Google and Healthcare: How to Understand Patient Behavior and Opportunities
by Fernando Mercado
Now more than ever, people are consulting “Dr. Google” before they visit a healthcare provider, and even after appointments, 60% of people rely on search engines to validate the information received from their doctors. Whether you’re a regional healthcare center or a private medical practice, your marketing strategy must take the Internet-savvy patient into account, as recent data from Google shows that one out of every 20 searches is health-related.
These statistics send a very clear signal to healthcare providers that the patient journey has dramatically evolved over the past 5-10 years, and if you don’t adapt your marketing strategies to follow suit, you could be missing out on a wealth of opportunities to grow your business. Here’s how to leverage the extensive reach of Google to expand and better serve your target audience.
1. How do you ensure you’re there when people are looking for you?
It’s going to be difficult for potential patients to find you if your website has not been optimized for Google search. Fine-tuning your site for important SEO factors such as speed, layout, content, keyword density, etc., makes it easier for your website to be crawled and indexed by Google’s search engine spiders, which can help you gain more visibility in organic search results.
Optimizing your site may also provide opportunities for exposure via a relatively new search engine feature known as Google Health Condition Cards. These downloadable information sheets appear in the sidebar of certain health-related search queries, and they provide basic facts about health conditions that users frequently search for.
You can download these cards and make them available on your website to create a helpful information resource for your clients. While the cards themselves won’t be indexed by Google, they still boost the relevance of your site for the associated keywords, and improve site performance for the end user as well.
Another must-have element to add to your search engine strategy is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. By placing paid ads that appear alongside search engine results for relevant health-related queries, you reach potential patients at the peak of their interest.
Your PPC efforts can also be greatly enhanced by taking advantage of AdWords Extensions, which are a type of ad format that allows you to display extra information about your business (you can read more about this helpful feature here. In addition, making your ads location-specific boosts their relevance, and ensures your marketing dollars are funneled only toward the audience most likely to respond.
2. How can you provide immediate information?
Instant gratification is the hallmark of the Internet age, and this especially holds true when it comes to searching for health information: 1 in 2 users cite speed and immediacy as the main reasons they search for health information online. Your job as a medical marketer is to determine what types of information your users are most likely to search for, and then provide that information as quickly as possible.
One of the most effective ways to present information in today’s digitally driven world is through online video. According to data published by Google, 56% of patients will search directly on YouTube for information regarding a health concern. Take advantage of this massive audience (remember, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world behind Google itself) by creating targeted videos that address the specific concerns of your target client base. You can also reach your intended audience through placing ads on other YouTube videos that relate to your keyword theme or topic.
3. How can you use search to drive different programs within your medical facility?
If you’re responsible for marketing a varied range of medical services, you can further refine your advertising efforts through creating highly segmented, keyword-specific PPC campaigns for each program/unit.
The key to winning with this strategy is to thoroughly understand the search habits of the potential patients who would be interested in each type of program/unit. Then, develop a hyper-focused PPC campaign that not only incorporates the most common search keywords in that niche, but also includes location-specific terms that will further narrow down your audience to those who will most likely respond.
4. What experience does your website provide on mobile devices?
Sixty percent of people search for information on health conditions from a smartphone or tablet, so if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you could be losing out on a large number of potential patients. This is especially true in terms of capturing those mobile users who are searching for healthcare providers in close proximity to where they live, and might even be in transit as they’re searching.
If you want to tap into the vast audience that Google can provide for your business, you’ll need to adopt a comprehensive marketing strategy that takes your potential patients’ search habits into account. Keep the above ideas in mind and consult with a Premier Google Partner like 2060 Digital to help you leverage this immense potential.
2060 Digital was recently recognized as a top digital agency in the U.S. by the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin/Engaging News Project. Read more here.