Avoiding AdWords in your dental marketing campaign?

Why it’s time to “pay-to-play”

Using AdWords for dental marketing campaignsI’ve long been a proponent of organic SEO, i.e. the quest to get dental websites ranked high in the natural search listings of Google. This is because it is still the primary source for the best-quality, targeted traffic to your website.

Users looking in Google for the services of a dentist are searching there with specific intent and consequently their clicks through to your website are the most likely to result in meaningful enquiries. So organic SEO is still the number one recommendation for new patient enquiries.

However, things are changing; namely Google pushing harder and harder with paid adverts for dentists and businesses in general. Let’s take a look at the effect of this and why we need to take note.

The changing landscape of Google search results

Over the last few years Google has progressively introduced changes to the layout of their search results pages which have given paid ads much more prominence. For example, there are now more ads showing in search results than ever before. They are also less well-defined as ads in their own right, so it’s much harder for a user to distinguish them from the natural un-paid listings. The issue is particularly pronounced on mobile ‘phones where ads will be the only results you see on a Google search page until you start to scroll.

Additionally we are seeing more prominence given to “local/map” results which are taking up more real estate on page one of the search results. Just recently, we are also starting to see Google introduce ads in to this space too!

A few years ago, you might have expected 75% of all website traffic from a Google search results page to be generated from the free listings, but if we now take into account clicks on paid ads and local results, we are seeing this drop to less than 50%. We actually see this quite clearly in the analytics data we generate for some of our digital marketing clients. Even where those clients have excellent organic search results, where they do not subscribe to ads and/or have not focused on their local search search presence, then their traffic starts to slip. This is not down to failing SEO, it’s simply that the space and traffic they used to enjoy via page one of Google is now much more congested with ads and local/map results.

Why is Google doing this?

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Buying SEO based on number of keywords? Stop!

Why keyword SEO is defunct and may be used to trick you

minimise irrelevant search queriesI was recently asked to comment on a couple of SEO reports which had been given as examples to a dentist who was looking for SEO services. She asked for my opinion as she thought the service from the supplier of the reports looked good and she was considering subscribing. However all was not as it was presented, in fact it was a long way from providing a useful service. The reasons for this were several fold as follows.

Reliance on keywords

The dental SEO company was selling a service purely based on blocks of keywords, with incremental fees as more keywords were selected. As well as being very expensive, the SEO company was selecting primarily “long tail” keywords which are very easy to rank in Google but don’t really deliver much traffic at all. The monthly reports from the service provider were triumphantly announcing that terms such as “Cerec dental crowns Cromford” were prominent on page one – but very few people would search that of course and so the traffic it delivered would be negligible. So on the face of it, for the client, lots of headline success, but most of it fairly pointless.

No traffic reporting

Modern SEO is much more about website traffic and conversions than keywords, particularly where the keywords are of limited value. But the company were not presenting any data at all about these key aspects. I suspect this was actually deliberate as it would likely have been very difficult to demonstrate any success with the “strategy” they were adopting.

To really tell how a website is performing, you need to know how traffic levels are progressing, where the traffic is originating and also the quality of the traffic. None of these factors were being presented to the dentist concerned. To simply present progression of “easy” keywords is extremely misleading.

No conversion reporting

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Brand new website – what next?

Getting your new dental website ranked in Google

rising Google positionsSo you’ve just launched a new website and sat wondering what to do next to start making progress in Google? One option is to pay a marketing agency to start undertaking dental SEO work for you, but sometimes budget doesn’t always allow this, particularly where other practice expenses are pressing.

Equally it can be a minefield, with relatively few agencies actually delivering good results these days, particularly those who offer generic “bolt on” SEO packages which typically don’t achieve much at all, other than draining you’re budget.

So in circumstances like this, what do you do? As I’ve written previously in this blog, you can’t really afford to ignore your website SEO in the mid to long term, as getting good ranking results in Google is crucial in the quest to gain new patients. However, if you don’t have the budget to have a proven and trusted SEO agency look after this for you, there are some things you can do yourself to start gaining traction. Whilst the tips noted below won’t get you to the top of Google, particularly where competition is significant, following them diligently might just get you to page one of the search results and at least start getting you in the mix. Indeed, if you can do these things, then you are doing as much if not more than some of the agencies who charge you £175 a month and claim to offer SEO in their expensive monthly retainer fees!

Before you start DIY SEO….

There is one essential precursor here, in that your new website must be up to the job. There are two elements to SEO; “on-site” and “off-site” and it’s off-site tips I’ll be giving in just a moment. The on-site elements cover all the features that must be correct to make sure that your site forms a good foundation for an ongoing SEO process. This is covered in detail elsewhere in this blog, but it covers aspects such as good coding, fast loading pages, excellent content and correct formation of page elements such as title tags etc. Without these in place, then your SEO efforts may well be wasted.

We often see this where dentists approach us to carry out SEO on websites they’ve built themselves using the likes of WIX and Squarespace and where essential SEO components have been neglected. So make the time (and allocate a sensible budget) to ensure that the website is *right* from the off. Think twice before you do that yourself or even paying a third-party for a budget job – mid term, experience tells us that you’ll likely regret it.

Getting started with SEO

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SEO – the detail is in the data

Look deep into your Google Analytics data to see what’s really happening with your search optimisation

As you’ve possibly gathered if you’ve read other articles in this blog, I spend much of my time working on search optimisation for dentists. A fair proportion of this time is spent looking into the data collected via Google Analytics (and other tools) to determine how strategies are working and also to identify where fundamental problems can be affecting website performance.

This area of optimisation has always fascinated me and I’m more than willing to admit that it can be very frustrating at times (Google is not very transparent!) as well as occasionally surprising.

That said, years of experience and the data made available to us in the likes of systems such as Google Analytics, does allow us to configure and deploy SEO campaigns which deliver compelling results.

In today’s blog, I’ll illustrate two recent events where analytics data was crucial in determining what was happening with the performance of two dental websites and also informed strategy for their ongoing upgrade and marketing campaigns.

The DIY website the dentist thought was working well – but wasn’t

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Conversion rates explained

Why you need to take notice of your dental marketing conversion rates

You may sometimes see “conversion rates” referred to in dental marketing reports but perhaps not really understood what these are? Or more likely, you may never have seen this type of reference before? The latter is common and results from the fact that marketers often don’t like to illustrate the real “nitty gritty” data which indicates if a marketing strategy is working or not – and conversion rate analysis is a key part of this.

“Conversion rate” generally refer to the number of enquiries you actually receive at the practice compared to other metrics, for example the number of website visitors you had within a given time period. It’s pretty easy to get lots of traffic to a website, for example using paid Facebook advertising, but without seeing the actually conversion rates, you won’t really know if that’s a viable strategy or not (hint – if you’re not targeting your ads properly and building appropriate conversion funnels, then it probably isn’t).

So it’s easy to think that because you’re getting lots of website traffic, then the enquiries will be buoyant too – but this often isn’t the case. So as a minimum you need to understand at what rate the traffic is actually converting to meaningful enquiries and indeed where that traffic is coming from. Was is via organic (free) search, paid Google ads, Facebook traffic or something else?

Types of conversion rate data

As you might expect, there is a lot of data available when it comes to measuring conversions, for example in Google Analytics, AdWords and also your telephone call tracking systems if you use one. As a minimum, your monthly reporting should show how much traffic you are getting from all of the various sources, and then how that actually converts to tangible enquiries, i.e. people filling in your website or landing page contact form or actually telephoning direct.

You should also expect to see other similar types of data too, for example, in AdWords, there are key metrics which show how many times your ad was displayed versus how many times it was actually clicked – this is referred to as click-through-rate (CTR). Thereafter you should also expect to see the conversion rate from that particular traffic source.

“In practice” conversions

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GDPR and Securing Your Dental Practice Website

What is website encryption and why you need it

Encryption for your websiteWithout going into deep technical discussion, website encryption is simply a mechanism whereby any communication from the device on which you are viewing a website and the server where the website is hosted, is encrypted.

This means that any information exchange either way is impossible to read should it be intercepted on route. Even though interception of such data is unlikely, it is possible and consequently it makes sense to protect against this in the event that it did happen.

The encryption is handled via software which is already installed in your browser and software, known as a “secure certificate”, which has to be installed on the server side to complete the encrypted loop. This certificate, often called an ‘SSL certficate’, typically has to be renewed periodically and requires intervention to keep up-to-date. However, once the system is installed and tested, then you can be sure that you website communications are protected.

Why do I need to encrypt my dental website now?

For years, certain types of website needed encryption by default, e.g. banking sites and others where sensitive data was being exchanged. So for example a dentist who was taking referrals and receiving confidential patient information via a website contact form, would have been wise to use encryption. Other websites, e.g. where simple appointment booking was taking place without transmission of sensitive information, would typically have managed without encryption.

More recently, there has been a shift towards all website becoming encrypted, irrespective of their function and this has been driven by two main factors. Firstly, with the advent of the somewhat “fuzzy” GDPR regulations which become law in the UK in May 2018, there is a requirement to protect any information which could be considered to be sensitive and personally identifiable. So even simple contact forms should be protected in case something sensitive was transmitted. A simple disclaimer does not appear to suffice any longer.

Secondly, Google is pushing full encryption for all websites and has publicly stated that it will offer some ranking benefits when it comes to search engine results.

So with these two important elements in mind, the time has come to switch your website to full encryption – showing the padlock symbol and https rather than http.

There are other considerations too, perhaps the main one being public confidence. With the buzz around encryption increasing, website users will expect to see encryption in place and will shy away from websites where their browsers show “insecure” warning messages. This is now very common and quite disconcerting for an average user when the warning pops up.

What SSL website encryption doesn’t do

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Organic SEO, Adwords PPC or Facebook For Dentists?

Where first with your digital marketing budget?

confused website userThe question of where to use your digital marketing budget is usually a hot topic when dentists call our team for advice. Should they go with search engine optimisation, AdWords (pay-per-click) or jump on the current bandwagon with Facebook advertising? Great question and one that is reasonably straightforward to answer.

But first, there is a step to take before any of the above and this is ensuring that you have a top-quality website already in place to encourage conversions. Indeed, as we’ve discussed in other blogs, we may well decline to offer web marketing services where we know the website is not really fit for purpose when it comes to converting new traffic to enquiries – you would be wasting money.

So given that a suitable website is already in place, then we can move on to consider what type of traffic generation systems are most suitable. Let’s take each case in turn before summarising.

Search Engine Optimisation – Organic (Free) Traffic

SEO is extremely important for helping websites to rise to prominent positions in the search engines and of prime importance in the UK is Google, which sees in excess of 90% of all search queries. Traffic from clicks on these “natural” search results tends to bring the most meaningful enquiries. This is because it is generated by people searching specifically for goods or services with definite intent. Some people also tend to view paid adverts with a degree of suspicion, preferring to click on the organic results (including “local” listings).

So prominent ranking positions in the organic search results really are a key objective, even if Google is continuing to make it harder to achieve them. Those practices with great search results really do pull in lots of new patient enquiries every month.

Google AdWords – Pay-Per-Click

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Video Presentations For Dental Reception Areas

Benefits of bespoke video presentations for dentist’s waiting rooms

Video Presentation Dental Waiting RoomProviding useful marketing materials in a dental reception area is a well-proven tactic for encouraging existing patients to take up new types of treatments. Whether this is via a “smile design” booklet placed handily on the tables, posters on the walls or leaflets in easily accessible racks, all work nicely to help patients see what you offer to improve their smiles and overall oral health.

But perhaps the most engaging method you can use is the bespoke waiting room presentation on a large flat-screen TV placed strategically for all to view. People are typically drawn to information presented like this in preference to literature, so it makes sense to deploy it professionally in your own reception areas.

Types of dental video presentation

There are typically two main types of presentation – generic and bespoke. Generic treatment information can be made available on your screen via systems which integrate with your TV – you can select which types of treatments you wish to display from a pre-configured menu of treatment types. Whilst this is useful for patient education, it’s not very engaging in that it is very difficult to add any type of personalisation to the presentations. So adding your own branding, photographs of your team and your own case images typically cannot be done. The monthly rental costs of such systems also mount up quite quickly.

The second type of presentation is bespoke i.e. configured specifically for your own practice, team, skill-set and objectives. So rather than a cheesy, generic description of a dental treatment, the viewer sees a presentation which details what your team has achieved for your patients. Your own branding will be included, your treatment cases and even patient testimonials where appropriate.

Overall, a bespoke dental reception area video will serve you much better than generic “off-the-shelf” versions and it will cost you less in the long run too. In many ways this is similar to a dental website, the personalised versions work much better than the generic templates which frankly too many dentists mistakenly choose.

Creating a bespoke reception area video

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Is your website a hidden SEO hub for sneaky links?

Don’t let your dental marketer exploit your website!

mistake signHere at Dental Media we have many years of SEO experience within our team and we’ve seen quite a lot of “dodgy” SEO tricks come and go. Google is now a lot more capable of finding and penalising sneaky tactics and consequently most of the SEO community has stopped trying to deceive the search engines.

However, this isn’t the case everywhere unfortunately and even well-known companies within the dental marketing community are still trying to get away with techniques which are well outside of Google’s publishing guidelines. So much so that being caught would almost certainly result in the website concerned being demoted or possibly even excluded from the search results.

These types of tactics are never good, but if the companies concerned have full knowledge of the risks and it’s their own website at stake, then so be it. Google will likely catch up with them in the long run and their competitors will ultimately benefit. However, where the SEO company uses techniques which risk their clients’ websites, it’s a different ball-game and completely unacceptable. But we still see it going on and it’s quite widespread.

Bad back-links

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4 Do’s and 4 Don’ts For Your Website Marketing in 2018

Best and worst web marketing practices summarised

optimising website designA new year arrives and with it a good opportunity to review your dental practice website and the tools and techniques you can use to help boost its Google ranking positions.

Even with the advent and huge proliferation of social media, your website is still the key hub for attracting and converting new patient enquiries – so it pays to get this fundamental foundation absolutely right. With that thought in mind, let’s take a quick look at 4 key factors which you simply must have in place to give your site the best chance of delivering new patient success. Additionally we’ll summarise the top 4 bad practices to avoid which could get you in trouble.

Do these things well….

  • ensure your website is mobile optimised and provides a smooth user experience on desk-top, tablet and mobile ‘phones. Well over 50% of web traffic is now from mobile devices and yet we still see dentists persisting with old-fashioned, desk-top websites from 5 or 6 years ago. The bottom line with this is that over half of your visitors simply can’t work their way through your site without frustration, and the vast majority will simply go elsewhere. You can’t afford not to upgrade.
  • use compelling, comprehensive content on your site which grabs the attention and immediately gives the potential new patient confidence that you can solve their problem. The website should be at least 70% about the user and solving *their* issues and then the rest allocated to your, your team and facilities. Remember that it’s primarily about your potential new patients, not you.
  • invest in a truly bespoke design which will make you stand out from the competition. Generic WordPress templates for $40 off-the shelf with a few dental images and copied text simply won’t cut it and even if you save money early on, you’ll likely regret it later.
  • Understand that an excellent website is just the first step on the ladder to successful web marketing. A great website is essential to give a firm foundation and start on the way to good search engine rankings, but alone it’s probably not going to get you into the top places on page one of Google without additional work and investment. Depending on the competition in your local area, the chances are that you will need to consider and budget for search engine optimisation, social media activity and potentially pay-per-click marketing to stimulate traffic.

Don’t do these things….

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