Benchmarks for effective online marketing

Metrics provide a means of evaluating and managing marketing dollars.


A common issue heard from ophthalmology offices is a sense of discomfort and frustration when it comes to online marketing. It’s tricky to manage something you don’t understand, and, as a result, marketing initiatives often feel like guesswork. Frankly, without metrics and benchmarks, they can be.

Strategic marketing — the kind guided by data and oversight — is both effective and empowering. Begin by collecting data from marketing channels for your practice. In comparison to the benchmarks and your goals, you will be able to best allocate your marketing dollars.

Here, we’ll look at different marketing channels, set benchmarks for each, and identify where to start to improve these metrics.

Google search

Most people in North America rely on Google when researching both medical conditions and health care providers, and they typically choose from the organic results that appear on the first page. While this comprises roughly 10 results, click-through rates (CTR) on organic search results drop precipitously the farther you are down the page.

Benchmark: Appear in the first seven organic search results for your top service lines in your top markets.

Google's Webmaster Guidelines outline search engine optimization fundamentals ( ). Beyond this, SEO tactics are those aimed at achieving and sustaining page-one rankings on Google. Consider revisiting those tactics, such as cultivating links from other sites or enhancing the text of your procedure pages, wait several months for Google to respond to your changes, and then re-examine your rankings.

Google Maps

Among Google’s first page search results are the “map pack,” or three to five Google Maps business listings, delivered when prospective patients search with “local intent.” Listings appearing in those slots can deliver highly targeted inquiries to your practice.

Benchmark: Appear in the local search results for your top service line keywords in your target markets (e.g. cataract surgery Tallahassee).

To improve local rankings, first ensure your Google My Business listing is accurate and complete. Then check that your website includes consistent mentions of your local area. Finally, increase opportunities to be cited on other websites, with mentions to your address and phone number. Find more information about these strategies via Etna Interactive’s blog at .

Email marketing

The strength of your email marketing program can be evaluated against a number of measures, including email list growth rate and performance on desktop and mobile platforms, but your top priorities should be open rate and CTR. (Your agency or email marketing software can provide these numbers.)

Benchmark: Email open rate of at least 20% and CTR at or above 10%.

Look at the open rate and CTR for your last three email distributions to see how you are doing in comparison to the benchmark. If you need to retool, consider reworking subject lines, better aligning content with consumer interest, and ensuring there is at least one link to your site in each email.

Nurturing prospective patients

In ophthalmology, all marketing is a means to acquire and retain patients, which in marketing and in sales terms are referred to as "leads." The methods discussed here will help when your office has a means of being responsive to new patient queries, specifically electronically.

Data suggests that personalized follow-up is a key factor in nurturing leads, and this is often best achieved through a combination of tools and a well-trained team.

Benchmark: Your team responds within 30 minutes to all inquiries received during normal business hours.

If this is not currently happening at your practice, consider examining the time and technology allocated to responding to online inquiries and work to accelerate and improve your response.

Social media

The most widely used social platforms in medicine, Facebook and Instagram, provide plenty of data to help measure the effectiveness of your social media. While it’s wise to look at the frequency of posting, boosting post visibility, and how inquiries are handled, the first factor to consider is engagement.

Benchmark: More than 25 interactions per post (like, share, etc.)

If your typical post is not eliciting this level of engagement (or more), you should study your content — and that of your competitors — to identify the type of posts that entertain, educate, or inspire followers to interact.

Web advertisements

Buying advertising, such as pay-per-click or banner ads, through social media platforms and search engines can be profitable, but it is also risky. In many markets, the cost per impression or action is so high the possibility of profiting is all but lost. Proactive modeling ( ) and careful budget analysis are key. To see if paid advertising is working well for your practice, start here:

Benchmark: Track all calls and emails generated and measure revenue from paid advertising.

Advice on when to use search or social ads can be found in Etna’s blog at . Regardless of the platform you choose, use your lead tracking data to evaluate and optimize your investment return.

Content marketing

Content marketing — blogs, videos, digital downloads — expands your reach and creates a variety of ways for prospective patients to engage with your practice. Your focus here should be to commit to a minimum publishing threshold and consistently measure performance.

Benchmark: Produce at least one blog post or video per month with engagement numbers trending up.

If finding time to create the content is an issue, consider setting an appointment once a month in your calendar to prioritize it. And the same tools you use for dictation can serve you in your first content draft.

If you are struggling to find a topic to inspire your writing, just think back on the questions that arose in your last patient consultation. In a pinch, type a topic in for a rich analysis of common patient questions.

Online reputation

Studies indicate that online reputation is a significant factor for patients when researching medical providers. In addition to using tools to cultivate and manage reviews, such as communication platforms requesting reviews following service, competitive medical practices hold themselves to the following standards:

Benchmark: Have more than 10 reviews each and average above 4.5 stars on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, with many reviews within the last 6 months.

If your reviews need a little bit of help, reflect first on whether you need to enhance patient service. When you are confident that you are delivering a five-star experience, consider if you are asking your patients to share their experiences online. For guidance on how to respond to online reviews, visit Etna Interactive’s blog at .

Turn information into action

These are just a few of the industry benchmarks you can look to when assessing marketing performance. Consider them as a starting point in your efforts to steer your practice towards a meaningful and effective marketing plan — one based on strategy and metrics. OP