Managing Your Practice

Website improvements


 

Unless you’ve been hibernating for the past decade, you know how important websites have become to the continued success of private practices. Nowadays, almost half of all Americans (and nearly all millennials) seek out doctors online. But your practice website should be doing a lot more than simply describing your practice. How many visitors to your site actually schedule an appointment? With a few relatively simple but important modifications, you can convert casual website viewers to patients.

Start with a good title, one that not only describes your practice but also anticipates how prospective patients will search for you – usually by specialty plus geographic location. My site’s title, for example, is “Belleville Dermatology Center,” so when someone searches for a dermatologist near Belleville, N.J., my site will invariably rank near the top of their search results.

Follow with an understandable URL. Search engines use URLs to determine how well your site, or a portion of it, matches search criteria. URLs also need to make sense to searchers, especially when they link specific areas of expertise (more on that in a minute). For example, a URL like “bellevilledermatology[dot]com/?p=89021” is meaningless to anyone except programmers; but “bellevilledermatology[dot]com/psoriasistreatments” obviously leads to a page about psoriasis treatments. Search engines look for not only the most relevant, but also the most helpful and user-friendly, answers to a user’s query.
Incidentally, if the URL for your site is not your own name, you should register your name as a separate domain name – even if you never use it – to be sure that a trickster or troll, or someone with the same name but a bad reputation, doesn’t get it.

Business woman sitting at her desk and browsing on her computer. Georgijevic/E /Getty Images

Continue with a good meta description. That’s the grayish text that follows the title and URL in search results. Searchers will read it to confirm that your site is what they seek, so make sure it describes exactly what you do, including any areas of special expertise. Aggressive marketers will sometimes pad their descriptions with a wide variety of other specialties, services, and locations, hoping to gain inclusion in a larger pool of search results. That tactic – “keyword stuffing” in IT parlance – is not only ineffective, but search engines tend to ignore sites that use it. An accurate, honest description works best.


Describe your principal services in detail. You never know which specific service a prospective patient is searching for, so describe everything you offer. Don’t try to summarize everything on a single page; relevance is determined by how deeply a topic is covered, so each principal service should have a detailed description on its own page. Not only will your skills become more visible to search engines, but you can also use the space to enumerate your qualifications and expertise in each area. Whenever possible, write your descriptions in question-and-answer form. Searchers tend to ask questions (“what is the best…?”), particularly in voice searches. Search engines increasingly value sites that ask and answer common questions.

How does your site look on small screens? More than half of all searches are now made on smartphones, so the more “mobile friendly” your site is, the higher it will be ranked. Besides, prospective patients who are forced to scroll forever, or zoom in to tap a link, are likely to become frustrated and move on. Mobile searchers prefer sites that provide the best experience for the least amount of effort, and rankings tend to reflect that preference.

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