Professional photography and video – taking websites to the next level!

We’ve commented previously about the power of high-quality visuals when it comes to building great dental websites which really stand out. If anything, those comments are even truer today than when we first made them.

When we talk about “visuals” we primarily mean photography and video, not the structural design of the website per se. Furthermore we also need to differentiate between “stock” visuals i.e. the pre-made photographs you often see being used to build dental sites, and the bespoke photographs generated when a professional photographer visits the practice for a bespoke shoot.

Dental photo shoot UK example 1

As we’ll see, the bespoke, personalised imagery works much better for patient engagement than the generic stock images that many agencies fall back on.

Stock images versus a personal photo shoot

Most design agencies will have membership of one or more images libraries where they can access a wide range of pre-shot photographs for use with their client’s website projects. This makes it easy and cheap to gather a selection of images to use. Whilst you can build a perfectly adequate website like this, what is clear is that too many dentists are following the same tack and ending up with websites which look quite generic i.e. just too similar to the competitor website from the practice down the road.

What we know from many years of experience working with dentists and securing new patient enquiries, is that websites which stand out from the crowd work much better than those which look “samey” or generic. Of course this has to be matched with excellent usability and great technical underpinnings as this will also affect performance, not just for the user but how well the website works in Google too.

Hence it really is essential these days to ensure that you website is top-grade and really does stand out above your competitors. One essential component to achieve this is to ensure that the visuals you use are bespoke and personalised, not generic stock versions which appear on numerous websites as well as your own.

Why personalised visuals work much better than stock images

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Tricks and tips to help steer clear of hackers and spammers

It rarely goes a week without the team here at Dental Media receiving a few calls or emails from dentists or their team members asking for advice where they have received a suspicious email, or worse, opened one, clicked a link and compromised their local IT system.

Whilst modern virus checkers are very good, not every business uses one or keeps it up-to-date, and this, coupled with employees who miss the signs of a suspect email, often results in problems.

Today I thought it would be useful to compile a short blog covering the main ways dentists and their teams can avoid being duped by malicious emails of this nature. We’ll also take a quick look at how to protect your dental website assets, such as contact forms, which spammers can potentially use to send you suspect content.

Install and maintain a high quality antivirus system

Whilst email servers, including our own, use robust systems to remove as much spam as possible at source, some malicious emails can still get through. To provide full protection, you should not just rely on remote systems, but also install top-grade local antivirus on your local systems. It goes without saying that you should keep this updated with the latest virus “definitions” to make sure that that your protection has the best chance of working.

Many modern anti-virus systems are also “intelligent” in that they can detect any unexpected changes to your file system and intervene accordingly. But please don’t trust that this will catch everything, you still need to exercise a good degree of care!

Learn to recognise a “phishing” email

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Concluding our dental SEO mini-series

Today we conclude our mini-series for dentists which covers nine basic elements of “must-know” information when it comes to implementing successful SEO projects. Last time we looked at how to choose an effective SEO partner, key dental SEO techniques and how local SEO will be critical to your campaigns.

This blog concludes by looking at how to measure your campaigns, what SEO typically costs and also a final few things to look out for to avoid being duped by one of the many “dodgy” SEO agencies out there. Let’s get started.

Effective measurement of SEO campaigns

As with any investment, it makes sounds sense to measure the effectiveness of your dental optimisation campaigns and ultimately the return on the investment made. This means an accurate evaluation of how much it costs to bring in new patient treatments and which channels/techniques are most effective. Good management information in this sector is essential, particularly given the issues we’ve touched on with some web and optimisation companies offering poor value for money.

As a minimum you need to ensure that Google Analytics is installed on your website to track traffic and conversions; for example how many contact forms were completed during the reporting period. You should also link up to Google Search Console and potentially to Google Data Studio, a great tool for producing visual reporting data.

Please make sure that these tools are set up in your own account and not the account of the company providing the service. If you wish to move to a new supplier in the future, your data needs to be seamless and transportable. If it’s all set up in a third-party account, very likely you will lose access to it and need to start again. This is a scenario we’ve seen many times where clients have moved to us from other suppliers and where we’ve had to help start with new analytics accounts from scratch.

For social media advertising, please follow similar guidance by ensuring you have access to your data in your own accounts.

Most dentists don’t have time to trawl through rafts of analytics data regularly and this where an overview report is essential to inform the decisions which need to be made regarding the service. A good supplier will make reporting like this readily available and integrate the key elements of information from all of the channels used. For example, levels of website traffic, key landing page information, conversions (contact information), spend on paid advertising, cost per conversion and more. The objective should be to provide accurate information covering key measurements parameters but without becoming overwhelming. Reports like this would typically be provided on a monthly basis.

You also need to be careful that your supplier is providing meaningful statistics and not “fluff” which simply looks impressive but does little to add value to your business. A good example is providing information about keywords which are too obscure to be meaningful and hence easy to get to the top of Google. On paper it looks good, but adds no value. Another example is reliance on keyword positions – this is a useful marker of performance but the best SEOs moved to a focus on website traffic and conversions several years ago. This is much more meaningful and concentrates on the main elements which will really make a difference to your business.

What does SEO cost?

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Continuing our mini-series on SEO for dentists

In last week’s blog we looked at why SEO for dental websites is important and laid out a list of 9 key areas where a dentist will benefit from a solid working knowledge of the process. We looked at what SEO actually is, why it makes great sense to do it and also the role of Google, the main force in search engines in the UK today.

Moving on, in today’s blog we’ll cover the next three elements; choosing your  dental SEO partner, the two main types of optimisation and the role of “local” SEO. Let’s get started.

How to choose a good SEO partner

In our blogs already, we’ve touched on various reasons why you need to take care when choosing someone to help with your SEO, but it’s certainly worth re-iterating again in this mini-series. Firstly it’s worth remembering the slightly “murky” reputation which SEO has gained and indeed why this has arisen. Whilst it takes hard work and experience to keep on top of Google’s regular updates and this should not be under-estimated; too many SEO companies fail far too often which has resulted in disenchantment amongst many dentists.

Sometimes optimisation teams step outside of Google’s publishing guidelines and cause their client’s websites to be penalised. This can be unrecoverable resulting in the dentist having to start again with a new website on a fresh domain – potentially thousands of pounds out-of-pocket and back at square one.

Another recurring problem is where web design companies offer SEO but actually don’t do anything! This is particularly rife with companies who offer maintenance contracts which claim to include SEO but at best, do the bare minimum and certainly not enough to make meaningful improvements in Google. Yet many dentists and/or practice managers get caught out by this.

So with SEO, you do need to be very careful and make sure to choose a reputable practitioner with a solid track record. Check the results and also be sure to avoid signing up for long-term contracts where you’ll likely still have to pay up even if the expected results aren’t forthcoming. Also take care to treat recommendations cautiously – there are a couple of popular dental design companies in the UK who actively incentivise clients to recommend them, albeit if when you look closely at their results, the true picture becomes much clearer and it isn’t always what you’ve been led to believe.

On-site and off-site search engine optimisation

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What you need to know in the murky world of search engine optimisation! Part 1

Perhaps one of the most contentious and least well understood areas of dental marketing is search engine optimisation, or SEO for short. Virtually every week I get asked questions by dentists or their practice managers about this important topic. Those questions often arise when lay people read or hear something that is out-of-date or worse, specifically attempting to pull the wool over their eyes! Unfortunately this is one of the main reasons why SEO is viewed with cynicism by some and indeed why it still has a murky reputation.

SEO can be quite hard to quantify and unscrupulous vendors still use this to draw a veil over their work – so where they fail, it can sometimes takes months for a client to actually realise, by which time the dentist is hundreds, potentially thousands of pounds, out-of-pocket.

This is unfortunate because whilst there are many more bad than good SEO practitioners out there, when done well, this type of website optimisation and the resultant improvement in Google rankings, can be hugely beneficial for new patients enquiries. You just need to make sure you get the right service and support.

With all of the above in mind, I thought it would be useful to compile a short mini-series covering the basics of SEO for dentists, including where Google has reached in its relentless evolution and what all of this means for your practice marketing programmes.

Contents

I’ll cover the following topics over the next series of blogs:

  • What is SEO?
  • Why do SEO for dental websites?
  • Google – how it changes and where are we now?
  • Choosing your SEO partner
  • On-site and Off-site optimisation techniques – what are they?
  • The influence of reviews and local SEO
  • Measuring your campaigns – why it’s not all about keywords any more
  • What does SEO cost and what might you expect in return?
  • Signs you’re being duped – (don’t hire these guys!)

I’ll try to cover these key aspects in my next few blogs. Let’s go with the first three in the list.

What is SEO?

Simply put, SEO is the process whereby various techniques are used to improve a website’s ranking in search engines. In the UK, where the large majority of web searches go via Google, we tend to talk about optimisation specifically for that particular search engine. Later in this article we’ll discuss the main optimisation techniques in more detail.

So why perform SEO on dental websites?

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Do you have the right marketing plans in place to generate plentiful new patient enquiries?

I was recently invited to a Zoom call with a new practice to discuss the development of a suitable SEO strategy to generate new patient enquiries from Google. However what became evident right at the start of the meeting was that the practice believed that SEO ‘was’ their overall marketing strategy and that they considered that my team was solely responsible for it – i.e. a full remit for all of the practice marketing.

Whilst this was a compliment in itself and I thanked them for their trust in our services, I was duty bound to explain that ‘SEO’ alone does not constitute a marketing strategy and is only a functional aspect of a much broader plan.

So at that juncture the meeting changed from one about the ins and outs of search engine optimisation, to a more high-level understanding of what the practice needed to develop as their overall marketing plan, together with the component parts you would typically find within it. It struck me that the practice clearly had limited business experience outside of the day-to-day practice management and clinical expertise, but that’s actually not uncommon in a lot of UK dental practices unfortunately. However, what we discussed should help them to develop a usable and productive marketing plan and one where we can assist with its development and implementation ongoing.

So what elements would you typically find within a dental marketing strategy?

This is a very broad question and the answer will vary depending on individual circumstances and requirements. The elements within such a plan will also change over time and so regular review is required to make sure that current business needs are being addressed. So where do you start?

This really depends on the type of business you want and the mix of treatments and services you wish to offer. Will you be aiming for a ‘high-end’ niche, something middle-of-the-road, or perhaps more tailored to functional dentistry to process as much treatment volume as possible?

Once you’ve determined this, and this in itself may evolve with time, then you can decide what tools you need to start gaining momentum. In conjunction with that you’ll also need to evaluate the local competition to establish what type of businesses they are running, where there are hurdles to overcome and also niches to exploit. The best start-ups will of course do all of this ground work before they go ahead and set-up in a new location.

6 key areas

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Have you optimised it correctly? 6 main ways

There are few pages more important on your website than your testimonials page and it is a primary destination for potential new patients looking to use your dental services. However, you might be surprised to see how many dentists have failed to recognise this and run with a web testimonials page which is at best minimal, or at worst, non-existent.

It’s easy enough to say how good your services are personally, but new patients will be way more encouraged to believe you if they see excellent reviews about you expressed by existing patients. It really does make sense to acknowledge this and then present your testimonials so that they work for you in the best ways possible.

So what is the best way to organise your website testimonials page so it is set up correctly, engages new dental patients and encourages them to contact you? Let’s take a look at the basics you need to get right.

Grab attention with a compelling headline

Your testimonials need to stand out and the best way to introduce them is via a bold headline. This needs to be in keeping with the rest of your dental practice website styling but make sure it’s prominent. One trusted technique is to quote the main part of the patient testimonial as an introductory headline, for example “Martin’s chairside manner was exceptional and my new dental implant has been life-changing”.

Match the testimonial with the treatments you want to promote

Understandably many dentists are trying to promote significant treatments such as dental implants and Invisalign so it makes sense to give prominence to the testimonials which support this. So please be sure to get glowing reviews from your patients who received those particular treatments and display them prominently.

Whilst it’s always good practice to consolidate a range of top reviews on a single testimonials page on your website, it’s also really effective to use selected, treatment-specific reviews on the treatment pages of your website too. Not only does this help to break up the factual descriptive content, but also helps to build the reader’s confidence as they navigate your pages i.e. it keeps reinforcing the message.

Use photographs and video clips where possible

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Check your content and functionality frequently to ensure top performance

We’ve had a very dynamic year when it comes to the messaging shown on dentists’ websites, all brought about by the fluid situation surrounding Covid-19. This has ranged from messages announcing temporary practice closures early in the first lockdown, through to new and frequently changing protocols as the pandemic progressed. Suffice to say we’ve been extremely busy helping our clients keep their websites bang up-to-date and informative for their patients.

However, where we don’t have website maintenance contracts with clients, and noting that quite a lot of dentists prefer the more cost-effective ‘pay-as-you-go’ approach, we do rely on clients to advise us expediently when they require updates to their websites. This is particularly important where vital messaging is concerned, e.g. opening status during Covid-19.

This was brought home to me last week when a non-maintenance client called to say that the messaging on his website still showed an opening date of June 8th albeit they had been open and treating patients for months! If we see situations like this, we will of course get in touch with clients to advise them; however where no maintenance contract exists, understandably we are not able to carry out regular checks on the hundreds of dentists’ websites which we host on our servers.

So the message here is hopefully clear – please ensure that you are checking your website content regularly, particularly where you are not paying someone to do it for you.

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to compile a short check-list of the key content and functionalities you should check regularly on your own practice website.

Website key messages

We’ve covered some of this above but in particular, is your website current when it comes to key information such as opening times? Are there any restrictions in place due to current Covid requirements? Are you displaying the correct protocols in terms of what you expect from patients before, during and after their visits? This is vitally important, particularly during the current pandemic and likely to remain so as we ease our way out of it.

Contact forms

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Why organic SEO still leads the way for new patient bookings from the web

Apologies for the slightly ‘clickbaity’ title but I wanted to bring attention to a subject which regularly rears its head in the world of dental marketing and is filled with misinformation.

The topic arose again recently when I was in discussion with a dentist who was researching ways to help promote her new practice on the web. She’d heard about SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) but had been told by an agency which solely dealt with PPC that SEO was dead and that she should invest all of her budget in paid ads. Hold on a minute!

Not only is this false but also terribly misleading and potentially compromising the success of the dentist when it comes to claiming new patient bookings from the web.

So why do some PPC practitioners claim that SEO is dead and try to force the issue to sell their own services? Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and also how you’ll lose out if you believe them.

SEO has undeniably got harder

Over the last 7 or 8 years, Google has pushed hard to ensure that the prominence of their ads is optimised. This is unsurprising as Google makes over 90% of its revenue from ads and hence needs to ensure that as many ads are displayed across as many channels as possible. A large part of this was to progressively increase the number of ads shown in the Google search results, progressively limiting the appearance of the traditional free (organic) results.

Whilst this has made traditional SEO harder, it’s also extremely important to realise that the majority of web traffic from Google still goes via the free results and not via paid ads. So even though you will now see a higher ratio of ads, particularly with mobile devices, there is still plenty of opportunity for Google users to find your business without having to click on them.

Of course those guys who sell PPC services won’t tell you that but they will ensure you know that ads are becoming more prominent.

How much traffic goes via paid ads versus traditional (free) results?

A study from last year conducted by Wordstream suggested that around 37% of web traffic via Google actually originated from clicks on paid ads; so just over a third. This leaves nearly two thirds of traffic still coming from organic results of one type or another. So whilst we can see that SEO has become harder with the advent and evolution of paid ads, it certainly hasn’t gone away, not by a long chalk.

A lot of people actually avoid clicking on ads

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What’s the difference and why do you need to know?

Marketers for dentists sometimes take for granted that their clients know all of the basics when it comes to promoting dental practices. Of course this isn’t always the case and we have to be sure that the key elements and principles are explained in detail so that informed decisions can be made.

This was brought home again to me earlier this week when I was explaining the differences between paid and organic social media to a dentist who was interested in the topic and getting moving with a social marketing initiative for his own practice. What quickly became clear was that he had very little knowledge of how Facebook works and indeed why he needed to “pay to play” to gain any real exposure on the channel.

With that in mind, I think it’s worth a quick recap on the types of social media marketing you can use for dental practice promotion, in this case primarily looking at Facebook and Instagram.

For clarity, I will used the terms “paid” and “organic” in this blog to indicate the two main ways of gaining exposure on Facebook (and Instagram). Paid is exactly as it sounds and primarily refers to paying for ads which are displayed on the channel, whereas as I will use the ‘organic’ term to illustrate how you can publish content free of charge.

Organic content published to Facebook and Instagram

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