Dermatologists Seeking Web Marketing ROI: 3 Takeaways from the ASDS Annual Meeting

Dermatologists Seeking Web Marketing ROI: 3 Takeaways from the ASDS Annual Meeting

150 150 Tom Seery

dermatology ASDS socialAs cosmetic dermatology embraces new technologies like ultrasound skin tightening devices, practices are starting to deliver a greater number of services that go beyond the face. Patients are also asking their dermatologists for minimally invasive body contouring procedures, amongst other non-traditional requests. I’ve observed that this shift in the dermatology market is driving a marked increase in demand from dermatologists to develop a more competitive web presence.

This year I spoke at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatological Surgery on how social media and Internet marketing are now one-in-the-same. The web is social, and social activity and data influences nearly everything we do with the Internet, including the display of search engine results. After my presentation I held a number of one-on-one discussions with attending dermsurgeons, and these conversations revealed 3 common themes:

1. Dermatologists consider their practice websites sub-optimal. In the 2012 ASDS Member Needs and Opinions Survey, the statement “My website is the best of breed, optimized for maximum performance” was agreed to by just 56% of doctor respondents. 83% agreed or strongly agreed to “I would like to get more patients from the web.”  I heard this echoed at the ASDS meeting, where dermatologists expressed concern that they’re not keeping up with the changes in the web and how consumers prefer to learn about a practice, such as with a mobile device. The advice I offered was that, as a starting point, it is essential to build a high quality website that is indeed mobile friendly (over 40% of RealSelf visitors arrive by a mobile device). But quality is a loaded term. Quality means delivering an online experience that consumers find helpful to getting informed and confident in their aesthetic decision and you as their doctor. My friend Eva Sheie developed an awesome checklist of website must-do’s that illustrates the vast number of considerations to making a website closer-to-optimal:


  • Width of design meets current standards
  • Do the colors and imagery match your office and fit your brand?
  • Is the design focused on the patient? (not the doctor)

Ways to reach you:

  • Contact form on every page
  • Phone number obvious on top of every page
  • Phone is plain text, so mobile users can click to call


  • No empty treatment beds, empty waiting rooms, injection photos, or needles
  • What message does your personal photo send?
  • Do you look warm and friendly?
  • Use lots of pictures
  • Only your best before & afters – nothing you’re not proud of’
  • If you don’t show before & afters, tell them why

Critical features:

  • Easy access to Before and After Photos
  • Cost/Financing
  • Objective patient reviews
  • Specials
  • Social media links

Written content:

  • Is it unique and does it sound like you?
  • Is the procedure information too clinical or gory? The idea is to schedule consults, not scare them away
  • Are you answering the most popular questions on each procedure page?
•How much does it cost?
•How much time do i need to take off work?
•Can i see photos? if not on the website, can i see them in the office?
•How soon can i get an appointment? (especially for consultations, Botox, fillers, and spa services)
•Is the consultation free?


Basic SEO Standards

  •           Good page title tags (appear at the top the browser, headline of Google result)
  •           Links between pages
  •           Headings within content
  •           XML sitemap
  •           Do you have Google Analytics?
  •           Healthy links from other sites to yours


The takeaway is probably obvious: the busy doctor needs a forward-thinking and innovative website vendor to drive the activities that are required to build a great online experience. You may want to talk to a vendor about your current site–and marketing goals– by contacting one of RealSelf’s recommended website vendors who are experts at building websites for plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and other aesthetic specialties.

2. Many dermatologic surgeons are disappointed by their attempt to buy a web presence.  I heard from numerous doctors that expensive Google keyword buying campaigns and online ads were not producing great results. Frankly, they should be disappointed because they have seen so little data to support their marketing investment. Not one of the doctors I spoke with had access to their Google Analytics (this is a must to measure ROI), nor did they cite getting access to metrics from their web vendor that helped them understand the conversion of the purchased web clicks into practice contacts or other desired activities (like signing up for the practice newsletter). With aesthetic patient acquisition costs ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 (per person showing up for an appointment), it’s simply a must to have click and conversion metrics and reporting.

3. There is smart resistance to investing in Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is like yelling into a canyon; Twitter, like tossing your insights into a raging river. To gain a meaningful presence it means two things that few doctors want to take on. First, you need to be accessible and responsive.  Secondly, you need to post often, and with compelling content. Tweets and Facebook posts have exceedingly short shelf lives and many go unseen by fans and followers. The good news is that these social media tools are rarely used to find a doctor, so I simply don’t believe a doctor is missing out by lightly investing in either platform. Aesthetic consumers value their privacy and don’t necessarily want to broadcast their plans. They’d rather take their research to places like RealSelf where they can maintain anonymity and get support from people who can relate to their needs and situation.

I left the ASDS  meeting even more convinced that when it comes to online marketing and social media, doctors thoughtfully approach it in one of three forms of engagement. Most dermatologists are at what can be called the Crawl stage, where they see the value of protecting their online reputation but aren’t ready to promote on the web. A growing number are at the Walk stage, where they’ve decided to build a meaningful presence in social media, following a patient-centric strategy that allows them to share their expertise in non-promotional ways. Then, for the rare doctor who seeks to build a large, international audience and following on the web, they are attempting the Run stage.

As I cautioned the dermatologists, should any vendor push you to skip the walk stage and take on a run-like social media marketing plan, ask two questions. “What kind of car do you drive and how many square feet is your house,” because the vendor is likely to be the only one getting an ROI from your marketing expense.

Tom Seery

Tom Seery is the founder and CEO of RealSelf, the most popular online resource that helps consumers research cosmetic treatments and find the right medical aesthetic provider. Each month RealSelf attracts 10 million unique visitors who view 50 million photos. Another 500,000 people contact doctors and clinics seeking more information or appointments. Integral to RealSelf is a model that showcases the expertise of aesthetic providers. Experts have posted two million answers to questions and routinely upload educational videos, and patient before & after photos. Prior to RealSelf, Tom was a member of the founding team at Expedia, where he conceived a $1.2b private-label travel business, launched the cruise travel line of business, and introduced search marketing long before Google was a household name. Tom sits on the board of ReSurge International, a nonprofit that builds plastic reconstructive surgical capacity in developing countries. He also regularly lectures on innovation and serves on the board of the entrepreneurship programs at the University of Washington. Tom holds an MS from Drexel University, MBA from University of Washington, and BA from Connecticut College. He resides in Seattle with his wife and two highly energetic boys. He is @seery on Twitter or @realself_tom on Instagram, should you wish to connect.

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