By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
Editor’s Note: This is the third article in our three-part series about how to get your hospital or healthcare practice website found by potential patients.
The Internet is a powerful tool for marketing. But simply having a web site does not mean that patients will find you. The first two articles in this series presented the complexities of pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization. These are vital ingredients to producing online visibility and connecting with prospective patients.
Here, in our third and final article of this series, we present additional “guerilla marketing” tactics that you can use to bring targeted traffic to your website. These are free or nearly free steps that you can do today to produce results quickly.
Basic ID and Links. This fundamental is easily overlooked, but always include your website address (URL) everywhere you list your name, practice name, address and phone. Letterhead, cards, brochures, signs, etc. And always include a link to your site and information about yourself and your practice in any online or other articles, news releases, etc. Always ask for attribution and a link when quoted, cited or published.
Start an e-newsletter. Although you may want to hire a ghostwriter to produce the content, sending the e-newsletter is low cost and immediate. Collect email addresses and “opt-in” permission both online and in the office. And post a library of this information as pages on your site. Encourage readers to forward the information to others.
Use with your own publicity. The nature of your profession and experience makes you an authoritative source and qualified to write a timely and informative article. Be sure to reference your website (with a link). Submit your material through the online distribution systems of www.prweb.com or www.prnewswire.com.
Write for professional journals and health-related consumer websites. Include a link in the text that connects back to your website.
Connect with kindred groups. Identify local special interest or support groups that are relevant to your specialty or profession, and get involved. Provide your content for posting on their site – as articles, links or for publication in their newsletter.
Cooperate with local businesses or practices. Offer to send out an email about them to your base (where it’s relevant and appropriate) in exchange for them doing the same for you.
Post timely and useful links to others on your site. Create a LINKS page on your site and list two dozen of the most appropriate other sites, locally and nationally, that relate to your topic, profession or specialty. If you’re doing publicity on a newsworthy topic, mention the links page and your site address as a helpful resource for others. More importantly, try to get links back from these same organizations.
Test putting a banner ad (with a click-through link to your site) in local e-newsletter or websites. You will pay either a flat fee or a “per-click” fee, but it’s important to track response.
Identify and test advertising on any local portal websites – perhaps related to your local newspaper or similar options. LOCAL-focus is key – don’t pay to reach an audience that’s way outside of your service area.
Test referral sites that are relevant to your profession, specialty or even a specific procedure. Organizations, hospitals and others have a “find a doctor” or directory…sometimes without charge. Always include a link to your site.
Also check for local listing opportunities with online yellow pages, relevant directories and local search options with Google, Yahoo! and the like.
There’s nothing simple about generating patients from your website. It’s complicated and time-intensive, and to do it right you’ll want to hire professional help. Be sure to do your homework and find a strong and qualified resource.
At the risk of sounding self serving, be careful out there. Very few companies know how to market your practice on a comprehensive basis. Even the best only do one thing well (if that), e.g., graphic design, search engine optimization, pay per click, programming, etc.
In fact, we know from our web stats that many of our competitors, graphic artists and others read our articles, hoping to learn enough stay one step ahead of you, the client. Sadly, there is a huge difference between reading a couple of articles and actual real-world experience.
(Besides, we save our very best secrets for our paying clients – wouldn’t you?)
The good news, of course, is that with the right firepower, the Internet can be a valuable and effective part of your marketing toolbox. And getting started right now puts you way ahead of most of your competition.