Did your Google rankings drop?

Falling dental traffic and profit

When should you panic?

I think it’s fair to say, that like most small business owners, dentists know the huge importance of Google for securing new client sign-ups.

Whilst paid ads are becoming more important, organic (free) search ranking is still critical and the the number of new patients acquired from this channel is significant. So it pays to invest in securing those lucrative positions at or near the top of the search results.

Many dentists frequently check their ranking positions, some as regularly as once per day! Whilst this is overkill perhaps, it’s certainly worth a quick check of you main keywords once a week or so to see what’s happening.

Those of us who do that regularly will also know that there is a lot of fluctuation in Google these days and gone are the times when results for keyword searches sat static for months on end in the rankings. This is because Google is constantly adjusting the algorithms which dictate how the search results work – so one day you could be top of the shop for your main keywords, but a few days later you could be down at position three. This type of flux is common now and we should expect it without too much cause for panic.

What we can also be confident about is that if a website is high-quality and that any SEO (search engine optimisation) for the site is within Google’s guidelines, then these small fluctuations can generally be ignored and that any small falls in position are likely to recover within a few days or weeks as Google adjusts again.

So not too much to worry about there. Indeed, if you’ve read any of our SEO blogs before, you’ll understand this ranking “flux” and also know that your overall traffic and conversions (enquiries) are even more important than keyword positions when it comes to the overall performance of your website.

But what happens when there is a more obvious and sustained fall in you keyword ranking positions? This is indicative of something more serious happening and is certainly cause to find out what is happening as quickly as possible. Panic is probably not the best word, but given the importance of website ranking position when it comes to gaining new patients from the web, you certainly need to act with a degree of urgency.

What causes ranking drops?

Read more ›

SEO, SEM, SMM – what do these marketing terms mean for dentists?

confused website user

Navigating the minefield of dental marketing acronyms and abbreviations

Those who are new to the field of digital marketing may well be confused regarding the plethora of terms and abbreviations which are used to represent the different tools and techniques currently in play.

So whether it’s SEO, SEM or some other description, here is a quick explanation of what they actually mean and how you can benefit from their use.

Let’s start with one of the most important areas to consider i.e. getting your website high up in the search results, in particular Google.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Whilst it’s very important to have an excellent, mobile-friendly website for your dental practice, equally important is to make sure that the website has good prominence in Google. Whilst paid advertising in Google is now increasingly popular (and becoming essential as we’ll see later), having a high position in the organic (free) ranking positions is still very important. This includes the traditional results index and now also the “map” or local business pages. Whilst this article isn’t about how to achieve that, and you can find plenty of advice about it elsewhere in this blog, suffice to say that you need to keep SEO, the technique for getting free traffic from search engines, as a priority within your marketing initiatives.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

Whilst SEO is all about free traffic to your website, SEM is all about paid traffic i.e. paying to advertise on various networks to bring traffic to your site. Perhaps the best known system is Google Ads (formerly AdWords) whereby you join an auction to have your ads displayed in Google. Typically, the more you bid for your chosen keywords, the higher your ad will be placed. Your bid price isn’t the only determining factor, far from it, but for ease it helps to think of it this way, particularly if you have limited experience.

So why is SEM becoming increasingly important, to the point where you now need to “pay to play” with Google? To understand this you need to remember that over 90% of Google’s revenues are generated from ads and consequently they have a strong interest in monetising their platform as much as possible! So for example, we are now seeing more ads in the search index than ever before and they are particularly pervasive on mobile devices. So it has come to the point where, essentially, businesses are being forced to advertise alongside their organic SEO initiatives. You will also likely hear the term ‘pay-per-click’ used in the context of SEM.

Again we’re not telling you how to use this technique in this article, but if you need help, our experts will be pleased to advise.

SMM – Social Media Marketing

Read more ›

What type of content works best for dental websites?

reviewing website content

Is your website engaging? Or are you stuck in the crowd?

One of the most frequent questions we are asked when a dentist contracts us to build a new practice website is “what type of content do I need to really encourage new patients to contact me?”

This is an excellent question and indeed one of the most important aspects to address when it comes to launching a new dentist’s website. There are other important questions too of course, for example, does the website perform well technically and is it optimised correctly for search engines? We’ll take the opportunity to address those questions in other blogs as they are all too frequently overlooked by most design agencies; but today we’ll focus on the type of content you need to really make your website shine.

What is engaging web content and why is it so important?

Even if you’ve not had a website designed before, it’s still likely that you’ve heard the phrase “engaging content”. It all came about when data scientists studied how users interact with a website after they first land on it. Perhaps one of the most startling things they discovered is just how fickle website users are and that many of them simply “bounced” off the website immediately if the content didn’t hook them in – hence the “engagement” part. It’s now well known that you typically only have a couple of seconds to grab a user’s attention when they first hit your website and that if what you present is dull and boring, then they won’t be hanging around for long!

This “bounce” action where users navigate quickly away from your website, is now a key measure we can use to see just how well a website performs, right down to page level. We report on these types of metrics in detail for our monthly marketing clients and then use the information to make ongoing, incremental improvements.

Two categories of engaging content

Read more ›

Landing Pages For Pay-Per-Click Marketing – Yes Or No?

Contact Call To Action

Are landing pages always the best approach to encourage dental PPC conversions?

Let’s start by quickly reviewing what a “landing page” actually is, why they came into being and why there is a huge amount of research associated with their use.

Then we’ll take a closer look at typical applications within dental marketing and other systems you can use alongside your landing pages to make pay-per-click work harder for you.

What exactly is a landing page?

A landing page is a carefully prepared page published on the web to which targeted web traffic is directed; typically from pay-per-click marketing campaigns. These pages differ from standard website pages in that they are precisely configured to catch a user’s attention immediately, keep them focused and prevent them from navigating elsewhere by limiting options for them to click away elsewhere on the site. They are also information rich and designed to encourage immediate enquiries using features as follows:

  • attention grabbing headline
  • clear call-to-action
  • a simple contact form
  • case studies – ‘before and after’ photographs
  • glowing patient testimonials
  • clear and concise benefits of the treatment

This is very much a carefully crafted dental sales page designed to “hook” the user and stimulate a fast enquiry.

Whilst a well-designed web page will also have some of these features, a landing page is super-focused and with no other distractions e.g. no navigation menu so the user has to stay “on page”.

Typical applications for landing pages

Read more ›

The Wild-West of WordPress Plugins

WordPress hack risk

Be cautious or end up with a broken or hacked website!

If you’ve ever researched website design you’ll probably be aware that there are systems available which allow you to update the content of the website directly, without referring back to the original designer.

These tools, known as content management systems (CMS), are useful for making small changes to your website e.g. text in a staff biography, but are not so easy for larger modifications such as adding a new image gallery or a new treatment section. For these types of more complex changes, you will almost certainly need to ask your dental web designer to intervene, as skill and experience is still required.

There are other issues associated with CMS too, for example the need for regular security updates to prevent hacking. So a clear understanding of the pros and cons of CMS is required before you opt for it.

One of the most popular CMS platforms is called WordPress which originally came to the fore as a blogging platform. Over the years, the system has been wrangled into a full-blown CMS and is now widely used for website design, not just blogging. However, to use it as a valid website CMS, you really need to add certain “plugins” to WordPress to extend the core functionality; for example to add contact forms, sitemaps, SEO features and more. But using these plugins requires care, experience and ongoing maintenance if you want to avoid having your website broken, or worse, hacked.

The problem with WordPress plugins

The concept of plugins to extend your website’s functionality is great, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a free-for-all when it comes down to the development of them. This is because the plugin library is vast and not managed directly by the core WordPress team. Anyone can contribute a WordPress plugin and as such the quality of them varies significantly, from those which are diligently managed and updated, to those which have huge, inherent security risks.

The problem is that you don’t have any guarantees which is which – indeed even the most popular plugins with regular support, still periodically get compromised by hackers causing all manner of grief for WordPress website users.

Another serious problem with plugins is that you just can’t guarantee ongoing consistency and support. Developers may start out with the best of intentions and contribute a great plugin, then over the years they get distracted by other projects and move on. Unfortunately you’ve already used that plugin and your website relies on it, but you’ve lost the support and also the security updates which will invariably be required. This can cause you website to break as the core functions of WordPress update; or worse, you get hacked.

What can you do to minimise the risk associated with plugins?

Read more ›

The Benefits Of Wide Keyword Coverage For SEO

Keyword target and SEO

Why you need more than just a couple of keywords on page one of Google

There is too much hang up about keywords when it comes to dental SEO these days, particularly when considering how far Google has moved on when it comes to evaluating where websites should rank.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog, SEO is no longer about adding a bunch of keywords to a page and keeping your fingers crossed, it’s a good deal more complicated than that.

However, that said, keywords are still very useful for getting a quick idea of the prominence of a website and a likely indicator of how much traffic it will get. Plus you still do need to include a few keywords and associated phrases on your website pages to help Google understand what they are all about. Ultimately though, this is just a starting point and you will need to invest in some of the other digital strategies discussed in this blog, e.g. links, content generation etc, to secure great positions in search engines.

But today let’s take a quick look at how you can use keywords to evaluate (and boost) the prominence of a website and get a quick idea of how it is likely performing in the search results.

Wide keyword profiles

Quite often, we find that dentists get fixated on single keywords or perhaps a very small set of them. For example, it might be “dental implants Trumpton” and then the dentist focuses on this term and searches for it regularly, using it as an indicator of how well their website is doing. In their head, they want this term to be at position one, but unfortunately there’s far more to the story than just the position of a single search term.

If you look in Analytics and Search Console, the free website data tools from Google, you will see lots of information about the various types of traffic which arrive on a website, for example from free searches, paid searches, third-party link clicks etc. The traffic which primarily comes from search engines, (free or organic) is made up of traffic which originates from hundreds if not thousands of different searches. So in the case of implants, it could come from people who search “dental implants” “teeth implants” “new replacement teeth” or many other associated terms. So not just one or two terms. Of course, some terms will carry more weight, but the spectrum is huge.

The same can be said for all other treatments and services, i.e. lots of varied search queries, hopefully resulting in traffic to your website.

What I’m trying to illustrate here is why it is important to avoid being fixated on a few search terms, but instead understanding the importance of appearing prominently for multiple different phrases across the spectrum of treatments you provide. The key is to develop a wide keyword profile which delivers traffic from lots of different search queries, not just a narrow range of super competitive terms. Ultimately, traffic and conversions (enquiries) are the key success factors and ranking at number one for just a couple of phrases doesn’t necessarily deliver this. You may also wish to read our blog which covers “long-tail keywords” for supporting information.

How do you achieve a wide keyword profile?

Read more ›

Using 3rd party supplier or association logos on your website

reviewing website content

Respecting dental branding and copyright

Understandably, dentists have numerous associations with 3rd party suppliers to their businesses and often want to showcase these relationships on their own dental practice websites.

This is usually a good initiative in that it helps to build credibility; for example, use of the latest equipment such as scanning technology or offering treatments using appliances from leading orthodontics or implant manufacturers. It also shows willingness from the dental practice itself to invest in the latest technologies and services; indeed we actively encourage this when we are designing websites on behalf of our clients.

This may all sound straightforward but there are some guidelines and rules which need to be understood and followed. One of these golden rules is the observance and preservation of third-party branding as well as seeking written approval to use it. This may sound obvious to some, but very frequently we will be asked by clients to do things (e.g. edit the NHS logo!) which are clearly forbidden and would only serve to cause problems if we did.

Brand identity is very strict, particularly for larger companies, and they will issue rigid brand guidelines indicating what you can and what you can’t do with their brand identity once they’ve approved you to use it. Even small businesses, i.e. most dentists, should strive to maintain consistency with their branding and ensure that is used in the correct way.

With the above in mind, here are some essential guidelines on questions to ask and how to use third-party branding on your own website:

  • identify which suppliers/associations etc you want to showcase on your website and what advantages this might bring – do this strategically
  • seek their permission to use their branding, typically a logo, where appropriate. Get it in writing where possible
  • don’t attempt to modify their brand assets – unfortunately we see attempts to do this too regularly!
  • use the correct branding assets in the correct situation e.g. we had one client who insisted on using the Invisalign corporate logo rather than their provider logo
  • review regularly – are logos you are using out-of-date or are there new assets which you can use to your advantage?

Most of this is common sense to us in the design world, but perhaps not so much to those who are at the front-line of providing dental services.

Check to see if there are other supplier marketing assets you can use

Read more ›

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

Read more ›

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?

Read more ›

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?

Read more ›