(This article is a 7.7 minute read)
THREE THINGS YOU’LL GET FROM THIS ARTICLE
1. How to use your website to attract quality clients
2. An explanation of how people search online
3. Why it’s wrong to think of your site as a shopfront
There are some people you just don’t want as customers in your practice. They are people who decide on their pet’s health based on the price of the treatment. They haggle over your treatment plans. They treat their pets like… well, like animals. And it’s possible that at the moment, you’re using your vet website to attract them.
Your website is a more powerful tool than you realise. But like your ultrasound machine and your mobile phone, you are not using anything like its full potential. What your website can do, if you let it, is help customers pre-sort themselves. It can help the quality customers build a relationship with you, and keep the low-quality customers at bay. Obviously, you don’t want to get rid of ALL the low-quality ones, as their pets will suffer. But you want to have them in a minority.
To understand how your website does this, you have to first understand the different types of searches people perform. There’s a good chance your web site is designed to attract a particular type.
People search the web for many different reasons. Since about 2002, folks who study search engines have broadly been categorising them according to intent. So the type of information someone is looking for in Google or Bing or Yahoo slots broadly into one of three categories. They are:
* Informational searches—where someone is looking for information;
* Transactional searches—where someone is looking for something to buy;
* Navigational searches—where someone is looking for directions to a place.
They are very broad categories, and the borders between them are fuzzy. Also, people many change their intentions while they are searching. Still, that’s what we’re starting with, because you’ve got to start somewhere, right?
Different studies cite different figures, but everyone broadly agrees that the majority of searches on search engines are informational. Somewhere between 80-to-95 percent of searches, in fact. Only a very small number are for transactions or navigation.
But most businesses have built their website and their keyword strategy around transactions. That’s because when you paid someone a couple of thousand bucks to put it together for you, you had to justify the expense. So you and the website builder agreed that having a website was one of those great veterinary marketing ideas.
So you set it up like a shop front. Made it easy for people to see where you are and the range of services you offer. You may have even targeted keywords like ‘veterinary practice’ and the suburb you live in. You may have made sure those words were mentioned on every page.
You probably also have directions to your practice right there on the front page of your site.
All of that is fine. But think about who is going to be searching for the information you have there on your site.
Anyone who is Googling ‘veterinary practice’ and your suburb probably has an immediate need to make a booking. But think for a moment how many people that might be out of your total possible audience.
Just say there’s 10,000 people in your suburb or town. Half of them own pets. Of those 5000 who own pets, only about 5 percent are doing transactional searches on your website. About 250. Even if they could book directly on your site, only about one percent will do so straight off. About two or three people, in other words.
Those two or three will be desperate, probably have a sick pet stressing them out, and may feel like ANY fee you charge is taking advantage of their unfortunate situation. Their pet is probably suffering from something that has been lingering for a while (as is often the case in healthcare). And that owner has ignored it—which you can tell, because they had to Google you to find you.
This isn’t a formula for happy pet owners or happy staff.
Much better are the clients who are about their pets. Who know enough about the breed, or just the animal, to pick up when something is wrong. Of course, you would never turn away someone who had no money. But you would prefer a client who was financially stable enough to not put off treatment because of cost.
Those clients exist. They’re hard to find. But they are much, much easier to create.
If you educate clients, you end up with a practice that is less like an emergency room, and more like a health retreat. The easiest way to educate patients is to figure out what information they’re searching for about their pet—then give it to them.
The good news for your practice is, that process of educating is also a way of marketing what you do. I explain this in greater detail in a blog post I wrote recently called Is the veterinary website dead? It doesn’t spoil it for you if I tell you the answer, by the way. It’s not dead. In fact, it’s vital to keeping your practice alive.
To get a better quality of client, you can’t just pray they’ll find you. You have to create them.
You can do that by understanding how powerful vet websites can be when they’re structured to educate and inform, rather than just to sell.