“Strongest SEO team in the UK” – says who?

confused dentistIf you’ve been a dental practice owner for a while and during that time you’ve purchased services in the area of dental marketing, you will possibly know what a minefield it can be. It’s not easy to find a reliable, consistent provider who is focused on getting results and totally transparent along with it, and unfortunately the number of bad guys out there is increasing.

When you’ve been in the business for many years, building a strong reputation for helping hundreds of dentists with their marketing, on and off-line; it can be quite frustrating when new teams appear with glitzy websites and making lots of bold claims about their ‘success’ with SEO and other methods. But it’s not just the new entrants who make these hugely over exaggerated claims; a number of marketing teams who have been around for a while try to bamboozle potential new clients with what can only be described as “smoke and mirrors”.

One such example currently claims to have the strongest dental SEO team in the UK, but when you look closely, you’ll see that this is pretty far off the mark. Their client results are at best very average and their own website was actually penalised by Google not too long ago due to using techniques way outside of Google’s publishing guidelines. If they managed to do this to their own site, what are they risking with dentist’s websites?

The problem here, and it’s a big one, is that your average dentist has no clue how to differentiate between good and bad and is easily duped by glossy websites which claim amazing successes. But if you are experienced and you look more closely at what they say and do, it’s very clear that their a lot of the claims are not based on substance but mainly obfuscation and misinformation. So how are they doing this and what do you need to look out for to ensure you don’t get duped? Let’s take a closer look at these questionable ways!

Presenting vanity metrics

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What you need to know about this important web asset

domain name managementOver the last few months, a couple of our older clients have asked for domain names to be transferred to new owners when selling their practices due to retirement. This is all part of the natural progression of course, and it’s always nice to meet the new clients when they come along.

However, what I realised as part of the process, is that a lot of people actually know very little about about apparently small but important assets such as domain names and just how critical they can be. For example, a domain name is registered either to a company or an individual and if those particular credentials are wrong, transferring to a new owner can be quite problematic.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key points you need to understand when it comes to the domain names associated with your dental practice website so that you don’t get caught out in the future.

Make sure your domain is registered in your name

This is most important and worth checking for any of the domains that you own. What can happen is that a marketing agency or other third party is allowed to register the domain name(s) on their client’s behalf but then registers it in their own name and not their clients. This practice is still rife unfortunately and is historically based on an unfounded belief that it somehow gives control should a client default on payment for example. Frankly it’s just bad practice, so please watch out for it.

.com or .co.uk?

These are the two most popular domain name variations in the UK, but which one should you choose? In most cases, .co.uk is the most appropriate as this is actually designated for use by UK businesses. If you want to go with .com, that’s OK but it doesn’t make you look more impressive and isn’t directly UK related. It’s really for use by bigger organisations with multi-national presence. But don’t worry if you inherited a website with a .com – it can still be made to rank as well as a website based on a .co.uk domain.

There are lots of other domain names available these days, for example .dental, but they are a bit funky and it’s our recommendation that you can’t go wrong by selecting a .co.uk.

Do you need multiple domain names?

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Important things to consider before investing in a new dental practice website.

confused website userThese days it’s easy enough to set up a website, even if it’s using a DIY website builder you saw advertised on TV or from an ad in your Facebook timeline. But what you may not realise at the outset is that not all websites are equal and if you make the wrong choice, then you will likely regret it.

Before we jump in and discuss the types of websites which are available and their respective pros and cons, let’s take a quick look at the characteristics you really should be seeking when building a website for a dental practice. Fall short on some of these and you’ll be behind the pack. But why is this? Well in most areas, there are always a few dentists who understand just how important a great website is and will invest accordingly. This really does make a big difference when it comes to acquiring new patients from the web.

So what should you be looking for when you start your new website project?

  • Great looking – but not just form over function
  • Easy to use and navigate
  • Calls to action to encourage a fast response from users
  • Fast loading and SEO optimised
  • Technically excellent
  • Written empathetically – to “hook” users in as soon as they arrive
  • Prominent patient testimonials and reviews
  • Case studies
  • Galleries and videos
  • An integrated blog

If you can achieve the above (and really this should be your target) then you have a great foundation for attracting new patients from the web. However, get it wrong and those enquiries will likely be going elsewhere.

What routes can I take to publish a new dental practice website?

So how can I get online with a new site and what are the pros and cons of the various mechanisms you can use to get there? Let’s take a closer look.

A DIY website builder

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Two key factors for dental website Google ranking

Google local businessWhen it comes to getting prominent search engine rankings for dentists, perhaps the most fundamental aspect to check before any SEO campaign kicks off, is where the practice is physically located.

This is so important and governs what can realistically be achieved for an organic search engine promotion. Unfortunately this is not really understood by many dentists and so can lead to some fairly unrealistic expectations regarding what can actually be achieved. Let’s take a closer look at the background to this and what you should and shouldn’t expect from your SEO partner.

Localisation in Google

This refers to the way in which Google delivers search results based on the location of the searcher and the physical location of the types of businesses they are searching for. This is broadly understood by most people when it comes to the local or “map” results which Google presents on page one of the search results, but perhaps less well understood for the rest of the organic (free) listings. In a nutshell, Google knows where you are when you search using a variety of mechanisms, including the network you are connected to, GPS tracking and more. They can also do this even if you have location checking switched off on your mobile ‘phone; so please don’t assume that you can operate truly incognito unless you have some fairly sophisticated VPN systems installed.

Google also knows where the businesses you are searching for are located, again using a variety of signals. These range from the obvious ones like the address the business uses on its website, through to the address reference other websites use when linking to the particular business in question. Google is extremely adept at aggregating all of this data and then using it to very accurately position businesses within their mapping systems and also within the search results.

Why does this matter for SEO?

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Use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool To See What’s Gone Wrong!

waiting for a website to loadWith networks speeding up all the time and with 5G mobile data already with us, you might think that optimising your website’s loading speed is irrelevant theses days. However, that would be a bad mistake to make and there are a couple of very good reasons why.

The speed at which your web pages load is particularly important, so just opting for form over function when it comes to web design is a critical error if you are serious about presenting a great user experience and doing well in the Google search rankings.

Unfortunately not too many people realise just how important good website performance is and this leads to them accepting really rather poor new websites from their chosen designers. All too often, the designer will know that what they are delivering is substandard and well outside of Google’s requirements, but they go ahead and hand the site over anyway. Most of the time they know they can get away with it and the designer will be long gone before the website owner starts asking questions.

The key of course, is to let your designer know that you understand the issues related to website speed and that you will be testing your new website to make sure that it performs properly.

Why is page load speed so important?

We’ve touched on this a few times in our blog, but to recap, websites need to load quickly to ensure that users get a good navigation and usability experience even where network speeds are quite slow. Not everyone is blessed with fast internet or the latest mobile speeds so you need to be sure that your site is still accessible and easy to use under these circumstances.

Equally important these days is that Google wants your website to load quickly. There are numerous theories as to why this is, ranging from them trying to take responsibility for promoting a fast and efficient internet, to the more cynical suggestion that they want it to be as fast as possible to facilitate serving ads! The truth is probable some combination of a number of factors, but suffice to say that if Google desires us to comply, then comply we should! To encourage this, Google now rewards fast websites with better search rankings whilst demoting those which are less good. It should be said that this isn’t the only factor which dictates where your website will rank; however it is becoming increasingly important as time progresses. So please don’t ignore it!

Google ranking is so competitive these days, so if there is a factor within your control which you can optimise such as website loading speed, then you really should take the opportunity to do it. If your designer says it doesn’t matter, then they really aren’t doing their job properly. Incremental improvements such as this really do make a difference.

All that glitters isn’t gold!

Here at Dental Media we design hundreds of websites for dentists and as part of the process we ask potential new clients to show us examples of websites they already like. This is useful to help us gain an idea of the type of design style they prefer. When we are referred to these example sites we also take the opportunity to asses their strengths and weaknesses and discuss these with the client. Invariably we get shown some really “glitzy” websites often built using WordPress visual editing tools, or worse, tools like Squarespace, and on face value they look decent enough. However, when we dig deep into the code and evaluate the actual performance of the sites, a lot of them are real shockers! There is often quite a strong correlation with relatively poor search results too.

The moral of this story is that form doesn’t rule over function and these days, both factors are extremely important. Simply put, your website needs to look great and function extremely well too.

How can I check my website?

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New tools to enhance your Google pay-per-click performance

Extending AdWordsOver the last few years we’ve written several blog articles covering the use of Google Ads (formerly AdWords) as part of comprehensive dental marketing strategies and how it is becoming commonplace to support organic SEO campaigns.

Google Ads done well, can pay off handsomely and it’s well worth getting on board to help boost new patient enquiries.

As with all sophisticated marketing tools, you do need expert assistance to get the most from it, together with the use of comprehensive reporting systems to quantify the payback. With these things in place, Google Ads can be an excellent way to help grow you practice.

Google makes a huge proportion of its revenues from Ads (> 90%) and consequently they put a lot of time and resources into the tool. This ranges from regular technical and feature updates, to providing support in helping you set up you campaigns. If you do go the DIY route, just be careful as to the quality of the support however, because it can be a little bit hit and miss!

In today’s blog we’ll take a look at a couple of recent and useful additions to your ad campaigns which we’ve already found useful to improve conversions. We’ll already assume that you are using the full Google Ads suite of tools (not the Express “lite” system which is rather poor) and that you have all of the basic features in play. This means a granular account with appropriate data hierarchy, correct choice of keywords, negative keywords and a range of carefully crafted ads. We’ll also assume that you have your account integrated with Google Analytics so you have clear visibility on performance. If you are yet to implement some of these features, please take a look elsewhere in our blog for advice or give our team a call.

Recent Google Ads features for you try

You will likely have seem some ads on Google which stand out much better than others? These prominent ads are making use of the full suite of tools available in the ads management system to help make them stand out i.e. they take up more screen “real estate” than ads which are less-well configured. This is very important as the users eye is more readily drawn to the ads which stand out more – easy enough to understand, but how do you achieve that?

As well as the basic ad text, there are features known as extensions which boost the ad content, adding elements such as links to your website pages, location details, telephone number etc. These have been in play for a number of years and we cover them in more detail elsewhere in this blog.

More recently, Google has added to the list of extensions which you can use. Here’s a couple you might not be familiar with but are well worth using:

Structured Snippet extensions

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These proven techniques are essential within a modern marketing campaign for dentists

New dental patientThe days of expecting patients to simply walk into a dental practice in sufficient numbers to sustain and grow it are long passed. This reality simply means that dental business owners have to be proactive in seeking out new patients using effective and measurable marketing mechanisms.

Whilst “word-of-mouth” referral will always be essential, and indeed is still the best form of new patient acquisition, this alone is not enough and you also need to cast a wide net via other channels such as the web and e-mail marketing. Indeed, with 94 percent of consumers using on-line resources to seek out services generally and 71 percent of patients using search engines to find dentists in particular, it’s quite clear why digital marketing is essential for business growth. Furthermore, those 71 percent then go on to seek out reviews to validate the services they’ve found.

With effective programmes underway in all key areas, staying ahead of the competition is very achievable; but be prepared to work hard on it and provide suitable resources and investment. Not all practices have sufficient resources to handle all of this in-house; however there are a number of specialist dental marketing companies including Dental Media, who can help.

So what are the key marketing mechanisms you will find in most of the successful dental practices at the moment? Here at Dental Media we have deep experience in assisting dentists with their marketing campaigns and below you’ll find an overview of key techniques that work time and again. Let’s go….

Claim and optimise your Google “My Business” page

Google is so fundamental when it comes to marketing any business and a key foundation is to claim and then optimise your “My Business” page on the Google platform. This gives a clear overview of all of your key business details and appears in the “local pack” of search results when someone searches for you using Google. It’s not quite as simple as that unfortunately and associated factors such as reviews will dictate which businesses appear prominently; however without a claimed and optimised page, you won’t stand any chance of appearing. The “local pack” listing (often known as “maps” listing) now attracts around 40% of all clicks through to websites and so it’s plain to see just how important it is to appear prominently there.

Your digital marketing partner will also be able to advise how to optimise your page and boost the factors which make it appear prominently in the search results.

Enhance your website so it stands out from the crowd

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Are those “golden nugget” patient enquiries being followed up diligently by the practice team?

confused dentistAny competent digital marketer should be able to generate new patient enquiries from web, typically using the main Google and Facebook channels and via a mix of paid ads and “free” organic mechanisms.

It’s also relatively straightforward for a diligent marketer to set up a suite of management, monitoring and reporting tools which allow you, the business owner, to easily see how the campaigns are performing so appropriate investment decisions can be made. (Hint – if you are paying for services like these and don’t currently get this type of advice and reporting, then it’s probably time to move on!)

Whilst it’s reasonably straightforward to report on the front-end of the lead-acquisition process, i.e. counting the leads and showing where they came from; managing the back-end of the conversion process, i.e. which leads actually resulted in treatment, is much harder and to a very large part relies on pro-activity and diligence from the practice team. Sometimes this is done well, but more often it isn’t – and therein lies some considerable frustration for us digital marketers who’ve worked hard to gain the leads in the first place. To be fair, it should be a top-priority for dental practice managers and business owners to make sure these in-practice “conversion” procedures are robust and work well; but in reality, way too many practices are failing quite miserably with this important aspect.

What typically goes wrong and how do we know?

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Check out coaching recommendations carefully before jumping in

mistake signThere are now quite a few dental coaches and advisors in the industry who move from practice to practice offering advice to busy dentists. This appears to range from the fundamentals of customer service, right through to the financial evaluation and profitability assessments.

It’s fairly easy to understand why the coaching role has developed given that most dentists leave their clinical studies without too many business skills bolted on. Consequently many of them reach the point where they quickly need some business and financial guidance to help them along with their careers. This is sensible and admirable. Whilst much of the content I’ve seen and feedback I’ve heard about most dental coaches is good, I do occasionally see some “guidance” published which is quite a long way off the mark and hence needs to be treated with a degree of caution in my opinion.

The areas where I have some concerns tend to be where the advisors try to guide the client through complex transactions, for example financial assessments associated with sale/purchase scenarios and where some basic mistakes or incorrect assumptions could easily be made with the numbers. This can lead to wrong decisions being made. My advice would be to use a specialised dental practice accountant, rather than a generalist. We have a couple of clients who almost tripped up like this and now only use specialist services to guide them through specific types of transactions.

Another area where I see what I consider to be innapropriate advice is with digital marketing and suggestions that by-and-large it doesn’t work very well. Of course, this is a rather broad generalisation and whilst poorly implemented digital marketing will yield low returns, when done well, it can be extremely fruitful. Ultimately it’s all about return-on-investment and working out how to measure it correctly.

Let’s take a closer look at some recent advice published by a dental advisor regarding the balance between internal and external marketing and see if we think that the recommendations actually stack up.

Internal or external marketing – or both?

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What does “mobile-first” mean and how does it impact your website?

optimising website designIn today’s blog we are taking a closer look at perhaps one of the least well understood aspects of how Google search works, albeit one of the most important. The topic concerned is “mobile-first indexing” a technical phrase used to describe how Google assesses the content of a website before choosing how to rank or position it in the search results.

At this stage, it is important to note that indexing is actually separate to ranking in that indexing refers to part of the process whereby Google collects information from websites, whereas ranking is the process it uses to evaluate that content and decide its worth relative to other websites. So in very basic terms to illustrate, Google sends out “bots” to crawl website content and then returns this to its servers where complex algorithms evaluate and rank it. The conclusion of the process is the Google search results which many of us use daily.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Historically, Google used the desk-top version of a website to index. This was simply because mobile sites were in their infancy and the vast majority of people accessed websites via desk-top PCs rather than via mobile devices such as browsers on ‘phones. More recently, and with the advent of responsive web design techniques, more and more people have switched their web browsing habits to portable devices, so-much-so that the large majority of people now surf via their ‘phones or tablets.

Consequently it makes absolute sense to use the mobile version of a website’s content to determine ranking results. There are of course other reasons why Google wants to promote the mobile web, including optimal opportunities to serve ad content, and we’ve discussed this elsewhere in our blog.

What does it mean for your dental practice website?

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