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July 2015
Volume 11, Issue 7

6 Digital Tools for Becoming a Savvy Online Marketer

Essential tactics for establishing online authority

Naomi Cooper

Why do dentists need to be concerned about online marketing? For starters, 97% of all consumers search for local businesses on the Internet.1 The online experience is often a patient’s first with a dentist, so it is worth it to make sure that first impression is the best impression.

While it’s easy for dentists to demonstrate their expertise once a patient is in the chair, establishing authority online requires a separate skill set. The secret to online marketing is to create momentum, which can be accomplished through a variety of factors working together over an extended period of time.

Modern Website Design and SEO

The foundation of every dentist’s online reputation begins with the practice website. When patients turn to the Internet to find a new dentist, the website is often their first interaction with the practice, so it is important that it be designed with the patient in mind. On-site features such as easy-to-see contact information, a map and directions to the practice location, a patient login functionality to view upcoming appointments and account information, and features that make it simple for patients to get in touch with the office online all make the website more user friendly.

Not only should the website be designed to be patient-friendly, but it also needs to work for search engine algorithms. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the effort to increase a website’s visibility in search engine results rankings. According to Pew Internet research, 77% of online health seekers say they began their last session using a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo,2 underscoring the importance of having an SEO strategy.

Today, 62% of consumers use their smartphones when researching health information online.3 This means that websites that were designed just a few years ago may not come up in Google’s search results if that search was conducted on a mobile phone; as of April 2015, Google has chosen to favor websites that are optimized for the mobile experience in its mobile search results. Responsive design is the latest method of web design that ensures a website will be considered mobile-friendly by Google’s algorithm, and will display properly no matter what type of computer, smartphone, tablet, or wearable device a patient may be using.

Local Directories

Major consumer brands have the need for a national—even global—approach to SEO, and they have the budgets to do so. Dentists, on the other hand, do not need such a wide-scale approach.

Search engines are sophisticated enough to determine where the user is located and populate the search engine results page (SERP) accordingly. Dentists need to be certain that they have claimed and completed their business profiles on sites such as Google My Business, Bing, and Yahoo, using the same name of the practice across all business directories, a local (not 800) phone number, and the practice’s physical address to demonstrate that they are, in fact, a business with a storefront located in the local area.

Consumer Review Sites

In a report from the firm Software Advice published in 2014, 61% of respondents say they will monitor consumer review sites before selecting a doctor, and patients using online reviews to search for a doctor jumped 68% from 2013 to 2014.4

Sites like Yelp and Healthgrades can thus contribute to a dentist’s overall online marketing success. Completing a standard business profile (which often already exists whether a dentist realizes it or not) on these websites helps build the online authority of the practice and increases the practice’s visibility online.

For example, Healthgrades.com’s strategic partnership with Sesame Communications (www.sesamecommunications.com) enables dentists who already utilize Sesame’s patient communication software to leverage positive ratings from their own post-appointment surveys by directly populating those responses into that doctor’s Healthgrades.com premium profile.

Social Media Engagement

It turns out that social media is not just for fun. By engaging on sites such as Facebook, dentists are able to interact with patients while boosting their online credibility. Encourage patients to “Like” the practice’s Facebook page, “check in” to the practice when they arrive for their appointments, and share photos and other relevant content; these are all activities that help the practice’s Facebook page appear more often in the news feeds of patients and patients’ Facebook friends, as well as indicate to search engines that the dentist is a trusted dental authority in the community.

Engagement is not limited to Facebook. Retweets on Twitter and Likes on Instagram provide meaningful social proof for the practice, and activity on LinkedIn is great for increasing awareness within the business community and among colleagues.

An On-Site Blog

Creating content helps position the dentist as a local oral health care expert and builds online credibility. Blogging is a natural way to give the search engines exactly what they are looking for—fresh, original, relevant information on the practice website.

Keep in mind that the practice blog does not have to be solely focused on dentistry. It can, and should, feature content that is relevant to patients and the local area. News about past area events, information about upcoming community happenings, or photos of the dental team attending continuing education programs or volunteering around town are other ideas that will help promote the practice while remaining of interest to patients.

Video Content

While blogging is certainly useful in terms of SEO and patient communication, recent trends indicate that video content is more engaging to patients and preferred by search engines as well. With ever-decreasing attention spans in this day and age, video makes it easier to get a point across in a smaller amount of your patients’ time.

Video also helps familiarize prospective patients with the dentist and the team. It can make the idea of visiting the dentist less daunting while also giving a professional impression and reinforcing the idea that the dentist is a valuable resource to whom local patients can turn.

When in Doubt, Outsource

If the idea of updating a website, creating video, or writing blog posts on an ongoing basis is overwhelming, don’t get discouraged. There are resources dentists can turn to who have proven success within the dental industry. And hiring one vendor to handle many of the practice’s day-to-day online marketing efforts can reduce time, money, and hassles.

Companies like Sesame Communications, My Social Practice (www.mysocialpractice.com), and WPromote (www.wpromote.com) provide outsourced solutions for dental practices that can take the burden of producing a constant stream of marketing content off the dentist and the team.

Establishing authority starts with the website, but a variety of online tools will play into the overall strategy. Online patients are incredibly tech-savvy when it comes to researching dentists, so it is necessary for dentists to have a strategic approach to their online marketing if they want to reach this ever-growing and highly desirable demographic.

References

1. Nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally, according to BIA/Kelsey and ConStat. BIA Kelsey website. www.biakelsey.com/Company/Press-Releases/100310-Nearly-All-Consumers-Now-Use-Online-Media-to-Shop-Locally.asp. Accessed May 21, 2015.

2. Health fact sheet. Pew Research Center website. www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/health-fact-sheet/. Accessed May 6, 2015.

3. Smith A. U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. Research Center website. www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/us-smartphone-use-in-2015/. Accessed May 6. 2015.

4. Bassig M. New Study New study reveals that Yelp and Healthgrades are most trusted sites for online doctor reviews. ReviewTrackers website. www.reviewtrackers.com/study-reveals-yelp-healthgrades-trusted-sites-online-doctor-reviews. Accessed May 6, 2015.

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 aimed at the dental profession and the dental consumer. She can be reached via email at naomi@minoamarketing.com, 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.

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