October 2011, Volume 32, Issue 8
Published by AEGIS Communications
Business of Dentistry
Dental Internet Marketing: Putting the Pieces Together
Clint Macklin and Jessica Espinoza
Today, effective Internet marketing stems from a company’s website, into which a wide variety of pieces must be incorporated. The key to the marketing puzzle is making all the pieces fit together. Having a strong web marketing strategy is one of the most important factors for successfully growing a dental practice. An effective website can transform the way a practice communicates with its current and prospective patients, improve patient satisfaction, and, most importantly, drive more new patients through the door.
There are three areas that a dental practice must consider when developing an Internet marketing strategy:
1. Have an effective website with unique and informative content.
2. Incorporate search engine optimization and link-building strategies that cause the website to show up in organic search listings.
3. Build relationships and manage the practice’s reputation using social media outlets and patient reviews.
Four Phases of Website Development
Before jumping in and starting to design a website, four development phases need to be addressed.
Phase 1—Gathering Information
The most basic, yet often overlooked, step in designing a successful website is to gather information. Important questions need to be addressed so that the website can be clear about describing the practice, what makes it unique, and what goals the website needs to accomplish.
Phase 2—Developing Original Content and Navigation
Assess exactly what information will be on each page. Content is king on the web and having a content-rich website is essential to build credibility with consumers and search engines. To make sure information is easy for visitors to locate, create a navigational outline of content in a logical order. Ensure it is search-engine-friendly by assigning target keyword phrases to optimize each page.
Phase 3—Design and Development
Once phases 1 and 2 are complete, the site is ready to be designed. This is the fun part, but make sure it is a reflection of the clinician and the practice. When people come to the site, they want to get a feel for who the clinician is and how he or she can help them. Don’t rely on stock photos. Utilize pictures of staff, office, and the clinician, because visitors want to build a relationship.
Phase 4—Launching the Website
At this point, the practice has a great-looking site with unique and informative content, and it connects with potential patients. Now, it is critical to motivate potential patients to take action and call or email questions or requests. Make sure it is easy for them to contact the practice. This is where having planned-out navigation in phase 2 pays off.
Search Engine Optimization and Link Building
The next step is to develop a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Writing keyword-rich content is the most critical piece of on-site SEO. If the steps above were followed in developing the website, this is already in place. To take the SEO to the next level, start link building.
Link building is a time-consuming, yet important, step to getting a website ranked well. It requires consistent effort. Links to the practice’s website are votes of confidence in the eyes of the search engines. When the search engines see links from credible websites, it builds assurance in the practice’s website. Here are some strategies to start building links:
Utilize the power of free directories and social networking—Dmoz.org is the most important free directory, but there are thousands more out there. Also, be sure the website address and link is on all of the practice’s social media profiles.
Analyze the competition—Check the back-links of other highly ranked dental websites using Yahoo Site Explorer (siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com). These successful sites can be analyzed to see how they get high rankings and why the practice may not be getting the same results from the search engines.
Article writing and submission—Another way to create credible links back to the practice’s site is to write and submit articles that link the website to online journals. Not only does this build links, it also helps increase credibility by establishing the clinician as an industry expert.
Local and business links—There are many opportunities for local links back to the practice’s website. Some of these include joining the Better Business Bureau and the local chamber of commerce, or developing business relationships with non-competing businesses in similar fields. These efforts will increase natural search engine rankings, along with boosting the website’s Google Places (www.google.com/places) listing.
Easy free links—It is easy to ask or answer questions on sites like Yahoo! Answers (answers.yahoo.com) and Google Groups (groups.google.com) and provide links to relevant resources, including the practice’s website. Other sites to consider are Squidoo.com and Digg.com.
Relationships Via Social Media Marketing
Now that a great website and SEO strategy have been developed, it’s time to start building relationships with patients and potential patients. Social media has quickly become one of the most important aspects of online marketing. However, bear in mind that social media should not be viewed as a massive lead generator. Although the practice may receive new patients through social media efforts, this should not be the only reason for starting. It should be viewed as an important relationship-building element of the overall marketing strategy.
While there are many social media sites out there, Facebook has become the easiest and most cost-effective way to gain exposure to dental patients. With more than 600 million Facebook users, the practice’s target demographic is certainly there.
Using Facebook for the Dental Practice
Build relationships— The most important thing about having a presence on Facebook is that it connects clinicians with patients on a more personal, less corporate level. The key is to be social and build relationships with patients and potential patients. In time, these can turn into more patients and referrals.
Monitor the practice’s reputation—What are people saying on the web about the clinician and the practice? Facebook is a helpful tool to monitor what is being said. It also gives the clinician a chance to quickly address concerns and questions from patients and potential patients and helps establish the clinician as an expert in the market.
Check out competitors—Admittedly, an important reason for any business to be on Facebook is because competitors are. Facebook can be used as a way to stay up-to-date with what competitors are doing, as well as changes in a given market.
Patient Ratings and Reviews
Another way to interact with satisfied patients is to have them post positive reviews. A clinician can use review services that make getting and spreading reviews easy and effective. The cost for these services can range from $100 to $400 per month.
Although implementing an effective online marketing strategy may seem overwhelming at first, it does not have to be. Following these tips for website development, search engine optimization, and social media marketing will alleviate much of the stress and ensure success.
About the Authors
Senior Internet Marketing Consultant
Page 1 Solutions, LLC
Page 1 Solutions, LLC