Many industries are being impacted today by the changing landscape in marketing. This is part of a series on how to market within certain niche industries.

Just like any other business, ophthalmology practices have been impacted by the changing marketing landscape, pushing them to embrace new, less traditional methods of connecting with their patients on a broader front. As head of a digital marketing agency where we do a lot of work in the healthcare space, here are some of the best strategies I've seen work for ophthalmologists who want to develop and grow their practices.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

While referrals and word-of-mouth are still how some of your patients will find you, there are just as many who will come across your practice online via a Google search and online research.

And as Google's algorithms become more and more sophisticated, it's also becoming more complicated making sure that your website is optimized - and that you're not inadvertently tipping off any of Google's red flags.

This is why SEO, or search engine optimization, is more important than ever. Your site should be optimized not just for keywords related to ophthalmology, but for any specialties or treatments you offer as well - LASIK, for example, or Kamra inlays.

Today's patient is a sophisticated one, and they are doing their research and looking reviews.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing should be a vital element of your marketing strategy. If your practice isn't utilizing social media platforms, you're missing out on a powerful opportunity to connect with current and prospective patients. And, yes, you can do this while staying HIPPA compliant!

While you don't have to create robust profiles on every social media platform, you should pick one or two that will be most useful and focus on keeping those fresh. Ideas for posts that will attract attention include:

  • Answering frequently asked questions. "Does Lasik hurt?" "How can I keep my eyes healthy?" "How much of an improvement can I expect after surgery?" Giving brief, yet informative answers to these questions can help you engage more with patients and maybe even save you some time during appointments.
  • Spotlighting a patient success, with their permission. People love success stories, so why not share them? Take Dr. Cary Silverman of EyeCare 20/20 - Dr. Silverman recently shared an "after" picture of his first Kamra inlay surgery patient on his Facebook page. It not only gives visitors an upbeat, positive post to check out, but it shows that Dr. Silverman really cares about the patients he works with.

Other ideas include using livestreaming video apps like Periscope and Facebook Live. Answering questions and telling patient stories work just as well - better, even - on video. You could also showcase a new gadget or treatment method that you want to share with your patients.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Pay-per-click, or PPC advertising, consists of ads that you pay for every time a user clicks on them - so instead of paying simply for people to see your ad, you're instead buying visits to your website.

PPC platforms include Google AdWords and Bing and Yahoo ads, and you should make sure that you - or your marketing firm - is using all three in order to attract the most site visits.

Just as with traditional advertising, you can (and should) run different, targeted campaigns with specific landing pages which convert. One PPC campaign could focus on eye disease screening, for example, while another could focus on LASIK.

Public Relations

In today's landscape, the most effective way to get results from your PR efforts is to employ both traditional and digital PR.

We've used both for our ophthalmology clients with success. On the traditional side, we've found local broadcast, print, and trade publications to produce great results - one of our clients now has a monthly column in a prominent ophthalmology journal, giving him a wide, national audience.

As for digital PR, this is a must for the 21st century business. The ROI on Digital PR is huge - and the results last longer than those from traditional broadcast or print media.

Digital PR involves getting your business into a major major publications as well as trade publications with an online component, such as EyeWorld. That could take the form of you doing an interview with one of their writers, having your business appear in a relevant topical story, or earning a review of one of your services.

All of this increases your authority as an expert in the field. And this will not only help you earn the trust of more patients - it will also tell Google that you're an authority on your subject, which in turn will help your search engine rankings.

Email and Content Marketing

When it comes to digital marketing, content is king. That means that if you really want your marketing to have an impact, you need great content that you can share in multiple ways - via email newsletters, on your blog, via social media, etc.

You want your content to be useful, well-written, and relevant to your audience - gone are the days when vaguely relevant articles churned out by a content farm would improve your search rankings. These days, in fact, that kind of content will only hurt you.

For most businesses, finding the time and resources to create this kind of content on a regular basis is difficult. As an agency, we've found content marketing is one of our most popular services - and one of the highest ROI producing services for the client. It doesn't have to be limited to written content either. Videos, infographics, and gifs are all great traffic drivers.

Much of this content can and should be shared in your email newsletter as well. Don't have an email newsletter? Research says you should - for every $1 spent on email marketing, the average return is $44.25.

For ophthalmologists, email newsletters can be a great way to build stronger relationships with your patients. Patients today are more likely to choose a doctor based on their insurance plan or online reviews, rather than have an existing family relationship with them. Because of that, the more you can strengthen that relationship through outreach and engagement, the better.

It's a new day for private practices everywhere, and opportunities to grow have never been as abundant.