How do you acquire new patients? The heartbeat of practice growth is the steady influx of new patients.
We will assume that you are wonderful and once you have them in the door they will never want to leave. But how do you get them in the door? If you are one of the thousands of healthcare providers who shrug your shoulders and say, "Meh, I get all my patients via word of mouth," then you are missing out, pure and simple.
Digital marketing must play a significant role in your practice growth.
While a huge catch-all term like "digital marketing" can be difficult to decipher, you can systematically determine which mediums in which to invest your marketing capital, and how to implement best practices once you have (finally!) made that leap and actually begin running paid online advertising.
Google AdWords is an advertising medium that allows anyone - all you need is payment method and a Google/Gmail account - to show ads that are displayed to Google users when completing relevant searches. This means that you as an optometrist can bid on keywords related to your practice, and show ads to local users in the market. Just take a minute to let that sink in. Done? A well-run Google AdWords campaign is, for the majority of providers, the most time and cost-effective manner of getting new patients for your practice.
You can pinpoint exact terms that yield a high probability of converting someone from a window-shopper into an actual visitor to your practice when they search for a particular phrase on Google. As someone who has worked in the digital marketing industry for the last five years (a lifetime in the world of digital marketing!), Google AdWords never ceases to amaze me with the degree to which it enables local businesses to empower themselves.
So the good news is that Google AdWords can revolutionize your marketing efforts. The bad news? Google AdWords can also completely ruin your marketing budget and leave you wondering what the heck happened! Let’s be clear: Google is in the business of making money, and AdWords generates a lot of it. During Q2 2016, Google’s Advertising divisions secured $19.1 billion of $21.5 billion in overall revenue for their parent company, Alphabet.(1)
So, how can an optometrist succeed with Google AdWords in such a convoluted digital landscape, complete with plenty of shysters hawking their digital expertise and get rich quick schemes?
Here are three keys to success:
1) Find the right balance in your geographic settings.
Within AdWords, you have the ability to geofence the area within which you would like to show your ads. The easiest and wisest approach is to utilize radius targeting. Radius targeting allows you to choose an address and drop a radius around that address within which Google will serve your ads. Now, the size of your radius is going to depend primarily on two criteria:
1 - Your practice location. If you practice in a large city or other densely populated suburban area, your radius can be small - even as low as two or three miles. However, practices located in small towns are far better off increasing the size of their radius to between 10-20 miles so that your ads will show to a critical mass of users.
Example of a 5.0 mile radius target around a practice address, with income demographic targeting for increased targeting.
2 - Budget. In the intro when we were talking about spending a lot of money on Google AdWords, we weren’t kidding. I work with several eye care providers who spend between $3,000-$4,000 every month on AdWords for a single location. If this is you, then expanding your radius targeting may allow you to find and convert a few more new patients. On the other hand, if you’re spending less than $1,000 a month on AdWords, keeping your radius targeting <10 miles will allow for you to show your practice online to the users who are most likely to convert to being your patient.
2) Using the right keywords and match types
Keywords are the name of the game for PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, and it’s important that you instill best practices for both the keywords and their match types.
All of the keywords that you put into your AdWords account will have the literal keyword text (i.e. “best optometrist in houston”) as well as a match type. The match type will allow you to control how closely the searches must match your keyword text to show your ad. I cannot overstate how important this is.
The number one thing that I see that kills local or regional optometric accounts is the use of lots of broad match keywords. As the name implies, this is the broadest and most generic match type that you can utilize. Instead of relying on broad match keywords for your account, try taking variations of keywords that you are, hopefully, already bidding on (optometrist near me, best eye doctor [city], local eye exams, etc.) and changing their match type to broad match modifier, phrase, or even exact match. To learn more about keyword match types, check out this great post (link), courtesy of Google themselves.
Broad match keywords can be a handy tool in the toolbox of an experienced digital marketer, but they must be dealt with carefully; left unattended, a broad match keyword such as “best optometrist in Houston” will pull in searches like “ophthalmologists that accept Medicaid in Texas.” As I said, broad match can get out of hand if you don’t keep a close eye on your search terms.
3) Speaking of search terms, check your search query report early and often; it separates the amateurs from the pros.
Search query reports - found by going to the “Keywords tab,” and then the “Search terms” sub-tab - allow you to see exactly what people are searching for when they see and click your ads. Checking your search query report is the digital marketing equivalent of weeding your garden. It takes time, and it’s not enthralling work, but taking 15-30 minutes to go over all of your search queries allows you to input irrelevant keywords as negative keywords, thus keeping your ads from showing when they are included in a search.
Example of a healthy Search Query Report for an Optometrist in Raleigh, NC. Note how the search terms closely relate to the Ad Group (Eye exams).
If you, like many providers, have an outside source running your AdWords account, it is recommended that you occasionally request a report of your top 15-20 search queries. While ROI (return on investment) and/or ROAS (return on ad spend) should be the primary KPIs for any digital marketing provider, seeing what searches they are targeting for your company is an excellent way to gauge whether you and your marketing provider are on the same page regarding your identity as a healthcare provider and who your ideal patient is.
Running the business of any healthcare entity today is considerably different than in the past. Most Americans consider the opinion of total strangers in an online forum the equivalent of what used to be called word of mouth. Fighting your way through the jungle of digital media advertising opportunities is possible, but it takes time and diligence to do it well. The results are well worth the effort, just be sure to equip yourself with the right weapons before you take that plunge. Best wishes for your success!