Marketing your veterinary practice online: How to master Google search results
Maureen McKinney, Associate Editorial Director
Digital marketing is an art and science (and you could make the same argument for veterinary medicine, we think!). In order for your vet practice to thrive online, you need the latest information about how Google prioritizes its results.
Anyone selling anything-whether it's an item, a service or an idea-needs to create compelling content for a thoughtfully designed website while also understanding how Google prioritizes its search results. And since veterinary practices are often selling all three at any given moment, this means one thing: You need advice.
At a recent Fetch dvm360 conference, speaker and marketing guru Bill Schroeder offered his expertise on the art and science of digital marketing for veterinary practices. According to Schroeder, who has 20 years of veterinary marketing experience and currently serves as president of InTouch Practice Communications, an effective online presence is fundamental to reaching local pet owners and attracting new veterinary clients.
Here's his advice on how your vet practice can perform better on Google.
Audit your website on a regular basis
Does my website content make sense?
Is it still giving the right message?
Is it relevant?
“Identify and track your key performance indicators-whether that's the number of appointments made after visiting your site, average time on site, new clients per month or calls to the practice per month-as these are the things that actually drive practice growth,” Schroeder said. He advised creating a log or spreadsheet that includes every page of your site and reviewing it monthly.
Simplify the user experience
If your site is not performing well, Google will not prioritize it in search results. “Google is all about providing the user with the best search experience possible,” Schroeder said, “so ask yourself if your website is directly addressing and answering your clients' needs.” Pet owners need to be able to access the information they need with ease.
“Place all the information on your site in a predictable place that can be accessed with no more than three clicks,” Schroeder advised. “Make sure your practice phone number, address, directions and appointment requests are front and center.” Print every page of your website then ask yourself what you want pet owners to do after they read each page. If you don't have an answer, you need to reassess. Be sure you include a call-to-action on each page for the pet owner to continue to click through your site.
Use paid online ads
The use of paid ads is a direct route to conversion, Schroeder said. In website parlance, conversion is when a visitor to your site completes a desired action, such as calling your practice, making an appointment or signing up for your newsletter. In fact, Schroeder said, conversion results often double when paid ads are used on social media and Google.
“Google is pushing organic search results-those that appear simply because your site contains relevant keywords and appropriate content-lower on its results list,” Schroeder said. So, even though your practice might be No. 1 in organic search results, it might appear at No. 9 in overall search listings because preferential placement has been given to practices that paid to appear higher.
Include a blog on your site
When someone searches online, Google combs through websites to find keywords relevant to the topic. That means the more relevant content you have on your site, the higher your practice will appear in search results. A well-written blog is a great way to provide relevant content. Schroeder recommended blogging consistently, starting with twice monthly blogs that range from 250 to 500 words.
Some telling statistics about the success of video in online marketing:
88% of consumers trust online testimonials as much as a recommendation from a friend.
One-third of all online activity involves watching video.
90% of consumers say product videos help them make decisions.
Google doesn't look for keywords in video content, so be sure to include the transcript of the video on your site also. “Make sure closed captioning is turned on,” Schroeder said. “YouTube can do this for you automatically, and you can make corrections to the transcription.” The good news for video newbies: Today's smartphones take high-quality video, so you don't need to spend money on professional equipment.
Get in your local directories
Schroeder referred to this as “low-hanging fruit.” First, Google your practice name. If your practice does not appear first in the results list, then claim and optimize your Google My Business page. Then use Moz Local to make sure your name, address and phone are consistent on all the most commonly used directories. Finally, check the maps section in Google results to see who Google thinks your primary competitors are.
Grow a positive review base
Business-related search results are driven largely by reviews. In fact, Schroeder said, the quality and quantity of your practice's online reviews are second only to your physical proximity to the user in generating search results. “Google makes decisions about the relevance of search results based largely on what people think about the business,” Schroeder said. Keep in mind, however, that 82% of the reviews a business receives are requested by the business, so ask satisfied clients directly to leave a review.