By Evan Kestenbaum
Google your own practice, and you likely will see your name come up again and again. But it won’t be your web site. Online listings—so-called free listings—are obscuring your web site and shaping your online presence. In some cases, a dozen or more listing services, with names like Topix, Health Grades and Insider Pages, precede your own practice web site. Whether you like it or not, they are what consumers see first.
The business model for these listings services is to list your practice for free and then upsell you on a premium listing or display ad. Is it worth buying these premium services? Do the math, and you may find it is. Buying a premium listing can bump you right to the top with the message you want to project.
In our family practice, Optix Family Eyecare in Plainview, New York, we elected to enroll with Wellness.com. So far, this investment has generated a positive return on investment. We have gotten a few patients from it, about one every two months. The listing costs approximately $100 per month. Here is a game plan to figure outif going this route is worth it for your practice.
For Joel Kestenbaum, OD, father of Evan Kestenbaum,buying a premium listing on Wellness.com pays off: It bumps his practice to the top of Google’s search results–with the message he wants to project.
Step 1: Pick a Premium Listing
General Internet Yellow Pages:These directories have printed books, as well as online search capabilities. Services range from free listings, to enhanced listings that let you add additional information and keywords, to packages in which a one-page web site is created for your business. Many of these packages are tied to Yellow Page print ads. Yellowpages.com, yellowbook.com, superpages.com, dexknows.com.
General Internet Yellow Pages with social media reviews: You can buy premium packages on these sites to notonly be found easily by new patients, but to help those new patients spread the word about your practice. Yelp.com, www.kudzu.com, citysearch.com, local.yahoo.com; www.google.com and www.facebook.com, which both recently updated their local listing features.
Optometric or Healthcare Specific Directories: The prices of these sites vary from free for a basic listing, to hundreds of dollars a month for a listing with a picture and banner ads that display above your competitions’ listings. Some sites also have options for Pay-per-Click, Pay-per-Impressions (Pay whenever your ads are shown) and Pay-per-Call.
Visit each of these sites, and any other business listing sites you can find, and “claim your free listing” before making a premium purchase. Test how many new patients are garnered from the free listing before deciding one you pay for is worth it. Check outwww.eyedoctorguide.com, www.allaboutvision.com/ and www.wellness.com.
Popularity of listing sites vary by region, so be sure the one you choose tomake a premium investment in is used heavily in your area. Yelp is heavily used in the western U.S., while Dexknows is popular in cities such as Phoenix, Denver, Chicago and Salt Lake City. Kudzu is used widely in the Southeast, and City Search is a favored business searchtool of New York City residents.
Step 2: Describe Yourself in the Same Words People Use to Search for ODs
Thoroughly fill out online forms that both free and premium listings require, including uploading pictures and videos of your practice, such as patient testimonials. Describe your office and why a patient should choose you if theyare only viewing that listing.
Use words in your listing that patients might search for, such as eye doctor, eye exam or optometrist. Instead of listing yourself as Dr. James Smith, make the listing “Our Optometrist James Smith” or “Our eye doctor James Smith.” This will make it more likely searchers who type “optometrist” or “eye doctor” will find you fast.
Step 3: Decide On Content but Refresh it Often
Cater your offers to the time of the year. We are approaching the end of the year, so all of my ads mention flex spending. I even created a Black Friday sale of 40 percent off sunglasses. If potential patients are checking back, it’s always good for them to see that you update your listing regularly. Most sites allow you to monitor the number of views of your listings. Run each ad for 14 to 60 days. Monitor the progress of each and then re-use what worked, and change what didn’t.
Step 4: Calculate ROI on Premium Listing
Track how many calls and patient visits derive from your listing. Premium listings are another growth tool to invest in, but by no means the only one. They do not replace social media or a user-friendly web site.
In addition to quantitative tracking, try this exercise: Pretend you are a prospective patient, and search for an optometrist in your area on each of the sites in which you’re already listed for free. How many eye doctors come up ahead of you? How many paid for the premium or enhanced listings?
The worst listings mistake you can make is putting all your eggs in one basket. Though many times you save money by signing a year-long premium listings contract,start with a 90-day campaign instead and monitor the results. If it’s working, then sign up for a year at a reduced rate.
Premium Online Listing Payment Models
Pay per click. Usually you pay $2 to $5 each time someone clicks on your listing.
Pay per impression. This cost can vary widely from $200 to $700 per 1,000 impressions.
Pay per lead.The typical cost of this is $30 to $50 per call.
Monthly fee to be listed on top. Not based on Impressions, calls or leads. Can be $50 to $300 per month. This enables your listing to be featured on top within a certain number of miles of your office. This type of premium listing also may automatically create a link to your practice when someone is viewing the listing of a competitor, who did not pay a monthly fee.
Most premium listing packages include built-in tracking, so you know how many new patients the paid listing brings you. If you have a call recording service, or a pay-per-call account, thenpatients call a tracking number like 1-800-555-5555. That number is routed to your regular business line. In the process the call gets recorded. You can then listen and find the exact person who booked an appointment, or just called to ask a question. On Wellness.com, there isan option for patients to press 1 for a new patient and 2 for an existing patient. The practice isonly charged if the caller presses 1.
On the $99 service from wellness.com, there is no 800 number. Patients call your phone directly, so there is not an automatic way to track calls. Both allow you to track how many times your listing was viewed at no extra charge.
Evan Kestenbaum received his MBA from State University at Binghamton in 2006. He is a co-founder of GPN EDGE Technologies, and also manages his family’s practice, Optix Family Eyecare Center, in Plainview, NY.