You often counsel your patients on what they could, should, or shouldn’t change to combat the effects of aging or correct a functional problem. If you’re having issues with your website, you may also need some counseling. Maybe your website is no longer earning double-stack ratings on the first search results page of Google or other search engines. Or perhaps people aren’t visiting your site as much as they used to, or staying as long if they do grace your site with their presence. Something must be done, but what? Diagnosing and treating your current online issues starts with a consultation and a thorough analysis, often with the help of an expert.

If any of the following symptoms sound familiar, it may be time for a website checkup:

  • Your search engine rankings are weak
  • Traffic is languishing
  • Your conversion ratio is low
  •  Your traffic is DOA

Diagnosis and Treatment

The potential solutions can be tailored to your website’s symptoms:

DX: Nonexistent rankings for key terms

TX: Cast a different net

If your traffic is growing or stable and visitors are converting to consultations, you are in good shape. This is true even if your rankings are falling for a handful of terms. The Internet has changed drastically over the last decade. So-called vanity terms—ie, specialty- or procedure-specific terms, such as “plastic surgeon + market” or “breast augmentation + market”—provide limited, if any, traffic compared to certain other search terms, including “long-tail” search phrases consisting of four to five or more words, such as, “Can I exercise after breast implants?” Prospective patients who search the vanity terms are typically early in the buying process and not all that close to making a decision. Realistic expectations are also important when it comes to your rankings. If your office is in Bucks County, Pa, or Arlington Heights, Ill, you can’t expect the site to rank in a big city in the region. If your web firm is attempting to position your site for these outside markets, you’re wasting your money. Instead, focus on your surrounding area.

Risk and recovery: Low risk. Results may be visible within 3 months or sooner.

Cost: May require additional investment to refocus the site and content.

DX: Traffic lull

TX: Revision of internal elements ?of site

If your site seems to be converting well, but your traffic isn’t growing or has fallen, you may need some revision work. Websites that are not constructed properly for the search engines won’t experience traffic growth. Some issues may include poor navigation, too much information on each page, duplicate information, a bulky photo gallery, or too many low-quality links. Going back in with expert guidance and tweaking any of these problems can make a big difference in driving prospective patients to your site and, ultimately, your waiting room.

Risk and Recovery: Low risk. Expect increased traffic to your site within 3 to 6 months.

Cost: May require additional investment to tweak these issues.

DX: Your less-than-stellar conversion ratio

TX: Internal staff or protocol changes

If the traffic to your site and inquiries to your team are stable or growing, but your surgeries from online sources are falling, you may have a conversion problem. Your staff may be dropping the ball when it comes to following up with leads in a timely fashion. In this case, you need to reinforce the importance of getting back to patients within 24 hours of their inquiries. Risk and Recovery: No risks. Results should be visible almost immediately. Cost: None.

DX: Traffic DOA (Google penalty)

TX: Domain switch

If the only search terms your site ranks well for are your name and practice name, you may have been hit by a Google penalty. In this case, a domain switch strategy is likely your best bet. If you choose this option, your complete website (ie, content, navigation, design) will remain intact, but it will be moved to a new domain name. A landing page is placed on the old domain to continue capturing visitors who search for the practice or surgeon’s name.

Risk and recovery: Risk depends on the status of the site. If the site is currently not ranking for any search terms, this strategy poses little risk. Results are apparent within about 6 months.

Cost: Domain switch costs more than simple tweaks to the site.

Evans_DavidDavid Evans, PhD, MBA, is the CEO of Ceatus Media Group, based in San Diego. His column, “The Edge,” appears in every issue of Plastic Surgery Practice. He can be reached via [email protected].