You practice the most artistic of all medical specialties. Your Web site copy should reflect that—particularly if you plan on using your Web presence as a sales tool. Prospects who find you via your Web site will expect you to be more than a clinician. They’ll expect you to be an aesthete. Unless they get the feeling that you have an aesthetic eye—a very special insight into the morphology of faces and bodies—they will not likely trust you with theirs.

So how do you convey this subtle, rare gift of seeing and creating beauty? You can’t just tell people you have it. Telling leaves room for doubt. And plastic surgery is not a venture that mixes well with doubt.

Your Web copy must evince your sensitivity to beauty. Wherever possible, it should give full vent to your warm perspicacity, unerring visual judgment, and impeccable taste. Here are three ways for you to write more persuasive Web copy:

1) Take time to discuss subtleties.

Compare these two paragraphs about rhinoplasty:

  • Nothing has a greater impact on how a person looks than the size and shape of the nose. Because the nose is the most defining characteristic of the face, a slight alteration can greatly improve one’s appearance. In your initial consultation, I’ll ask what you’d like your nose to look like, evaluate the structure of your nose and face, and discuss the possibilities with you.

It’s serviceable. It’s accurate. But does it convey any nuances? Does it reveal any thoughts about the elements that make a nose beautiful or flattering to a particular kind of face?

Now this:

  • Noses are very individual. Ethnicity and even personality affect what kind of nose will really look right on you. You might be searching for a more refined bridge, better-shaped nostrils, better proportions, or more appropriate character. Having done dozens and dozens of rhinoplasties, I can mold noses as easily as if I were a sculptor working with clay. When you come in for your consultation, we can discuss the possibilities thoroughly.

The second example shows a more nuanced understanding of noses. We see that noses can evince character, connote ethnicity, and add refinement. Nostril shape and size, bridge, and proportion are all factors in the equation. The sculpting analogy tells the reader she won’t be limited to a few standard-issue nose shapes, but will be given a fully customized nose that will integrate with her other features. This kind of writing reassures the reader, who sees herself as someone with unique features that deserve special attention.

2) Include observations from real life.

Compare these two introductory paragraphs about brow lifts:

  • A forehead lift or “brow lift” is a procedure that restores a more youthful, refreshed look to the area above the eyes. The procedure corrects drooping brows and improves the horizontal lines and furrows caused by anger and worry.
  • Years of talking, laughing, and crying can take their toll on your face. Sometimes, the evidence is endearing. For example, crow’s feet can be very beautiful on the right face, and in moderation. But foreheads don’t wear well. They’re subject to:
    • creases;
    • drooping;
    • loss of suppleness;
    • horizontal wrinkles—they make you look tired; and
    • vertical frown lines—they make you look angry.

The bromide about “aging gracefully” doesn’t apply to foreheads.

The first example is a perfectly adequate description of a brow lift. The second example covers the same territory but exploits the opportunity to reflect on:

  • certain pleasing signs of aging;
  • the distinction between attractive laugh lines and flaws that just make you look worn; and
  • life in general.

“Talking, laughing, and crying” are human activities. As instigators of lines and wrinkles, they convey a life fully lived. But “anger” and “worry” are just negative.

When you enrich your clinical vocabulary with the kind of language novelists use, you build rapport. You are talking human being to human being. It forges a connection.

You also make your Web site more memorable. Most Web visitors are checking out a few physicians’ Web sites, book-marking many of them, and coming back for repeat visits before they compile their short lists. By the time a prospective patient decides whom to phone for consultations, she will have heard the same things over and over again, stated in the same language.

Inserting your fresh language, unique views, and a few choice observations makes you stand out from the rest. Your Web visitor will assume you have a fresher, more individual approach to your surgical technique than your competitors.

3) Give the patient permission.

As strange as it may sound, many people still need “permission” to have plastic surgery. Yes, they are adults. Yes, they are older than 21. But they still need permission.

Perhaps they hail from a region or a stratum of society that isn’t yet comfortable with plastic surgery. They may harbor profound internal messages prohibiting “vanity” and “selfishness.” Whatever the reason, moving them to action requires getting them past their reticence about being good to themselves.

Of course, you don’t do this by literally saying, “I think it’s OK for you to be good to yourself. You have my permission to get a nose job.” You do it more subtly.

On your procedure page, you precede clinical descriptions with a short paragraph written in a tone of avuncular concern. Here’s an example of a different way you might open a discussion of rhinoplasty:

  • Do you sometimes feel that your nose doesn’t really fit with your other features? You’re not alone. The nose is the most common feature people wish to change about their faces. If a nose is crude, hooked, too large or too small, with ugly or enlarged nostrils, it brings down the entire face. How can people appreciate the loveliness of your eyes and lips if an ungainly nose is always there right between them, drawing attention to itself?

These reflections on the misfortune of being born with a clumsy nose show compassion. The reader has been told that:

  • She’s part of a peer group. They share her feelings and give her tacit permission to change.
  • There is such a thing as a nose that doesn’t fit on a face, regardless of whether it’s the “God-given” nose that came with the face.
  • Her other features deserve a nose that doesn’t detract from them (even if she herself believes she is undeserving).

Beware of Optimizers’ Copy

The race for search engine primacy has made “keyword-rich” the adjective of choice these days when discussing Web site copy. Unfortunately, keyword-rich copy rarely qualifies as graceful, convincing prose. While it’s needed to win the horse race to the top of Google, it can very easily be overdone.

At the end of the day, what good will it do to have your Web site riding high on the Google list if visitors are met with tortuous copy, full of references to your locale and your specialty? The worst keyword-conscious copy sounds positively absurd:

  • Dr Smith is a Cincinnati surgeon whose breast augmentation and facelift procedures have been beautifying women in Cincinnati proper and Warren County, Butler County, and Clermont County since 1987. Sophisticated Cincinnati women rely on him to . . . .

You can almost see a stage wink every time the location or procedure is mentioned. It can make the Web site sound deranged.

Be careful with keywords. If they are too obvious, they will undermine your credibility.

Do Not Take Shortcuts

In our postliterate society, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of writing. But you do so at your peril.

Ryan Miller, president of Etna Interactive, a Web-development firm specializing in aesthetic medicine, says the biggest mistake he sees when designing or overhauling surgeons’ Web sites is clients who “take shortcuts on content. Our biggest challenge is getting the OK for the Web site rewrite. Redesigns are most often inspired by the desire to achieve a new look, on the assumption that a new look alone will fix all of the issues. Surgeons need to look just as closely at their copy as their site design.

“Like it or not, to succeed online you must become a publisher of desirable content. That means helpful, well-written text and compelling, well-staged before-and-after images. Ignore those two basic principles, and the search engines are sure to ignore you.”

See also “Online Lead Tracking” by Joyce Sunila in the February 2007 issue of PSP.

The service you perform is multidimensional. It improves your patients’ lives not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. Therefore, it makes sense to expose your emotional and spiritual richness while discussing what you do.

Why wait until the prospect is in your consultation room to establish true rapport? Why not start with the first sales contact—your Web site?

By following these guidelines in your Web copy, you’ll be giving your prospects a preview of the multidimensional, healing person they’ll experience when they visit your office.

Joyce Sunila has 30 years of experience in medical marketing. Her company, Practice Helpers, provides Internet patient-loyalty and lead-generation campaigns for aesthetic plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and medical spas. She can be reached at (866) 706-0550 or via her Web site,