Now more than ever, people have a renewed focus on health and wellness. Patients are demanding better services to improve the quality of their lives. As a result, many options for care have appeared and competition is fierce in many healthcare markets. If you continue to use dated marketing techniques, the chances of growth are minimal. In the digital era, people have access to an incredible amount of information and are using it to make informed healthcare decisions. As a result, healthcare marketing techniques are evolving quickly to adapt to consumer behavior.
Here are 12 medical marketing trends you need to watch in 2020:
1. Content Marketing Moves Beyond Blogs
As you know, when people get sick, they go online to figure out what might be the problem. They search for their symptoms and then try to figure out a solution, which often includes a visit to a doctor. If healthcare providers want to attract more patients, they must create helpful, high-quality content that answers patient’s medical questions.
To do this, an increasing number of physicians are using blogs to share information on specific diagnoses and how to prevent and treat different medical conditions. However, content marketing is more than just blogs and can take many different forms.
Savvy healthcare providers are thinking beyond blogs and developing innovative resources to meet their patient’s needs. They’re creating personalized digital healthcare centers that not only include written content, but also educational videos, patient-to-patient communication forums, and smart tools and apps to aid in healthcare monitoring. To do this, they’re expanding their marketing teams or working with trusted agency partners.
When developing new digital content assets, be sure to keep SEO best practices in mind. Google wants content to be well organized and meet their E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) quality rating standards. Web pages must also be secure, load fast, and adhere to UX best practices.
You can strengthen your credibility by publishing informative blog articles—but I encourage you to think beyond blogs in 2020.
2. The Era of Zero-click Search is Here
Zero-click searches have increased year over year. In 2019, 48.96% of all U.S. Google searches ended without a click, according to Jumpshot’s research. People go to Google to ask questions and they’re often given answers through the Featured Snippets or the Google Knowledge Graph. In many cases, users have no need to click through to a website.
Zero-click searches affect some industries more than others. Hospitality, travel booking, weather reporting, sports, and event websites have been hit hard—but what does zero-click mean for healthcare marketers?
In many instances, the impact will be slight. Healthcare consumers still want to conduct deep research to understand their symptoms, medical diagnosis, and treatment options. However, the impact of zero-click search may be felt when people are making low-consideration healthcare purchases like ordering new eyeglasses or scheduling their yearly dental cleaning. In an emergency, they don’t have time for exhaustive research, they quickly need to find an urgent care or ER.
Here are a few things you can do in the era of zero-click:
Claim your Google Knowledge Graph Panel
Healthcare providers should claim their Google Knowledge Graph Panel and ensure the information is accurate. Search users may not click through to your website, instead, they may decide to call to schedule an appointment directly. Or if you change your hours, you need to update the information so people know when you are open.
Optimize Content for Featured Snippets
While Google’s Featured Snippets may reduce click-throughs to your website, they’re still highly valuable and you should evaluate your SEO strategy to determine if you can claim the top spot with any of your web pages. Consider adding FAQ sections to address commonly asked questions.
You can also use Featured Snippets to guide searchers to additional information or prompt additional search queries. As people are researching, they often don’t know what the solution is—they’re searching for symptoms. If you rank well for search terms that fall within the problem awareness stage, your answers can lead the consumer to possible solutions.
And while some people will be satisfied with a quick answer, there are still many others that crave rich information. As I mentioned earlier, focus on creating high-quality comprehensive content that answers people’s questions.
3. Digital Video Consumption Increases
If you’re a healthcare marketer and you’re not using video to promote your practice, you are missing out. Videos are driving serious engagement today. Many people enjoy watching videos over reading articles. A report released by HubSpot shows that about 45% of people spend more than one hour a day watching videos.
On top of that, 39% of potential patients call to make an appointment after watching a video on a healthcare topic.
When creating a video, make sure that it is engaging—yet concise, relevant to the target audience, and professional. I recommend investing in quality videography equipment or working with a professional.
In addition to using the right equipment, here are some other tips to help you create better videos for your healthcare practice:
Tell Your Story:
When choosing a healthcare provider, consumers want assurance that they can trust the provider. You can enhance your credibility and engage potential audiences through the power of storytelling. When creating video content, look for unique angles or perspectives. What makes your practice unique?
People are more likely to respond to videos from patients and doctors that seem relatable, informative, and authentic.
When people are struggling with serious medical issues, it’s important to be empathetic. Your video should show positive emotions, which will help strengthen the relationship between potential patients and your medical practice. Develop content that triggers positive memories to increase their level of trust.
In the healthcare industry, one of the main goals of your videos should be to educate. Discuss medical conditions in terms they can understand, review treatment options and considerations, and don’t forgot to inform them of the different services that are offered in your healthcare center.
4. Healthcare Marketers Increase Programmatic Display Spend
Programmatic advertising is the primary method of buying digital display ads in the U.S. Year over year, investments in programmatic have increased. By 2021, eMarketer predicts that nearly 90% of US digital display advertising will be purchased programmatically.
However, the healthcare industry has lagged behind; their ad spending only accounts for 2.8% of total digital ad spend. FDA regulations and data privacy compliance laws have restricted how the healthcare industry can advertise products and services, especially pharmaceuticals.
Despite these hurdles, investments in programmatic display advertising will continue to increase, though not as rapidly as in previous years. eMarketer predicts that ad spending will increase by 17% in 2020.
While healthcare marketers face unique challenges compared to other industries, they need to continue investing in programmatic advertising. Those that aren’t deterred, can expect big returns.
Not sure what programmatic display advertising is? Check out our article, Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Display Advertising
5. Your Content Intent and Quality Matter
The end of 2019 saw a new algorithm update from Google. Released on October 2, BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) made a big impact on organic search. Google is continually striving to better understand conversational language and says that BERT is “its biggest leap forward in the past five years.”
Google’s search algorithm is essentially a machine trying to understand how humans talk. Not an easy task. This update helps it better understand the subtle nuances of context so that it can deliver better search results. This update will have little impact on simple search queries. However, it will affect complicated long-tail search queries that depend on context. Google says:
“Particularly for longer, more conversational queries, or searches where prepositions like “for” and “to” matter a lot to the meaning, Search will be able to understand the context of the words in your query. You can search in a way that feels natural for you.”
You can’t really optimize for BERT, but you should be listening to Google’s underlying message: the intent and quality of your content matters. Google is focused on intent and providing its users with the best possible search results. When developing content, keep your patient in mind at all times. Ask yourself, what information are they searching for? What questions do they have?
Your content must be relevant, well written, precise, and useful to readers. Sloppy, poorly focused content won’t cut it.
6. Healthcare Consumers Bypass Google
When people have a medical issue or concern, the first place that many people go to for information is Google. They’re able to search for the cause of their symptoms and they can find doctors within their vicinity.
However, many patients are bypassing Google and heading straight to proven medical resources, like PlushCare or WebMD. In 2018, WebMD acquired Vitals.com, which now makes WebMD one of the largest digital health websites in the U.S. These websites have proven their usefulness and many healthcare consumers go directly to these websites to get information about medical conditions, find providers, and to connect with other patients.
If you want to protect your reputation and promote your medical practice, you need to evaluate your public profile on these popular websites. Doctors can create an enhanced WebMD profile. Once you create a profile, you’re also able to promote your practice through advertisements on WebMD.
Doctors and healthcare professionals should also pay attention to Healthgrades.com, ZocDoc, and RateMDs, as those are also trusted sites that patients visit to read reviews. When you neglect these websites, you’re missing a big opportunity to reach potential patients. Absent profiles and reviews can negatively impact consumers’ perception of your practice. They may question your credentials, reputation, and determine that your practice isn’t worth the risk.
7. Healthcare Marketers Embrace Social Media
Social media has become a powerful tool, building a worldwide community of millions of people. About 90.4% of millennials, 48.2% of baby boomers, and 77.5% of Gen Xers use social media platforms. In 2020, more doctors will use social media to communicate with potential patients.
Social media shouldn’t be feared, instead, it should be embraced and used as an educational tool
Too often, unfounded medical claims and advice circulate on social media. People believe what celebrities and non-medical professionals claim on their YouTube channels. But doctors can combat this by also using social media to share factual information and to inform the public of important health issues. This positions them as a valuable source of information and strengthens your relationship with patients.
Social media can also be used to share information on ground-breaking medical treatment and technologies. This will demonstrate that your practice is on the cutting-edge of new research and attract patients who are seeking the latest treatments.
In addition to spreading information, social media can be a place of community. Many people turn to Facebook Groups or Instagram hashtags to connect with others who are experiencing the same problem. Healthcare providers should consider how they can support these networks and inform their patients of their existence. These channels and groups can be especially valuable for patients who suffer from chronic illnesses.
8. Increase in Facebook Advertising
With more than two billion active users, Facebook is a powerful advertising platform. Year over year, marketers have increased their ad spend to reach more consumers on Facebook. Marketing Prof’s research shows that companies are investing up to 75% of their social advertising budget in Facebook ads. While other industries have made heavy investments into Facebook advertisements, healthcare marketers have lagged behind.
Strict regulations present unique challenges for healthcare marketers; despite this, they need to explore ways they can use social advertising. If you want to connect with potential patients and shape your medical practice’s reputation, you need to go where the people are—and invest in Facebook advertising.
9. Reputation Management is a Growing Priority
Google, other search engines, and social media networks are now an integral part of how people find healthcare solutions. Before selecting a medical practice, people scour the internet for customer reviews. They’ll also seek referrals from friends or ask for recommendations on social media.
A negative review can discourage potential patients and be detrimental to business. Healthcare providers know this and are implementing programs to improve the patient experience. From their website to the waiting room, forward-thinking healthcare providers are seeking ways to optimize the patient experience, using new appointment booking technologies, EHR software solutions, and voice-powered technologies. Providers are also increasing employee training that emphasizes the importance of customer satisfaction.
The billing process is often a sore spot for many healthcare consumers and the source of negative reviews. Many people don’t understand how insurance, deductibles, and co-pays work. When they receive a large invoice, it might taint their perception of the company regardless of the services they received. Therefore in 2020, there’s a major push for healthcare professionals to work harder to enlighten their customers on the billing system.
Don’t try to hide information; consumers demand transparency. It’ll benefit your practice in the long run if you can communicate billing information clearly and answer patients’ questions in a positive manner.
Negative reviews can really damage your health organization as it reflects poorly on the business’ management. They have a powerful impact on healthcare institutions, so it’s best to develop a process to prevent them and to address them when they occur.
10. Investments Increase in New Electronic Tools
Traditionally, healthcare facilities display information on their websites such as visiting hours, doctor bios, and the type of services they offer.
In 2020, you’ll see more healthcare websites offering e-visit, e-chat, and the ability to pay bills online. There’s also an increase in patient-driven online scheduling and EMRS (Electronic Medical Recorder Systems) options. For instance, here’s an example from Lowe and Evander, P.A.
An EMRS is essential since it can provide the patient with useful information in real-time. It contains graphs that help patients keep track of their progress by comparing their blood tests in the last few months. The system also allows patients to be able to renew their prescriptions online.
Even if you’re not ready to implement these innovative online systems, it’s a good idea to monitor these changes. Once they’ve been tested and proven successful, considering adopting them at your medical practice. The use of this technology is a positive step in improving the patient experience.
11. Patients Demand Excellent Digital Experiences
Now, more than ever, your website’s user experience (UX) matters. This is especially true in the competitive healthcare industry. When people head to your website from the SERP, they’re expecting answers. You have moments to deliver, and if you fail to meet their expectations, they’ll leave. Not only do you miss the opportunity to convert a lead, but you may also even damage your brand’s reputation.
Not only that, UX factors into Google’s ranking algorithms. Confusing sites with poor navigation or slow loading speeds will struggle to rank . Especially on mobile, Google wants websites to load quickly, and they may warn searchers when a website is delivering poor page speeds.
When evaluating your website’s user experience, think about the user’s intent. Why are they there? Do they want to schedule an appointment? Order new contact lenses? Do they need information on a treatment? Are you giving them high-quality content that keeps them on the page?
Once you understand the user’s intent, make sure that your website’s hierarchy is logical and your navigation is easy to understand. The on-page content should be well-structured and use appropriate H1 and H2 titles.
SEO and UX go hand-in-hand. You can’t design your website just for the search engines, you have to consider your human visitors too. When you do, you’ll make both happy.
12. Telemedicine Continues to Grow
Healthcare consumers demand excellent customer service and experiences. They’re fed up with long waits, confusing medical information, and poor communication. If you want to grow your medical practice, you must be able to deliver exceptional patient experiences. Your brand’s reputation—and future—depends on it.
Many medical practices and marketers are turning to telemedicine to help them meet these increasing demands and improve patient satisfaction. The telemedicine market is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $130.5B by 2025.
With telemedicine, they’re able to provide excellent medical care and also increase engagement with their patients. Instead of scheduling appointments months apart, doctors can check in on patients regularly.
This has been a boon for mobility-impaired individuals and rural communities, where it’s often difficult to access medical providers. Instead of driving hours to a specialist, patients are able to talk with their doctors from the comfort of their homes. Doctors are able to easily follow up with their patients to ensure that they’re following their treatment plan.
While telemedicine has been around for many years, many people are still skeptical of it. They’re unsure of the quality of care that they’ll receive and may doubt that a doctor can properly treat them remotely. Marketers play an important role in shaping perceptions about telemedicine and increasing its adoption.
Embrace the Trends and Prepare for Growth
Times are changing rapidly and patients have access to an incredible amount of information. It’s now easier than ever to review different healthcare providers and find the one that fits your requirements. Websites like WebMD have also made the continuum of care more accessible, realizing that the main concern of a modern patient is to get high-quality service at a reasonable price.
Hospitals and medical practices are doing all they can to ensure that their customers are satisfied and that they’re delivering a positive patient experience.