Patient-Centric Marketing: A New Old Concept

It  goes without saying that patients aren’t robots, yet many doctors have ended up with their marketing budget dedicated to trying to win over the Google robot using “SEO” tactics, rather than on delivering on the needs of online researchers, i.e., prospective patients.

I’ve seen countless examples of how a monolithic SEO-driven marketing strategy leaves a dead space, where doctors end up with a web presence that’s uniquely designed for algorithms. For instance, I encountered this SEO spammy content on the homepage of a medical practice:

SEO spam content does not help patients build trust in doctors

Spammy site content doesn’t help patients build trust in a doctor. It has the opposite effect.

SEO tactics commonplace in our industry include:

  • repeating keywords like “New York City Plastic Surgeon” dozens of times on each page (also called “stuffing”)
  • buying or building web links from irrelevant websites. Do you know who is linking to you? Check out the Open Site Explorer). Side note: At RealSelf we are constantly deleting comments with spammy links that go back to legitimate doctor websites. We assume these come from SEO consultants who are still using tactics from 5 years ago. I’ll post examples if you’d like to see it.
  • posting content exclusively to the practice blog about things nobody cares about, where there isn’t a single comment or sign of engagement
  • propagating the practice across numerous domains, which tends to dilute the doctor’s overall web authority

These tactics backfire because Google now penalizes sites that “over optimize”, and just as importantly, it projects the wrong image of a doctor. Consumers have low tolerance to sites that aren’t designed to help them complete a task, and SEO-focused doctor websites are almost always disconnected from people’s online research objectives. Simply put, they fail to generate trust.

With the rise in significance of social media for all forms of purchase decisions–including aesthetics– doctors have a unique opportunity to both rank well on Google, and deliver value to online consumers. Google factors in “social signals”, such as online reviews or authorship of answers, because consumers like social content. It helps them get past marketing hype and spam. It engenders trust.

I recently delivered the presentation on this subject (below) at the Cosmetic Bootcamp symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. As the title alludes, SEO-focused thinking is dead. Social media is alive.

The new marketing solution is to go back to the old idea of word of mouth. This means doctors have to shift from pleasing the Google robot to a web presence that’s patient-centric.

Doctor Takeaways

1. Own your “namespace” in social media

As cosmetic surgery consumers spend more time on social media sites, that’s increasingly where they’ll seek out providers. At the very least, make sure you stake your claim to your name and practice on Facebook, Twitter, RealSelf and other social sites and ensure your biographic and contact information are up to date. These websites serve as the modern form of the phone book, so you want your bio and contact details to be accurate.

2. Engage with people before they’re ready to commit

Potential patients are hungry for information, driving them to sites like RealSelf, where they can ask questions, get insights from other consumers and interact with doctors without feeling they’re being sold to. Sharing your expertise at this critical point in their purchase journey demonstrates the patient-centric philosophy that makes social media such a powerful force.

3. Continue engaging with people after their procedures

From books to hotels to tummy tucks, people are making more and more of their purchase decisions based on what others have to say about the product or procedure in question. In fact, according to a recent RealSelf survey, more than 90% of respondents said doctor reviews were “important” or “very important” to them. And since 87% of the reviews on RealSelf are positive, those post-procedure reviews can be exceedingly important to doctors, as well.

About TomS

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf. Tom is a frequent speaker at medical conferences about practice marketing, reputation management, and competing on the web. You can follow him at www.twitter.com/seery

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