WordPress 5.0 is coming soon – it will probably break your website!

WordPress problems

Huge changes to WordPress imminent – have you tested in advance?

Elsewhere in this blog we’ve discussed the issues associated with using the popular, but maintenance-heavy, WordPress platform for your dental website. The issues associated with hacking, incompatibility of plugins and hence the need for very regular maintenance intervention, are well-known.

That said, many dentists still end up with a WordPress based website and then hope that their designer stays on top of it to keep it updated and secure. Unfortunately, this often is not the case as the maintenance issues and incompatibilities become more onerous as the core platform updates. This is why there are so many WordPress websites out there which fall into disrepair and eventually get hacked. That said, if you do go the WordPress route and are prepared to invest in its maintenance, you can still get a viable site for your business – but please understand the implications if you do.

Unfortunately that’s not the full story and periodically, the day-to-day maintenance issues associated with WordPress actually increase dramatically. This happens when they release a full version update rather than and incremental update within a version. Sometimes, the update is so large that it introduces wholesale structural changes into the way that WordPress works, bringing with it a tsunami of problems where even the best maintained websites break. Such a change, WordPress 5.0, is just a couple of weeks away from launch and the impending shock wave has web design agencies which specialise in WordPress sites, very concerned. If you have a WordPress based dental website, you should also be concerned.

Why is WordPress 5.0 so different?

The upcoming version of WordPress is designed by default to incorporate a completely new editor know as ‘Gutenberg’, named after the German printing pioneer from the 1400’s Johannes Gutenberg. This has apparently been done so that the commercial side of the WordPress business can remain competitive with the wide range of third-party visual editors which already exist. So it looks like WordPress are trying to develop a “one-stop-shop” for their content management system.

Whilst this all sounds good and potentially very useful for website owners, the transition from the older versions of WordPress will not be without issues, in some cases a lot of issues! It is already known that many plugins (the bits of software which extend core functionality) will cease to function, as well as the themes which are used to change the front-end appearance of WordPress. So all round a lot of upheaval.

My site is on WordPress – what should I do?

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Technical SEO and your website

website poor performance

Why the technical performance of your website matters more than ever before – for users AND search engines

Have you noticed the proliferation of dental websites which rely on huge images to generate “wow” on the home page, typically presented via some sort of image switching mechanism or “slider”?

Most of the sites out there these days have something similar and it’s understandable why, at least from an aesthetic perspective. Such features are very appealing and as they say “a picture paints a thousand words”. Another website trend at the moment is something known as “parallax” effect which is where text moves on a page and the image moves behind it when you scroll. Also quite quirky and interesting.

Whilst these types of features are appealing and eye-catching for users, are they equally as good when it comes to satisfying the requirement of that other critical website user, Googlebot? This is the crawler which Google uses to gather data from your website to allow it to be indexed and then ranked in their search results. What Googlebot finds and how the data is interpreted, is incredibly important for how your website fares in the ranking index.

Why the technical infrastructure of a website matters for SEO

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Employee Advocacy

training session for dental staff

Don’t miss out on this huge marketing asset

You may be fueling business growth through the well-known and effective channels of digital marketing, for example SEO and pay-per-click, but are you missing out on another critical asset which is right under your nose?

Here I’m referring to your employees and using their knowledge and experience to help broadcast positive messages about your business within their own social communities. Numerous studies have indicated that a company’s employees are in fact the most credible brand advocates and reliable sources for a business’s target audience.

This concept is broadly referred to as “employee advocacy” and it works just as well for small businesses as larger ones; albeit the overall “reach” of such strategies will obviously be governed by the number of employees involved. Irrespective, this employee advocacy approach is very powerful and well worth nurturing, particularly considering the socially connected environment we all live in these days.

So how can your staff help with your dental marketing?

In the dental context, there need to be firm ground rules in place and possibly even some training to ensure that when your internal brand advocates are broadcasting to the masses, that they’re not inadvertently breaking any GDC rules, ICO rules or any others which apply. This should go without saying and is very important. Once that confidence is established, you can then encourage your team to begin sharing your content and messages with their own social connections. Many of the younger generation now have hundreds if not thousands of social connections and the potential reach is significant when you get it right.

As well as increasing the social reach of your brand, when your team share your content you will also benefit from:

  • increased website traffic
  • increase in qualified leads
  • better social engagement as new users interact with your business profiles

Some examples of employee advocacy and why it’s so powerful

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When your website gets hacked

WordPress hack risk

What steps do you need to take to get back on track quickly?

If you look through search engine results you won’t need to go too far before finding dental websites which have been hacked. Google in particular, is now quite adept at identifying hacked sites and flagging these with a warning message advising you not to click.

Modern browsers and anti-virus software are also better than ever when it comes to blocking hacked sites and reducing the risk of the malware spreading. However, it’s clearly best not to be in that situation in the first place and not get hacked. But what steps should you take if you are unfortunate enough to be compromised? Before we step in, let’s take a quick look at the type of websites which get hacked and why it happens so you can determine the risk.

Which types of websites are most prone to hacking?

It’s very hard if not impossible to hack a traditional website which is built in flat html and any hacks of this nature tend to come where a server has been compromised i.e. not via the “front end” of the website itself. The huge majority of hacks occur with database driven websites, so information sites which have content management systems or ecommerce systems.

The most hacks occur with the WordPress platform which although popular, needs a significant amount of maintenance to stay secure. However, even well-maintained WordPress websites have fallen victim to new hacks which have happened in a very short space of time. Other content management systems also need maintenance but WordPress is historically more prone to compromise than any other.

So if you have a website which fits into one of those categories, your risk is higher than if you have a website which is built with traditional “flat” html and consequently you need to take extra precautions.

Unfortunately most hacking occurs where a designer delivers a website but then fails to maintain it. This can happen for a couple of main reasons, 1) they can’t be bothered even though you paid them and 2) they delivered a website built with a pre-made template and/or plugins which then became incompatible and couldn’t be supported. Both of these scenarios are much more common than you might imagine and many dentists fall foul of the hackers who check constantly for vulnerabilities which can be exploited.

What do you do if your dental website gets hacked?

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Why most dentists fail with Facebook marketing

Facebook logo

Is the rush to Facebook dental marketing working for you? Likely not….

The hottest topic in dental marketing at the moment is arguably Facebook advertising. With most agencies pushing this and with this “new” channel becoming ever more accessible, the number of dentists jumping on the band-wagon seems to be increasing exponentially.

But the feedback about the success of Facebook and it’s ability to deliver new patient enquiries is at best mixed. So is this about the Facebook framework itself under-delivering, or more about the way dentists are trying to use it? It’s actually a mixture of both as we’ll see later.

However, it’s only fair at this early stage to point out that Facebook marketing can work; but you need a good level of knowledge, experience and persistence to make it happen.

The key challenge with advertising in Facebook

This is important and the main thing to understand before you launch into your Facebook campaign. Fundamentally, Facebook is a social channel and its main use is to act as a vehicle to facilitate interaction between family, friends and colleagues. So despite all of the noise you may hear about people searching for services and products on Facebook, the vast majority of this is done elsewhere, i.e. Google. So in most cases, users are on Facebook for social interaction, rather than with predetermined buying intent. So if you serve an ad to these guys, even if it’s well-targeted, it’s unlikely to receive as much strong purchasing engagement as an ad served on Google or even a traditional search engine result.

Consequently, traffic you get from Facebook is from users who are typically much further up the purchasing funnel and potentially only mildly interested in what you have to offer, rather than filled with burgeoning purchasing intent. However, that said, it can be very useful for building local brand awareness and creating initial touch-points.

Understanding this is key before thinking that Facebook it the answer to all of your marketing prayers – it isn’t. This is why we always recommend a Facebook campaign as being complementary to SEO and Google Ads, rather than attempting to displace those tried-and-trusted mechanisms.

Too much noise?

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Is your dental reception video effective?

Video Presentation Dental Waiting Room

Presenting the right content on your waiting room flat-screen TV

The dental reception video is an excellent tool for helping existing patients understand more about the treatments you provide and encouraging them to investigate new options to enhance their smiles and/or improve their oral health.

Indeed, in terms of value for money, it’s a difficult one to beat as it is “ever present” and working in front of a captive audience. So it pays to invest appropriately to deploy content that will work well.

Many dentists have invested in video presentations for their reception areas but some are much better than others; ranging from “off the shelf”, generic versions which can be rather low quality and cheesy, to fully bespoke version which, when done well, can really create a great impression for your patients.

Why invest in a reception area video?

Here are the main benefits of a great dental reception video:

  • “always on” – brings relevant information to your patients as they wait
  • introduces your team and facilities
  • demonstrates your full range of treatment options and their benefits
  • shows smile makeover ‘before and after’ results
  • showcases patient testimonials
  • introduces offers and events e.g. open days

Whilst “face to face” discussions are always likely to be best for delivering new treatment take-up, a carefully crafted video can certainly pique initial interest and get the ball rolling. Plus it’s always there working for you!

What works and what doesn’t work?

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Targeting Your Google Ads For Enhanced Performance

Google Ads

Reduce click-budget and improve conversions in your dental Google Ads campaigns

Google Ads (formerly AdWords) is becoming increasingly popular (and necessary) as part of comprehensive dental marketing campaigns. As we’ve discussed earlier, Google is dedicating more space in search results for ads and decreasing the scope for traditional free search results.

For example on mobile ‘phones unless you scroll, all you see on the first results page you are presented with, is ads and local results. Considering that on average 60% of all web traffic is now from mobile devices, it’s not hard to see why the “pay to play” advertising age is now firmly with us.

Given the above, it makes very good business sense to optimise your Google advertising, as click-budgets, i.e. the money you pay directly to Google, do not come cheap if you want to get good traction with your campaigns. This is particularly so in areas of high competition where, for example, a click on an implant or ortho ad could cost £5 or more.

Too regularly we see DIY campaigns which are set up in-house by dentists or dental team members with little or no experience. This includes the use of the Google Ads “Express” format which is designed to make the job much easier for the inexperienced. However, very often the result is a campaign which is poorly optimised and leaks budget through lots of wasted clicks and lack of proactive management. To counter this, it really does make sense to employ a pay-per-click professional or be prepared to spend a fair amount of time learning the Google Ads interface and learning by trial and error.

Basic optimisation

If you are keen on trying the DIY approach, the following parameters must be addressed as a minimum. Remember that you also need to revisit the ads configuration regularly as setting up is not “fire and forget”. Google Ads is a dynamic auction and as such needs intervention to keep the account optimised.

Hierarchy and granularity

It is absolutely essential to segment your campaigns by topic at quite a granular level. So at the campaign level you might choose “dental implants” then use 3 or 4 ad groups within the campaign to represent different aspects of the implant topic. For example your ad groups might cover single implants, denture stabilisation, full arch replacement etc. The more you break it down, the easier it is to control and optimise. Your account quality score will also benefit from this and in turn reduce your click costs. This granular approach is quite time consuming but will work much better than what we usually see in DIY campaigns i.e. a single campaign, perhaps one or two ad groups and hundreds of keywords rammed in without too much thought.

Keyword selection and matching

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Don’t lose out on new patient enquiries at the front-desk

budget for marketing

The crucial role of the reception team in your dental marketing campaigns.

The ultimate goal of any marketing campaign is to secure new business; so for dentists the bottom line is acquiring new patients who want the type of treatments you offer.

The role of the dental marketer is relatively easy to define in this, i.e. setting up the tools and techniques needed to bring new enquiries to the practice. The ways to achieve this objective are broad and varied, ranging from the traditional promotional literature campaigns to state-of-art re-marketing via social media, SEO and everything in-between.

As we’ve noted elsewhere in our marketing blog for dentists, a good agency will not only be able to deliver the results you need, but also be able to do it transparently through the provision of regular, clear reporting. However, whilst it’s reasonably straightforward to identify new leads, how these are actually dealt with and followed-up at the practice is much harder for the marketer to determine. Unfortunately there are too many cases where good leads are not handled correctly and in some cases, not followed up at all locally. This nullifies all of the upfront work done by your marketing team and wastes money from your hard-earned budget.

What can go wrong?

There are a few notable points of weakness at the practice level which we’ve encountered over the years. The first and perhaps most important and prevalent is a lack of systems designed to capture and nurture leads. This may be done to the principle “expecting” someone to get on with it rather than ensuring that the correct training, systems and auditing are in place. This is still way too common unfortunately. Another common occurrence is where the reception team has systems in place but is insufficiently proactive to make best use of them. Sadly we see this quite regularly too, and often where the principal dentist is so immersed in clinical work that he/she doesn’t realise what is happening.

We’ve seen technical failures too – for example the dentist who quit his marketing campaign on the back of “limited” results. Our reporting, linked directly to online analytics, showed a substantial number of new enquiries each month, but this was not translating into sufficient new patients and treatments. Only when he quit (to our surprise) did we finally establish that his reception team was not monitoring the email address which had been requested and set up specifically to handle new web enquiries (really!)

In another case where the success of the campaign came under question, it transpired that the receptionist had been recording all new enquiries as “word-of-mouth” simply because it was easiest and on the top of the record sheet. This may sound extreme, but it’s worth taking a look at what’s happening in your own team.

So the front-desk team or whoever is tasked to receive and handle new enquiries, really is critical to your success (or failure).

What needs to be done?

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Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines For Websites

If you’re interested in SEO for your dental website, follow Google’s advice!

In this blog you may have seen a number of references to search engine optimisation, including Google’s web ranking algorithms and how to improve the position of your website in Google’s results.

Much of the information in our regular blogs is built on many years of experience and best practice; however, we always make it clear that no-one other than Google knows exactly how their systems work. Consequently there will always be an element of uncertainty about exactly how they determine the ranking order of websites.

Whilst Google will release some general information about their search engine updates and the types of effects which may be seen, the information is rarely detailed enough to allow marketers to completely formulate their strategies upon it. So given the impenetrable veil of secrecy surrounding Google, how do we go about determining the best ways to improve the search positions of our client’s websites?

Learning from experience

Whilst Google is constantly updating, after 15 years of experience of optimising websites for dentists and following the topic in detail, unsurprisingly you build up knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. Back around 2010, Google started to combat web spam with vigour, penalising websites which attempted to gain ranking advantages through manipulative means. Whilst this was a fraught time for may SEO companies, it really did give a good opportunity to try to understand how Google was working and its thrust towards building a search index based on quality rather than spammy techniques.

Search index updates continue with the same vigour to this day and we don’t expect them to let up. Consequently, as marketers, we have to remain agile and be prepared to changes tactics and techniques in tune.

Testing

Having a huge range of websites within our control does allow us to test different techniques to see what works best. Of course we need to take care and ensure we follow Google’s publishing guidelines, but within this there are nuances and different avenues to explore. This huge range of data then helps us to determine the best strategies to deploy.

Quality and the avoidance of spam

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When your marketer won’t discuss return on investment

confused website user

Is the ROI question a bridge too far for your dental marketing agency?

If you’ve read other articles in our blog, you’ll be aware that one of our biggest irritations regarding the dental marketing industry, is the lack of accountability demonstrated by too many companies when it comes to proving the worth of their work.

Frankly this is rife and varies from companies who charge money for nothing, to those who try demonstrate success on the back of useless metrics which actually aren’t adding any value.

Why does this happen?

Frankly, if you are so inclined, it’s quite easy to confuse and obfuscate when it comes to marketing results, simply because there are lots of variables and ways to hide the important data. Ultimately marketers are dealing with dentists who are undoubtedly smart, but may not be so well-versed in marketing skills or perhaps even the key drivers for new patient acquisition. This is particularly so for those who are new to business and just starting out.

Unfortunately too many marketing agencies know and exploit this and sadly it’s rife in the dental industry.

What to look out for

When discussing any marketing contract, you must have ROI – return on investment – as a priority item and be sure that the agency provides regular updates to demonstrate this. This should be in clear and concise terms, fully transparent and linked to key measures of success. If your agency is trying to bamboozle you with lots of data which is meaningless to you, then likely it is only for obfuscation purposes and to distract you from the data which really matters. Some tricks you might see include the following:

  • promoting and reporting useless keywords
  • detailing advert impressions rather than user actions
  • simply reporting overall traffic to a website rather than traffic by channel
  • failure to report “conversions” i.e. number of actual contacts

There are lots of others which we’ve encountered over the years, but ultimately the data which really matters is related to website traffic (differentiated by sources) and the number of real enquiries which resulted from it.

What you should expect in monthly reporting

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