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The Health Care Industry

Make sure your health care website contains this list of essentials, avoids easy-to-make mistakes and is visible in the right places.

When a client checks out a health care site, he is looking for information on physicians, insurance policies the health care provider accepts and medical information about the health concern he has.

The Essentials
A health care site should provide easy access to information via menus designed consistently throughout the site. Redesign is a good idea if it's not been updated for two to three years. Ask your web professional for a fresh design using "CSS" (cascading style sheets) rather than "tables." This will not only make you sound like an expert, it will help you later on as you focus on improving your site's search engine optimization (SEO).

Have a statement on the home page that also lets the customer know why they should use your business. What sets your services apart and why should they visit your site again? A medical news feed with RSS subscription capability should exist on the homepage as well as the medical facility's news.

Make sure to have complete and up-to-date information on all physicians and health care providers, preferably including contact information for each, a photo and basic background info. This should be on a separate page or pages separating physicians by specialty/department. Also, if different physicians accept different insurance policies, make sure to include that information.

Your site needs to become a health resource for the community it serves. Make this a main objective of your site's concept, strive to become a local authority on health care issues and your traffic will increase exponentially.

Update the content on your site monthly especially the homepage. As a rule of thumb update the look and feel of the site every one- to-two years. Don't get stuck in a hosted content management system with limited capabilities--make sure your web developer is able to add functionality to the site easily as your organization grows, and that he or she is willing to consider other options besides a content management system.

Hire an SEO professional with a proven record and ask that he or she concentrate on location(s) to drive searches in the area along with the specialties of the business in order to drive searches by longer-distance customers.

Mistakes to Avoid
Most medical websites that are not successful in converting customers and not successful on the web have the following issues:

Bad design. Messy layouts and inconsistent menus cause visitors to feel lost in your site and surf away in frustration. The site needs to be easy-to-read and aesthetically pleasing (e.g., if your customers are older, consider using white background and larger text). Consult with a web development firm and have them tell you what they can do to improve your site, these services are often complimentary.

The site development included "frames." This is frowned upon by the majority of the search engines out there. A site redesign and SEO is highly recommended.

A good site is updated regularly and visitors will notice if it's not. They won't feel the need to come back, and repeat website customers relate directly to conversion numbers. Empower people in your organization--make them a part of updating the site rather than having a single individual responsible for the entire site.

If your content is insufficient and inaccessible or if most of your content consists of bulleted lists, it's time to look at reorganizing it and adding more content. There's no such thing as too much content when it's properly organized. Make sure each physician has a photograph, contact info and basic bio added to the site. If needed, consider using a professional copywriter who specializes in website copy and can work with your SEO specialist.

No search engine visibility. From content to design issues, SEO professionals are often able to tell you what your site really needs. Consider this just as important as having a site designed.

Poor marketing. Just like in traditional marketing, you need to have a web marketing plan in place and make sure it drives the customers to the site and provides you with web traffic statistics so you know what's driving traffic.

Places to Be
Definitely promote your site and blog to the search engines and most of the web directories including DMOZ. Stay out of link farm sites. Your SEO specialist will also recommend local sites and blogs where a listing or comments may be beneficial.

Look for forums where specific conditions you specialize in are being talked about and offer advice without making it seem as though you're trying to win business in doing so. In your signature on the forum response add the address of your site and blog as links if permitted. There's a fine line between a well-crafted response and one that will be perceived as trying to spam the forum.

"Medical News" with RSS feed, and "Company News" with an RSS feed should be on the homepage of the site. A blog not only will help promote the site, it will also help provide content for feeds (the homepage company news could use the feed provided by the blog). Feeds like these are great as they can then be syndicated by other sites giving you a much larger exposure or footprint. E-newsletters are fine but the ROI is definitely lower than a blog. Press releases should always be included in the company news as excerpts and/or blogged about and a link given to the page or pages on your site where the full text of the release should exist.

Keep in mind that the blog will be read by your customers and not medical professionals, so try to keep their interest up with catchy titles and don't get hung up on medical jargon.

Ask you SEO professional to make sure that your blog has the social networking links shown after each post so your readers can help promote your site. And always ask your employees to frequent and comment on your blog and site, as sometimes their input can be very valuable.

Researched and written by Liz Wilson. Additional information provided by UrbanVerve, a leading web development and SEO solutions company and CI Web Design Inc., an innovative web design and development company.

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