Online Marketing: The Search Engine’s the Thing

Marketing doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require direction. Don’t think you can throw up a few blog posts and a Facebook ad and patients will start pouring. Old-school doctors tend to be more cautious about online marketing. Other physicians know marketing works but don’t know how it’s done.

It’s done by having an online presence. Not just a website, though that’s the starting point. The internet is a huge pool of businesses competing for people’s attention. Throw in all the social media platforms and it can get overwhelming fast.

Marketing is a strategy. Online marketing takes advantage of the internet in a manageable way. You have to start where you’re at:

  • A new practice is going to have to invest more time and money to get found online. Content marketing will help. 
  • An existing practice trying build its patient base will have some basics in place. But if they’re not hitting new patient goals, some tweaking is needed.
  • An existing practice that’s introducing a new service also has a foundation. Depending on how engaged they are online, it should be easy to use your network.

Marketing outcomes are measurable, so be clear what you’re measuring. It can be a phone call, scheduling online, doing an intake, referring a friend. On a website, that’s a CTA – call to action. We direct visitors do something specific. An analytics program on your website tracks their response. If you’re not seeing the response you want, you need to adjust your approach.

Three Steps to Start

To successfully market your practice online, you need a solid foundation.

If the search engines can’t find you, no one can find you. Think a mobile website doesn’t matter? 80% of users used a mobile device to search the internet in 2019 and 79% of Americans are using social media. Follow these steps to get set up for marketing your practice online.

1. Get your business on Google

Most of you’ve already done this, but if not get a free account on Google. You need a mailing address – they’re going send a postcard. Send it back and you’re in. Your practice will show up in Google search engine reviews. You can do the same with Bing here.

2. A responsive mobile-friendly website

If you’re not sure what that means, go look at your website on the phone. The actions you want people to take should be as easy on a phone as they are on the desktop. Buttons and click to call numbers are pressed by fingers, not cursors. They might need some extra room on the phone. Make sure have an analytic program on your website to track how people engage with the site.

3. Choose your social media platforms

You don’t have to be on every social media site. You probably shouldn’t waste resources trying. Figure out where your patients are and set up on the best platform. The video below will help you understand the various platforms and help you pick.

There is one other decision to make before you get started. Are you going to hire out your marketing or manage it in house?  Either way, it’s going to take some of your time.


If you outsource, the agency should help you form a marketing strategy. There should be regular meetings about progress – at least once a month. There’s a lot of jargon in SEO and analytics. Make sure you choose a company that can explain the value in layperson terms. You should also be clear on what you’re paying for – how many posts, how many email blasts, how many ads.


If you do it in house, you have more control, but it will take more time. Once set a strategy and define your CTA, add an analytic program to your site. Your office staff could help with social media. You can buy a plugin to automatically share blog posts or videos. There are tons of freelancers you can contract with to execute tasks. Use a service like Upwork or Fiverr to find them.

There’s no right decision, only the one that suits you.

Starting out with an agency is more costly but everything is all in one place. They do the creative, the ad buys, the social media, the analytics. You don’t need to make a long-term commitment – 6 months is a good timeline. If you don’t think you’re getting enough value for the money, you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.

To go out on your own, it’s less money but also less coordinated. You’ll need some people, either freelancers or staff. Make sure you define the metrics for your CTA. Start slow and focus on a few key areas. The tips below are a good place to start.

3 Affordable Ways to Market Your Practice

There’s a whole industry out there marketing to doctors. Most of them do the same thing for physicians that they do for any other client. Not trying to diss anyone, but medical marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s marketing.

Doctors’ offices are small businesses. They need affordable, affirmable marketing methods. Here are the ones we like the best.

1. Make online reviews your top marketing priority

Reviews aren’t just for restaurants anymore. It only takes between 1 – 6 online reviews for a prospective patient to form an opinion about your office. If you’re not paying attention, you’ll be digging your business out of a hole for a while.

Responding to Reviews

Think about reviews as referrals. When people take the time to share their feedback, they either had a great experience or a bad one. A customer-centric office will address both of those. A thank you to the first patient and an attempt to resolve the problem of the second.

If you get a bad review, the smart way to handle it is to acknowledge the issue and respond with a phone number. If you can resolve the issue, you can ask the patient if they are willing to revise their review. You can’t win over everyone but do your best.

Make sure you do a search for your practice. Listings and reviews you know nothing about are out there. Yelp is the biggest offender – they scrape lists and put up any businesses they can find. But they aren’t the only ones.

Check every place you find your practice listed and claim the business. It keeps your info accurate and you get notifications when a review is posted.

Asking for Reviews

Reviews aren’t only a marketing mechanism. They provide valuable feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Let your front desk staff help out. Keep a tablet at the reception desk and let patients know they can use it to do a review. Don’t push but ask.

If your office sends follow-up emails with patients, ask if they’d like to do a review. Provide a link and thank them for their time.

Review sites like Healthgrades, focus on reviews for medical professionals. Doctors can put up a free profile. Patients can leave reviews and prospective patients search for a doctor. There are sites others like it – if they are free, sign up. But remember you need to monitor your reviews. Don’t take on too much.

You can set up an automated system to ask for reviews after a patient’s visit. Contract with a third-party company like ReviewTec to handle the response. They reach out via email or text to increase reviews to sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp.

best medical review sites

The Best Deal

Online reviews are free and are authentic feedback. People find them more reliable than advertisements. They give reviews the same credbility as “word of mouth from a friend.”

According to a recent study by Software Advice:

  • 71% of patients report checking reviews before choosing a doctor
  • Positive reviews can increase out-of-network patients by 43%
  • Negative reviews are only about 1% of total reviews
  • 66% say it’s important for doctors to respond to reviews

You can increase your online presence and grow your patient base, all for an hour a day and $100 a month.

2. Marketing is local – Online & Off

Unless your practice is of a large medical group, your prospective patients are local. (And if you are part of a healthcare conglomerate, there’s a VP of marketing somewhere in the mix.)

Local Search Online

One of the most used searches of all time ends with “near me.” “Foot doctor near me, therapist near me, mammograms near me.” It’s how people use search engines to connect with local services. If you’ve set up your marketing foundation with Google My Business – you will show up for that search.

You may need to work on where you show up. Add pages/content to your website that reference your community. If you’re located in Raleigh NC, add content about the surrounding areas: “Serving Cary and Apex, NC.

Optimizing for voice search is a way to pull in more local calls. Over 56% of all voice searches are made on a smartphone, so your responsive website is a big plus.

Another option is to become a HARO – Help A Reporter Out – source. Make sure your local assignment editors know you’re available to help with a story. When you’re published in local news or on TV, it’s a big boost for your practice.

Offline Local Marketing

These are the old school interactions that make your business a part of the community. Doctors can join their local Chamber of Commerce or other civic groups to stay connected. Contribute by participating in local health fairs. Give presentation at a high school or PTA meeting.

During the pandemic, most of these events will need to be virtual but that’s okay. Join Zoom meetings or offer webinars. Don’t forget to send a press release to your local newspapers and TV stations.

Build a Referral Network

Patient referrals are a good way to build your base. Set up a communication network with other physicians in the area. Provide them with information about your practice and the services you offer. Make it a two-way street – get the same information from them.

If you want more referrals, make referrals. This interaction between physicians is one of the most over-looked marketing strategies around.

Mentor Medical Students

This is a great community service that every medical student needs. The goodwill it fosters is priceless and helping other people feels great for you too.

3. Be Authentic Everywhere

Your website and social media should reflect your practice, not the office of iStock Photo. Be proud of who you are – introduce patients to your actual office space and staff.  Take pictures of the reception area for the home page on your website. Horizontal pictures are better for page banners.

If you need one, hire a professional photographer to come in for the day. Get good pictures of your workspace and your team. New patients are more comfortable when they recognize people.

Make sure you keep the pictures updated. If someone in a key role leaves, it doesn’t hurt to let people know (as long as it’s appropriate.)

Use social media to interact. Do a video tour of the office on Facebook Live. Consider a question and answer session on Reddit or Twitter. Highlight one of your staff every couple of months. Figure out a good format, an interview, or maybe “a day in the life” video.

The whole idea is to show patients what to expect at your office. Be authentic. Prospective patients can and will engage.

Is Online Marketing Worth It?

Yes! You don’t have to spend a fortune to up your presence online.

  • Be strategic.
  • Know what to measure.
  • Set the foundation
  • Get reviews
  • Stay local
  • Be you

Medical Marketing is definitely worth your time. Hard to see how your practice can thrive without it.

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