Are you showing up where patients are searching? Because if you’re not, someone else is

[Part 1 of our 2-Part Series: Search is the way to a patient’s heart]

When Jan Carlzon coined The Moment of Truth, the consumer journey looked a lot different.

In the early 1980s, the former Scandinavian Airlines CEO’s definition reframed how consumer-facing business was done.

“Any time a customer comes into contact with a business, however remote, they have an opportunity to form an impression.”

Over thirty years later, this is still a monumental guidance tool, but the “moments” implied by Carlzon have changed drastically since the early ‘80s.

In 2005, Chairman, President and CEO of Procter & Gamble, A.G. Lafley, updated the concept for the 21st Century by defining three Moments of Truth. Consumers first, Lafley said, 1) encounter the product in-store or online, then 2) purchase it and use it, and finally, 3) provide feedback with the company and others close to them. The brands that provided a great consumer experience in all three moments would be successful.

As time went on, Google found a crucial “moment” to be lacking, even earlier in the consumer journey. In 2011, Google introduced the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). This is the moment when consumers research a product, searching online and reading on websites, reviews, and more.

Was Google just tooting their own search-engine horn? Let’s be honest; how many “moments of truth” can there be before they just become good old-fashioned, regular moments?

Time has proven Google to be dead-on.

Consider a tangible product like a toaster. In the early 1980s, consumers went to a brick-and-mortar store and looked at the toasters on display. This was a Carlzon Moment of Truth.

Now, nine out of ten consumers look online to start their research, typically by engaging a search engine, whether it’s Google, Bing, or an e-commerce search engine like Amazon. They will search for “toaster,” “toaster oven,” “top rated toaster,” or maybe “best toaster under 30 dollars.” This is the ZMOT, similar to Carlzon’s MOT in theory, but completely different in practice.

The point of the ZMOT is this: If you make the best toaster under $30, you should show up when customers are looking for your product. Someone is showing up for those customers: is it you? Not being a top or contending result is simply poor sales and marketing.

How does a toaster company’s ZMOT translate to healthcare? Seamlessly.

Healthcare’s Zero Moment of Truth a huge (often missed) opportunity

The Beryl Institute’s definition of patient experience is eerily similar to Carlzon’s Moment of Truth.

“Patient experience is the sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization’s culture, that influence patient perceptions across the continuum of care.”

Healthcare is coming around to seeing the value in improving patient experience, especially after recent studies that prove the profitability attached to it. But unlike other industries that have come around to the ZMOT, it remains grossly overlooked in healthcare. In essence, healthcare lives in a post-Carlzon MOT, pre-Google ZMOT world. Patients, however, are no different than other industry consumers; they are searching for their healthcare online.

Eight out of ten patients use search engines and hospital websites to perform research before booking healthcare appointments, and 48% of patients spend two weeks in that research phase.

The scary truth is that patients are finding someone or something when they perform healthcare research online, but what are they finding? Healthcare content? Self-diagnosis sites? Other hospitals?

The ZMOT question for healthcare is: Are you showing up where patients are searching? Because if you’re not, someone else is.

The only way to show up where your customers are searching is to invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO deserves its own resources, expertise and tools. The best marketing departments in the world, like Amazon, actually allocate the lion’s share of their marketing budget to SEO. Without investing in SEO, you can say goodbye to any chances at the other Moments of Truth, particularly that holy-grail moment of “purchase.”

There are many reasons to invest in SEO other than just fear tactics. When it comes to marketing ROI, SEO ranks right at the top. Not only is SEO providing the highest number of leads for businesses, it also provides the highest quality leads over other marketing investments.

Location targeting also provides healthcare a particular advantage over other industries. SEO is favorable to healthcare because Google (and other search engines like Bing) provides local search results. Businesses who compete to show up for toaster customers, for example, are typically competing against other toasters nationwide. Healthcare providers and doctors have the advantage of only competing regionally because Google knows a patient in Richmond, Virginia won’t travel to a doctor in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a checkup, even if that doctor has the best reviews in the country. (Exceptions exist like major surgery, of course, but users will have to otherwise specify to get nationwide results if they want them)

How can a provider and doctor find out if they are showing up where patients are searching? It’s more than just Googling yourself, but that is a start!

Want to know if you’re showing up in your patients’ search? Perform a quick SEO Gap Analysis

The quickest and dirtiest way to see is to just google what your patients google. If you’re a hospital system, try “find a doctor.” If you’re a health payer, search for “cheap health insurance.”

This is the simplest way to perform the first of four facets in a Gap Analysis.

SEO Gap Analysis: 4 Facets

  1. Content – After research reveals which “keywords” are most searched by your patients, self-assess what kind of content you have that addresses their keyword questions. If patients google “find a doctor,” does your website copy or your blog content address this keyword directly, and does it include the phrase to drive traffic? Investing in “paid search” for these keywords is a big help, but it still must be matched with content that addresses the right search queries with direct callouts.
  2. Technical – Your content, and website pages all include “title tags,” whether you’re aware or not, and they must be robot readable. This means that Google (and other search engines) is reading your tags, not actual people. Your tags need to be descriptive and should speak to the right demographic and geography. For example, rather than merely “About us,” your page tag should become “A Richmond, Virginia hospital that provides great and compassionate patient experience.” Tags are just the tip of the technical iceberg, but they’re a strong start.
  3. UI/UX – Google is going to reward websites that retain users with higher rankings. For example, if your hospital website is not answering the questions patients are asking, users will typically “bounce” and your high “bounce rate” will force Google to send users to better hospital websites. Google wants to ensure users are happy with the results they are providing them. Your website patient experience is not only linked to your patients conversions but will also decide how easily patients can find you at all.
  4. Inbound links – Search is all about authority. Zocdoc-like sites are good examples of how authority is built. Their high rankings on “find a doctor” searches (far above most hospitals, unfortunately) exhibit how Google has established them as authorities. The more quality websites that list your website in their content, the more Google will see you as an authority in that space. Do other authorities in your healthcare space list your website in their content?

This is the tip of the SEO iceberg. Ultimately, it’s the details that are expanding the gap between those that are showing up where their customers are searching, and those that are left searching for answers.

[Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series]

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