Congress’ debate on healthcare has sparked many different opinions about the right path for the future of healthcare insurance. Regardless of where that debate is headed, all Americans share the same challenge at one point or another: finding good healthcare.
And that’s where local search comes in—to help connect medical professionals with patients.
Recently, Dennis Fromholzer at CRM Associates analyzed some data points from Knowledge Networks that show healthcare accounts for 14 percent of all Yellow Pages usage—or roughly one out of every seven uses. In 2008, there were 2.4 billion references to healthcare headings in the Yellow Pages, both print and online. Five headings—Physicians, Dentists, Chiropractors, Hospitals, and Pharmacies—account for over 75 percent of healthcare references.
Over the last few years, we’ve also seen a proliferation of vertical web sites that offer local search tools and user reviews to help consumers find local medical professionals. They range from the all encompassing Angie’s List and CitySearch to the more specific like webMD Physician Finder, Find A Doctor and New York City-based Zoc Doc.
Online local search options are even spreading beyond simply finding a doctor to finding health insurance as well—an inherently very local task given the nature of the insurance industry and a wide array of state laws. Healthcare.com made a presentation at the recent Kelsey Group Directional Media Strategies conference about the growing opportunities for insurance providers to use online local search tools to market themselves.
So what does all this mean for the local healthcare professional or practice wanting to build a clientele of patients? For starters, it means taking stock of all the tools available to you, from print yellow pages, internet yellow pages, city listings sites and local search verticals to determine which will reach your intended audience. Depending on the community and demographic desired, this may be a mix of tools, or possibly all of them.
I think in this evaluation, it’s very important to consider which mediums people trust most. A yellow pages ad can offer legitimacy, while a featured listing on an internet yellow pages site can attract high viewership via a Google search.
Once the medium has been selected, it’s critical to spend some time on the message. Look at what other healthcare professional are sayings in their listings and ads, and determine what message and ad format will differentiate against others in the profession.
Finally, word of mouth is critical. And by word of mouth, it’s not only the referrals you hear from family or friends in every day discussion, but also what others are saying online. A simple tweet about a great doc can drum up new clients for a practice. Likewise, a user-generated review on local sites that allow them can be critical in attracting, or scaring away, potential patients.
I think it’s safe to say that whatever happens in Congress, patients will continue to turn to local search tools to find accessible healthcare. Our role as local search agents will not change, and in fact, may only get greater as changes to the system will only prompt additional questions. Our job will be to continue to provide the most relevant information for the millions and millions of Americans who rely upon local search to make some of the most important decisions for themselves and their families.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.