With the right hospital marketing agency, you could transform your hospital. But is a professional firm truly necessary to grow your market share and connect with more patients who need your help?
Most, if not all, hospitals actively promote their services. But many believe marketing, especially through a hospital marketing agency, is a peripheral expense—an extravagant line item easily crossed off the budget during tough times.
Actually, the opposite is true. Seven out of 10 patients who need hospital care research hospitals online before making an appointment.1 When they do, what are they learning about your services?
An agency specializing in hospital marketing can help you create a competitive edge to promote your services and connect with more prospective patients. So whether you need to maintain momentum or dramatically increase admissions, partnering with a hospital marketing agency will put (and keep!) you at the top of patients’—and Google’s—list.
Why Hospital Branding Matters
Effective marketing strategies begin with a brand. Your brand is how prospective patients identify and remember your hospital in today’s ever-growing healthcare market. Branding as a whole is the art of shaping your audience’s perception by curating the images and phrases they think of when hearing the name of your hospital.
Consider a time you mentioned a specific company and the name triggered an animated positive or negative reaction. Those emotional connections are what branding is all about. And with the right strategy, your hospital can make positive, lasting impressions on your community.
The visual elements of branding often come to mind first. A logo, fonts, colors, and website headers are all essential elements of any brand. But taglines, slogans, and phrases are huge components of branding your health system, too.
A hospital marketing agency expertly synergizes these visual and written elements to create an ideal blend—and the perfect brand to reflect your mission and vision. Your goal should be to evoke a specific set of emotions in any current patient or prospective patient who engages with your hospital. And your branding should convey trustworthiness, caring, and knowledge.
The more consistent your hospital’s brand, the more control you’ll have over the public’s perception of it. By presenting your hospital’s identity consistently, you increase brand awareness, admissions, and trust with your ideal audience.
How to Optimize Hospital SEO
Developing a strong brand has to be a top priority for your hospital. But how do you get the word out? How can you get your brand into the hearts and minds of your ideal audience? Improving your hospital’s visibility starts with search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO determines how frequently your brand’s website, social media pages, blog, and local listings appear on Google searches. SEO also determines where your hospital’s listings rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs), so the better your SEO strategy performs the higher on the SERP you appear. The more regularly your hospital appears in the top spots on the SERP, the more your ideal audience will become familiar with your hospital and eventually become patients.
This is an admittedly simplified explanation for a very complex process. Google’s search algorithm, called RankBrain, is known to change several hundred times per year. The RankBrain algorithm pours over every page of your hospital’s content on the internet, and the better your content meets the needs of what patients are searching for, the more likely your pages will earn a top rank on the SERP.
This is the ultimate goal of SEO—not simply appearing on the SERP, but also ranking among the top search results. Nearly half of all clicks are for one of the top three search results.2 Users click the first result on the SERP 20% of the time.
Since 5% of Google searches are health-related, your hospital can benefit from a results-driven SEO strategy.3 Of course, knowing the importance of SEO is one thing. Effectively applying hospital SEO principles is another. This is where a hospital marketing agency can help your digital marketing strategy succeed.
Experts have written volumes of books about different strategies and tactics for earning one of the top spots on the SERP. But ranking doesn’t have to be so complicated. Yes, Google considers hundreds of ranking factors when determining a page’s position on the SERP, but you can do a few things to help your digital assets rank highly.
1. Optimize for Local Searches
Local SEO is the bread and butter of hospital SEO strategy. When patients need care, do they want to travel hundreds of miles? Absolutely not. They want a hospital with an excellent reputation within a reasonable distance.
Nearly half of Google searches have local intent and your audience is using the internet to find and research hospitals in their area like never before. “Near me” searches have increased 500% over the last several years.4 Local SEO is a proven way to connect with prospective patients and improve your hospital’s rank in the search results.
Local SEO is highly dependent on keywords related to geography and location. Your hospital marketing agency can help incorporate phrases like “best hospital in [town name]” or “emergency rooms near me” into your content and web pages. Target those local keywords, and you’ll better connect with patients who need treatment nearby.
This strategy works well because local SEO also helps your hospital promote specific procedures or specialties with phrases like “where to have [procedure] in [town name]” or “best hospital for [procedure] in near me.”
2. Pay Attention to Online Reviews
One of the key ranking factors for local SEO is online reviews. Review writers are typically those in your service area who’ve had first-hand experience with your hospital. As such, their opinions have a big impact on your ranking.
But as important as online reviews have become for SEO, they’re also an important lead generator. Positive online reviews help build trust with your prospective patients. Just under 95% of patients read online reviews before selecting a provider.5
3. Claim Online Business Listings
Local business directories and online business listings also impact SEO. Your hospital marketing agency partner will determine which websites are active in your area and help you take ownership of the listings. This also applies to industry websites and provider directories.
These listings, as insignificant as they may seem, are an important driver of SEO and will help your hospital connect with more patients in your area.
4. Get More Backlinks
Andrey Lipattsev, a former search quality senior strategist at Google, believes content, backlinks, and RankBrain are the top three ranking factors that determine your page position on the SERP. This makes sense, given websites with blogs have 97% more backlinks.6
Backlinks send an important message to Google. They say you create high-quality, helpful content while demonstrating that your hospital is a bona fide expert. Both will earn you SEO leverage and the confidence of prospective patients.
5. Optimize Your Website
SEO strategies usually start with your website—the foundation of your digital assets. An optimized website helps you gain more top positions on the SERP. But what does an optimized website need?
Websites with strong SEO have a mobile-first philosophy. In other words, they look great for users regardless of the device they’re using. Optimized sites also feature a well-designed layout and navigation, original photos and videos, and are compliant with health and privacy regulations.
Hospital Website Design Tips
A visit to your hospital’s website is one of the first interactions prospective patients have with your brand. This asset is the gateway to information about your staff, services, and amenities and creates a crucial first impression you simply can’t ignore.
Patients will seek services elsewhere if they have a bad experience on your website. Research shows that, since 2019, there’s been a 40% increase in patients leaving their provider because of a poor digital impression.7
SEO will bring the leads to your site, but good design and helpful information keep them there.
1. Mobile-First Design
When RankBrain crawls pages, the search engine actually evaluates mobile websites first. That’s right. Google cares more about the composition and content of your mobile website than your desktop site.
For good reason! In 2022, mobile devices accounted for more than 60% of all web traffic, and all signs indicate mobile use will continue to rise.8 So chances are, when patients search for a hospital, they’re using a smartphone or tablet.
Your hospital marketing agency should design your website for mobile first. This means ensuring the proportions are suitable for smaller screens, navigation is clean and easy to access, the design is easy to understand on a small screen, and the site loads with appropriate speed.
Sites not designed for mobile use are challenging to navigate, slow, and deliver little SEO value. To get maximum SEO value for your hospital’s website, you need a well-designed mobile site patients can easily access and understand.
Speed is a factor in mobile sites, too. Many studies have documented the adverse effects of slow load times. There’s no denying, the faster your site, the more likely your leads will become patients.
2. Design Decisions Count
Your web design is part of your brand, and half of consumers say website design is essential when forming an opinion about a brand.9 Yes, many of the design elements are predetermined by the brand identity your hospital marketing agency has already helped you develop. But, in addition to remaining consistent with your brand, your site needs to be clean and uncluttered.
Opt for a straightforward layout and navigation your users can easily understand, avoid flashy graphics, and limit add-ons. Again, the more quickly your pages load and the faster prospective patients can find the information they need, the better. A recent Google study found that bounce rates increase by 32% when pages take three seconds to load.10 Bounces increase by 90% when a site takes five seconds or longer to load.
But your website needs to be more than beautiful, it also needs to be functional. Broken links, graphics leading to blank pages, and inconsistent content make a terrible impression on visitors and ultimately hurt your brand.
3. Include Visuals
The average person forms an opinion about your site in 0.05 seconds.11 Who can read anything in such a short amount of time? No one! So how do you design a website that creates a good impression in 50 milliseconds? The solution is incorporating photos and videos into your hospital’s website design.
Studies show images hold users’ attention for half a second longer than text.12 That means your site needs original, high-quality photos and videos to keep users’ attention and give an accurate, well-rounded picture of your hospital. Stock photos and videos hurt both SEO and public perception. Videos are also a great way to focus on your team and highlight their expertise and passion for patient care.
4. Compliance is Essential
Healthcare and marketing have an exciting relationship. However, there are many rules about how you can and cannot present your hospital to prospective patients. Remaining within the confines of those rules is essential.
Make sure that your website is ADA-compliant by including captions and alt text for your photos and videos, strong color contrast, accessible online forms, and keyboard navigation. These accessible features ensure users with disabilities can successfully navigate and use your site. Check out the ADA website for more information about complaint web design standards.13
Given the sensitive nature of health care, you must also ensure your site follows HIPAA standards. For a basic website, this means respecting patient privacy when using images and creating content for your site. And if your website includes a patient portal where users can access their health records and other information, you’ll need an additional layer of security to remain HIPAA compliant.
Hospital Content Marketing Is Key
One of the most significant parts of your website is content. From written material on web pages and your blog to images and videos, content is how prospective patients learn about your hospital. And although not on your website, your social media posts also count as content.
Hospitals need to create a massive amount of content to make a great brand impression and impact the hearts and minds of prospective patients. After all, the target audience for the average hospital is every man, woman, and child living within a 25-mile radius. A hospital marketing agency helps you create consistent content that’s diverse enough to attract the attention of those who need your services.
At its core, though, content is still about SEO. The more quality content you release, the better your chances of reaching the top spot on the SERP. Here are the types of content a hospital marketing agency can assist you with.
Blog articles are often thought of as the king of content marketing—and for good reason. Three out of four internet users read blog articles, and websites with blogs produce 67% more leads than those without.14,15
This simple yet incredibly effective content marketing tool is a great way to reach prospective patients. Depending on your hospital’s goal for a blog, your articles can provide education on important health topics. Or they might showcase the results of research your hospital staff is conducting. Your articles can even feature human interest stories of patients and staff—all while reinforcing your brand and building the confidence and trust patients need before visiting your hospital.
Therein lies the beauty of the blog. Your articles can be about absolutely anything. The only limit is your imagination. And, by working with a hospital marketing agency, you can release articles daily, weekly, or monthly.
Above all, focus on creating well-written articles addressing valuable, interesting topics that appeal to your prospective patients’ interest and concerns. Google is sophisticated enough to perceive your content as human beings do. So the better your content quality is, the higher your articles will rank.
2. Long- and Short-Form Videos
When you write blog articles, consider augmenting them with videos. Again, visual elements enhance users’ understanding, grab attention, and help with SEO.
Video is the most popular form of content on the internet, accounting for more than 80% of web traffic.16 From a hospital marketer’s perspective, this is excellent news. There are so many great angles for health-related video content.
Create “meet the doctor or nurse” videos, testimonials, virtual tours of rooms and amenities, and even surgical education videos. Just as with written content, the key is to focus on topics your audience finds helpful and interesting. The right videos educate, build trust, and establish credibility with potential patients.
3. Social Media Posts
Promoting your hospital’s video content by sharing on social media is a fantastic way to connect with patients and reach an even larger, more engaged audience. Better yet, you’re meeting prospective patients where they already are.
Social media should be a significant component of your content strategy. Use these platforms to share important or interesting information in various formats, ask for feedback, perform polls, and directly interact with patients.
The ability to connect with patients sets social media apart from most other hospital digital marketing tactics. Social media also builds trust and provides all-important social proof many leads look for before becoming patients.
Hospital PPC Still Matters
A hospital marketing agency will tell you there’s still a meaningful place for PPC in your digital marketing strategy. Although the death of third-party cookies and restrictive healthcare marketing laws may negate some benefits, PPC is a valuable tool all hospitals should use.
Despite the looming changes to PPC, hospitals are investing in this tool more than ever before. In 2021, the healthcare sector’s digital ad spending overtook TV ad spending for the first time.17 And industry insiders believe digital ad budgets in the healthcare sector will increase by another 10% this year.18
The success of PPC campaigns depends on your ability to stick to many tried-and-true SEO principles. The best PPC ads include impactful keywords, concise yet compelling ad copy, and quality design. Not surprisingly, PPC works even better in concert with SEO.19
Despite their compatibility, SEO and PPC campaigns function very differently. There are real, upfront costs associated with PPC, whereas SEO has low, indirect costs spread out over time. And when a PPC campaign begins, the leads flow like a gushing faucet. SEO, on the other hand, provides a slow and steady drip of leads.
Ending a PPC campaign turns the faucet off and the leads dry up. With SEO, the trickle of leads gets stronger over time as long as you maintain best practices. In short, PPC is reactive and intended for near-term results, while SEO is slow and steady. Together they’re important pieces of your hospital’s digital marketing plan.
Hospital Lead Generation Tactics
What’s the point of all of these marketing tactics? Why do hospital marketing agencies care so much about SEO, web design, content marketing, and PPC? What is your hospital doing this for? The answer is simple: leads.
Your marketing strategy exists because you want to generate as many leads as possible for your hospital. And every marketing move you make has the goal of conversion.
The healthcare industry is more competitive than ever. These days, patients have unrestricted access to medical information and are less affected by the restrictive confines of the insurance system. These are positive steps for healthcare equity, but they can make the job of a hospital marketing agency more complex.
Focusing on lead generation is an excellent strategy for ensuring patients looking for help continue to find their way through your doors. Here are a few actions you take to set your hospital apart from the pack.
1. Ask for Information
As long as your request for contact information falls within legal limits, an email newsletter is an acceptable method of communication for healthcare providers. Regular contact is the key to generating quality leads, but always have your legal counsel check and double-check your communication policies and execution.
In terms of how to ask, a call to action (CTA) is the best way. CTAs allow you to ask prospective patients for their information without violating healthcare regulations or being pushy. A typical CTA is a button on your homepage, a link on your social media, or even a verbal request at the end of a video.
2. Share Your Content
When you’ve generated a solid email list, start sharing your content. A hospital marketing agency creates a content strategy to promote your services in newsletters, social media articles, and even YouTube videos.
You work hard to create content, and getting it out to as many people as possible increases the value and reach by generating more leads. Sharing your content also helps educate your patients and builds your reputation as a reputable hospital.
3. Encourage Phone Calls
One of the most exciting and perhaps unexpected changes in health care has come in the form of the telephone. In a world driven by impersonal, screen-based interactions, the phone is now one of the most effective hospital lead-generation tools.
About three-quarters of leads call a healthcare provider somewhere in their journey.20 When they do, they’re 28% more likely to become patients than those who only interact with a website. Moreover, those calls convert 30% faster than web leads and lead to 10 to 15 times more revenue than web leads.
These compelling statistics prove that calls make connections. Prospective patients don’t want to make healthcare decisions based solely on what they see on their screens. They want to connect with another person who can help them more compassionately and completely than a digital contact form or online appointment scheduler.
Digital marketing for a hospital is unlike any other type of healthcare marketing. You need a hospital marketing agency that understands the nuances of this industry to create a truly effective plan.
Dreamscape Marketing can help. Schedule a strategy session with us by calling 888.307.7304.
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