Back in the day, maybe five years ago or even before, having a practice website meant that you were not only keeping up but you “got” the importance of having an online presence.
Is that all it takes in 2018 when just about every chiropractor has a website? No, not any more.
Having a website is merely the beginning—if you’re serious about getting new patients from the internet. Which is forcing a decision that you’ll need to make soon.
What follows will prepare you for making that critical decision; it’s critical because it will likely affect your practice for years to come. You’ll be winning online in no time.
In plain language, the critical decision you need to make comes down to this: Do you want to battle it out for ranking on page one on the search engines (where the lion’s share of potential new patients choose a chiropractor) or do you simply want an inexpensive, essential web presence to support referrals?
That’s it, and it sounds simple. But the decision you make will reverberate for years to come because of the “winner-takes-all” approach used by Google and the company’s keen interest in maximizing the income they can generate from page-one results.
It is vital, then, that you grasp the implications of both approaches.
Hopefully it will equip you, the small business (practice) owner, to make the decision best for you.
Choose wisely, because once you do, going back for a do-over will be expensive with little guarantee of success. This is not an overstatement.
You can ask any chiropractor who has recently established his or her online presence. They’ve found that dislodging nearby chiropractors who have had websites for 10 or 15 years from their rankings on search engines is difficult, often impossible.
So the stakes are high, and so are the benefits. That’s the tension.
Do you want to invest in your digital future and make a ruckus? Or do you want to depend solely on the ability of patients to persuade others?
And remember, this has almost nothing to do with your clinical skills, superior adjusting technique or high-level intent. This is about being seen and being chosen; in other words, it’s about marketing.
Your two reputations
While the Google search-results algorithm is a complicated and a deeply-held secret, when the dust settles, the search returns that Google provides are based on the answer to a simple question: Can Google trust its reputation with yours?
Whether your website shows up at the top of page one or the bottom of page three (making you virtually invisible) is based on trust. It’s this trust factor that has earned Google its dominant market position. It’s why over 80 percent of the public uses Google and not Ask.com with its 0.05 percent market share.
Generally speaking (with one notable exception), Google wants to return the best chiropractor in position one, the second best chiropractor in position two, and so on. So it’s worth asking just how does Google determine the “best” chiropractor?
Well, it’s not by your ability to toggle C1. And it isn’t your success with treating migraines, or your affable tableside manner that puts patients at ease. That’s your “real-world” reputation.
Since Google can’t tell if you’re raising the dead and saving patients from needless surgery, it must instead rely on as many signals as possible to ascertain your “virtual-world” reputation.
Some signals are inaccurate proxies. Others are merely faint whispers. Together, Google uses them to determine the best chiropractor, the best sushi place and the best of anything else you can imagine.
Avoiding no man’s land
Creating the appropriate trust signals so Google can pick them up, especially in a competitive marketplace, can be pricey, unpredictable, and require a long-term commitment.
Do you have the stomach for it?
Because if you do, in the “winner-takes-all” world of Google, the rewards can be handsome. But you’ll have to avoid no man’s land, a relatively recent phenomenon that occurred when a majority of chiropractors secured practice websites and the search-engine optimization (SEO) era began.
After the on- and off-page website optimizations were complete and nearby chiropractors responded to your zig with their zag, new tactics were needed.
Some were expensive. Others seemed like too much work (or required too much time), so they were done on the cheap, half-heartedly, because of the fear of missing out.
It’s a familiar place. Like mystery shopping to find out your most expensive and least expensive competitor and setting your fees somewhere in the middle.
That’s no man’s land, too. Either be the cheapest or the most expensive. But avoid the middle.
When it comes to promoting your practice online, you’ll want to embrace a comprehensive online digital marketing strategy, or settle for an inexpensive website that can be found when someone searches your name from a referral.
No man’s land is a like a patient who needs comprehensive care but can only see you once a month. It’s mostly palliative, and merely scratches the surface of what’s possible.
The 5 factors for winning
A comprehensive digital marketing strategy involves a coordinated approach that relies on maximizing the synergy of five different factors:
- High-converting website. The strategy starts here. Your website is the hub of all your online marketing overtures. High conversion means a design that emotionally connects with your ideal patient. The content must persuade your ideal patient to choose you as their chiropractor.
- Traffic. Once you have a high-converting practice website, you’ll want to maximize organic SEO and paid traffic from search engines (namely, Google). Over 80 percent of new patients begin their online journey to find a chiropractor with a search engine, which is why sending trust signals to Google is so important.
If you’re in a hurry, you don’t have to invest in trust signals. You can try to buy your way to the top of page one with Google AdWords—provided you can afford it and aren’t outbid by your competitors.
- Online reviews. Five-star reviews are key to supporting new patient conversion and assuring Google that you’re the best. Many new patients are greatly influenced by online reviews. Comprehensive online marketing systematizes the acquisition of positive reviews in a consistent, organic way and responds appropriately to those inevitable negative reviews.
- Social media. A strong social media presence can build patient loyalty, support your patient community, boost referrals and aid new-patient conversion. Many new patients will check out your social media presence to get a feel for your practice and personality before they make an appointment to meet you.
- Email marketing. When done properly, you can upsell, cross sell, inform, inspire, deepen your influence and improve top-of-mind awareness. But if done haphazardly, you can produce email fatigue, unsubscribe requests and risk sending irrelevant offers to unreceptive patients.
When there is coordination among these five elements, you can expect a synergistic result where the combination is greater than the sum of the parts. Dabbling here and there, or only attending to marketing when you need new patients means you’ll spend more and get less. Worse, delegating it to three or four different vendors reduces accountability as each blames the others when the tactics don’t work.
This could be you
As more and more people rely on their mobile digital device as their primary computer, being on page one takes on an entirely new importance. And as a growing number of those potential new patients use voice search (“Hey Siri, can you recommend a great chiropractor?”), you can see the stakes are high.
The future belongs to the courageous. A practice in your area is going to choose to play full out, dominate and be the best chiropractor—at least according to Google. Will it be you?
William Esteb has been a chiropractic patient and advocate since being introduced to chiropractic in 1981. He is the creative director of Patient Media and co-founder of the Perfect Patients online digital marketing service. His Monday Morning Motivation emails are read by thousands of chiropractors and he is a frequent guest speaker at chiropractic gatherings around the world. Review his patient education communication tools at patientmedia.com.