Growing your NP practice is an ongoing task! It’s not something you want to stop or do sporadically.
After all, patients are the lifeblood of your practice, just as customers are the lifeblood of a business. And just like customers come and go, so do patients.
Sure, some patients see you for years; but others move away, lose insurance, switch providers, just stop coming, or pass away.
You don’t ever want to stop marketing your practice! You always want new patients coming through your doors.
But what if you get too busy? Well, what an awesome problem that would be!
In all seriousness now…
If you should get too busy, you can start a waitlist, expand your hours, open a second location, hire another provider, bring on a business partner, or refer out.
For many, getting too busy is not the problem; however, not having enough patients on the schedule is. And that’s why it’s important to keep marketing, even if your practice is busy today!
While in the past, we’ve talked about different ways to market, we haven’t spoken much about search marketing to grow your NP practice. So, let’s do that today.
What Is Search Marketing?
Chances are you’ll come across the terms search marketing, search engine marketing, or SEM… they all mean the same. They refer to a strategy or method to get traffic from the search engines to your website.
SEM comes in two distinct flavors:
- SEO, search engine optimization
- Paid search, such as PPC (pay per click) and other forms of paid search advertising. Some sources use the terms SEM and paid advertising interchangeably.
What is SEO?
As you may know, SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s a strategy to get “free traffic” from the search engines to your site.
Free traffic refers to search results, or SERPs (search engine results page) returned when someone enters a search term into a search engine like Google or Bing. If the content ranks high enough with the search engines, they’ll display it in their “organic” search results.
So, if you write an article, blog posts, or create a video about a topic that people search for, it’s possible that Google will show your content “for free;” that’s as long as your content meets their criteria to rank high.
But really, there is no such thing as “free.” While SEO may not take your hard earned cash, it will gobble up your time. But getting content to rank high in the search engines, is what SEO is all about.
So, here’s what you need to know.
Creating content that ranks high in search engines is a long term strategy. It requires that you publish engaging, optimized content regularly, and ongoing.
What does it mean to optimize content?
It refers to things like:
- Making sure your content is attractive to both readers and search engines
- Your content is fresh, useful, and of high quality
- Your content contains keywords in titles, subheads, and the body so that search engines know what the content is about
- The content contains some backlinks
- The links on the website are working, and the site is clear to navigate
- Webpages are mobile friendly and load fast
Please note the above is only a short list of what to consider when it comes to optimization.
Ultimately, ranking content on webpages is done through a frequently updated, proprietary algorithm. And suffice it to say, search engines consider a range of parameters when ranking your content.
In the past, people tried to “con” search engines by stuffing articles with keywords or getting backlinks from shady sites. Not only do these strategies no longer work, but they also backfire; some publishers have been banned from search engines altogether.
A Better Strategy
But here’s one strategy that won’t fail you.
Always write your content for real people. Make sure your content is useful, clear, and provides real value to your readers.
Use precise, strategic keywords and key phrases related to your business and location; and don’t keyword stuff.
When you do this, you will automatically please both, your readers, and the search engines. And while it won’t guarantee placement on the first page of Google, chances are it will keep you from getting banned.
What Is PPC?
Now let’s talk about paid search.
While there are different ad networks, for simplicity sake, we’ll stick with Google. They may be the biggest and perhaps best-known search engine; their ad platform is called Google Ads, formerly known as Google Adwords.
I encourage you to think of search engines as the new and improved Yellow Pages.
Yellow pages… ? Yes, think advertising!
Think back to when you last opened the Yellow Pages. Ok, that may have been a while, but here’s what I’m getting at!
The last time I opened “the Book,” I needed someone to repair my fireplace. And since my web search didn’t return decent results, I resorted to the Yellow Pages.
I knew exactly what I was looking for and was ready to call for an appointment. I didn’t open “the Book” to browse, look at pretty pictures, or get sidetracked by another cute puppy video.
And that’s the difference between social media and search marketing; it’s visitor intent!
People go on social media because they want to be… social; they want to connect with others.
But when they need something specific, they open their browser and enter a search term in hopes of finding a solution. And that’s particularly true when it comes to local marketing!
So why does it matter?
When someone is looking for a solution to their problem, they enter specific words, aka keywords or key phrases. People search with a specific intent, frequently they are prepared to make a decision, and want to move forward.
It’s the same as meeting a friend to go window shopping and then eat lunch, vs. going to the store to find a new pair of shoes to appease your aching feet!
How does this apply to you, as a provider?
Let’s say school is about to start in your town, and you know some kids will need a physical. If that’s a service you provide, you could advertise it with a paid ad campaign on Google.
Chances are your ad would attract the attention of parents who need to make sure their kids get that physical before they go back to school.
Pay Per Click
PPC stands for pay per click. Advertisers bid in an auction for ad placement.
Your position in the search results is based on many factors, including how much you’re willing to pay (bid) for a click, the quality of your ads, your website, your landing page, the keywords you use, and more.
However, PPC ads are structured so that advertisers pay only when someone clicks on their ad.
Sounds overwhelming? Don’t worry, most of it takes place behind the scenes; all you have to do is follow the prompts and click a few buttons to set up your campaign.
What’s important here is this…
PPC is a much faster way to get visitors to your website, then waiting for it to appear organically in the search results (SERPS). Organic results may take months or may not happen at all.
Google Ads or Facebook Ads? There are similarities and overlap between the two, even though they are different platforms.
For starters, no matter the platform, anytime you want to market your practice, you need to have clearly defined goals. It makes no difference if you’ll be running Facebook or Google Ads.
And just as you did before when setting up your Facebook ads, you’ll start Google Ads by setting up a Google Ads Manager account.
To set up your Google ads account, you may go here and follow the instructions to get started https://Ads.google.com.
Your account is where you’ll build your ads and campaigns and monitor their performance. It’s also where you’ll test ads and optimize them until you’ve found your winning combination… ads that perform best for you.
Google Ads, just like Facebook, uses a hierarchy for campaign structure. We’ve talked about campaign structure in a recent article that you may read here.
Search Or Display?
Google Ads allows ads to run on both their Search and Display Networks. While a “2-for” often is a good deal, this may not be the case here, because users across the two networks may not be looking for the same thing.
Google Search Network
When your ads are running on the Google Search Network, they target those actively searching using for a keyword or key phrase; these people are looking for a solution.
You have the option to expand your search and include “search partners” of Google. They typically include smaller search engines that tap into the power of Google.
Advertising on the Google Search Network is the most common form of PPC advertising; it’s targeted, effective, and an excellent place to start!
Google Display Network
The Display Network allows your ads to display on different sites across the web, thereby expanding the reach. It is in addition to the traditional search ads they provide.
Keep in mind, though, visitors on the display network may not have a problem or actively look for a specific solution. More likely, they’ll come across your ad “accidentally,” not because they’ve looked for it.
And there is a big difference between the two!
The Display Network may be more appropriate if you have a complex and lengthy sales process or offer a more high-end product or service.
Spend time and familiarize yourself with Google Ads; you’ll find lots of help from Google itself right here.
Paid Search, Social Media, Or PPC?
Perhaps now you’re wondering…?
Should you engage people on social media, do SEO, pay for Facebook ads, limit yourself to PPC, or do it all?
Well it depends on several things, including:
- Your goals and objectives.
- The type of practice your own.
- Your marketing budget (you have one, don’t you?).
- If you have help, or if you’re flying solo?
- What other marketing are you already doing?
- What’s your level of experience with marketing?
Well, here is my 2 cents worth…
- I don’t think you should do everything.
- Pick the channels that suit you best, and you can commit to.
- You don’t need to be everywhere or do everything to be effective.
- Whatever you decide to do, do it consistently!
- Work on creating a marketing strategy for your practice.
- Integrate your chosen marketing channels into your strategy.
- Track, measure, evaluate, and adjust.
- And most importantly, get started!
We’d love to hear from you! Join the conversation by leaving a comment or a question below.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.“