Is Local SEM & Organic SEO the Future of Medical & Healthcare Marketing?

There’s a famous saying that goes, “think globally, act locally.” Well, in 2018, this is certainly a phrase that all digital marketers and executives in the healthcare or medical industry need to take to heart. Now more than ever, “we,” as patients, are engaging in questions and answers with search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, and through our online evolution, healthcare marketing is allowing the Medical Industry to witness a different kind of patient emerge.

google quote 77% smartphone users find local health services

The Medical Industry Needs To Evolve For The Patient, Not The Organization

Every healthcare and medical organization needs to advance their process of researching search engine data.

More importantly, they need to act on how they can utilize that data for local and mobile healthcare search engine optimization and employ it to produce empathetic content to actually improve their patients’ lives, not just gain an increase in high-volume patients.

Ultimately, there needs to be a shift in the way these organizations measure success before the competition comes in and disrupts the landscape.

As you might be aware, there are whisperings of technology giants like Apple, Amazon, JPMorgan, Google, and Uber planning their entry into the healthcare and medical industry.

  • Apple – In talks about opening up branded healthcare clinics.
  • Amazon & JPMorgan – In talks about entering the pharmaceutical market to deliver direct-to-consumer meds to patients.
  • Google – In talks about disrupting the Medicaid market.
  • Uber – In talks about disrupting the ambulance industry and producing more cost-efficient transportation.

Right now, these are all speculations, but what’s certain is that a large number of consumers and patients alike are not satisfied with the patient-to-medical-provider relationship.

Tech companies like Google research an enormous amount of search engine data. They study it day in and day out and know the millions of questions that patients are trying to find the answers to; and you can guarantee Google senses where they can stake their claim in the future of healthcare.

What Google does better than almost anyone is providing a customer-centric user experience. Their goal is to complete a users “job-to-be-done” as quickly as possible. They have to be able to do that in order to gather as much data as they do.

Healthcare providers, doctors, physicians, and pharmaceutical companies all need to quickly understand that a successful digital marketing strategy in healthcare is not about how you can gain more leads and potential patients.

It’s about organically creating a relationship in which your organization provides real, tangible value to your patients.

A strategic way to accomplish this feat is to implement cost-effective and specific communication strategies that lifestyle and icon companies often use to engage their customers.

Steps To Building a Patient-Centric Healthcare & Medical SEO Strategy:

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the act of producing better quality and quantity of traffic or visitors to your website through organic search engine results, such as blogs, case studies, eBooks and technical SEO practices like meta-descriptions.

  • Make your website search engine friendly
  • Make your website patient & customer friendly
  • Optimize the content
  • Build links to the content

Steps To Building a Patient-Centric Healthcare & Medical SEM Strategy:

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a digital marketing strategy that involves paid advertising through search engines to increase the visibility of your website and its products or services.

If your organization can accomplish the task of providing value through organic SEO and relevant, local SEM, your patients, their friends and family will want to become part of your brand.

Now, it might seem a bit taboo to call a healthcare organization a brand, but let’s be realists for a moment, our health is a business just like any other industry. And just like fans of Nike or Apple seek out their favorite products, we as patients will seek our favorite healthcare brands, instead of the other way around.

A Successful Medical Digital Marketing Strategy Should Be…

In our research obsessed, patient-centric world, your healthcare marketing goals as a medical organization should be to produce relevant and shareable content that shows your true work as its focus: to heal people and improve their lives.

That means delivering the right message to the right patient at the right time. If you’re trying to communicate in any other way, that patient is going to complete their medical “job-to-be-done” with another organization.

Healthcare & Medical Organizations Need To:

  • Optimize their website for mobile
  • Increase communication channels
  • Produce empathetic patient experiences
  • Speak to a narrower, truer audience
  • Utilize word of mouth

The purpose of any piece of information, whether it’s a Google AdWords ad, a blog post, a case study, or a Facebook video, is to improve your patient’s life and provide value. In order to successfully accomplish that feat, your marketing teams must familiarize themselves with what patients are searching for.

Let’s take a quick trip into what the search process for a potential patient might look like. There are three main stages of the healthcare and medical search.

  1. The initial patient search
  2. Patient education and in-depth research
  3. Decision or purchase process

Step #1: You get a chill, start to feel tired… Are you starting to come down with the flu? You’ll probably search Google for something like this.

google search page showing results for flu symptoms

Step #2: Once you’ve self-diagnosed, you’re going to need a professional opinion. This will lead you to the second step of the medical search journey for many, seeing who takes your insurance.

google search results page for "what doctors take"

Step #3: Once you’ve realized what doctors or medical professionals accept your insurance, the final step is finding a doctor that’s close to your geographic location.

google search results page for "doctors near me"

Now, if you’ve spent any time around healthcare marketers in the last year, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase patient-centric. Well, if the majority of the healthcare industry truly were patent-centric, the doctors, physicians and urgent care centers would think about reverse engineering the steps of the medical search journey.

“We,” as patients have become research-obsessed because it allows us to feel more confident with the decision we’re going to eventually make.

But, is confidence really what we yearn for? What if these organizations started to insert themselves earlier in the education process?

If you were to break down the “jobs-to-be-done” for any given patient, we don’t need to know the symptoms of the flu, we need to know if we have the flu from a medical professional, and more importantly, we need medicine to stop the illness and get us back to our healthy selves.

If more medical organizations were to insert themselves into the search process for “flu symptoms,”  and deliver a simple “one-click” appointment booking they’d be strategically placing themselves several steps earlier into the patient decision process which could lead to a more pleasant patient experience.

Give The Patients Medical Information & Give It To Them Now

For healthcare companies and medical organizations to provide a better patient experience, it’s vital to understand the more they can get into the psyche or mindset of the prospective patients as they’re planning their experience, the more they can become a necessary partner for when it’s time to make a medical decision.

But, with so many avenues to communicate and so little time, where should the healthcare industry begin? Where should medical companies exert their focus?

The Google studies below show: Local SEM, Organic SEO & Mobile

google quote "near me" searches have doubled since 2015

Ask anyone with some business experience and wisdom and they’ll tell you, timing is everything in life. Well, seeing as healthcare is a huge part of life, timing is also everything.

The entire medical industry should realize that more than anyone. They divulge life-changing information to millions of people every day, and these millions are performing Google searches, and they need immediate answers.

slide from google with line graph showing "near me" searches growth

The above ‘Think with Google’ study showed in the past two years:

  • 150%+ growth in mobile searches for “near me now”
  • 900%+ growth in mobile searches for “near me today/tonight”
  • 200%+ growth in mobile searches for “Open” + “now” + “near me”

Those numbers are astounding. As a result of these changes in the digital search landscape, the healthcare marketplace, just like other industries, needs to become more competitive on the local search front. This makes it very important for medical professionals to stand out and accurately present their services and products to patients.

google slide showing how "near me" searches contain variant of "can I buy"

If this shows the medical and healthcare world anything, it’s that patients already know what they need, they just don’t know where to get it.

Healthcare providers and medical industry marketers must capitalize on providing more local information and continue to optimize the patient experience for mobile devices.

An informed and educated patient doesn’t have the time or the patience to drive around town looking for a doctor’s office or an urgent care. They need their medical “jobs-to-be-done” completed as quickly as possible and on as few platforms as possible.

Make their experience easy and seamless so they’re not overwhelmed by making a potentially transformative decision.
Find transparent and empathetic ways your patients can tell you what’s important to them, so your organization can evolve for the future.
Play into the research-obsessed patient and find ways to assist their journey and make them a part of your brand family.

Embracing a platform like Google My Business would give a patient the tools to book an appointment, talk to a doctor, or see how long the wait is at their neighborhood urgent care all in one click or tap.

google slide highlighting mobile ability to let users interact with companies directly from google search

Medical & Healthcare Marketing Needs To Turn-Up The Channels

Valuable content is the name of the game these days, and technology has done amazing things when determining what information healthcare companies can share with their patients. These evolutions have modified how we interact with one another, giving every healthcare and medical organization the ability to create tailor-made, meaningful, personalized patient experiences.

Healthcare Marketing Strategies To Embrace:

  • Social Media – Instantly share information with patients on new technology and processes as well as give your practice a face of the business.
  • Voice Search – The future of search is natural language and voice will eventually be an easier communication stream for any demographic to start the medical education journey and book appointments.
  • Video – Improve the patient education process with Video Learning. Immerse a prospective patient into your medical world with 360 Video. Even use Video to inform other medical professionals with continued education.

Every patient is wildly varied and there is never a “one-size-fits-all” approach to successful healthcare communication.

If your organization is going to elevate their experience, it’s vital to understand your patient, the platform on which they’re accessing their information, and what their intended outcome is.

Only after your team defines these aspects can you confidently assess if your message will fulfill the patients’ needs and complete their “jobs-to-be-done.”

Empathy Is The Key To Improving The Patient Experience

Over the last decade, there have been incredible advancements made in the technology used throughout medicine and healthcare. But what’s still slowly evolving is the empathy in a patient’s hospital experience. The industry leaders of groundbreaking healthcare organizations are truly immersing themselves in the shoes of their patients.

Think about a child with leukemia, or a veteran with PTSD, or an amputee facing phantom limb syndrome.

These unfortunate, but very real circumstances, have begun to show an emergence of virtual reality to completely alter the “reality” of a patient’s experience.

If you can transport this uncomfortable patient to a place they’ve never been, or even better, to a place they never imagined, then we’re embracing and healing humanity on an entirely different level.

The videos below are only a glimpse into how more empathetic user experiences can transform the medical and healthcare industries.

If the patient’s success rate increasing isn’t enough, the payoff is two-fold when great marketers like Samsung document the experience and allow that to be the voice of their medical content marketing.

If more organizations would properly use these amazing digital technologies and showcase them to society, we’ll not only see an improvement in the length of a patient’s stay, but we’ll also witness their road to recovery become more enjoyable.

Have One-On-One Digital Conversations With Patients

There’s no doubt about it, medical organizations want to generate happier patients. But in order to start that process, their experiences must:

  • Tap into the patient’s pain points
  • Attract their inner desires
  • Demonstrate differences
  • Utilize visual metaphors
  • Connect to their emotions

If your SEM strategies are trying to speak to everyone in the medical and healthcare industry, they’re speaking to absolutely no one. Don’t focus on broad keywords for PPC campaigns, they’ll generalize your true patient audience. Success is in the details.

Use Long-Tail Keywords to Target a Specific Patient:

This long-tail keyword phrase catches a patient much farther down the decision funnel and should lead to more efficient customer referrals.

Long-tail keywords usually encompass a more conversational nature to them, as well as
defining a specific intent. If I were strategizing an otolaryngologist to do Google AdWords campaigns, it’d be smart to suggest bidding on a keyword phrase like “best ear, nose, and throat doctor in St. Louis” over “otolaryngologist.” Not only would it have less competition because you’re targeting it geographically, but you’re speaking how the majority of your patients are going to interact with a search engine.

Remember, a successful digital healthcare marketing strategy isn’t just about getting more patients, it’s about getting the right patient at the right time.

This is something that CVS is doing extremely well. They’ve done their jobs-to-be-done homework and clearly recognize that when the majority of Americans are searching for their store or services they want to know where the nearest location is located.

The below example pinpoints how the usage of ad extensions can efficiently display different locations making it that much easier for a consumer or patient to find a CVS near them.

google search page for CVS pharmacy

Try Testing Different Ad Extensions to Improve the Patient Experience:

  • Call Extensions. If you’re trying to receive phone calls, these display the phone number for your business or a forwarding number provided by Google.
  • Location Extensions. If you’re a doctor’s office, pharmacy, or urgent care and want to drive patients to your location, these links will connect your ad to your address.
  • Sitelinks. These allow you to provide links to additional landing pages.
  • Callouts. These are little, bullet point messages where you can provide more information about your offer or business in a reader-friendly format.
  • Structured Snippets. These will allow your team to add a list of items to your ads. If you sell different brands then you could create a list, or if you provide different services, you can list them for your customer to easily peruse.

Get Patients To Talk About Your Healthcare & Medical Organization

One of the most powerful pieces of healthcare marketing is something a lot in the industry marketers aren’t embracing yet:

Patient reviews.

In our digital age, word of mouth still holds an immense amount of value, and signs show that it will only continue to grow.

google search page with results of local hospitals

Ask patients for their honest opinion on their experience and showcase the reviews your organization is receiving. The above example displays subliminal advertising at its best. With Shriners attaining 5 stars over Barnes 3 stars, the majority of researching patients will click on Shriners. That’s the power of reviews.

To Sum Up The Future Of Healthcare

The healthcare and medical industries need to fully embrace local SEM tactics and organic SEO if they’re going to create successful and meaningful relationships with their patients.

More importantly, they need to:

  • Embrace social media
  • Produce empathetic patient experiences
  • Speak to your true audience
  • Utilize reviews

If managing your organization’s online marketing sounds like something outside of your wheelhouse, let’s chat, Evolve Digital Labs is here to help.

Evolve Digital Labs specializes in healthcare and medical SEO, SEM and website analytics for organizations large and small.

Did you enjoy the read? Please, let us know. If not, let us know too. We want to hear from you so Evolve can innovate our content and improve your journey to success in digital marketing – especially in digital healthcare marketing.

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