Online Search and the Patient Journey
Posted on Apr 13, 2021 by Marilyn Bunderson
The patient journey most often begins with using the internet to find a new doctor, and that means you need to show up in online search results if you want to attract new patients and grow your practice.
Finding a doctor is the first step in a patient’s journey, and that process has matured with the digital age. Patients no longer rely exclusively on referrals from their primary care physician. The internet gives them access to the information necessary to find the best doctor to provide their care, and that’s where they turn to find a new doctor and/or vet the doctors they’ve been referred to.
Online Search Stats
Google is the search engine of choice for most U.S. citizens, with 88.6% choosing Google over Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo. That means it’s especially important to show up on Google search when patients search for care online.
Take a look at these other statistics that highlight the importance of online search in the patient journey:
- 85% of people in the U.S. go online daily. The internet has worked its way into our daily lives, changing the way we choose a restaurant, acquire new knowledge, and even find a new doctor. You need to ‘hang out your shingle’ online if you want to be seen by patients looking for a new doctor.
- 3.5 billion Google searches are conducted every day. That’s a lot of searches. Google has become the default search engine, and the internet is an amazing repository of information. As consumers we expect to find what we’re looking for quickly, and if the information isn’t there, we move on.
- 93% of consumers used the internet to find local businesses in 2020. Consumers crave convenience. They search online for a business “near me” so they can check out their local options. They want to find businesses nearby with hours that meet their schedule. Google Maps provides the answers consumers need with Google My Business (GMB) local listings.
- 92% of searchers pick a business on the first page of online search results. With so much information instantly at our fingertips, we’ve perhaps become a little impatient as we search online. Google has made it as easy as possible for consumers to find the information they need in the first page of search results, especially with GMB listings, which show up in results as a three-pack of listings. The listings provide instant access to all the information a consumer needs.
- #1 most valuable local marketing service in 2020 was GMB optimization. If you want your GMB listing to show up in Google’s three-pack of results, make sure your listing is well optimized. A survey of marketing experts recently found that GMB optimization was the most important factor in showing up in search results.
- 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020. Consumers wanting to learn about a business often turn to online reviews to get unbiased opinions. With healthcare, patients want to learn as much as they can about the care a doctor provides. If a business or a doctor has no reviews, consumers are likely to keep scrolling.
- 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews a month old or less. Recency is important when it comes to reviews for most consumers, and it’s no different for healthcare consumers starting out on their patient journey. If you want to instill confidence in those who search online for care, make sure you’re continually gathering reviews.
- 90% of patients use online reviews to evaluate physicians. Patients are writing reviews for the doctors they see. Make sure your patients are leaving reviews for you by sending them a personalized text or email asking for a review. Most consumers are happy to do so, and they are more likely to leave that review if the process is easy.
- 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. When a patient wants to know if a doctor is good at what they do, they turn to online reviews to get that information, and they turn specifically to reviews. It used to be that we would trust another doctor to tell us who to go to, or we would ask friends and neighbors to recommend someone. These days patients trust online reviews to provide crowd-sourced, unbiased information they can rely on.
- 71% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. This is huge. When patients are finding a doctor, 71% of the time they look at reviews first. If you don’t have good reviews, or if you don’t have enough recent reviews, you may be passed by on principle. Get your reviews in shape—they’re important.
- 94% of patients use reviews as a step in the process of finding a doctor. In addition to the 71% of patients who use reviews as their first step in finding a doctor, 23% look at reviews at some point in the process. That means just about everyone who is looking for a new doctor turns to reviews, underscoring the absolute importance of reviews in the patient journey.
Your Digital Marketing Tools
To show up online you need to make sure you have the right tools at your disposal and that you are using them well. The patient journey begins online, therefore it is essential that you make the most of your online visibility so patients can see you when they search for medical care. Though not an exhaustive list, all of the following play a significant role in your visibility and will help you show up in online search:
Google My Business listing
Your GMB listing is free advertising provided by Google. Claim and optimize your listing to improve your chance of appearing in Google’s three-pack. Google has done a good job of cornering the market with online search. They work hard to provide everything a consumer is looking for so they can keep traffic on pages they own. Take advantage of the tools they freely offer to win their game and get seen when patients search for medical care in critical moments.
Ask your patients to leave you a review, and make it easy for them by sending them a personalized text or email with a link. Having a growing number of reviews on your GMB listing will benefit you in two ways:
- It shows Google that your listing is active and relevant, increasing the chance of the listing appearing in the three-pack of Local Search results.
- The more reviews you have the more accurate your star rating will be (and that generally equates to a higher star rating). Every doctor receives an occasional negative review, but getting your silent majority of happy patients talking will mitigate the effects of any less-than-stellar reviews you receive.
Since 94% of patients turn to online reviews in their search for a new doctor, it’s important for you to have current reviews that better reflect the high level of care you provide.
Large hospital systems have used predictive analytics in their marketing campaigns for years, but the data sets have been cost prohibitive for small practices to consider. That has changed. Large data sets are now available to practices of any size.
When consumers go online they leave a trail of information that is collected and used to predict their future behavior. You can see how effective it is every time it feels like Google or Facebook ads have read your mind. Data sets can be filtered and analyzed by predictive tools to find individuals at high risk for specific medical conditions. Once identified, you can focus your marketing spend directly on those at risk for the medical conditions you want to treat, making best use of your marketing spend.
Paid Google ads show up at the top of online search results. When paired with results of predictive analytics, you can focus on sending ads to high-risk people when they search online for medical care. Since the ads show up at the top of search results, this greatly increases your online visibility. If you have an ad show up and you also have your GMB listing in the Local Search three-pack, you’ve captured two of four prime spots.
You can send Facebook and Instagram ads to targeted individuals as well, putting your ads in front of those high-risk people on multiple platforms.
With the right platform and integrations in place, it is possible to track the calls that come in from your marketing efforts. Tracking the appointments made from your listing and your ads allows you to easily calculate your patient acquisition cost (PAC) and return on investment (ROI).
How SocialClimb Can Help
Our platform integrates seamlessly with most practice management systems, putting the power in your hands to improve your visibility in online search so you can show up in the patient journey in critical moments. We’ll help you claim and optimize your GMB listings, gather reviews from your patients, find your ideal patients with our predictive analytics, send target ads, and track the results. And you can manage it all from a single location.
We will guide you in fully automating your patient acquisition efforts, helping you grow your practice so you can remain independent. Please schedule a demo with one of our team members today by calling 866-338-8270 or click on the link below.
Posted in Automated Practice Marketing