As you consider ways to drive new business to your practice, you can and should work on developing physician referral sources; however, there are other ways to drive business to your practice—and Google plays an important role in the success of your marketing efforts.
While Facebook has over one billion users, it’s a social network, and in most cases, patients don't search for a physical therapy practice on Facebook. It's easy to understand: Physical therapy isn't something patients post about on their "wall.” Facebook is an important tool for physical therapy online marketing, but it should be lower on your priority list than Google's social network, which is called Google+. Here are three reasons why Google+ should be a high online marketing priority:
1. Your Google+ page shows up any time someone searches for your business name.
If you check your web analytics, chances are that the search term driving the majority of your practice’s web traffic is your clinic name. Try this yourself; go to Google and perform a search for your business name. In most cases, you’ll see a small blue Google+ link under your practice name. When you click on it, and some do, you’ll see the Google+ page for one of your practice locations. If you have multiple locations, you can and should have a Google+ page for each location.
2. Patients can review your practice through your Google+ page.
Given the importance of online reviews and consumer buying decisions, this is probably the most underused feature of Google+ pages. About 20% of patients consider reviews when choosing medical doctors. Chances are, if someone has never been to a particular business, that person will check out that business’s reputation online before visiting it. Having positive reviews show up next to your practice’s Google listing will help you stand out from your competition. Make it a priority to ask patients to review your practice on Google after they have a great experience in your clinic. Then, when people look at your business online, they’ll see those positive endorsements. That alone is worth investing time into creating a Google+ page.
3. Claiming your Google+ page will help improve your local search results.
Most search engine experts agree, and correlation studies confirm, that claiming your Google+ page and Google Places listing can improve your search ranking in the Google+ Local listings. Google+ Local business listings (pictured above for the search “physical therapy Santa Cruz”) are the search results with a business name, web address, business address, and phone number next to the gray alphabet markers on a Google search results page. These results appear when someone does a keyword-and-city search. For example, if you search for “physical therapy Santa Cruz,” the keyword is "physical therapy" and the geographic location is Santa Cruz. You will see the Google+ local search results about halfway down the page. Practices want to be listed in these results because they show up with desktop searches, Google Maps searches, and mobile searches (i.e., when people search on their smartphones or tablet devices). To learn more about how to claim your Google Places listing, you can visit this Google page for detailed instructions.
Bottom line: Embrace Google, and chances are, you will see more patients.
Google is the most commonly used search engine today. Most of the traffic to your website comes from Google. Patients and prospects that are vetting a referral, comparison shopping, or looking for a PT practice in their area are more likely to use Google than any other search engine. By claiming your Google+ page and properly using the tools it offers, you can give prospects a better first impression of your practice, provide a digital platform for ratings and reviews, and improve your search engine ranking. If you have limited time for online marketing, these are three good reasons to prioritize Google+ above Facebook.
A Quick Primer on Google+ Pages
Google+ can be a bit intimidating when you first click through it, but the reality is that it is very similar to Facebook. Here's a brief terminology comparison of Facebook and Google+:
- Like Facebook, there are personal Google+ accounts and Google+ pages for businesses.
- Instead of people “liking” your business page, people “follow” your Google+ page.
- Like Facebook, you write posts on your Google+ business page.
- Instead of “liking” a story, you show your appreciation with a “+1.”
- Like Facebook, you can comment on posts.
One of the best digital references for Google+ is an ebook by Guy Kawasaki. It's available for $2.51 at Amazon. It's a quick read, and it compares the different social networks and helps you navigate your way through Google+.
Google+ has a number of benefits for your practice. Here's your quick action plan:
- Claim (in most cases your Google+ page already exists) or create your Google+ business page.
- Claim a Google+ Local listing with your business name, address, photos, description, etc.
- Post to your Google+ page at least twice per month.
- Send patients to your Google+ page to review your practice.
Embrace Google+ and you’ll give your practice a better online image, a better reputation, and improved search results, all of which should translate into more patients walking through your door—thus improving your bottom line.