By Nancy Rausman
January 28, 2015
Measure how well your practice web site puts patients into exam chairs. Then calculate if your site is making—or costing—you money.
MEASURE TRAFFIC QUANTITY & QUALITY. Not just how many visit your practice site, but how long they stay and how often they click through links.
MEASURE TRAFFIC FROM GOOGLE. Too high–(over 60 percent from Google) means you’re not optimizing your existing patient base and not getting enough referrals. Too low (under 40 percent) means you need search engine optimization (SEO).
TRACK VISITORS/APPOINTMENTS. See how many people got to the appointment page and then how many people actually scheduled appointments. Use a call tracking system to see how many callers discovered your practice from your site.
Effective web sites bring in new patients. My company, EyeCarePro, which builds and maintains web sites for optometric practices, has found empirical data that proves this. One of our goals is to help ODs measure the success of their web site and to calculate its return on investment (ROI). When doctors know how their web site is performing, they can adapt their online strategy with focused goals to improve its effectiveness in bringing in more revenue.
According to our research, the average new patient appointments for a site with less than two pages viewed per visit was four new patients/month. However, when more than two pages are viewed per visit, this jumps to six new patients (50 percent more) based on that variable alone. If we say that each patient brings in $300 in revenue, that is $1,800/month and $7,200/year more revenue just for doing a better job of engaging your site visitors.
What makes an effective web site? First, you have to have a high rank in the search engines and a good overall web presence in order to be found. You want to make sure your web site is attracting visitors and keeping them on the site because this engagement is correlated to higher conversion (more appointments and more new patients). Part of engagement is also having a site that makes it easy to make an appointment.
Measure Traffic Quantity
The more visitors to your site, the more new patients you will see. Traffic quantity is directly proportional to the number of new patients. Think of your web site as the sales team of your business. You want as many leads as possible to get to the site so your web site can do its pitch. The more leads, the more potential sales.
We know from our data analysis that once a practice hits 300 visits per month or more, it sees anywhere from six new patients to an amazing 62 new patients per month!
Measure Traffic Quality
Traffic quality includes the percentage of traffic from Google, the time visitors spend on the site, the number of pages they visit and the bounce rate. Not all traffic is created equal. You want to make sure your visitors are entering a new patient path that leads to appointment booking. This involves being able to easily navigate your site to find quality content and value–which includes convenience. This is where online appointment scheduling forms come in. Online forms make visitors more likely to stay on the site and continue looking for more information about the practice. Online forms give your office the ability to see at least a percentage of the appointments coming in from the web site.
But what about those who prefer to speak to someone and call instead? A call tracking system places a unique phone number on the web site that forwards to the main office line, but digitally notifies the receptionist when a call is coming from that number. This is still convenient for the patient because the number is easily accessed from the web site, and yet it still allows the practice to keep tabs on where new patients are coming from. When we first implemented this system in the practices we work with, we had a manual option for the receptionist to indicate whether the patient was new or old. After tracking 50,000 calls in this manner, we had a statistician build a model that is 95 percent accurate to statistically predict how many new patients there are based on the total number of calls.
The appointment form and the call tracking system are not only conveniences for the patient that will enhance appointment booking, but two methods to assess which appointments are coming in from your web site to see how many patients you are getting from there, and therefore, how effective your web site actually is. It is a measurement of ROI for your web site.
Make sure the appointment form and the call tracking numbers are front and center on the web site, easy to find and easy to use. The web site should bring attention to these appointment booking forms and encourage their use with a call to action such as “schedule an appointment” or “call now.” There also should be a system to determine if patients are new or returning.
Look at Your Bounce Rate
Another telling metric, the bounce rate, is the number of people who leave your site after looking at one page. You would think that you would want this number to be zero. However, there are people, particularly return patients who just come to your site to get information such as a phone number or address and then leave. This number should be somewhere around 30 percent, not much lower. We found that practices with a 30-40 percent bounce rate get more new patients than sites within the 50-60 percent range, and 20 percent more new patients from the site per month than those in the 40-50 percent range.
If your bounce rate is too high, you want to improve your user experience. Make sure your information is direct and straight forward, and that your homepage draws people into the conversion process. Test it out yourself and ask others for their opinion. You want to make it easy for them to find what they are looking for and to stick around. It’s a statistical fact that the longer visitors spend on your site, the more new patient appointments will be scheduled.
Improve the Effectiveness of Your Web Site
If you are getting visitors, but they aren’t engaging with your site–which you can see by a low number of pages per visit or time on the site or a very high bounce rate–you need to improve the content on your site, starting with the home page. Ninety percent of traffic to your web site starts at your home page; this is the viewer’s first impression and holds incredible potential. Your site should be clean and attractive and you should always look for more ways to keep your visitors engaged. Enhance your home page with videos, engaging photos and informational articles, and of course, all of the essential contact details, doctor’s information, hours and location. Add value with forms. In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can offer contact lens order forms, new patient registration forms or contact forms for questions. Engaging patients with forms keeps them actively on your site and often will bring them to stay there and keep looking around.
Four Steps to Increase Engagement with Your Practice Web Site
BE APPEALING. Take an objective look at your web site, as well as web sites of other ODs, and think of ideas for how to make your web site more appealing and easy to read and use.
MAKE KEY INFO EASY TO FIND. The top information visitors look for on a web site is: doctor information, location/directions, hours and insurance information. Make sure those items can be easily located on the home page and in your toolbar navigation. Name them well, and position them first!
ELIMINATE CLUTTER. Is your home page organized and up to date? Make sure the information that is most important to your patients is there and clean up any clutter. When it comes to homepages, less is often more.
ENGAGE YOUR VISITOR! Feature online appointment booking and new patient forms. Point patients to your site for more information about a particular condition they might have. Engage potential patients with insights about common eye problems and how the practice can help. Don’t forget products–everyone’s always looking for a nice set of frames and sunglasses; promote your products on your web site.
The Amount of Google Traffic Says A Lot About Your Site
While a high percentage of Google traffic means that new people are finding you on the web, you don’t want all of your traffic to be from Google because that means you aren’t doing a good enough job of bringing your existing patients to your site (through e-mails, business cards, Facebook page, etc.).
One the greatest sources of new patients for every practice is referrals, so you want to make sure your current patients are thinking of you and sending others your way. The optimal range for Google traffic should be 40-60 percent of your overall web site traffic. This range indicates that you are effectively balancing your marketing strategy and making good use of all the means available to drive traffic to your web site.
If your Google traffic is too high–(over 60 percent)–you are not taking advantage of your existing patient base, and therefore, not getting referrals. An integrated marketing campaign is the most effective way to fix this. Integrated marketing is when you carry the same campaign across all marketing channels, so everyone sees the same thing. One single story across the web, through e-mail, in the office and word of mouth makes a powerful statement about your practice. The more you spend time pushing out the right messaging to the right patient base, the more balanced Google traffic will be.
If, on the other hand, your Google traffic is too low (under 40 percent) you need search engine optimization (SEO) to get your web site ranking higher in search.
Track How Many People Actually Followed Through & Made Appointment
You can track how many people actually followed through with making an appointment on the web site, how many were existing patients and how many were new. Then you have the ROI of your web site.
1) You can see how many people got to the appointment page and then how many people actually scheduled appointments.
Be prepared that there will still be a gap there because many people will call instead of booking online.
2) Track where calls are coming from via an automated system. A call tracking system is HIPAA-compliant as long as you are not recording any of the calls. Once you know which calls are coming from the web site, the trick is to determine if they are new or existing patients. Most software can’t track this, so you would need to institute a manual procedure.
To avoid this extra step for our clients, we worked with 100 practices with a call tracking number, which allowed us to know when someone was calling from the web site. The receptionist was alerted and was asked to indicate if the caller was an old or new patient at the end of the call by pressing a 1 or a 2. We recorded the data for eight months and found a number of variables that were able to be predictive of whether a patient was old or new. One of these was call length. We then took this information and contracted a statistician to built a model and we are now able to analyze the calls from the algorithm, which can predict how many new patients have booked.
Marketing your practice through your web site shouldn’t be a gamble. If your web site isn’t bringing in a positive ROI, it should be. Analyzing the metrics above, you can see where you need to make changes and improvements to ensure your web site is effective and working for you as it should be.
Nancy Rausman is the managing editor at EyeCarePro. Nancy is responsible for providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing. EyeCarePro is one of the leading providers of online marketing and practice improvement services in the industry. EyeCarePro serves both industry and practices and is the only company of its kind solely focused on the optometric space. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org