If you want to make a good first impression on prospective patients, you should Google yourself and your practice. Current findings show that in the United States, a majority of individuals research doctors online before making appointments by viewing their websites and doctor rating websites. Whether or not you have established an active online presence, if your name is associated with negative comments or articles, it is not going to go well for you with regards to marketing yourself and your practice. Patients can always find a doctor’s website on Google; however, it is far more likely that they will come across your website and make an appointment to see you if you appear high up in search engine results.
Ultimately, patients want to find a doctor that they can trust and rely on to ensure their health and well-being. They cooperate with Google’s search engine in an effort to see if you possess the traits and expertise they are looking for in a doctor. So, should you be aware of how you are presented on Google? Absolutely.
Does your website show up in search engine results? What happens when your practice’s address is wrong and Google says that you are a restaurant and not a medical practice? What happens if you find that your practice’s website is outdated? You should always be aware of how you are presented on Google because after all, it is how today’s patients will find you. “More patients than ever are going online to research their doctor. According to a study from Pew Internet, 44 percent of patients online do so. And about one in five use physician rating sites. In my own practice, I estimate that about 10 to 15 percent of patients have found me through my online presence, whether it’s my blog or my LinkedIn profile. It’s important for doctors to Google themselves at least once a week and see what comes up, because that’s what patients are doing. Physicians don’t want to be defined by a negative news story, or a bad review from an online physician rating site. That’s why it’s important that they take control of their online reputation before someone else does,” said Dr. Kevin Pho, internal medicine physician and founder of KevinMD.com.
First things first, you want to make sure that you are using a private browsing window before Googling yourself. This is known as an ‘incognito window’ and it is important because it allows you to conduct a neutral search on yourself, regardless of your browser history and other websites where you might be logged into. From here, you will get an overview of how others perceive you and the services that you have to offer. You can add or get rid of anything that you do not care for and you can even turn to services that will effectively protect your online reputation. They may cost money, but if your budget allows it, they can help streamline the process for you in the long run.
Like any professional, you probably have a strong interest in seeing your name and your practice’s information on page 1 of Google search engine results. So, you may be wondering, how do I get on page 1? The reality of Google is that it is a tricky platform. It changes its formula for search engine results thousands of times on an annual basis. This is because search engine rankings result in trillions of dollars’ worth of business transactions and Google does not want individuals ‘hacking’ the system to benefit large corporations only.
One approach to appearing on Google’s search engine results is through online advertising. Nowadays, most search engine ads are pay-per-click messages. You send in a private bid to Google, Yahoo or Bing so that your ad can appear in certain geographic locations that are targeted to users’ specific searches. This way, you pay only if a user clicks on your ad and goes directly to your website. A second approach to appearing on Google’s search engine results is through online maps. By registering your practice’s location with Google, you can guide users to finding you. A third approach to appearing on Google’s search engine results is through organic rankings. Organic rankings are rankings that you earn by answering users’ questions and concerns more accurately than your competitors. Sites that you link directly to your main website have to provide reliable and accurate information on topics of users’ interests. In your case, you have to provide legitimate health-related information in an attempt to attract current and prospective patients with the quality of your content. A fourth approach to appearing on Google’s search engine results is through starting a blog. Starting a blog is a great way to take control of your reputation on Google. If you blog on a regular basis and include SEO in your blog entries, Google can easily associate you with specific topics that users search for, thereby increasing your exposure. A fifth approach to appearing on Google’s search engine results is through managing online patient reviews. Through the good and the bad, online patient reviews are an effective way to manage your online reputation, boost rankings, promote your practice, and improve patient care.
Today, Google is all about quality content. In fact, 80-90% of your chances of getting on page 1 of Google has to do with answering patients’ questions on the internet and doing so in a legitimate and accurate way. So, if you can educate patients with your professional knowledge on certain topics, you can build your online reputation for many years after. “Studies show that a LinkedIn profile gets ranked high on a Google search. So, when patients Google a physician’s name, that profile will be ranked high, perhaps pushing down the effects of third-party rating sites or negative news articles. Some doctors may choose to stop there, and that will already put them ahead of the curve. But for some, they may want to expand their social media activity onto Twitter or Facebook, and engage with patients. Doing so expands their so-called digital footprint and makes their online presence that much more visible,” said Dr. Pho.
If you think about it, there is very little that individuals do not use the internet to search for nowadays and health-related searches are no different. SEO for doctors can help you rank your website high on search engine results by using specific keywords associated with your line of business. By far, SEO has made an immense impact on generating internet traffic and while it may take some time and effort to provide noteworthy results, it can help build your online reputation in the long run. In turn, you can generate leads that will turn prospective patients into current patients. “Health providers need to be proactive about their online reputation. Passivity isn’t an option. Whether doctors know it or not, they already have a presence online, likely from third-party rating sites. But this information can be inaccurate, or worse, contain negative patient reviews. Is that the first online impression that you want to give patients? Take charge of how you appear on Google. Proactively define yourself online. An online reputation will soon be just as important as a reputation in the community,” said Dr. Pho.
Have you Googled yourself recently? Is Google’s impression of you correct? Now that you have done your research, you can control how others perceive you and what you want them to learn about you and from you. As you go forward with your online persona, remember that you should not post anything that you do not want to be public. As a doctor, you should be seen as a professional and while your online persona does not have to be perfect, it should be honest and match the real you.
- Perform frequent Google searches to discover how you appear online.
- Register your address properly so your practice is easy to find.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile updated.