You don’t have to be a computer geek to do it!
If you don’t have a business website, there has never been a better time to start. People are connected increasingly to the Internet, so if you are waiting to get a website, you risk the chance of losing a potential patient. If you do have a website, the tips below will help keep your site fresh and inviting. Here are four tips to get you started and keep you going with your website.
Tip 1: Selecting Website Hosts
There are a number of choices available for website hosts. A host is the place where your website “lives”. While you choose the content and then select the layout of the website pages, the host maintains your site on a secure server and handles the basic computer code to keep the site running.
If you are just getting started and don’t mind learning some basic website design for yourself, you might save yourself some money by using free content management systems (CMS) like Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress. All three offer pre-made templates so that you can start your website within a couple hours. You might have to learn a little HTML coding to tweak the templates, but there are numerous tutorials to help. For an optical practice, WordPress is probably the easiest to learn. It also offers the option to upgrade to a business version that offers more e-commerce tools and increased storage space. This will become important as you add content to your site.
Squarespace is a paid CMS. While you will have to pay a monthly fee to use the service, you may find it easier to develop webpage layouts, since you do not have to learn any HTML code. The paid version of WordPress also gives you increased access to tools that make web design easier.
If you currently have an electronic medical record (EMR) program in the office, contact your vendor to see which hosts they recommend. They may only be able to integrate the EMR with certain website builders. Also, they might have a module that builds and hosts the website for you.
Tip 2: Content is King!
Every website page should include some basic information. First, you should have your contact information on every page. You can place this anywhere, but the general convention is to place it in the upper right corner. Second, place your address at the bottom of every page to ensure that patients can find you easily.
The home page, which is the first page that patients typically see, should be easy to navigate and uncluttered. Ideally, the style will integrate well with your other marketing materials, like business cards or brochures. Make sure that the font size is large enough, especially if you work with low vision or older patients. This page should have the basics about your office. You will want to include a very brief description of your services and products, address, contact instructions, a small map with directions to your office, and where to find more information on the website. Include a few high-quality photos of the staff and office. Information about the staff, the insurances you accept, products and services you offer, and education materials for patients can all be placed on other pages on the site.
Include a page on the website that is dedicated to new patients. This page can go into more detail about your practice’s staff, products and services. A map to your office on this page is helpful for new clients, even if you have it on your home page as well. This page can even link to patient history forms in your EMR or a PDF file that your patient can download and fill out in advance at home.
The patient education section should be updated monthly at a minimum. There are numerous topics that you can write about, such as:
- Eye diseases
- New frame lines
- “Eye condition of the month”
- Introducing new contact lens
- Staff information or achievements
- Eye safety tips
All articles should have perfect grammar and spelling. Your writing is a reflection of you. Patients will not trust you with their eyes if you don’t take the time to check grammar and spelling. If you are not a skilled writer, hire someone to write the articles for you. If you do not know anyone local, the American Medical Writers Association maintains a list of freelance medical writers who can help.
Tip 3: Your Website Needs Tight Security
Security has become a hot topic with all the recent news about hackers attacking numerous websites, from individuals all the way up to entire governments. Hackers break into websites in order to swipe information that will let them steal credit cards or commit identity theft, among other crimes. If your website connects to your EMR, your security needs to be ironclad to prevent hackers from accessing private patient information. If you don’t take appropriate steps to secure this information, you risk HIPAA violations. As the site administrator, your password needs to be long (eight characters at the bare minimum), and it needs to have a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. It should never include your name, the names of anyone in your family (including the dog), birthdates, or any other easily identifiable information. Carnegie Mellon University offers some good tips on how to select a strong password.
This password should not be accessible to any other staff member or patient. This will prevent them from making accidental or intentional changes to the website. Writing the password down on a sticky note and putting it on your monitor virtually invites a hacker to breach your system. If a staff member leaves the practice, remove their access to your site immediately.
Tip 4: Enhance Search Engine Optimization
Articles and even entire books have been written on how to optimize your website for search engines such as Google and Bing. Ideally, when a patient searches for your practice, you want your office to end up at the top of the first page of a Google search. Including certain keywords on your webpages can help boost your ranking so that your office ends up first in a patient’s search. Patients use short terms like “eye doctor,” “optician,” “optical,” “eyeglasses,” and the name of your town to help find your practice. Include your specialty as one of the keywords, since this will help differentiate your office from another office in the same town.
Millions of people are connected on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Your practice should be connected, too. Facebook lets you set up a business page for your office in addition to your personal page, and you should have both. When you put fresh information on your website, like a new article, post a link to it on Facebook.
Twitter is a good place to post brief comments or links to your website pages. It is limited to 140 characters, so you have to keep comments brief. You can update this daily or weekly with fun eye facts or vision safety tips, for instance.
Feel free to interact often with patients, since frequent activity keeps your Twitter and Facebook profiles from becoming stale. Just make sure to keep all patient information private. The content should be appropriate and professional. Monitor it regularly and remove any inappropriate comments. Never argue with a patient or representative online. The Internet keeps information forever, and the last thing you want is a screenshot of snarky comments showing up on somebody else’s Facebook profile or website.
LinkedIn is a site where professionals can connect. It can be very helpful to make contact with other eye care professionals in this way. Increasingly, patients are using LinkedIn profiles to review the credentials of eye doctors and other eye care practitioners. Include a professional resume and especially any items or skills that are unique to your practice.
If building a website seems overwhelming, hire an expert to create one for you. There are developers who specialize in creating eye care websites.
The world is becoming more connected by the second. It is essential for every eye care practitioner to have a website to drive business, improve communication, and enhance patient education.