Oldie but goodie! This post was originally published in Jan 2014 and updated in Jan 2018 as part of an on-going series highlighting popular past posts.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: You need a practice website, and—in order for that website to drive today’s consumer-based patients—people have to like it.
But the hurdles involved with running a website that works can be daunting This is especially true for someone who doesn’t write marketing content or design websites for a living. That’s (probably) you.
Since an online presence is an unavoidable need in the 21st century business model, however, you can’t let your uncertainty stop you: You have to do it, and you have to do it right.
Let’s face the obstacles head-on. First, I’m going to break down the bumps you’ll face along the road of website management.
Then, of course, I’ll give you simple tricks for dodging them.
Obstacle #1. People can be so dang hard to make happy.
We’re picky. You have to captivate us. Entertain us. Assuming we like what we see when we first land on a page, the content on it then has to capture (and keep) our attention. Patients want quick results, and they don’t want to think or try that hard to get them. If your site is difficult to read, understand, or navigate, you’ve lost them before you even caught them.
Video is a great option to include. Did you know that you are 53 percent more likely to land on the first page of Google if you have a video embedded on your site? Read more about how to add video to your practice marketing in this blog post.
Obstacle #2. Search engines care if you’re popular.
Search engines (like Google, Bing, etc.) are getting smarter, and they rate your site on how pleased your patients seem to be when they visit your page. The more ‘popular’ the search engine thinks you are, the higher up on the list your website will appear.
For example: If a patient types in, “doctor in Milwaukee”, the search engine they are using will decide if your page should pop up first, second, or 37th. If Google sees that people land on your website and then leave immediately, it sees your page as less valuable than if people stick around for a few minutes.
Obstacle #3: You specialize in keeping people healthy.
...not creating and managing websites. The frustrating aspect of this obstacle is pretty obvious.
Don’t fret. Stick to a few simple guidelines (14 rules, to be precise), and those judgemental search engines will give you the cred–and the page ranking–you deserve.
Basic Rules for Creating a Crowd Pleasing Website
Below are some basic rules to follow when creating a website that will win the hearts of search engines and prospective patients alike. The rules all fit into 3 main concepts:
- Grab Their Attention
- Don’t Make Them Work for It
- Give Them What They Want
*Note that, even if you have a web specialist create the site for you, these rules can be used as a checklist when evaluating the quality of what you’ve been given.
Rule #1. Keep the focus on one thing at a time.
The best way to lose a viewer’s attention is to distract them with more than one focal point on a page. If they don’t know which way to direct their gaze, they just…won’t.
Each page of your site should revolve around and support—not detract from—this one main focal point. In other words, if your viewer were only to get 3 seconds to view your page, what would you want them to see?
Simplicity is key when you’re trying to sell something, which is what your website is trying to do for your practice.
Rule #2. Write the way they think.
Just like we read books from top to bottom, left to right, your viewers will do the same thing when viewing your page.
Use content hierarchy, moving their eyes down the page cleanly. Your practice name and tagline goes up TOP, on the left side or in the center (not on the top right).
Rule #3. Use an engaging header image.
Please don’t break copyright laws, but do find a picture or graphic that appeals to their visual senses.
Remember: emotion is your friend. If you can get them to feel an emotion—nostalgia, sympathy, excitement, shock, jealousy, amusement, peace, etc.—you’ve got ‘em hooked.
If all else fails, use a picture of one of your patients. Make sure you get permission, and let them know when you’ve put it up. Bonus? Your featured patient will want to show it to people. Insta-traffic.
Rule #4. Use words, but only the right ones.
Your practice name should be front and center, in big letters, at the top of the page.
Promotions or taglines can be added to the image using a basic photo editing program. Pictures sell more than words (as much as it pains me to admit it), so putting words in the pictures is a great tactic for making sure they get read.
Try not to sound like a solicitor. Don’t request their information at the top of the home page. The first step to engagement is getting visitors to like you, so cool your jets for a minute. No one wants a car salesman for a doctor (no offense to car salesmen!)
Other people’s words are more convincing than yours.
Rule #5. Give them proof right off the bat.
Prospects don’t want to take your word for it. Do you have a convincing patient testimonial? Better yet, do you have a video testimonial? It goes right on the front page.
You can easily throw text testimonials into your header image with a free photo editing program. Videos can be embedded into the website with the code that YouTube gives you every time you upload a video.
Rule #6. Don’t hinder their reading.
People sometimes shy away from white space because it results in longer pages, but a page that requires scrolling will do more to keep viewers reading than tight, tiny text bunched into a tight, tiny paragraph.
Tips for improving readability:
- If the font is too small, they won’t squint—they’ll ignore it.
- If the font is hard to read…same thing.
- If the paragraphs are too long…ditto.
Paragraphs that have plenty of space between the lines are much more likely to be read.
Rule #7. Don’t make their eyes ache.
It can be tempting to use a unique background, strange colors, flashing images… stuff to make you stand out.
Here’s the deal: Just Don’t.
Resist the urge to let your creativity go wild. It hurts our eyes. Pick a color scheme and stick with it. White text on a brown background? No. Argyle? Definitely not.
Rule #8. Use everyday terms.
Speak to them as if you are having a one-on-one conversation. Use words they are familiar with to describe exactly what you are saying.
This is especially important for navigation items in your menu bar: It is NOT the time to create your own terms. For example, don’t link your ‘Contact Us’ page with a button that says, “Start Smiling!”
Rule #9. The ‘About Us’ segment: Who, What, Why, How
Typically on the home page, the ‘About Us’ content is the most important part of your website. But if it doesn’t present information plainly and concisely, no one will read it. Here are some sub-rules for your About Us content:
Put the “who what why how” into a (relatively small) segment. It doesn’t have to be in this order, but it does need to cover all of these things.
This section should be under your banner or image. It is the first real section of text they will read about your practice. If there is a time to break out your best attempt, this is it.
Tip: Your “who” can be included in your welcome: “Welcome to Alpine Medical. We’re so happy you found us!” This tells viewers who you are, before they even get to your introductory paragraph.
Remember: don’t complicate it. Write as if you are personally telling your reader about yourself.
Rule #10. Don’t accept your first draft.
Here is my writer’s trick: over the course of a week, take time out twice a day to write an intro paragraph. Don’t think about it, just type. If you’re like me, some of it will get fake or boring or redundant. By doing it over and over but taking a break in between, you get a fresh take every time.
At the end of the week, pull the good stuff to compile two or three options, get feedback, pick one, and BAM. Intro segment perfection.
Rule #11. Edit, edit, edit.
The first drafts of my articles are typically at least twice as long as the finished products, so I know how hard it can be to cut out words that you so painstakingly drafted. There’s no getting around this one, though. Clean it up!
Take out unnecessary words. Chop out (the) words that aren’t needed to convey your point. (see what I did there?)
Cut paragraphs. ...even if they are funny/witty/catchy. It’s difficult, I know, but worth it.
Rule #12. Make the “Call to Action” easy to identify.
If patients have to search to figure out how to contact you, they just won’t.
There should be an obvious section that says something like, “Schedule Appointment” , “Request Information”, “Contact Us”, etc.
Because you don’t want to break Rules #1 and #2, I suggest putting the Contact Us links on the top right corner and the bottom of that page in order to avoid creating more than one focal point for the page. You want viewers to be able to find your contact information, but you don’t want to destroy their reading flow.
You’ve got the basics! Now it’s time to check your work.
Rule #13. Try to think like a prospective patient.
You’ve shopped for a new doctor before. Attempt to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective patient. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is it obvious? You might know who you are, but remember: new patients won’t. Look at your content as if like you don’t.
- It is clear? Remember that YOU know what you’re trying to say because you wrote it. Pretend like you didn’t; would you get through the whole paragraph? Would you stay on the page?
- Does it portray your practice ‘vibe’? Patients want to know you. If your site doesn’t depict that, keep trying.
- Is it pretty? Man, woman, adult, child…we are visual beings. If it isn’t nice to look at, fix it. Or have someone else fix it.
Rule #14. A website is never “finished.”
Even after it’s gone live, look at your site frequently. How’s it doing? Don’t be afraid to change, erase, and add things frequently. In fact, keeping your site’s content fresh is another thing Search Bots like Google like.
For more tips on how to rock your online reputation, read the guide, "Learn How to Make your Practice Look Awesome Online."