Our goal is to help physicians take control of their practices with effective marketing methods that empower and inform patients. Medical practices have unique marketing needs that other businesses do not have to consider, and our 20 years of experience in working with medical practices has helped us gain an understanding of what practices need to succeed.
With that said, we have talked with many practices that have been misinformed about marketing. In many cases, misconceptions come from marketers who aren’t familiar with the medical industry, or outdated information about marketing best practices. This is why we recommend that practices work with marketing companies that understand the medical field and keep up to date with the latest marketing standards.
These are some of the common misconceptions we see about medical practice marketing.
1. Misconception: Search engine optimization (SEO) is a one-time (or infrequent) thing.
Reality: Search engine optimization is never really a one-and-done project because search engines are constantly changing and getting smarter. SEO tactics that were the standard five years ago aren’t necessarily recommended today. This is why we recommend that practices evaluate their SEO strategies, particularly local SEO, often. Having a presence in locally-relevant search results is more important than ever for practices, as more and more patients turn to the internet to find a new physician. Don’t assume that the SEO work your practice had done a few years ago is enough to make you show up in search results today.
We recommend reviewing your SEO at least once a year, and preferably more often. Look at how your website ranks when you search for keywords related to your practice and specialties. Look at how your map listings show up in search results, and monitor your analytics to see how much of your website traffic is coming from search engines. You may not need to do any further SEO work, but if you start seeing shifts in your ranking and traffic, it might be time to revisit your SEO again. If you stay on top of it, you’ll likely have less work to do to get back to where you were before the drop.
2. Misconception: Regulatory requirements like HIPAA don’t apply to marketing and your website.
Reality: HIPAA applies to all communication between patients and your practice, including your website and other marketing communications. There are a few things to consider when keeping your online marketing HIPAA compliant:
- Online Forms – Are any forms that capture patient data secured? If patients are submitting information like appointment requests via an unsecured form, you could be at risk of a HIPAA violation because your practice hasn’t taken steps to protect that information.
- Social Media – Be careful about what you share on social media, whether it’s your practice’s page or your own personal social media. You should never share specific details about patients or photos without that patient’s express written permission. As a general good practice, you should also avoid giving specific medical advice via social media–speak in generalities when it comes to medical advice and urge patients to seek in-person medical help when you think it’s warranted.
- Testimonials and Photos – You should not use patients’ comments, testimonials, or photos to market your practice unless you have express permission from the patient to do so. Written permission is better than verbal permission because you have proof that the patient gave you permission to use his or her photo/comments. If you have a testimonial submission page on your website, you can add language on the page that states what use cases patients must agree to by submitting a testimonial.
If your practice isn’t working with a marketing company that understands HIPAA, there is a good chance that these things will be overlooked unless your practice points them out. We’ve seen several practices with these issues, simply because no one was aware of HIPAA requirements.
3. Misconception: It’s easy to get your practice’s website to rank on the first page of Google search results.
Reality: It can be quite difficult and time-consuming–though not impossible–to get a practice’s website to rank on the first page of search results. In the vast majority of cases, you can’t expect to just build a website for your practice and have it instantly show up on the first page of Google, unless your practice is running paid search ads. If you want your practice to show up in the organic search results (meaning the regular search results, not the ads), you’ll need to do some SEO work to get there. That could include adding SEO-optimized title tags and meta descriptions, adding custom content, and setting up local listings, among other efforts.
It’s also important to note that even if you do everything you can to optimize your practice’s site for search engines, it can still take time to build up your ranking. It also takes ongoing work to maintain your ranking, as search engines are constantly changing their standards for ranking websites. (Learn more about how search engines work here.)
SEO will not produce instant results for your practice. There are no shortcuts to getting your practice’s website on the first page of Google. Yes, you can technically get there with paid search ads, but keep in mind that although your ads look like normal search results, Google will note that they are ads. This may be a turnoff to potential patients, so while paid search can help drive traffic to your website in the meantime, it’s still important to focus on SEO as well.
Medical practices have unique needs for marketing. The best way to make sure these needs are addressed is to work with a company that understands the medical industry. While you can still get great results from marketing companies that don’t understand the medical industry, you might have to work harder to educate them on what you need.