Attracting and engaging today’s tech-savvy healthcare consumers—particularly Millennials—means that digital marketing is no longer elective for healthcare providers. According to a Think with Google study, 84% of patients use both online and offline sources for hospital research and about one third of those studied use mobile devices or tablets on a daily basis to research physicians and/or to book appointments.

Customer experience is essential within Healthcare. As the healthcare consumer becomes more empowered, effective social media interaction, personalization and relevant content becomes paramount. If you want success in digital marketing, here are five essential elements you need to include in your marketing plans to build your practice’s digital footprint.


  1. Responsive Web Site Design

We’re not talking about just interactive web sites or those that generate automated responses. A responsive site is designed to adapt to the screen size of the device it is viewed on. Because the elements of the site adjust and react depending on the aspect ratio of the browser, content is easier to read and navigate with minimal resizing, zooming and scrolling. On average, 39% of website visitors use mobile devices to visit the site, according to a recent study entitled “The State of Digital Marketing in Healthcare 2015.” And yet, only 57% of the healthcare providers in the survey had responsive web sites.

A responsive web site can increase visibility, reach, and sales, can provide a better prospect and patient experience, and give you access to data that will help measure your marketing program’s effectiveness. With the ever-increasing rate of mobile web usage, healthcare organizations must begin transitioning to responsive website design.


  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In highly competitive industries—and healthcare fits into that category now—being easily found and highly visible is critical. SEO allows your practice to be found (and to rise higher in search results); a well-crafted SEO strategy can increase your search engine ranking and overall web presence. It’s critically important to embed relevant keywords in each of your web site’s pages, social media and blog posts, and any other content your practice develops. There are many keyword tools that can help you identify the best keywords and phrases for the healthcare industry and for the patients you hope to attract, is it more effective to include keywords such as “Atlanta dermatologist” or “Atlanta skin doctor.”


  1. Content Marketing

No matter how many digital marketing tools you employ, content is king and it’s impossible to build an effective SEO program without content that’s compelling, interesting, informative and fresh. This is probably the most challenging part of any digital marketing program. Website content, blogs and social media postings must be updated frequently. When done right, your content will improve search engine rankings and drive traffic to your website, as well as nurture leads. Calls-to-action such as a “Learn More” or “Download this free guide” are important; you want to drive prospective patients to call your practice, book an appointment—take the next steps in the buying journey. Think it’s overwhelming? Here are some tips for creating great content:

  • Monitor social media to engage with your website’s or social media channel’s followers
  • Repurpose existing content in another medium; e.g., use a blog as the foundation for an e-book or use an industry article as the basis for a blog.
  • Follow industry news to identify interesting topics or issues that would attract your prospects and patients alike.
  • Conduct your own research; conduct surveys among your peers or other healthcare professionals; ask them to weigh in on important issues, then share the results on your website.


  1. Social Media Marketing

Social media today is the digital version of word-of-mouth references. Perhaps more than in any other field, the power of the testimonial is key in health care, as patients and families researching diagnoses often seek out those with similar experiences. Social media gives healthcare providers the chance to share patient stories and connect with consumers. According to some studies, social media is the second most often used digital marketing technique, behind websites, and Facebook is the medium most often used for online healthcare advertising and is the most frequently cited social media channel used by healthcare providers. YouTube is a close second, followed by Twitter. It is clear that using social media as part of a digital healthcare practice marketing program is not only recommended—it is mandatory.


  1. Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is another important element in building a successful digital footprint, and it’s an element that the healthcare industry has been slow to adopt. Marketing automation refers to technology that allows you connect with prospects and patients in a personalized way, based on predetermined behaviors. Despite the surface similarities, marketing automation is not the same thing as Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The latter allows you to manage a database of individuals and target prospects based on age, gender, income, geography, disease propensity and other demographics. Marketing automation, on the other hand, allows you to identify how individuals are engaging with your practice, enabling you to communicate them appropriately—and automatically.

The most well-known players in the marketing automation space are technology providers such as HubSpot, Marketo and Eloqua. Spurred on by the increasing adoption of content marketing strategies, there is no doubt that marketing automation will become a significant part of your marketing toolbox.

Building your practice’s digital footprint isn’t as easy as simply buying a prospect list and sending out a blast email. But done right, going digital can deliver incredible results and help grow your practice in a way that traditional marketing never could. What are you waiting for?