By Alan Glazier, OD, FAAO
March 8, 2017
A strong digital presence is your practice’s best defense against competitive forces, and your best way to take a positive step forward to greater growth and profitability.
I’ve been in independent practice for 23 years, and for all those years I’ve heard the same call: We need to adapt to survive as small business owners, and as a profession.
The truth is, our strategies to fight back against disruptions in our industry often backfire. We battle online retail instead of embracing it and competing online. Our anti-showrooming tactics are limited to hiding our pricing from those perusing our opticals–a defensive method that does not reflect well on us.
We badmouth the quality of frames our patients purchase from online vendors instead of educating them as to why they might want to purchase from us instead. Instead of adapting, we resist; instead of innovating in response to threats, we smear disruptive technologies and make ourselves look bad in the process.
We need some serious introspection: What should our response be to business threats that disrupt our industry?
In times like these, it is wise to go back to the basics. The major advantage that independent optometry has is the exemplary level of care that we provide to our patients–and the personal way we provide it.
An incredibly impactful way to leverage this strength is to get our message of service and care out by creating an outstanding digital presence in the communities that we serve.
In this regard, a lot of us are in the dark ages. Yes, we have a web site. Maybe it’s even “mobile ready.” Yes, we do search engine optimization (SEO) because our web site developer tells us we do. But how well do we really do any of these things? How really strong is our digital presence?
To find out, just Google “optometrist” in “your town,” but first log out of Google and delete the cookies from your browser; otherwise Google knows it’s you and shows you what it thinks you want to see instead of what netizens in your area are seeing when searching for the products and services you hope to be found for.
Who wins the first-look battle: You or your competitors?
The tools to win that battle are easily available to us. Using them gives us the same power to reach patients that the large optical chains have with their vast research and marketing resources.
How many of us haven’t changed our web sites in five years–or delegate the task to “one of the young people” in the office? How many of us use digital information for targeted, individualized messaging? Making that personal connection is what generates exams and sales of premium optical products!
Improving our digital presence is not only a powerful tool to be visible in our communities. Improving our digital presence will help independent optometry thrive. And the tools to achieve this are here.
GAUGE SEO. See how you rank in Google search for “eye doctor (your city)” and “optometrist (your city)” after you log out of Google and delete browser cookies.
GET SEO HELP. Make sure your web site company has a separate SEO team that focuses on elevating you in local searches for the products and services you hope to be found for.
ENSURE BRAND CONSISTENCY. Determine if your web site design mirrors the branding of your brick-and-mortar location; what your prospective patients see when they visit your web site is what they expect when they walk in.
CREATE CONTENT. Blog posts, Facebook posts, three-minute promotional videos, podcasts – these are just some ways you draw attention to your efforts causing Google to notice you and elevate you.
BE ORIGINAL. Make sure your web site is original and not a cookie-cutter template your web site company provides to all of its clients. Sophisticated knowledge of SEO is required for a web site-build that gets Google to notice you
INCREASE PATIENTS. Increase the number of new patients earned through web site visits and social review (Yelp, Google and other sites).
LOWER BOUNCE RATE. This is an indication of how much time people spend on your web site. A lower bounce rate means people like being on your site longer.
INCREASE LOCAL IMPACT. It’s not important how many people visit your web site; it’s important how many local people visit your web site. This metric is available in Google Analytics.
INCREASE POSITIVE REVIEWS. People like seeing more little yellow stars, not less. Go get them!
Obtain the knowledge, or access services, that can set your plan in motion. I use Surefire Local for my web site and SEO services. As a result, 66-75 percent of the listings on page one of Google when people search for an “optometrist” in my town are for my practice and my optical, and I’m able to achieve all the aforementioned goals and implement my plan while doing what I do best – seeing patients.
The survival of independent optometry hangs in the balance. Use online tools to your advantage and thrive.
What recent steps have you taken to improve your web presence? What have you found works best in marketing your practice online? What doesn’t work?