Managing Your Practice

Using the Internet in your practice. Part 3: Maximizing your online reach through SEO and pay-per-click

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To build a practice, you need to be where patients can find you easily. Today, that is at the top of Google’s search results page.


 

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It’s high time to go beyond relying on YellowPages.com to attract patients to your practice. According to research and analysis company BIA/Kelsey, “nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally.”1 Today’s patients are Internet savvy and expect their ObGyn not only to be a good physician who diagnoses and treats their conditions but also to demonstrate his or her electronic technical abilities, through online communication, a Web site, email newsletter outreach, and, yes, a social media presence.

Yet, being the best in your field or having an incredible Web site won’t matter if your existing patients and potential new patients can’t find you on the Internet. The solution? Get your Web site onto the first page of Google’s search results. Why? Google is still by far the dominant search engine in the United States, and it has the overwhelming ability to offer you an endless supply of patients. And can your practice survive without a steady flow of new patients?

Type a keyword into the Google search window and dozens, hundreds, or thousands of sites may become visible. Google lists 10 sites per page, however, and when was the last time you went to the second, third, or fourth results page looking for something? If your Web site does not appear on the first results page, you are essentially invisible. The good news is that you can easily and inexpensively reach the top of a search engine’s results page by knowing and applying best practices for effective search engine optimization (SEO; a free endeavor, although your time investment should considered) and/or utilizing a pay-per-click (PPC) service (for a fee that’s comparable to what you used to pay for your old Yellow Pages listing). In this article, we aim to provide to you the know-how to embark on these endeavors by defining SEO and PPC and relaying effective principles for marketing your practice to potential new patients.


What is SEO?

SEO refers to techniques that help your Web site rank higher in organic (natural) results, which helps your site, and you, become more visible to people who are seeking your services. Search engines specialize in offering Web surfers the best information about their search terms, or keywords. To do this, Google uses more than 200 different algorithms, some of which we know but most of which are not published.

The algorithms are used to determine where your Web site ranks according to a number of factors relevant to the content and set-up of each page of your Web site (on-page SEO) as well as everything you do outside of your Web site (off-page SEO) to enhance your SEO rankings. This relevance is calculated by looking at both on-page and off-page factors, including:

  • what you are doing in relation to your competition
  • how long your Web site has been active
  • search engine submission
  • article submission
  • directory submission
  • linking strategies.

You have to work on both on-page and off-page factors many times a month to convince the search engines that you are a Web site worth visiting. Over time, your site will start to rise in the rankings and gain qualified traffic. Then you can concentrate on converting those Web site visitors to office-based patients.

A warning: If you use unethical tactics to get your Web site on the first page of the search results, Google will catch up to you—and your Web-site rankings will plummet.

Five important steps to increase SEO

There’s a system to reach the top of any search engine’s results page. The most important steps are to:

  1. Use keywords in your Web site coding, or page description (called meta tags).
  2. Use keywords in your Web site copy.
  3. Develop in-bound links.
  4. Post new keyword-related content regularly—typically accomplished through a blog.
  5. Integrate your keywords in social media postings.

1 and 2. Keywords are key
Keywords are what an Internet surfer enters into a search function and what the search engine crawlers hunt for. The crawlers then direct the surfer to the Web site that is perceived as the best source of information.

Here are the most popular keywords used by potential patients looking for ­ObGyns: obstetrician, gynecologist, gynecology, vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, breast self-exam, breast cancer screening, prolapsed bladder, pelvic pain, and adolescent gynecology. You also should include your city’s name as a keyword.

Use keywords in Web site coding and copy. Unless you are experienced in Web development, you’re better off hiring a professional who knows Internet coding to help you develop HTML meta tags, anchor text, a sitemap, etc. You easily can incorporate keywords in the copy on your Web site, but the keyword density should be no more than approximately 3% to 5% of the copy. (If it is more than 5%, it is considered “stuffing,” and not looked on kindly by Google.)

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