Promoting Your Practice on the Internet
Mitch Adler


You should be on the Web promoting your practice. Millions of people are using the Internet every day and tens of millions are expected to be by the year 2000. As a benefit of membership in The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, you can now work with professional web developers to create a custom web site at substantially discounted rates! This article explains terminology and gives some examples of how an Internet presence can be a tremendous boon for your practice.

Introduction

Have you considered the visibility you could obtain through the Internet? The Internet, commonly referred to as "The Net," the "World Wide Web" or simply "The Web," is quickly becoming the place to do business. But there is much more to business on the Net than simply buying and selling products.

We are entering the age of electronic commerce and it is becoming increasingly common to buy and sell products through a computer connected to the Internet. But electronic commerce also refers to the advertising, marketing, merchandising, customer support services and information resources available on-line that ultimately tie back to sales. Not just product sales, but sales of your services. If you do not promote yourself and your practice on the Internet now, you will by necessity in the near future.

The Academy has set up a web site to promote its activities and its membership. The National Registry of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic StressT is available to the world! As a member of the Academy your name is listed in the Registry and you are on the Internet. Anyone on the Internet can use the National Registry to search for a member of the Academy based on a number of criteria: names, specialties, locations (limited to city and state), and telephone numbers.

What is a home page?

Many professionals now have home pages or web sites to promote themselves and their practices. But what is a home page and how is that different from a web site? A home page is analogous to one page of information. However, a page can be longer than an 81/2" x 11" piece of paper because on the computer it can be "scrollable." So even though the entire page does not appear on the computer screen at once, the user can scroll up and down the page to view it.

A home page can have "links" or pointers to other pages. A person reading a page can use the mouse to "click" on a link. This means that the mouse is moved so that the on-screen pointer is on the link and then the mouse button is pressed. This action causes the computer to change the screen to the page referenced by the link. As an example, consider a home page where you mention that your office is centrally located and easy to find. You might then include a sentence like this: "Click here for directions." The reader of this page could click on that highlighted phrase which is a link to another page. The screen would change to your "Directions to My Office" page.

What is a web site and what can be put on it?

A web site is simply a collection of linked pages. You could have information about yourself including your vita on-line. You can specify office hours and locations. You can present information pertaining to your specialty. All of this information can be presented on several linked pages that comprise your web site.

The types of information on your web site can be varied. Some of this information is what you would give someone over the phone when they call for the first time. The advantage is that the information can be much more elaborate than what you can explain in a time-limited phone conversation. In effect, you can use your site to educate your reader about your background, experience, specialty or any other subject.

Some people put up the same information they have in their brochures. Others put up a picture of themselves along with their vita. Your site can include all this, and more, by linking several pages. Links can even be set up to point to other web sites. For example, your vita will list your affiliation with the Academy. A link can be set up to point to the Academy's home page.

A Practical Example

As an example, consider the pediatric surgeon who has a web site. This surgeon has a specific specialty dealing with infants and small children who have nasal passage deformities. As you might imagine, he spends a lot of time answering the same questions over and over again. With the web site, he now provides detailed information on the types of deformities that he deals with, what surgery can accomplish, how the surgery is done along with accompanying diagrams, complications that can arise, details on the recovery period and much more

People can send electronic mail to this doctor and get a timely response. Of course this doctor also meets with the parents, whether or not they have access to the Internet. A lot of time is still spent on the phone. But he now saves time as more and more of his potential patients parents visit his web site. The parents are better prepared to make an informed decision regarding surgery and whether to use this surgeon. They are also more aware of what can be expected.

How does someone find my home page or web site?

You might be wondering how people will know about your web site and whether many people will "visit" it. A web site can be registered with Internet search engines. These are other web sites that serve as giant indexes of web pages. Someone might be looking for the keywords "traumatic stress," "children," and "disease" to pull up a list of pages which mention all of these. If these keywords were used on one of your pages, a link to your page would appear on the resulting list. The person searching for information could click on the link to your page to visit your site.

Of course you can also advertise your site by putting the address of the site on your business cards and stationery. You can put the address in any papers you publish. Other organizations with which you are affiliated may be able to create links to your site.

Remember the pediatric surgeon whose site is described above? People using the search engines for information on nasal passage deformities, or specifically for a surgeon with this specialty, are likely to find this doctor's site. This could lead to many visitors to the site. Obviously, there is tremendous potential for exposure, additional clientele and development of a reputation through improved visibility.

You can also have your name in the National Registry linked to your home page. Thus, if a person searches the National Registry and your name appears on the resulting list, it will be highlighted indicating that a link exists. Clicking on your name will bring up your home page.

Will many people visit my site?

The question is, " How much exposure am I going to get as a result of having my own home page or web site?" Perhaps you are wondering how many referrals you are going to get. This all depends on the type of information your have on your page(s), how you promote your site (beyond registration with the search engines) and the type of practice you are promoting. Obviously, a site promoting a highly specialized practice is likely to have a small audience. Although some sites generate substantial traffic, you should not look to the Internet as the sole source of new referrals. But that is certainly changing quickly as more people and organizations are browsing the Internet and putting up web sites.

How do I put up my site?

So what do you have to do to put up your site? You have two options: do it yourself or work with a professional web site builder. To do it yourself, first you will need to select software to generate web pages and links. If you are good with the computer, you can probably learn to use the software fairly quickly. Next, you must find an Internet Service Provider who will "host" your site. This means that you need to find an organization that will rent space on their web server, a specially configured computer connected to the Internet. Finally, you will need to learn how to transfer your web pages onto the host computer.

Members of the Academy can now work with professional web developers to create a custom home page or web site at substantially discounted rates. Although you might be able to do it all yourself, it is likely to take many days or evenings to get it accomplished. It takes a lot of experience to develop a professional looking site.

What are the costs for professional site development?

You may choose to work with a professional. The Academy has arranged for discounts of 25%-35% off standard billing rates with Learning Lane Software, the developer of the Academy's site. The setup fee is $150. This includes up to two hours of site configuration and telephone consultation. Usually, a home page can be set up in this time. If your information is typed and on disk, this can speed the process along. Additional site setup time is billed at $60 per hour. The fee for hosting your home page or site is $120 for a year. The fee may be slightly more for large home pages or sites, or for sites with many graphics and pictures. Alternatively, you can have an existing site linked to your name in the National Registry for $20 per year.

For more information on these services, contact Mitch Adler of Learning Lane Software at (908) 548-7171, or send electronic mail to webmaster@aaets.org.

©1997 by The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress, Inc.