6 Tips for Improving Your Local SEO

Yes, it would be incredible to rank on the first page of Google for “total knee replacement.” But chances are, that’s not going to happen unless you work for Mayo Clinic. (Or Johns Hopkins, as it turns out.) And that’s OK. Because what you really should be focusing on as a community, local or regional hospital is improving your local SEO.

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What Is Local SEO?

Local SEO, or local search engine optimization, simply refers to the steps you take to get your website to rank higher with your local audience. It helps physical businesses attract customers in their area. For example, a mom-and-pop soda shop wouldn’t expect to compete with Amazon when someone searches for “grape soda.” But they could compete if someone searches “grape soda Birmingham.” Hello, Grapico!

Local SEO is essential for healthcare organizations, which are still very much in-person businesses. And it’s not terribly difficult to do. Here are six easy ways to improve your local SEO.

  1. Optimize your website. Your website only accounts for about 14% of Google’s decision in where to rank your hospital in local search results. However, your website is the only piece of the SEO puzzle you control. So, start here by updating the SEO of your website. Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Use consistent contact information and display it prominently on your homepage. Include a Google Map of your location. Use keywords in your title tags and internal links.
  2. Claim your Google My Business profile. This is so easy that you might choose to do it first. Google My Business is how you complete or edit your hospital’s business listing in Search and Maps. Ensure all contact information is correct and fill in as much as you possibly can, including social handles. Always use the same formatting for your address. Google might knock you down a few rankings if you use “First Ave.” on your website but “1st Ave.” on your Google My Business profile.
  3. Update other web directories, too. Now that you have the hang of it, check and update your contact information in other online directories. Yelp, Bing, and HealthGrades are essentials.
  4. Find out what keywords your customers are searching. We’re sure you’ve done keyword research. But have you specifically researched what people in your target area are searching? If you’ve ever gotten into a debate with a Northerner about whether it’s a shopping cart or buggy, you know the importance of using regional language. Use Google Trends to see exactly what locals are searching in relation to your keywords.
  5. Encourage reviews. Moz estimates online reviews account for about 15% of the factors used to rank search results. This is a huge jump from 10% just three years prior. The simplest—and cheapest—way to garner online feedback is to ask for it. Have staff involved in the discharge process ask patients to rate their experience online. Or consider including a flyer with discharge paperwork. You also can send a follow-up note wishing patients well and asking for a review.
  6. Increase your social presence. Search engines don’t put a ton of stock in your social media presence when it comes to local SEO, but it’s still a factor. And meeting your patients wherever they are is never a bad thing. So think outside the Facebook and Twitter box. Set up Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts, too.
User video calling a doctor using and healthcare app on his smartphone and professional medical team connected: online medical consultation concept

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.

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Responding to Three-Star Reviews of Your Hospital or Doctors

You have alerts set up and scour review sites for those dreaded one- and two-star ratings. You jump on the ones that start with, “If I could have given ZERO stars, I would have.” And rightfully so. How you respond to negative reviews affects not only your relationship with the reviewer but your reputation with anyone who reads it forever after. But it’s just as important to respond to neutral reviews for a few reasons:

  1. The neutral reviewer might be on the fence about whether or not to give your services another try. Responding in earnest could be what encourages him or her to come back, and who knows, perhaps post a new or updated review that’s more favorable.
  2. A thoughtful response may ease concerns of potential patients who are coming to your hospital or physicians for the first time.
  3. Search engines including Google reward businesses that respond to customer reviews—all of them—with more favorable local search rankings.

Basics for Responding to Online Reviews

Whether positive, negative or neutral, there are some guidelines you should stick to when responding to online reviews:

  1. Respond promptly. Almost 52 percent of reviewers expect a response within seven days, and nearly half of those expect a response in 24 hours or less. We know you’re busy, but do what you can to respond in as little time as possible.
  2. Be professional. It’s unfortunate this needs to be stated, but it does. Try not to take patient reviews personally. No matter what’s said, be thankful you have the opportunity to learn your patients’ perceptions.
  3. Can the canned responses. Your patient took the time and energy to write a review specific to your hospital. Do the same in return and pen a personal response. Canned “Thank you for your review! We hope to see you again!” responses have the potential to do more harm than good in hospital marketing, where the subject matter is highly personal and sensitive.
  4. Show empathy. Nearly half of all reviewers don’t expect a response at all, which tells us people are more interested in being heard than anything. Make sure they know you appreciate their thoughts and understand their concerns.
  5. Listen and learn. Patient reviews are a goldmine of insight straight from your patients’ mouths (or fingertips). Don’t waste it. Use the feedback when brainstorming content topics and crafting future messaging.

How to Respond to a Neutral Review

You’ve tackled the negative reviews, and now it’s time to respond to the neutral ones. What should you say? While we don’t advocate using canned responses, following a formula makes the work easier:

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  • Thank them for sharing his or her thoughts.
  • Acknowledge any positive comments.
  • Apologize for the specific complaint.
  • If applicable, tell about any updates in procedures, equipment, parking (!) involved in the complaint.
  • Invite them to call your patient representatives directly for more help.

Here is an example:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us! We’re so pleased to hear you had an excellent experience with our nurses when you were here for knee surgery. We think they’re pretty great, too. That’s a shame we didn’t have any breakfast items that sounded appealing to you. We’re actually just about to revamp our café menu. If you have some ideas for what should be included, please email us at café.manager@domain.org.

Ignoring reviews is the last thing that you should do! If you want to create a solid review base of satisfied customers, then they need to know that you care about their experiences – positive, negative, and neutral. If you have any questions about this process, don’t hesitate to contact us for help with the entire review process!

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service healthcare marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories – our clients’ stories. Contact us for more information or view our work here.

Online Directories: A Necessary Evil of Hospital Marketing

If we suggested you use a portion of your healthcare marketing budget to take an ad out in the Yellow Pages, you’d think we were crazy—and we would be. After all, the Yellow Pages are no more! But business directories still exist—this time digitally—and they’re just as important to your hospital marketing efforts today as those massive yellow tomes.

How Online Directories Work

Online directories, also called web directories or citations, are essentially virtual lists of businesses and their contact information, including web addresses. Online directories take submissions from businesses, and most offer free basic listings, which include address, phone number, and web address. If you want to include additional profile information, such as your hours of operation, photos, description of services, or links to your social media accounts, there may be a fee. The fee can vary widely depending on the directory. Some directories, such as Yahoo Local and Better Business Bureau, charge for even basic listings.

If you don’t submit information, online directories will collect it from other sources. Often the information is wrong, outdated, incomplete, or inconsistent. Not staying on top of your listings will cost you customers in more ways than one, which we explore below.

Two Reasons Accurate and Consistent Listings are Critical

Submitting your hospital contact information to online directories is tedious but absolutely necessary. You also need to do this for other locations such as clinics, urgent care centers, and physician offices.

1. Competition for Patients

First, because patients actually use the directories to look up businesses. You don’t want even a handful of people choosing your competitor by default because you’re not listed or your information is incorrect.

2. Search Rank Results

Second, search engines such as Google use direct listings as part of their algorithms that determine your search engine rankings. Online directory listings are only a small factor in those calculations, but they still play a part. More importantly, however, is that incorrect, inconsistent, or missing listings can actually hurt your rankings.

More About Consistency in Online Directories

Remember that search engines are computers and they are scanning massive amounts of data. If your hospital address is formatted differently in different web directories, those computer programs read that as two separate entities. This effectively halves your reach. So if in one directory, you list your hospital’s address as 123 N. 8th Ave. and 123 North Eighth Avenue in another, search engines won’t recognize it as the same organization and will essentially make the two entries compete with one another.

Avoid errors and inconsistencies by keeping a log of your web directory entries and updating as necessary. And check your listings often. Some directories allow users to modify your company info or use algorithms that automatically update info it believes to be true.

Top Directories to List Your Hospital on Now

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of online directory listings. You can’t possibly submit information to each individual web directory. Thankfully, there are some shortcuts.

The easiest way to update your directory listings is to use a paid service, such as Moz Local or Yext, to manage these for you. But if you don’t have the budget and need to handle listings in-house, we suggest you start with the directories listed below. (Note: We have not included social media accounts in our list, but you should have profiles with consistent contact information on all the major social media engines including Facebook and YouTube).

Check these obvious sites first for accuracy and consistency:

  • Google My Business
  • Bing (Bing is particularly important for seniors because the browser comes pre-loaded on many computers and seniors may not change it)
  • Yelp

Then these three top healthcare specific directories:

And if you still have time (and energy), grab these listings:

  • Yahoo Local (Unfortunately, Yahoo has chosen to team up with Yext, which requires you to pay for a listing. But you can get a free listing through its Localworks for small businesses, which allows you to put in multiple locations.)
  • Best of the Web (BOTW)
  • Yellow Pages

There are tons more to choose from, and the more directories you’re listed in, the more visibility you’ll have. But you’ll also need to consider resource management, as entering listings can be time intensive. If you have the time to tackle more directories, check out Vendasta’s list of top 100 online directories. If you click on the directory in the list, it will give you a short description with a direct link to that directory.

However you decide to proceed, make listing your hospital with the top web directories a priority. Your competitors do.

TotalCom Marketing is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information and how we can help you tell your brand story.

7 Ways to Make Your Hospital A Social Media Star

Featuring your state-of-the-art technology in your healthcare marketing helps educate your potential patients, but people relate to people. Featuring your staff in your hospital social media efforts is a sure bet to making your hospital a social media star.

Sure, healthcare consumers are interested in technology and evidence-based techniques. However it ’s the stellar care they receive from your staff that they’ll remember the most from their hospital stay. A caring nurse, a jovial custodian—that’s what will get them recommending you to family and friends. This is what makes them choose you again and again. People connect with people, whether in person or online. So it’s unsurprising that hospital staff stories make for some of the most popular medical social posts. Here are seven ways to feature your staff on social media.

Caregiver takeover

For people who have never worked in the medical field, what goes on inside a hospital day to day is fascinating. Enlist staff from various departments to participate in day-in-the-life social takeover. Follow an ER doctor, maternity nurse, or radiologist around for a day. Post a mix of text, photos, and live video of their tasks. Just be sure to obtain consents if you include any patients or visitors, or shoot around them (and be sure to not use last names in the audio).

Q&As

The more you can position your staff as experts, the better. Q&As are an easy way to do that, and you have options when it comes to execution. You could have staff weigh in on health-related questions that you come up with, solicit questions from your social media followers or, if you’re feeling daring, schedule and promote a live Q&A session with a provider. Just make sure you select an appropriate expert who will offer useful yet measured responses and understands how to take a patient-specific question and answer in a general manner. And always be sure that you are in control of the session and social media channels.

Patient thank-you’s

There’s no better endorsement of your staff than positive feedback from your patients. Post excerpts from online reviews, discharge surveys, and letters from patients calling out the special care they received during their stay. Don’t forget to include a photo of the staff member being praised. (And be sure to obtain permission to post.)

Health tips

People love health tips. Get your staff to submit their best snippets of advice to you for posting. Remind them to be specific: Readers know they need to “exercise regularly,” but they may not have thought to do a squat each time they unload a plate from the dishwasher.

New staff introductions

This is a super simple way to highlight your staff’s expertise and brag about your hospital’s top talent. Wait until you have a photo and a couple of personal details to share. (It’s not imperative you post this on day one or even during the staff member’s first week, although your administration may make it seem that way.)

Giving back

Healthcare workers are philanthropists at heart and many of them volunteer their time outside of work. Highlight what good people you employ with photos and descriptions of their volunteer efforts. Hint: This is especially effective for community hospitals when they show staff volunteering in the community.

How-to videos

Capitalize on the DIY craze by creating videos featuring staff showing how to do something health-related. It could be anything from how to wrap an injured ankle or perform the Heimlich maneuver to how to make banana pancakes or do a proper push-up. Use your imagination, or ask staff for input on what they’d like to share with your followers. If staff create their own posts or videos, just make sure they submit them to you for posting.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information on how we can help tell your brand story.

Confident diverse female healthcare professionals speak at a health seminar

Meet New Patients with Event Marketing for Hospitals

The best-performing hospitals from a marketing standpoint are hospitals that are active parts of their communities. That doesn’t just mean donating to the local park and recreation league or hosting a fundraiser. It also means getting out into the community through event marketing.

Event marketing involves taking your brand off campus to reach people where they are. It could be something as simple as having a table at a job fair or something more involved like hosting a charity event.

An event can be anything that takes place outside of the hospital that involves the public. (You can even host events inside the hospital, which is a good idea, but for this post we’ll focus on off-campus events.)

Here are a few great ideas for how you can get involved with the public in a positive way.

Host Health Classes and Seminars

People need to know more about their health, and hospitals have a duty to supply that information to their community.

Sharing health-related knowledge is a great way to meet new potential patients and convince them that your team is a trusted authority on whom they can rely whenever they need care.

Talk to local universities and community colleges. Work with local libraries. Find places where the public will be, so you can host a class, a series of classes, or just a talk. Plenty of community programs would love to hear from you.

Mature Caucasain brunette woman is smiling while walking in charity marathon race event. She is wearing pink athletic clothing and a breast cancer awareness ribbon. Diverse teams of people are walking behind her to raise money for breast cancer research

Give Back through Fundraisers

You can build strong partnerships with local nonprofits by helping them raise money. You can use your existing networks and your marketing program to raise awareness of the fundraiser and even contribute to hosting an event – such as a dinner, a 5K, or a chili cook off – for the nonprofit.

It’s a win not just for the nonprofit, but for your hospital and the community you serve. And it’s a great way to raise awareness for both your hospital and a good cause.

Go to Local Events with a Booth

All through the year, your area probably has tons of events, ranging from fairs and festivals to concerts, holiday celebrations, and other occasions.

Create a booth, load up on giveaways, get a great prize for a raffle, and show up for these events. It’s a great way to get the word out about your hospital in a friendly way. Attract people to your booth by offering giveaways like t-shirts, cups, lanyards, and other creative items, and get people to sign up for a raffle to win a nice prize. (This is a great way to get their email addresses, too!)

Event marketing for hospitals can be powerful. Get out into the community; you’ll extend your reach and get fantastic word of mouth exposure.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information or view our previous work to see how we have helped tell our clients’ stories.

Managing Your Hospital’s Reputation

Why Reputation Management Is Key for Hospital Marketing

At the doctor's office, a female doctor is performing a checkup on a young girl.

Reputation is everything in business. It’s even more important for hospital marketing because a hospital’s reputation is its most important asset.

Without a strong reputation, your hospital’s patient intake will suffer. After all, people don’t want to entrust their health to a hospital that has a poor reputation.

Your hospital’s reputation should be protected through reputation management. It takes an active and ongoing effort to manage brand perceptions and communicate positively with patients.


The Basics of Reputation Management

Reputation management involves two activities that are always ongoing:

  • Proactively creating favorable brand impressions
  • Handling the hospital’s reputation in the public eye

Traditional advertising can help do the former; an active presence online can help do the latter.

For example, although a brand’s reputation is what others think of it – not what you think of it yourself – you can influence that perception through carefully-crafted ad campaigns.

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You can also use social media to respond to comments and online reviews from patients, whether they’re negative or positive.

In fact, it’s even more important to use reputation management if there are negative comments online, such as on Facebook or a review website. You never want to let a negative impression go unaddressed.


Tips for Responding to Negativity Online

The main rule of effective PR is to be honest and transparent, without violating confidentiality or other laws and regulations.

Don’t delete negative comments unless they’re vulgar or inappropriate. Instead, respond positively and calmly. Show the commentor or reviewer that you’re listening to them and you hear their complaints. Then choose a response that addresses the concerns and makes amends if necessary.

Shot of a young businesswoman looking stressed while working on her

A lot of hospitals are afraid to admit fault in any way. This is understandable, giving the litigious society in which we live. But that doesn’t mean you can’t ever admit that something wasn’t handled the right way, or that your patients have valid complaints.

Work with your legal department to craft responses, but don’t be afraid to address negative comments or reviews head-on.

Be authentic, too. Avoid slogans or jargon that sounds too much like PR spin. You should be sincere and genuine, not fake or contrived.

Reputation management also involves monitoring what’s being said. You can set up Google alerts, and you can also subscribe to a social media monitoring service that lets you know what people are saying, as soon as they say it.

Reputation management is crucial. A hospital has to protect its reputation, and that means viewing reputation management as a priority.

TotalCom is a full-service hospital marketing and advertising agency that believes in getting great results from telling great stories. Contact us for more information or view our previous work and see what stories we can tell for you.

Make Your Community Hospital Standout with Hospital Marketing

How to Make Your Community Hospital Stand Out with Hospital Marketing

Medical staff and patients with hands togetherRunning a community hospital in an area dominated by larger hospitals with more brand recognition and bigger budgets can be very difficult. It’s hard to stand out unless you have a convincing brand value proposition, a competitive advantage to exploit, and a smart hospital marketing strategy to gain market awareness. (more…)

3 Marketing Secrets Top Hospital Marketing Programs Know

Hospital marketing programs across the country often do things differently. After all, what works for one system will not necessarily work for another. With that being said, there are systems that have the most robust and effective hospital marketing programs in the nation, and they all seem to incorporate the same fundamentals and tricks of the trade. (more…)