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Dental Websites – What You Need

February 3, 2010 5 comments

At the turn of the century, it was mostly the early-adopter dentists that were creating websites for their practices.  In 2010, most dentists have at least a token presence on the web, and some contemporary practice websites are extremely sophisticated, with elaborate strategies for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Most dentists are somewhere in the middle.  They have a website, but they rarely look at their site and don’t think much about it.  They do, however, have this vague notion in the back of their minds, this nagging feeling that they should be paying more attention to their internet presence.  They know that their website could be better; they’ve heard that others are generating a considerable amount of new patients from the web; they have some sense that people are using search engines to find dental services – they just aren’t sure what to do about it.

Dental practices need a website that does two things.  First, it must look decent and offer good information.  Second, it must also attract new patients.  If your website only does the former, and not the latter, then the other dentists in the community are probably eating your lunch.

Here’s what to do:  First, take a good look at your website to see if it an attractive and useful source of information.  If not, you will either need overhaul it or hire someone to build a new one.  For a nice-looking semi-customizable website, you should expect to pay about $2000-$3000 upfront to a company who has experience with dental practice sites.

Once you have a nice-looking site, with good information, you need to research how many patients you are currently generating from the web.  If you use call tracking numbers (which are cheap and simple to use – get them now!), look at how many calls are coming through your website phone line.  Your team should already be asking people  how they heard about the office.  Do people frequently mention the website?

If your web host provides you with analytics, look at the data, and pay special attention to  how people are finding you.  Are you getting much business through search engines?  Perform searches of your own, as if you were a prospective patient.  Google “(my town)dentist”, and see how close to the top your listing is.  Google a couple of other terms that are important to you, along with your location.  Try cosmetic dentist or implant dentist.   Are you in the top five?  Are you on the front page?  Are you even a blip on the radar screen?

If you don’t seem to be generating much business from the web, you should be a bit concerned.  Contact your web host/provider to see what you are supposed to be getting in terms of SEO.  Make sure you are getting what you pay for, and also ask them what supplemental SEO services they offer.

In very general terms, SEO is either paid or organic.  There are many positioning techniques for generating a high organic listing, using keywords, relevant activity, and inbound links, just to name a few.  Any website company worth its salt should at least be doing the basics.  For an additional monthly fee, many web companies will actively work on your SEO through a variety of techniques.  If your provider is unable or unwilling to offer much in this area, there are third party companies who will optimize your site even if they haven’t designed it and don’t host it.  Their techniques, prices and effectiveness widely vary.

SEO can also be directly bought through sponsored links and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns.  You can do this directly through the search engines, like Google and Yahoo, or you can hire a third-party company to manage a sponsored link and/or PPC campaign for you.

A large segment of our population is increasingly relying on search engines to find the products and the services they need.   Make sure that you’re one of  the options they see when they are looking, and give them what they want once they get to your site.

Remember that marketing success is all about efficiency, and internet marketing is about as efficient as it gets.

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Your website is not generating as many hits as you think it is

January 15, 2009 7 comments

Every website host worth its salt should be able to provide real-time access to user activity statistics.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, or you know about this stuff but never take the trouble to read the reports, pay attention to this.   Buried in this pile of statistics is a wealth of information that can tell you exactly how much the site is doing for you, and how much you are doing for the site.

webstats

Consider this example, a chart pulled from a real December report.  This dentist might initially be thrilled that his site has generated over 1000 hits this month.  Closer examination of the statistics shows that less than 15% of these people came to the site from a search engine.  The rest of the report showed that, of the 150 people who used search engines to reach the site, more than half of them used the doctor’s name as a search keyword. 

What does this all mean?  It means that 85% of the people on the site this month knew the address of the site and went right there.  The web host had nothing to do with this traffic!  It was due to the other marketing the practice has going,  a smart combination of direct mail, billboards and radio advertising.  Of the 15% that did come through search engines, more than half  of them knew who the doctor was – they just didn’t know the domain name. 

Suddenly the 1000 people the website brought you is less than 100.  Sure it’s a good thing that a hundred people found you with a search engine, but it’s much less impressive than the 1000 people your web provider was bragging about.

Wasting money on your dental practice web site

January 15, 2009 1 comment

I’m getting sick of companies that put up websites for dentists but have no clue how to optimize their sites for the search engines.  I’m very clear with my clients on what their website needs to do for them.  (Check out my posts in the “Internet” category here on this page for these basics.)  Every website has to pull its own weight.  It must rank well on the search engines and bring search engine traffic to the website.  Any site that isn’t doing this is a waste of money.

Sure, your site needs to look great and have good information.  That’s important, but that’s only half of it.  It also has to generate new patients on its own.  If it doesn’t, you need to do one of three things.  Optimize it, get someone to optimize it for you, or get a new site.

There’s tons of dental practice website companies out there.  Don’t let inertia alone keep you with the same underperforming site you’ve had for years.  If you’re not getting new patients every month from your website – call your provider today and find out why.  If your site is new, and they tell you it takes time – ask them when you should call back.  If they tell you your market is extremely competitive, and it’s hard to get a high ranking, then do this:  while your rep is still on the phone with you, Google the name of your town and the word “dentist”.  If your site does not pop up on the first page, ask why, and what can be done about it.  If he tells you it’s impossible, tell him you’re going to call some of the companies who’s clients did make the front page.  Then do it.

If you’re in a small town, and you’d starve without patients from surrounding communities, make sure your site is optimized to rank high using surrounding towns as well.  Mayberry’s probably a nice town, but being top dog there is only easy because there’s no competition.  If there’s no competition, that’s sometimes a sign that you’ll need to think bigger to reach your new patient goals.

Understand that I’m talking specifically about organic listings here – the listings that come from know-how and hard work, not the sponsored listings and pay-per clicks that will cost you a premium on top of the monthly fee you already pay your provider.  Their crappy performance is not an opportunity for them to ask you for more money!  Someone in your town has a high organic listing – why shouldn’t it be you?

Tracking Leads from Dental Advertising

August 20, 2008 2 comments

When you look at a report that shows automatic phone tracking results, you may conclude that more people find you through the yellow pages than from any other source.  This could be misleading.

 

The practices using automatic telephone tracking systems see an unusual number of patients generated by the yellow pages.  This illustrates the inherent weakness of attributing leads based on tracking numbers.  A tracking system is an excellent tool, but cannot be expected to be completely accurate.  Yellow Pages ads and web sites generate many leads that are “secondary” – that is, people go to the web and YP for information after their interest has been piqued elsewhere.

 

Look at the statistics generated by your website provider to see how people get to your web site.  A business that does little external advertising, but uses Search Engine Optimization, will see that most of their leads come through keyword searches.  A business that uses external marketing sources that include the domain name, will see that many of their leads come from people who have navigated directly to them.  The dual purposes of the web site make it the most indispensible part of any ad campaign.

 

Similarly, the YP may not be the primary generator of as many leads as it seems on the surface.  It still serves an important function, however.  When people are looking for you in the YP, they have to be able to find you.  Or they may find your competitor instead.  When my clients tell me that “the yellow pages  are dead” or that they want to cancel their ad, I suggest that they just scale back the ad.  That way they save some money, but the large number of people who still look there can still find them.

 

I’m a big fan of automatic tracking for your phone numbers.  Just make sure that your front desk keeps asking new patients how they found out about the practice.  And if your TV campaign is a significant investment, don’t be afraid to ask a direct question like, “Have you seen the doctor on TV?”.  Every day my clients hear that patients found them through the internet.  When the patient is directly asked if they ever heard the doctor on the radio, they often hear, “Oh yes.  I’ve been hearing him for years.  That’s why I went to the web site.”

Your dental website – help people find what they’re looking for

April 1, 2008 Leave a comment

Your website is an online brochure for your practice.  One of its great advantages is an almost unlimited amount of space to tell every story you need to tell.  You’re not limited by the square inches of a yellow pages ad or the seconds of a radio commercial.  Take all the space you need to explain your services with all the detail your advertisement lacked.  Remember, however, that it should be organized well enough that a viewer can find what they need quickly and easily.  This is especially important when you’ve advertised a particular service in your ad.  

If you’re marketing Invisalign, and the ad directs consumers to the web site, make sure that they can find the promised Invisalign information.  In a case like this, I would recommend that you have your webmaster put a very prominent starburst on the first page that says, “Information on Invisalign”.  When the viewer clicks it, it should hyperlink right over to the info.  It might seem obvious, but sometimes this gets overlooked.

Before you spend thousands on an advertising campaign, take a look at your website and pretend you are seeing it for the first time.  Ask a friend to do the same thing for you.  Is it easy to find what you’re looking for?

Categories: Internet

Dental marketing with video

March 15, 2008 1 comment

A great patient information DVD is the perfect giveaway for a two-stage marketing campaign.  Sometimes a person is interested in your services, but just not ready to pull the trigger.  Giving them an opportunity to learn more by watching your DVD is a great way to keep them moving forward, and it will increase the chance that they will ultimately be your patient.  Hiring a production team to film and produce a video is not inexpensive, so make the most of the opportunity.  If you carefully plan the video shoot, you create footage which can be used to create thirty-second tv commercials or even an infomercial. 

One powerful way to use video is on your web site.  You can record a greeting to visitors, describe a procedure, or even include video testimonials that let prospects see your actual patients tell their stories first-hand.  Some dentists have even taken it a step further and uploaded their work to YouTube and social networking sites.  Video is becoming so common on the web, people are starting to expect it.  If you want to position yourself as being cutting edge, and offering the latest in dentistry, your web site should  be consistent with your brand.

Search Engine Optimization and You

March 4, 2008 1 comment

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the science behind getting your web site highly positioned on search engines.   Generally speaking, when someone enters a search term that is relevant to your business, it is best to get your site as close to the top as possible.  There are several web-hosting companies that offer SEO as part of their service, as well as companies who specialize in SEO who will work with you and your web host.  Since there are many different styles and approaches to SEO, prices and results vary widely.  Fortunately, results are easy to see.  Just type some key words into Google and Yahoo, and see where your site ranks.  

Search Engine Optimization is an ongoing process that starts with the creation of the web site and continues through the life of the site.  If no SEO is being done on your site, you are at a competitive disadvantage with the other practices in your community. The companies that are delivering effective SEO do so by setting up the site in the right way, submitting properly to the search engines, and making corrections, adjustments and additions to the web site every month.  Some of this SEO maintenance is apparent and some of it is behind-the-scenes in the programming of the site. 

Optimization will take 6-12 months to make a real impact on the search engines.  No matter what provider you use, you can always use pay-per-clicks (PPCs) and sponsored links to get additional traffic during the first 6 months to a year.