Twenty years ago, it didn’t really matter what you called your medical or dental practice. As long as you had a good location, great doctors, and positive word-of-mouth, your business could flourish.
Flash forward to the present. With three-quarters of patients going online to find providers or care, your practice name has more impact than ever. Thanks to the complex world of online local search marketing, establishing the right healthcare practice name can significantly affect your organization’s success.
Historically, many medical and dental practices have included a family name, a street name, or the name of a landmark or locally known shopping center. Any of these could give their practice a brand descriptor that would be recognized in the community.
But today, the power of the search engine presents more important considerations to think about before selecting your practice name. Here’s what owners of every brand-new practice — or existing practice ready to rebrand — needs to think about.
8 strategic tips for naming your medical or dental practice
1. Think about your search strategy first.
This is the one naming consideration that can have the biggest impact on your business: A practice name works best when it matches the words people use to search for a practice online. Your name can actually play a key role in search engine optimization (SEO).
For example, if a patient conducts an online search for “primary care doctor Manhattan” and your practice happens to be named Manhattan Primary Care, your odds of ranking toward the top of the first page of search results are pretty high. Practices that don’t relate well to search terms — a doctor’s last name or a generic descriptor (ie. FirstChoice Pediatrics) — aren’t the best options.
2. Consider your URL.
To optimize your online visibility, your practice name should correlate directly to your website address. Once you have ideas for a few practice names, start researching which URLs are available — and make sure the names match exactly. If possible, avoid hyphenation, alternate spellings, and abbreviations.
It’s also important to keep your character count relatively low since certain online directories and social media accounts have strict character limits. That can present real challenges for practices with long names.
3. Give prominence to your medical specialty.
When prospective patients search online, one of the first terms in their query will be the specialty care they’re seeking. Be certain that your medical or dental specialty is front and center in your practice name.
If your specialty has a variety of names or potential abbreviations, conduct keyword research online to determine which terms are more commonly searched for in your area. Then, use that information to help guide your practice name. For instance:
- ENT vs. ear, nose & throat vs. otolaryngology
- OB/GYN vs. obstetrics & gynecology
- internal medicine vs. primary care
- orthopedics vs. orthopaedics)
You may learn that more prospective patients are searching for “cardiologist” than “heart and vascular care” — that can help you make this important decision.
4. Localize sensibly.
When adding a geographic descriptor to your practice name, think about how patients in your area are likely to search for a practice. Instead of choosing a lesser-known shopping center or street name, opt for a name that includes the area of your town, such as North Raleigh Pediatrics, Center City Cardiology, or Downtown Internal Medicine. If you’re in a larger metropolitan area, your neighborhood or borough name can also be an effective descriptor.
5. Evaluate the competition.
When considering name options, see what’s already taken in your local market. You don’t want to choose a practice name that will be confused with another group in town. If there’s a Boston Cardiology Center, avoid naming your group East Boston Cardiology Center. Looking at other practice names can also help if you’re stumped for name ideas — for inspiration, check out names of practices elsewhere in the country, in a market that’s similar to yours in size.
6. Be descriptive with your practice name.
There are instances where it makes sense to choose a name that conveys the unique attributes of your practice. In this case, you’re emphasizing your marketing differentiator right there in your practice name. For example, you can use an adjective or descriptor that highlights what makes you unique: if you see patients during late afternoon and evening hours, you might try something like PMPediatrics. If you’re a weight loss group providing alternatives to bariatric surgery, an appropriate name could be Sacramento Non-Surgical Weight Loss. Consider your unique market strength and see if it works as a practice name.
7. Convey professionalism in your practice name.
A great rule of thumb is that a professional-sounding name is always better than one that’s catchy or cute. (There’s an old copywriting reminder to favor “clear over clever.”) For example, avoid alternate spellings such as KidzCare or Quality Care4Teeth. Not only do they give off an unprofessional vibe, they won’t serve you well when it comes to search engine optimization. In certain cases, creativity is OK as long as it’s professional, aligns with your specialty, and makes your practice name easy to remember. Good examples are Smile Dentistry or Happy Heart Pediatric Cardiology.
8. Think about long-term branding.
The bulk of your practice branding, marketing, and patient acquisition is taking place in the digital world: your website, business and medical listings websites, Google business profile, social media posts, citations from other websites… With this level of online saturation, changing your practice name down the road will have serious, long-term ramifications.
If you hope to significantly expand your practice visibility throughout the region in the years to come, or think you may move or add a location as part of your growth plans, stay away from local-specific geographic descriptors. If you end up with a geographic-based name that ends up being too limiting, you’ll need to change more than just your name. You’ll also have to change your website and update all your online mentions and marketing materials (along with physical marketing assets like printed materials and signage). A change to your online name and URL could virtually eliminate your search engine ranking (which grows stronger over time), and you’ll have to start over.
In addition, it takes significant time and effort to ‘clean up’ and wipe out your old online identity, but doing so is important to avoid patient confusion.
To make a long story short, pick a name that will work for the long haul and stick with it.
Operationalizing your healthcare practice name
Once you’ve landed on a stellar practice name, your next step is to focus on including it everywhere as part of your website and search engine optimization strategy and build from there. Doing so will help your soon-to-be patients find you first when looking for a provider. Then, to improve your chances of landing that new patient appointment, offer online scheduling for patient convenience.