Many physicians and dentists believe that medical websites are static entities. They believe that they can invest in medical website design, which can be a specialized web development skill. Then they devote time and budgetary resources to medical marketing campaigns to broadly publicize their practice. This, many professionals believe, is all that needs to happen. Unfortunately, effective medical websites are continually evolving entities. It is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. To remain relevant, websites need to be continually updated and maintained. Additionally, to receive good search engine rankings, websites need to have a consistent flow of fresh, optimized content. Having a regular website maintenance schedule will ensure that the site’s information remains current and that the site itself runs at optimal levels.
Why is it Important to Include Website Maintenance?
Websites that include outdated information or do not perform at optimal levels can create frustration for viewers. If a viewer finds it difficult to locate the information that they are looking for, links are broken or the site is sluggish loading, they will quickly leave the site. Most likely, they will end up going to a competitor’s website. No medical professional wants to lose potential clients. Also, current clients will be looking for new information. A blog is one way to deliver this fresh content. However, blogs have to be delivered consistently on a regular schedule. They can serve to strengthen the relationship between the practitioner and the patient. Finally, regular website maintenance can serve to protect the website from security breaches such as hacking.
A website’s content includes everything on the site such as text and images. If the practice sells certain products, this information will also need to be regularly reviewed even if the site is not an e-commerce site selling the items through the website. The website’s navigation also needs to be regularly assessed. If new services are offered, new pages need to be created to share this information. After the new pages are created, they will need to be added to the site’s navigation so that visitors can find the information. As you look at the site’s navigation, consider how a visitor will use it. Is it easy to use and intuitive? Can information be found quickly? Practitioners may consider having people who are unaffiliated with the practice to spend some time on the site. Their responses will provide valuable feedback with it comes to ease of use and accessibility.
Blogs are a great way to share relevant content with current and potential clients. This could be important general information such as why it is important to get a flu shot during the winter months. It can also convey information about the practice such as new staff. A blog post about a new physician or team member helps introduce them to the current patients and can help build the practice’s credibility with potential clients. Sharing information regularly builds the practice’s reputation as an authority in their given field and strengths the connection between practitioner and patient.
Expanding a Website
Creating the website designs for healthcare professionals can draw heavily on time and budgetary resources. There may be features that were not included in the early iterations of the website that can now be considered as the practice has grown. A regular review will allow each professional to make decisions about the future expansion of the site. Also, as technology evolves, there are new website add-ons every day. Each one needs to be considered with an eye toward its relevance to the practice. More simple inclusions might be a blog, mailing list, referral program or social media outlets. Be sure to include the appropriate button to the page if the practice is represented on a social media platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Each of these outreach mechanisms can be very effective at drawing in new clients. They do require, however, regular staff time and effort. Finally, if there is a frequently asked question, FAQ, page, look to make sure that the items it addresses are still pertinent. Also, through time, staff may notice patients frequently asking the same questions. These will need to be added to the FAQ if they are not currently on the page. Regularly reviewing the site’s content and updating it keeps the website fresh and providing the best information available to current and potential clients.
Maintaining the Website Itself
The other side of regular website maintenance includes performing several tasks related to the site itself. All websites need to be backed up. The web hosting company can do this but you need to determine how often they do it. If anything happens, such as a server crashing, recent edits to the website can be lost. The web hosting company will be able to restore the site but it will be from the last time they backed the site up. There is nothing more frustrating than losing information that took several days to create.
Practices will also want to monitor any website outages. The website is a major marketing tool. If the site goes down, medical professionals want to know as soon as possible so that any issues can be resolved to get it back up quickly.
Once a year, staff needs to review, and potentially renew the domain. It’s a good idea to take this time to review the information associated with the domain. Over time, email addresses and phone numbers change. During a yearly review, information can be updated as needed.
During a regular website review, it’s a good idea to also check the website’s page loading speed. There are several online tools available to do this. Slow loading pages will frustrate visitors and they will look for information elsewhere. A regular check will determine if the site is operating at optimal levels, particularly if new features have been added to the site.
While staff are reviewing the site, have them check all of the links. Broken links are another source of frustration for visitors and can detract from the professional image the physician or dentist is trying to portray. Repairing broken links doesn’t take long and can have a big impact on visitor experience.
Finally, ensure that all of the website’s software is up to date. New updates and patches are frequently released. Make sure that all software is current.
Website maintenance, if it is done regularly, does not have to consume a lot of resources. The impact as a marketing tool can be enormous. Taking care of basic tasks helps medical providers deliver quality information to patients.