Dental marketing – “done for you” versus “done by you”

Why 100% outsource of practice marketing generally falls short

bored man asleepWe quite regularly receive enquiries from dentists who are looking for a completely outsourced dental marketing service – so with the intention that there is zero involvement from the practice team. In today’s blog we’ll take a look at why that strategy is now sub-optimal and why the local team have to be involved in some activities if the best results are to be achieved. This will also illustrate why companies who proclaim to do it all for you, should be treated with caution.

To make it as clear as possible, I will illustrate the elements which can (and generally should) be outsourced, followed by those which need at least some local involvement; together with brief explanations. We will also take a quick look at dental marketing activities which can be shared between the practice team and an outsource partner. None of this is “rocket science” and should be fairly easy to differentiate.

“Done for you” dental marketing:

  • website design – this is the foundation of your digital marketing and acts as the hub through which the majority of web enquiries will flow. Whilst DIY website building tools have improved, they are still a long way behind what an experienced design can achieve for you. One of our blogs from a few weeks back looked at why your website isn’t just about aesthetics and why it must be underpinned with numerous technical features and suitably marketing orientated. So whilst you need to get involved with the content and overall direction of your website, the configuration and incorporation of best practice, is best left to those with experience.
  • search engine optimisation – this is another area where DIY can do more harm than good. Frankly it’s difficult enough for full-time SEO guys to stay abreast of all of Google’s updates and changes so trying to do this in-house doesn’t really make sense. Budget for it appropriately and choose an expert with a suitable track record.
  • set up and optimisation of essential web business properties; e.g. Google My Business, Analytics, Search Console etc. These are all tools which underpin your digital marketing activities, including monitoring performance. Some are a little quirky and ideally would be set up (in the practice’s name and accounts) by your marketing partner.
  • Pay-per-click marketing (AdWords, Facebook etc) – this is an area where we see more errors and wasted cash than any other. Setting up and running pay-per-click is not for the inexperienced so get help with this. As a minimum have an experienced PPC guy set up the campaigns for you and then get some basic training if you want to try to maintain the accounts going forward; however, in reality what you save on click-costs will likely be more than the fee you would pay for an expert to do it all for you.
  • traditional advertising – contrary to some advice, although traditional print advertising has declined significantly, it’s certainly not dead. Your marketing agency will be able to assist you with the design of adverts for local papers, leaflets, newsletters etc which can still work very well for raising your profile in the local community.

We can see here that most of these are “digital” activities i.e. creating an excellent web presence and then broadcasting your services expertly via the web. However, the web isn’t the exclusive domain of your external marketing partner as we’ll see later.

“Done by you” dental marketing

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Posted in Advice

Do larger dental websites work better in Google?

The role of website content in search marketing

In our goal to answer many of the popular questions we are asked by dentists who are embarking on digital marketing campaigns, this blog discusses how the quality and breadth of content on a website can materially affect Google ranking results.

Size matters… usually….

Quite a lot of dentists are keen on minimalist websites, perhaps seduced by the slick lines of non-dental website they’ve seen elsewhere. Whilst this quest to differentiate in a sea of generic WordPress template websites is commendable, is it always a good move? The truth is that in general, large, well-elaborated websites tend to work better in the search results than minimalist versions. It is important to understand that this is not always the case – Google is very smart these days and will surface popular content in the ranking index even where it was published on a smaller website. However, these cases are rare and generally it is fair to say that, on a like-for-like basis, a new larger website will form a better search platform than a new smaller website.

Why is this?

There are a few factors to consider here. Google likes differentiated information which we need to take into account when setting up the architecture of a website. So where a dentist crams information about several treatment types into a single web page, this is very hard to optimise and consequently Google will be confused about what to prioritise. To avoid this type of content dilution, it is important to make sure that each of your main treatments has its own web page and specific optimisation. This will invariably give you a better spread of results in Google; so casting a wider net for new dental patients who are searching for services.

Going further than this, if you are promoting a specific type of treatment, e.g. implants or orthodontics, it can really help to have several web pages covering different aspects of the discipline. If you really want to maximise the advantages, then a treatment specific website is a great tool – we discussed this in detail in an earlier blog here.

Google is incredibly adept at identifying “authoritative” information – so good quality and depth usually wins out over minimalist.

Content quality

It’s no use thinking that cramming lots of junk into a website will work to satisfy the content breadth equation. Whilst this sort of SEO technique used to work a number of years ago, Google quickly wised-up and started to penalise those attempting it. It goes much further than this these days; simply writing short, repetitive content and adding it to your blog can be seen as “thin” content and whilst it is unlikely you will be penalised, it’s likely to be ignored by Google. It’s much better to publish a couple of longer articles which hold a user’s attention, rather than several very short ones which add little or no value.

Adding new content

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Posted in Website

Should You Join A “Braces” Marketing Network?

Does paying the middle-man make sense or better to go it alone?

invisible brace networkOne of our clients recently asked our advice about joining an ‘invisible’ braces marketing network and whether we thought it represented a good investment versus doing it stand-alone with marketing assistance from ourselves. Whilst it’s not really possible to give a definite “yes” or “no” answer to this, it is possible to study the data and scenarios to help with an informed decision.

Firstly, lets look at how this type of network operates and the services they offer.

The model

Essentially the operation revolves around a hub which uses paid advertising, primarily Google AdWords, to place ads for a particular braces product prominently for most location searches across the UK. So anyone who searches for the product on Google is likely to see the ad and may well click through to the main website owned by the network. Dentists from around the country subscribe to the network and pay a substantial joining fee along with a significant monthly subscription. In return, the potential patients are filtered through to the regional providers to deliver the service.

This model has obviously worked well for the network and for some of the dentists who subscribe too. The network website shows some testimonials from dentists who claim several new braces cases per month delivered via this mechanism. Knowing the margin for typical ‘invisible’ braces cases, then the return on investment looks fairly solid. However, what we don’t know is how many dentists subscribe but don’t actually see the return they expect or indeed what the membership churn is.

The network also provides other marketing collateral and some training to help their subscribers sell the product, however, whether this is actually worthwhile over and above what the brace suppliers offer as a matter of course, is uncertain and would need to be established on a case-by-case basis.

What is also quite surprising is that there also seem to be locations in the country where more than one dentist is allowed to join the network which would seem to go against exclusivity and potentially introduce conflict? However, there may be mechanisms in place designed to manage this.

How does the network utilise Google for seeking enquiries?

As mentioned previously, this seems to be primarily through the use of paid adverts i.e. AdWords. This system avoids the “localisation” which governs how the organic (free) results work and allows an advertiser to place an ad in any area of the country and in a prominent position (as long as Google is paid enough for clicks). The marketing network will use some of the subscribers money to pay for the Google advert clicks – but how much is uncertain. There also appears to be some promotional activity via Facebook as well as other “perks” for members of these networks; albeit what they actually are and their overall worth appears to vary. So please check this if you are considering joining.

What is certain is that the network doesn’t really feature very well in the organic (free) Google results which are typically dominated by local dentists. This is also the case for the local (map) results on page one of Google. What is important to consider here is that less than 30% of all traffic from Google searches goes via AdWords – the large majority still goes via the organic results. We will discuss the importance of this next.

So should you subscribe to the braces marketing networks or not?

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Posted in Advice

Is your dental practice website marketing activated?

Why your website is not just about aesthetics

optimising website designDentists regularly approach web design agencies to build a practice website which “looks pretty”, often driven by their own personal taste and preferences. However, the number of pretty websites which appear on page two and three of Google suggests that often, too little thought is given to how the website actually works to attract new patients and encourage them to contact you.

Google ranking has always been important, but these days particularly, the technical configuration of a website is more important than ever before when forming the best platform for doing well in search engines. Similarly, the information you present and how you present it is critical to capture the user’s attention and “convert” their visit to a useful enquiry.

So if you or your designer just concentrate on the aesthetics, you will miss excellent opportunities which would arise if you’d taken a more comprehensive approach when researching and building your website. SEO (search engine optimisation), “user experience” and compelling content all need to be integrated into the design process to ensure that your site is not just a brochure but a complete marketing platform which achieves the objective of delivering new patients.

Understand your patients

Before the design process begins, you need to think carefully about what you are trying to achieve; so the type of patient you are trying to attract and the treatments you are trying to deliver. You then need to document the challenges they face and why you are best-placed to address those challenges for them. So whether your primary service is to replace missing teeth for patients over 50 who have high disposable incomes, or straighten crooked teeth for teenagers or young adults, then it pays to consider your mains objectives in detail. This can then be shared in depth with your designer who will help build the best possible vehicle to achieve your goals.

It’s not about you

It’s important to accept that the website is not all about you – it’s about your potential patient and understanding and solving the problem they have. Of course a significant part of this is demonstrating your own knowledge and experience and how this plays a big part in the patient’s journey from finding you right through to a successful outcome. But primarily it’s about them and solving their problems. You and your excellent services are just a route to that.

Your website has numerous jobs

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Posted in Website

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?

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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Posted in Website