How do you shop? If you’re like 62% of all US consumers, you browse—and purchase—products and services online. And you’re probably planning to do even more Internet shopping in the future, as you—and your online shopping peers—are becoming more and more comfortable with purchasing in a virtual setting. But before you commit to a fresh pair of shoes, a state-of-the-art stereo system, or even a new hair stylist, chances are you do a fair amount of online sleuthing—checking reviews, reading social media recommendations, and the like—before you commit to punching in your credit card number or picking up the phone to book an appointment. So, what’s all this got to do with the price of eggs—er—PT? Well, the online shopping trend has crossed into the healthcare market, too. In fact, according to Pew Internet Project’s research, 72% of Internet users say they “looked online for health information within the past year,” and one in five of all Internet users “have consulted online reviews and rankings of health care service providers and treatments.”

The fact is, consumers are shopping online for everything from sneakers and coffee to physicians and therapists. This is a huge business opportunity for you—one you can’t afford to miss out on. Because with some form of direct access to physical therapy existing in all 50 states, patients already are obtaining PT services without physician referrals. And you can bet your bottom dollar they’re finding those services by searching online. But, can they find you? If not, they’re going to end up seeing someone else—and that means you’re basically giving away potential business. Here are a few reasons why they might land elsewhere—at another PT clinic, a chiropractic office, or even a health club—for their neuromuscular needs.

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1. Your website is weak—or worse, nonexistent.

Websites have come a long way since the dawn of the Internet. And these days, it’s not enough to simply have one (although if you don’t, you need to make it happen ASAP). Web surfers have come to expect a certain degree of design quality, usability, and navigability from the websites they visit. If your site doesn’t measure up to their standards, they’ll hit the back button until they find one that does. When it comes to your website, that whole “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” rule goes out the window, because the harsh truth is that Internet users make flash judgments about businesses based solely on the content of their websites. What does that mean for you? It means you’ve got to put some effort into creating a website that:

  • Doesn’t appear outdated or unorganized.
  • Follows basic design principles and looks professional.
  • Clearly communicates who you are, where you’re located, what services you provide, and how patients can pay for those services (e.g., insurance or cash-pay).
  • Gives a clear avenue for prospective patients to interact with you.
  • Is easy to navigate.  

2. You have bad reviews—or no reviews.

Let’s assume you have a great website, accept a wide range of insurances, and provide many types of services. Alas, so do your competitors. What, then, makes a prospective patient choose you? Think back to online shopping behaviors. According to this invesp infographic, “84% of online shoppers refer to at least one social media site for recommendations before shopping online.” Your prospective patients probably have a handful of clinic websites open in their browsers, and they’re going through them one by one and scoping out each practice’s online reviews. No shocker here: They’re going to call—or online book with—the practice that best suits their needs and has the best reviews. This is why it’s imperative to solicit reviews and respond to any negative feedback.

3. You refuse to embrace simple SEO strategies.

The concept of search engine optimization, or SEO, can leave the layperson shaking in their boots. But while it might sound like some highfalutin terminology reserved for marketing wizards and Google fanatics, there actually are some simple—and I really do mean simple—SEO strategies you can employ now to make a big impact on your online presence:

  1. Create a Google+ page for your clinic to improve your search ranking among similar businesses in your local region.
  2. Make sure your clinic’s NAP listing (name, address, and phone number) is consistent throughout the cyber world, and get it listed anywhere and everywhere you can—on your own website, your social media profiles, and local directories, for starters.
  3. Identify your clinic’s keywords and try to work them into your website copy, Google+ profile, and directory listings.

If the thought of giving your clinic a total online makeover is stressing you out, breathe—because we’re going to cover all of this on our blog in small, digestible chunks that we’ll serve up throughout the month of March. Then, we’ll re-emphasize the most important nuggets of advice during our live online webinar—“How to Take Over the Internet: 5 Simple Strategies to Win More Patients”—which takes place March 31. And, as always, we’re here to answer whatever questions you have—so leave us a blog comment, send us a message, or get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter, and we’ll offer whatever advice we can to help you get your online package in shelf-ready shape. Bring on the patients!

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