How to Promote Physicians Online

Learn tips for driving qualified visitors to your online provider directory, as well as how to create effective physician profiles, complete with engaging bios and strategic calls to action.

Filling physician schedules is one of your top priorities. And with the majority of health consumers turning to the Web to find doctors and research treatments, promoting your doctors online is more important than ever. Watch this video and learn how to develop and implement effective tactics to engage potential patients online. You’ll learn tips for driving qualified visitors to your online provider directory, as well as how to create effective physician profiles, complete with engaging bios and strategic calls to action. Throughout this video you’ll see examples of successful online physician promotion and leave armed with ideas you can start implementing right away.


David Sturtz: We’re going to jump right in here right off the bat, in thinking about how we’re going to promote physicians into talking about what patients want, because typically, our goal with promoting physicians is to actually acquire patients. That’s what we’re aiming towards, and so of course we want to start with what do the patients actually want to learn about physicians and how are they are making decisions about the physicians that they’re going to choose. So we went out and looked at some survey information. And this is a great breakdown of the things that patients find to be important when they are looking at choosing a health care provider.

Understanding What Patients Want

And as you scan through this list of some of the top factors here, there’s some kind of baseline criteria around insurance and things like board certified, but you see the top half dozen or so, things other than insurance, are all really just impressions and qualitative information, how long it takes to get an appointment. It’s not always the things that we focus a lot of time and energy on as we’re thinking through physician profiles and thinking through the physician directory, and so it’s important to bring it back to what is top of mind for patients as we’re looking at this information. I should say that this information is from a 2014 survey from the Associated Press and the NORC at University of Chicago.

Looking further at that survey, they asked patients what makes a high quality doctor, what do patients interpret as being high quality. And you can see far and away, the number one answer here is that they actually listen to you and that they’re attentive to the patient, more important than actually have an accurate diagnosis, more important than the education and training and board certification, things like that. They don’t necessarily associate those with high patient quality or high quality of care. It’s really about their bedside manner, whether or not they listen, and a lot of those soft touch skills.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, thinking about what makes a poor quality doctor, it’s the exact opposite of that. It’s a doctor that is not listening to them when they’re in there. They don’t feel like they have time for them, and again, a lot of quality qualitative sorts of measures around how their impression is of that overall experience. So we’ve taken this and broken this down into a two-phase or two-step process, two different levels of selection; one being around the qualification, who’s in or out of the pool of possible physicians that may fit a patient’s criteria, and then a more refined selection step as far as how closely does a physician match my personal preferences.

And so just to run through these, on the left we have those qualification criteria. You’ll see these carried on throughout today’s presentation and the way that this weaves into pretty much every aspect of physician promotion, but these tend to be black and white sorts of things. The provider either except your insurance or they don’t.

They’re either close enough for you to get to or they’re not. They may or may not be accepting new patients, and they may or may not treat the actual condition that you have. Their specialty may just not be a match. So this narrows that overall pool, and then it gets much more nuanced as a patient is trying to evaluate things like likability. Is this going to be a good personality match for me? Do other people trust this provider? Are they actually good at their job, that they have the right experience and qualifications and history with the actual diagnosis that I have or the reason that I’m going to see them? And are they convenient? Not just is it within maybe an hour driving distance but is it…Especially if it’s like a primary care physician, is it something that’s close to my work or my home? And a lot of these adjust as you’re going from that primary care relationship up towards a specialist.

Those selection criteria, your tolerance for things may change a lot if you’re looking for an oncologist versus your day-to-day primary care. Are you going to be willing to travel a lot further and be a lot more inconvenienced than maybe that day-to-day interaction? So just some things to think about, and you’ll see, like I said, as these weave through all of the levels of physician promotion through today’s webinar. When we talk about physician promotion, there is a whole world of things that we could talk about, everything from social media into the rankings and ratings and paid placement, all over the place.

So I wanted to be clear up front what we’re going to focus on today, is really going to be around the physician directory, the profiles that you have on your website, the way that folks get to those within the website, and then branching out and we’re going to focus heavily on search engine optimization and getting people from search engines onto those profiles. And we’re going to touch a little bit on paid placement and some social media things as well, branching out into just a bit of reputation management. But the bulk of it is really going to be around the content that you control and the findability [SP] of that within search engines. And to really kick that off, Maggie’s going to jump in here and talk about what she knows best, which is the content that makes up the physician directory and those profiles.

The Importance Of Answering Patient Questions

Maggie Wright: Thank you, David. So where do you start? Starting with what David explained, a physician’s profile really needs to include information that potential patients would need or want to know. It should help them make a decision about going or not going with a particular provider. So just to recap and summarize very quickly what David mentioned, we understand that consumers are looking for insurance information, convenient locations, availability to accept me as a patient, and conditions treated. That’s the qualify phase. And we understand that after they gather that information, they’re evaluating which among the qualified physicians they’ll choose, based on likeability, trusted, endorsements, expertise and convenience.

However, this is commonly what you find on physician profiles: profiles with less than acceptable information, inaccurate and oftentimes unfinished information, and we find frustrating ways to get that information and find that information. So let’s take a step outside of the health care industry for a moment. We can look to other industries with professionals who provide services, to see how profiles can be engaging, exciting and productive. This is a veterinary clinic center in Arizona. This particular veterinarian profile tells us about her history with animals, talks about her schooling, highlights her current pets, and lists her professional interests. She’s interested in dermatology, dentistry, gastrointestinal medicine, and ophthalmology. We might be more inclined to choose her if our pet were having skin issues or needs their teeth cleaned.

And there are calls to action there on the right hand side to help us make the next step. There’s a phone number and an online appointment request option. This profile clearly highlights expertise, conditions treated, assessability, accessibility, and convenience factors. Moving to another common industry, let’s look at this profile. This is a hair stylist at a salon down the street from Geonetric’s offices. I can learn a lot about what Jasmine has to offer before I have to make a decision to trust her with my haircut. While they don’t use the Linktech I recommended with the “click here” links, they do provide access to pricing and scheduling with Jasmine, services offered by her, contact information, and background on her experience as a stylist.

Notice too, this style of profile, it’s more relaxed. It’s written in a magazine bio style, and the layout is much different than your typical physician profile. But this can still relate to our industry. This style can be appropriate for a profile on your health center or HealthPlex site. It might be appropriate for alternative medicine or palliative care, cosmetic surgery, dermatology, even something like sports medicine.

Compelling Physician Bios

Aside from the pieces of the profile that we know potential patients are searching for, we also need to include engaging and interactive elements on your physician profiles. So today I’m going to talk about the compelling bios, engaging videos, physician ratings and reviews, and calls to action. Starting with compelling bios, a biography on your physician profile can be anything from a quote directly from the doctor, to a paragraph of text, or a short story. It’s written in the voice and tone of your organization, but it lets the particular doctor shine through and gives the patient something to relate to and understand about that particular physician.

Here’s an example of a doctor who practices gastroenterology for PIH Health. The biography paragraph starts with “Dr. Ashok calls medicine a ‘family tradition.'” It goes on to explain that “he derives the most satisfaction from caring for patients with digestive and liver disorders.” It explains what conditions he’s trained in. And then it closes with a more personal element, that he’s a lifelong UCLA Bruins and LA Lakers’ fan. This profile humanizes the physician. It clearly displays his sense of commitment and satisfaction towards work, and it highlights several aspects of his life that a potential patient could relate to.

Another example from PIH Health, Dr. Kimberly Bickell, a breast imager. Her bio highlights her dedication to breast imaging. It shows her compassion for patients, by saying she gets “tremendous satisfaction from meeting and talking to patients, hearing their stories and providing comfort during what can be a scary time.” She suddenly talks about her abilities and successes of detecting tiny breast cancers before they grow. It gives those potential patients a little bit of a sense of understanding and comfort when they’re trying to choose her as a potential physician. The bio then talks more personally about her family, the organizations she supports, and her hobbies.

The next example is a physician who specializes in orthopedic, trauma, and practices at Mammoth Hospital. Mammoth Hospital, being located in Mammoth Lakes, California, gets a lot of highly active patients who are involved in the outdoors and extreme sports. This biography tells an impressive story. This physician has served as a personal physician to numerous Olympians and world elite athletes. He “uniquely experienced the tragic events of September 11 by treating victims of both the Pentagon and Ground Zero sites. He was one of the first physicians on site at Ground Zero, and he performed search and recovery and established two on site MASH units within the disaster area.” And then later in the profile, it talks about how he’s written documents about his experiences and teaches mass casualty and disorder preparedness to medical personnel, expertise, likeability, reliability, and endorsement.

My last example today of compelling bios, is from a surgeon that practices at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare. While the actual physician bio is compelling in and of itself, showing compassion for his patients and what they’re going through, the structure of this bio, like many others I’ve shown, is what I want to focus on this time. Specialties are clearly listed right underneath the physician’s name, accessibility to multiple locations and convenience of the contact number are listed, and availability of accepting new patients is clearly stated. Compelling bios can be accomplished by following the same principles you follow on the rest of your site for writing practices.

Web Writing Tips For Physician Profiles

Last month, my colleague and content director here at Geonetric talked about writing for the web in the May webinar; and those same fundamental principles apply here. I won’t repeat all those writing elements, but you’re welcome to visit Geonetric’s website to listen to that webinar. We also have a handy e-book, Web Writing for Healthcare, that explores so much more about creating compelling copy. I am, however, going to go ahead and touch on a couple of quick points that you might not think about when you’re writing your physician profiles.

Number one: remember the basics of web writing. Focus on the user, keep it simple, and make it easy to take action. Secondly, it’s important to create a voice and tone, and stick to it. Are your doctor’s profiles going to be kind-hearted, fun and energetic, stoic and professional, more focused on medicine, less on the personal touch? Or a combination of all those I mentioned? It’s really important to decide what approach you’re going to take and stick to it from physician to physician. And finally, build a core strategy for your physician profile messages and communicate that strategy throughout the organization.

Using Videos in Physician Profiles

The next thing I’m going to talk about are engaging videos. Videos should be an interactive and sharable element that deepens the physician’s skills and attributes, shows off their personality, and creates a sense of familiarity for potential patients meeting the physician for the first time. Remember Dr. Bickell from her bio earlier? Later in that same profile, there’s a short video that allows her to talk directly with potential patients.

The video touches on topics around her specialty, about her choice in her career, her connection to patients and her personal life, and her thoughts on PIH Health. And of course, they end with a call to action. Another great example of a physician profile videos is this one highlighting Dr. Binor’s work from Rush-Copley’s Center for Reproductive Health. This particular video includes endorsements from nurses. Dr. Binor talks about what potential patients can expect during an appointment, including its approach to care plans, his solutions, things like that. He talks about the facility and location where he works, and he talks about techniques and quality of care.

He goes on to explain the roles of the team and collaboration efforts, really highlights dedication to their patients, explains efforts that that particular office take to celebrate patient successes. And there are even testimonials from actual patients at that particular event celebrating their successes. And again, it ends with a call to action. I personally walked away from this video thinking if I were ever in the situation that Dr. Binor’s patients are in, that he would be someone I would consider looking into because of his personal touch. That’s the goal.

Incorporating Physician Ratings and Reviews

Moving into the topic of physician ratings and reviews, including physician ratings and review information on profiles is a rapidly growing trend. Again, stepping outside of healthcare, we routinely use ratings and review information to shape our choices of everything, from the best restaurants, to which movie to avoid. You see here a Yelp review on the left hand side, and Rotten Tomatoes for Mall Cop 2. If I were going by this review, I don’t think I’d go see the movie. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. That’s a pretty high percentage. When it comes to physician ratings, a recent study reported that almost 60% of those polled were aware of ratings and say that looking at online ratings is an important factor when choosing a physician, 35% selected a physician due to high ratings when deciding where to seek care or chose a doctor based on positive reviews, and 37% actually avoided physicians with bad ratings.

The University of Utah was one of the earliest healthcare providers to launch physician ratings and reviews using Press Ganey Patient Satisfaction data. They’ve chosen to include content for each individual review and break out the scores into categories. They also highlight patient comments. They go through a process to remove patient names and other PHI information, of course. Cleveland Clinic, on the other hand, shows only the top level score. However, if you decide to share this information, these endorsements are a critical influencer for consumers when selecting a physician.

The Importance of Calls to Action

The last element I will talk about is calls to action and why are they important. Call to action are a vital piece of your puzzle. They are the elements that give your visitors a cue of what they’re supposed to do next, or what the next step options even are. And calls to action actually give you a way to track your efforts and see if the things you’re doing are working or not. Remember, you need phone numbers, forms, and trackable calls to action are always recommended.

Here at Geonetric, our client advisors and campaign teams have all the tools and strategic ideas to help make your calls to action successful and track your downstream ROI, but you have to remember quality assurance. We’ve discovered situations where the main call to action is a phone number that actually goes to the wrong location, or it goes to a call center where people answering the phone don’t have the expertise or information needed to answer the questions. So call the number and submit the form. You want to build it and you want test it. Test it again and then track it.

Here’s a great example of call to action prominently displayed on Rush-Copley’s physician profile: request an appointment or call this number for appointment scheduling. Another example from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare: you can find the request an appointment button and a phone number prominently displayed, but it wasn’t always like that. With the recent goal of growing primary care, Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare invested in creating an outstanding provider directory, complete with engaging provider profiles and user friendly content and appointment forms.

The team has been able to tie online appointment requests to some pretty remarkable downstream revenue. And we’re going to look into that in just a little bit here. The team at Wheaton Franciscan trained office managers at all locations on how to use VitalSite Provider Directory. VitalSite is Geonetric’s content management system. And together, the team set up needed email notifications and workflow processes. And the results? Since launching, Wheaton Franciscan consistently averages 300 requests each month from primary care docs and specialists that offer online appointments.

Additionally, over a four month period, Wheaton tracked the 140 primary care doctors accepting online appointment requests and discovered those online forms brought in more than 740 requests, including almost 400 new patients into their system. And the best part? These efforts have led to downstream revenue that has more than covered the organization’s entire budget. You can see more about their tactics and how they implemented this, at geonetric’s website in our portfolio. Now, bringing all of these elements together – compelling bios, engaging videos, physician ratings and reviews and calls to action – along with the qualification and selection criteria that David introduced earlier, we can tell the whole story in a physician profile.

Let me show you how. Doctor Ashok’s profile has calls to action, a compelling bio, engaging video, plus location information, expertise, conditions, and convenience. Dr. Bickell’s has many of the same things. Dr. Binor’s profile has a compelling bio, an engaging video, which is lower on the page, a call to action, access information, endorsements, displays of expertise, conditions and specialties, a compelling video, and insurance information. Many of the elements potential patients need and want when searching for the right fit for a physician for themselves or a loved one.

Physician Directory Search

I’m going to take a step back and look at the broader scope at one of the ways you could land on these physician profiles, and that is through your physician directory search. One of our clients, Forrest Health, is using a very clear way to search for a physician: on the left, by a specialty and area; in the middle, by name; on the right, alphabetically. Rush-Copley is using a filter feature on their search results page, so that once a site visitor gets to that particular page of results and maybe it’s not quite what they’re looking for or maybe they weren’t quite narrow enough when they first searched, they can now continue to narrow down the criteria right there on the same screen. It eliminates a click back.

Rush-Copley has also engaged with us to conduct heat mapping, which is click tracking, to understand which fields in their simple doctor search are being used. This allows us to iterate on the search fields, and tailor their physician directory search page to be more user friendly. This example of search results page from Cone Health Medical Group displays card based results with a clean and crisp design, and a snippet of information on each card about the physician. And if you missed our webinar last month, talking about web design trends, Nathan talked about card based design. Be sure to check that out on our website as well.

And my last example of provider search results is with MOSH – Midwest Orthopedic Specialty Hospitals. These provider search results include element of the provider, potential elements that the potential patient might need at a quick glance in determining the data that they’re looking for. Quick physician statements in quote forms are found right underneath their name. And then you find specialties, and of course, a call to action right on the results page.

Physician SEO

David Sturtz: Awesome. So that is a great overview of all of those things that go into this physician profile pages. I hope you got the sense, as Maggie was going through that, that this is really that core foundation. If things aren’t right on that page, it doesn’t matter how many people we send to those different profiles; they aren’t going to find the information they need. They’re going to go somewhere else, either to satisfy their information needs or possibly to a competitor to find a provider over there. And so it’s really key to the whole process to get those profiles, those calls to action, and all that information beefed up before you go out and really spend time on some of the promotion strategies. But that is what we’re going to talk about next.

And as we dig in, especially around SEO, again, a lot of that content that’s on those profile pages is going to benefit some of these promotion strategies as well. So as I mentioned earlier, briefly, we’ll go through SEO, but we’ll also briefly touch on some PPC, social, data ads, and some reputation management. So thinking about physician SEO and the importance of this, we know from some surveys that 77% of patients, huge number, use search before they’re booking an appointment. So this is definitely some place that patients are at and some place that you want to be.

Before we dig too deep into how to get in front of those patients, I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, the Google search results page, and thinking about the different components that make up this page. This was pulled within the last few days. This seems to change all the time. Google is always testing new configurations and arrangements of the content on this page. And there are several pieces in here that we’ll talk about how they’ve been updated even very recently. But within this results page, this is a general search for a primary care doctor in a particular city. Typical results that you’ll see for a search of this type include some ads towards the top; you have the organic web page results built in there as well.

You’ve got what’s called the local pack, a bunch of local search results, business type results that are grouped together, anywhere from one to seven or nine, depending on the day and what’s going on. And then over on the right hand side, you have a local map which actually functions as a detail if you actually roll over some of those local results lower on the page. It’ll change to reflect that individual result. A slightly different search type, if I’m looking for an individual provider by name. Here we have very similar things coming back. We didn’t have any ads on this one, but we do have a local results up at the top. We have organic results filtering throughout.

And because we only have that one local result, we have the detail pulled out over on the right hand side, including the map, hours, information, things like that. So this is what we’re talking about and seeing typically when we look at a search results page for some physician oriented searches. So how do we get on there? How do we really take advantage of this? I’m going to break it down into a three-step process? Some of this can get a little bit technical, complex, but really, if you think about it in terms of these three steps, you’ll really understand what’s going on with the process. The first is around getting indexed, making sure that the search engines can actually find and access the content that you want them to include in the results.

The second, we’re going to talk about getting impressions, so how do you actually get on to that search result page so that you’re visible to searchers. And then the third step of the process, which sometimes we forget about, is actually getting clicked. It’s not enough to be at the top of that list if your result isn’t getting clicked. And there’s also a feedback loop involved with getting clicks. So the better your result is, the more clicks that you get through there. That can have some feedback into the search engines to let them know that this is a quality result and can help boost you up the rankings, or negatively impact you if you’re not getting clicked or if they see a lot of what we call pogo sticking, where you go and visit the site and then bounce right back to the search engine because it wasn’t the kind of information you thought you wanted.

So we have seen that as a slight ranking factor for some pages. So starting out with getting indexed, what are some of the key criteria here? Without getting too technical and too in the details, there’s a file called robots.txt. Robots.txt, typically it lives at whatever your domain is, /robots.txt, and that’s where the search engine spiders look for it. This is just a set of rules that they follow as far as what areas they should visit on the site and which areas they should stay out of, and provide some guidance for the spiders on what to do.

You can test this through the Google search console. What used to be called Webmaster Tools is now called the Google search console, still accessible at If you don’t have an account there for your web site, haven’t claimed that account, I highly recommend that you do that. It’ll highlight a lot of issues across the site that may be affecting the overall rank and accessibility for your content. So one of the things you can test in there, is actually taking an individual URL and making sure – maybe a physician profile URL – that it comes back as a pass, that Google is actually able to index it and it’s not getting blocked by the robots.txt file. Second thing to look at here, is that you have real HTML links to the provider profiles. And we see a lot of different things going on with these physician directories and the overall structure of the website.

A lot of times, there’s a search form involved in getting to the provider profiles. A lot of more progressive directories are using a lot of AJAX or JavaScript to make a more interactive experience. Even though Google is getting better and better at crawling these different methods of getting at the content, I would still be wary of some of those search forms and some of those AJAX calls. It’s better to air on the side of having a real a tag and HTML link in the markup coming from the server that Google can crawl. So there are ways you can turn off JavaScript to do some different things on your browser just to check if that’s going on. But something to think about if you do have forms in front of your provider directory or if you have a really interactive AJAX driven directory, just thinking about how the search engines can find that profile content.

One way that they can do that is through a site map XML file. And again, the typical location for this is at Depending on your content management system, things may live in slightly different places and you may see a pointer in the robots.txt file to a different location. That’s totally fine, but that should include a list of all the content on your site that you want to have explicitly indexed by the search engine. That’s really a guideline, a map, for those search engines to follow as they’re looking for content. And you want to see that your physician profiles are in that. It can be a great way, even if you have a form in front of those profiles and the spiders aren’t able to get through that way. If they have a direct link to each of those individual profiles, they can use that to dig in and find what you want them to on your site.

If you use a third party directory, a lot of folks host some of this through maybe a call center provider or do other things. They have a different site that they use within their overall site structure, maybe a sub-domain that has the provider directory within it. You need to check this at that sub-domain level. So you want to make sure, for that sub-domain, that you’ve actually claimed that within Webmaster Tools and that you are checking for robots.txt and site map information for that sub-domain. So just something that sometimes gets forgotten about there. So we’ve got the spiders going through our site. It’s actually getting picked up within the search engines. How do you get onto that first page or so of results in order to get impressions? And so this is actually getting your links in front of those searchers so that there’s an opportunity for them to see them and click them.

And the way to do this is making sure that the search engine can understand that you have valuable content. Number one way to do this is having overall good domain rank. So you can’t really just focus entirely on optimizing one section of a site without doing things across the whole site. It’s just not going to be as effective. Google needs to know who is publishing the site and that the whole thing is valuable and trusted overall. If you’ve got problems in one area of the site, that can bring down the site as a whole. You want to have sufficient content and use of keywords. This isn’t early 2000’s kind of keyword stuffing. Google is really smart about knowing synonyms and different words that mean basically the same thing.

It can actually interpret between different specialty terms and conditions and see some overlap there. So you don’t have to be trying to repeat the same exact phrase over and over again throughout the content, but you do want to make sure that if they’re an oncologist, that it says somewhere on the page that they’re an oncologist. As far as sufficient content, as Maggie talked about from a consumer-oriented perspective, there’s a lot of information that consumers need in order to make a good decision about a provider. The search engines pick up on that as well. So if you saw some of those early bad examples of provider listings that were very minimal, very little information in there, those are not going to rank well.

That is not seen as probably sufficient information to solve a searcher’s question. And that’s what Google and the other search engines are really trying to do, is answer that searcher’s question. And they want to make sure that there’s going to be enough content there to do that. Some of the things within the page that you can control are, of course, the page titles, the descriptions, any headings on the page. This is a great thing to check. You may not be totally aware of what the markup looks like behind the page, especially within a module or a directory. But we do want to make sure that the H1 is being used on the page, that you’re not just having maybe the provider’s name styled, using a certain larger font and color to stand out if it’s not marked up behind the scenes using an H1 HTML tag.

Google can’t really pick up what this page is about. Another thing that we see sometimes in some of these more programmatic or dynamic profiles, is you may end up with multiple headings, multiple H1s. It’s another thing Google doesn’t really like to see on there. It really wants to know what one thing is this page about, and so that may be something you want to look at in the markup. URLs can be a great signal. Having the physician’s name in the URL can be a great way to help optimize those profiles. And using all tags on the images is something that oftentimes gets forgotten as well. By getting the provider’s name, again, into that all tag, if you have a profile picture of them, can help.

Any inbound deep links to those profiles that you can get, whether you are doing some blogging on the side or you’re doing press releases or other content marketing activities, any place that you can get links going directly to this provider profiles can really help the search engines to know that these are valued and pushing for those kinds of things. Not going to get super detailed into schema markup. We’ve got some blog posts out there on our site about that, but it can get a little bit technical. It’s basically a relatively recent development in ways of communicating to the search engines, what the meaning is of the different content on the site.

So if you’ve got a name of a provider, an address of an office location, you can provide some specific markup using the standard that will tell the search engine that this is a physician, that this is their office location, and these are their opening hours, this is the phone number to call, things like that, right within the profile. And this really helps as the search engines are going more and more towards what’s called Semantic search, things where Siri can answer the question for you right on your phone.

As those things are growing and taking off, it’s that Semantic markup that really helps to drive that. Making things mobile friendly as well, if you don’t have a responsive site design where you don’t have mobile friendly content, that’s something that you’ll see flagged in the search console within Google. It’s starting to be a little bit of a ranking factor. Not sure yet. There’s all the talk about mobilegeddon [SP], not entirely sure how much that’s impacting yet, but definitely whether or not it’s impacting rank, it’s definitely impacting the user experience as they get to your site and aren’t able to access certain types of content.

So that’s a lot of ways to get impressions. You can think about getting even more impressions than that. So as we were looking at that search results page, there were a lot of things on there that weren’t just web pages. And so you want to think about other ways that you can get space within that page. The number of actual organic results has been shrinking within that first page of Google results, and a lot of other things have been filtering in. And some places to think about that are around local search listings. I’ll talk about that a little bit more.

Video and images are really important. YouTube is huge, both across Google and Bing, as you can see the little snippet there. They jump out at you. They’ve got a little thumbnail there. It’s really engaging content that ranks highly within the search engines. And then social profiles are something to think about as well. If you have some physicians that you really want to take over that first page of results, having them set up a LinkedIn profile, making sure that Facebook and Twitter and those kinds of things are set up for them are maybe some strategies to help take over some spots, those sites, especially LinkedIn can tend to rank really highly within the search engine results.

Diving a little bit into local listings. This has been, especially from the Google side, really influx over the last few years, and so this is the latest and greatest information around this. So even within the last week, there’s been a bit of a shift from Google’s standpoint. And in fact, yesterday, I believe, was the day that they had announced that they were taking down Google Plus profiles that were unverified. So if you were struggling with maybe some listings out there, some Google Plus pages that had wrong information or strange information, you don’t know where it came from, that you hadn’t gotten through the process of claiming, those may or may not be disappearing in the next few days.

We have to watch and see what’s going on. But that was the announcement from Google, that they were starting to take apart Google Plus, as that has not really taken off. They’re pulling it out of other properties that they own and moving things on a local level towards what they’re calling Google My Business. And so this is a different account. It’s the same Google account but a different spot to go and sign in from Webmaster Tools, or search console, and analytics. Something else to keep track of, but something that you definitely want to go do and look at managing this process. So this is the local information, down to every individual practitioner, phone numbers, addresses, specialties. And that really drives those local pack listings and some of the mapping and other things within Google.

Getting Clicked

So definitely highly recommend taking a look at that and making sure that these are being managed and going through the process for doing that. On the Bing side of things, Bing places is a very similar level of control over the local listings within Bing, and so it’s also something to look at. Getting into the nitty gritty of getting clicked. So you got under that search results page, you’re on there somewhere. The next step is really making sure that what you have there is something that a consumer’s going to click on.

And this goes back to the same things Maggie was talking about just in smaller form. And so within this micro content of the search result, there are a number of things that we have control over, things like the page title, which is typically used as that blue link, things like the breadcrumbs are the path to the page which comes across in those green items, and then typically the page description or other page content that gets pulled in as the snippet. You don’t have a lot of control over which of those Google is going to choose to use based on a given query. But by getting some of the keywords into that page level description, you can maybe control what exactly is showing up there.

This, I thought, was a pretty good results listing for a provider. It highlights the expertise, their accessibility. I know maybe they’re in the town that I’m searching in. I know they are providing care around the condition area that I’m looking for or the type of care that I’m looking for, in this case, primary care. And it gets some likeability in there. This is fully personalized. This is some soft touch kinds of things coming into these areas as well. So this is a little contest for you, a little challenge to figure out how in the limited number of characters you have here, maybe 70 characters in the title and limited amount of space for the description, how can you answer as many of these different points as possible in order to help the audience make some good decisions about this provided before they even click through?

So another example here, going back to the University of Utah Health Care example, this is one of the search engine results for one of their providers. And again, you’ve got similar kinds of things, expertise coming through. You’ve got the actual condition that is being treated or the type of service provided. And then you’ve got this endorsement weaving through, because they’ve included some markup within the page, around the ratings, that will help Google to understand these as ratings, and Google actually pulls that through. And what’s really great about including that rating and review data within the page, marking it up in this way, is probably all of you are competing against sites like Vitals, Health Grades, other aggregation rating review sites that have this sort of information on them.

And so to stand out and compete against those, those stars really jump out at you on the search results page. These are the results that the University of Utah Health Care has published about this. They increased the page views on their physician profiles. They got higher rankings. And they were able then to reduce some of the paid search that they were doing in order to support those providers. So getting a lot more click throughs and a lot more success from organic results just by adding some things like writing reviews and paying attention to those decisions that consumers are trying to make.

Paid Search and Promotion

So with that, I’m going to wrap up SEO and move onto some paid options, and just lightly touch on these so that we have a little bit of time for questions here at the end as well. But as far as paid search, we see typically two things going on. One is either provider name searching and doing some advertising around there, as you see for Dr. Hodgman on the top right, or more of a specialty or service line type of approach, looking at a practice level maybe for some specific services that you’re competing. That’s probably where I see most of the paid search going today. This is a great way to boost up individual providers or practices.

Especially if you’re making some changes, you have new providers coming on, or things are shifting around and you need to get up at the top of that results page quickly, paid placement is a great way to do that. If you’re paying for placement, really critical that within the profile, your calls to action are really clear, that they’re immediate, that they’re actually functional. Because if you’re paying for every single click that goes to your site, you want to make sure that you’re not only targeting the right audiences for those clicks but that they’re actually able to make an appointment, that they’re able to engage with you once they get there, and that they’re not just bouncing off and you’re wasting your money.

Social Promotion

Thinking about social, there’s a great opportunity here to highlight that real person that is behind that provider facade, and really get that personal connection going. As you’re thinking about social, it’s important to make sure that you’re appropriate to the medium. Things that are more advertising or marketing focused really don’t work within a social context. People are really looking for stories. They’re looking for some emotion, helpful tips, things that are shareable or that are really engaging, that have some reality to them.

I thought it was a pretty good post from Genesis Health System here in Iowa. This is one of their physicians that won an internal grant scholarship to go do some mission work. Great opportunity to highlight that physician, what she’s doing, really engaging and great information, uses a video, which is always super engaging on Facebook. It tends to get a lot of views and a lot of engagement. And so to take something like this, either highlighting maybe some healthy tips from that individual provider or just a little background into some of the activities they do, and boosting that, even a small spend, to boost some of those posts can get you a really targeted market and some visibility into that area. So it’s something to definitely explore doing.

Reputation Monitoring for Physicians

So I want to talk just a little bit about physician reputation, and this is something we see as a growing trend. People are focusing more and more on this. And this goes into all of those information sources that maybe you can’t directly control. So this was a blog post on the New York Times Well blog within the last week, talking about shopping around for doctors. And there’s sort of a change across the industry, where patients are out there and they are going from specialist to specialist. If they’re not happy with those less clinical aspects of their care – the bedside manner, the being listened to – they’re out there and they’re shopping around.

And physicians are trying to figure out how to deal with that. Within the last month, in The Washington Post, there was this article about how hospitals are dealing with all of these different platforms out there, everything from Yelp to more physician-oriented, Health Grades, Vitals, those types of sites, and actually monitoring all of the content that’s going on. They’re responding to these ratings and reviews, and using those to shape the types of processes and care and focus on a lot of those qualitative things that really impact the ratings. So what this article mentions is that it’s really a lot of the reviews, especially the bad reviews, don’t have much to do with the actual care; it has a lot more to do with wait times and office staff and just general overall experience of the visit more so than malpractice types of things or other kinds of clinical oriented issues.

So it becomes really important to figure out how to operationalize these. So in summary, I would really recommend start thinking about this now. This is definitely coming. We’re going to have to do something with this. At a minimum, start tracking and monitoring what’s going on out there across social, across your own surveys, whether those are something you do through a third party or internal surveys of patient satisfaction, and review sites as well. There our platforms out there that can help you to aggregate these and look at these in different ways, but at least start to be aware of what’s out there. Look for some small wins, if there are ways to operationalize some of the feedback that you see out there. You can start to build a case internally for doing this in a broader way.

And if you do encounter a problem, just to reiterate some of the tips that are out there, really important to respond quickly, respond professionally to any concerns that are out there. If you’re able to take that conversation a little bit more offline, that’s usually the recommended action, to follow up one-to-one and actually have that personal connection with the person that maybe has had a problem with the organization, to help to remedy that and not really go out there trying to suppress all of this bad information. People make pretty good judgments. I think about these ratings, reviews, and online feedback, I think we all do this day to day and we’re getting pretty sophisticated about interpreting why somebody is making a certain comment.

Next Steps

So to wrap it all up, putting it all together, just wanted to highlight a few things that may be actionable takeaways to run with from this. The first is coming back to that focus of what patients need and want. You don’t have to read through all of this. This is all in the Physician Promotion eBook for Healthcare Marketers that you can sign up to get there at the end. But this is a great checklist coming out of all of this criteria, things that you want to think about as you’re writing those profiles, as you’re engaging on social media, as you’re writing the page level descriptions that’ll show up in the search engines. Just consider all of these factors, see how many you can get covered in the information you’re creating.

We’ve tried to sum it up in three things. If you want a really low bar to get through, these seem pretty achievable. First thing would be to make sure you’ve got clear prominent calls to action on the provider profiles, whether that’s a phone number, whether that’s a link to actually make an appointment, and whether that actually leads to just a general request form or something for those consumers to actually do once they read the profile. From the search front, I would encourage you to go out and run a site query in Google for your provider directory specifically. The way you do that is typing in site colon, and then it’ll just be your whatever that URL is that leads towards your provider, to actually the overall web directory that holds all of those pages. That will get you a list back of what is out there in Google’s index.

You can get a sense of what those page titles and descriptions look like when you’re a searcher. It’s not going to get you all the local kind of things, but if things are blocked by robots.txt or you’re having other issues, you won’t see things show up there. So it gives you a real sense of what’s going on. And then from a social or a promotional perspective, just think about an opportunity to highlight a provider, especially from those soft skills side, and maybe try a boosted post on a social media platform and see how that goes. So with that, we’re going to wrap it up and go to questions. We’re going to open up the floor for questions. We’ll try to get to as many as we can in the time that we have left today. Go ahead and post those questions in. We may do a follow-up blog post. I know we’re getting close to the hour here.


We’ll definitely follow up with you if you did have some questions. Our first question is around that request an appointment. When websites have requested an appointment as a call to action, what does it connect to? That’s a great question, because we see a whole range of things going on there. So we see everything from a really prominent phone number. We’ve seen folks using trackable phone numbers. So there are different services out there where you can generate a unique phone number to actually track that back to the physician profile where it originated from. Typically what we see, is some sort of an online form that gathers some basic information.

It can be just as general as the type of appointment that you’re looking for, the type of specialist you’re wanting to see, and some contact information for a follow up. It can get more specific into date and time preferences, or it can go all the way into something like a patient portal set up where you actually have an account and you’re actually booking a time. So we’ve seen quite a range in there. We’re seeing more integration with some services like ZocDoc, that offer some of this online scheduling as well. That seems to be something that’s picking up a little bit. So it really depends on your organization, where they’re at, and what they’re ready for in terms of that request and appointment functionality. Any other questions?

Maggie Wright: There have been a couple questions that have come in about the length of a physician bio and how long should that be? Is there a limit, things like that? A limit could depend on your actual CMS. If your CMS has a limit in the way that your physician bio is structured, you would want to make sure you’re adhering to that first. But in terms of if there were no limitations from your actual software, the bio should be long enough to give the information that you’re trying to communicate but short enough to keep the potential patient and site visitor engaged and reading the whole thing. So they should be…I showed a couple of paragraphs.

We have some clients who are doing just a quote from the physician, and then I showed another long form that goes into a longer story. The physician who was at Ground Zero, that’s a longer story that is a compelling story that people are going to be reading. So the fuzzy answer is it depends. It depends on what kind of information you have to tell, but you want to make sure if you feel like you are running on or if you feel like a patient might start to ask the question, “So what?” you need to make sure that you’re cutting that short, cutting that off.

How to Promote Physicians Online