May 30th, 2012 Mike Wilton
In our December 2011 Newsletter I outlined a number of changes we expected to see in the coming year. One of the highly anticipated changes was the integration of Google Places and Google+. Over the last couple of weeks posts from local search experts like David Mihm and Matt McGee alluded to the fact that the change was coming and finally this morning that change came.
Introducing Google+ Local
Google+ Local is the marriage of Google+ and Google Places as a means of providing relevant local information about local businesses across Google’s properties. The integration introduces a new “Local” tab on the left hand menu of Google+ and is reportedly converting roughly 80 million Google Place pages into 80 million Google+ Local pages. The new product also introduces Zagat reviews to local listings, another highly anticipated feature born of the Google/Zagat acquisition made nearly a year ago.
How This Impacts Your Medical Practice
If you’re not yet on Google+ it’s time to make the jump. If you’re not sure how to setup your Google+ Page we have put together a very in depth guide on setting up Google+ for your medical practice. Though it’s not outlined on the Google Blog, or the Google Places blog, Google gives some more in depth insight about their plans to deeper integrate Google+ and Google Places on their Google and Your Business Blog. In the post Google explains that this is just the first of many changes coming in regards to Google+ Local. Currently, if your practice is using Google+ to post content or host hangouts these elements will still be separate from your Google+ Local listing. However, Google partnered with thirteen businesses to fully upgrade their listings early as part of the Google+ Local rollout and you can see an example below that shows both the Places elements as well as the Google+ elements fully integrated. On the page you’ll notice that in addition to local information the posts section and the “Follow” option also appears. Additionally they hint that while Place Page information will still be managed via the Local Business Center, that may be changing soon to allow you to update your business information in a centralized location. My bet is on Google+.
Google has been nothing short of aggressive with its integration of Google+. You might recall the introduction of Google Search Plus Your World back in January, which integrated Google+ into your search results. Moving forward more products and services will be integrated with Google+ meaning that if you aren’t engaging on Google+ or at least staking your claim, you’re going to be missing out on the direction Google is headed.
For a roundup of detailed posts from around the web on the new Google+ Local integration check out the list below:
May 10th, 2012 Mike Wilton
Earlier this month the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) released their Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice. This guide, which was designed to provide ethical and professional guidance in regard to the use of social media by physicians, focuses on ways that physicians can protect the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and uphold a set standard of professionalism while engaging patients and the public online. On the surface the guide looks like just another healthcare social media guide similar to that of the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Mayo Clinic, but if you dig a little deeper there are a couple of useful gems that doctors can take away from it.
The document’s Preamble has enough statistical data to scare doctors away from social media for good. But the data alone supports the growth of social media use not only by patients, but also physicians. Two important statistics that doctors should be mindful of:
- One meta-analysis of physician blogs found that nearly 17 percent included enough information about patients for them to be identified.
- Ninety-two percent of the Executive Directors at state medical boards in the United States indicated that violations of online professionalism were reported in their jurisdiction in a 2010 survey.
If you’ve read health and medical social media policies in the past you’ve probably seen a common theme. There is a laundry list of things you shouldn’t do, but no concrete examples of violations or situations a doctor may find him or herself in. In Section Two: An Appropriate Physician-Patient Relationship the document provides seven different examples and scenarios that could land a physician in trouble when it comes to patient-physician relationships. These examples are vital because they highlight how completely human reactions to various online situations could infringe upon the boundaries of a proper physician-patient relationship.
If you’ve read any of its predecessors the document doesn’t offer up much in terms of anything new, but it’s an important reminder for doctors about how they should conduct themselves in an online setting. Slate ran a story regarding doctors with bad social media etiquette that praises the new document in hopes that it will not only help doctors to improve online physician-patient relationships, but patients as well. I would strongly recommend the read not only for additional examples, but for the insight from practicing doctors who have been navigating the social media and blogging waters for a number of years.
If you’re serious about social media but are worried about privacy and the “do’s and don’ts” I highly recommend the following articles:
May 8th, 2012 Mike Wilton
Earlier this year BrightLocal surveyed 4,500 local consumers in the United States, Canada, and the UKto explore exactly how users were using the Internet for local searches and the impact reviews had on their behaviors. Yesterday, Search Engine Land posted the second wave of the survey that explored the types of businesses consumers were searching for and the importance of “reputation” for different businesses.
Doctor and Dentist Searches On the Rise
When asked what type of businesses people searched for on the Internet in 12-month period, dentists and doctors rounded out the top five searches behind hotels, general shops, and clothing shops. However, doctors and dentists saw the largest growth in search, seeing a six percent increase in searches since the 2010 survey.
More Consumers Are Reading Doctor and Dentist Online Reviews
Seeing an 11 percent increase from the 2010 data the survey found that more people are reading online customer reviews for doctors and dentists. Aside from restaurants and cafés, doctors and dentists were the only other business type to see a growth in online review reading over the last two years. Additionally the survey revealed that most consumers read between two and 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a business.
In comparison to the 2010 data, the 2012 numbers are slightly down (this may be due to small sample size); however, it was clear that when it comes to online reputation, 27 percent of those surveyed said reputation mattered most when choosing a doctor or dentist. The top three reputation traits, all of which saw growth over the 2010 data, were most important to consumers were:
Increase Your Online Presence: More people are using the Internet to find a doctor or dentist in their area. Increasing your online presence can help set you apart from another doctor or dentist in your region. This doesn’t mean you should go build 10 new websites, it simply means you need to start thinking about more online properties such as Google Places, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, HealthGrades, and the like.
Keep Reviews Fresh: Review consumption is up, but consumers are reading fewer reviews overall. This suggests consumers are more savvy when it comes to online reviews and are able to form an opinion faster. In order to stand out in today’s local search space it is more crucial than ever to manage your reputation and ensure that your online listings feature current reviews about your practice, be it good or bad.
Therefore, with consideration to the information I have provided, be sure to encourage patients to review your practice on Google Places or Yelp if they are happy with their experience.
May 1st, 2012 Mike Wilton
In my career as an Internet marketer I have always believed in future proofing your online efforts. In other words, doing your part to ensure that no matter what the search engines throw your way, you’ll be ready to weather the storm and stay afloat in the long term. Over the last few months there have been a number of changes rolled out by Google, and I am quickly reminded of the roots of my SEO career.
I began my SEO career in a search space very similar to the one Plastic Surgery Studios works in. It was highly competitive, very profitable, and ultimately everyone looked to one another for how to properly market their business online. In the end the practices shared niche-wide to rank well in the search engines would cripple, or in many cases, topple businesses overnight. The practices being used weren’t particularly “black hat” at the time, but they were clearly manipulative and in the end those who lived and died by the search engines either died at the hand of the search engines or were left clinging to what little traffic remained as a result of the change.
In my three years as Internet marketing manager for PSS I have noticed a similar trend, where the medical marketing industry works within a similar bubble to find answers amongst competitors to better rankings in the search engines. The niche lacks innovation, new ideas, or direction from similar verticals when it comes to their Internet marketing. The end goal is for a site to rank with no consideration for other goals such as traffic and conversions. A goal that is reckless and leaves a business vulnerable to the waves of change rolled out by search engines each year.
It’s time for a change. For too long this industry and its doctors have obsessed over the 10 blue links on the homepage of Google and ignored the bigger picture. If Google flipped the switch tomorrow and your site disappeared from its search results would your practice website still get traffic? If Google stopped providing you with data related to monthly keyword searches both in analytics and its keyword tool, would you know what rankings to obsess over? It may seem far-fetched, but I’ve seen the first one happen, and considering that Google is already delivering (not provided) in Google analytics for a number of queries, the second one could happen.
There has been a shift happening outside of the bubble we operate in over the last few years that is focused less on rankings and more on the overall online presence of a business and the traffic it generates. Through content, engagement, and great user experiences sites are not only ranking well in the search engines but driving traffic from other online sources. The rankings game has changed drastically with localization, personalization, and the like making it a less-reliable metric to measure.
As we near the halfway point of 2012 I am challenging our clients and the industry to start looking at the bigger picture. First, does you site deserve to appear in the top 10 search results? Does it truly serve the end user, or just search engine spiders? Second, if something did happen that changed your search traffic entirely, would your site survive? Do you have other sources of online traffic, or are you living and dying by the search engines? If you answered no to either of these questions let the latter part of 2012 be focused on making your site the best it can be and improving your online presence through content, social engagement, and growth in your reputation and visibility.
To help you take the next step toward changing your mindset about internet marketing and to find inspiration we encourage you do the following: