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Breaking News: Connect and Convert: Internet Marketing Best Practices

Dybala, Paul PhD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000416272.21600.fb

Dr. Dybala is the chief web officer of AudiologyOnline, which hosts and develops customized websites through and offers live, recorded, and text-based continuing education courses, a career center, news, and information for hearing care professionals.

AudiologyOnline currently provides hosting services for websites through our sister company AudiologyDesign for approximately 800 practices in the United States. (See FastLinks.) We analyze Internet trends to apply evidence-based practice to our business, just like we do in our clinical practices. In doing so, we help guide where the focus should be for our clients, what we will recommend, and to justify why we do, what we do when customizing a Web presence for their practice.

It is important to put your website into context and think about how it relates to your overall marketing focus. There are different kinds of offline marketing, which are traditionally how we get patients in the door, including advertisements in the Yellow Pages and newspapers, direct mail, and other print media. Offline marketing also includes networking, which is word-of-mouth advertising through patients, physicians, and colleagues, and is most likely the single best form.

Online marketing expands our marketing potential in a larger way and includes search engine optimization, pay-per-click and email advertising, blogs, and marketing via social media such as Facebook and YouTube. No matter what type of online or offline marketing you employ, nine times out of 10, people will go to your website. You are missing a big opportunity if you are not making your website the center of your marketing focus. This comes down to your online credibility.

Many of us work on our credibility and stature within the community. We work intently on this inside and outside our offices. Are people going to pick up the phone and call you if you are not seen as credible or reputable? Probably not. This is key when considering all of your online or offline marketing efforts. I am also going to address some influential trends and how things are shifting from offline to online marketing.

How do you find people with whom to connect? Where are they? How does search engine marketing relate to forming connections? What is social media? How does that work? Who are the most valuable people? The key is converting those people into potential referrals to your practice. You could have 200 visitors a month to your website with numerous advertising ploys, but if it does not result in a phone call, you have missed your goal. There are different things to do with your website to engage, inform, and educate people while maintaining credibility.

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Approximately 79 percent of people 18 and older were online in 2010, according to Pew Internet. (Pew Internet 2011. Health Topics.) (See FastLinks.) The number of adults 65 and older has been steadily growing since 2000, but there is still a lot of room for growth. If you consider your standard patient base, 78 percent of adults 50 to 64 and 42 percent of those 65 and older were online as of May 2010. An average of 50 to 60 percent of your patients may be online. Another important thing is that even if a patient is not online, his spouse, child, or grandchild is.

If 50 percent of your patients are using the Internet, what are they using it for? Pew Internet also looked at activities by age groups classified as millennials (18-33), generation X (34-45), baby boomers (46-64), the silent generation (65-73), and the GI generation (74 and older). The most popular activity across all generations is email, followed by search engine use. The third most popular activity on the Internet is searching for health information. Once people get online, their activity level tends to be the same.

Sixty to 69 percent of the silent generation uses the Internet to read news. Do you think they receive news information about hearing aids and hearing loss? Absolutely. At least half of this generation buys products online. Other data show that for purchases more than $1,000 the amount of time spent researching online increases exponentially. More time will be spent online researching to buy a car than a pair of shoes. Hearing aids are not any different, and researching is a primary activity for the silent generation.

comScore researched the average number of hours spent on the Internet in 2010 broken down by age group. Their data show that those 65 and older spend more time on the Internet compared with the 18 to 24 group — approximately 34 hours per month compared with 32 hours. I would think that recent high school graduates entering college would be on the Internet all the time. The group that spent the highest number of hours per month on the Internet was the age group 45 to 54 years with 39 hours spent online per month. This is also the age group with concerned caregivers and significant others who might be researching for a loved one. This is a valuable group to consider.

What healthcare information are users seeking? Sixty-six percent looked at a specific disease or medical problem, 56 percent a certain medical treatment or procedure, 44 percent for doctors or other healthcare professionals, and 36 percent for hospital or medical facilities. (Pew Internet 2011. Health Topics.) This means that people first look for information on hearing loss, which is a specific disease or medical problem, and then they search for treatment options and hearing aids. Once they have that, they start looking for providers, which leads to you. They are not just looking for information on hearing aids; they are looking for someone with credibility. Are you online, and does your online presence reflect your reputation?

Have you ever made a decision based a website's appearance? This happens a lot. What is the first thing you do if you have a knee problem, back problem, or high cholesterol? You go online and check those things out. The Internet and Google are de facto second opinions for patients seeking additional information about a diagnosis. (Pew Internet 2011. Health Topics.) This should not be surprising.

Eighty-one percent of individuals searching for health information are college graduates, 83 percent have an income of $75,000 a year or more, and 58 percent are 50 to 64. (Pew Internet 2011. Health Topics.) Forty-eight percent of those searching for health information are doing it on someone's behalf. This adds up to 10 million searches annually if we look at how often the words hearing aids, digital hearing aids, and discount hearing aids are entered into a major search engine. This indicates a high level of interest. It is important to realize that these popular terms are the tip of the iceberg. That number becomes infinite if you think about the additional keyword combinations that exist.

Visit the Hearing Journal Breaking News blog at to read the rest of this article. This article was reprinted with permission from AudiologyOnline, Copyright 2012. Earn CEUs from this article on AudiologyOnline, Connect and Convert: Internet Marketing Best Practices, as well as other text-based, recorded, and live seminars with AudiologyOnline CEU Total Access (

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Listen to Dr. Dybala's online seminar!

This article is an edited transcript of Dr. Dybala's AudiologyOnline seminar. View the seminar in its entirety at Registration is required.

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