rankings for your different terms and services. Make sure to link back to your website in your posts, and if you need a hand maintaining your posting schedule, speak to your account manager about Fuel’s convenient social media package today.

Citations:

  1. Christian Longe – Fuel Web Development Manager
  2. Tyler Zdenek – SEO & Content Manager
  3. Marco Aspaas – Fuel SEM Specialist
  4. Inc.com. (2017). 84 Percent of People Trust Online Reviews As Much As Friends. Here’s How to Manage What They See – Inc.com. Retrieved 16 June 2020, from https://www.inc.com/craig-bloem/84-percent-of-people-trust-online-reviews-as-much-.html
  5. Randi Gibbons – Fuel Reputation Management Specialist
  6. ReviewTrackers.com (2018). ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey – ReviewTrackers.com. Retrieved 16 June 2020, from https://www.reviewtrackers.com/reports/online-reviews-survey/
  7. Kimberly Espinoza – Social Media Specialist