44 percent of all Internet users search online to find information about health professionals. If a doctor already has a keyword-rich website, a blog she updates frequently, and is active on Facebook and Twitter, how else might she make her practice stand out on the Internet?
One strategy is to get on Google+, the search giant’s new social network. Using Google+ is an easy, quick and free way to improve the likelihood your name will come up when people are searching for topics related to your specialty. This article outlines the benefits of Google+ for doctors and how to get started.
Google+ Makes It Easier for Patients to Find You
Google+ can help you “get found” because content shared on Google+ is favored in searches made using Google’s search engine–and Google controls 66% of the search engine market.
For example, if a doctor writes a post about back pain and shares it via Google+, Google will favor this post in search results for topics related to back pain over comparable results not linked to a Google+ user. That’s important, because the higher up your content appears in search results, the more likely it is someone will visit your site.
In the example below, when I searched for “causes of fatigue,” the first article to appear was authored by a doctor with a Google+ profile. When I clicked his name, I discovered he is in Austin, where I live. Had I been looking for a local doctor to treat fatigue symptoms, Google+ would have helped me find him.
This effect is multiplied across your Google+ network over time. Search marketing expert Brian Whalley explains:
[As you build up] a large following on Google+, content you've shared with your followers will also show up in those followers' relevant Google.com searches, keeping your business top of mind and increasing its visibility among existing followers across multiple channels.
Google+ also helps you stand out due to the social data that Google+ provides in search results, which imparts trust in your content and makes searchers more likely to click it. This can include a headshot of the author (you), a link to your Google+ profile, the number of people in your circles, and the number of people who have +1’d (liked) your content. Consider this guide to Google+ by technology journalist Ben Parr. This is the top result when I search for “google+ for doctors:”
Knowing the size of an author’s network and the popularity of his article signals useful information on how authoritative a person is and how helpful others have found his writing.
Of course, unlike tech bloggers, most doctors don’t spend hours writing content or growing their online networks, so few have the kind of online reputation Parr enjoys. But establishing yourself as a trusted medical expert is only going to become more important over time. The cost of care is rising and patients often don’t view distance as a deal breaker if it means better treatment at lower cost. Where will patients head to find the best care out there? More than likely, to the Web.
How to Google+: 5 Steps to Starting Today
Ready to get started with Google+? It’s easy. Here are the basic steps.
1) Set up a Google+ page and create an account. Choose between building an organization page (e.g., Austin Medical Group) or personal page (e.g., Frank Smith, MD). We recommend doing both.
2) Fill out basic biographical info.
3) Ensure that keywords that describe you appear in key areas of your bio: Introduction, Employment, and Places. This will help you “appear” when people do a search for a doctor like you.
Many doctors whose profiles I’ve seen chose to write several paragraphs in the Introduction section. Reference Dr. Howard Luks’s or Dr. William C. Shiel’s profile as examples. Be sure to include the most common words for your specialty (e.g., eye doctor, eye specialist, optometrist) and be sure to mention your location (e.g. Austin, Texas).
4) Link your Google+ page to your website. There are two ways to do this. You can add your name and email to your website or blog content (recommended for sites with content by multiple authors). Or, you can link your website or blog content to your Google Profile, and vice versa.
This step is necessary to prove to Google that you are the owner of the site you claim is yours or are the author of the article you claim you wrote. Also, it paves the way for your image showing up next to stories you’ve shared (which requires you have a certain number of people in your circles).
5) Participate strategically. I’ve written another post that helps you determine what to share on social networks. But here’s some additional advice specific to G+:
- Grow your circles of people you follow, and who follow you. Search for, and follow, peers and leaders in your field. Re-share their posts and comment on them, and chances are they’ll follow you back.
- Keep boundaries intact. Physician and social media expert Kevin MD has done a good job of explaining the settings in Google+ that help you separate personal and professional contacts.
Still want to learn more about G+? Take a look at this article by Social Media Examiner. Good luck! And if you have any comments on anything you think I’ve missed, please feel free to share in the section below.