When it comes to websites to list your practice on, the plastic surgery realm is definitely not lacking opportunities for doctors to sign on the dotted line. But aside from directories like our very own PlasticSurgery.com or CosmeticSurgery.com, where should doctors be investing a little more time and money? I recommend RealSelf.com. Here’s why:
RealSelf continues to see growth in both its online traffic and community. According to Compete.com data, RealSelf has seen exponential growth over the last year, even beating out websites like PlasticSurgery.org when it comes to online traffic. This growing visibility creates great opportunity for doctors to gain exposure among potential patients if they are active enough in the community.
Our InIternet marketing team is constantly analyzing analytics data for our plastic surgery SEO clients, and time and again we have found that RealSelf.com appears in the top five referrals for doctors. Having a listing on RealSelf.com can earn you some added website traffic, and if you’re active in answering questions you are sure to see even more traffic funnel your way.
Patient reviews are a hot topic amongst plastic surgeons, as we found out in our latest newsletter. But like them or not they are out there, and RealSelf.com regularly shows up in searches for doctor reviews. If you’re looking to diversify the locations of your online reviews (you are doing that…aren’t you?), then RealSelf is a strong choice as it regularly shows up in doctor review searches.
Bonus Benefit – Content Fodder
One recommendation I have made to clients in the past is that the questions on RealSelf.com are a great resources for doctors to get content ideas for their blog or website. While I suggest you still answer the questions on RealSelf.com, you could always take the topic back to your own blog and elaborate on the subject a bit further. If someone is asking the question on RealSelf, chances are there is someone else out there searching for the same answer on his or her favorite search engine.
Interested in becoming part of the RealSelf community? You can always join for free. Just make sure you become active in the community and answer questions to reap the full benefits of your RealSelf profile. But if you really want to up the ante a bit, you can always sign up for the Pro or Spotlight options, and thanks to a recent affiliate partnership between Plastic Surgery Studios and RealSelf.com, Plastic Surgery Studios clients can receive a preferred rate on RealSelf Pro and Spotlight accounts. To find out how, contact your Plastic Surgery Studios sales or customer support rep today!
It’s hard to believe that in 2012 I am still talking about “keyword stuffing,” but sadly it’s still a pretty common SEO practice, especially in the local search space. Google defines keyword stuffing as, “…the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.” But Google aims to put a stop to this practice with some recently refreshed guidelines.
We’ve all seen it before, the long list of cities a doctor “serves” in the footer of a page in hopes of gaining some additional local rankings without being too intrusive upon site visitors. This tactic has widely been used over the last few years, and Google has clearly taken notice. In an update to it’s guidelines Google calls out this practice, specifically listing “blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for” as an example of keyword stuffing. You can see an example of this practice on a website below.
We’ve discussed in the past the importance of engaging blog commenters and filtering out spam, and Google just upped the ante a bit with new guidelines specific to user-generated spam. This means that as a webmaster, your site can be held accountable for having too many spam comments on your blog. In most cases Google will recognize the problem as user-generated and will notify you about the problem via Google’s Webmaster Tools, however Google goes on to explain, “…If your site has too much user-generated spam on it, that can affect our assessment of the site, which may eventually result in us taking manual action on the whole site.”
Rich Snippet Abuse
Rich snippets have become a hot topic as more doctors and their SEO teams try and find ways to manipulate the search results to show authorship markup as well as review markup. As more people become aware of these practices it has forced Google to generate guidelines specific to the use of semantic markup. In the new guidelines Google calls out two specific practices:
Marking up content that is in no way visible to users
Marking up irrelevant or misleading content, such as fake reviews or content unrelated to the focus of a page
Seeing both practices being utilized more frequently in the medical search space, I wrote about them in length in a recent post on the ugly state of Google SERPs. It’s important to realize that, although Google only gives two examples in the recent update, they note that other manipulative practices could be acted upon:
“While rich snippets are generated algorithmically, we do reserve the right to take manual action (e.g., disable rich snippets for a specific site) in cases where we see abuse, deception, or other actions that hurt the search experience for our users…These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative rich snippet behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here. It’s not safe to assume that Google approves of a specific deceptive technique just because it isn’t included on this page. We strongly advise that webmasters focus on providing a great user experience rather than on looking for loopholes.”
1. Familiarize yourself with Google’s quality guidelines.
Google’s quality guidelines are a roadmap for webmasters and business owners who don’t want to fall victim to the wrath of an algorithm update. By knowing a bit more about what the search engines allow and don’t allow; you can ensure that your search engine optimization efforts are future-proof. There have been a total of four algorithm updates at Google in the last month. If your site was impacted, chances are you’re violating some of these guidelines.
2. Get to know the man behind the curtain.
If your SEO specialist is still working his or her SEO wizardry behind a curtain and you’re not totally sure what they do, it’s time to find out. Get some insight into how they spend their time and what tactics they are implementing on their website. If you’ve familiarized yourself with SEO guidelines, and now notice that what the SEO specialist is saying raises red flags, it might be time to make a switch.
3. Aim for long-term marketing goals, not short-term gains.
It’s easy to want to hit the ground running with your Internet marketing initiatives. If you’re not already reaping the benefits of SEO, but your competitors are you probably think the quickest way to the top is the best way. However, these successes take time. Focus on the long-term goal of Internet marketing by ensuring your foundational SEO is in place and then focus your efforts on attracting and helping your targeted audience. In doing so, you’ll reap the fruit of your efforts for years to come without having to worry about the next algorithm update.
I have to thank Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing for inspiring this post. It’s a topic that affects my team daily, and yet for some reason I never thought to write about it until now. I’ve written in the past about how doctors can help build links, but I never discussed how their overall business efforts impact Internet marketing. As Stamoulis points out in his post, anything you do offline can impact your efforts online. If you are outsourcing your SEO efforts, it is imperative to keep your team in the loop about what you’re doing to promote and brand your practice elsewhere.
Other Internet Marketing Initiatives
If you are working with multiple companies to build your online presence it’s important to make sure you let all parties involved know. Whether it’s PPC, SEO, social media, reputation management or the like, each team should be made aware of the others efforts so that there is no risk of negatively impacting each other’s work. In most cases, these teams will be happy to coordinate with one another for the greater good of your practice and it’s online presence.
Any change made to your website can affect your Internet marketing. From conversion to rankings, it is important to keep your Internet marketing team abreast to website changes before they are executed. This will not only ensure that the team is aware of the impending change, but will also allow your team to voice any concerns that may come about from the changes. Could the change significantly hurt conversion? Will it impact a page’s ability to rank in the search engines? These are important things to consider. Get the appropriate teams involved. This can save you and your design team a ton of work in the long run.
Media Attention and PR
If you’re involved with any media activities or PR it’s always a good idea to notify your Internet marketing teams ahead of time. Oftentimes these kinds of events and activities can generate a lot of opportunities for valuable content that may drive links as well as social media attention. If you just recorded a new segment for a news show, let your team know when it’s scheduled to air. If you’re releasing a book, let your team know; they may want to get some fresh content about the book out of you. In the end, the more your online team knows about your offline efforts, the more opportunities they have to create additional touch points with your online audience.
New Online Properties
From websites and blogs to profiles and forums, let your Internet marketing teams know where you’re already playing online. All too often we’ll be doing research for a client and come across a slew of websites we were never told about, many of which conflict with our current efforts. If you sign up to do Internet marketing with a company, do yourself and your team a favor and disclose all online properties you have access to. They may not need to control these sites or change them, but it’s always helpful to know about them just in case they need to leverage them, or even get rid of them in the case they are hurting you.
By being transparent about the happenings of your practice you create new opportunities for your Internet marketing team to build your brand awareness and more importantly, you create a seamless experience for everyone working to promote your practice. If you’re uncertain if something would be of value to your internet marketing team, just let them know. Worst case scenario: It’s of no value to them and both parties are only out a few minutes of time. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Let your Internet marketing teams know about all of your current online initiatives even if they are with different companies and fields.
Let your Internet marketing team know about website changes before they happen.
Keep your Internet marketing team abreast to any media appearances or PR efforts.
Disclose all online properties to your Internet marketing team so that they know what your current online footprint looks like.
A couple of weeks ago I got an email from my old dentist. I usually ignore the email because I know I’m being blasted by Smile Reminder, and I don’t go to that particular dentist anymore. However, as an Internet Marketer, the subject line of the email caught my eye, “Google Review FREE GIFT.” Curiously, I clicked through to the email and this is what I received:
Not only was the dentist’s office trying to buy my love, they even told me that the purpose was to help with their “website and the search engines.” I loathe these types of schemes for a few reasons:
1) It creates a slew of junk reviews with no thought or reason behind them.
2) It’s unethical; you are essentially paying someone to write something nice about you.
3) It’s against Google’s (and many other review website) guidelines.
It’s OK To Ask for Reviews
First, I want to stress that I am not against asking for reviews. In fact, I wish more medical practices would. Though they don’t hold the same weight they once did, reviews are still a valuable element of local search not only for ranking purposes, but also for adding value to potential patients.
Five Alternatives to Buying Patient Reviews
Just ask! Have a longtime patient or someone who always rants and raves about your practice. Ask them to share their thoughts about why they love your practice so much online.
Put a link to review your practice at the closing of all your email signatures with something simple that says, “Leave us a review on ‘insert review website here’ and let us know how we’re doing.”
Provide double-sided business cards with instructions and URLs for leaving reviews on your two most prominent review properties. (For doctors I recommend Google+ Local and Yelp)
Make review solicitation part of your email marketing strategy. (No, don’t do what my old dentist did, but instead leave a spot in your email template asking your subscribers to leave a review and link to the page.)
Funnel your feedback – I recently caught wind of Matthew Hunt’s positive review funnel system, and I think it’s brilliant. You can view the video on how he goes about it below, but in a nutshell he uses a feedback forum to collect customer feedback and sends customers leaving positive feedback to a page for reviews, and the customers leaving negative feedback to a basic thank you page. It takes a little more work to implement, but if used effectively could be well worth it.
The Anatomy of a Good Review
If your patients are open to leaving a review, but are uncertain how to proceed, Google recently posted their guidelines on how to write a good review. So if a patient asks what they should write you may want to give this a read. In essence, a reviewer should do the following:
Write with style
Be informative and insightful
Be relevant – Don’t include information that isn’t relevant to the review!
These guidelines are useful not only for Google reviews, but reviews left for your practice anywhere on the web. The key is to make sure that your reviewer isn’t just saying, “Dr. X is the best. I love him.” It’s saying, “Dr. X is the best and I love him because on this particular occasion he took the extra time to make sure that all my questions were answered, and he made me feel like I was important to his practice, and not ‘just another patient’”
Know Your Guidelines
While I personally don’t agree with buying/trading for positive reviews, there are definitely communities and review sites that don’t specifically have guidelines against this behavior. If you still want to engage in these practices I would strongly suggest targeting these initiatives to sites that do not have specific guidelines against these practices.
Google’s Stance: “Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased. For instance, as a business, you should not offer money or product to others to write reviews for your business or to write negative reviews about a competitor.”
Yelp’s Stance: “Please don’t write a five-star review of your local watering hole in exchange for a free drink.“ In other words, don’t buy your reviews.
FTC’s Stance: The Federal Trade Commission states that any positive review posted by anyone connected to the seller in exchange for money or wares must disclose the relationship in the review.
In the end most sites and even the FTC are cracking down on these sorts of practices, so your safest bet is to earn legitimate reviews from your patients by using some of the methods above to collect them. Failure to do so can have your reviews removed or filtered out, or worse your listing removed. Has your practice found an effective means of collecting patient reviews? Share your ideas in the comments below.
Recently I had the opportunity to discuss social media strategy with a plastic surgeon who has had a rather lucrative and exciting career. During the conversation there was a lot of discussion about wanting to post content and articles surrounding some of the milestones in his career. While I agreed that these details were valuable and showed the doctor’s expertise, I warned that sharing content and information that was several years old may not be as appealing to his audience. The solution? The Facebook Timeline Milestone feature.
We highlighted this feature briefly when we posted “Everything You Need To Know About Facebook Timeline for Pages,” using “The Today Show” as an example; they generated a number of milestone posts to showcase the feature during the big reveal of Facebook Timeline for Pages earlier this year. Milestones can highlight a significant event in your practice or career history, which can include not only a date and description, but a large photo to accommodate it.
By using Milestones you can showcase your growth and achievements, as well as those of your practice. You are able to do so in a way that will not annoy “friends” (who may already be familiar with your history), while providing exciting new insight to users who are unfamiliar with it.
Creating a Milestone
Milestones are simple enough to create and can be accessed directly from the status update box. To create a Milestone click on “Event, Milestone, +” in the upper right corner of your status update, and select “Milestone” from the drop down. You will then be presented with the following window where you will be able to fill in the information about your milestone.
Use photos. Milestones are much more effective with photos, but it’s important to make sure you use high quality scans or digital images to showcase the occasion. Milestones appear much larger in your timeline and therefore will need to be of larger images at a higher resolution so that they are visually appealing.
Be a storyteller. When adding a description to your Milestones you want to keep it short and interesting. Try your best to capture the moment in your description.
Start at the beginning. Create a Milestone for the year you began your career/practice and in the description, encourage users to browse your timeline for news and Milestones from throughout your practice history.
Though greatly underutilized, Milestones are a great way to tell the story of your practice from the beginning. If you need help with your social media presence and overall strategy, be sure to check out our social media programs for more information.