On October 17, 2017, WebPT’s own Charlotte Bohnett and Shawn McKee hosted a webinar detailing how rehab therapy practices can make themselves findable—and, more importantly, discoverable—online. During the presentation, they covered everything from blogging and soliciting reviews to keywording and optimizing online profiles. It was a lot of juicy information—and we received a lot of juicy questions from our audience. We’ve compiled the most common ones—and their answers—in the FAQ below.
Can I send patients a direct link to leave Google reviews?
Yes. You’ll find instructions on how to create a direct link to your business’s review page here.
Is there a way to use WebPT to ask patients for reviews after the initial visit?
Yes! WebPT Reach, our patient relationship management software, offers precisely this sort of marketing support. If you don’t want to use a patient engagement software, there are plenty of free survey tools out there (like SurveyMonkey) that you can use to collect patient reviews and feedback. You could also mention that your clinic is on Yelp and Facebook—both of which are great places for patients to leave reviews. The important thing is that you thoughtfully build out your review solicitation process in a way that allows you to engage patients in a positive way and get their feedback (as a side note, WebPT Reach is great for automating that process).
Should my practice get a Yelp account?
Because we’re a software company, WebPT doesn’t have a Yelp account, so we can’t speak from firsthand experience. However, we do know several clinics that have had success using Yelp’s ad platform. That being said, we’ve also heard stories about clinics signing up for a business account and then being hounded by Yelp to purchase their advertising services. After refusing, some businesses have experienced a drop in their ranking. If you’re curious about Yelp—and would like to explore it as an option—then give it a try. As an ad platform, Yelp should be willing to run some tests with you to see what works. It’s also important to keep in mind that Yelp isn’t the only review directory. You can also solicit reviews on Google or Facebook—both of which are free.
Can our patients leave Google and Yelp reviews without creating an account? Many do not want to sign up for anything.
No; unfortunately, reviewers on both Google and Yelp must create an account before leaving a review. That being said, you could certainly collect patient reviews yourself and—with their express written permission—publish them to your website. Or, ask patients to leave reviews on Facebook (if they already have an account) That way, your patients can sing your praises without signing up for a thing.
Are testimonials we publish on our website less trusted than those on review sites?
While review sites requiring user accounts do tend to have a bit more of a "trust factor," testimonials are certainly worthwhile—and better than nothing. Anything on your site could potentially come across as "marketing," obviously, because you have control over it. But, the more specific the testimonials are (in terms of things like detailed results and outcomes), the more valid, genuine, and impactful they seem to your website visitors.
How do you solicit reviews without providing an incentive?
We recommend starting by tracking patient satisfaction (i.e., using a tool like NPS) and targeting your most satisfied patients. Then, quite simply, ask—as we like to say, "Ask and you shall receive." Most happy patients will gladly leave a review when asked to do so. Follow-up emails tend to be very effective with this.
Can I export email addresses out of WebPT to use for marketing purposes?
Yes, you can export patient email addresses into an Excel spreadsheet. That said, to remain HIPAA-compliant, you must obtain written permission from each patient before sending him or her any marketing materials.
How do we know if we get a new online review?
If you have accounts on popular review sites (including Google Business and Yelp), they will typically alert you each time a new review is posted on your business’s profile. Alternatively, you can usually use Google to search something to the effect of, “[Company Name] review” to find the majority of your practice’s reviews.
What do we need to do to ensure Yelp doesn’t exclude our reviews? We have many good ones, but Yelp doesn’t recommend them or excludes them.
As explained here, Yelp “currently recommend about 75 percent of the reviews that are submitted. This means about 25 percent of the reviews submitted to Yelp are not published on a business’ listing or recommended to consumers.” The article goes on to note that reviews are:
- screened by IP address “to make sure several reviews are not coming from the same user”;
- monitored for bias to eliminate comments written by “a competitor, a disgruntled employee, or solicited by a business owner from friends, family members or favorite customers, and unhelpful rants or raves”; and
- weeded out based on the reviewer’s standing (i.e., reviews from novice or infrequent contributors may be removed).
If your patients are not frequent Yelp reviewers, they may fall into the last bucket. So, before you ask a patient for a Yelp review, you many want to ask him or her how active he or she is on Yelp. You could then direct inexperienced Yelpers to a different review site (e.g., Google or Facebook).
We are trying to revamp our clinic, increase our overall online presence, and redesign our website, but we still have some negative reviews from years past. Is there anything we can do about those—or should we just focus on building better reviews now?
That’s a great question. As Bohnett and McKee discussed on today’s webinar, if the negative reviewer has a valid complaint, then it might be worth responding, despite the fact that a long time has passed since the original review was left. You could:
- apologize for the problem (and the delayed response);
- acknowledge that you’ve taken the reviewer’s feedback into account as you’ve made changes to your practice;
- express appreciation for that person’s willingness to share his or her experience; and
- offer to remedy the situation—or make it up to the person with a complimentary wellness service (if applicable).
How many sites should you focus on for reviews?
There’s no easy answer to this question, although generally speaking, smaller businesses might find it more beneficial to focus on one site at a time. With larger practices, reviews build up over time, so equal focus should be placed on popular review and social media sites such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook.
Can reviews be shared between locations?
As a general rule, reviews should be given for the experience at one location—not for the business as a whole.
What should I do when a disgruntled patient posts a negative review?
Negative online reviews can be an opportunity to exemplify your professionalism and show your online audience the level of care you have for all patients. According to WebPT’s Brooke Andrus, the way you respond will depend on the type of feedback the patient leaves. If the complaint is valid, be sure to acknowledge this and assure the patient that you’re willing to do whatever it takes (within reason) to make it right. If the situation escalates, “invite him or her to send you a direct message so you can continue the dialogue in private.” No matter what the reviewer says, it’s crucial that you keep your cool and avoid sending obviously canned responses.
How do I challenge a Yelp review’s authenticity?
According to this Yelp support page, you can report all questionable reviews to the service’s team of moderators. However, in most cases, Yelp doesn’t “take sides in factual disputes and generally allow[s] Yelpers to stand behind their reviews.” If it’s truly a defamatory review, you may be able to take legal action. For all other review sites, please refer to the site’s help docs.
What are some ideas for things to include on our website home page? How can we mix it up and keep it interesting?
Aside from website essentials (e.g., NAP, hours of operation, and service menu), what you decide to post on your homepage will depend on your audience. Check out your competitors’ sites to see what kind of content they post. Pinpoint what you like—as well as what you don’t—and build your own content based on that.
What's an interesting way to post staff profiles?
We’ve all seen “standard” staff bios, which tend to include basic information about the employee’s education, specialties, and interests—and maybe a fun fact or two. While those types of profiles are fine, if you’re looking for a way to spice things up a bit on your About Us page, you might consider posting employee spotlight videos (here are some great examples) or photos—remember, visual elements are inherently more engaging than text-only descriptions—or including a Q&A within each employee profile. And if you really want to get creative—and technical—check out these outside-of-the-box ideas.
How often do you really need to blog to make an impact?
Some folks will tell you that Google really loves content—which means you should post as much as possible. But the truth is that Google love relevant content, specifically. So, what makes content “relevant” in Google’s eyes? To make a long story short, it means people are landing on your site and staying there—thus indicating that they found what they were looking for—rather than immediately bouncing off that page. So, if you’re going to take the time to blog, stick to a schedule (Google really doesn’t like abandoned or infrequently updated blogs); but, do not publish content simply for the sake of publishing content. Instead, write blog posts that your patients really care about. This requires putting yourself in your patients’ shoes. What do they care about? What questions do they have? Ultimately, no matter how frequently you post content, it’s got to be stuff the people who land on your site actually want to consume. As McKee explained during the webinar, “One really good post a month is going to be better than four junk posts.”
Does it matter who authors the blogs? Could I—a marketing professional without a degree in health care—write blogs on physical therapy as myself, or would my lack of experience negate any good blog post even if my information is medically and scientifically accurate?
If you check out the WebPT Blog, you’ll notice that the majority of our posts are written by members of our content team—none of whom have degrees in health care. However, we’ve immersed ourselves in the rehab therapy industry to such a degree that we can intelligently speak to most rehab therapy topics—including regulations, industry trends, and clinic best practices. Plus, our backgrounds in writing and marketing ensure that the posts are well-written and well-researched. That being said, we usually save clinical content for rehab therapists. Therefore, we would say it probably depends on the content you’re conveying. If you’re writing about something technical that you feel would benefit from the insight of a trained PT, consider collaborating to create a co-authored post. That way, you get the best of both worlds.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What do I need to include on my website’s home page to ensure it performs well in terms of search and conversion?
As the old saying goes, “Keep it simple.” We’ve seen too many home pages that try to do too much at once. Take a step back and determine the page’s main purpose. Is it for new customers, returning customers, or both (we’re guessing both)? Keep the page clean, and use a clearly defined top navigation so both new and returning customers can easily find what they are looking for. This will keep your site users engaged—and Google will note that users (1) do not bounce from your site and (2) stay there longer than they do on other sites they find via search. This will indirectly improve your search rankings.
Other technical SEO items that are essential include:
- adding a correct title for the home page (we like to use the following format: Keyword | Company Name [Ex: Physical Therapy Clinic in Phoenix];
- writing a compelling meta description (this is where you tell searchers why they should click on your listing);
- defining an H1 on your page that matches your title keyword; and
- making sure your home page includes text—not just images. (Google can’t read images, but there are ways to help Google figure out what your images are. You can find more info on that here. Also, make sure you include only relevant imagery on the page.)
Pro tip: Use a title and meta description character checker (like this one).
How do we choose the best keywords for our website?
As McKee and Bohnett mentioned during the webinar, one of the keywords you’ll definitely want to optimize for is “physical therapy [Your City, Your State].” From there, depending on how many pages you have on your website, you’ll want to create a list of 10-20 keywords to really focus on. A good way to come up with that list is to start with your business name, what you do, where you are, treatments you provide, and conditions you treat. If you run out of ideas, search your local competitors and see who ranks at the top of search results. Read their website copy; what other keywords are they using?
Once you get your core keywords down, try going after long-tail keywords, too. Ranking highly for long-tail keywords is much easier than ranking high for shorter keywords, so even though they bring in less traffic, they’re still more valuable for small businesses to go after. An example of a longtail keyword might be “physical therapy exercises for marathon runner’s knee,” which has 1.7 million results as opposed to something shorter like “physical therapy exercises,” which has 38 million results. The more specific your answer is to the question, the more likely prospects will find you.
Which website template services have mobile responsive templates?
We’ve been in business for several years, and we’re thinking about updating and modernizing our website. Will changing it negatively impact our Google ranking?
If you do a full teardown and rebuild, you can expect a bit of a dip—that happens regardless of industry. Typically, you’ll experience a 5-10% hit on your keyword rankings, but that’s usually only temporary (though it can last up to 90 days if you rebuild your site poorly). In the long run, though, if you improve your website (e.g., by making it more responsive for mobile devices), you’ll end up climbing to an even higher search ranking than you held previously. Furthermore, if you enlist the help of a seasoned SEO strategist, he or she should be able to minimize any potential damage. You can also help mitigate the risk of changing your site by using services like Moz to pinpoint SEO errors and by handling your redirects appropriately. You’ll also want to ensure your new site has solid content and keywords. If you haven’t touched your website in several years, a lot of has changed—and there are lots of opportunities for improvement. Finally, here's a guide MOZ put together that you can use as a starting point for this process.
What if my blog website is separate from my clinic website?
If the domain on which you host your blog is separate from your website domain, then you are weakening the SEO potential of both sites. The more indexed pages a site has, the greater its SEO power. In other words, one website with a lot of indexed pages is much more powerful than two smaller websites. So, we highly recommend migrating your blog to your main clinic website.
Yahoo doesn’t have our accurate NAP, but they want us to pay to change it. Is there a way around that?
From what we can find, there is a workaround for this. You’ll find step-by-step instructions here. Additionally, you can purchase a subscription for Moz Local, a service that will not only find all of your company’s online listings for you, but also ensure they are updated. This is a relatively inexpensive way to stay on top of your online presence across sites (the monthly payments amount to somewhere in the neighborhood of $100-$200 per year).
We have a lot of elderly patients. Do all of these Internet search stats really apply to them? Is our online presence really that critical considering that most barely use email?
While it’s true that the senior population may not use the Internet to research healthcare options as much other generations do, many of their younger caregivers and potential referral sources do. So, it’s still a good idea to have a professional website and online presence.
Does a YouTube channel help with searches?
Having an active channel on YouTube is a great way to boost your SEO rankings. Google, the world’s most popular search engine, purchased the video sharing platform back in 2006 and includes YouTube videos on search engine results pages (SERPs). Additionally, YouTube itself is ranked as the second largest search engine on the web, bringing in queries on everything from “how to” instructions to viral videos.
Does using a website template service (e.g., Wix or Squarespace) affect SEO?
Well, yes and no. Using a template service such as Wix or Squarespace will not on its own affect your website’s SEO, but both services are limited in terms of the changes you can make to your site, and the scope of optimization is limited. Generally, we’d recommend building your website in Wordpress using either a free or purchased a theme and then installing the plugin Yoast. (There are both free and paid versions of this plugin, but for most people, the free version will do.) This approach is a touch more involved, but it’ll provide you with better options for maximizing your SEO. If you absolutely must go the template route, then we’d recommend Squarespace over Wix, as it currently offers better SEO options. For a longer comparison of these two services, check out this article.
How are our meta descriptions determined? Is it simply pulled from the website?
As Aaron Treguboff, WebPT’s organic reach lead, writes in this post, if you don’t create your own meta descriptions, then Google will create them for you: “generally speaking, Google will simply take the first text on the page and try to squish together a sentence using that copy,” Treguboff said. “Many times, this description is nonsensical or could actually make searchers less inclined to click on your site’s listing.”
To audit your site’s meta descriptions, you can create a free Moz account and download the Mozbar—a free Google Chrome extension that shows your website’s SEO ranking and, more importantly, the page title and meta description for each page. If it looks like you need to update your descriptions, follow the advice Treguboff offers here.
How can I efficiently manage social marketing? Updating our social media accounts (e.g., our Facebook page) is hugely time consuming, but we want to keep everything current.
The amount of time you spend on your practice’s social media pages largely depends on the platforms you use as well as the size of your practice. According to this WebPT blog post, you shouldn’t have to spend more than 30 minutes a day updating your pages. For multi-clinic chains or enterprise practices, we suggest checking out Buffer’s Social Media Workflow. If you’re a larger business, you may want to consider bringing on a social media manager to oversee your social media pages and content.
Regarding your website, the amount of time you spend on it depends on how you use it, but it shouldn’t amount to more than 10 minutes a day on average. The initial build can be time-consuming, but once you’ve got your website published, any additional work you put in should be for general site maintenance and monitoring the traffic on your website. If you know which pages get the most clicks and views, that will help you prioritize future updates and changes. Additionally, you may want to consider outsourcing website updates to a front-end developer or a company that specializes in maintaining rehab therapy websites, such as E-Rehab.
Planning and Budgeting
Do you recommend using Google ads?
What PT-specific marketing agencies do you recommend?
What percentage of revenue should a small PT clinic spend on marketing?
Unfortunately, there’s no standard recommendation we can give, because the answer to this question really depends on your growth goals—and what you can afford to spend. If you are aggressively trying to grow, you’ll want to put more money behind your marketing efforts. That being said, there are a lot of effective things you can do without spending much money. In fact, it’s often best to start small—with maybe 5% of your total budget, if that—and see what kind of results you get. Then, once you know what works best for your clinic, you can scale that up. For more information on developing a marketing budget and maximizing your marketing dollars, check out this post and this one.
Which metrics should we be tracking?
Ultimately, your marketing efforts should result in more patients—and more satisfied patients. To learn more about which patient satisfaction metrics to measure, check out this post. If you’re wondering which sales and marketing metrics you should track, refer to this post. And for advice on key financial metrics, read this post.
How can I get more patients without spending much money?
Many of the strategies Bohnett and McKee discussed during the webinar—including blogging, promoting content on social media, and soliciting positive patient reviews—don’t cost anything. You can also check out this blog post for more ways to get new patients without spending a dime.
Our marketing agency has a stranglehold on our website. We can’t access or edit it. What should we do? Use Facebook as a substitute?
Fire your agency? That may be blunt, but your marketing efforts should be a collaboration between you and whatever companies you hire to assist you. If you want editing rights—or you have specific changes that you want your agency to make to your website on your behalf—then the agency should be accommodating that request (or, at least providing you with an expert opinion as to why that may not be best move to help you meet your goals). While Facebook is a great marketing platform, you absolutely should not use it as a substitute for a top-notch website.
If we implement all of these strategies, how long will it take for us to see improvement?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Ultimately, it depends on where you’re starting from, how well you implement these strategies, and how saturated or competitive your current market is. As Bohnett and McKee said during the webinar, these are long plays designed to improve your overall standing within your local market. You could notice an increase in patients in a few days—or months.
Are interactive chats on a website beneficial?
It can certainly be helpful for website visitors to have a HIPAA-secure, low-friction way to get answers to their questions. However, in order for chat functionality to be effective, your clinic must have knowledgeable staff available during normal business hours to respond to prospective patient inquiries immediately. Otherwise, patients may become impatient and frustrated, and that could end up doing more harm than good.
Wowza—talk about a lot of great online content! Still scratching your head over website optimization? Leave your question in the comment section below, and we’ll do our best to get you an answer.