August 14, 2013 at 3:58 pm #4616pathwaysoftwareParticipant
Attracting new business is often the biggest cause of heartache for most small businesses, not just healthcare professionals.
So, what to do?
Here’s a brief list of practical things that you can do to get started, followed by some slightly more detailed guidance on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
If you’re wondering what SEO has to do with you, please maintain an open mind. There are changes afoot in that field that will benefit practitioners (like you) that genuinely enhance the lives of their clients!
Also, bear in mind that Google now estimates that 97% of people search for local businesses (like yours) online.
A Note of Caution! If you’re not a believer in the internet or having a website, it’s probably not worthwhile reading any further! Most (but not all) of what I have covered below relates to driving traffic to your website
Here are a few quick things that you can do to drive traffic to your site and clients through your door:
– Sign up for Google Places for Business – it’s FREE and you will likely appear on Page 1 for any location-based search in your area (provided you don’t have loads of competition who have already done it)
– Set up a simple Google Adwords campaign – choose keywords that are relevant to your target market, create an ad, allocate a small budget (i.e. £2/day) and then make sure you do your utmost to convert the clicks to your site into business – this obviously hinges on the quality of your site to a large extent. If you don’t find you’re getting business from the Campaigns you can turn them off immediately.
– Also try some Facebook Campaigns – very similar to AdWords but your target market is defined by “interests” not keywords.
– Register with Health Insurance companies where applicable. I know currently a number of the providers aren’t taking on private practitioners in certain specialities. As part of the application process any evidence you can provide of Outcomes (PROM’s), Satisfaction, and Recommendations will help your cause.
– Register with appropriate Online Directories. These generally fall into one of two camps i) Those that are run by professional bodies where membership includes a listing ii) independent providers that will charge you for a listing. To establish if its worthwhile doing either, perform an incognito search for your services in your area and see if they appear on Page 1. If they don’t, they’re nothing worth being in.
– Local Newspaper editorial (NOT ADVERTISING) – in some respects relates to the points that I will discuss about SEO later. Essentially by demonstrating expertise in a subject you will get business. These days features editors are really stretched so if you go to them with a nice piece about the “Pressures of working life in the 21st Century” they’ll probably bite your arm off. Additionally, most have some kind of online presence so it also helps your SEO!
– Ultra Local Publications have become very popular in the UK. Generally they target small geographical communities (5000-10,000 households) delivering a free publication listing local businesses and a bit of local news. They’re generally very cheap – £20 for a small ad per month
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) – Changing Times
Why should SEO matter to me? If you accept the premise that more than 90% of people search for local businesses online, you naturally want to appear at the top of Page 1 when a potential client types keywords or phrases into Google that relate to your area of expertise.
Historically, this “black-art” (of SEO) was focused on the way you structured your website, how densely you packed it with keywords and how aggressively you secured back-links (external links to your site). Of course there’s more science to it than this, but this is the essence of the way things have been since Google dominated search.
But now, thankfully, things are changing. Google has introduced something called Semantic Search in a bid to stop people from “gaming” the system and appearing in search results where perhaps they shouldn’t.
This isn’t the place to go into detail about these changes but the guiding principles that underpin this new approach are:
Which is great news if 1) you genuinely enhance the lives of your clients 2) you know your subject matter 3) 1 & 2 are then conveyed via your online presence. You should be able to tick all three of these!
This doesn’t mean you should discard the old staples of SEO. Your site still needs to be well structured and you need to use the correct terms in your copy, but this won’t cut it going forwards. The number of datapoints that Google is going to utilise to determine where you appear in search is going to increase significantly along with the inferences (and connections) between those datapoints.
SEO – Practical Next Steps
I deliberately started this piece with some quick tactical things that you can do to get customers coming in through the door. SEO by its very nature is a slow burn, driven in part by the initial clients that you see.
By following the steps I have outlined below continuously over a period of 3-9 months, you will start to see significant results. That may seem like a long time and a significant commitment, but don’t forget 85% of search attention is focused on the top 5 results on Page 1 – if you’re not there you’re potentially missing out on business. If you are currently in Position 1 of Page 1 and you’re not doing any of this stuff you might find your position falling over the coming months/years.
– If you don’t have a blog on your site or some vehicle for you to easily add content, you should get one added to your site ASAP. This will enable you to publish interesting content (to your target audience) that will demonstrate your reputation & authority
– Set up accounts on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and possibly LinkedIn – depending on your area of specialisation
– Create your own original content – allocate 30 minutes at the start of the day to this and post it on your blog. It’ll be a slog at first, but you will reap the rewards. Don’t just limit it to written content. If you can produce videos (nothing flashy) or pictographs, they work tremendously
– If you don’t have the time to write original content every day, use Google Alerts to pinpoint fresh, RELEVANT content that you can comment on in your blog – always taking care to credit the source
– Push this content out through all social networks – most importantly Google+. More on this later
– As soon as is humanly practical get testimonials from your clients and post them on your website, with their consent obviously – this helps to establish reputation but is nowhere near as useful as client-authored recommendation via social networks – obviously this is dependent on your area of specialisation
A Word on Google+
To implement the new search approach that I outlined above, Google needs access to vast amounts of data (shares, comments, recommendations, content etc.). Unfortunately the biggest sources of this type of content were/are Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Instagram. But Google doesn’t have unfettered access to these platforms (with the exception of YouTube) so it launched Google+, its own Social Networking platform. Doubtless many of you aren’t on it or don’t believe you have time for another social networking site but you NEED to get on it.
Content distributed, shared and +1′d (liked) on Google+ gets greater prominence when Google is ranking your site.
Article by Bob Bond
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