Medical SEO & Reviews on Third Party Platforms. Its over?

December 7, 2020

Recent events between DxD and SMC have left many doctors and fellow medical marketing specialists wondering: 

What is the present state of medical marketing? 

Are 3rd party medical platforms truly dead?

Are we still allowed to do SEO or other forms of marketing?

What are other doctors planning to do?

Many of my doctor friends and even some medical marketing experts have asked me for my view on this. To be frank – even to me, this is unprecedented. 

I can’t speak for MOH. But if you read their press releases, we’ll probably arrive at the same conclusion.

MOH is going to heavily scrutinise doctors advertising on 3rd-party medical platforms. 

Here’s some supporting evidence -

Credit: https://www.facebook.com/drkohpohkoon/

Even the Minister has spoken. This is clearly a serious matter.

Previously, MOH’s regulatory efforts were focused on what doctors do on platforms THEY manage (clinic website, Facebook, YouTube channel, Instagram, etc). Now they’re going to scrutinize what doctors do on OTHER platforms. 

MOH has successfully enforced a high standard of ethical marketing in the industry. But doctors can bypass that via 3rd party sites. Their jurisdiction cannot control what 3rd party platforms do, but they can control what DOCTORS can or cannot on those platforms.

This will lead to a few BIG repercussions.

#1 - Doctors will start dropping out of 3rd party platforms

Expect many doctors to opt out of lists like these.
Credit: https://www.bestinsingapore.co/best-aesthetic-clinics-singapore/

We’re expecting an industry-level falling off in terms of 3rd party website engagement. I believe MOH won’t stop doctors outright from working with 3rd party websites, but they will likely place a lot more attention of them from now on.

You certainly can still benefit from using them, but do you want to invest in that effort to ensure no careless flouting of the PHMC Advertisement Regulations? No accidental choice of words in your article that might be inappropriate? Scanning through every single word on every piece of content? 

Some doctors might, but most likely won’t. I can’t imagine anyone will want that additional stress.

If you ARE willing to invest that effort, you’ll strongly benefit from a lack of competition there. You will simply get more visibility on those sites. 

But you’ll have to take that risk.

#2 - Increased Competition in Medical SEO and SEM

Increased Competition in Medical SEO and SEM

...and YouTube and Facebook AND IG. We’re talking about all traditional forms of digital marketing. Why? 

Because many doctors still believe in digital marketing and visibility. I feel most doctors aren’t necessarily looking to do digital marketing for monetary gains. Doctors also really want to establish a connection with prospective patients. Some want to let them understand their medical perspectives. Some simply want to educate their readers. 

Just probably not on “unsafe” third-party websites. 

So, where?

Back to the basics of medical SEO, SEM and Social Media. That marketing budget has to go somewhere and the safest platforms... are the tried and tested ones. You already know what you CAN or CANNOT do there.

Expect competition and costs for SEO and Google Ads to increase by 20-25% over the next 6 months or so. SEM is the lowest hanging fruit in terms of accessibility. Everyone just has to login to Adwords and increase their budget - It’s that easy. 

Many doctors might play safe and wait to see how this will unfold. This is a good chance to take advantage of that by pre-emptively strengthening your SEO, SEM or SMM presence. Most doctors only really need Medical SEO anyway. When most doctors have finally decided to act, your website should already be ahead.

#3 - Patient Reviews on Google Reviews becoming EVEN more important

Patient Reviews on Google Reviews

The fact that 3rd party patient review platforms (aside from Google Reviews since we don’t have a say in it - Google calls the shots) getting COMPLETELY eliminated will shake up the review landscape. 

Consider this: Even Facebook reviews have to go since they are a marketing medium under your direct control. MOH made this incredibly clear in the last circular they released.

Credit: https://www.healthprofessionals.gov.sg/smc/home/Announcements/Index/advisory-medical-practitioners-participation-in-online-search-engine-optimisation-platforms

Here’s how you can disable Facebook reviews.

This leaves Google Reviews as the ONLY allowed patient review platform. This also means it’s the only visible platform left for prospective patients to judge you by. 

Here’s a simple example of the difference that Google reviews can make -

Be honest – which clinic would you rather visit?

So what should doctors do for their medical marketing?

Most doctors don’t actually do digital marketing regardless of 3rd party platforms. If you’re in that camp, all is good and recent events are unlikely to affect you.

For doctors who are, here’s my advice:

  • Dissociate yourself from 3rd party platforms for a while. Stay cautious and wait for the dust to settle before deciding if you really want to return to those platforms, and on what terms.
  • Consult your digital marketer to see how you can get ahead of the pack on SEO, SEM, SMM. It’s definitely going to get more competitive. Does this mean you cut down on already expensive volume keywords and go for highly-targeted ones? Go for more laser targeted SEM campaigns on high premium services? Or possibly increase SEO budgets to strengthen link-building and commission original content to stay ahead on SEO? Plan ahead.
  • Work actively with your digital marketing team to closely monitor your Google Review status. Now that other sources of patient reviews are down, Google Reviews will be the MOST representative of your reputation online.
  • If you do decide to continue marketing efforts on 3rd party platforms, take this opportunity to negotiate a favourable deal. You’re going to be one of the few doctors brave enough to continue supporting them. You deserve a better deal.

By Alvin Tang

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