7 Mistakes Healthcare Practices Make When Creating a Website

How to avoid the most serious pitfalls in planning and producing a revenue-generating website.
By Stewart Gandolf, MBA and Lonnie Hirsch

The Internet has become the tool of choice for prospective patients who are seeking healthcare information. They may be searching by topic or for a solution to a problem, and often they could be “Googling” specifically for “naturopathic physician” in their community.

Unfortunately, there are a ton of practices that don’t have a first-class online marketing tool – or perhaps none at all – and that’s missed opportunity, lost revenue … and someone in need who did not find a solution.

If it is time to take a critical look at your tired website, or to begin building one that’s right from the start, here’s a roundup of the big mistakes to avoid in getting your website done (and what to do instead).

No D.I.Y.

Don’t even think about doing your website yourself. DIY is for backyard gardening and has no place for Internet marketing if you want professional results. There are excellent and reasonably priced resources available. Look for how-to info at www.healthcaresuccess.com. Quality, professional help is worth a decent budget, but if resources are thin, you might begin modestly and grow your website in phases if necessary.

Given this basic rule, here are the top 7 mistakes that are guaranteed to do a lot more harm than good.

1)   Lack of clear goals and visitor path to action. Clearly define exactly WHAT you want the website visitor to do. Usually, the goal is for the visitor to make an appointment, or at least call for information. Hold that thought.

Yes, you’ll need to persuade the visitor. Inform, yes. But save detailed “patient education” or lessons in office administration (like missed appointment policy).

Everything about your site – the total “visitor experience” – needs to move the visitor from “looking” to “doing.” Your CONTACT information should be available, obvious, inviting, easy and encouraging – and probably on every page.

2) No focus = no message = no results. Don’t try to say everything to everybody. Build your site for a specific target audience. Understand exactly WHO you are talking to and maintain that focus in content, graphic design, functionality, structure and other executional details.

3) Poor structure and navigation. Getting around on your site should feel completely intuitive. Sites where it is difficult to find important information or hard to move around drive visitors away in frustration. Consistency is a plus; menus and navigation options should appear in the same position on every page, and links should be obvious. A website design that is too flashy, technically overdone or underdone, or too slow will be a loser.

4) Believing “If I build it, they will come.” Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a fundamental tool, and it’s commonly neglected. Most visitors – usually 80% or more – will arrive at your site using a search engine (like Google, Yahoo, etc.), so build a site that search engines recognize. SEO is a sophisticated blend of art and science that begins with the design, construction and content of the site itself, so that it is highly visible to Google and other search engines.

The dos and don’ts of SEO would fill a large book, but briefly, your site needs targeted keywords and phrases; and well-written and relevant content that is “spider friendly” and has the appropriate meta tags, title tags, and keyword tags. Caution: There are special rules in this game, and using “black hat” techniques, such as hidden text, can result in being banned by the search engines.

5) Making the website a marketing orphan. Your site is a serious player in your overall Marketing Plan; it needs to be integrated with other marketing activities and vice versa. The classic symptoms of this mistake are not including your web address in correspondence or brochure, or a website that looks different from your branding. Find ways to tell your patients and prospective patients about the site. Maintain the content with regular updates and refinements.

6) Believing your website is a technical or graphic arts example. Above all else, your site is a professional marketing communications tool. Of course it needs to be technically correct (but not geek-trick driven), and it needs to be graphically appealing (but not an artistic expression alone).

Plan to communicate a compelling, benefit-laden message that differentiates you and your practice. Understand that the visitor has a need … and your site explains how you can provide the answer to that patient need. In that process, you’ll also build trust, establish credibility and entice response.

7) Ignoring site and visitor analytics. Every website keeps detailed statistics about visitor traffic (how they found you, for example) and site activity (what pages did they see; how long they stayed). Web analytics are included with your hosting service or are available for free or little cost. Study this near real-time feedback about your prospective patient’s response to your website. This data is vital guidance to SEO and marketing decisions, and to planning revisions.

Use this checklist in making a critical review of your existing (or new) website. If any one of these items is out of whack, you can be confident that your site is sending prospective patients elsewhere. Wouldn’t you rather it produces new patients for you rather than the competition?

Stewart Gandolf, MBA, and Lonnie Hirsch are cofounders of Healthcare Success Strategies, and two of America’s most experienced practice marketers. They have worked with all professional disciplines for a combined 30 years, and have consulted with more than 3,543 private healthcare practices. They have spoken at hundreds of venues across North America and their practical guidance on highly effective practice marketing appears regularly in professional publications. Reach them at (888) 679-0050, through their Web site at www.healthcaresuccess.com, or via e-mail at info@healthcaresuccess.com. © 2010 Healthcare Success Strategies

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