Control your own web properties and accounts

Don’t let your marketer control your Google “My Business”, analytics or social media accounts

Google BusinessHere at Dental Media we regularly manage transfers of websites into our care from other marketing and web companies. This is typically where the client moved on due to poor service, high fees or a combination of the two.

One of the most frustrating aspects of transfers is when we realise that control of important web properties such as Google accounts and social media channels, rest with the original dental marketing company and not with the dentist themselves. This can be quite problematic and should never occur in the first place.

Your web assets – your ownership

As well as your website, there are a number of very important web “assets” which, as the business owner, you also need to control. This doesn’t mean that you need to manage them, but you do need to have the fundamental access control for the accounts in question. This means that should you move marketing or website agency, then your associated accounts are completely portable too and not potentially stuck with your former provider.

Some properties such as Google “My Business”, Analytics, AdWords (if relevant) and key social media channels must be set up in the name of the practice and with the practice in primary control. Management of the accounts can be assigned to a marketer as you choose – but ultimately these properties are yours and extremely important components of your digital dental marketing.

Not your accounts?

Read more ›

Posted in Advice

The Website Design Process

Making sure your new dental practice website meets expectations.

reviewing website contentWith lots of new websites appearing every week, it’s important to make sure that your new site is sufficiently different to stand out from the crowd.  We manage several hundreds of websites for dentists and the associated analytics data shows just how fickle users are when they land on your site for the first time. You only have a few seconds to grab their attention before they decide to navigate elsewhere.

It’s relatively straightforward to show that the websites which are fresh and engaging, hold a users attention much more effectively than sites which are stale or function poorly for some other reason. Where the user finds it worthwhile to hang around on your website, the more chance you have of them getting in touch and hopefully becoming a new patient. This is why it really does pay to make time to ensure that your new practice website is excellent, rather than accept a generic offering which won’t help your plans to gain new patients from the web.

A rigorous design process

It is understandable that most dentists or their practice managers likely won’t know the best practices for creating a great website and consequently need help to guide them through the process. This is where an experienced designer will make a significant difference and really help you to achieve a website which represents your practice and services professionally. However, you should still expect to do a fair bit of work yourself at this stage – whilst your designer should be guiding you every step of the way, information they request will need to be provided in a timely manner if the new site is to come to fruition in a sensible timescale.

Avoid generic

Way too many dentists websites are based on purchased templates these days and it’s quite obvious when you view them. Where a designer does this, they are not really interested in taking the time to create a bespoke site which is personalised and meets your precise needs, more that they want to get the job finished quickly and move on to the next one. So you should be sure to find out if your website is truly bespoke or if it’s just another “same old” WordPress template with a few dental photographs and some generic treatment text. Remember what was said above about fickle web users – this type of website may get you online quickly but your visitors will be heading elsewhere even faster.

Design questionnaires and interviews

Read more ›

Posted in Website

The £8k dental website

Why it’s history….

mistake signThe feeling widely held by many dentists that services they purchase are often price-inflated, is too prevalent to not have at least some element of truth. In the field of dental website design and marketing, this is particularly true. If you inspect the pricing details on some of the dental agencies own websites, you will see some quite extraordinary fees being quoted for their website and digital marketing services.

Where these companies do not show their prices online, you can be sure that there are also some nasty surprises in store when you request a quotation. Fees of £7k, £8k and more are still being requested for websites which businesses outside of the dental sector might expect to pay £3 – 4k for. So what’s going on here?

Pitching design services as “reassuringly expensive”.

Dentists may well be aware of this phrase from elsewhere when some 9 or 10 years ago, advisors to the business started to guide practices to pitch their businesses as being “reassuringly expensive” on the understanding that patients actually appreciated it. The concept of the “dental spa” also arose around this time and a number of dentists tried to follow the model – some getting into financial difficulties along the way. So whilst “reassuringly expensive” is certainly something to consider depending on your location and target patient demographic, “high-quality, fit for purpose and affordable” is another business model probably more suited to the majority.

The “all bells and whistles” approach also knocked through into practice website design for dentists and a couple of marketing companies positioned themselves to leverage on this – and so the “expensive” dental website came to be. The guidance was, that unless you were paying for a “high end” website from one of these companies, then your chances of acquiring new patients from the web would be limited. This message proliferated and lots of dentists were encouraged to buy in.

Other tactics used to persuade dentists included claims that they could only be certain of legislative compliance if they purchased from selected suppliers and that purchasing a website elsewhere would leave them open to challenge from the GDC and ICO amongst others. Of course these claims were rather inaccurate, as meeting such legislation is really quite straightforward.

So what the “reassuringly expensive” dentists actually got for their money was, in most cases, no different from the websites supplied by other design companies, other than of course a huge price tag and large monthly maintenance fees to boot. Lots also failed to make progress in Google or were penalised for bad SEO, and so their investments started to look rather misjudged.

Disgruntlement and transfers

Read more ›

Posted in Website

UK dental marketing agencies and outsourcing

Is your website design and marketing being outsourced? Take care.

website design and updatesThe days of extravagant fees for dental website design and marketing are numbered. Increasing competition is seeing prices driven down to sensible levels and it appears that even the most expensive UK dental marketing agencies are starting to reduce their lofty fees.

Another key indicator is that large teams are being down-sized together with increasing evidence that work is being outsourced to cheap, offshore third-party suppliers in a bid to preserve margins. We are also seeing a marked reduction in quality of services, particularly when it comes to the technical aspects of website design. So should you be worried by this changing landscape? For certain there are pitfalls to look out for, as we’ll discuss below.

Would you prefer to speak to a project manager or directly with your web designer?

One of the main concerns we regularly hear from clients who transfer to us from other dental design companies is that they were never properly consulted about their website. After an initial, superficial chat about requirements, they typically found it incredibly difficult to have further input to the design and it became a “done deal” very quickly. Simple requests for alterations were ignored or got lost in a convoluted project management hierarchy. This resulted in the end-product failing to meet the client’s expectations, ongoing disgruntlement and ultimately the wish to move to a different provider of websites for dentists.

Here at Dental Media we have a different philosophy and we understand that the best results are always achieved when there is a fully consultative approach between the client and the designer. Of course this is impossible where the web design agency is outsourcing the work – sadly you tend to just “get what you get”.

Low technical standards

Read more ›

Posted in Website

What is SEO and why do I need it for my dental website?

Improving website ranking positions in Google using search engine optimisation.

rising Google positionsContinuing our Q&A series, today we look at another very popular question we are frequently asked by dentists who are looking to broaden their website reach and acquire new patients from the Internet.

Most dentists have heard of SEO (or SOE as some mistakenly refer to it after confusion with their practice management system!) but relatively few fully understand just how important it is when it comes to realising the full potential of the web for gaining new patients.

In a nutshell, search engine optimisation refers to all of the techniques and activities which can be brought to bear to help move a website upwards in the search rankings; particularly Google, which accounts for most of the searches undertaken in the UK.

Historically, SEO used to be “easy” and a couple of marketing companies with a specific dental bias made a lot of money simply by outsourcing the activity to very cheap off-shore companies whilst they charged their own clients large fees. However, in the early part of 2012, Google got wise to this and penalised “quick and dirty” SEO with many websites being effectively deleted overnight from the search results. Nowadays, SEO is a much more diligent affair which must be underpinned by quality and lie absolutely within Google’s web publishing guidelines. So no cheap wins these days unfortunately.

So why do you need SEO?

Data shows that most fruitful channel for new patient enquiries after word-of-mouth referral is the Internet and more specifically the Google search engine. The top three positions in Google command over 60% of all clicks and these levels decrease quite markedly as you descend down the first page of the search results. There are other factors in play now, for example the local “map” results, but suffice to say that the higher your position in the search results the more traffic you will get. It’s also true to say that most people don’t search for services off page one.

This information alone should be sufficient to indicate why you need a prominent search engine position and consequently why dental website SEO is important.

The main components of dental SEO

Read more ›

Posted in seo

Updating Your Dental Website – The Main Benefits

Keeping your practice website fresh and engaging pays off.

optimising website designIn our ongoing quest to build a library of clear and concise answers to the most frequently asked questions we receive from dentists here at Dental Media, this blog takes a look at the main benefits you can expect when updating your practice website.

Let’s begin by addressing this question we recently received from a dentist who was considering where to invest her marketing budget and how she would gain best returns on her spend:

Q“I have a fair budget for marketing this year and I’m wondering where to invest to make sure I gain best return on investment as well as building a solid marketing platform for the future. My current website is just over 4 years old and I think it needs a refresh, however I’m also keen on looking at other aspects such as marketing on social media so I’m wondering about what the best move forward actually is. I’m quite well placed in Google already but don’t seem to get as many enquiries as I thought I would from the existing website; hence my thoughts about different methods such as Facebook. What do you advise please?”

This is very typical of the questions we receive on a regular basis, where a dentist already has a website, often in a good search engine position, but not yielding the expected number of new patient enquiries. Consequently they start to consider other channels such as social media, before looking closely at what might be amiss with their current marketing tools. In this particular case, the fact that the dentist’s existing website was 4 years old and already with good rankings in Google, tells us that we need to look there first, before diving into other marketing channels. This is simply because the website is the primary hub for facilitating new dental patient contact and, if poorly configured and/or stale, isn’t going to yield great results, irrespective of how much traffic you get to it.

Closer inspection of this particular case showed that the website was in need of a significant overhaul, and even though it was well-established in Google and getting traffic, wasn’t yielding anywhere near the level of new patient enquiries desired. Information was stale, images and text were generic and unappealing, and there was nothing there to stimulate website visitors to actually get in touch. Perhaps most telling of all, was the at the website was not optimised for mobile, so the bounce rates from hand-held device users were particularly high. So lots of potential being wasted!

For a case like this, the recommendation simply must be to get the existing website upgraded to meet current best practice, including all of the features which should be in place to engage new users and stimulate contact. This means a high-degree of personalisation to help build empathy, as well as making sure all of the technical aspects are in place to help increase the chances of “conversion” i.e. completed contact forms or telephone calls.

What you gain from a website update

The advantages to be gained from updating are several fold but here are the main ones:

Read more ›

Posted in Website

Dentist Directories – Take Care When Subscribing

Why submitting to most dental directories will benefit them – not you.

budget for marketingDentists are regularly approached by on-line services who offer to advertise their practice and treatments online for a fee. The advertising service then typically requires a link back to their website from the dentist’s own website. In exchange, the online service “promises” to deliver treatment enquiries to the practice and/or help to improve their search rankings.

But in reality, do these types of directory services actually deliver, or are they simply building up big subscriptions and not really delivering any meaningful new patient enquiries? In most cases the latter is actually true.

In this blog we’ll tell you what to watch out for so you can make an informed choice about whether subscribing to the service is valid or not.

General dentist directories

There are numerous versions of these with names similar to “FindADentist”, “DentistyGuide” and so on and so forth. A lot of these are actually run by dental marketing companies who set them up years ago with the intention of providing links to their client’s websites for SEO purposes. At that time, before Google clamped down on such practices, there may well have been some benefit in such subscriptions and lots of dentists jumped on the bandwagon. However, there is little or no benefit these days, for several reasons 1) the directories only provide “no follow” links which have very limited SEO benefit and 2) virtually all of these directories are nowhere in the Google results anyway. So members of the public looking for dental services aren’t going to find you via that route for sure.

The easiest way to check this, other than asking new patients when they sign up, is to have a look in your Google Analytics data to see how much referral traffic you received from the directory sites – you’ll find that it’s negligible. Near zero traffic usually means zero enquiries – but you paid your subscription anyway!

Niche dental directories

Read more ›

Posted in Advice

Targeting your digital dental marketing

Optimise your online marketing systems to make the most of your budget.

Google remarketing illustrationMany dentists outsource their digital marketing to specialist dental agencies, but there are plenty who still prefer to do it themselves or delegate it to a member of the practice team.

Whilst the desire to do it “in house” and try to save money is admirable, in most of the cases we’ve seen, the DIY approach actually ends up costing more. This is simply because online marketing involves various systems which are quite sophisticated and need skill and experience to set up and then manage ongoing.

Without this level of experience, the adverts you configure for Google or Facebook or the SEO you try to do for the practice website, can be considerably wide-of-the-mark and cost you significantly more than you’d imagine. Let’s start by making a quick overview of why targeting is essential for paid advertising.

Google AdWords

This is perhaps the most obvious area where huge amounts of cash is being wasted by DIY dental advertisers. Typically what we see when we are asked to take on under-performing accounts, is that the parameters which are used to set up the accounts are set using Google defaults, and way too broadly. One key objective of pay-per-click is to only present your adverts to people who are searching for your services and to avoid presenting them to those who are not.

Get this wrong and you will get lots of clicks on your ads which really didn’t have too much chance of “converting” into tangible enquiries. For example, if your keyword targeting isn’t done correctly, a search for “dental implants” could also yield adverts from suppliers of breast implants or indeed any other type of implant, medical or otherwise. Similarly a search for “teeth whitening” could yield results for anything related to “teeth” or indeed “whitening”.

Keyword matching is just one set of parameters which needs attention – there are plenty of others too. You can configure your campaigns to display for searches in specific locations, at specific times and much more. You can even show your ads to people who previously visited your website using “re-marketing” techniques.

Setting up and managing dental pay-per-click campaigns on Google is not a trivial exercise and needs a lot of experience to get results and to avoid paying your hard earned cash to Google unnecessarily on “wasted” clicks. Campaigns must be set up in a “granular” fashion i.e. ad-groups and keywords must be kept tightly focused. These must then be matched to landing pages which are configured specifically to represent the topic and optimised to encourage conversions. Simply placing a loosely targeted ad on Google which links back to your website home page may get you some enquiries, but nowhere near as many as you would expect to receive from a correctly optimised campaign.

Google actually try to make it easy for DIY advertisers using a system called “AdWords Express”. Whilst this will get your adverts up-and-running, it won’t be in an optimised way and you will almost certainly be wasting money compared to a professionally managed campaign.

Facebook Advertising

Read more ›

Posted in Advice

Dental marketing contract “tie-ins” to be wary of

Avoiding common lock-ins your marketing agency might try

mistake signRegular readers of this blog will know how frustrated we get with the questionable tactics used by some companies who offer marketing services for dentists. Whether it’s simply purchasing cheap £50 WordPress templates, adjusting them slightly and selling on for thousands, or onerous long-term contractual lock-ins, unfortunately it’s all out there and way too prevalent these days.

So in today’s blog we’ll take a quick look at some of the ways a marketing company will try to lock you in and make it very difficult for you if you want to transfer your business elsewhere. In effect this should serve as a handy check-list when you are considering signing up for new services.

The long-term contract

This is a simple one still used by many in the business. But why would you really need to sign up to something where you may get poor results and be unable to do anything about it for a long time? A prime case is SEO where companies will try to lock you into a twelve month contract with no results based components. If they don’t perform and you want to leave, then unless pay off the remainder of the fees, you’re likely stuck.

Non-portable website

Read more ›

Posted in Advice

Using WordPress for your dental website? Beware of hackers!

Why you need to stay on top of WordPress security updates

WordPress hack riskWordPress is very popular for building cheap websites but also notoriously prone to security problems and hacking exploits; particularly so if you don’t spend a lot of time staying abreast of all of the security updates needed to try to keep it secure.

The fundamental problems are exacerbated because of all the third party “plugins” which can be used to extend the functionality of WordPress.

Most are free to use but come with varying degrees of robustness and support – so a plugin that works and is secure when your site is built, may not be secure when the developer abandons it 6 months down the track.

Given all of the maintenance and security issues, WordPress is now not our main tool of choice for business critical dental website applications; instead we prefer an alternative content management system which is considerably more secure and frankly easier for clients to use. However, we do still use WordPress for blogging where we can “lock it down” and ensure that it stays as secure as possible, minimising the use of vulnerable plugins and with no reliance on third-party scripts to make it work. Even so, we still invest a lot of time in keeping these streamlined blogging platforms updated and secure.

**STOP PRESS** – this blog was written just before a huge WordPress hack which happened in early February and which affected hundreds of thousands of websites. A couple of dental design companies were hit particularly hard with dozens of their client sites being defaced. Some are still down now, nearly two weeks later, demonstrating just how pertinent the advice in this blog actually is.

Why is WordPress popular?

Given the plethora of security problems and tiring updates, you have to wonder why WordPress is popular? The fact is that there are lots of resources available for WordPress which make it very cost-effective for developers. These are typically what we call “templates” which can be acquired for very little money; £30 or £40 and some even free.

The developers then add business specific images and text to the pre-built template and sell it on to their clients, often for thousands of pounds. More often than not, the client is led to believe that it’s a bespoke design when in fact it’s available for all to use for just a few pounds. This type of activity is rife in the dental web design community where some designers actually claim that the designs are bespoke and yet it’s easy to see that there is a commercial template underpinning it.

Failure to update – the consequences

Read more ›

Posted in Content Management