Medical Practice Marketing: Websites, SEO, Reputation Management

Medical Practice Marketing: Websites, SEO, Reputation Management

Nashville Medical Practice Marketing Agency

As an online marketing professional in Nashville and the spouse of a practicing Nashville dermatologist, I have the great fortune and opportunity each year to speak to the dermatology residents at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Every year, I touch on a range of topic like Websites, search engine optimization (SEO), social media best practices, Google My Business, and how new physicians—no matter whether gen derm, cosmetic/aesthetic, large practice, or solo private practice—can take advantage. I also make sure to take time to address new topics (this year was AI and ChatGPT and how it affects online marketing and medicine) as well as how to deal with negative online reviews, trolls, and other reputational risks. One of the primary areas I focus on when speaking to these residents is the importance of having a strong online presence in general. This includes having good branding, a well-designed Website (WordPress, natch) that is easy for potential patients to navigate, what social media platforms physicians should focus on, how to monitor online reviews and deal with any reputation management issues that may arise.


In addition to discussing the clean and clear design of WordPress websites, I also discuss the importance of SEO in driving targeted, high-quality traffic to a physician’s website. By optimizing a Website for relevant medical keywords and phrases, a dermatology practice, for example, can improve its search engine rankings and increase the chances that potential patients will find it when searching for dermatology-related services online. Quality, focused traffic should in turn produce better leads which then produce better returns as long as your pages have amazing CTAs (calls to actions) and you backoffice has even better follow up with patients (We can help your office with this too—get in touch using the form at the bottom of this page for more info).

Social Media

Another important aspect of online medical marketing that I discuss with the residents is the use of social media. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok can be powerful tools for connecting with patients—potential and existing—and promoting a medical practice. By regularly posting educational and entertaining medical content and interacting with followers, dermatologists can build a following and attract new patients—but also create trust and authority. I tell the residents that they are in a unique position as their age is a benefit and many older physicians missed the boat or think social isn’t for them (this is NOT true—they just may not how to know how to authentically use social media yet. You guessed it, we can help with this).

Reputation Management

I take a fair amount of time to talk to the residents about an oft-overlooked area: Reputation Management. Said another way, this is the need to actively monitor the name of the physician and practice in order to maintain a positive online reputation. This is crucial as it can impact their ability to attract new patients and build trust with the community. There are several steps that physicians can take to effectively manage their reputation online:
    1. Monitor your online presence: Regularly search for your name on Google and set a Google Alert for your name and your practice name (plus any variations) to see what information is being posted or shared about you. This can help you identify any negative reviews or comments that may need to be addressed.
    2. Respond to negative reviews: Consider consulting your attorney to discuss addressing negative reviews. Often even acknowledging a patient online or innocently thanking them for visiting your office can be construed as a HIPAA violation. However, if your attorney says it is advisable, always respond in a professional and timely manner and never attempt to argue or prove you are right (even if you are). Always offer to address the issue offline.
    3. Engage with your followers: Interacting with your followers on social media can help to build trust and strengthen your reputation. Respond to comments and questions, and post regular updates and relevant content to keep your followers engaged. This can help drown out negative reviews.
    4. Use social media to showcase your expertise: Share relevant articles, research, and other content that demonstrates your expertise and knowledge in your field. This can help to establish you as a trusted source of information and strengthen your reputation. This can also lead to media opportunities like interviews on podcasts and can further strengthen your reputation and exposure.

    Hiring Consultants to Help with Online Marketing

  1. In my experience speaking to the dermatology residents at Vanderbilt University Medical Center each year, I have learned that many of them are unfamiliar with what to look for when hiring an online consulting firm to help with these important aspects of marketing their medical practice. Because of this, and because this is not taught in medical school, many physicians are often taken advantage of when it comes to marketing, web design, SEO, and reputation management. As a result, I often focus on educating the residents about the potential pitfalls they may encounter when hiring marketing or consulting firms and what they can do to avoid being taken advantage of when hiring a marketing firm or online marketing agency. While certainly not all-inclusive, a few key points I always address include:
      1. Asking for references and case studies: It is important to ask for multiple, recent and past references and to see examples of the firm’s previous work. This not only gives you a better idea of the quality of their services, but also might tell you whether they are a good fit for your dermatology practice.
      2. Carefully reviewing contracts: Make sure you understand the terms of any contract you sign and that you are not agreeing to any unreasonable terms or fees. It may be helpful to have a lawyer review the contract before you sign it.
      3. Being wary of “guaranteed” results: Some firms may promise “guaranteed” results, but it is important to be skeptical of these claims. SEO and reputation management are complex processes that cannot be easily “guaranteed” since Google and complex algorithms that are completely out of a consulting firm’s control generally determine rankings.

    Risks and Liabilities: HIPAA and Defamation

    Reaching new patients online is a huge benefit and can be very powerful if used properly. But with that power comes great responsibility. So I always paint a realistic picture and emphasize the need for physicians to be aware of the potential risks and liabilities associated with posting on social media and recommend that they carefully follow best practices for patient confidentiality and defamation. This means avoiding sharing any information about patients or their cases on social media or any other public forum. It is also important for physicians to be mindful of the language and tone they use in their online communications, as even a seemingly innocent comment could potentially damage their reputation or cause legal issues—even when a physician had no ill-intent. Another legal consideration for physicians using social media is the potential for defamation. Defamation is the act of making a false statement about someone that harms their reputation. This can include making false or misleading statements about other healthcare professionals or institutions, as well as patients or even products or procedures. It is important for physicians to be cautious about the information they share on social media and to ensure that it is accurate and supported by reliable sources.
    I am very clear to the dermatology residents that I do not, and cannot, provide legal advice. And nothing I say or write is legal advice—nor should it be construed as such.
    Speaking to the dermatology residents at VUMC is a truly rewarding experience. I love seeing the young faces and receptive minds. I wish something like this was an option when my wife went through derm residency years ago. I think it would have empowered her to ask a few more questions—or to even ask questions in the first place. Not that she’s shy (far from it!). But I think she was so focused on medicine that business came second—or fifth… That is as it should be, I suppose. But as a conscientious and curious marketer myself, part of my job is to train future curious marketers. And if I had to say one thing about each year’s dermatology residents, it would be this: These physicians ask the right questions and I think they will make good marketers.
  2. I’m also now at the point where I have been providing SEO and reputation management advice to hospitals and politicians for as long as the residents have been alive. It’s weird to get used to, but I’m happy to be a very small part of the business training offered to the new crop of dermatology residents at VUMC. My song to them: The Kids are Alright! (For anyone reading this who is under 40 or 50 years of age, it’s a compliment. Just click the link and enjoy…)As the spouse of a physician, I get that the day-to-day challenges of practice management and hope to alleviate some of that. Finding a reputable medical practice marketing partner to help with WordPress Web design, SEO, online stores, and maintenance and security can be daunting. But it is possible. Our job is to take as much of that as we can off your plate. So if you are a medical practice—dermatology or otherwise—or a dental / orthodontics practice that would like to work with a firm that already understands HIPAA and has truly been walking the walk for decades, we’d love to talk … the talk.Take a look at our SEO pricing guides and we can chat about your SEO goals and strategy. Also be sure to check out our WordPress Website Design services and our WordPress website monthly maintenance and security service where we will not only keep your site safe, but also update and backup your WordPress Website for you. It’s like having your own in-house Web team, but at a fraction of the cost. We look forward to hearing from you.
Stephen Parker
Stephen Parker

I started building and managing Web and online projects for Fortune 500 and Global 500 companies in Denver, CO in 1997. In the 2000s, I used that experience to run digital strategy, Web, SEO, social media, reputation management, and crisis management campaigns in Chicago, IL for high-profile clients including: American Medical Association, Pfizer, Rush Oak Park Hospital, Chicago Cubs, The Carter Foundation, University of Chicago, Earth Hour, J.B. Pritzker, and countless others. In 2007, I opened my own WordPress Web design, search engine optimization (SEO), and online strategy agency. Some of my clients are just launching their businesses and find that they don’t have the time (or interest) to build or maintain a WordPress Website themselves. Others are growing and need help, but find that they cannot afford a large digital agency or PR firm. That's where I come in.

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