In a recent visitor survey on Spine-health.com, chiropractic patients who recently visited a chiropractor were asked which methods they utilized to find and/or evaluate their chiropractor.
55% of the respondents said they used online resources to find and/or evaluate their chiropractor – including those respondents that had been referred. Of those, 100% used at least one online resource, 44% used at least two online resources, and 15% used three or more online resources. With such a large percentage of patients using multiple online resources to find a good chiropractor, it is now essential that chiropractors understand and decide how they will participate in these popular and growing online channels.
Online Channel #1: Google and other Search Engines (35% of online responses)
Search engines offer three main ways to drive traffic to your practice website: 1) organic search results, 2) local search results, and 3) search engine advertising.
If patients find you in organic search results, this means they found your practice website or another one of your online properties in a search engine’s natural (non-paid) search results.
High rankings here are highly desirable because these results tend to be the most trusted, but high rankings can be difficult and costly to achieve. Local search results, such as Google Places, is a non-paid sub-directory that allows local businesses to get listed just ahead of organic search results, which offers opportunity for exposure and potential traffic to your practice website.
Paid search engine advertising allows you to pay for placement at the very top or to the right of search results. This method gives you control over ad placement, and for which search terms
and user geographies your ads will appear.
How prospective chiropractic patients use this online channel: Using a search engine is often the first place people turn to begin the process of looking for a chiropractor. They can find what chiropractors are in their area, or find specific chiropractors by name, and they will get instant access to additional information so they can make a final decision. Many chiropractic prospects use specialty + geography searches (e.g., chiropractor [CITY] [STATE]) or treatment + geography searches, so you’ll want to show up for these searches relevant to you and your location. It is important to have a presence on the first few pages (and ideally on the first page) of the search engine results pages since these are the results that get the lion’s share of the clicks.
See below for tips and suggestions to help your search engine presence and advertising results.
Search Engine Strategy #1: Organic Search Results (non-local, non-paid)
Organic search results are the natural search results that show below the top paid search ads, if present, and below the local search results, if present. For example, when you search Google for “chiropractor Woodlands, TX” you may first see search ads, then Google Places listings, and then organic search results. High organic search results are highly desirable as they are more trusted than ads and investments to achieve them have the longest lifespan (when you stop paying for ads, ads no longer appear, while organic results can last for years). It can often be difficult to rank your website highly for the highly competitive terms, and results in the top three pages of results may require sizeable investments of time and dollars.
Here are some tips to help you optimize your website so you have a better chance of ranking highly in organic search for search terms relevant to your practice.
- Optimize your title tag. It appears at the top header in web browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) and helps your website rank for the key terms prospects will be searching for to find a chiropractor, such as “chiropractor Deerfield, IL”. The title tag represents what users can expect when visiting a web page. It looks like this in the HTML code of your page: <TITLE>This is my title tag of my page</TITLE>. If the main goal of your homepage is to emphasize who you are, what you do and where you are located, your title tag may look like this: <TITLE>Dr. John Smith, Chiropractor, Any town, IL 60018</TITLE>. Remember, the content on your pages should mirror what is stated in your title tag, otherwise it miscommunicates your message and will not be user friendly (or search engine friendly). Do not use the same title tag on every page of your website. Every title tag on every page should be unique.
- The more links you can get to your website the better chance you have to rank higher in the search engines. A great way to get links is to write extremely interesting and informative content. If patients or other chiropractors find your content, they may share it with others and link to it from their website or social media channel. NOTE: Do not pay for links as part of your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Paid links can often have an adverse effect on rankings in the long run.
- Search engines look favorably on sites that link out to credible, related sites. Linking to Spine-health.com, for example, not only gives your users access to relevant and informative content, but can also boost your optimization efforts. You can link to the homepage, or just to the pages/sections that make the most sense to educate your patients, e.g. the Health Videos section or Chiropractic sections of www.spinehealth.com/treatment/chiropractic. If you carefully screen the sites you link to, and only link to those that you think will truly benefit your patients, then you accomplish the dual goals of providing a valuable benefit to your patients and also presenting an authoritative resource that search engines will value.
Search Engine Strategy #2: Local Search Results (non-paid)
Showing up in the “local” search results is another way to drive prospects to your practice. These results appear above the normal organic results (outlined in #1 above), which can help drive traffic to your website and phone calls to your office. A local page can act as a basic web presence for your contact information until you get your practice website up and running, and if you currently have a site you can add your web address to your local page. However, even if you have a local listing, your listing may not always show in the first set of local results that the search engine chooses to show.
- Search the major search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo) to see if your practice shows up in the “local” results. You should be able to find it by searching for “[Your Practice Name] [City, State]”. Often, businesses are loaded into these directories from an outside source so most likely you will find your practice. If you do show up, make sure your information is correct. There is a link in your listing to request changes since oftentimes the information may be out of date or incorrect.
- If you do not have a pre-loaded “local” listing, make sure you submit your practice online. It’s quick, easy and free: Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Local.
- A tip about optimizing your local listing: when setting up or editing the existing title of your local page, add the main keywords you would like to rank for. In most cases we suggest you put the term “chiropractor” and “[YOUR CITY]” in your page title. Most others will just put the name of their business, such as “123 Chiropractic”. Using the above suggestion, an optimized title would be “123 Chiropractic – Chiropractor in [YOUR CITY]”.
Search Engine Strategy #3: Search Engine Advertising (paid)
Search engine advertising displays your ad in the sponsored ad results section of major search engines for the keywords of your choice. This allows you to target specific keywords and geographies you deem most relevant to your practice. These ad campaigns are usually charged to the advertiser on a pay per click (PPC) basis, where you only pay if someone clicks on your ad. With most PPC providers, you can set daily spending thresholds so you can control the budget of your campaigns.
A few downsides: One, Google allows users to manage their ad preferences, so members of your intended audience can now block specific ads or opt out of personalized ads – so your pool of prospective patients may be less than you would expect. Two, these types of campaigns can get costly. Depending on your specific market, the rate of competition from your fellow chiropractors and other websites may make typical per click rates fairly expensive.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s not advisable to start a PPC campaign unless you can dedicate the time (or hire someone to do this) necessary to manage your campaigns on a daily/weekly basis. If you are busy focusing on patients and do not have the resources available, it is probably a better use of your time to focus on the other essential tips contained in this article. If you are more advanced in online marketing and have the willingness to invest the time to learn it and manage it, it may be a profitable use of your marketing dollars.
- Utilize the geo targeting feature so you can only display ads to users within a defined area around your practice. This guarantees your advertising dollars are not wasted by targeting prospects out of your “sweet spot.” Google has recently introduced Adwords Express for Local Business, so if you do not have the time or resources to manage a full-blown Adwords campaign this may be an option for your practice.
- Set up multiple ad versions. Most advertising programs, such as Google Adwords, will rotate your different ads so it can see what works best. Over time it learns and displays the most effective ads so you get the maximum amount of click traffic.
- Try more than one PPC network to see if one works better or if you can get good traffic from multiple sources. There are many, including Google Adwords, Yahoo Search and Bing/Microsoft.
- Do not overbid (try to get placement for the 1st ad spot) or put large daily maximums for your campaigns. This is a common mistake that can eat up your monthly ad budget in one day. Start conservatively until you understand what types of results you can expect. If you have a good idea of ROI, you can increase your bids accordingly to maximize profitability.
- Do not expect large amounts of traffic. If you are setting up your campaigns correctly you should be receiving extremely targeted traffic, but not necessarily large volumes. This targeted traffic will be much more valuable.