By Justin Bazan, OD
Savvy marketers are profiting off your online identity—and making it harder for consumers to find your practice web site. Here are steps to put you at the top of the search list.
Today, your web presence is the first portal to your practice. Years ago, prospective patients would look for a doctor in the phone book; now the first place they look is Google, the leading search engine. Back then, a phone book listing that didn’t immediately pop out at people browsing through names of doctors was a promotional failure. It is no different now with Google. People are no more likely to wade through pages of online listings to find your practice than they were to look at page after page in a phone book. You need to be noticed at a glance.
Here is my algorithm to getting your practice’s web site to come up first when a prospective patient in your community is searching for an eye doctor.
What Does “SEO” Mean?
“SEO” stands for search engine optimization, the process of fine-tuning the language on your web site to make it more likely that it will display at the top of search engine results.
Update your web site: Frequently update your site with relevant information about eye health, new optical products, and practice specials and events.
Be active in social media: Frequently update your presence on social media pages. Search engines now search social media.
Make Your Web Site Your Practice’s Facebook Page
For $10, I purchased the “Park Slope Eye” domain name and got all visits to www.parkslopeeye.com to automatically redirect to my practice’s page on Facebook. I did this because Facebook is a platform where your patients already are. Making your primary practice site your practice’s Facebook page makes finding you easier for patients–you are going to them rather than making them come to you.
Search Engines Now Search Social Media
A recent change in Google’s search listing algorithm to include social media pages in search results makes it more helpful than ever to have a practice site on Facebook. Having your main presence on Facebook also plays into the best generator of new patients–word of mouth from trusted sources. If a patient reads Facebook updates about your practice on one of her friends’ Facebook pages she may not even need to go to Google to search because she found what seems like a reliable eyecare practice without ever leaving Facebook.
Update Your Facebook Page Every Day
Post everything from eyecare tips on your Facebook page to photos from recent practice events to simply “liking” other local businesses.Treat your professional Facebook page like its own persona and like businesses and other pages on Facebook. Liking those pages will attract others on Facebook with similar likes and every time you like a business or perform other activities that update your page, your practice will have a greater chance of getting listed on the news scrolls (scrolls of updates from Facebook friends’ “liked” businesses that appear on each Facebook user’s page). And now that Google is including social media pages in search results, those updates will improve your chances of being found when your name is Googled. Other ideas for daily updates are the addition of new frame lines and sales events. I update my practice’s Facebook page (i.e., practice web site) every day, and it takes me less than 10 minutes per day.
Facebook’s internal search function likes videos first, then pictures, then links, and last, text, so updates to your practice’s Facebook page that include graphic elements will make your practice page’s updates get featured with greater frequency and prominence in your Facebook friends’ news scrolls. At the very least, make sure updates to your page include links to any page online that might appeal to your practice’s Facebook friends.
Make Web Site Key Word Rich
Make sure your practice name is featured prominently on your web site, such as at the top of the page, and then have your name and the practice name repeated at least several times throughout the text on the home page. Other words that will serve as keywords for Google’s search engine to pick up are your geographic location and the name of your town or neighborhood and your specialties. Put yourself in the shoes of a patient from your town or city who is looking for an eye doctor or looking for an eye doctor with one of your specialties and type all the phrases you think that person might type into the Google search box. Keep track of those phrases you guessed they would search by and make sure that those very phrases or words from those phrases appear numerous times throughout your site and especially on your homepage.
It is important that all of the information on your home page is correct and up to date and that information is added to your homepage as often as possible because Google’s search engine is designed to weed out and push down in the listings information it calculates to be out of date. Google technology can tell when a site or page within a site was last updated and will reward the most frequently updated and most frequently visited pages with higher search results. If you have outdated information or links on your web site, not only will Google recognize that it was posted a long time ago; visitors will find the page or links useless and quickly navigate away from them. If that happens repeatedly it will affect how high (or low) your site gets listed.
Blog on Relevant Topics; Link Blog to Practice Web Site
Set up a blog on a platform like WordPress or Blogspot, and blog as often as you can about topics that people are likely to search for. For example, during the summer you could blog about protecting skin from the sun or the latest sunwear fashions. When I noticed that patients tended to have problems driving at night in winter, I posted a blog about it which received a lot of traffic. Or you could do as I did and blog any time of year about eye issues that tend to frighten people and send them to Google to figure out what’s wrong.
One of my most popular blogs was on subconjunctival hemorrhage. When people would freak out about the bright red spot on the white of their eye they would Google the symptoms and my blog would come up first. Importantly, that blog included links to my Facebook page as well as to my other social media sites like Yelp. Including links to your primary practice web site in as many places as possible ensures patients will find you no matter where they end up online.
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Justin Bazan, OD, Vision Source, Park Slope Eye, Brooklyn, NY, started his own practice cold. He speaks regularly on strategies for marketing your practice via social networks. Contact: email@example.com