Most physicians have realized the importance of having an online presence. The most obvious reason is that your practice will serve more people if it shows up when a potential patient searches for providers. Just as important – but less obvious – is that Americans increasingly trust online doctor reviews.

Consciously managing your online presence is especially important for the roughly half of US-based physicians who own their practice. If you want to serve patients and own a profitable practice in the modern healthcare environment, it’s vital that your online presence reflect the quality of your practice.

But most practices don’t have a big marketing budget or dedicated marketing staff. So where should you start?

Here are five easy ways to build an online presence for your medical practice.

1. Check your online presence now

To give yourself some context and a baseline, do a quick Google search of your practice. Make sure to try your practice’s name, your name, and keywords of your specialty in your city or area.

Notice what you find. Are the first results you? Is your practice already listed in medical directories? Do you appear in searches of your specialty and location?

Having an idea of where you appear in searches now, let’s take a look at how you can improve your practice’s online presence.

2. Google Maps / Google My Business

Patients usually search for physicians in their geographic area, so linking your practice to Google Maps is vital. This ensures that when someone searches your city and and “doctor” or your speciality, your practice’s name and location appear on the map.

Google Maps listings are also useful for navigation. In 2018, over 50 percent of Americans adults use their cellphone for maps and GPS navigation. If you want patients to find your practice, you have to be on the map.

To claim your Google Maps listing, sign up for a free profile with Google My Business. After logging in, you can edit your listing’s details, track where patients are coming from, and see reviews patients post about you.

3. Listings in Online Directories

There are hundreds of online directories that, like Google Maps, can help potential patients find your practice. We recommend starting with these doctor-specific directories:

Many of these online directories will already have a listing for your practice, but it won’t have any information. Create a profile and login to claim your listing and update your information.

If you feel motivated to take a deeper dive into online directories, you can start working through non-medical listing platforms. This includes the likes of Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo! Local, Angie’sList, YellowPages.com and many more.

4. Doctor Review Websites

A recent survey found that 95 percent of Americans consider online doctor reviews reliable. Even more importantly, 70 percent say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when selecting a physician. Even when referred by another doctor, 41 percent still check online ratings and reviews.

The 1,000-person survey from Binary Fountain certainly doesn’t represent all American healthcare patients, but the numbers show a clear trend. More and more Americans are using doctor review websites to find and select physicians.

Some of the directories listed above include practice ratings and reviews. Other popular doctor review sites include Healthgrades, RateMDs.com, Vitals and CareDash. If you see less than 5-star ratings, don’t waste your time getting upset. Consider how you might boost ratings to reflect the quality of care you offer. A great first step is to increase the number of reviews by asking regular patients to leave feedback on specific platforms.

Of course, it’s important to note that physician review sites also pose a challenge. Physicians are conscious that their decisions as providers – such as whether to prescribe antibiotics – do influence patient satisfaction. Doctors are grappling with the ways online review platforms can create perverse incentives for practitioners to do things that may not be medically necessary.

5. Your Practice’s Website

Finally, the big one – your practice website.

Having a website for your medical practice serves more than one purpose. Not only is it the most concrete and customizable version of your online presence, it can also supplement how you care for patients. Your website can be set up to streamline patient checkins, make a patient portal easily accessible, and help educate patients.

Building a practice website can seem overwhelming, but let’s just say it’s not as hard as being a doctor. You can hire someone to create your website, or do it yourself with a small budget and a free weekend. Whichever option you choose, here’s a quick-start guide to building your practice website.