Episode 9: Is SEO Playing the Correct Role in Your Marketing Plan?

You’ve probably been told that Search Engine Optimization is important. But why is good SEO so vital to the modern healthcare practice? And what role should SEO play in your overall marketing plan? In this episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast, we’ll answer these questions and more and help you understand how to use SEO to your advantage to bring in more patients, more revenue, and grow your practice.

Episode Transcript

Most physicians in private practice know that SEO should be a part of their marketing plan, but not everybody knows how to successfully integrate Search Engine Optimization into all of the other marketing channels they employ. Where does SEO fit? And how can SEO complement your other marketing efforts? In this episode, we’ll answer these questions and more, and help you understand how to use SEO to your advantage to bring in more patients, more revenue, and grow your practice.

Hey, what’s up everybody, and welcome to the Medical Marketing Podcast from Messenger – it’s the show where we give you actionable tips and advice to help improve your practice marketing, grow your revenue, and take patient experience to the next level. I’m Crawford Ifland, and today we’re going to be continuing our look at SEO by answering the question: why is SEO such an important part of a practice marketing plan…and where does SEO fit in your overall marketing strategy?

Now, before we begin, I’d strongly recommend listening to our last two episodes on SEO if you haven’t already – they’ll give you a good overview of how we got here, as well as some of the most common myths and lies about SEO. If you want to do SEO well, you’ve got to start with the fundamentals.

Assuming you have listened to those episodes, we’ll dive right in by answering our first question: why is SEO so important?

Why is SEO So Important?

To answer the question of why SEO is so important, just ask yourself: when is the last time you were looking for information and you didn’t turn to Google for an answer?

If you’re like most people, you’ll be struggling to find an answer to that question. We turn to Google for literally everything. In fact, more than 8 out of 10 patients turn to Google or another search engine as their first step in selecting a new doctor. So if attracting new patients and filling your surgery schedule is important to you, you’re probably going to want to be on Google.

And the trend is only getting more popular: a study of Google’s results found that “near me” searches (like “ophthalmologist near me” or “medical spa near me”) comprised 30% of all searches done on mobile devices. What’s more, 82% of smartphone users perform a “near me” search on at least a monthly basis. So the opportunity here is huge.

Now, when many people think about SEO and Google, they also think about Pay Per Click advertising with Google Ads or another platform. After all, ads are one of the first things we see on Google, above organic results. So what role does SEO and organic rankings play in relation to PPC advertising?

Well, ads are a great way to get immediate results for your practice, but the downside is that you have to continually be filling that pipeline with money – as soon as you pause your ad spend, the results stop flowing in. Organic rankings, on the other hand, deliver less of an immediate result when you’re first getting started, but they are more of a long-term strategy. Good SEO and organic rankings make it harder for a competitor to open up shop down the road and knock you off your rankings – they’re not going to vault above your practice to that coveted #1 spot overnight. That’s why SEO is such a long-term strategy, and a valuable one at that.

But it begs the question: what’s the appropriate role for SEO in your marketing strategy? Where should SEO fit alongside your other marketing channels?

What Role Should SEO Play in Your Marketing Plan?

When most people think about SEO, they underestimate the value it provides. In nearly 10 years of doing practice marketing for physicians, I have yet to come across someone who has placed too much emphasis on Search Engine Optimization.

However important SEO may be, we should note that it’s not wise to make SEO your entire marketing strategy. SEO is best supplemented with other marketing channels, like social media, email marketing, traditional advertising, Pay Per Click advertising, sponsorships, etc. At the end of the day, regardless of how valuable SEO may be to your patient pipeline, you’re still at the mercy of Google’s algorithm, so if they see something they don’t like, your surgery schedule could suffer.

So where should SEO go in your marketing plan?

Well, there are three main “pillars” of a marketing plan as they relate to the patient journey: awareness, consideration, and re-engagement.

Awareness is important for patients who don’t yet know about your practice. The goal of awareness is literally that – to get your name out there. SEO can play a minor role in awareness, but it’s a little premature to start discussing SEO at this stage. Awareness is where traditional marketing efforts (think things like radio, billboards, newspaper advertisements and display campaigns) can drive great results for a relatively low cost. The more you can get your practice name and branding out there at this stage, the better.

Once patients become familiar with your practice and are actually doing research on their medical options, they’re in the consideration stage. This is where “purchase intent” comes into play, and it’s where good SEO can really help you.

If a patient is doing a search for “ophthalmologist near me,” you’re going to want to make sure you’re showing up on Page 1. Of course, these efforts can be supplemented with Google Ads or other PPC spending (especially if you’re a new practice whose reputation isn’t quite there yet and you need to fill a surgery schedule immediately), but as we noted before, SEO is a long-term strategy. If you’re not yet at the top of Page 1, or even not appearing above your competitors for that matter, you can use PPC spend to augment the results you’d like to be getting from SEO. Once you’ve had the time to build up your reputation and rankings with Google, you can adjust this PPC spend as necessary, as more patients will be coming from organic results.

Once patients have established a relationship with you and come in for a visit or a procedure, it’s time to leverage their experience and help them do your marketing for you.

If follow-up appointments are necessary, email marketing can be a great channel to re-engage with them. And even if a patient will only ever come in to see you once, patient review generation systems and social media can be a great way to get patients to share testimonials of their experience on Google and other social channels…all of which can bolster your reputation and enhance your SEO.

And of course, SEO comes into play with friends and family, too, as then friends and family will likely – you guessed it – turn to Google to find your website and learn more.

So, in reality, SEO is everywhere, and it’s important at every part of your patient journey. So the true answer to the question “where should SEO fit in my marketing plan?” is an enthusiastic, “everywhere!”

If you really want to capitalize on every opportunity to engage with patients and get more chances to fill your patient pipeline, being at the top of Google’s results should be a priority.

Making SEO your entire marketing strategy isn’t very wise, as you’re 100% at the mercy of Google’s algorithms…and as we’ve seen, Google makes more than 250 changes to its algorithms each year, so any change could wreck your patient flow or surgery schedule.

Conversely, not having SEO as a major part of your marketing strategy means you’re just taking what Google and other search engines are giving you and never trying to improve those rankings and get better results. And what practice has ever achieved greatness by settling for the status quo?

So if you’re wondering if SEO is important to you as a physician, the answer is a clear and resounding yes.

Well, that’s all for today’s episode of the Medical Marketing Podcast – thanks for joining us. Hope to see you again on next week’s episode, when we’ll discuss the most common mistakes doctors and their marketing departments make when it comes to SEO.

As always, we’ll have a link to the show notes in the description, and be sure to check out www.messenger.md for more resources on how to improve your practice marketing, grow revenue, and take your patient experience to the next level. For Messenger, I’m Crawford Ifland – see you next week!

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