In this day and age, virtually every company has a Web site. If your business doesn't have one, chances are your customers, competition, investors, friends and even your spouse or significant other are talking about the fact that you don't have one. The comments probably go something like this: "I cannot believe Dr. X does not have a site. What a dinosaur."
Worse than not having a Web site, however, is having one that is nice to look at, but functionally useless. While creating and maintaining a site is almost mandatory in terms of public perception, how well it is designed and whether it attracts customers are two entirely different stories. One IT industry study has found that upwards of 60 percent of business owners who have Web sites have no clue to how to optimize them as a marketing tool, other than to keep them updated and hope people find the site through random searches. This would be like treating a patient by randomly choosing a part of their body to work on and hoping for the best.
Why You Need a Great Web Site
The first step to effective Web site management is to understand the purpose of your business presence on the Internet. You want to attract potential patients and inform them of your services, but you also want to convince anyone, potential patient or not, that you are as competent as you say, offer readily accessible products, and are not a fly-by-night operation. Your Web site is even more important than your listing in the phone book or advertisement in the local paper, by virtue of the fact that more people will view your site than will ever see other forms of advertising.
That means you have to be able to make sure your site has every advantage possible - not just compared to your direct competition, but also anyone else who might have a similar business or sell similar products. For instance, your domain name needs to stick out, but also relay to your customers what and who you are without leaving them guessing. To accomplish this, use these tips:
The sooner you can understand the importance of keywords to your online business, the better. A good place to start is by using keyword search auctions to boost your site's search engine position. Studies show that potential customers will at most look at the first three pages of any search result. That means you have to be in the top third of any search and preferably on the top half of the first page. A good way to do this is to use Wordtracker to track keywords and searches. Wordtracker is a popular tool that shows you what your customers are looking for and the words they use to search for the services you offer. Use the results to purchase keywords or keyword phrases based on tangible research, not just your best guesses. Another benefit of Wordtracker and search keywords is that it allows you to research the words most likely used for certain searches.
You might also want to investigate the "history" of important keywords to identify other words of similar origin that a potential client browsing the Web might use to find your services. Thousands of times each day, small businesses miss opportunities to secure new patients online by not understanding the many nuances of keyword marketing.
Become a Web Designer
Sure, you can pay a lot of money to have a professional designer create and manage your Web site, but why pay for something that, with a little effort and the right tools, you can do yourself? By using a decent HTML editor program that is easy to use, such as Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver, or any of the numerous template Web page builder sites available online, you can quickly and easily learn how to add, edit and delete content, link to other similar sites or get your site linked to popular sites. You also save money in the front end by doing it yourself and in the back end by being able to edit it yourself.
Master Your Own Domain
It is equally important to own your own domain name and not use a free or piggyback site, which gives you zero business credibility and less ability to effectively market online. By owning a domain name, you never have to worry about a competitor taking it. You also allow yourself the luxury of not having to worry about someone using your name as a spoof domain or as a way to divert legitimate customers away from your Web site.
Buy your own domain name based on the results from Wordtracker. Whenever possible, you should purchase a domain name that is based on popular keywords. For example, dr-michael-johnson.com is memorable and may be useful with existing clients. However, for finding new patients online, it is useless. A better domain name might be chiropractor-san-diego.com. Especially in Yahoo search, where hyphenated domains do well, anyone looking for a new chiropractor in San Diego would find your site. Don't be afraid to have more than one domain name, either. For example, you could print one domain name on local brochures and appointment cards for existing patients, and use the other domain name to attract new patients searching online for your services. That way, you are accessible to people who already know you and people searching for a chiropractor in their area.
Take a New Look at Internet Marketing
The simple truth is that there is a lot that you can do on your own with very little time or experience. Starting today, you need to look at Internet marketing with fresh eyes, realizing its true potential. Once you see your chiropractic Web site as a dynamic tool that allows you to evolve with your chosen market, you will no longer be subject to "Russian roulette" marketing, and you can effectively use your online business presence to grow your patient base and drastically increase your bottom line.
In no time at all, you will be able to identify opportunities and tailor marketing strategies based on tangible research. By increasing your odds, you also immediately increase your chances of getting noticed and building your client base. Most of all, you will no longer be running a business whose online business practices are antiquated, ineffective or nonexistent. Your local clients will be able to reference your Web site for information or to book appointments, and can easily use the URL (your business domain) to refer new clients to your practice. You will possess the secret knowledge that makes your chiropractic business cutting-edge and progressive, and you will have saved a boatload of money by doing it yourself.
Dr. Chandler George has been a chiropractor, national speaker and author for more than 20 years. His latest book is called "Internet & Social Media Marketing for Doctors." Dr. George is a consultant in the health and beauty industry. Dr. George has used Internet Marketing to build and sell businesses, and now teaches others how to leverage technology for their business to increase ROI. He helps businesses stay on the cutting edge using Internet/Smart Phone Marketing.