Like other industries, the importance of digital marketing in healthcare has been steadily rising in recent years. In fact, when health questions or concerns arise, the first place most patients today turn to for answers and information is the internet — making it vital for any healthcare-related business to have a strong online presence and a well-thought-out digital strategy to keep up with and get ahead of the competition.
So what are the latest trends in digital marketing for healthcare products and services? We have identified six important trends impacting healthcare marketing today:
1. Patients now expect a strong digital experience
A positive patient experience has always played an outsized role in retention and practice reputation. But before the digital age, this was largely limited to the caregiver’s office and hospital settings.
Today, the requirement that healthcare providers deliver positive patient experiences has firmly taken root in the digital environment as well. Just how important is a practice’s online and other digital capabilities to attracting and keeping patients? Consider a few telling statistics:
- 77% of prospective patients perform online research before booking an appointment to see a new healthcare provider.
- In a 2019 Accenture survey, 70% of surveyed patients said they were more likely to choose a provider offering appointment reminders via email or text (up from 57% in 2016), and 53% said they would prefer a provider that offers remote or telemonitoring services (up from 39% in 2016).
- Half of respondents in a 2020 Accenture survey said that a bad digital experience would ruin their entire experience with a healthcare provider, and 26% expressed a willingness to switch providers in order to secure high-quality digital services. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said that a good digital experience would have a significant impact on their overall experience with a provider.
Clearly, in 2021, putting a stronger focus on improving the online experience and expanding digital caregiving capabilities can help healthcare providers boost their bottom lines.
2. Location-based SEO is growing in importance
Today’s online search results are becoming more and more localized, with internet users’ top Search Engine Results Pages pointing to services and solutions in their area whether they include a location in their search terms or not. And for healthcare providers that implement strong SEO strategies, this provides a big opportunity to land in the top tier of results when patients are actively looking for their specific services.
Want to be in the top of a prospective patients’ top search results? A few of the most important areas a practice’s SEO strategy should cover in 2021 include:
While search results may be getting more localized as a result of search-engine algorithm updates, ensuring that location-focused keywords are being properly employed on the practice’s website is still a key part of the equation. Providers should ensure that long-tail keywords are in place covering the practice’s city and state, neighborhood and specific location name, top specialty-related terms, and the types of treatment being offered.
Performing regular audits of a provider’s location listings is highly recommended, with sites to double-check for accuracy including the provider’s website, all of the provider’s social media accounts, Google My Business profile pages, and industry-specific review sites like Healthgrades and RateMDs.
A major factor today’s search-engine algorithms are seeking is a consistent flow of positive consumer reviews. In fact, for listings to land in the local pack at the top of its search results page, Google requires that a business have a start rating of 4 or higher. As such, every practice’s healthcare marketing strategy should prioritize a plan to regularly garner patient reviews.
3. Positive online reviews are becoming more critical
Of course, generating happy patients, good reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations have always helped boost business success. And, as noted above, positive online reviews play an increasingly important role in today’s search engine rankings, making them critical to gaining exposure among internet-connected consumers. Moving forward, as the average healthcare consumer grows more and more accustomed to performing online research before making provider-related decisions, having good online reviews will grow ever more important.
Consider these statistics from the 2020 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey:
- In the preceding year, 93% of surveyed consumers had used the internet to find local businesses — and 34% said they do so daily.
- 87% of responding consumers had read online reviews about local businesses (up from 81% the previous year).
- The healthcare industry placed third among the industries consumers reported being most likely to read reviews about, landing just after restaurants and hotels.
- Less than half of surveyed consumers said they’d consider patronizing a business earning fewer than 4 stars.
For all of these reasons and more, in 2021, healthcare providers should place a heavy emphasis on generating positive patient reviews and managing their online reputations. (While geared toward outdoor-industry clients, this blog article from The Brandon Agency’s affiliate TBA Outdoors offers a range of insights on ways to get more customer reviews.)
4. Voice search is gaining ground
According to a 2021 survey by Edison Research and Triton Digital, an estimated 94 million Americans — or roughly one-third of the U.S. population 12 years of age or older — own a smart speaker. This is a sizeable number on its own, but it’s even more impressive when growth is considered. The number is up 22% from the corresponding 2020 figure, and it represents a nearly five-fold increase from the number of smart speaker owners in 2017.
Unsurprisingly, the prevalence of voice searches is on the rise, too. Exhibiting the quick growth of voice searches, early 2019 data showed that 33% of adult online users used voice search monthly, marking an 8% jump from the 25% recorded just months earlier in September 2018.
To land higher on the results list when prospective patients perform voice searches seeking caregivers, healthcare providers should evolve their SEO strategies to incorporate more natural language into their keyword selection and placement. Consider how prospective patients might ask their digital assistants spoken-word questions, as opposed to the much shorter, buzzword-driven queries typically employed with typed searches. (For a deeper dive into effective ways to capture more voice-search leads, check out this TBA blog article on the topic.)
5. Video content is still king
According to a 2021 Wyzowl report, 84% of surveyed consumers said they had been swayed to purchase a product or service by watching a brand’s video. And 69% said that their preferred way to learn about a product or service is by watching a short video (as opposed to 18% who said they would rather do so via a written article, website or social post). Further, respondents to the 2021 survey reported watching an average of 2.5 hours of online video per day — up from 1.5 hours per day in 2018.
For healthcare providers looking to leverage consumers’ passion for video content, just a few of the ways to incorporate video into their marketing assets include video-based:
- facility tours
- physician profiles, introductions and interviews
- patient testimonials
- health-related educational spots
- event promotions
6. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to linger
Among the precautions taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus, telehealth services took on a more prominent role for many healthcare providers in 2020–21. And for caregivers with these capabilities in place, embracing the technology for patient appointments that don’t require face-to-face evaluations is a great way to provide added convenience to customers — and to increase offerings available to patients moving forward. Practices looking to further pursue telehealth options should consider creating a dedicated website hub for telehealth, letting existing patients know about the availability of the services and marketing the services to tech-savvy healthcare consumers in their area.
Could your healthcare-industry brand use some professional help with its digital marketing efforts? At The Brandon Agency, our team of certified brand strategists and data-driven marketing experts has helped clients in healthcare and an array of other industries successfully boost their consumer outreach via email marketing campaigns, social platform advertising, search engine optimization and a range of other digitally focused tactics. Further, TBA’s fully integrated marketing firm can cover the full spectrum of your brand’s marketing needs, including brand strategy, web design, creative, media, e-commerce, analytics, social media, SEO, conversion rate optimization and more. To get started with help ranging from a simple website analysis to a comprehensive strategy tailored to boost the performance of all of your marketing campaigns, contact us today.