November/December 2012, Volume 33, Issue 12
Published by AEGIS Communications
Creating a Dominant Internet Presence for Your Practice
Much has been studied and tested regarding how dental consumers select a dentist for themselves and their families. The reason for all of this testing and research is to determine what methods work, what does not work, and most importantly, why does something work or fail.
Websites and website visitor tendencies are easy to measure. Extracting conclusions about the effectiveness of websites is easier and faster than with other promotional media, including direct mail, print advertising, and television and radio commercials.
The authors have been conducting market tests and commissioning independent consumer research since 1989. The purpose of this article is to explain the tested steps necessary to build an effective—even dominant—Internet presence in a dental market.
What Makes a Website Work
It is easy for dentists to love their practice websites, which typically bear their practice logos and may even reflect their office decor. They probably had a hand in directing its look, feel, and navigation, and maybe even wrote some text for it. But the vast majority of dentists also hate their practice websites mainly because precious few quality new patients have come through their front door as a direct result of their investment of time, energy, and money in the site.
What really makes a website consistently produce new patient phone calls can be broken out into several categories, which are discussed below.
A common mistake—one made by 90% of dental websites—is to bury all the benefits under a redundant link called “Services.” A website home page should be seen like a windowed storefront where the window/home page presents the most attractive products. People visiting a dental home page for the first time should be able to visibly see its best offerings—convenience, technology, treatments, etc—to spark their interest and invite them in.
Well-Written Words—and Pictures
Before writing, it is important to know how dental consumers think, how they mentally process choosing a dentist, and how much they are likely to read. The objective is to communicate with the consumer on their level when promoting the benefits of the practice’s dentistry.
Testing and independent consumer research have shown that the top four criteria used by consumers to choose a dentist for their family are price, technology, convenience, and public relations. The authors recommend sparking the interest of website visitors by explaining the benefits of such assets in as few words as possible, using visual examples of real patients with testimonials. Using words, websites need to position visitors as possible candidates for their services, then invite them to call and come in—usually as a complimentary visit—to find out whether they are appropriate candidates for a particular service.
The authors recommend having an individual page for each of the most marketable attributes along with pictures and testimonials from actual local patients who have had procedures done, a supportive Google review total, and a friendly invitation for the consumer to come into the office to see if they are a candidate for a particular service.
Not Overly Clinical
Given that none of the top four criteria cited above has anything to do with clinical dentistry, dental websites should not contain too many clinical words and pictures. Consumers don’t want to see the steps necessary to get them from point A to point B; they want an idea of how they will feel once they get to point B. Nor are they likely to be attracted by images of treatment rooms or implants. Therefore, when planning a website, it is important to keep in mind that graphic illustrations of procedures or the dreaded dental chair may just scare off potential patients, while before and after pictures and patient testimonials will demonstrate benefits of treatment without the scary details.
Meet the Dentist
Never underestimate the dental consumer’s interest in the dentist and office staff. The No. 1 page visited on dental websites is the “Meet the Dentist” page, which typically includes the dentist’s education and professional associations.
However, potential patients seeking someone they can trust and respect to care for the family are usually more interested in the kind of person the dentist is. Therefore, this section should lead off with personal information—home, family, maybe even including a photo showing the family in a relaxed setting. Hobbies, interests, and work with local charities should be featured in this section. Information about dental school, continuing education, and associations can be saved for the last paragraph.
The office team is also important to the website visitor. Include friendly photos of the team, a short bio, and preferably a short message from each team member.Ideally, this all-important section would include a series of carefully scripted, directed, and produced web videos in which the dentist and team actually appear on the website to discuss various attributes of the practice. This has proven enormously successful at generating more phone calls from the same amount of visitor traffic—ie, improved conversion. The success of such videos relates to the need of website visitors to connect on a human level before they pick up the phone to make their first appointment.
Proper Website/SEO/Social Media Management
After creating a well-done website in keeping with the above recommendations, the next hurdle to clear is getting the search engine optimization (SEO) started in the right direction. This initially labor-intensive task involves reviewing competitors’ websites for strengths and weaknesses and researching and organizing local consumer search terms. Each term/phrase needs to be coded into the site and embedded within the text of the site. Those using an SEO company on an ongoing basis should determine at monthly intervals exactly what the company is doing and why.
The final step involves populating solid social media platforms and connecting them all back to the website. It is essential that these social media platforms are properly set up and integrated. The most effective SEO these days requires constant, active social media content.
Given the potential return on this investment, the objective should be to dominate the medium before committing funds to promoting the practice. Such dominance revolves around Internet searches. An effective Internet presence is achieved when a practice’s “Places” page, website link, Google reviews, and various social media links overwhelm the first page of a Google search. The goal is to continue achieving first-page placement for most of the 20 to 30 most popular search terms used by consumers in the local area to search for dental services.
A Solid Start
This is not the entire list of what is needed to truly take advantage of the Internet when promoting a dental practice, but it is a solid start that likely applies to at least 90% of dentists. Being competitive does not require a great deal of technical expertise. What it does require is a lot of dental consumer expertise, such as has been presented here.
About the Authors
New Patients, Inc.
Founder and CEO
New Patients, Inc.