Here are three simple steps to securing your practice’s data, ensuring HIPAA compliance, and protecting your business.
In some social circles, shopping is considered a sport. In others, it’s merely an obligation or simply a pastime. But when it comes to shopping for continuing education units (CEUs), one point most social circles can agree on is that determining the right educational courses is far more important than say, the quest for the perfect pump. That’s because—in most states—earning the right CEUs is mandatory in order to maintain your license.
Ready to expand into digital marketing? Learn how to create a kick-butt email newsletter that won’t have your patients rolling their eyes.
When I first learned how to play the piano, my favorite song was “Heart and Soul.” It’s undeniably catchy, and it was a tried-and-true standard for piano novices like myself. Every day, in an effort to get the song just right, I practiced, practiced, and practiced some more. And what did I glean from this exercise in repetition?
Let’s face it: As the owner of a physical therapy practice, you probably have a shortage of hours in your day. You’re not interested in learning the finer points of Facebook advertising. You don’t care about the ins and the outs of crafting the perfect email drip campaign. And you’re not even slightly amused by the cute black-and-white animal names in Google’s zoo of algorithm changes (lookin’ at you Panda, Penguin, and Pigeon). And unless you’ve got a black belt in nerdery, why should you care?
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: You probably don’t need to care about these things. I’m an avid follower of the Pareto Principle, so in the spirit of that, here are three things you can work on today that will cover 80% of your local search engine optimization (SEO) needs. And because local SEO for physical therapy is not yet super competitive in most markets, 80% is often all you need.
1. Get Your NAP Straight
NAP refers your Name, Address, and Phone number, and it’s the digital foundation of any local business’s online presence. If you’ve got a website, add that to your foundation (NAP+W). Google’s recognition of you as a local business hinges on this information. Unfortunately, Google is a finicky beast. It only wants to display information that it perceives as 100% accurate. So, the Goog needs plenty of proof that you—and your business—are who you say you are. The key to pulling that off? Consistency.
Every time Google finds your NAP listed somewhere online, it needs to see it presented the exact same way it has found it previously. Got an apostrophe in your business name? Make sure it’s there every time. Have two office phone numbers? Pick one and stick with it.
There are a two ways to audit your NAP listings for accuracy:
- Google your business name, address, or phone number; this should pull up most results. You’ll have to do some digging, but if you’ve got inaccurate listing data, the time investment is well worth it.
- Use Yext, which has a free listing scan that will search across most major business directories and data aggregators to identify inconsistent information. Yext also has a service to help correct your listings without any manual effort on your end. It’s not free, but for small business owners with limited time, the cost is money well spent.
Don’t have your NAP listed anywhere yet? Here’s a list of the top 50 business directories. Make it your mission to get listed in a handful of these; doing so will send all sorts of positive Google vibes your way.
2. Determine Whether Your Website is a Necessity or a Nice-to-Have
I’m going to say something that’s basically akin to committing murder in the world of digital marketing: You don’t need a website for your business. Of course, you should build one at some point, but we’re focused on three simple steps that’ll generate 80% of your results, and a website doesn’t make that list.
The one thing that’s more important than a website is a fully completed Google My Business Listing. Google’s done a good job of cleaning up the mess that was Google Local/Places/Plus, and there’s now one central place where you should concentrate your efforts: Google My Business. If you aren’t listed there yet, make it your first priority. Second priority is making sure your profile is as complete and accurate as it can be. Google has learned from its past mistakes and built a lot of helpful hints into the process, so it’s fairly painless now.
With that said, if you’ve done the basics and are ready to level-up your online game, you really should have a website.
3. Obtain Reviews
We all know that obtaining online reviews is crucial, but just to be clear: It is incredibly crucial. I’m talkin’ somewhere along the lines of beg, borrow, or steal—as in, do whatever’s necessary to get them (except, of course, planting fake reviews; Google can see right through those, so don’t even think about it). If you haven’t yet put together a plan to start ramping up your reviews, now’s the time. I recommend these resources:
- 7 Creative Ways to Get Customer Testimonials
- How to Solicit Customer Reviews Without Pissing People Off
- 5 Clever Ways to Get Customer Reviews That Convert
Also, self-plug: Check out the WebPT Blog tomorrow, where we’ll show you how to solicit reviews. Need advice on responding to the reviews you’ve already received? We’ll tackle that on Wednesday.
Guest blogs are like eggs: they serve many purposes, they’re delicious (when done right), and the world seems to go back and forth about whether they’re actually good for you. Just last year, for example, Google honcho Matt Cutts made no attempt to sugar-coat his assessment of guest blogging’s place—or lack thereof—in the modern marketing tool box: “…stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done,” he wrote on his blog. Fast-forward to 2015, when marketing guru Louis Gudema declared that guest blogging is not only alive and well, but also an extremely lucrative part of any business’s menu of SEO plays. (And, much to the delight of omelet-lovers everywhere, the federal government’s 2015 dietary guidelines gave eggs the nutritional green-light they’ve always deserved. Yay for redemption!)
So, now that you’ve got a handle on blogging for your own website, it’s time to expand your content horizons. After all, you’ll only get so much exposure from your own blog, and it might take a while for you to gain enough traction to get real visibility and amass a loyal following. But contributed content opportunities offer a potential fast-pass to getting your writing—and thus, your knowledge and expertise—in front of a much larger audience. Here are a few tips for laying golden blogging eggs:
1. Make sure the link juice is worth the squeeze.
When you submit content to outside web outlets, they’ll often include a link back to your clinic’s website within the body of your post or the accompanying bio—especially if they don’t provide you with any other type of compensation for your work. Those links add SEO value to your site—meaning they can boost your rankings in search engines like Google and Bing. And the bigger and more prominent the referring site is, the bigger your resulting SEO boost. So, it behooves you to put more effort (i.e., “squeeze”) into securing guest blogging opportunities for sites with greater authority—and thus, stronger linking power (i.e., “link juice”).
That said, remember that you don’t have to write for a major national outlet to reap the juicy benefits of inbound links. In fact, if you’re relatively new to the whole blogging thing, landing a spot on the New York Times—or even a specialized publication like Runner’s World—will prove somewhat of a longshot. But writing for local or regional publications—including those with niche audiences—can have a substantial impact on your site’s local SEO performance. For instance:
- Does your community newspaper have a fitness/recreation section? Ask if you could write a monthly exercise column.
- Is there a running club in your city? See if you could contribute an injury prevention article for an upcoming email newsletter.
- Does your local gym or health club have a blog or a news page? Offer to provide weekly wellness tips.
2. Pitch with a plan.
Once you’ve compiled a list of websites and publications that are in tune with your voice, subject-matter expertise, and audience, take some time to dig through their existing content library and pinpoint some of the areas where you could add value. Then, put together a detailed summary of how you’d like to contribute—and why you think readers would be interested in what you have to say. That way, you’ll be good and ready to clearly articulate your vision when the time comes. If you really want to show you have your ducks in a row, come to the table with a list of possible blog topics or even a ready-to-publish sample post. Proving your writing prowess right off the bat will make it much more difficult for content gatekeepers to turn you down.
3. Take off your sales hat.
Okay—you’ve worked out a deal to publish your content on a large, venerable site with an extensive readership. But while you’re probably drooling over the prospect of having your work seen—and noticed—by so many new sets of eyes, you must resist the urge to take an overly sales-pitchy tone. Readers will see right through your shameless self-promotion, and once they do, they’ll turn the page (or click the back button) without a second thought. Instead, put yourself in their shoes and figure out what topics, advice, and content formats (e.g., written pieces or video segments) will deliver them the most value. Your goal isn’t to sell your audience on your services; it’s to sell them on your expertise. That way, if they ever find themselves in need of rehab therapy, they’ll naturally think of you first.