Health Systems: Your Website is Not Your Digital Front Door

Every health system I have spoken to in the last year and a half is doing something with their website. One of the most common focal points on digital teams is to relaunch a website. Your Website Isn’t Everything The website is an important part of the patient’s digital journey, but it is increasingly becoming […]

Carrie Liken

By Carrie Liken

Apr 23, 2018

4 min

Every health system I have spoken to in the last year and a half is doing something with their website. One of the most common focal points on digital teams is to relaunch a website.

Your Website Isn't Everything

The website is an important part of the patient's digital journey, but it is increasingly becoming less important given how many other digital touchpoints exist for patients to find information during their healthcare research. We know that 83% of patients never visit a health system website before making a healthcare decision. And what will happen when people start to use voice devices that don't even have screens? The website will become less important, but the information your website houses needs to remain consistent, sacred, and syndicated to places where the patient is actually finding this information.

We've seen so many of these launches and relaunches in the last year and a half and have learned what works and what doesn't work. We wanted to share a few tips with you on what we've seen and how you can prepare for post-launch and ensure that your patients always find the right information at the right time, whether they are consulting your site or another portal to find health information.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Be prepared for a temporary decline in SEO.

Every health system we have talked to has said the same thing: SEO post-launch tends to decline and doesn't pick up for 6-8 months. Sometimes it never returns to pre-launch status.

  • YEXT TIP: Make sure you are monitoring your SEO, but also ensure that while you are waiting for SEO to return to pre-launch levels, your providers are optimized on third-party sites and micro-experiences. 76% of people, when searching for healthcare, are searching specifically for providers, so make sure that provider information is completely accurate in other places — to accommodate for the fact that your website won't always be the first place people see or show provider information.

2. Patient search behavior has changed and old KPIs for new site launches don't suffice.

In the last year and a half, there has been a 32% decline in patients visiting health system websites before making an appointment. With this trend, it is hard to track website visitor KPIs as a metric of success for a new website launch. We consistently hear that health systems can't understand why fewer people visit their website after the new launch — only to realize 6-12 months later that they are getting far more referral traffic to provider-specific pages (directly from Google and other sites).

  • YEXT TIP: Think about a new KPI for your website launch. Consider KPIs around increases in traffic to your provider pages instead. One way to ensure you can increase traffic to provider pages is to ensure that each provider page is appropriately Schema tagged. Schema tagging your pages will ensure that publishers have the right information to prioritize your providers first in their search results — thereby increasing the chances people will click on your provider page site instead of a third-party website. Schema tagging plus optimizing for third party content on knowledge cards, etc., will ensure that you are always in control of the search experience and are able to drive people back to your new website.

3. Third-party websites will own and dominate the patient experience while you are trying to recover from an SEO drop.

I see this all of the time. New sites launch and then suddenly a patient will see third-party sites come up on the SERP well before your owned site experience. This can happen for months. After you launch your new site, search for one of your doctors on Google. You will most likely not see a Knowledge Card for the doctor, nor see that provider's page on your site. Instead, you will see third-parties dominating the SERP. And 68% of people are now searching for healthcare on mobile devices, so that means patients may only see third-party links — meaning you don't control the patient experience and you definitely don't send people to your website, either.

  • YEXT TIP: Be sure to Schema tag your provider pages — but remember that just because you Schema tagged your pages once, doesn't mean you're good to go. You're not. Schema needs to be constantly monitored due to changes to the Schema markup language (in 2016, there were more than 200 changes). Full control over the SERP — including driving provider pages to the first result and owning the provider's Knowledge Card — will ensure that you are able to accommodate for drops in SEO, but still channel people back to your site.

For more tips on how your health system can best provide patients with information, watch our webinars: The Evolving Patient Experience: Set Your Health System Up For Success and Hey Google: What Do I Need To Know About Voice Search In Healthcare?

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