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Inside Dentistry
February 2024
Volume 20, Issue 2

Practice Websites Are No Longer Optional

An appropriate design and content are necessary to attract patients, even direct referrals

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS

For a modern dental office, a great website is a must for continued growth. Prospective patients are getting more and more tech savvy, and many depend on the Internet to help them make decisions about things such as dental care. Even if you don't want to "advertise," having a well-designed website is still important to connect with patients. Our office emphasizes internal marketing. After a recent check of Google Analytics, it was gratifying to see that a huge majority of the keywords that users had typed in to find our site were related to my name and that of our office. That meant that people had been directly referred by satisfied patients, and they were checking us out before they scheduled their initial visit. Therefore, having a great website to showcase your practice is important whether you are advertising or not.

Design 101

So, what separates the mediocre websites from the awesome ones? The first thing to consider is choosing a color scheme, fonts, and other page elements that will be pleasing to the eye and match your style. Next, you should consider how the content will be laid out and what will be seen above and below the fold.

Above the Fold

"Above the fold" is a term that originally refers to the content that can be seen at the top of a newspaper page without having to unfold it. This prominently displayed content is selected to attract attention to newspapers at newsstands. A web page works the same way. The content considered to be above the fold on a web page is the content that users will first see without having to scroll down. Just like a newspaper, you have to have enough pizzazz at the top of your home page to grab users' attention and coax them to either scroll down or click on one of your other pages for more information and then eventually call your office for an appointment.

By some estimates, you have 30 seconds or less to impress your potential patients. Just think about your own Internet surfing habits. Unless a page has something that quickly catches your interest, you just move on to another site. The top of your home page should have some type of picture, and this picture should convey the image that you want your practice to project. In addition, you should have your name, address, and of course, phone number presented in text so that search engines can find them. Search engines can't read information if it's imbedded in pictures.

When your home page first loads, don't have video or audio that automatically plays. Many people find that annoying and are likely to click off the page instead of searching for the pause button. Alternatively, having an attractive slide show above the fold is highly recommended. It can give you a great way to show off your practice.

Below the Fold

With mobile devices abounding, users tend to prefer to scroll down rather than click on links. Therefore, it is helpful to have as much information as possible on your home page. There are many things that you can include below the fold on your home page, including the following:

Pictures of the team. People often feel more comfortable with practitioners when they already have a mental image of the doctor and his or her team members.

A list of services. Include all of the main categories of the procedures that you perform. For each service that you provide, create a link to a separate page that explains it in detail and includes pictures. You need 500 to 800 words for a page to be considered unique, which is an important feature that can help you get higher rankings in the search engines.

Sample before and after pictures. Just include teaser images. If patients are interested, then they should be able to click on these images and go directly to your smile gallery to see more. Take pictures of everything that you do. Eventually, you will develop an impressive portfolio. Prospective patients like to see examples of their future dentist's work.

Testimonials. A list of a few short and sweet comments from satisfied patients can go a long way. Although these won't be given as much credence as online reviews, thay can still help to bolster your image.

Links to your social media. Include buttons for any social media sites that you have a presence on, such as Facebook, Google Business, Twitter, etc. Encourage users to "Like" your page.

A Click Away

In addition to creating separate pages for all of your services and your smile gallery, other pages that you can create and link to in your menu include the following:

Bios for the doctors and team members. Don't hold back on your credentials. This is a time when it's appropriate to toot your own horn. Any degrees, continuing education, relationships with professional associations, and other relevant experiences should be mentioned, and including some personal background information can have a humanizing effect if it isn't boastful.

A video page. If you have made any videos, make sure that you show them off. Google adores videos.

Your blog. Writing a blog can be a nice addition to a website. It helps to increase the amount of original content that you have on your site, which is another important point for search engines.

A virtual office tour. Show off your office. If you have a modern, up-to-date office, then flaunt it. If not, you may want to skip the office tour for the time being and wait for your next remodel.

These are all great additions; however, the most important page after the main one is the contact us page. It doesn't do any good if prospective patients are incredibly impressed with your website but can't find a way to get in touch with you. Present your office's phone number as a clickable link so that people on smartphones can simply tap on it to call you. Furthermore, it's helpful to include a form for people to email you. Make sure your web designer adds a reCAPTCHA button so that you can avoid robots clogging your inbox with specials on designer purses. Regarding directions, people depend on the Internet more and more to find where they are going. Including a clickable link with your address that will allow prospective patients to type in their location and get turn-by-turn directions to your office is a great feature. You don't want them accidentally showing up at your competitor's office down the street and deciding to stay there.

Be Sure to Impress

Today, having a great website is essential to attract and convert new patients. Whether practices engage in any online advertising or not, their websites are the primary point of contact for the majority of people who are interested in learning more and feeling them out. Even those who are directly referred to you by your satisfied patients will want to get an inside look into your practice before making an appointment, so make sure that your website is one that will impress them.

About the Author

Richard P. Gangwisch, DDS, a master of the Academy of General Dentistry and a diplomate of the American Board of General Dentistry, is a clinical assistant professor at the Dental College of Georgia at Augusta University and practices in a Heartland Dental-supported office in Lilburn, Georgia.

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