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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EAT and your website – important Google update!

rising Google positions

Why “expertise, authority and trust” now matter more than ever for dental content

In March and again at the start of August this year, Google introduced some significant changes in the way that they assess how and where websites appear in the search engine rankings. Resulting from this were large upheavals in the search results with a lot of formerly prominent websites slipping away quite dramatically. On face value, many of the websites which got relegated were actually quite good; so what caused Google to demote them?

This caused quite a lot of concern and even anger in the webmaster community as site owners could not determine why they had suffered and hence what they needed to do to recover the situation. As is usual for Google, very little useful information regarding the specifics of the update were provided, other than some fairly general comments about “producing great content” and referring to their Quality Raters Guidelines. For information, these guidelines are produced by Google for their team who review websites against proposed algorithm updates to validate the results. So a human check if you will.

So what did Google really do to cause this significant upheaval (and, for some, grief!)

Independent analysis

Whenever Google introduces a change in it’s search engine systems, lots of independent analysts go to work to try to figure out what actually happened. Much of what is postulated is purely speculative to be frank, but in this case, evidence suggests that the recent changes were all about evaluating which websites demonstrate expertise, authority and trust for their users i.e. “EAT”. This concept is actually referred to in the Quality Raters Guidelines and some of Google’s staff alluded to it in tweets directly after the update. So whilst we can never be totally sure, it does seem that EAT was a significant part of the search algorithm update.

Who suffered and who gained?

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The Benefits Of A Comprehensive Treatments Section On Your Website

reviewing website content

Don’t skimp on content – it won’t do you any favours in Google search

I recently watched a video of a business coach discussing dental practice websites with his web designer, where layout and content were discussed in some depth.

There were some really useful suggestions about the style of content which is essential to grab a user’s attention, but also some less-good advice regarding the depth of content required.

A dental website is the critical foundation for gaining new patients from the web and the platform that you guide users to, to encourage them to make contact. So it must be optimal in all aspects; whether that is how well it works for users, or how well it works in Google searches. So all elements of the design need to be considered equally and implemented in the most professional way possible.

Let’s start with the good ideas that were put forward, in particular how a “personalised” website works better than a generic, traditional version which simply presents facts and data.

Personalisation

Many dental websites follow the same kind of formula which has worked quite well for several years. So a straightforward layout presenting details about the practice, the team, treatments and a contact page. There may also be a small section detailing patient testimonials but little else. These types of sites still work reasonably well, but with increasing competition and the ease of publishing now available to help get a basic site on line, they don’t stand out nearly as well as websites designed with more flair and interest-grabbing features.

Currently you will hear a lot of discussion about “personalising” websites and these features were detailed between the coach and his designer as I mentioned above. In a nutshell, here we are talking about taking the emphasis of the website away from the provider of the service (the dentist and his team) and moving this firmly towards the patient. So making sure the focus is on *them* and solving *their* dental issues rather than an in-depth statement about the principal dentist and his/her vast array of qualifications and attributes. Of course the latter information needs to be present, and in detail, but as a back-up rather than the main thrust.

By answering a patient’s concerns quickly and succinctly, you stand a much better chance of gaining their business when compared to a dry explanation of the dentist’s qualifications. That said, it is still extremely important to demonstrate authority and expertise to your users and Google, so those qualifications and expertise still need to be included on your website.

We also use “story telling” to show potential new patients how existing patients have received life-changing treatments at the practice, all backed-up by testimonials, reviews, case studies and videos. All of this, the dental coach got bang on.

However, there was also worrying “advice” in that it was also recommended to “skimp” on treatment detail as patients are generally less-interested about that. My take is somewhat different in that I still believe a comprehensive treatment section is very important on your website, not just for those patients who want to dig in a little further, but also, critically, for Google too!

A clearly structured, comprehensive treatments section – still important!

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Google Giving SEO Advantages To Faster Websites

website loading slowly

Google’s algorithm speed update and what you need to do

In its ongoing quest to optimise the web, Google is becoming increasingly focused on website speed and how quickly pages display when a viewer opens them in their browser.

Much of this is driven by web activity shifting more and more to mobile devices and the need to accommodate users who don’t have access to fast WiFi networks. It is of course, very important for Google to make web access as easy as possible for all users, as it is so crucial for driving their huge advertising revenues. So there is a also a huge commercial influence here and not just general good will!

Google has given relatively small SEO incentives for desk-top websites for a while now, but with web usage shifting so significantly to mobile devices, those incentives are now shifting to mobile optimised sites and in particular the mobile search index. Just for those who didn’t know, Google is now primarily using mobile versions of websites to build their primary search index, so it makes sense to start offering the speed incentives for SEO there too.

When will this happen?

It’s actually live now – as of July 2018. Google started to warn about this in January of this year and they have launched the new feature of their search algorithm on schedule.

What effects have been seen so far?

To be frank, the effects so far have been quite slight and indeed Google announced that the early implementation is only designed to tackle the slower pages they encounter. They also said that if a slow page is still very popular, then it will not be unduly penalised. However, don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet! Google is well-known for implementing initiatives quite slowly and then ramping up over time, so it would be foolhardy to ignore this. The benefits (and penalties) are only likely to increase over time, so it pays to act now.

What should you do for your dental practice website?

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Why An Encrypted Dental Website Is Now Essential

Encryption for your website

Don’t allow your website to show an insecure warning – get an SSL certificate now!

Back in February this year we wrote to over 300 of our dental clients to remind them of the impending GDPR regulations and what needed to be done with their websites to aid compliance.
One of these recommendations was the implementation of a secure website certificate to allow their web pages to be served under https protocol i.e. encrypted and secure. This is particularly important where information is being submitted via website contact forms.

Together with the GDPR https recommendations, we also mentioned how Google is becoming increasingly keen to see all websites published under https, not just those which process ecommerce transactions. Indeed Google has been encouraging this by offering “light” search ranking benefits for the last couple of years – i.e. a boost for SEO.

However as of this month, July 2018, Google is really starting to hammer home the point by not only increasing the SEO advantage for encrypted sites, but also marking non-encrypted sites as “not secure” in the Google Chrome browser. Version 68 of Chrome will show any users the “not secure” warning when they view websites without SSL certificates.

So why does this matter?

Actually it matters a lot and here’s why. First it pays to imagine what your potential new patient will think when they land on your website for the first time and an insecure warning pops up. There is a very high chance that they will go elsewhere very quickly!

Secondly, it’s very important to understand the statistics around the Chrome browser in that it is the most popular browser by a long way – approximately 60% of all users now use Chrome as their browser of choice. Incidentally, most other major browsers are expected to follow suit, indeed some have already.

What should you do?

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How Much Should You Spend On Dental Marketing?

budget for marketing

Guideline figures to help with your practice budgeting

Budgeting for dental practice marketing is a hot topic and one where business principals often struggle to know where to start. Unfortunately there is no easy formula to calculate this as each situation is unique, but hopefully the following insights which are distilled from many years of experience, will provide a solid starting point. We will also take a quick look at some of the key marketing channels and what you might expect to budget for those.

Average expenditure

First let’s take a look at business in general and the average spend on marketing activities. Then we’ll take a closer look at the dental business, remembering of course that there is no universally accepted formula for this.

Small businesses in the UK typically allocate anything between 5% and 11% of their total sales turnover i.e. before running costs are taken out. So a business turning over £500,000 would be spending £25,000 pa at the lower end up to around £55,000 pa at the top end. This will vary based on where you are located, level of competition, maturity etc. But at least we now have an idea of where to start. But even at the low end, that sounds like quite a lot right? Indeed, this is a comment we regularly hear back from dentists who become rather concerned when we suggest that marketing budgets will likely not be in the hundreds of pounds per month, but potentially into the thousands (but don’t panic just yet!)

Do new start-ups need to allocate more budget?

The answer to this is quite often “yes”. As new kids on the block, you are starting from nothing and need to work harder to get your brand and services out there. We’ll look at some of the mechanisms you can use a little later on. For more established companies, expect to spend a little less (notwithstanding a general increase in competition) and for long-established companies with exceptional word-of-mouth referrals, possibly less again.

So there is a key challenge here – those without mature revenue streams typically need to budget more than businesses who are already well-established. The key thing here is to make sure that your overall start-up budget does have enough cash to cover your dental marketing requirements. If not you could end up with a lovely new or refurbished practice that no-one knows about!

I’m on a tight budget – what are the basic “must haves”?

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New SEO reporting from Dental Media

Even more transparency for your digital marketing campaigns

As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, it never ceases to amaze when new dental SEO clients tell me that their old digital marketing supplier never provided reports to validate the success (or otherwise) of their digital marketing campaigns.

Even where reports were provided, they were either automatically generated and minimalist or deliberately focused on “successes” which on paper looked good but actually meant very little at all! For example, reporting that obscure keyword searches such as “CEREC dentist Bognor Regis” had gone to the top of Google. Of course, very few people actually search for that.

Here at Dental Media we’ve always tried to be as transparent as possible with our digital marketing campaigns for dentists, in particular making sure that what we report each month is meaningful and genuinely helpful for determining the progress and payback of the campaigns. We also ensure that we use our client’s own accounts to set up tools such as Google Analytics and Search Console so that they have exactly the same access as we do to the raw data.

Enhanced SEO reporting for dentists

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Can dental web content really go viral?

Yes! This example illustrates how viral content can sky-rocket your search results

rising Google positionsA few months ago we started a low-key SEO campaign for a dentist based in the south-east of England. This was using a typical set of techniques including regular blogging, back-links and selective use of social media to broadcast suitable web content.

By month three we’d managed to move the dentist’s website from the base of page one to position five, great progress in a relatively short period of time. This increased his website traffic and contacts very nicely but still leaving more work to do as competition for the top Google positions obviously increases as you progress upwards. Typically at this point, progress slows down and it can take many months to finally make it up in to the top positions, particularly where competition is fierce. However, slightly unexpectedly, at this point one of blog posts we had written for the client “went viral” and things really started to take off.

What happened and what can we learn?

A blog post we had written for the client covered the topic of baby teeth and how they shouldn’t be forcibly removed. It was fairly in-depth, well-researched and drew on several bona fide references across the web, maintaining the usual high standards we set for our content generation. The blog was duly published and nothing much happened for a week or two. Then one evening, we noticed very high bandwidth usage on the client’s website which was far in excess of normal – 50 to 60 time more! So something was clearly going on. This continued for several days.

On inspection of the server statistics, it became clear that the client’s blog post had been picked up and used in several posts on the web, including YouTube and Reddit, two huge sites. This resulted from a post made by a man who’d removed his son’s tooth by attaching it to a projectile which yanked out the tooth when it was launched – not recommended! Argument about this tooth removal “technique” ensued on various forums and the dentist’s blog was used as a reference in many of the comments across several very large websites. Our client’s site was actually visited thousands of times as a result, explaining the huge jump in bandwidth. Those visits have slowed down a lot but are still very healthy weeks later.

What did the dentist gain from this?

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