Microsites – don’t do it!

Falling dental traffic and profit

If you’ve been approached to have a dental microsite built – think twice! Here’s why….

Microsites, i.e. small websites focused on a single topic, used to be a prominent technique used by SEO companies to gain advantage in the search engines. However, these days the technique is essentially defunct and more often than not, disadvantageous.

A good example of this was recently covered in the national press where the online retailer, Asos, had developed a number of regionalised microsites to try to increase search positions and web traffic, but the effect was hugely negative. We’ll explain more about that in a moment.

The negative aspects of microsites have been known about in the more educated echelons of the search marketing community for some time, and so I was somewhat surprised to see a large invisible aligners company actively pushing the technique for their clients, apparently unaware of the possible problems. This is rather disappointing as the dentists likely assumed they were getting something advantageous, whereas the likelihood is that they were actually diluting their existing websites and search rankings.

So why is?

The dangers of microsites

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Google Ads and Facebook Ads for Dentists

budget for marketing

Can you continue to ignore paid advertising? Pay-per-click is here to stay, like it or not.

A prominent web footprint has always been a huge component of successful dental marketing campaigns and this is now accepted by most.

It used to be the case that a good website and solid organic (free) Google rankings were pretty much all you needed to secure a flow of new patients, but the current situation is somewhat different.

The web landscape has changed markedly over the last 4 or 5 years and now other channels are firmly in play, not just organic SEO. Google Ads (formerly AdWords) have been around for quite a while now and more recently, dental Facebook advertising has really taken off. These two “paid channels” are now very much a part of successful online marketing campaigns for dentists and can be used very effectively alongside a solid organic search ranking campaign.

Why consider paid advertising?

It’s fair to say that some our dental clients have historically shunned paid advertising, primarily because they don’t like the thought of paying out to Google and Facebook to get traffic and enquiries. But if you need new patients and are struggling to get them from other sources, as long as your investment in pay-per-click (PPC) pays back well, then surely it shouldn’t be discounted?

The other very important consideration is that Google and Facebook have made it much harder to use their services free of charge. This “pay to play” scenario has arisen as the Internet giants have pushed hard in the effort to monetise their platforms.

With Google, you now see far more ads appear in the search results than ever before. Particularly on mobile devices, ads take up a large proportion of the screen every time you search which understandably continues to push up the amount of website traffic from paid ads (and boost Google’s revenues!) For Facebook, the “organic reach” of your posts is now less than 4% – so for every one hundred people who liked your page, fewer than four will see the content you post, unless of course you pay!

So here we can see how and why Google and Facebook have progressively pushed businesses into advertising on their platforms.

What about return on investment?

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Video backgrounds – pros and cons for your website

waiting for a website to load

Consider carefully before using video as your web page background.

One of the popular trends in web design at the moment is the use of a video as the main background feature for the home page of a website. This can be quite appealing but it is not something you want to implement without careful consideration. So why is this?

It’s always been important to consider ‘form’ and ‘function’ when it comes to producing beautiful and efficient websites, but this is even more important now than ever before. And using video backgrounds on websites always involves a compromise.

The pros and cons of background video

In the introduction above I mentioned ‘compromise’ when it comes to the use of video for this technique. What this actually refers to is that video files are very large, particularly at a quality which gives a good viewing experience. However, large files and web design aren’t ideal partners, particularly now that we have to be sure that sites can be viewed easily on mobile devices on slower networks as well as desk-top machines and fast networks.

Indeed Google is strenuously pushing fast web experiences and rewarding sites in the search results which achieve this. Websites which are slower and deliver a poorer user-experience, typically see their Google rankings fall away over time.

To give an example, we were recently asked to build a website which used a full practice tour video as the home page back-drop. Unfortunately we had to explain why this isn’t practical, simply because the size of the file needed to achieve it would be prohibitively large and load very slowly, particularly on slow networks. This is exactly the scenario you need to avoid if you want to comply with Google’s web guidelines (and you really should!)

What compromises are needed to use video in this way?

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Do reviews affect your organic Google rankings?

request for review

The evidence suggests yes!

Another frequently asked question from dentists to the team here at the Dental Media office is “do reviews on Google affect where my website appears in the search results?”

Before we go into detail, let’s break this down a little bit more. When we talk about “organic” search results, we essentially mean the index of results which appear on page one of Google which are not from the paid channel i.e. not Google Ads. This can then be broken down a little bit further into the “map/local” results (the 3 results which appear with extra annotations e.g maps etc) near the top of the page, and also the “traditional” free search results (typically 10 although this can now vary).

It has long been known that reviews do influence whether a business appears in the “local/map” results and just how important this is; but more recently, there is increasing evidence that reviews also influence the rest of the traditional ranking results as well.

Whilst Google has neither confirmed or denied this, the evidence suggests that it is indeed so. The SEO team at Dental Media looks after search marketing for lots of dentists across the UK and as part of this remit we regularly check search positions, number of reviews etc and try to correlate what we see. And what we see is that, in general, reviews can indeed influence traditional search ranking as well as the local/map results.

Is this definite?

As with all things associated with Google, unless they confirm it directly, we can never be 100% sure; we can simply report trends and apparent correlations. Consequently we cannot guarantee that lots of good (or indeed bad) reviews will definitely affect your search positions. However, we can say with a degree of certainty, that in most cases, this does appear to be so. Those websites/businesses which accrue lots of positive reviews do seem to fare quite a lot better with their organic search positions.

There is also some logic to this. If you consider that Google is trying to surface the most appropriate results to satisfy a user’s queries, why wouldn’t they use reviews as a quality signal?

That said, there are also the usual anomalies which crop up from time to time. For example we have seen businesses steadily gain reviews over time and fail to get into the local/map positions for a long time. We have also seen dental businesses accrue reviews very quickly (contrary to advice) and been apparently red-flagged by Google for doing so. More of this below.

A recap on managing the Google review process

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Experience counts when it comes to choosing your marketing partner!

confused website user

Dental marketing agencies come and go – don’t get left in the lurch

You may have seen the large increase in the number of marketing agencies trying to get into the dental space over the last two or three years.

These typically range from single-handed freelancers to digital agencies from other sectors who decide that dentistry *must* be lucrative and hence they’ll try to get a piece of the action. More often than not they fail, leaving their clients in a mess and without support.

There is a case at the moment where a new company appeared a few years ago and made a big splash at dental shows and and all over the web. This gained them a number of clients quite quickly, albeit the fees they were charging, on the back of huge promises, were significant. However, it would appear that the promises they made regarding huge influxes of new patients, didn’t materialise, resulting in clients slowly slipping away. Today, the company has ceased to exist with the bits and pieces being picked up by others. But as often happens in these cases, clients are being cherry-picked and lots of the smaller businesses are being cast aside.

You might think that this would be relatively easy for a dentist to recover from, after all business fail all the time. However, in this circumstance, significant assets such as websites, had been built using non-industry standard tools which made it nearly impossible for other marketing companies to step in with immediate support. This meant that those businesses which had been cast aside, needed to start from scratch with new websites etc. Time-consuming, costly and potentially disrupting for their businesses too. All considered, not a good situation at all and with lessons to be learned!

Do your homework before starting out with a new dental marketing company

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Which Type Of Customer Relationship Management System For Dentists?

linking hands crm

Why it’s time to consider CRM for your dental practice and how to choose.

One of the big frustrations we have as dental marketers is the apparent lack of comprehensive systems for capturing and nurturing leads at the practice level.

So where we are generating new enquiries for dentists, whether through organic SEO, paid advertising or other channels, we know that some of those useful patient leads are not being captured or acted up effectively.

We’ve discussed previously how it’s reasonably straightforward to record how many new patient enquiries come via website contacts, from social media and even from telephone enquiries where the right technology is employed, but thereafter, the patch to actual treatment becomes somewhat murky and outside of our remit. That said, discussions with various clients suggests that all is not always well at the practice side when it comes to capturing and nurturing these all important new-patient leads.

The need for CRM – Customer Relationship Management

Whilst a lot of dentists rely on anything from scribbled notes to a suite of spreadsheets to try to capture enquiries, fortunately there is another far more coordinated approach. Enter the CRM system. CRM allows you to record all of your leads irrespective of which channel they came from and then follow them up appropriately. The system will then keep a real-time track of all of your enquiries and exactly where they are in their evolution – and hopefully right through to the completion of treatment!

How does CRM work – is it straightforward?

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Why your branding comes before your new website

dental branding example

Your logo is a key part of your business identity and needs to come first!

An issue which is raised quite often when we are planning new websites for dentists is that of the business identity i.e. the logo and overall branding.

On quite a few occasions we’ve been asked to start work on a website design before a logo is ready or even started.

There is a belief held by some that a logo can simply be “plonked” on top of a new website design either when it is well underway or in fact finished – but this would be a fairly big mistake. We’ll discuss why this is in today’s blog.

Your branding as a foundation for your business identity

The visual elements which represent your brand e.g. your logo and the colour palette you adopt for various features throughout your business, are extremely important. This “visual identity” is what you want your patients to associate you with, so for example when they see your dental logo, they identify with it and know exactly who they are dealing with. Of course, this is on the simplest level and a brand is much more than a logo or colour scheme for the waiting room or staff uniform. The business culture, service levels, reputation etc are all huge factors in building and maintaining a brand.

That said, if your visual identity has no cohesion or is just generally poor, then it does not form any sort of solid foundation on which to start building all of the other elements. Consequently, key branding elements such as a logo really should come first before you start developing other key assets such as your dental practice website, signs, stationery etc.

Get it right first time

Having established that a good logo is a key part of your overall visual identity and needs to be done very early on in your development as a business, it pays to invest some time and money to get it right. Very often we are presented with logos which have been “home spun” or purchased for $50 from the Internet and which don’t really make the grade at all. They are typically either very generic, bland or just amateurish.

Trying to use such a logo to set the “look and feel” for a great website can be really difficult indeed and often ends up with a frank discussion with the client about a logo re-work or full redevelopment. So it really does pay to get it right first time before you start using the logo on your stationery and signs etc – switching after the event can be a chore and expensive!

What does a high-quality logo development cost?

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What next when the negative reviews arrive?

Handle bad dental review

Proactive management of dental reviews for reputation preservation

Lots of dentists and/or their practice managers know the huge benefits of a comprehensive social media presence and use it very effectively.

It is extremely useful for demonstrating “social proof”, for broadening brand awareness and, via advertising, promoting your services to a targeted local audience. It has sometimes been described as “word-of-mouth on steroids” and when used effectively, social media is a significant tool in the overall dental marketing arsenal.

But with the benefits come a few downsides and one of these is the ever-present issue of negative reviews. This is something I’m asked about on a regular basis by dentists who are worried about embarking on their first social media campaigns or who have dabbled, only to be put off when their first negative review inevitably arrived.

Unfortunately it is not possible to prevent negative reviews and they are a fact of life for any company with an online social media presence. But does that mean we should shy away from Facebook and the like just in case, or should we embrace the opportunities they offer and be prepared to manage a negative review when it comes along? Unless you are adamant that social media isn’t for you and that you understand the implications of not taking part, then the latter option is the way to go.

Why do negative reviews happen in the first place?

Irrespective of how good a business’s service levels are, sometimes things can go wrong. Even when the issue is relatively minor, it’s all too easy for a patient to hop on the the web, track down your Facebook or Google page and leave a bad review. Very often they don’t think twice about the harm that could cause and they just blurt it out regardless. It’s frustrating because most of the time a mature discussion with the dentist or practice manager would likely have solved the issue amicably. But very often the first thing you know about it is when the negative review lands.

The good news is that most web savvy users understand that the odd negative review will crop up when it comes to reviewing businesses and in most part, if the large majority of reviews are positive, they will opt to work with you anyway. So all is not lost if we know how to spot those negative reviews and deal with them appropriately when they land.

Why can’t I just delete a bad review?

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Dentists – are you ready for voice search?

viewing video on smartphone

Is your website voice search friendly?

The number of users searching for products and services by voice continues to grow at pace, so-much-so that Google recently suggested that over 50% of searches will be via voice by 2020.

This is another fast-paced digital trend which cannot be ignored when optimising your website for maximum effect. People aren’t just using devices like ‘Alexa’ and Google Assistant at home, they are also using similar technologies to search online, primarily from their mobile ‘phones. So how should you get ready to exploit this trend and in particular, making sure your website is set up correctly?

Why are users turning to voice search?

The main reasons are that it’s cool and convenient – why type when you can talk? Voice search technologies have come on in leaps and bounds and are now generally very good at understanding what you mean, even where you use conversational type queries. So overall, the voice search experience is now way better than ever before and only set to become even more intelligent. So it’s time to take advantage.

Set up to support the mobile experience

Whilst all facets of search engine optimisation (SEO) are now focused on the huge shift to mobile devices, this area is now even more important due to the burgeoning presence of voice search. It makes sense that the most usage of voice search is via mobile devices, so we need to be absolutely sure that the experience we present to users is optimised for that environment. In basic terms, this means that your dental practice website needs to be completely mobile-friendly as well as being aesthetically and functionally engaging. Imagine being found by a user querying Google by voice, only to present a website with a poor mobile experience which forces them elsewhere!

Adopt natural language

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SEO BS – here’s how to avoid stepping in it!

bored man asleep doing nothing

The dental SEO business can be a minefield for the unsuspecting – watch out for the weasel words!

Just for the avoidance of doubt, this post is not suggesting that SEO is a bad thing. On the contrary, SEO, done well, is essential for any website in a competitive niche and that includes dentistry. What I am saying is that there is a huge amount of misinformation when it comes to search engine optimisation and unfortunately way too many unsuspecting dentists and/or practice managers fall for it time and time again.

As an example, please take a look at last week’s post where we discussed a marketing company which takes on clients with full knowledge that they can’t actually do the work, but get away with it anyway.

So the aim of this week’s post is to highlight a range of false promises that marketing companies make which sound great to the lay person, but can’t really be fulfilled. Let’s go….

SEO BS is all over the marketer’s websites

Everywhere you look, you will see dental marketers proclaiming success with phrases such as “thousands of dental website searches on page 1 of Google”. To compete, we actually have to say similar but in reality, whilst it sounds impressive, it’s not really that hard to achieve. Even with some basic SEO and a well-structured website, you should expect to get to page one on Google. You may not be top, but you should get there or thereabouts, at least for some search terms. So no big deal. I actually get concerned if any of our clients drop off page one, even where we are not undertaking any optimisation for them. The real deal is to get *lots* of search terms prominent on page one and collectively delivering lots of useful traffic and enquiries – there’s a big difference.

Ranking promises

This is a big one to be wary of. All too often we get dentists call to say they’ve been promised position 1 Google rankings by some company or another. There are only two explanations for this – the first is that they are lying (Google simply has too many variables to promise anything) and the second is that they will try to achieve it for some obscure search phrase which adds nothing. Good SEOs don’t make promises. The only type of guarantee I’ll subscribe to is that I’ll work diligently to help you acquire new dental patients from the web via search – most other guarantees you’ll hear elsewhere are BS.

A constant stream of SEO BS in your inbox

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