Your website is your practice’s “virtual” reception, and is open 24 hours a day … 7 days a week … 365 days per year … making it an important place for your customers (and potential customers!) to visit any time of day. 

Landing on your website is often the first point of contact for a customer connecting with your practice online; and is the essential link between your digital social media and bricks-and-mortar clinical services.

For of these reasons, your website is THE most important investment that you can make for your practice in terms of digital marketing. 

A website is the centerpiece of your business’s online presence and, if done correctly, it can certainly give you a competitive edge.

Visits to your website should be informative, interactive and extremely straightforward; making the right website features crucial in building attention and trust with your audience.

So what elements does a health care website need to effectively promote your practice?

Here’s a list of features that will make your practice's website stand out online:

Mobile Responsive Website Design

When a website is responsive, the layout and/or content responds or adapts based on the size of screen they are presented on. A responsive website automatically changes to fit the device you’re reading it on.

Typically there have been four general screen sizes that responsive design has been aimed at: the widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller desktop (or laptop), the tablet and the mobile phone.
— Studio Press

The use of mobile devices continues to increase rapidly both here in Australia and around the world.  

Data from the IAB Australia and Nielsen Mobile Story Report [September 2015] shows that 12.5 million Australians over 18 years of age accessed the internet on their smartphones while 7 million accessed the internet via a tablet device.

Meanwhile the time spent and sessions viewed on desktop and laptop devices (although this is still a sizable number) has either stagnated or slightly declined over the past last few years.

Given the growth of smartphone and tablet devices, a mobile responsive design is absolutely imperative for your website.  Your site is going to be viewed on a range of devices ranging from desktop and laptop computers through to tablet and smartphone devices.

Consider a customer who books their appointment on their desktop computer but then checks last minute directions on their smartphone when travelling to your clinic.  You want this experience to be quick, easy and effective on all platforms. 

What’s more, if you have a mobile responsive website your site’s ranking in Google will perform better.  Hooray!  Google rewards websites with higher search rankings when they provide an enhanced user experience.  They also reward responsive websites that use a single URL (as opposed to a separate URL for a mobile versions).

Blog and/or News Section

Blogging is one of the most effective platforms available to health care practices to engage with their patients and potential patients. If you’re not already blogging, it’s seriously time to get started.
— Nicole Morgan, Lively Feet

A blog and/or news section is a fundamental and strategic feature to have on your website.  You can read our recent “blog about blogging” to learn why your practice should have a blog on your website.

In summary, a blog:

  • drives traffic to your website and (importantly!) improves your website’s search engine ranking;
  • establishes your expertise;
  • contributes to gold standard health care information online;
  • is a fantastic resource to compliment your face-to-face consultations and can be used as a referral source;
  • gives you an opportunity to learn from your patients;
  • is engaging content for your social media platforms; and
  • forces you to reflect on your clinical practice and ultimately improves patient care.

But what is a blog?  It can really be anything that you want it to be!  It is essentially a journal or diary for your website that you update and add to regularly.

Some practices use their blogs to talk about clinical conditions.  Others use their blog to discuss recent practice news or events.  Really, the world is your oyster when it comes to blogging and you can write about anything and everything!

Blogs can be long and detailed, or blogs can be short and sweet.  But new blog (or news) posts should always feature regularly on your website. 

Medico-Legal Documentation

Spend the small amount of extra money to protect your business and you. Why would you take the chance? If you cannot afford proper legals for your site, you should not be in business in the first place ... at least have some protection with legal terms.
— Vanessa Emilio, Legal 123

Aside from your website, your website legal package is perhaps the most significant investment that you'll make for your practice online. 

Legal documents set the rules for your website and make your website compliant with legislation.  Website legals can limit your liability should a customer take you to court, as well as protect your rights to the content on your site.

Different countries have different website legal requirements, and so it is important that you know exactly what your obligations are for your site. 

As a general rule ... 

  • a Terms and Conditions policy is recommended for most websites;
  • a Privacy Policy is required by law if you collect any personal information (for example collecting personal information on website contact forms); while
  • the United Kingdom and the European Union also require a cookie policy by law (unfortunately not the edible kind!).

And then there is a specific medical disclaimer for health care websites.  If you have ANY medical information on your website - for example information about conditions / injuries / diseases, pharmaceuticals, therapies, medical devices or health products - you should consider a stronger disclaimer to clarify your responsibilities and thereby reduce the legal risks associated with your website.

Our affiliate partner Legal 123 offers website legal packages appropriate for Australian health care practices.  Click here to learn more.

Contact Us

While many sites throw up a contact us page as a quick after-thought, you should be dedicating a lot more time and care to your contact page because, for many brands, it’s the beginning of your relationship with potential customers.
— Word Stream

Take a look at your website analytics and don’t be surprised if your “contact” page is one of the most popular on your website.

“Contact Us” (or whatever you've called it on your website!) is the page where you want your visitors to be; as this is the stepping stone into your practice and service provision.  That's why you need to ensure that your “Contact Us” experience is as seamless and as user friendly as possible!

Consider having the all of the following customer-service-focused features on your website:

  • a standout “contact” button on your website’s homepage;
  • a mobile information bar with your practice’s address, telephone number and opening hours;
  • clinic location(s) map;
  • link telephone numbers for click to call;
  • a dedicated contact form; and
  • an online booking link.

Social Media Integration

Social media and your website should work seamlessly together to promote your online brand.
— Hootsuite

Social media integration is the key link between your website and your social media marketing plan.

Let's face it, a huge proportion of the population are on social media every minute of every day; making social media a fabulous way to promote your practice online. 

There are a number of ways in which you can integrate your social media services through your website, including:

  • social share and follow buttons;
  • social login feature (for membership sites);
  • social videos embedded in your website (think YouTube);
  • Instagram photos embedded in your website;
  • social proof (such as the Facebook "Like Box").

Social media gives your practice a human voice (especially important in health care) and is a channel for virtual word of mouth referrals through "likes" and "shares".  Social media has the potential to expose your services to a much wider audience, in literally the tap of a smartphone. 

Furthermore, social media integration is tipped to play an increasingly important role in search engine optimisation in the not-so-distant future.  Neil Patel, one of the world's most influential online marketers, writes "not only will social profiles help in indexing your website, but search engines will possibly index social content. Social and search will integrate to become the web."

WEBSITE Navigation

It’s critical. The design of a website’s navigation has a bigger impact on success or failure than almost any other factor.

It affects traffic and search engine rankings. It affects conversions and user-friendliness. Everything important about your website is connected to the navigation, from content to the URLs.
— KissMetrics

The navigation menu of your website should be designed to maximise user experience as well as to maximise search engine rankings.

In terms of user-friendliness you should:

  • ensure that your navigation bar has a simple and logical design;
  • ensure that you use descriptive labels (rather than just generic words);
  • minimise the number of navigational menu items;
  • minimise the use of drop-down menus (as this can confuse visitors); and
  • place important items at the start and end of the navigation list, with less important items in the middle.

In terms of search engine optimisation:

  • use keywords as navigational labels.

Take a strategic look at your website and ask yourself if a visitor with basic computing or technical knowledge could use your website easily.  Remember, the simpler the better!

Search Engine Optimisation Features

Okay, almost everyone that has worked on the Internet for longer than a single day knows that it is nearly impossible for them to get their website to rank high in the search engines overnight.
— Start Up Hubs

I have mentioned Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) a number of times already in this blog post; however it is such an important feature for your website, that it needs to be discussed in a little more detail here.

For most of us who aren't too technical, SEO is a total enigma!  So what is SEO and why is it so important to your website?  Well let's ask that wonderful internet resource, Wikipedia ...  

Wikipedia tells us that "Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a web search engine's unpaid results - often referred to as "natural", "organic", or "earned" results.  In general, the earlier (or higher ranked on the search results page), and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine's users and these visitors can be converted into customers."

Ask yourself how often do you scroll down through the results of a search engine onto page 2 ... page 3?  Not often, I bet!  In fact, studies have shown that only 8.5% of web traffic actually make it past the first page of search engine results.  In a nut shell, you really want your website to rank on that coveted page one to optimise your practice's online visibility.

SEO is an ongoing strategic process that starts with best practice SEO features built into your website and continues with regular blog posts, updates and social media links.

Let me give you a practical example of SEO in action.  When we first launched our Lively Feet website just over eight weeks ago (on 20 May 2016), our website did not show up on the first five pages of a Google search of "Lively Feet" (I actually stopped looking after five pages because it was depressing!).  

But after our SEO specialist weaved his magic (yep we have a SEO specialist on payroll) and he put in place strategic features on our website, as well as in our digital marketing plan, I have watched in awe as "Lively Feet" has gradually improved in the Google rankings.  Then this week (!!!) we have just scraped onto the bottom of page 1 results.  Hooray!  

Of course our SEO battle will continue until we overthrow the Wikifeet Blake Lively page which is currently ranking at #1 in Google for the search of "Lively Feet".  (BTW Did you know that Wikifeet is the world's largest celebrity feet database?  Neither did I until eight weeks ago.  Now they are my arch nemesis in Google rankings!).

Once we conquer Blake Lively, our next aim is to dominate keyword searches such as "health care digital marketing".  It's an ongoing and long term digital marketing goal.  

Do you know your website's keyword goals?

The Bottom Line

Forget social media, online advertisements and email marketing.  Your website is THE most important aspect of your practice's digital marketing plan.  

A well designed and strategically planned website will enhance your customer's experience and will present a professional and informative virtual reception to the world.

Lively Feet designs functional, intuitive and cost-effective websites that will wow!  Check out our website to learn more.