Online Digital Strategic Services

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 Often the information is wrong, outdated, incomplete, or inconsistent.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.

Hospital Marketing: Lessons Learned from Zappos

Hospital Sign buttonThe value of a company is not just in revenues and bottom line numbers, but in the status of the brand.

The online retail giant, Amazon, agreed to purchase Zappos for just under a billion dollars. Why would the giant pay so much for a shoe retailer? Pete Blackshaw, Executive VP of Neilson Online Digital Strategic Services, pointed out in an article in Advertising Age that the value of Zappos was driven by customer service and employee advocacy. Amazon, who knows quite a bit about customer service, was willing to pay quite a price for a company that excelled in the details of customer service and who empowered their employees to always put the customer first.

True, hospitals are not often positioning themselves to fetch a huge sales price in the open market. But the value of a hospital is determined by its brand equity. Everyday consumers are making a decision whether a hospital is worth his/her time and resources. And they are making that decision on what kind of service they receive. They are determining if your brand is worth it or not.           

Blackshaw says Zappos is obsessed over a different set of numbers. They are consumed with providing outstanding customer service. They seek feedback at every level. They want to know what the consumer experience is and fix anything that prevents the customer from having a perfect customer service experience.

How many hospitals are tenacious about customer service? How many hospitals explore, examine and experiment with the details of their interactions with the consumer? Too many hospitals, I’m afraid, really don’t want to know the truth in the details. Too many hospitals are satisfied to provide adequate, but not outstanding, service. Yes, it is painstaking – it’s hard work. But it certainly paid off handsomely for Zappos. And it will pay off for those hospitals that get dirty in the details and are committed to providing outstanding patient experiences.

“Zappos, Powered By Service.” What hospital could dare use a branding line like that? 


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