The Patient Journey Begins Online
The physical therapy marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade, and COVID has only accelerated those changes. In 2021, digital advertising spend will overtake TV advertising for the first time.
There are three foundational components to an effective local digital marketing strategy:
Be known - You need to be visible within the communities you serve, especially when someone is searching for your services. 84% of patients who scheduled a physical therapy appointment ran a search prior to booking (Localology).
Be trusted - Patients are comparing multiple practices and online reviews are a major step in the patient journey. 94% of patients are using online reviews to evaluate health providers. (Software Advice)
Be easy to contact - Even though patients are searching online, an appointment will ultimately lead to a phone call, with 88% of appointments scheduled over the phone. (CNBC)
In this physical therapy marketing guide we will review the key strategies and tactics leading physical therapists are employing to acquire new patients online. We will also look at some of the key digital marketing trends in 2021 and beyond.
1. Dominate your local search results page
When a potential patient conducts a search for physical therapy (your location) there are several potential places for you to appear. The first area is in paid search advertisements at the top of page. To be visible at the top of the page you need to be running Google search advertisements. Within the ads you can also include rich snippets like your telephone number.
In addition to the phone number, the ad above includes the sub pages, which naturally takes up more real estate on the search results page.
The next area where your practice can appear is the local pack. Within the local pack there is a place for a paid “local pack ad” and a local search result. The local pack ad, once again, requires paying for Google Ads.
The results above show a paid local result with “Ad” in bold and three organic results below. The organic results are driven by a combination of three primary factors:
- Distance - Google will show results that are within the closet proximate distance to the search.
- Relevancy - if the content in the local profile is deemed to be closely relevant to the topic that the searcher is looking for
- Authority - the most authoritative profiles will be shown at the top and what Google is looking for here are the velocity and volume of reviews and other authority signals like citations in other local search directories.
The last area where your practice can appear in the search results is within the organic search results. This is where your practice website will appear and where you appear will depend on how google views the authority and relevance of your website.
There was a fascinating study by Backlinko that analyzed over 5 million search results. The study found that the #1 result in Google had an average click through rate of 31.7%, meaning that almost a third of the traffic for a particular search went to the first result.
What is amazing is the drop off after the first three results, where the fourth result on the page only received 13% of the traffic.
The building blocks of ranking in search is having your target keyword in the title, in the primary header, and in the content of the web page. In addition to on-page optimization, having valuable content that others are engaging with and linking to increases the authority of your site in the eyes of Google. The increased authority helps your site to rank higher in the organic results.
2. Expand your reach beyond your primary location
Since Google gives a greater priority to proximity it can be hard to attract new patients in areas outside of your primary location. We hear from many practice owners that their primary location is not even where they typically receive patients, but rather it is the surrounding towns. This is where paid “local pack ads” can really help. These type of ads appear at the top of the local results and display your practices Google MyBusiness profile.
In order for the ad to appear you would need a Google MyBusiness profile as well as a Google Ads account with local extensions enabled. The local ads are becoming more common and about 35% of all local search results contain a paid local ad. If you are not running these types of ads your competitors likely are. For a single practice location a budget of $600 per month can go a long way in getting your practice to top of the results for all of the communities surrounding your primary location.
3. Use social media for physical therapy marketing in your community
There is a reason why national brands spend millions every year on brand advertising. Their goal is for you, the consumer, to recall their name and message at some point when you may need their service or product.
You can take a similar mindset to marketing your practice locally where you want to become recognizable and be the first practice that a potential patient thinks of when they need your help.
Facebook remains the most widely used social platform and they have tools that allow you to reach your target audience based on their demographics, location, and interests. A quick win local tactic is developing local guides that relate in some way to the service that you provide. For example, a physical therapist could create a local guide to the best hiking trails within your area to help your community stay active. You can also use holidays and other events on the calendar to come up with relevant content to keep your audience engaged. Here is an example of the American Heart Association using Star Wars day to create a post that generated close to 3,000 likes and more than 700 shares.
Facebook also allows you to determine what you want your Facebook ad to optimize for like clicks or views. We tend to prefer optimizing for engagement where you pay when the post receives likes, shares or content. Facebook has a tendency to promote these types of ads to users who are more likely to engage, which in turn has the opportunity to expand the reach of your post organically. You can start with a small budget of $1.00 to $3.00 per day to see which ads are most effective.
4. Use Facebook retargeting Ads to keep website visitors engaged
Patients many times are comparing multiple providers at the same time. If they are visiting your website they are also likely visiting your competitors website. Facebook and Google both allow you to target ads to patients who previously visited your website. A good place to start with retargeting is running ads on Facebook because it is generally easier to setup and more cost effective.
The average cost per click is going to be less on Facebook than on Google and you also only have one format to deal with when creating your ads. With Google Display your ad can be displayed on any website in various sizes and formats.
In addition to targeting based on website visits, if you have a list of patient emails you can target those specific patients or build an audience that has similar characteristics to your existing
For Physical Therapy Marketing it is important to note that Facebook guidelines do not allow advertisers to make references to personal traits about the audience, which includes words like “Back Pain” or any negative condition. Here are a few examples of what Facebook would allow or disapprove.
- Not Allowed: “3 Ways To Fix Your Knee Pain”
- Allowed: “3 Easy Steps to a Stronger, Healthier Back”
- Not Allowed: “Permanently Deal With Your Back Pain”
- Allowed: “How I Kicked Back Pain For Good” where you are presenting a testimonial or patient story that the patient has provided and approved.
5. Have a repeatable system in place to capture patient feedback and generate online reviews
Online reviews are a critical component of the patient purchasing journey. 84% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Inc.).
It is simply not enough to provide a great service. You need to be able to measure patient satisfaction and ultimately ask for a review. After a patient visit you can send an email asking to share feedback about their experience. In the below example, the patient is asked to rate their experience on a scale of 1 - 10
Anyone who rates above a certain score would be routed to submit an online review and anyone who rates below a certain threshold would be asked to provide feedback via a form sent directly to your office.
By routing happy customers to online reviews and customers who may not have had a great experience to your office staff you also ensure that your review rating remains high. Google is not only interested in the quantity of reviews, but also the velocity and recency of reviews. The thinking is a new review will be more indicative of a new patient's likely experience.
6. Focus on Google Reviews, but also build reviews on other platforms
Google dominates local search and it will be the primary destination for where potential patients will first see reviews, but you should also have some presence on other platforms.
The next tier of review sites would include Facebook and Yelp. Even though Google is primary, many patients will first encounter your practice on Social Media or local business directory. In your review requests you can include a variety of platforms to ensure that reviews are being generated for those other sites.
7. Respond to reviews, both positive and negative
A signal that both Google and potential patients will look at is how often and well you respond to online reviews. Responding to positive reviews is an easy way for you to engage with happy customers that also improves your brand identity. When responding to a positive review:
- Thank the customer for the positive review and be specific - let patients know that is a real person behind the business and find something specific that you can respond to based upon the review they left.
- Use your business name and location in the response - a review response is another opportunity to optimize your Google MyBusiness listing. In your response you can say something like “the team here at [business name] is thrilled to hear such positive feedback and we’re proud to be one of best [physical therapy] practices in [location].
Unfortunately you can’t just ignore negative reviews until they go away, Ignoring can actually make it worse, so you will need to craft a response. Remember that when you respond, it is not just to that single reviewer. Everyone will be able to see your response.
- Insert some marketing into your response - “we’re normally known for exceptional care and we regret that we missed the mark.”
- Ask to move the conversation offline - “we are sorry to hear about your negative experience and we would like to learn more about your specific situation. My name is [name] and I am the [owner/manager]. If you wouldn’t mind giving us a call at [phone number] at your earliest convenience it would be greatly appreciated.
8. Display online review and patient testimonials on your website
Your website is another opportunity to further build trust with potential patients. You can consolidate reviews from online sources as quotes on your website and group them into a single page that displays all of your reviews and testimonials.
If you have pages for specific services look for reviews that are relevant to those specific services and include them on the services pages. This links what you are stating on the page about your services to real client results.
You can also use your website as a vehicle for collecting additional reviews. In the below example, their is a call to action button that aks the user to share feedback. Clicking the call to action button opens up a modal. If a patient had a negative experience they would be routed to submit a survey to your office staff. If a patient had a positive experience they would be routed to submit an online review in Google or another platform of your choice.
9. Make it easy for patients to contact you and find your office
Patients who are using the web to choose a provider or patients referred by their physician will ultimately want to find a way to contact you or search for directions . A patient may be looking on Apple Maps, Google Maps, Facebook, your website, or another local directory like Yelp or Healthgrades. It is important to keep your name, address, and phone number information consistent across all of these platforms. Not only to make it easier for patients, but it also helps to improve your rankings within local search.
Prominently display your phone number, provide multiple contact options, and use “click-to-call” buttons or “click-to-text” buttons to make it easy for patients to contact you when viewing your website on a mobile device. In the example below, contact information is displayed in the header of the website with the ability for patients to click a single button to start a phone call or send a text message. There is also the option to book an appointment online. While statistics show that the vast majority of patients will want to make phone call, it is another alternative option that certain patients will prefer an online booking.
Key Physical Therapy Marketing Trends for 2021
The digital landscape is in a constant state of evolution. Below are some of the key trends in 2021 and how you can capitalize on them.
The rise of video
Consumption of online video is growing exponentially faster than TV and there are nearly 8 billion videos consumed online each and every day. Video is especially powerful in social media marketing where 13.9% of videos receive engagement. This is by far the highest percentage of any other content medium on social.
Part of what is driving video to become so pervasive is the quality of video recording in mobile phones that makes it easy for just about anyone to create video content and upload it to the web.
For physical therapy marketing you can also create video content. You want to focus on content that is helpful and informative. A few ideas for a physical therapists would include;
- Video walkthrough of your office facilities - you can create a virtual tour of your office. The video can be posted to your website and your Google MyBusiness Profile
- Practice overview - you can create a short overview of your practice where you can talk about why your practice is unique, highlight your facility and staff.
- Exercise videos - you can create a series of videos showing recommendations for home exercises that address common conditions
The videos can be posted to your website, Youtube channel, and within social media.
Google Core Web Vitals : Performance and Page Experience
Google takes into account over 200 different factors to determine a web pages ranking with each factor having a different weight. Recently, Google announced it would begin to include Core Web Vital statistics as part of its page experience ranking factor.
Core Web Vitals take into account a website’s performance by looking at largest content painful (LCP), first input delay, first input delay (FID), and cumulative layout shift (CLS).
- Largest content painful analyzes how long it takes for a page to load from a users perspective, so when they pull up your page how long does it take for them to start seeing content.
- First input delay looks at how long it takes for a user to start interacting with a web page
- Cumulative Layout Shift is how stable a web page is once it loads, so the more content moves around on the page after it loads the lower your CLS score will be.
The page experience score that will now include Core Web Vitals also includes mobile friendliness, the use of https vs. http, lack of pop-ups, and malware. You can check your performance against Google’s Core Web Vitals by using Google’s Search Console.
There are also free tools to check your website’s overall performance on both desktop and mobile. Two of the most popular are Google Pagespeed Insights and GTMetrix.
Featured Snippets : Position 0
Featured snippets are snippets of text that appear at the top of Google’s Search results page for certain topics with the purpose being to quickly answer a searcher’s question. The content will come directly from a website and appear in the search results without having to click through to the web page.
Common items that you will see pulled into a featured snippet are tables, definitions of key terms, and lists. In the example below, Google pulled in content from Healthline to answer a question about low carb diets.
Many SEO experts refer to this as “position 0” because it appears above the traditional number one spot in Google.
For physical therapy marketing, you can create web pages that detail steps for an exercise or treatment that would have the potential to appear as a featured snippet. This could be a nice tactic to further expand your reach beyond searches for your key service areas.
At times it can feel overwhelming trying to juggle marketing with patient billing, treating, staff management, and other day to day practice management issues. This physical therapy marketing guide is intended to help you to start putting the systems and processes in place that will pay dividends long into the future. At Amplify Health, we specialize in helping healthcare practices attract new patients online. If you are interested in learning more contact us to schedule a free demo