You already know that you need a website if you want to stay competitive in the healthcare field. Although, simply having a brochure style website to establish an online presence is no longer enough. Your website needs to serve as your 24-hour virtual sales force, helping your prospective patients get to know you and – more importantly – feel comfortable with booking an appointment with you.

You owe it to yourself, your practice and patients to optimize your site’s design and copy so that it compels prospective patients to pick up the phone and make an appointment with you instead of your competitors.

According to “Digital Journey to Wellness,” a Google-published research study, about 70% of all people looking for a healthcare provider do extensive research online before making a decision.

Here are some proven tips and techniques that can help you craft a web page that will keep your calendar full and allow you to help more patients:

1. Treat your headline and subhead as if they are the only items on the page.
It’s almost impossible to over-stress how important your headline and subhead are to your website. This part of your page must capture visitor’s attention, identify the visitor’s problem, and position your practice as the ideal solution… all in about 50 words or less. The headline or subhead is an excellent place to highlight your value proposition.

Virtually all professional copywriters, no matter whether they’re writing content for healthcare or another industry, spend at least as much time on the headline and subhead as they do on the rest of the page copy. In fact, the late legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz said, “Even if the headline was the only copy, it should still make the phone ring.”

Focus on making the headline stand out, make your visitors stop and take notice, and clearly identify what you do. Then, focus on making your subhead “blurb” identify the core problem your visitor wants to overcome and present a value proposition to show why your practice is the right solution.

2. Place a prominent “call to action” above the fold.
It might seem strange, but your website visitors need you to tell them to take action by contacting you (or scheduling an appointment online). Placing a prominent “call to action” item, such as a big green button with the text “Contact Us” or your phone number can dramatically increase the number of visitors who book appointments with you.

Most website pages have multiple “call to action” items. It’s critical, though, that you place the first one “above the fold” – the top part of the page that the visitor sees when she first lands on your site. The “call to action” prompts them to take action right away, which saves them from hunting for your contact information.

Also, make sure you have a clear way to contact you on every page. This is a very common mistake on healthcare websites – no matter the page your prospective patients are viewing, they should be able to locate your phone number or other contact information immediately.

3. Use effective copywriting throughout your page.
Each page on your website should have a goal. To educate, build trust, make an appointment, etc.

Firstly, understanding what your patients motivations are and addressing their fears, hesitations and concerns are essential to writing effective copy. If you don’t know what brought the visitor to your page in the first place, you won’t know what will get them to take action.

Secondly, you should have a clear goal for what you want the patient to accomplish on the page. Give them as much information as is necessary for them to take the next action such as email for more information, book a consultation, make an appointment, etc.

How much copy should you have on your website? That depends! It’s not about how short or long your copy should be. It’s about writing just enough to convert the prospects into appointments.

Make the copy scannable. According to Neilson Norman Group study on users reading behavior on the web. 79% of users scanned a new page, only 16% read word by word. Making the copy more scannable, concise and devoid of marketing hype, increased usability by 124%.

Also, this is a given but make sure your grammar is impeccable – your prospective clients have little patience for clunky, awkward content that is rife with grammatical errors.

4. When it comes to design for your healthcare web page, less is more.
It can be tempting to add high-resolution background images, Flash animation, and other elements to make your site look “prettier.” Unfortunately, these additions can slow down your page load speeds, which can cost you new patients – visitors will only wait an average of three seconds for a page to load before they move on.

Keep your page design as clean and simple as you can. The focus should be on telling your prospective client how you can solve her problem, not on creating an entertaining multimedia experience.

Always be testing. If you want to know if a design element will help increase the number of appointments made, run an A/B split test to see what design, layout, and copy is most effective.

5. Use images and video to make a personal connection.
Adding images and video (albeit sparingly) helps give your page a personal touch, which increases trust. Ultimately, your prospective clients want to know about the people behind your practice. Video can also be an effective way to integrate another call to action to get patients on your schedule quickly.

6. Add “trust indicators” to add credibility to your page.
If you are a part of or approved by one or more professional, medical, or other relevant organization, be sure to include their logos on your web page. These “trust indicators” help put prospective patients’ minds at ease because they show credibility and accountability.

7. Include testimonials and other forms of social proof.
Third-party testimonials and forms of social proof (such as Facebook “likes” and Google Plus reviews) can increase trust in a way that few other elements of your web page can. Use direct quotes and include a photo of the person giving each testimonial whenever possible. Adding video testimonials can have an even more powerful impact on prospective patients.

8. Make a contact form available.
Some prospective clients may want to ask questions without calling your office. Including a contact form on your healthcare web page gives them an easy way to do this, making them feel more comfortable about establishing contact with you. Of course, you will need to answer questions or comments promptly to ensure that your prospective patient feels valued.

Together, these eight core strategies can make a dramatic difference in your healthcare page’s performance. Creating an effective website on your own, though, can be challenging. If you need a website that puts patients on your schedule, or you need to revamp an existing website, get in touch – I’d love to discuss how we can help make your practice more successful!

What are you doing to help convert prospective patients into appointments?