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female businesswoman talking with senior doctor in hospital - creating better hospital marketing strategies

Grow Your Patient Base With These 3 Hospital Marketing Strategies

Every hospital and health system wants to grow its patient base. That is the job of hospital marketing: to increase brand awareness and build positive relationships between the hospital and potential patients.

There are a lot of methods that hospitals currently use to market themselves. From buying billboards to airing TV commercials, creating a Facebook page, and even sending out direct mail, marketing strategies can work together to create a total-package approach that targets a patient from multiple angles.

Here, we’ll focus on three marketing methods in particular that, when combined with strategic goals, can get more patients.

 

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of getting your website and its pages to rank near the top of the page whenever someone searches for something you do.

When people look up “family medicine,” or “orthopedic surgery,” you want that particular page on your website to show up first. This is because an estimated 49.5% of all clicks on the first page of a search go to the first two positions. Another 9.5% goes to the third, and another 7.9% goes to the fourth – which means the first four searches account for 68% of all clicks.

You do not want to be near the bottom. Optimizing for search means doing things on the page and on the backend of your page/site to make your pages stand out and appear at the top.

SEO can be very complicated, so it is important to work with SEO specialists who know all the tips, tricks, and best practices to get your web pages to rank well.

 

Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising

Paid advertising is necessary to get your name out there as much as possible. Organic or earned media can only go so far.

One of the most cost-effective ways to get attention from the right people at the right time is PPC advertising. PPC broadly refers to a system in which you pay someone – Google,

Facebook, an individual website, etc. – for every click that you get on one of your ads.

So, those banner ads you see on a website fall under PPC, but those are more clearly defined as display advertising, and PPC in a more specific context refers to the text ads that appear in search results on Google and Bing.

The beauty of PPC advertising is you pay only when someone clicks. You do not pay per impression (although you can if you choose).

 

Email Newsletter Marketing

Your existing patients are one of the best resources you have to increase business. You can your marketing by sending out email newsletters.

If you make these emails informative, engaging, easy and fun to read, you will have more success. Talk about patient stories and other human interest stories, and refrain from plugging the hospital too much.

What this does is twofold:

  1. Your patients can spread the word via email to their friends and family (especially if you ask them to)
  2. Your previous or current patients can come to you for additional services

Staying in touch with patients through email is always a good idea. Adopt a robust and creative email newsletter campaign and you will attain more patients and more revenue through word-of-mouth marketing.

 

There are many other things you can do as a part of a hospital marketing plan. The above strategies work well with each other and go great with other hospital marketing strategies as well, such as social media marketing and content marketing.

woman painting wall - DIY research for your organization

Do it Yourself Primary Research for Healthcare Marketers: Another Favorite Session from SHSMD ’18

Whether it is budget, time, or both, many healthcare marketers do not have the opportunity to attend SHSMD Connections (Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development annual conference).  We are fortunate at TotalCom Marketing that we get to attend most years, so I thought I would share highlights from several of the presentations.

This is from “How to Conduct Your Own Fast, Affordable Consumer Research” presented by  Camille Baxter, Chief Business Development Officer, Insight Medical Genetics; Megan Springmeyer, Director of Client Development, Cint and Roger Straus, The Blackstone Group, and is a multi-part series. It includes points made in the presentation as well as my own primary research experience.

Pinterest, YouTube and blogs have made it possible for us to move from “I don’t know how, better call someone” to “Let me find a video to learn how”. Now we are all DIY’ing everything in our personal lives from painting a room to repairing the dryer to making a kids Halloween costume. And with some success.

DIY is not just for home repairs and hobbies though. There are certain projects we as healthcare marketers can confidently tackle ourselves – primary research is one – in certain situations, however.

Primary research, research that is not already available, in invaluable for making hospital marketing and communication decisions. Understanding what others believe about your hospital’s brand before re-branding; deciding whether or not to implement a new program for heart patients; knowing why nurses choose to work at our hospital for recruitment messaging – are just a few examples of when we need to ask our own questions.

The options for primary research are hiring a specialized firm or doing it ourselves. But how do you know which is right for your situation?

 

When to Consider DIY Primary Research

  • You need the information next week
  • There’s no or little budget
  • You know what you want to ask
  • Respondents are ready and willing to participate (or you know how to purchase)
  • You have the tools to implement and manage a survey
  • Sophisticated analysis and reporting is not needed

  

Sometimes You Need to Hire a Research Professional, But When?

  • Your research will help support a decision for a major investment or hospital strategy decision
  • The audience is large or high level
  • Your audience is narrow and external
  • You need sophisticated analysis and reporting

 

If your hospital research project qualifies for DIY, here’s how to get started.

 Close-up Of A Woman's Hand Filling Survey Form On Laptop - DIY research

The situation

It will soon be time to reprint the baby booklets/pregnancy guides your OB/GYNs distribute to expecting moms. Due to the number of pages, they are somewhat expensive to print. The hospital service line manager said there’s no need, the moms-to-be don’t seem to want them anymore. The physicians’ office manager says the physicians want to continue to distribute them. What’s marketing to do? Primary DIY research, of course.

 

Step 1: Determine your hypothesis

In this situation, our hypothesis might be: Do expectant moms want pregnancy guides/baby booklets from their OB/GYN? If yes, what content is most valuable and what is least valuable to our audience?

Step 2: Determine the audience

In this example, our target audience might be women within a 100-mile radius who have had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months. Hint: be prepared to increase or decrease the parameters to ensure enough respondents.

Step 3: Determine how will you use what you learn

For our scenario, we will use the results to decide whether or not to re-print baby booklets/pregnancy guides and if so, based on respondent preferences, evaluate if the content needs changing.

Step 4: Understand ahead of time who in your organization will receive the survey results and what kind of reporting will they require.

In this example, marketing will need to share a summary of the results as well as charts and recommendation with the office manager, physicians and service line manager. A simple one page summary with supporting details attached should be sufficient. Note: the simpler the questionnaire, the simpler the analysis and reporting. Also, have a goal in mind that will ensure that you’re making an informed decision. Maybe you need over 50% of respondents to say that they used the book at least once, or answers must average saying that they felt the booklet was at least “somewhat helpful.”

Step 5: Determine what survey tools should be used

Sources are available to help you manage your primary research survey from start to finish including developing your questionnaire, finding respondents, distributing your survey, analyzing the results and reporting the findings. Qualtrics, ZOHO, Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey are a few options with Survey Monkey being a popular one. At TotalCom Marketing we have used Survey Monkey and find it user-friendly for both researcher and respondents.

Step 6: Develop your survey and questions

Tips for using Survey Monkey can be a series of blog posts unto themselves. Below are some best practices. Some are from the presentation at SHSMD Connections, some from Survey Monkey and some from my personal experience at TotalCom Marketing.

  • Utilize the questionnaire templates and customize based on your needs
  • Write the questions using the language and definitions that your audience uses
  • Create questions that are to the point and easy to understand
  • Each question should ask only one question (no shotgun approach)
  • Group like questions together
  • Do not be biased or leading with your questions
  • Make no assumptions
  • Don’t let curiosity get the better of you. Avoid asking other questions “just because we would like to know”
  • Keep your survey as short and brief as possible
  • Ask the easiest-to-answer, least invasive, less personal questions in the beginning
  • Avoid yes-no questions
  • Avoid open-ended questions (difficult when it comes time to tally results)
  • Use words, not numbers (e.g., use phrases such as “more likely” and “less likely” rather than “on a scale of 1 to 10”)
  • Let respondents know why you need this information and how you will use it
  • Let respondents know how many questions or how much time the questionnaire will require of their time
  • Ask respondents for their help with the decision you are trying to make – people like to help others
  • Custom brand your survey with your logo, colors, etc. Respondents feel more comfortable when they know where the survey came from and will be more likely to answer your questions. (Note however sometimes it is more appropriate for the survey to come from a third party)
  • Don’t have a CRM of potential respondents? No problem, you can purchase a targeted audience from Survey Monkey based on geography and many demographic and psychographic characteristics. While in the Survey Monkey dashboard, there is a tool to help you determine if your audience is large enough (or not). Learn more about purchasing respondents here.
  • Proof and edit your survey. Edit and proof your survey. Proof and edit your survey again.
  • Test your survey with others in your department, co-workers and peers and ask for feedback.

 

Sample questions

To continue with our example of the baby booklets/pregnancy guides, some sample survey questions might include. Note these are just sample questions for illustration purposes.

  1. Have you had a full term pregnancy and delivery in the past 24 months? (Note: This question is a filter to narrow down our target audience. If the answer is no, then we politely thank the participant for their time)

Yes
No

  1. When you were expecting did your OB/GYN or hospital give you a booklet or guide about your pregnancy? The guide may or may not have contained information such as about what to expect during your pregnancy, how to care for yourself while you are expecting, post-partum care, etc. (Note: This is another filter question that allows us to survey only those that are in our target audience. IF the answer is no then we thank the participant and discontinue the survey)

Yes
No

  1. How would you rate the overall value of the booklet as it related to your pregnancy?

No value
Some value
Very valuable
Extremely valuable

  1. How often did you refer to the booklet during the course of your pregnancy and post-partum recovery?

Never
1 – 2 times
3 – 4 times
5 or more times

 

Content: Think back to the content in your pregnancy booklet (Note: See how we grouped like questions?)

  1. How helpful did you find the section “When to Call Your Doctor During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section “Important Phone Numbers During Your Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section “Food and Activities to Avoid During Pregnancy”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

  1. How helpful did you find the section in your booklet “Post-partum Care”

Information was not in my booklet
Little or no help
Somewhat helpful
Very helpful

 

Step 7: Send out survey – but you don’t have to necessarily wait

In Survey Monkey you can actually monitor the status of your survey project in real time to see how many responses you have and as your results come in, you can get a view of the responses.

 

Step 8: Analyze and report

Let the fun begin! Sometimes the results are a surprise and sometimes they confirm what we as healthcare marketers already know. In Survey Monkey you can view summaries of each survey question or drill down and browse individual survey responses. You can even use their “Rules” tool to filter and compare the results for more specific answers such as respondents from within a certain zip code or age. In addition, a paid Survey Monkey plan allows you to download and export your survey results, choose from different chart types (pie, bar graph, line graph, etc) or even create your own charts. The results including the summary, chart and details are easy to import into your report or can be emailed.

 

Other ways primary research can be beneficial

Information gathered in primary research can be beneficial to healthcare marketers for obvious reasons. We can get answers to questions about our hospital services, use the data to make decisions that are rooted in fact rather than opinion and often times use the information again in the future as we have a better understanding of our audiences and what is relevant to them. Also important, primary research can help elevate the role of hospital marketing from executional to strategic.

In summary, there are times when primary research is needed but we do not have the luxury of getting outside help. Sometimes we have to do it ourselves – and we can.

 

Need help getting started with DIY primary research for your healthcare organization? Contact me, Lori Moore, Senior Account Manager for TotalCom Marketing Communications by email or phone at 205.345.7363.

hospital marketing innovation

The Challenge of Being Transparent in Hospital Marketing

 

Hospital marketing professionals have a range of inordinate challenges before them when it comes to promoting a facility or system in an effective way.

These challenges stem from a variety of causes: healthcare, in today’s world, has become increasingly political and polarizing; consumers largely view healthcare as a commodity and facilities as interchangeable; consumers feel detached from the healthcare process beyond self-diagnosis and choosing a doctor; the labyrinth that is medical billing overwhelms, confuses, and discourages patients.

Transparent communication in hospital marketing can alleviate many of these problems, but that poses a challenge in and of itself. How can hospital marketing pros be more transparent in their communications to earn the trust of their target audience and communicate differentiating quality?

The Obstacles to Transparency

Being transparent and clear about a hospital’s benefits and offerings can be difficult for facilities for a few reasons:

  • Many hospitals don’t want to “pull back the curtain,” so to speak, on medical billings, including cost of services
  • Healthcare in general has become politicized
  • Hospitals offer a wide range of services to a wide range of people
  • Consumers aren’t always willing to talk about their health
  • Costs become difficult to comprehend, especially when insurance companies are in the discussion
  • All services and physicians are not created equal

 

There are also many different stakeholders in the process. It’s not just the patient; it’s the patient’s family, insurance company, physicians and employers. These agents can interfere with clear, open communication.

Creating Transparent Communication

The most effective hospital marketing strategies overcome transparency issues and offer differentiation when it comes to their competition – even if they operate as a de facto monopoly in a given area.

One suggestion for perhaps being more transparent is being open with statistics and conveying them in a direct, easy-to-understand manner. For example, be honest about infection rates, medication error rates, and any other statistic about healthcare that your target audience would be interested in. Do so in a clear way without using jargon. Saying, “A typical post-surgery infection rate is one in 1,000” is acceptable, but it’s not quite as good as saying, “One out of every 1,000 patients who undergo surgery will get an infection.”

One might think that being forward with such knowledge could be negative, but the opposite may be  true; it is a positive way to establish trust and differentiate a facility from the rest.

Another suggestion for transparency is to be clear and open about what the hospital truly excels at – the hospital’s competitive advantage. This is not to imply that a hospital is “bad” at other areas, per se, but it does state, clearly, that consumers have one main choice when it comes to quality care in this particular area. By focusing on strengths, a hospital can begin to set itself apart in a meaningful way.

Additionally, a hospital can be open about the process it uses to bill and charge patients for their services. Many hospitals are loath to reveal specific costs and pricing information, which is understandable. Even if that’s the case, though, finding a compromise or middle-of-the-road path can reap benefits. Consumers are far more likely to choose a hospital that at least makes an attempt at clarifying the billing process and revealing the nature of costs and prices for services.

Having that particular conversation is, in a word, frightening for many in the healthcare profession, but it needn’t be. Transparency ultimately wins the hearts and minds of a consumer, and the more transparent hospital marketing professionals are, the better their results will be.

Consult with a hospital marketing agency like TotalCom to learn more about how you can expand transparency and deliver more effective messages.

 

Pitfalls and Uses of QR Codes in Healthcare Marketing

QR codes can be useful in healthcare marketing but only if used correctly.  Effective use is dependent on understanding the context and following some basic guidelines.

QR with HQR codes are the cool thing these days in marketing.   Some have said it’s the next big thing because it brings physical interaction into the digital space.  And you have begun to see them everywhere.  Some places which are very creative and ingenious and some, which are questionable or downright stupid.

Just two years ago, only 1% of U.S. adults used QR codes.  But according to research from Forrester Research  just a year later that number grew to 5%.  Then a Temkin Group study  recently found that now 24% of adults are using them.   So use is increasing.  But just how effective are they?

Dan Wilkerson, a social media project manager at Luna Metrics (lunermetrics.com) outlined on masable.com some of the problems with QR codes for marketers.  He listed 5 problem areas.

1. Worthless Content

QR codes are easy to create, inexpensive and trackable.  They also open up a world of possibilities for consumer interaction.  However from a consumer’s point of view, scanning a code is a little cumbersome and requires time and effort.  Worse still, 90% of the time the link is to a website not optimized for mobile.  This is frustrating.

2. Consumer Awareness

Many consumers don’t know what QR codes are. An ArchRival study (archrival.com) of college students found that over 75% didn’t know how to scan a QR code.    These are statistics that are hard to believe. What looks cool for marketers may not be understood by the consumer.

3. Value as a Medium

QR codes are not considered a medium itself.  More often than not, QR codes are used simply to link to a company website.  Is it worth the effort to take your phone, unlock it, boot the app, get the code in focus and scan it, assuming you already have an app.  Is it worth the effort just to go to a brand’s website?

4. Location, Location, Location

QR codes are showing up in the most unlikely places.  Seemingly everywhere, on everything.  And many in very questionable locations with little or no thought for context.

5. Aesthetics

Too many QR codes are ugly.  And they are often confused with codes used for industrial purposes.  Many think they are tracking barcodes instead of a marketing tool.

So there are limitations to QR codes.  That’s not to say they are useless.  They can be effective for healthcare marketer f used correctly.

Here are some basic guidelines to improve effectiveness.

1. Make it worthwhile to the consumer. 

Provide information that is useful and valuable to the consumer.

2. Include instructions with a recommended app spelling out how to use the code.

3. Make sure using the code doesn’t take more than 6-10 seconds.  Otherwise you will lose the consumer.

4. Walk through your QR code implementation in a real-world scenario to make sure it’s actually useable.

5. Make the code as attractive as possible and distinguish it from packaging barcodes. 

You can use Photoshop to round off the corners and sometimes remove portions of the code for better aesthetics.

QR codes are not just marketing gimmicks.  If they are used that way, they will not be effective.  But they can be very useful if they are the results of a defined marketing strategy and provide value to the consumer.

Healthcare Marketing: PR No Longer the Ugly Stepsister

PR and publicity are important tactics in creating positive “buzz” for a hospital’s brand.  

154218007PR has always been an important tool of every healthcare marketing department.  But there has been a major shift in the healthcare industry that includes the resurrection of public relations.  Many ad budgets have been cut.  Less is being spent on traditional media.  But in many cases more is being spent in PR and publicity.

Generally, PR has been the poor, ugly stepsister to the advertising function.  PR was just a way to keep the hospital’s name in the newspaper and for hospitals to pat themselves on the back for their community involvement.  PR was considered free and regularly not much more than an afterthought in the marketing plan.  It was an add-on to an advertising campaign or something done to keep the management team and board happy.

But today, many hospitals are placing much more emphasis on PR.  In addition to moving some of the budget from traditional media to new media, event marketing, social media and mobile marketing PR and publicity is playing an increasing important role in the marketing department’s strategy and efforts.   With a shift toward customer-generated media, PR becomes more critical to the hospital’s marketing efforts.

“PR plays into the whole ‘buzz Marketing’ trend”, stated Tony Mikes of Second Wind.  “PR is very much about brand awareness, so we can certainly accord some of the credit for PR’s emergence from the shadows to the rise of branding as a critical marketing tactic.”   Creating “buzz” and keeping the hospital’s name in the news and on the lips of influencers and consumers are extremely important.  As marketing becomes more consumer-driven and consumer- controlled, PR and publicity can play an even bigger role and sometimes more effective role than advertising in enhancing the brand in the minds of the consumers.

PR and publicity are also important for place-based media efforts.  Pre-promotion of staged events creates attendance and media coverage while post-promotion extends the chatter.

PR should no longer be an afterthought, but an “automatic.”   PR and publicity can boost the hospital’s brand organically and authentically.  Complimenting and enhancing all the other marketing activities.

Healthcare Marketing: Humanize Your Hospital’s Brand

Humanizing your brand by giving it a personality, making it personable and telling a narrative connects with consumers.

Every healthcare marketer tries to connect their brand with consumers.  It is an ongoing, endless task.  Of course we know that humanizing a brand improves connectivity.  And research supports it.

Emily Eldridge, writing for MarketingProfs cites research that demonstrates how human interaction affects attitudes and transactions.

Iris Bohnet and Bruno Frey conducted an economic research study in 1999 called “Social Distance and Other-Regarding Behavior in Dictator Games.” Two groups of students were recruited to participate in a series of social interactions in which members of the first group had to decide whether to share any portion of a sum of money—approximately $10—with a person in the second group.

When the first group knew nothing at all about those in the second group, participants offered, on average, only 26% of the money. When the moderators asked the second group to stand up—making them less anonymous to the first group—the offer increased to 39%. When the moderators shared personal information about those in the second group with those in the first, the average offer increased to 52%. And when members of the groups were introduced to one another, the average offer was 50%.

In other words, the greater the social distance, the less willing people were to hand over money.

This can teach a valuable lesson to hospital marketers.  If our brand is humanized, it connects better with consumers.  It’s important that our brand not be cold, inanimate, and without important human traits and characteristics.  Our brand should have a personality. It must be personable. It must make a human connection.

Eldridge refers to two examples of retailers who have a strong personal connection with consumers and how it positively impacts their brand reputation and gives it increased brand equity.  The first example is Apple.  Their retail stores are not a row of cashiers. Rather when you enter their stores, in addition to a strong visual connection to the brand, they have easily identifiable employees with mobile cashier platforms ready to interact and help customers.   They are knowledgeable and will explain the benefits of each product, help with your issues and even tell you personal stores about the products.

Apple is known for its sleek innovative products.  But they also carry a premium price.  But despite a higher price, they continue to increase market share.  One reason is because they have humanized the Apple brand.  They connect with the consumer.

Another example is an online brand.  How can you humanize an online brand?  Zappos.com places on its product pages videos of employees talking about why he or she likes the product.  The videos are not about product specs but people telling their stories about the product.  When Zappos launched the videos in 2009, their conversion rate increased from 6% to 30%.  They humanized the brand with narratives.

The lesson for healthcare marketers is that we must humanize our brand.  Make them personable.  It doesn’t matter how nice our hospital is or what kind of technology we have, we must connect on a personal level.  Maybe that comes by using patients, physicians, and staff members to tell their stories about the brand.  Making it real, and genuine and personable.  It provides an important and engaging brand narrative.

There are other ways to make that human connection.  We should always strive to find them and use them.  Our brand will become stronger as we close the gap of social distance.  As we humanize our brand.

Healthcare Marketing: 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Hospital’s Brand with Social Media

Your brand must be an integral part of your social media strategy.

More healthcare marketers are adopting social media as a component of their marketing efforts.  But it must reflect our brand.  Social media provides the opportunity to humanize the brand and empower it. 

Heidi Cohen identified five tactics for using social media to cultivate a brand and expand its reach.  Her comments appeared in SmartBlog on Social Media.

1.    Give your brand a human voice (or other sounds) on social media.

A brand can be humanized by how it sounds.  Corporate speak doesn’t resonate with consumers. Instead, consider your brand’s language, accent and other noises.  Sound like a human.

2.    Enhance the visual signals associated wit your brand.

Carefully consider colors, images, icons, type and photographs to make sure they enhance your brand and communicate the brand’s personality.

3.    Tell your brand’s story.

Brands aren’t a collection of facts or products or services.  They’re about stories.  Stories of the company, employees and customers told in a human voice.  Give your brand a personality.  Create with stories.

4.    Develop and incorporate a culture into your brand.

A unique corporate culture is important to community building.  Create a special language, actions and attributes to set your brand apart from the competition.

5.    Brand your employees.

Brands need real people to represent their organization.  It provides a human face.  It builds trust and sincerity. Brand employees and let employees project the brand.

Social media can be very useful to hospital marketers.  And it’s important to let your brand shine through in those social media efforts.  Social media is a unique opportunity to humanize your brand, to create a brand personality and to connect your brand to your consumers.

 

 

Healthcare Marketing: Google Buys Into Newspaper Advertising

Google buys a newspaper ad to show why newspaper ads don’t work

In a most interesting irony, Google bought an ad in the Canadian Globe and Mail newspaper to advertise its search-advertising business, which is in direct competition with newspaper advertising.  The point was to show that newspaper advertising doesn’t work.  Well if that’s true, why make your point in a newspaper ad?

Lauren Indvik posted the ad on mashable.com after it was tweeted by reporter Steve Ladurantaye with the caption, “An ad for Google ads in today’s Globe demonstrates the value of print ads, yes?”

The ad asks, “You know who needs a haircut?  People searching for a haircut.”  And then adds, “Maybe that’s why ads on Google work.”

What an ingenious marketing approach!  Reach newspaper readers to convince them newspaper advertising doesn’t work.  But if Google really thinks newspaper advertising doesn’t work why waste money trying to make their point there?  And even more amusing, they included a promotional offer in the ad.

So what does this have to do with hospital advertising?  Not much really.  It’s just ironic and funny.  And proves that sometimes as hard as marketers try to make a point, their strategies end up making the opposite point altogether.  Sometimes unintended consequences can doom even the most creative and unique ideas.

 

Healthcare Marketing: Yesterday’s SEO Strategies No Longer Effective

Google’s algorithm changes place more emphasis on social engagement rather than technology and tricks.

For years, healthcare marketers have tried to understand the basics of Google’s search engines and their algorithms.  How does it work?  How can we optimize search results for our brand?  How can we get higher organic placement than our competitors?  A lot of work and effort has gone into this endeavor.  Many marketers have paid specialists large sums of money to try to manipulate the system in favor of their brand.

But recent Google updates, code-named Panda and Penguin, have placed the emphasis squarely on quality content, originality and overall user experience.    Veronica Fielding, CEO of Digital Brand Expressions, writing for Fast Company outlined some of the changes and stated “the updates contained very clear messages for marketers: stop focusing on technology and tricks and start focusing on people.  If your website appeals to people, it will appeal to Google’s algorithms too.”

As Fielding points out, the search engines place value in other things in addition to the website.  There is now an emphasis on what’s happening in social media channels.  There is an increased importance on social conversations.  And social activity influences how the brand is viewed and how their website should rank.

Brands can no longer depend on optimizing their website to catch Google’s attention.  Now a brand must be having conversations, going where people are and engaging them.  This is what the Google search engines like.

As healthcare marketers we have been lead into the social media arena so we can have meaningful conversations and build relationships.  As if that reason alone is not enough incentive, now such activity also affects how we are found and ranked by search engines.  That means there are several new strategies for improving our organic search ranking.  And they involve social media.  Now there are even more reasons to utilize social media in our marketing efforts.

1.    Facebook

Rather than just having a Facebook page, for search results it’s important to engage consumers.  Information on our Facebook page should be relevant and interesting.  There should be dynamite conversations between your brand and consumers.  This requires quality content.

2.    Twitter

Tweet about topics of interest.  Not just trying to push our hospital or health organization but providing useful and helpful information.  The kind that will be re-tweeted.

3.    YouTube

Upload shareable videos onto your YouTube site.  Again, videos that are useful.  Vides that will be watched and shared.  Note also that Google owns YouTube.  Enough said.

4.    LinkedIn

A brand profile with recommendations and referrals is a strong component of brand optimization on the web.  Company pages are now public and feature status updates.

5.    Other social media options.

Other popular social media options are helpful too.  Pinterest, Google+ and other sites will contribute to brand optimization.

“All this social media activity works to create engagement around the brand by what has always mattered to search engines most: people,” added Fielding.

So when we ask how we can improve search results for our brand, with the changes by Google, we must provide quality content, but in a way and in venues that will lead to relevant conversations and consumer engagement.