March 13th, 2013 Mike Wilton
It is with mixed emotions that I make this announcement: My final day as Internet Marketing Manager for Plastic Surgery Studios is this Friday. My time with the company has been full of lessons, surprises, and proud achievements. During my time here I have authored 81 blog posts, 22 newsletters, and two magazine articles (Plastic Surgery Practice, OFPSA Magazine). In addition, I spoke at the 2012 AAFPRS Fall Meeting, provided an unprecedented number of social media updates across our various social media channels, and even had a little fun looking into what happens to breast implants when you die. As I look back on the last four years, I realize that i have downloaded a lot of information to our clients, staff, and to anyone else who would listen. But still, I realize that while this industry has seen a lot of change, there is so much potential for growth and opportunity amongst doctors and Internet marketing companies.
As I reflect on the last four years, here are four final thoughts on how doctors and others in the medical industry can grow further if they expand their horizons even a little.
The Medical Internet Marketing Realm Moves Slow
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered in my time with Plastic Surgery Studios its that the medical world is slow to adopt technology and moreso its uses for marketing. In a world where most businesses have been using social media for a number of years, most doctors are just now hopping on to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+. As a doctor, if you are digitally savvy you have a great opportunity to get ahead of the competition because so many practices are slow to adopt the latest digital trends. Look at what larger brands are doing or other verticals are doing and see if there is anything they are applying to their internet marketing efforts that can translate well enough to help your patients.
The Industry Works Inside a Bubble
One thing that became quickly apparent to me while working in this industry is that it is an industry of copy cats. Everyone looks to their competitors for the answer on how to do it right. They wait to see what other companies are doing and then they look to replicate rather than innovate. In order to continue to move forward this niche needs more thought leaders. It’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with Real Self’s Medi Beauty Today blog. Tom Seery and his writers were producing content that approached cosmetic surgery internet marketing from a perspective that wasn’t commonly discussed amongst most of the blogs in the industry. Internet marketing has evolved greatly in the wake of Google’s recent algorithm updates. Its not about gimmicks and quick wins, its about growing your business online as though Google didn’t exist. Do something your patients will love, don’t worry so much about what the guy down the street is doing to appease Google.
Need some inspiration on how the medical community is evolving? Here are some of the blogs I would frequent that were innovative and informative, but still relevant to the medical community:
Doctors Need To Think More Like Businesses
After dealing with doctors for the last four years the one thing that stood out is how few of them recognized themselves as an actual business. Doctors are just like any other local business. They need to be concerned with marketing, customer service, and every other facet that comes with owning and operating a business. While they often ignore or turn away from these things they are critical to the survival of a medical practice in today’s day and age. When a new doctor is just a Google search away your business practices, bedside manner, staff, and overall perceived authority are crucial to earning patients and keeping them.
What Lies Ahead
As I leave Plastic Surgery Studios I will also be leaving the medical realm behind shifting my focus from working with doctors, dentists and surgeons, to helping national brands and major corporations build their online presence. During my time with Plastic Surgery Studios I have shared as much as I could to try and help educate our clients, our staff, and the industry as a whole on where things were going outside of this little medical marketing bubble we all hide in. Through it all I hope that you, our doctors, have been able to take away at least a tidbit or two of information and apply it to your practice to help strengthen your online presence. My deepest appreciation goes out to all of you for your support over these last four years. I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I have.
February 26th, 2013 Mike Wilton
Earlier this month Real Self’s MediBeauty Today explored the question, “Should cosmetic surgeons post their prices online?” The post dove into the opinions of three doctors who had three very different opinions of the topic. One felt that listing pricing on the site helped qualify patients, while another other argued that prices should not be the reason a patient selects a doctor (and rather be based off of the perceived value of what that doctor could do for a patient). The third doctor expressed that because no two patients are alike, ultimately a realistic price cannot be provided. But it didn’t really answer the question posed: Should a surgeon post his or her prices online?
Patients Want It
Even though the doctors in the Real Self article didn’t see eye to eye on whether or not prices should be posted online, it was clear that price would ultimately influence whether or not a patient would book a procedure with a doctor, regardless of if it was posted or not. In our plastic surgery website study, cost was the second most sought-after piece of information patients wanted following before and after photos. If you do a search in Google for nearly any procedure your practice offers, cost will most likely be the second, most popular search in Google’s suggested queries. Finally, if you look at the Google trends for the top five most popular cosmetic surgery procedures worldwide (liposuction, breast augmentation, eyelid surgery, tummy tuck, and rhinoplasty), you’ll see a growing trend in users searching for cost.
As more patients look to empower themselves with the aid of the Internet, they look for more information to help make educated decisions about treatments and procedures they are considering. But if you’re a doctor who doesn’t want to disclose prices…What can you do?
Give A Little
Even if you don’t disclose your full price list you can begin the dialogue on your website by meeting at least some of your patients’ needs by providing some of the information they may need to know as it pertains to price.
General Cost Guidelines
Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Stuart A. Linder, MD, FACS uses this technique on his website. Recognizing that more patients were interested in cost, we worked to include information about what patients can expect to pay for when it comes to surgery. On his breast augmentation page he explains that a surgeon’s fees, operating room fees, implant fee, and anesthesia fees will all influence cost. Additionally on his site, he explains that silicone implants cost more than saline and that breast revision surgeries typically cost more than initial breast augmentations. While the doctor never discloses price to his patients on his procedure page, he does give patients a better understanding of what they can expect to pay for if they decide to have surgery performed by him.
If you’re willing to give up a little bit more cost information on your site, listing the average cost of a procedure may be the way to go. This will give patients a ballpark idea of what the cost will be if they decide to choose you as their doctor, and help them decide if your procedure price range is within their budget. As noted in the Real Self article, this will help pre-qualify some of your patients and weed out the ones that wouldn’t be willing to pay your fees. The average-cost approach can be combined with general cost guidelines, which can explain the particular factors that cause prices to fluctuate. This will help a patient understand why the cost of his or her desired procedure is much higher.
If You Aren’t, Someone Else Is
Ultimately whether you provide your price or not, the searching public who really wants to find it will do so one way or another. Sites like RealSelf.com provide average costs as part of their “Worth It Ratings” and better yet each user who reviews the procedure can say where they are and how much they paid for their procedure.
Additional associations give average cost with their annual reporting. Portals like our very own iEnhance.com offer average costs on procedure pages. General health websites, such as Discovery Health and WebMD, also feature pricing information for patients looking into the matter.
The choice on whether or not you want to display procedure pricing information on your website is yours and yours alone. Still, it’s important to recognize that more patients are looking for details on cost; and if you choose not to answer their query, another surgeon eventually will.
Our best advice is give them some type of cost-related information, even if it’s just a general idea of what the procedure costs on average. This may satisfy the prospective patient for the time-being, and hopefully encourage them to contact you. Giving out general, yet pertinent, cost information also helps you attract traffic for queries related to cost, which is rare due to the fact that most practitioners refuse to disclose this data on their websites.
January 18th, 2013 Mike Wilton
According to a study released earlier this week by the Pew Research Center, of the 81 percent of U.S. adults who use the Internet, 72 percent say they have looked online for health information in the past year. But more importantly, 8 in 10 online health inquiries start on a search engine.
The report released on Tuesday titled, “Health Online 2013 ,“looked at a number of aspects related to online behavior as it relates to health care. Some of the topics explored include how people are using the Internet to research health, the increasing trend of “online diagnosers,” the role of social interaction in healthcare, and the adoption of reviews among general consumers.
SEO and Content Is More Important
One of the more impressive numbers from the study stems from the growing trend of “self-diagnosers.” Of those who have looked online for health information, 59 percent say they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. Of those questioned 46 percent of online diagnosers said that the condition needed the attention of a doctor, and 53 percent of online diagnosers say they spoke with a medical professional regarding what they found online.
This, along with the statistic that 8 in 10 online health inquiries start on a search engine, create a unique opportunity for medical professionals when it comes to content. Now, knowing that more patients are looking to the Internet before they look to a doctor, doctors should be seizing this opportunity to create helpful content that can help patients to determine whether or not they should be seeking a doctor for their condition or concern in the first place. Well- optimized content can not only help a potential patient make better decisions about his or her health, but also drive prospective patients to your practice in the event that they do want to further investigate their findings.
While many feel that online diagnoses and research is dominated by specialty sites, such as WebMD and the like, it’s important to note that only 13 percent of online health seekers start their search on this type of website.
While past Pew studies explored usage of specific social networks when it came to health care, this study focused on how patients were using social interaction as a means of researching their health. Interestingly enough, of the 72 percent of Internet users who said they looked online for health information within the past year, a mere 1 percent actually said they started at a social network site like Facebook.
But while the search may not start with social networks, the study uncovered that more and more people are looking to connect with people dealing with similar health matters online. One in four Internet users have read or watched someone else’s experience about health or medical issues in the last 12 months, and 16 percent of Internet users have gone online to find others who may have shared the same health concerns in the last year.
Eight percent of Internet users say they have, in the past 12 months, posted a health-related question online or shared their own personal health experience online in some way. Of those:
- 40 percent say they posted comments or stories about personal health experiences
- 19 percent say they posted specific health questions
- 38 percent say they posted both
In addition, 78 percent of those who posted a comment, story, or question about their health say that they did so to reach a general audience of friends or other Internet users. Eleven percent say they posted somewhere specifically to get feedback from a health professional. Four percent replied that they posted for both a general and a professional audience and 5 percent said neither of those choices fit.
This growing trend of social need and the desire to be a part of a community of supporters also opens a door of opportunity. As more patients look for a sense of community, doctors and hospitals can be at the forefront of community creation and provide a means for connecting patients both in their practice and on their websites.
Some examples that quickly come to mind are the DREAMERS Support Group started by Houston breast reconstruction surgeon Dr. Aldona J. Spiegel, which was designed to provide information and support to breast cancer patients who desire restoration, in order to enhance their physical and mental vitality and allow them to live a fulfilling life after surgery. Another example is the vaginismus forum run by Dr. Peter Pacik to help patients suffering from vaginismus. The form is used for education and support for patients suffering from this unfortunate condition.
The Slow Adoption of Doctor Reviews
Just days before the Pew study was released, the Journal of Urology released a study that suggested patients should be wary of online doctor reviews. Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, of the Texas Children’s Hospital, spoke on the topic during “CBS This Morning.” His discussion echoed the study’s concerns stating that the polarity of positive and negative reviews combined with the low volume of doctor reviews make review sites less-than-reliable or constructive when it comes to making a decision about a health provider.
The findings from the Pew study shine some light on the topic, and perhaps the biggest issue with doctor reviews is the low adoption rate from general consumers. When it comes to writing reviews of general interest items, 37 percent of Internet users say they have rated a product, service, or person online, and 32 percent have posted a comment or review online about a product they bought or service they received. In contrast, three to four percent of Internet users have posted a review of a treatment, hospital, or clinician. If those numbers weren’t shocking enough, the growth from 2010 to 2012 is almost at a standstill.
The percentage of Internet users who consulted online reviews or rankings of doctors or other providers only increased by one percent, from 16 to 17 percent. The percentage of Internet users who consulted online reviews or rankings of hospitals or medical facilities declined by one percent, from 15 to 14 percent. The percentage of Internet users who posted a doctor review online remained at four percent and reviews of a hospital remained at three percent.
This trend shows that the struggle for patient reviews isn’t being felt just at the individual practice level, but in the health industry as a whole. As more doctors push for patient reviews to help with their online reputation, local rankings, and the like, fewer patients are taking notice or even getting involved.
It’s a difficult place to be in, and I believe much of what we are facing is a result of the reputation management industry and the continued desire for health issues to remain private.
As a whole, review spam along with less-than-constructive patient reviews has left the review reading process less than desirable. To correct this I think doctors, and reputation management professionals alike need to educate patients on how to effectively post reviews. It’s not about posting things such as, “Dr. X is the best in the world I always love going to see him!” It’s about patients sharing why Dr. X is the right choice, how the doctor has made a difference in their health, and what made their experience with the doctor valuable enough to review. The sooner the medical community embraces this mentality, I believe the sooner patients will begin to trust and pay attention to online reviews.
Unfortunately, while I believe consumers seek more transparency from the healthcare industry, patients will continue to be very private about their health matters, and in many instances, such as in the cosmetic surgery field, be less inclined to talk about or rate their experience with a doctor or medical facility. I believe this to be especially true in cases where they are forced to use their full name or likeness.
Other interesting statistics to note:
- Eleven percent of Internet users say they have signed up to receive email updates or alerts about health or medical issues in the past year.
- Fifty-two percent of smartphone owners have looked up health information on their phone, compared with just six percent of other cell phone owners. The likelihood to use such technology is amplified by relative youthfulness, having a higher level of education, living in a higher-income household, being Latino, being African American – and owning a smartphone.
What are your thoughts on this recent study? Are you surprised by any of the findings?
December 26th, 2012 Mike Wilton
The press release — a PR rep’s best friend. And in the early days it was the best method for businesses to get their message to the media. But in the digital age, the focus has shifted. It has become less about the message and more about the links. Although the press release has become a staple of most medical Internet marketing strategies as a means of easily earning backlinks, a recent comment from Google’s Matt Cutts suggests its time to rethink your efforts.
If you analyze the backlinks of almost any surgeon or dentist you are bound to find a handful of links to press releases in their backlink profile. While some of the releases may be meaningful, most are announcements about redesigned websites, new practice partners, or that shiny, new device they bought for their practice. While these aren’t bad press releases per se, they definitely aren’t going to earn you or your practice much attention from the press.
In most cases these low-level releases are created for one purpose: links. Admittedly, even Plastic Surgery Studios has been responsible for some of these less-than-stellar PR efforts. However a comment from Google’s Matt Cutts in a recent Google Webmaster Help thread suggests these efforts may be in vain. Amidst the discussion about the value of links in a press release, Matt wrote:
“Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.”
PR With a Purpose
With that said, many would turn their backs on press releases and treat them as a dead medium for online marketing. But what they fail to recognize is that a good, newsworthy press release can earn a practice greater visibility both online and offline, as well as backlinks from outside sources who pick up the press release. But in order for this to happen you have to do something newsworthy that will not only benefit you, but the press and, ultimately, the reader.
Take a step back and think about the newspaper, your local nightly news, or any other media outlet you regularly consume. Then, think about your announcement. Would it interest you if it showed up in your newspaper or nightly newscast? If not, then it’s probably not press release-worthy.
Your website redesign? Probably not newsworthy. Your website redesigned with an exclusive breast implant database that would allow patients to get up-to-date information on breast implant warranties, recalls, and the like directly from implant makers? Now that might be a resource worth talking about.
The search engines are forcing doctors and dentists to, as Wil Reynolds of SEER Interactive says, “Do real company sh*t.” Links obtained easily through tactics like press releases, article directories, and the like will be harder and harder to come by. It’s time to focus on doing things that real companies do. Build relationships, add value, and deliver what your patient base asks for.
As with any content, your press release should serve your audience and offer value. Charities, patient events, new offerings exclusive to your region, or any other announcements that will benefit the consumer is what you should aim to use press releases for. You should always ask yourself: “If I were reading this about another business, would I care?” If not, you may want to reconsider.
December 3rd, 2012 Mike Wilton
It’s that time of year again, when we all stop to reflect on another year passed. 2012 has been an interesting year for Internet marketing. With the continued releases of Google’s Panda update (there have been 21 total at the time of this writing), the release of the Penguin update and the merger of Google Places and Google+, Google has kept Internet marketers on their toes as there have been a ton of happenings to stay on top of. After the success of last year’s 11 for 2011 post, I thought I’d carry on the tradition and do a recap of some of our most popular posts that you may have missed:
The Top 10 Plastic Surgery Social Media Influencers, According to Klout: We kicked off 2012 by analyzing who Klout felt was the most influential in social media. Will the same 10 appear in our 2013 comparison? Check back after the first of the year!
Six Unique and Inspiring Ways to Use Pinterest in the Field of Healthcare: Pinterest has been the talk of the town in 2012. In this post we analyze how some early adopters in the medical community were effectively using social media’s fastest-growing website.
Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty and What It Could Mean for Medical SEO: In the end, Google’s over-optimization penalty came in the form of Penguin on April 24th. This post was written about one week before the official update, which analyzed the facts and speculation behind what people were discussing. In the end, the only fact that was significantly premature was the impact it would have on exact match domains. That update didn’t come until late September.
Everything You Need To Know About Facebook Timeline for Pages: Facebook Timeline was a panic point for many people earlier this year, but now it’s as if we’ve always had it. This post looks at all of the new features that came with Facebook Timeline and how they can be effectively utilized.
2012 Local Consumer Review Survey Shows Doctor Reputation Management Is Crucial: We dissect the data from BrightLocal’s local consumer survey, and hone in on the results for doctors and dentists, uncovering just how important it is to manage your reputation online when it comes to local consumers.
What’s With All the Interest In Pinterest?: A Pinterest primer that explores what Pinterest is, why it matters, and how it could be used in your medical practice.
Local Search Optimization, Google+ Local, and the Future of Local Search: Mike Wilton’s AAFPRS Fall Meeting 2012 Presentation: If you missed my presentation from 2012’s AAFPRS Fall Meeting on local search optimization, this post gives you a recap of my presentation as well provides you access to the complete slide deck from the event.
Did Google+ Local Inadvertently Silence Doctor Reviews?: After outcry from the medical community about a change to Google+ Local’s review policy we analyze what overall impact it may have and what doctors need to be aware of.
Seven Tips to Make Blogging Less Painful: In her very first post for Plastic Surgery Studios, Internet Marketing Specialist Emma Still outlines seven ways that doctors can make the blogging process a little bit more enjoyable while creating great content for their site.
Leveraging rel=”author” to Increase Blog Clickthrough, Visibility and Branding: In our very first post on the subject we outline how rel=”author” can be used on your blog and the benefits that come with it. As we outlined in a recent post, rel=”author” is SEO’s latest “shiny thing” and while it generates a lot of great opportunities for your website, it’s also widely being misused.
Google Search Plus Your World: The Nail in the Rankings Coffin: In January Google released “Search Plus Your World,” a feature that incorporates your content as well as your friends’ content from Google+ into your search results (when logged in to Google). We outline why this was the final blow to using rankings as your core SEO performance metric.
Measuring the Social Media Metrics That Matter To Your Practice: “Likes” and followers seem to be the two metrics every doctor obsesses over, but are they the right metrics to focus on? In this post, we explore more actionable metrics that can help you further plan your social media efforts.
While 2012 has been filled with rapid changes, I predict that the pace will slow a bit in 2013. I predict that most of the changes we see will come from the local and mobile space, and less from the organic search space. This is mostly due to the fact that Google’s implementation of Penguin and Panda have reset the stage for what businesses need to do to show up in the search results. They have to be useful and helpful; it’s getting harder and harder to scrape by in search with spammy SEO practices. Now businesses are going to have to focus harder on online marketing as a whole, with SEO just being one facet of all that they do.
Again, Plastic Surgery Studios was able to stay ahead of the game in 2012. Even with the additional updates from Panda and Penguin we saw our clients mostly go unscathed. In 2013 we will continue to do our part and strive to stay ahead of the curve. It is our goal improve the medical marketing landscape by providing insight on forward-thinking strategies and techniques through our newsletter and blog. If you haven’t already be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed and get updates from our blog each time we post.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our content over the last year, and we look forward to engaging with all of you more in the year to come. If you have any questions or if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover more of in 2013, please let us know in the comments below.