Statistics speak for themselves; you can’t run a successful medical practice today without having a solid Internet presence which starts with a Website:
82% of patients use the Internet instead of Yellow Pages, today
91% of patients use search engines as their primary source of research and information
93% of people never go beyond the first page of the search results
Everybody told you that you must have a Website. You’ve bravely placed the order, paid good money, perhaps even gotten a cool gadget for the Website (like appointment-setting Online or downloadable patients’ forms) and now you have a really-good looking Website and a domain name consisting of your name and title.
Everybody complimented you on it, even your fellow doctors. In the evening - when no one is watching - you’re visiting your Website, marveling at its cool design; googling its domain name and finding it on the very top of the world’s greatest search engine. It seems that you’ve made it to the top and still not one new patient materialized from the Website. If the preceding describes your situation, read on: you’re not the odd one out; unfortunately, that’s the experience of majority of physicians.
Here is the 101: regardless of their advertising, most Web designers are............ just that:DESIGNERS. They design pretty Websites. They’re not SEO specialists or professional developers. What’s the difference?
A pretty Website built by a Web designer boasts a striking look but is merely an object, not much different from the paperweight on your desk or a picture on the wall. It’s good-looking and....... just sits there. As much as it is sufficient for a paperweight or a painting to just be; it isn’t enough for a Website which after all is supposed to serve as a marketing tool. Your designer designed, delivered his or her job and collected payment for the design. In reality however you still don’t have a Website because pretty or not, your Website isn’t effective.
Web developers don’t always build beautiful Websites but their Websites “work”. (Didn’t you ever wonder why your competitor’s ugly Website generates patients while your much prettier one doesn’t?) Well, a good Website requires more than a design.
Effective physicians’ Websites HAVE TO have:
1) An effective domain name for a physician’s Website. I’m sure no one told you that but a Website is supposed to be a marketing tool for your practice, not a tribute to your professional achievements. What’s the difference? The angle of the Website from its inception: your Website has to be geared toward patients. It starts with the domain name. Your domain name ought to be the search term your PROSPECTIVE patient would use to find you on the search engines. Common sense, a prospective patient can’t know your first and last name; he or she will be looking for a doctor in your specialty in a specific geographic location. Try entering the specifics that describe you and your practice best (WITHOUT the use of your name!) on any search engine and see if your Website shows up on the first page. If it doesn’t, you have a part of the answer to the question why your Website doesn’t bring new patients.
2) Proper coding. Behind every physician’s Website which is designed to look nice, inform patients and market medical practice there is a coding for the search engines which “serve” Websites to interested public. Many pretty Websites lack this coding entirely, most use the physician’s name and - if you’re lucky - his or her specialty as keywords. Good luck with that! Imagine an actual person (not your patient, yet!) looking for your services on the Internet: the person can’t know your name. Your specialty? Sure it has to be there, many physicians are getting inquiries from far away locations in the
(A word of explanation: the difference between “pretty” physicians’ Websites (designed by Web designers) versus the “ugly” ones (developed by qualified Web developers): Websites look prettier with photos on top of pages or Flash (animated) home pages. Those in the know avoid both: large photos - especially on top of pages - and Flash obstruct the work of search engines and as a result Websites featuring them don’t rank well on the search engines! Just how pretty is your Website?....)
3) Management. To be effective a Website which has a good domain name, patient-friendly content and a proper coding has to be managed. Acquiring a good quality power tool and having a project built are two different things. Once you have a decent Website it has to be managed to achieve its objective of generating patients. A Webmaster isn’t the guy who designed your Website, collected payment and........ finished his part. When the Website is ready the real works begins. I’m referring to the work of keeping the search engines informed on a regular basis, updating your Website’s content and marketing your Website. (Who is managing your Website as we speak?)
Can you imagine hiring an office manager for “a project”? There isn’t such a thing. The work of an office manager is never done; it’s an on-going process. The same is true of the work of an effective Webmaster. Your Webmaster should also be an integral part of your practice. (Incidentally, an effective Webmaster is his salary: after all, he’s the one who keeps you and your staff busy.)
Bottom line: as a physician you absolutely have to have a Website, but it is important to have an EFFECTIVE physician’s Website and be informed about what’s involved in having a Website from the choice of a domain name; through professional content development; adequate coding; the dos and don’ts of design, and management. An effective physician’s Website is well worth your money: it will be the staple of your presence Online; and it will contribute to your professional authority. Properly managed, it will rank well on the search engines and generate new patients without the need for additional advertising.
Jeremy Kesh is a Physicians’ Websites Developer and Physicians Advocate Online. He runs http://www.WebsiteDesignForPhysicians.com and