A modern guide to attracting and retaining more patients in today’s digital world
Ophthalmologists require digital marketing and advertising to reach patients who value both exceptional eye care and convenience. When choosing an eye doctor, patients today have more choices with big retailers and large eye care franchises expanding into communities of all sizes.
For ophthalmologists, marketing in a digital era requires effective strategies for both patient acquisition and retention. From search engine optimization to reputation management, finding the right marketing mix is the key to long-term practice growth. Complementing a digital marketing plan with an all-in-one practice growth platform can further help ophthalmology practices stand out among the competition. Practice owners who think digital first are seeing their ophthalmology practices thrive with a strong web presence, an excellent online reputation, and more new patients.
Modern marketing 101: A guide for ophthalmologists
In 2019, the average person in the U.S. reported spending nearly four hours per day on their mobile devices. And they’re not just idly scrolling. Prospective patients are making important decisions about their healthcare online. They’re researching providers, conditions, and treatments before they book appointments. Ophthalmology practices that are maximizing digital marketing opportunities are growing and succeeding in this competitive landscape.
Referrals and word-of-mouth are no longer sufficient to sustain your ophthalmology practice. You need a robust set of digital-first strategies for prospective patients to find your practice and get to know you online. The good news is that the rise of digital solutions is not just better for patients, but it offers huge advantages to ophthalmologists as well.
While traditional marketing and advertising tactics remain useful, they can be costly and don’t offer as much control, flexibility, or data to track their effectiveness. On the other hand, digital marketing and advertising put ophthalmology practice owners in the driver’s seat. It allows them to maximize their return on investment with data and use advanced targeting to reach the right people at the right time.
Here are a few of digital marketing’s many benefits:
- You set the budget and scope. Even with a modest budget, digital marketing can deliver a strong return on investment (ROI). And you, as the practice operator, have total control over how much you spend and who you want to reach. Proven digital-first marketing strategies allow you to set your targeting preferences and desired outcomes. Choose your audience by age, location, demographics, and interests or attributes, and then choose how many impressions, clicks, or conversions you want to pay for. It’s highly customizable to your needs, and with so much digital ad space available, you have nearly limitless options.
- You know what’s working (and what’s not). Once your digital marketing campaigns are up and running, you have access to real-time analytics to measure how well they’re performing. That level of insight is simply not available with more traditional marketing and advertising methods. Performance data also helps drive decision-making, so you don’t waste time and money on tactics that aren’t working.
- You adjust as you go. Digital advertising lets you refine your strategies as you go. You can swap out the headline, text, or image on low-performing posts or ads, or adjust the budget to scale up content that’s delivering great results. This allows you to get creative and try new things, since nothing is set in stone (or print).
Digital marketing can also help grow your ophthalmology brand, building recognition for the world-class eye care you provide. Strong branding starts with an attractive visual identity, which includes a well-designed logo, pleasing color palette, and simple typeface.
Best practices for ophthalmology advertising
If your budget allows, advertising for your ophthalmology practice can amplify your marketing efforts exponentially. Advertising tactics such as pay-per-click, sponsored social media posts, digital ad campaigns, and online banner ads can be more budget-friendly than traditional advertising options, such as print ads, broadcast spots, or billboards.
Paid online advertising is scalable based on your budget and ROI and gives you the flexibility to tweak as you go. Here are some digital advertising tactics to consider for attracting new patients to your ophthalmology practice:
- Sponsored content: Social media is a great place to reach new patients through boosted posts and/or full-scale ad campaigns. For example, you can invest in a promotional campaign to increase patient conversion or boost a link to a blog post about eye health to increase website traffic.
- Display advertising: Online banner ads allow you to promote your ophthalmology practice almost anywhere on the web. An eye-catching image with simple text can grab attention while prospective patients visit their favorite web pages.
- Paid search advertising: Also known as pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, these ads appear as “sponsored” at the top of a search query. You only pay for ads that result in clicks, so you can be sure that every dollar you spend is driving a prospective patient straight to your website. Google AdWords is the market leader for paid search and is a cost-effective option for ophthalmologists.
Patient acquisition basics for ophthalmologists
Meeting your practice growth goals begins with attracting new patients. Sixty percent of people look online regularly when seeking a new doctor, dentist, or medical provider, according to a 2021 survey by PatientPop. Even before patients begin searching for a provider, they’re looking online for answers to common health-related questions. That’s why attracting new patients often depends on how visible your ophthalmology practice is online.
That’s why maximizing your online presence is important to your patient acquisition strategy. First, an attractive, modern, and high-performing website is a must. Thriving ophthalmology practices also claim their listings on online provider directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp. Making sure your practice is well represented everywhere online that a prospective patient might spend time not only drives patient conversion, but it can also boost your search engine ranking.
Managing your online reputation also has a real impact on patient acquisition. Most healthcare consumers (69 percent) will only consider a provider with an average 4.0 rating (out of 5) or higher, according to PatientPop. Google calculates your overall star rating by averaging the star ratings from your patient reviews. Soliciting patient feedback with automated surveys after every appointment shows patients you care about their experience, and also increases the likelihood that they will proactively write a review on sites, including Google or Yelp.
Optimize your ophthalmology practice’s online presence
Standing out in the digital marketplace is imperative for ophthalmology practice growth. You need a powerful online presence that includes top-notch website design, up-to-date online profiles, an engaging social media presence, and an exceptional online reputation.
Your website is a critical element of your ophthalmology practice’s online presence. Your ophthalmology practice website is the one place on the web that you have full control over. Invest in an impactful website design, and make sure it’s optimized for mobile and loads quickly. Offering detailed information on your providers, staff, the conditions you treat and the unique services you offer can help patients determine if you’re a good fit for their ophthalmology needs.
Here are some key elements a first-rate ophthalmology website should include:
- Information about providers. Include professional bios and photos for every provider on your staff. Make sure to include additional information about your providers’ approach to patient care.
- Office location and contact details. Prospective patients should know how to locate and contact you at first glance. One-click contact buttons for mobile users are also helpful for conversion.
- Patient testimonials and reviews. An excellent patient review is probably the best free publicity in your toolbox. Prominently display patient testimonials and online reviews on your website as this can convince website visitors to make an appointment.
- Content that showcases quality of care. List the specific eye conditions and diseases you treat, and provide in-depth information about the quality care and treatments your ophthalmology practice provides. Focus your content on your specific expertise, whether you’re a leading expert on pediatric conditions like strabismus or amblyopia or an expert on cataract surgery or macular degeneration. The more information prospective patients can get from your website, the less they have to rely on other sources.
- A clear call to action. Make it easy and convenient for prospective patients to take action. For ophthalmologists, this generally means booking an appointment or contacting your practice. Offering online scheduling can increase your odds of converting website visitors, so make it easy by putting a “Schedule an Appointment” button front and center on every page of your site. Other calls to action could include prompts to follow your practice on social media, subscribe to a newsletter or watch a video on a complex eye health topic. Getting visitors to take action increases engagement and improves your odds of landing more new patients.
Your online presence should reach beyond your URL
When it comes to your online presence, many will see your website first, but others may encounter your practice in an online provider directory, on social media, or in a search engine. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward, regardless of how or where your practice is found.
Start by taking stock of all the places your practice is represented online. There are many healthcare provider directories in today’s digital world, and using them to your advantage means more free promotion for your practice. Claim your profiles, update all contact information, include a link to your website, and upload photos or other personalized elements to differentiate your listing from the competition.
Google My Business, in particular, is worth your time. Updated and complete profiles on Google My Business are a major factor in determining Google’s “local pack”, the top results highlighted in a standout box of a search results page.
Social media is another important tool for optimizing your online presence. Many healthcare consumers consult their Facebook networks for business recommendations. Make sure all the practice information listed on your profile is up-to-date, share blog content to drive traffic back to your website, and make an effort to engage in conversation with page visitors – answering questions or responding to feedback in a timely manner.
Your online reputation is also a critical element of your online presence. In fact, the star rating Google gives you from your online reviews is a key measure of your online performance. It not only impacts your reputation itself, but it can control whether or not you show up in searches such as “best ophthalmologist near me,” because any practice with less than four stars will be filtered out of any ‘best’ search query results. Having a higher volume and frequency of reviews can help you improve your star rating while also enhancing your search engine optimization efforts. Practices that implement automated patient satisfaction surveys can improve review volume as patients who are asked for feedback are twice as likely to submit a proactive online review.
Improve your search ranking with SEO and local search marketing
Fully maximizing your online performance means investing in search engine optimization (SEO) and local search marketing strategies. Getting your ophthalmology practice on the first page of search engine results takes more than a well-designed website. Consider the full suite of factors search engines use in determining where you rank. Algorithms are tricky, and they’re changing all the time, but certain SEO best practices hold true.
Here are five factors for using SEO to improve your local search performance:
- Website and blog content: Content is king for SEO. Your website should contain unique pages with detailed information for each service your ophthalmology practice offers, the eye diseases you treat, or special technology you use to address patients’ needs. A blog also offers a wealth of relevant content to search engines, which makes you much more likely to show up on the first page of a search query.
- Your online profiles: Good SEO is influenced by domain authority, relevancy, and credibility. Claim your profiles in online directories to expand your web presence and take advantage of those websites’ domain authority. By making sure your name and address is accurate on these websites, you also signal to Google that your information is credible.
- The use of relevant keywords: Keywords are the words prospective patients use when searching for an ophthalmologist online. Make sure you’re using them on your website and your online provider directory profiles to ensure you appear in those online searches. When updating your online profiles, choose “business categories” that provide an extra layer of detail about your specialties. “Pediatric ophthalmologist” or “Ophthalmic surgeon” are better categories than just “ophthalmologist.”
- Social media: The extent of social media’s influence on SEO is a point of contention among digital marketing experts, but it can play a role in connecting your practice with relevant searches. Search engines are looking for indicators of a robust online presence, and your social media activity gives them one more sign of your credibility. Plus, social media helps drive website traffic, which improves your search engine performance as well.
- Online reputation: Your star rating can dictate where you show up in Google’s Local Pack. More reviews increase your relevancy score with search engines, and landing a score over 4.0 means you’ll show up in a search of “best ophthalmologists near me.”
Combine SEO and local search strategies with content marketing to capitalize on their unique and complementary benefits.
Content marketing can help your practice build stronger connections with existing patients, attract new patients, and achieve your SEO goals. The more relevant content you feature on your website and blog, the more information search engines can index and surface in search results.
There are a number of content marketing tactics to consider. Blogging is a great way to produce relevant content full of keywords and details to help patients connect with your practice. It’s also an excellent way to show off the specific expertise at your practice. Blogging allows providers to dive deep into the details and nuances of eye disease that may not fit on your website’s main pages.
Social media allows you to share content to a wide audience of new or prospective patients. If you want to expand your social repertoire, consider the type of content your practice is capable of developing on a regular basis. You only want to be on as many platforms as you can regularly update. Twice a week is a good starting point.
Email campaigns are effective content marketing as they can also drive patient loyalty and retention. Consider email for distributing quarterly or annual reminders, seasonal information, or to provide practice updates, such as a new ophthalmologist joining your team or the implementation of a new patient portal, to the patients already in your database. Every email should include a call to action with options for booking an appointment or contacting your office.
If you’re not sure where to start with content marketing, here are some popular keywords, conditions and treatments to consider for your next blog, social media post, or email campaign.
Common ophthalmology keywords, symptoms, and conditions
- Contact lenses
- Diabetic eye disease
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eyes
- Eye exam
- Eyelid surgery
- Glasses and contacts
- Macular cysts
- Macular disease
- Macular degeneration
- Red eyes
- Retinal detachment
Common ophthalmology keywords, treatments and procedures
- Advanced laser cataract surgery
- Botox and fillers
- Comprehensive eye exams
- Contact lenses and glasses
- Cornea surgery
- Corneal transplant
- Diabetic eye exam/Diabetic eye care
- Dry eye treatment
- Eye doctor
- General ophthalmology
- Glasses and contact lenses
- Emergency eye care/Eye urgent care
- Eye glasses
- Laser cataract surgery
- Laser floater removal
- Pediatric eye care
- Pterygium surgery
- TempSure Envi
A roadmap to ophthalmology reputation management and patient retention
Thriving ophthalmology practices take patient satisfaction seriously. They know that a strong patient-provider relationship increases patient retention and an excellent online reputation helps drive patient acquisition.
Prioritizing patient satisfaction leads to more word-of-mouth recommendations, better online reviews, and even more engagement on social media, which can all help bring in more patients to your practice. Patients who feel you care about their experience and are responsive to their needs feel a stronger sense of connection to your ophthalmology practice.
Even ophthalmology practices that get most of their new patients from direct referrals need to have reputation management strategies in place. Even with a referral in hand, most people who need ophthalmological care will first go online to research your practice by browsing patient reviews, visiting your website, and perusing your social media content.
Here are some top tips for increasing patient satisfaction and maintaining a top-notch reputation:
- Offer convenience. Digital tools for appointment scheduling and intake paperwork, options for telehealth care, text message appointment reminders, and automated patient surveys are becoming the norm for modern ophthalmology practices. Consumers have come to expect a greater level of convenience and ease in today’s digital world, and healthcare is no exception. Ophthalmologists who use preferred patient communication methods — for example, nearly 67 percent of patients want text message appointment reminders — will differentiate their practice in the competitive digital marketplace.
- Request reviews and feedback. It’s important to regularly solicit patient reviews. Qualitative feedback about the patient experience can also give you valuable insights you wouldn’t otherwise get that can drive practice improvements. Again, the best way to get feedback is to make it easy and convenient for patients to share their experiences with you. By automating patient surveys after every appointment, patients can respond in real time with just the click of a button.
- Respond to concerns. Even the best ophthalmology practices will get some negative feedback from time to time. Responding to a negative review shows prospective patients that you genuinely care about the patient experience and are committed to patient satisfaction. In fact, in a 2021 survey by PatientPop, patients listed a “good listener” as what they want most from a healthcare provider.
- Reduce wait times. Moving intake paperwork and registration online means patients can spend less time in the waiting room. Lengthy waits and negative interactions with staff are common causes of patient attrition and bad online reviews. A streamlined intake and registration process helps alleviate those problems and improve the patient experience.
- Engage regularly. Reaching out to patients on an ongoing basis keeps them connected to your ophthalmology practice and may increase return visits, word-of-mouth recommendations, and patient loyalty. Content marketing tactics such as email campaigns, blogging, and social media are a great way to keep in touch with existing patients and stay top-of-mind for them when they think about eye care. Providing timely and relevant information about new treatment options, common eye conditions, and reminders for comprehensive eye exams and vision testing are all excellent ways to stay in touch.
An ophthalmologist’s toolbox for smart practice growth
Digital marketing and advertising can bring in a wealth of new patients, but long-term, sustainable ophthalmology practice growth requires an intentional focus on balancing patient acquisition with patient retention and loyalty. Strengthening the patient-provider relationship means adapting to the changing digital landscape and offering patients greater convenience as well as top-quality ophthalmology care.
First, ophthalmologists have to get clear about what their goals are. Goals should not be stagnant. Revisit them from time to time (quarterly is a good start) to measure progress and tweak strategies if needed.
Next, practice operators need to determine how they plan to measure their goals. These key performance indicators (KPIs) provide valuable insight into your practice growth strategies – what’s working well and what might need refining. Key performance indicators may differ depending on your goals, but here are some basics to consider:
- Volume of new appointments: Increasing the number of new appointments at your practice indicates your digital marketing and advertising efforts are paying off, especially if you are attracting new patients at a higher rate than before.
- Website statistics: Ophthalmologists need to know how many people are visiting their website. They also need to know whether they came from a search engine or social media and which website pages are most popular. An information page or blog post about a particular eye condition may be driving huge traffic to your site, so you’ll want to leverage that expertise in future content marketing or SEO tactics.
- No-show rate: A high no-show rate means something is going wrong between the time new patients make an appointment and when they actually step foot in your office. Maybe you need to implement text message appointment reminders.
- Search results ranking: Climbing to the top of search engine results is a great sign that you’re on track for meaningful practice growth. You can influence your search result rankings by implementing an SEO and local search strategy, improving your online reputation, and tuning your overall web presence to what search engines like best.
- Lifetime value (LTV): Each patient has an LTV – the potential revenue for all visits throughout their lifetime – that can be optimized to support long-term practice growth. Focusing on patient retention can help maintain a positive growth trajectory.
A comprehensive practice growth platform can help ophthalmology practice owners manage patient acquisition and retention in one place, increasing efficiency and amplifying practice growth efforts. An all-in-one platform also gives you high-level insights into your KPIs, so you can monitor your performance on an ongoing basis, lean into successes, and make decisions about areas that may need improvement.