Milestone developed the crisis, recovery and growth framework that was developed in early March, since we have hundreds of customers and all kinds of businesses that need advice on what to do during the crisis because things were happening so fast across a hundred or a thousand different branches in their network. We created a kind of crisis response for a week or two, and then we pretty quickly realized that the crisis was only just the beginning and people were going to need to focus on what recovery is, what does later recovery and growth look like, how they can take advantage of that because no one wants to be a deer in the headlights, no one wants to be frozen by the crisis.
So we developed a whole webinar series and we focused on SEO during and after COVID. We will touch on some technical topics on FAQ, schema, and AMP, which we’ll touch on here today and where do we put a COVID context into it because obviously, it is the most essential industry fighting the crisis.
Healthcare crisis, recovery & growth phases of the COVID-19 pandemic
We are going to describe the C-R-G framework in the three phases and how we broke it out across those activities and we’re going to show you some healthcare marketing data that I think you’re going to find pretty interesting and compelling. And then later, we go into local data and key steps, tactics, and takeaways.
The website was the vehicle for communicating most information efficiently and people were coming to see what was going on and what was available, and then SEO, it was also absolutely fundamental in communicating, particularly local for accessing changing location information, access to services, and so forth. So for the tactics within those channels, the goal was to maintain and increase the digital relevance and then get into some specific COVID-response content. And then by the end of that phase, you’re developing new content for maybe treatment, diagnosis, and care.
A couple of weeks into the COVID crisis, we are recommending that you retool your website and you prioritize some of those projects that haven’t been in the top three before: policies, FAQs, and generally the site performance.
And in this phase, we recommend thinking about appropriate service offerings and product offerings and putting those offers in market and learning about the customer reactions to that information and whether or not they’re meeting the customer’s needs. Also, in the crisis phase, you’ve probably ramped down paid, and now you’re ramping up your site performance and your site experience.
Now, as you come into the growth phase, which is maybe going to be maybe about five, six weeks, seven weeks from now, things will get more back to normal. You want to harvest the content marketing efforts, you want to scale paid media back up. and leverage different tactics in paid advertisement and then potentially prepare for a new shelter in place or things to change. We want everybody to be ready with their contingencies as they go forward through these days as they get back to normal.
Consider an example of a customer journey: Journey Awareness, Consideration, Engagement, and Recovery. We kind of adjusted that so that we have Pre-diagnosis, Diagnosis, and Treatment and Follow up as the things that people are going to be focused on in your industry.
This information is really interesting from Google’s The Digital Journey to Wellness in the hospital selection,
- 77% of people use search engines in that patient journey. And that makes it far away the largest channel, the most influential channel, the most involved channel, no matter what the overall route people are taking, a search is highly involved.
- 94% of people in the survey said that the reputation of the facility is important.
The data is a little bit old, so this is reputation and the traditional saying that prestige, the history of it, but ultimately reputation means marketing, and it means if we do good work if we have interesting transplants or breakthroughs in treatment and care that providers should market that to build prestige. The kind of healthcare marketing has always been important, but it’s even more important and there’s a component of marketing that specifically became more important over the last couple of years, and that is reviews and reputation.
Recovery phase and healthcare schema for SEO
Your website is what Google is reading. It’s what populates most of Google My Business. So they’re two separate ways to distribute information, but in combination, they’re going to create 50% or 60% of everything somebody’s going to see when they’re looking in a branded search, or when you’re showing up in local searches for the kind of services you provide. Schema is a way of adding information for Google that makes it easier for it to understand the context and the details and for it to lay it out and distribute it via the knowledge base and via the search results pages. So 54% of the sites in today’s registrants out there in the audience have no schema, and that’s a missed opportunity.
The medical industry is kind of uniquely positioned to take advantage of different schema types and information types out of the 829 that has been defined by Google and Schema.org, unfortunately, 60% of the sites in the sample that are using schema are also showing errors and the errors can damage the impressions and traffic of the website. The sites with schema average, 2.4 times more pages indexed in Google, and the average mobile page speed score of the audience was 39, with a range from eight to 96.
Every single business is actually transforming itself as people are finding different ways to reach out, there is a huge drop in searches for “hospitals near me,” or basically there is a drop in people going to hospitals. This means hospitals and healthcare systems need to pivot into newer models and new approaches to reach to their patients, and telemedicine and telehealth has been one of the things that have been touted as the next big thing.
Healthcare websites and Google My Business
As the outbreak started, Milestone customer Westlake Dematology’s Adam Paddock said, “We pivoted pretty quickly into doing tele-health, we were unable to see people in person so it was really the only thing we can offer, we didn’t have a choice, so we transformed the website, we disallowed booking of any other appointments other than telehealth. We put it all over the homepage and every single page, it was on all of our individual doctor pages that you can see them through telehealth, we did email, we did social media, we talked about Google My Business on all of our GMB profiles, we did posts, we redid our URL to, instead of going to our normal booking to go to telehealth.”
“As hospitals and healthcare systems are pivoting, we built a framework with which we want to basically share to health care system, as well as anybody working in alternative healthcare to basically think about what you do when you are in crisis mode, what you do in terms of when you’re in recovery mode and what you do in terms of growth mode. And again, this is just hand-on learning, there are no hard and fast rules yet. As a marketer, one of the big things that you are going to do is you’re going to experiment with things and identify what are the things that work with your community, with your patients, and figure out the best solution. Some of our recommendations are basically in crisis mode basically to find your schema from the website, make sure your website has the right message.”
“Awareness messaging is definitely critical, but at this point in time, CPC low conversion is fairly okay. I pointed out as we’re moving into recovery mode, patient nourishment, you need to nourish and re-engage with the patients that have stopped talking to you. Again, updating attributes on local is going to be critical because that’s one of the places that they come and look for. And of course, as the recovery phase begins, some specific targeting email marketing will be helpful to tell them that you are coming back to normal and of course, hyper-local targeting on Google and social media always help.”
Now, taking it to exact next steps, first and foremost, at Google My Business has opened up where you can go ahead and start updating the information as to whether you’re open, you’re closed because of a certain activity, is your emergency room open, are there any specific instructions that you want to give your visitors regarding COVID-19 is that linked to your websites that you want to take them to? Is there anything about events or anything that is happening within your hospitals that you need to make sure that you communicate?
Most critical is that if you do not control your local listing or knowledge panel, one of the bad habits that happens is that Google will crowd source information from users, which is something that you want to prevent, you would rather have you control the source of truth that appears in Google My Business, especially during these critical times, misinformation about your business and your healthcare system, preventing that and making sure that you control the system is going to be very critical.
Patients are searching more, they are spending more time online, they’re forced to spend more time online in front of their computers, visits to sites have increased but the interactions has declined and the call volumes have reduced, which means you need to start planning for how you’re going to address the call volume as well as make sure that the customers who are visiting your website are getting the right set of information from your website.
So again, definitely elaborate the attributes, your description, product services, and the status of your business and if you are pivoting, make sure to mark up your Google.”
Healthcare FAQ and schema for strong visibility
While you we’re updating the website information, one of the critical things that at least we love to talk about is schema. Matching up your website using some of the new schema opportunities, Google and schema.org they have recently announced a category called Special Announcement schema, where you can mark up your COVID-19 information page with the special announcements on what changes you are making, even if you’re getting into a recovery or growth phase. What type of changes are you making? Mock them up a special announcement. There are some examples that we have used as a part of this, making sure to optimize some of the technical SEO during this crisis by injecting schema or having schema on all your pages, as well as some of these special announcements pages is going to go a long way in making sure that you are communicating some of the new things that that is going to happen during the activity.
Answer the questions you can see people asking in Google in Google Trends or in the search results. Having those questions and answers on your website and marking them up with schema to help surge visibility, and we are seeing that will increase higher search saturation. With some of these results, we see impression growth and that’s because of some of these FAQ schemas simply just dropping it in while marking up the content and you will see a surge in some of the results.
These are the takeaways and things we recommend you do in a crisis recovery and growth phases:
- Update your business listings, Google, Apple, Yelp, Bing, and the Verticals. Engage with your patients from what Adam said about the banner, what you do on the website enhancing your FAQs.
- Communicate with them via telemedicine if you’ve set that up and email.
- Adapt to new behavior online, mobile and no-touch, figure out what people are using and if you have a no-touch solution or you want to talk about sanitation and to lay people’s fears, to help them to help them make a decision to come in and see you and engage with you.
- Leverage the COVID-19 Schemas. I think everybody on the call is going to have some kind of information as we go through these next two phases to update your customers with.
- And get ready for the end of shelter at home. That means your service lines, what are you going to be offering. It might not be everything, Adam told me that they’re opening most of their offices in Texas, but not all of them, it sort of dependent on where the virus was more or less under control.
Think about your staffing. How many people are you going to need? If you have fewer people coming in, what is the office is going to be like? The PPE people are going to be using and that they’re going to be doing temperature checks and needing hand sanitizer.
A plan has to be developed and then the marketing people help communicate that and then plan to scale up the marketing plan to turn on your PPC plan on, turn on your display, and harvest what you’ve done in content marketing during these two phases and importantly and lastly plan for additional restrictions to come back just in case. The marketing people should be as ready as anybody to have a couple of options to roll out and put the marketing back in semi-shutdown if that’s what we get to, but we want to be ready for it next time.