While word of mouth in the dog park and over the neighbour’s fence may still be the main source of vets finding new clients, the internet has superseded the good old telephone directory when it comes to finding any kind of professional these days, veterinarians included. It’s all about the number of hits—each hit being a potential customer. But how do you maximise your hits?
We spoke to Carolyn Dean, managing director of Wellsites and Vetsites, about how busy vets can make sure their online presence is not drowned out by the plethora of other traffic along the information superhighway.
“In today’s world, the number of hits boils down to Google and to SEO (search engine optimisation),” says Dean. “Google are always changing their algorithm, changing the rules, and changing what you need to do to stay up there. So there are two things we recommend to our clients: Number one is make the most of the Google tools that are there.”
That means claiming your Google Plus Places page and giving Google as much information as possible, from contacts to opening hours. However, telling Google where you are and convincing them that you’re the authority in your field are two very different tasks. Hence, Dean says, “Number two is to create unique and informative content.
“In the good old days there were businesses out there who would build your website and they’d go, ‘We’ll do your content for you’. And every single website had the same content, which is now Google gagged. Google looks for unique content.”
This is where it gets tricky for the busy practitioner. Unique content comes through web-logging, commonly known as blogging. Blogging regularly is key to convincing Google you’re the vet they should be pointing people towards.
“You need to be an expert in your field and your content needs to reflect that,” Dean says. “So if you’re talking about pet behavioural issues, if that’s your speciality, then that’s in your website, and you’re blogging and talking about behavioural issues with your cat or dog and you’re doing that on a frequent basis, and you’re talking about case studies and you’re putting up tips and hints and what you could be doing. That tells Google that you are an expert in your field. This is where the blog is absolutely key.”
The statistics speak for themselves. According to Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 57 per cent of marketeers who blog monthly have acquired a customer through their blog. The number jumps to 82 per cent when you’re blogging every day, and 60 per cent of companies are now blogging.
Daily blogging is probably unfeasible for most busy professionals, but Dean says they should try and blog at least once a month. Some, like Dr Ari Ende of Vetaround Sydney Mobile Vet Service, have been doing their own blogging.
“I was writing them based on my experiences, going from consult to consult, thinking what would be interesting for people to know based on what I’d been seeing,” he says.
However, with Vetaround expanding, Ende is bringing in some help—something Dr Kim Kendall of Cat Clinic was not shy in doing from the beginning.
“My philosophy,” says Kendall, “is to ask for help if you need it and pay for it if you have to.” The veterinarian comes up with pertinent topics and then provides all the research materials to the content provider who writes them up into blogs.
She estimates that it took around 40 hours to provide the initial background material for her blog writer to draw upon, adding extra material along the way. “That’s hard to squeeze in, but I believe only the vet can do that,” she says.
The veterinarian is presently writing blogs of her own as well, budgeting three to four hours a week.
Carolyn Dean offers a service where busy vets are interviewed and the material used as the basis for their blog.
“All the practitioner needs to do is to sit on the end of a phone, get interviewed once, and they have a year’s worth of blog posts produced that are unique.”
Only once the site is optimised and the content unique does Dean believe social media should come into the picture.
“The aim of social media is to send people back to the hub of your marketing effort, which is your website,” she says. “If your website isn’t working then you’re wasting all of that time and energy engaging with social media.”
“I’m about to start a Twitter campaign, unfortunately,” says Ari Ende with a laugh. “One of my main marketing focuses is in branding. The other reason is to be in the face of my clients all the time. Making them feel good about the service and focusing on a real personalised service.”
Dean says one way of personalising your site is to stay away from using cheap, stock photos.
“People want to see the actual reception area they’re going to. They want to see the vet, they want to see the practitioner, they want to see the rooms, they want to see the location. They don’t want to see a generic stock photo of a lady lying in a group of poppies. They want to see who they’re buying from. It gives you that feeling of familiarity before they’ve even picked up the phone.
“A vet that is doing it very well is Dr Kim Kendall,” says Dean. “She is ‘The Cat Vet’. She doesn’t hide behind the brand—she is the brand. And when you’re going in with your cat you know you will see Dr Kim and know what she stands for and what she is passionate about.”
Kendall went a step further in her campaign and hired a public relations agent for six months. The result was appearances on The Today Show, Sunrise, and Disney as a cat expert.
As far as social media is concerned, Kendall admits: “I hate that stuff. I love learning about cats. I love working with cats. I don’t mind their owners because they mostly do what I say. I love to float around on the internet and look at research papers and think about things. I don’t want to faff around on Facebook and Twitter. But there are people who like to do that, so I found a couple. I pay for good advice, and then I take it.”
If you’re ready to give it a go get yourself up and running on social media.