Healthcare Marketing Trends and Ideas for 2020

Healthcare is a dynamic, fast-moving industry – and so is healthcare marketing. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and attract more patients this year, here are several healthcare marketing trends and ideas to market your private practice in 2020 and beyond.

Healthcare Marketing Trends for 2020

Marketing tactics come and go over the years, but there are broad, underlying trends that influence consumer behavior and marketing strategy. Here are some of the most prevalent healthcare marketing trends we’re seeing in 2020:

Google isn’t going anywhere

Google’s dominance in 2020 is unparalleled.

77% of patients turn to Google as their first step in selecting a doctor, so being visible on Google is key to new patient acquisition.

A key way to do this is by claiming your Knowledge Graph panel so that patients have ample opportunities to discover, connect, and engage with your practice. The Google Knowledge Graph is the panel that appears on the right-hand side of Google with your essential business information.

Below are three examples of Knowledge Graph panels for medical practices, with varying degrees of completeness. Patients are far more likely to engage with a practice that has a complete and robust Knowledge Panel with all essential business information:

An example of three Google Knowledge Graph Panels (with varying degrees of completeness)

If you want to engage with more patients, it’s important to claim your Knowledge Panel and ensure that all the information is correct. You can do this by Googling your practice name and clicking on “Claim this Knowledge Panel”.

Claiming the Knowledge Panel for your practice will give you access to manage vital business information, such as business hours, your phone number, and patient reviews.

“Zero-Click” Searches are on the rise

Speaking of Google, a phenomenon called “Zero-Click Searches” are on the rise. Zero Click Searches happen when a patient asks Google a question and is greeted with a Featured Snippet, a “People Also Ask” box, or another search enhancement from Google.

44% of searches for this query don’t result in any clicks…

While these search enhancements may answer the patient’s original question, the patient does not click through to any websites in organic results – which has a huge impact on sites that rely on Google traffic for leads.

Zero-Click Searches are a phenomenon that can hinder the results practices are getting from organic search. While these search enhancements are helpful to patients, Zero-Click Searches can have a real effect on the bottom line.

Providing helpful answers to online visitors is a good thing, but at the end of the day, you need website visitors to turn into real patients – and Zero-Click Searches threaten your ability to do so.

Featured Snippets are changing, too

Earlier this year, Google made substantial changes to Featured Snippets, those search enhancements that provide a quick answer to a question:

Previously, Google would display the website that “won” the Featured Snippet both in the Featured Snippet and as the first website in organic results.

In January 2020, Google reversed its long-standing policy and began a process of “deduplication” that removed the organic result and only displayed the Featured Snippet.

As a result, if you qualify for a Featured Snippet, you are now no longer eligible to display in organic results. Featured Snippets are one of the search enhancements that contribute to Zero-Click Searches, so if you “win” the Featured Snippet, your site traffic could drop. Any drop in site traffic could mean a corresponding drop in patient leads, too – so winning too many Featured Snippets could actually be a problem for your practice.

Patients are looking for more dynamic content

Content marketing is still as powerful in 2020 as it was years ago – that much hasn’t changed. What has changed, however, is the preferences of patients regarding what types of content they like to consume.

If physicians want to engage potential patients through content marketing in 2020, they must pay attention to patient preferences and create content that satisfies those preferences.

Physicians in 2020 need to move beyond traditional blogging and into more dynamic forms of content – videos, podcasts, and other multimedia. Blogging and traditional content marketing is still a valuable source of information for patients, but in order to connect and engage with the most patients possible, physicians and their marketing teams should seek to vary their content creation efforts in 2020.

E-A-T is increasing in importance

What good is creating dynamic content if Google can’t index it? That’s a question many physicians and healthcare marketers are asking in 2020, and that’s where E-A-T comes into play.

E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust, and it’s becoming a more prominent ranking factor in Google’s algorithms:

E-A-T and “YMYL”

E-A-T is especially important in healthcare, because healthcare providers are part of what Google calls “YMYL” – “Your Money or Your Life.” YMYL refers to content that, if presented inaccurately or deceptively, could have an outsize impact on the reader’s happiness, health, safety, or financial stability. As such, Google holds YMYL websites, like healthcare providers, to a higher standard.

Like it or not, we’re all at the mercy of Google in 2020 – it’s their game, and we’ve got to play by their rules. It’s no longer enough to create good content – you must also spend time and effort ensuring that Google can verify you as an expert, sees you as authoritative in the subject, and  recognizes your trustworthy reputation both on- and off-line.

Think about it: patients are more likely to read and trust quality content about a medical condition written by a board-certified medical professional than content written by a copywriter or an intern. Google is the same way. If you want to attract more patients from Google search in 2020, it’s not enough to create content – you also need to help Google recognize your E-A-T.

Digital advertising is getting smarter

Digital advertising on social media and platforms like Google Ads is still an effective strategy for new patient acquisition, but times are changing.

Google and other platforms are leveraging the power of Machine Learning to deliver smarter results to advertisers based on which patients are more likely to convert into leads. The use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence in digital advertising will only grow in the future, so physicians who want to be smart about their advertising need to get on board – fast.

Due to the shift towards automated advertising, long gone are the days of manual cost-per-click bid strategies. If a practice is still relying on old “set it and forget it” methods like manual cost-per-click, they are bound to be left behind.

This shift to more intelligent bid methods presents challenges for savvy healthcare marketers, but it also presents opportunities as well. eMarketer predicts that healthcare ad spend will increase by 17% in 2020 and beyond – but only the most savvy providers who will capture the lion’s share of the revenue generated by this ad spend.

If you want to make the most of your advertising budget and leverage the opportunities that Big Data provides, 2020 is the perfect time to get smart about your advertising and devote more resources to education.

As trust in Big Tech declines, patients look to providers’ reputations

It’s not only Google that wants to know you are a trustworthy and reputable healthcare provider – patients demand the same. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but there has been a shift in the sources that patients trust for data about healthcare providers.

In 2020, patients are increasingly reluctant to trust Big Tech to give them answers. Instead, they are looking to friends, family, and even complete strangers to give them an unbiased opinion.

2020 is the age of reputation management:

  • 66% percent of patients treat reviews as influential when searching for a new physician.
  • 8 out of 10 patients start their search for a doctor by going to Google and reading reviews.
  • 9 out of 10 Millennials trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from a friend or family member.

Because of this, savvy physicians must pay attention to their reputation both online and off-line. Reputation management tools will become increasingly important to physicians in 2020 and beyond, as paying careful attention to reputation has profound impacts on trust, both from Google and patients alike.

Facebook is here to stay, too

Facebook has had a difficult few years, but with more than two billion active users, the social media giant isn’t going anywhere.

Other industries have recognized the power of Facebook ads to attract new patients, but healthcare has lagged behind somewhat. Marketing Prof’s research shows that some companies are investing up to 75% of their social advertising budget in Facebook ads. And while this number may be too high for healthcare providers, physicians who ignore Facebook do so at their own peril.

HIPAA regulations can present unique challenges for healthcare marketers, but there are ample opportunities to exploit Facebook’s huge dataset to attract new patients. 

Ideas for Marketing a Private Practice in 2020

Now that we’ve seen some of the biggest trends in healthcare marketing in 2020, let’s look at a few tangible ways that practices can build brand awareness and attract more patients – both online and in real life:

1. Send direct mail from time to time.

In our digital world, it may seem like direct mail is part of a bygone age – but it still works! Sending an occasional direct mail campaign to people in your local area can be a good way to build brand awareness. 

2. Contribute to industry journals.

Having your physicians contribute to industry or scholarly journals in their field can do a lot to enhance their reputation and show they are devoted to advancing research in their field.

3. Optimize your LinkedIn company presence.

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to increase your visibility online, especially if you’re looking to recruit new members for your team. Ensuring your company LinkedIn profile is up-to-date is an easy way to attract new patients.

4. Send birthday greetings to patients.

Everybody loves being celebrated on their birthday – and your patients are no exception. Sending a small birthday card to patients on their birthday is a simple, low-cost way to deepen the physician-patient relationship and build goodwill.

5. Send email updates to subscribers.

Sharing updates and resources with patients who have opted in to an email list can be a valuable strategy to attract new patients and engage existing patients.

6. Hold a community service day for your staff.

Community involvement is crucial for local practices – having your staff contribute to the community is an easy way to build goodwill and form stronger ties to other members of your community.

7. Write blog posts on a regular basis.

When it comes to ranking well online, content is king – so writing knowledgeable, valuable blog posts on a regular basis is a powerful tool to increase your visibility and attract more patients.

8. Send new patients a welcome letter.

This one is a must for patient experience. A handwritten letter to welcome a new patient to your practice will go a very long way to warming up the patient-physician relationship and getting started on the right foot. Very few businesses take such a personal approach with their customers, so going the extra mile to ensure someone is welcomed in a personal way can do wonders. 

9. Advertise your practice online.

Pay-per-click advertising campaigns on Google Ads and Facebook Ads can be a very cost-effective way to attract more patients to your practice.

10. Be a guest on a local radio program.

Even with the rise of streaming services, a surprising number of patients still listen to the good ‘ol-fashioned radio on their commute. Advertising your practice and your services on local radio programs can increase your reach and build brand awareness with a relatively low ad spend.

11. Create videos that feature your physicians, staff, and patients.

Video is one of the most impactful marketing channels out there today – and giving patients a “behind the scenes” look at your practice and your staff can go a long way.

12. Create whitepapers for patients to download.

Whitepapers, FAQs, and other resources that help patients understand what to expect from a medical procedure you offer are a great way to educate patients – and they can be a great source of potential leads, too.

13. Sponsor local community events.

Community involvement is a boon for small, local practices. Many patients want to support local businesses, so sponsoring a local community event – especially those that support a good cause – can go a long way to build goodwill in your community.

14. Use press releases for practice news.

Press releases can be a great way to share practice news and get backlinks to your website, which are helpful for SEO.

15. Ask for online reviews, especially in your office.

Patient reviews are one of the very best ways to attract more patients to your practice – and most patients will write a review if they’re asked…so get asking!

16. Be active on social media.

Using social media as a doctor can be difficult, but it’s worth it – most of your patients are on social media, so there are ample opportunities to interact.

17. Create a podcast.

Podcasts are on the rise – starting your own podcast that has relevant content that patients want to listen to can be a great way to promote your practice.

18. Hold an open house at your practice.

An open house can be a great way to involve the community and increase awareness of your practice. These days, lots of people want to “shop local” and support local businesses, so an open house is a great way to engage your local community.

Healthcare is an ever-changing industry, so using smart marketing strategies to attract more patients and build brand awareness is key. By understanding industry trends in 2020 and beyond – and by utilizing some of the strategies we’ve outlined here – we hope you can continue to build a robust, positive brand that attracts new patients to your practice.

Crawford Ifland, CEO at Messenger Healthcare Marketing

Crawford Ifland is the CEO of Messenger Healthcare Marketing. Messenger is a digital marketing agency specializing in custom healthcare website design, healthcare SEO, promotional videos, and more. Messenger gives the nation’s leading physicians and healthcare organizations the tools they need to grow their organizations.

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