How to convert your Web site visitors into patients

At the beginning of the second quarter, perhaps, we can say that your 2005 Internet strategy is off to a great start. You've made yourself known online; you are no longer a mailbox in the desert. You have created a good site and you use your online and offline marketing strategies in sync to drive traffic there. Now, it's time to convert clicks into patients.

In the industry, conversion is the ratio of turning site visitors into patients. There are different levels to conversion that you need to understand in order to get potential patients up from their computers and through your door.

Levels of conversion The first level of conversion is from a user click to the completion of an online form. In other words, this is the ratio of how many people enter your site and give you their information. For example, if you have 100 unique, or individual, visitors on your site and you receive 10 different forms, then your conversation rate of clicks to forms is 10%.

The highest level of conversion is clicks to patients. This ratio shows you how many people have turned from the initial click to a revenue-generating patient.

Directing potential patients It is important that you track where traffic is coming from, because it is the only way to understand how much you're truly paying in patient acquisition. This gives you an accurate understanding of how much each lead actually costs and what your return on investment really is. The only way to do this is by asking your users to respond.

For example, I have a client that is listed in three different directories. She received 80% to 90% of her patient leads from the Internet. She had no knowledge of which directory her patients were coming from-or how much each patient lead cost. She had no way to determine if she was getting the practice's money's worth.

In essence, it is important that the Internet development firm you employ teaches an in-house dedicated staff member how to compare directories, analyze the traffic or unique Internet users to the site, and determine which strategy provides the strongest quality leads to the practice.

For example, let's look at Directories A and B. Directory A costs $1,000 a year and delivers 100 unique visitors per month. Directory B also costs $1,000 a year. It delivers only 50 visitors per month. At first glance, Directory A looks like it is worth twice as much.

This is where you need to add conversion into the mix. Of the 100 unique visitors from Directory A, you received 5 forms. That's a 5% conversion rate. You receive 10 forms from Directory B's 50 unique visitors. The conversion rate of clicks to forms is 20%. Looking at the two conversion rates, you're getting a four times higher conversion and thus twice as high ROI from Directory B, making it a much stronger directory choice.

Directory C provides the same results as Directory B. From Directory B's 10 leads, two people scheduled a consultation, while four people scheduled a consultation with Directory C. Directory C will give you a stronger ROI: you'll get 40% conversion of clicks to consultation, instead of 20% conversion with Directory B.

Of the three directories, Directory C is the one that is driving the best-quality traffic. That's why conversion is so important. You have to take these factors into account when considering how well your online marketing strategies are working. It's not about the quantity of traffic; it is the quality that matters.