If your medical practice isn’t emphasizing online marketing and SEO, then you are missing out on a lot of potential patients. When people are considering a new cosmetic procedure, they don’t drive around town looking for billboards and neighborhood clinics. They also aren’t heading to the local library for outdated medical books. Americans have learned that searching online is the fast and easy way to get information and find local services. SEO is critical to making sure that your practice isn’t lost in the shuffle of search results. Here are a few of the most important aspects of marketing your business online.

Establish a Goal
Building a website is only the first step toward attracting new patients online. Would you like to reach nearby communities or generate interest in the latest procedures? If the community is already searching for the services you provide, then you may want to focus on making your practice outshine the competition in search results. While it would be nice to rank well for every service you provide, SEO is a long-term process where it’s best to prioritize key services. An online marketing campaign is more effective when your goals are defined clearly.

Use Analytics
When a website is in development, developers will commonly have it “live”, but hidden from search engines. So, when it’s launched, developers commonly forget to make the website crawlable by Google and other search engines.

Another rookie oversight is the failure to use Google analytics. Without analytics, you are blind to essential information about your web traffic. Trying to optimize a website without analytics is like treating a patient you can’t see. If the bounce rate is high or visitors rarely view more than two pages, you have a symptom that can be addressed with upgrades and changes to the site. If the content on your landing page is driving away traffic, maybe that page needs a facelift. Once you begin an online marketing campaign, analytics will provide a benchmark and basis for comparison about whether the campaign is beneficial.

Make sure you own your analytics account. Often designers and developers will set up Analytics within their parent account meaning you can’t take it with you.

Leverage Social Media
For a medical practice that provides elective procedures, an active Facebook page is just as impactful as your website. Your website provides credibility for your practice, describing a number of big-ticket procedures, but Facebook makes your practice relatable. Building a relatable brand leads to conversions. In fact, 86 percent of small business owners feel that Facebook is a valuable marketing tool for their brand. Much like with the website, just creating a Facebook page isn’t enough. Consistent, engaging posts are needed to build your brand and reach out to people in the community. Marketing on social media allows you to target specific demographics within your community, making the most of your advertising dollar. For more helpful tips, check out this free guidebook to growing your medical practice on social media, including confidentiality guidelines and how to use paid promotion on Facebook.

Develop Original Content
When it comes to your website and social media, content is king. Your website should not have tips and explanations that have been recycled from other sites. Content that has been directly copied verbatim from other websites will result in ranking penalties from Google. Almost as negative, website content that is poorly written or misleading may drive readers away from your practice. The best solution is to invest time and effort into meaningful content that’s relevant to potential patients. Regular updates on social media can be time-consuming, and a small practice may not have anyone on staff familiar with the business side of online marketing. In these cases, outsourcing the work of producing quality content is often more efficient than hiring someone in-house.

Target the Right Keywords
Dovetailed into defining goals and developing original content, keywords make sure that search engines understand the primary services of your practice. Popular procedures are a good place to begin. Methods that were common in past decades, like keyword stuffing, can get your website penalized by search engines. Natural, original content is the new ideal, but that doesn’t mean that keywords are dead and gone. You still need to find natural ways to include keywords in many of the same places. Meta descriptions, title tags, headings, and alt text for images are all effective places to incorporate search terms naturally. Unlike in the past, you now need to make sure that any keywords are appropriate for the given page and occur organically within the content.

If your website is failing to bring in new patients, then these best practices could be just what the doctor ordered. A thriving online presence is the result of choices that consistently promote visibility and quality over time. Marketing through social media and PPC advertising also helps, but a generous promotional budget isn’t enough to compensate for unoriginal content and keyword stuffing. Future patients are searching for your services online—utilize these guidelines to make it easier for them.