The Recipe for Online Marketing Success
What dentists need to know to create a solid foundation for their online efforts
It seems like everyone talks about the importance of Facebook and having a comprehensive social media strategy for your dental practice. But even the most robust social media presence doesn’t replace the need for a good website. While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram can be incredibly useful for showing how popular a practice is with its patient base, as well as for communicating and building ongoing relationships with current patients, the practice website may be the biggest factor in attracting new patients to a practice. As such, your website is an essential element of continual practice growth, and while it has its own merits, a fantastic Facebook page can’t make up for an outdated website.
Every dentist has had that patient who came in wanting whitening or veneers when what he or she really needed was extensive restorative work. The reality is that many patients want a quick, esthetic fix and latch on to the latest cosmetic dentistry craze, hoping that it will solve what ails them. Similarly, some dentists have used social media as a quick fix for their marketing efforts. They may have terrific Facebook pages with timely posts, hundreds of Likes, and frequent patient comments, but at the same time, if a practice’s website lacks the ability to capture and retain the attention of existing and prospective patients, the clinician may have difficulty maintaining a certain level of business. When designed properly, however, a dental practice website can be a powerful marketing tool, serving as the foundation of a dynamic online presence and helping to secure a robust patient base to match.
Dental Website Essentials
Dental practice websites require two key elements for patients to consider them useful—responsive web design and relevant content.
Responsive Web Design
Responsive design is a method website building that allows the site to function properly regardless of whether a patient is seeking access via a computer, smartphone, or tablet. Studies show that 61% of users who visit a website that isn’t optimized for mobile will leave to visit a competitor, so it is critical from a patient’s standpoint that the website loads quickly and is user-friendly across all devices.
While Google has been recommending the use of responsive design for years, in April 2015, the company made it official. With a sweeping change to its search algorithm, Google has started rewarding websites that are optimized for mobile with higher rankings on search engine results pages (SERP). What’s more, websites that are not optimized for mobile browsing are completely left out of search engine results for searches conducted on a mobile device. Sites that aren’t built to use responsive design (and many sites designed only a few years ago may not) will likely notice a resulting dramatic drop in traffic, if they haven’t already, as outdated sites get left out of search engine results and responsive sites start rising in the rankings.
The responsive design update highlights an important point—dental practice websites are a fluid part of a practice’s marketing plan that requires maintenance over time. Websites designed even 36 months ago may not be responsive and thus are not functioning up to par. Dentists can work with their trusted web designer to be sure their site is mobile optimized, ideally using responsive design, and brought up to date.
Along with responsive design, Google has a strong preference for sites that produce rich, relevant, and fresh content. After all, Google is a business, and the better the results Google can provide to users, the more users will return to the search engine time and again. Relevant content improves the user experience, so the better the experience for the user, the higher the website will rank on the SERP.
What kind of “relevant” content is Google looking for? Information that is not only current, but reflective of common patient search queries. One of the most beneficial ways to share timely information is through a blog. An on-site practice blog is a perfect platform to produce a constant flow of content, and posting a new blog entry weekly or even monthly gives Google the fresh content it is looking for.
Video is another terrific vehicle for content. Incorporating video into a practice website boosts patient engagement, especially for prospective patients. People are highly visual, and video gives them a glimpse into the practice that they would not have otherwise until their first appointment. Topics such as “Meet the Doctor,” a tour around the office, and patient testimonials help dentists make an incredibly strong first impression while giving Google exactly what it wants. And remember, Google owns YouTube, further underscoring its commitment to video as a legitimate and even essential online medium.
A Robust and Coordinated Online Presence
While a good Facebook page can’t replace a solid website, dentists shouldn’t build a website and then proceed to ignore social media completely. In fact, these elements work hand-in-hand to form a cohesive online reputation. A dentist’s website should feature links to social media profiles and include calls to action directing patients to the Facebook page, where they can further learn about the practice, share information, and leave reviews.
When creating profiles on social media sites, always be sure to include the website URL in the “About” sections so that all the online properties are linked together, building a robust and coordinated online presence. It also helps lead patients as they navigate through the different sites, giving them a very rich impression of the practice and helping prospective patients gain a deeper understanding of what their experience at the office will be.
Additionally, having external sites link back to the website contributes to a practice’s overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. External links signal to Google that the website is legitimate and of interest to users, and is another tried and true method of helping a website rank higher in search results.
Varying the type of information that is shared on social media will help make each profile as engaging as possible, and posts don’t always need to be focused on dentistry. Sharing personal and professional milestones for the dentist and dental team, contests and polls, local community information, links to interesting articles, and including photos and videos from the staff in their daily lives and around the practice are all appealing options to add into the social media mix and make your practice and team seem more approachable.
Online marketing is a highly technical industry, and as such, dentists shouldn’t expect to handle it all on their own. This is one area of practice management where outsourcing will pay off in spades. There are many highly reputable resources available to dentists today that can assist with website design, SEO, and social media activity, including Sesame Communications www.sesamecomunications.com), My Social Practice (www.mysocialpractice.com), and Officite (www.officite.com). An Internet presence is an absolute must have for dentists today, and it begins with a modern website. From there, engaging with patients via social media and building a cohesive online strategy creates momentum for the practice that will in turn produce a steady stream of new and existing patients coming through the front door.
About the Author
Naomi Cooper is president and founder of Minoa Marketing and chief marketing consultant for Pride Institute. She is a respected dental marketing strategist, consultant, author, speaker, and industry opinion leader. Naomi teaches Pride’s groundbreaking marketing courses and works with individual dentists to craft and implement a customized modern marketing plan. She also consults for leading companies across the dental industry, developing a cohesive marketing approach and creating momentum for their marketing efforts. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she blogs regularly at www.minoamarketing.com. For regular updates from Naomi, including dental marketing/social media tips and tricks, follow her on Twitter (@naomi_cooper) or “like” Naomi Cooper – Minoa Marketing on Facebook at www.fb.com/minoamarketing.