Hospital Marketing: Developing a Recession Proof Growth Strategy

Developing a hospital marketing strategy can be overwhelming. There are so many different options available and new tactics to try every day.

Therefore, we boiled it down to only the most important tactics you need to incorporate into your strategy. These tactics are the core of every solid marketing program, and you’ll find that all major hospitals in the United States use them.

Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents

Create a Solid Website Foundation

If patients and search engines cannot access certain pages on your website, it will be useless to your hospital.

Fortunately, it’s easy to check indexability and crawlability with Google Search Console. If you don’t already have an account, you should create one. Once you have it set up, you can see any crawl errors or indexability issues under the “Coverage” tab. You can then select the “error” and “valid” with warning boxes to see URLs that aren’t crawlable.

If you scroll down, it will divide them by error, and you can click on each error to see the list of URLs with issues.

Mobile Friendly

About 62% of smartphone users have used their phone to look up medical information, so it’s essential to have a website that is both mobile and desktop friendly. 

In addition, Google released a statement saying that they now rank websites in the search results based on the mobile version of the website rather than just the desktop version. 

If you don’t know if your website is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s mobile-friendly test to test specific URLs or look up errors in Google Search Console (my preferred method). Google Search Console has a tab labeled “Mobile Usability” that shows you specific URLs with mobile issues.

Site Speed

Site speed is another major component of a solid technical foundation. Not only did Google name page speed a top ranking factor, but page speed also directly correlates with bounce rates. In other words, if a page takes too long to load, your patients will simply click the back button and look for a different hospital.

In fact, a study by Pingdom showed that while the average bounce rate of a page that loads in two seconds is 9%, the average bounce rate of a page that loads in five seconds is 38%.

To discover your website’s current load time, go to Google Search Console, and look at “Core Web Vitals.” Note that even if you have a fast loading desktop version, your mobile version will have a different load time, so it’s important to make sure both versions load quickly.

If you have any poor performing URLs, you can screenshot the report and send it to a web developer to fix. 

Note that you may have many URLs that have a slow load time. Rather than trying to fix every single one, select only the most important URLs. For example, a city location page or a cancer treatment options page should be top priorities. However, a dated blog post about healthy snacks that receives three visits per month might not be a top priority.

While there are plenty of other technical SEO concerns to address, these are the most important ones.

If you want a quick overview of other technical issues on your website, you can use a free tool like Sitechecker to uncover various other technical issues on your website.

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Optimize For Patient Search Queries

Once your website has a solid foundation, prospective patients need to be able to find it. For example, if you have a hospital in New York, your website should show up in Google’s results (ideally in the first position) for “Hospital in New York.”

However, ranking for the term isn’t as simple as writing “hospital in New York” many times on your website.

While a strong technical foundation is essential to enable you to rank for these terms, there are other on-page tactics you can use to increase your chances of ranking for your main keywords.

Create Great Content

When a user types a keyword, Google wants to serve them a result directly from a topical expert. Therefore, if your trying to rank for a keyword like “Cancer Hospital in New York,” show Google that you’re a cancer expert by having other blog posts/pages dedicated to cancer.

For example, in the scenario below, Google will probably rank the homepage of Hospital A first because it has many other resources (blog posts) regarding cancer.

In addition, most prospective patients perform some research prior to selecting a treatment facility. 

For example, a patient may Google:

If you have a blog post on each of those topics, prospective patients will read them during the research phase. Then, once they are ready to make an appointment with a hospital, they’ll be much more likely to call you than a hospital they’ve never heard of before. 

Therefore, creating targeted content increases your presence in search engines and creates relationships with potential customers.

To find exactly what keywords patients search for, you can use a tool like Ahrefs, type in a broad keyword like “breast cancer,” and look at their questions section:

Now you have an arsenal of questions that patients search before calling a hospital. Therefore, create content around each of them and show both Google and prospective patients that you’re the ultimate cancer authority. 

Studies show Google receives over one billion medical searches daily, so create valuable content to capture some of those queries and turn them into customers.

Another major Google ranking factor is backlinks. 

A backlink is basically when one website creates a hyperlink to another website. This is usually done so that a reader can find more information on a discussed topic if they desire.

Backlinks are still perhaps the most important ranking factor to Google

Essentially, Google wants to see that many other peers in your industry respect and trust your work enough to send their readers to it. 

Think about it- if your friend asked you for a recommendation, you’d only send them to a trustworthy source. Backlinks are based on a similar concept.

However, they can be difficult to generate if you don’t have an established reputation.

Therefore, you may have to try various backlinking tactics, including:

Here’s a list of other various link building tactics you can try. 

One important note is that while Google wants to see a high volume of backlinks, they only want to see a high volume of quality backlinks that are related to your industry. If only low quality websites or websites that aren’t related to healthcare link to you, it won’t boost your website’s authority. 

Thinking of an offline example again, imagine which you would rather have:

You’d probably prefer a few quality doctors recommending your hospital. Therefore, think about link building as digital recommendations.

Internal Linking

As your hospital’s brand grows and gains authority, it will naturally begin to acquire more external links. Though in the beginning, it can be very challenging. 

In addition, many of your high converting pages (such as a “schedule a consultation” page) aren’t very informational and therefore won’t attract many links. 

Therefore, one of the best ways to give your conversion pages (such as a consultation page) a boost is to internally link to them from your top linked-to pages. An internal link is similar to an external link, though you’re redirecting the reader to another page on your website rather than a different website.

Therefore, if you have a popular page with many links (like a homepage or a research page), you can add a link from the popular page pointing towards the struggling page. By internally linking, you’re essentially passing the link juice from your popular posts to your less popular posts. 

There are also plenty of studies that show adding relevant internal links from popular pages can dramatically improve a struggling page’s performance in the search results. 

To see which pages have a lot of links, you can log into Ahrefs and sort by “best by links.” From there, you can naturally add in a few links to your struggling page.

Note that it’s essential that you internally link naturally. Otherwise, you could be penalized by Google and ruin your user experience.

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Optimize For User Experience

An often overlooked hospital marketing strategy is optimizing for user experience.

Have you ever gone to a website and you couldn’t find what you were looking for?

Therefore, rather than making your users struggle with your website, think about improving your user experience.

Start by looking at your website’s architecture. You can use a tool like Screaming Frog, which will allow you to see how many links people have to click on to get to each page of your website.

The rule of thumb is that each page should be no more than three links deep, though as hospital websites can be quite complex, it may be more like four. However, do your best to keep link depth to a minimum. 

Once you know that people can easily find each page, they need to be able to find the information on that page. 

Therefore, look at pages with high bounce rates. You can do this in Google Analytics by going:

Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages

You’ll then see a chart that shows all of your pages and each individual bounce rate. 

While something like a landing page or consultation page may have a relatively high bounce rate, all of your informational guides should have fairly low bounce rates. 

In addition, if you have a page hub page that guides people to other pages on your site and visitors continuously bounce, it probably means that they can’t find what you’re looking for. 

Therefore, consider installing a heatmap like Hotjar or CrazyEgg on that page, as this will show you how patients interact on that page.

For example, you can see where people are scrolling and touching their mouse.

This will help you understand where users are getting stuck. You can also use Google Analytics to see what pages people are coming from and see where they often drop off. Go to:

Behavior > Behavior Flow

If you notice that a significant number of people drop off on a certain page, update it to better serve the audience. You can also tell which pages they are coming from and how to provide a better answer to their queries based on the previous pages they’ve viewed on your website. 

If you’re still stuck, software like Hotjar even allows you to ask patients an open-ended question in the form of a chatbot like “Were you able to find everything?”

They can leave a response, which will help you better understand what is causing them pain.

Leverage Social Media

Social media is becoming an increasingly important aspect of patient lives. 

In fact, some studies show that about 40% of patients use social media to learn about healthcare, so you’re missing out on a huge opportunity by not leveraging social media.

So what is the best way to use social media? And which platforms should you be on?

Facebook is perhaps the best place to start for most hospitals for a few reasons.

  1. It targets a wide demographic range
  2. It is the second most popular social media channel (behind YouTube) 
  3. It has a remarkably high engagement, with 74% users visiting the site at least once per day.

In addition, when analyzing various other hospitals’ social engagement, Facebook far outperforms any of the other social channels.

Facebook ads are very profitable, with an average campaign producing a 20% click-through rate and a 13% conversion rate. Even if you aren’t yet ready to run ads, it’s a good idea to build a profile and following now. Therefore, if you decide to run ads down the road, you’ll already have some traction.

If you’re not sure what type of posts you should create to gain a following, the first thing you should do is put your competitor’s URLs in Buzzsumo. Buzzsumo will show you the most popular social media posts each competitor has produced, and you can get a feel for the topics and post styles that your audience enjoys.

For example, these are the top-performing posts for Mount Sinai. As you can see, posts on new studies and patient case studies/stories tend to drive a lot of engagement.

Below is a great example of how you can create a patient case study/story that drives engagement:

Doing live Q and A sessions is another great way to engage patients. While this format may not receive as many viral shares as a research or patient story might, the few people engaging tend to be much more targeted and interested in scheduling an appointment. 

You can also collaborate with other organizations to increase your reach and then reshare them on your social account.

While the above examples are all on Facebook, that doesn’t mean you can’t take your Facebook posts and repurpose them to Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, and more. The key is to research the preferred formats for each individual platform and adapt each post for that platform.

For example, Linkedin prefers to show live videos, so stream your lives natively to Linkedin in addition to Facebook.

However, Instagram prefers to show carousels, so transform your Facebook post into a carousel.

Be sure to hang around after posting something to answer questions and engage users. Engagement is a huge ranking factor in every social algorithm, so be sure to reward users for engagement.

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Paid Ads

Paid ads are nothing new, but they are still just as effective as ever. 

The two main paid ad platforms most hospitals spend money on are Facebook and Google.

Google

Google Ads are incredibly effective, with the top three ads generating roughly 46% of all clicks on the page. 

Therefore, you’re missing out on a lot of potential patients if you don’t run Google ads.   

So how should you go about running paid ads? The first thing you should do is look at the ads your competitors are running. 

You can do that by logging into Ahrefs and going to:

Site Explorer > enter competitors domain > Paid search > PPC keywords

From there, you can see which keywords they are currently running ads to and how much they are paying for each ad:

Once you know what keywords they are targeting, you can also look at the ad copy for each one. You can do this by going to:

Site Explorer > enter competitors domain > Paid search > Top Ads

From there, look at how they are targeting the patient. What kind of language do they use? What tone is it?

While you don’t need to do exactly what they do, it is useful to see what kind of messaging patients respond to. The traffic percentage also shows you what kind of CTR the ad copy is generating.

Try out a few different keywords, and be sure to track your clicks and how many conversions each one is generating. For example, it can be tricky to track phone calls to an ad, but Google now offers a tool that allows you to add a unique extension to track the call was from the ad. 

Another tricky aspect of appropriately tracking conversions to ads is driving traffic for a broad keyword. In many cases, the patient won’t take immediate action, though it will be the first touchpoint with your brand. In this case, analytics will likely show that the ad didn’t convert anything when, in reality, it was this first touchpoint that ultimately resulted in a consultation down the road. Therefore, you can use first-touch attribution for ads with broader keywords.

Facebook Ads

Hopefully, you’ve already started a Facebook page as Facebook ads are another great way to quickly drive traffic to your hospital’s website. 

In fact, Facebook ad impressions increased by 37% in 2019 and continue to trend upward. 

To get started, check out your competitor’s ads by heading to the Facebook Ad library.

When you see your competitor’s ads, look at the difference in photos and copy used. Then look at which ads they iterate on and which ones they scrap.

For example, this is one ad that they tweaked over a three week period. You can tell they continued to adjust the copy and images to find what resonated best with their audience. You can also see how confident they were in the ad by looking at how much spend they invested in it.

Therefore, take notes of what kinds of themes appear to be working for your competitors and incorporate them into your own ads.

Build Partnership Programs

If your doctor tells you that you need to see a specialist and gives you the name of a specialist, there’s a good chance that you’ll give that person a call.

Therefore, consider building partnerships with other medical professionals in the industry to generate more business. 

One of the best ways to do this is to simply introduce yourself to other physicians. Consider scheduling lunches, going to their office, and keeping in touch with them.

You can also attend conferences and networking events to connect with other physicians.

Even better, if you are working on a research study or another project, consider how you can collaborate with other physicians. This will not only help increase your reach for that particular project, but it will also help you develop strong relationships with potential partners.

Final Thoughts

Scan through this checklist and mark off anything that you aren’t doing yet. You can then prioritize them based on your budget, resources, and what would be most effective for your practice. 

The top of the list addresses the most dire hospital marketing strategies, so be sure to have those things in place before moving down the list to other tactics like paid ads.

If you need any help with your hospital marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re happy to help!

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