Physician Websites – What Works, What Doesn’t

October 19, 2011
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EXCLUSIVE POST – Developing medical websites is no longer “best practice.” It’s a requirement. http://www.healthcaremarketingcoe.com/medical-websites/ Your present and future patients are looking for information about you and your expertise 24/7. WHERE they are finding this information should be your #1 concern.

EXCLUSIVE POST – Developing medical websites is no longer “best practice.” It’s a requirement. http://www.healthcaremarketingcoe.com/medical-websites/ Your present and future patients are looking for information about you and your expertise 24/7. WHERE they are finding this information should be your #1 concern.

Before delving deeper, first answer these questions: Do you want to inform and educate your patients or just provide enough information about what your practice is about? Do you want your medical website to become THE trusted source of information for patients with specific conditions? Do you want to gain recognition as a physician thought leader in a specialty? Knowing what you want your website to accomplish should be your #2 concern.

Here are some best practices for your website:

1) Your medical website is your online office. It should contain information about you and your expertise. It should contain crucial information about what you do DAILY and should be educational in nature, never promotional. It should help patients connect with your physical office. A phone number, a secure email form, and perhaps a patient portal should be prominently displayed. Social media interactive buttons (Twitter, facebook, comments section) are very appreciated by patients – it allows them to interact, and that is in fact a top priority for ANY website.

2) Your website should never stand alone. Remember, it’s only an office. How will people get to this office? SEO, SEM, social media, links on your business cards, radio, TV, etc. are the ways people will be coming to your site. Start with writing great content for your patients and always remember to tag the content using “meta tags” (SEO jargon) that your patients would be compelled to search for on Google. Support the website in the short-term with well-placed Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Remember, don’t use SEM to advertise your services. Advertise the educational resources.

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3) A medical website without a blog is a mistake. Should a blog be separate from website? No, in fact you should build a dual website/blog from the start. What to blog about? Think about what you repeat to your patients and referring physicians 20-30 times every day. Why not have the answer available at their fingertips? You need 10-15 minutes a day for blogging. Pick one frequent question per day and answer it. Most doctors end up becoming frequent bloggers after several weeks, all on their own.

4) CMS – Content Management System. If you’re building a static HTML website – STOP. Content Management Systems allow you to post new content with a click of a button, without any training required. You could be saving tens of thousands of dollars over the next few years. Don’t ever pay a designer to add new pages of content. You could get away with building a blog/website on free CMS like WordPress, but please take note: the design must be impeccable. But if you’re paying a designer for your website anyway, why don’t you invest in something no one else will have. The last thing you want to do is invest in a site hundreds of other doctors have.

5) Always think about referring physicians. Include information for health care professionals separate from patient education.

6) Rule of thumb on prices: Plan to spend ~ $1,500 for a well-designed blog. But remember, if you want the blog to be sufficient, you need to blog! All you need is 10-15 minutes a day. If you’re still pressed for time every day, invest in a website with blog and social media features and appoint someone in your practice to maintain it. Low-end CMS sites start around $2500 and top-notch sites built on CMS can be as much as $5,000 but will keep on giving for years to come.

Remember, CMS will allow virtually anyone to expertly update your website with no training required. There are companies that offer websites for less than $1000 – but they will scam you with other features you need to buy in addition like: medical libraries, email forms, additional pages of content, etc. Stay clear of such companies.

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Never invest in medical libraries that others use. You need to create your own medical library for your own patients. You need only a one-time investment for design of a site.

Maintenance of websites is a whole different issue. Your designer should spend significant amount of time training your staff on that. What’s the best way to maintain a website? – Continue writing great content for it.

7) Hosting: If you’re paying more than $60 for hosting/maintenance PER YEAR … it’s a scam. Unless there are specific SEO, SEM, content, and marketing strategies implemented and updated every month, you should never pay for maintenance.

Words of Wisdom:

1) If you think you will design a website better by yourself on some cheap hosting company … you will regret it, and most likely your website will never be functional. I’ve been developing websites for 9 years now, and there is still so much for me to learn.

2) Never involve your family friends, cousins, or colleagues to work on your website. There is a slew of professional companies that will go to the ends of the earth to make you a happy customer … and your patients will appreciate great design and functionality that is never broken. If you’re willing to spend $1000 with a solo professional, spend the extra $500 with a company and have the peace of mind that that site will be functional.

3) It’s not about promotion – It’s about patient and medical education. If your website feels like an advertisement people will not want to connect with you.

4) Don’t jump into social media until you develop your website or blog. Learn to blog first. Never give into the hype “just because others do it”