Selecting a healthcare professional is one of the most personal and important service decisions consumers make. Many spend hours conducting online research and talking to friends before deciding who to entrust with their healthcare, which is why it’s understandable that the following statistic surprises many clinicians and marketers.

More than 42% of patients say that they are not willing to travel more than ten miles to see a physician for a non-serious issue. Attributes like length of time to get an appointment, hospital affiliation and even reputation ranked lower than convenience for patients looking for a doctor. The only factor they cited as more important is whether the office accepts their insurance plan.

This gives healthcare practices something critical to consider: Marketing efforts that reach potential patients who won’t visit an office because they think it is too far away are ineffective. The further beyond that perimeter the campaign reaches, the more wasteful it becomes. Once it goes beyond 50 miles, it’s practically worthless as less than 4% of all patients said they would be willing to travel that far to see a doctor. Providers that manage multiple offices should view each location as discrete markets, even when they are in the same metropolitan area.

healthcare local marketing

Data from Google corroborates this finding. Last year, the search engine giant reported search queries that contain the term “near me” doubled. This is because consumers are using geolocation enabled devices to search for things from stores to restaurants and doctors. They expect these devices to know where they are and what is around them at all times. While GPS and cell signal triangulation make it simple for devices to know where users are located, it’s up to you to help search engines know where you are located so that your practice appears at the top of the results page when geolocation enabled searches for nearby businesses are conducted.

Geomarketing to reach the most likely nearby patients

The first step in developing a successful geomarketing strategy is to define the reach of each office you manage. In Boise, Idaho, patients may be willing to drive 20 miles to see a top physician while in Manhattan an office that is more than 10 blocks away could seem too far. While this might seem tricky to determine, much of the answer is already in your records. Analyze the address and zip code information of your existing patient population and map out how far they travel to visit your office. You will quickly discover a benchmark radius that can serve as a quick guide for defining a target market area.

It can also be helpful to map out where your patients are coming from. You may find that the majority come from up to 14 miles from the west, but only 8 miles from the south or east. Analyzing these patterns can produce insights into precisely who your patients are and what they care about. Professional single patients may mostly visit offices close to where they work while stay-at-home parents tend to stick close to home or to offices that are convenient to where they typically run errands. There are practically infinite possibilities, but understanding where patients are coming from and cross-referencing that data with what you know about them will produce a fairly accurate idea of who they are.

Woman executing a location search on a laptop

You can use this information to figure out which keywords consumers are most likely to search for when seeking healthcare. What illnesses are common among them? What products do they like? What types of lifestyles do they live? What type of language do they use when speaking? This will provide a starting point and you can A/B test different campaigns to hone in on what messages resonate the best with the most attractive patients in your target market. It will only take a few iterations to boost the efficacy of your marketing strategy dramatically.

When it comes to paid search, multiple factors determine how much you must pay for keywords. Begin by deciding on a target ROI before bidding. It is often beneficial to launch an account with a large variety of keywords and parsing the performance of each. Eliminate any word that isn’t performing well, but be sure to analyze each office independently as performance may vary widely among them.
The same principle applies to organic search. Build out landing pages loaded with valuable content that’s relevant to each office’s “micromarket” to not only boosts SEO rankings but builds trust with consumers.

healthcare seo

Building a geofence

Patient behavior tracking is key to optimizing marketing campaigns. If you aren’t already measuring how many qualified leads digital marketing assets are driving to your website, start doing so immediately. Then, add a dose of rocket fuel to your measurement arsenal with geofencing. This technology shows anonymized data on how many patients visit each location and how long they stayed there.

This veritable treasure trove of information identifies precisely which keywords and messages drove the most traffic — not only to your website but also to an actual office. This provides a whole new level of measurement that shows which digital marketing efforts are resulting in conversions versus qualified leads. Use it to guide the bidding process for keywords and calculate the actual value of message placement rates.

Geomarketing gives today’s healthcare marketers the ability to target their most likely patients in designated market areas while preventing wasteful marketing campaigns on consumers that are not willing to visit an office because it is too far away. Healthcare consumers put a lot of faith in their mobile devices to know what is “near me” at all times, and coming up at the top of those queries both organically and through paid search will ensure that you reach to most relevant patient populations.

This article originally appeared in Internet Health Management.

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