Preparation at the practice before starting out with SEO, pay-per-click or social media marketing.
Dentists often ask us to undertake “fully outsourced” marketing for them because they have “no resources” at the practice to participate. Whilst we can cover most of the bases for this, it’s actually impossible to carry out fully outsourced marketing for several reasons, and where companies claim to do this, you need to be a little bit wary as follows.
Even where most of the activities are outsourced, there will always be some input from the local team as I’ll illustrate. In fact the most effective campaigns are typically those where activities are shared between the external dental marketer and nominated and trained members of the practice team. This balance of marketing “done for you” alongside marketing “done by you” always tends to work best.
Whilst a good dental marketer will be able to generate numerous high-quality leads for your business, if your business is not set up correctly to receive and process them, then the overall initiative has failed before it starts. Indeed we’ve recently paused two pay-per-click campaigns which were yielding good returns in terms of enquiries but the dentist’s reception team were not handling them professionally; so collectively we agreed to pause whilst the appropriate, proactive staffing was put in place.
So as a minimum, the front-desk team needs to be trained in and receptive to dealing with an influx of new enquiries. This does not simply mean booking new appointments but also being able to use recording systems to try to identify how the enquiries originated. This is essential to help determine how well the various aspects of the marketing campaigns are working, alongside the reporting from the external marketing team.
Additionally, if you’ve embarked on social media marketing, for example Facebook advertising, there must be proactive monitoring to ensure that new enquiries or questions are responded to promptly. Don’t leave it to your marketing team to do this for obvious reasons.
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Check your website bounce rate regularly – here’s why….
Google Analytics has a huge amount of information but perhaps one of the most important elements for understanding how your dental practice website is performing is called ‘Bounce Rate’. In today’s blog we’ll take a quick look at bounce rate, why it’s helpful and what to do if the data you’re seeing is adverse.
What is Bounce Rate?
A web pages bounce is recorded in Analytics when a user lands on a page but then ‘bounces’ elsewhere immediately with out viewing any further pages on your site. This is typically found when a user uses Google to search for a product or service, clicks on a link but then quickly navigates elsewhere – often back to Google to try again.
Immediately we can see that the bounce rate is great indicator of how engaging/useful a page is for a user – pages which are interesting will typically create long dwell times and encourage users to view other pages within the same site. Pages which hold no interest for the user will typically exhibit much higher bounce rates.
The bounce rate of a website is aggregated in the headline performance figures within Google Analytics, but importantly you can also drill down to bounce rate at the page level. So it makes sense to look closely at these figures, particularly for those pages on your website which you deem to be most important.
Bounce rate and Google ranking
An engaging web page is not just important to help grab the attention of your site visitors; it’s also extremely important for Google search positions too. Although Google hasn’t confirmed directly, there are plenty of studies which indicate that Google likely uses bounce rate to indicate the quality and usefulness of a web pages for uses, and then promotes those pages in the search results which perform well. Conversely, pages with high bounce rates are pushed back. So here we are not just considering user experience, but Google ranking too – and it makes sense that both of these should work hand-in-hand.
What figures should I be aiming for?
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Google algorithm update announced for July 2018 – does your dental website meet requirements?
The speed at which your website loads has always been important, but with the improvement in broadband speeds and the introduction of 4G mobile data, many web designers have forgotten this core principle and continue to publish sites which don’t meet accepted performance criteria – i.e. they load way too slowly other than on fast networks.
It’s now common to see websites which are image heavy and use “fancy” presentation techniques as designers race to incorporate the latest gimmicks in their designs. We’ve all seen these types of websites; large images scrolling everywhere, nifty transition and roll-over effects, parallax scrolling and more.
To be frank, we produce dentists websites like this too, as many clients are keen to incorporate all the “bells and whistles” in their new designs. However, you can easily go too far with this and form can easily override function if you are not careful. At this point, we have to draw a line and advise clients that there is a clear balance to be struck. Websites clearly have to look excellent but they also have to work well, and a large part of this is presenting a great user experience – even where connection speeds are slow.
Included high on the list when it comes to making websites easy to use, is the page loading speed. It’s fine to sit at a desk-top PC with a large screen and high-speed internet when your are loading websites, but this is actually now in the minority of website usage. More people are now searching for products and services on mobile devices and often don’t have the luxury of a super-fast broadband connection to facilitate this. Indeed there are still way more slow networks in the UK than fast ones.
Even where a website is designed to work on mobile devices, if it hasn’t been designed with fast loading time in mind, problems can soon arise. Sadly this is prevalent with lots of dental websites, even ones which are new. For the website owner, this is a big problem as I’ll illustrate below.
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Why you need a focus for both….
I recently read a blog post from a dental coach where he noted that a few of his clients had significantly wound back their spend on external marketing in favour of prioritising their internal marketing efforts. What we didn’t learn was whether this initiative actually worked, but it’s certainly worthy of more discussion. Just before we take a look at this “strategy” in more detail, let’s recap in the broadest sense, on what those marketing terms actually mean. These are not concrete definitions (indeed there are several different views on what internal marketing means) but they will serve for the purposes of this discussion:
- external marketing – this is essentially the types of activity you undertake in a “third party” context to publicise your dental business. So for example, using an SEO agency to boost search rankings, advertising in the local newspaper or via a radio ad etc.
- internal marketing – basically using your local team to engage patients to promote your business from within. For example, seeking testimonials to use on your website, encouraging reviews, grabbing “selfies” to use on social media etc. Also of course ensuring that suitable marketing materials are available at the practice e.g. posters, flat-screen presentations, information leaflets etc.
But should you switch your marketing focus internally i.e. prioritise it, or do you need a sensible balance of both?
Reliance on internal marketing – can it work?
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Seeking transparency with contracts and reporting
We are currently working with a client who uses our services for organic SEO i.e. seeking prominence in the free listings in Google search results. The dentist also has an historical relationship with another agency he uses for AdWords and Facebook marketing which he’s been running for some time and before his organic SEO campaign began.
As part of a scoping meeting, the dentist discussed with me what the other agency were actually providing and it is this which prompted me to write today’s blog. Essentially it’s a tale of “what not to do” when signing up to a digital marketing contract and how it’s all to easy to get fleeced if you don’t know what you’re doing. Here’s what the dentist had been subscribing to for over two years, but without any real clue as to what was really going on.
Yearly contractual tie in
The dentist was tied in to a contact for 12 months which auto renewed if not cancelled. The contract was not performance based in any way and was actually very expensive for what it purported to achieve. Getting tied in to anything like this is a mistake which too many still make. Ideally, look for a contract with no tie ins, or at best a couple of months. Also try to build in a performance element to keep the marketing company on its toes.
The agency was not providing any form of reporting to the client. So no update on his ad performance, no comment on how they were managing the campaigns, in fact nothing at all. The dentist knew he should really be getting feedback but claimed to be too busy to get involved. No doubt that was music to the agencies ears! You simply must insist on sufficient reporting to allow you to understand if your marketing is working and paying back. Make the agency set up analytical tools in your own accounts and not their accounts. This way you can see progress for yourself or seek an independent opinion. Should you move on in future, you will still have access to historical performance data.
Agency profit margin unknown
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What is it and why is it critical for your marketing materials?
One of the phrases we tend to take for granted in the world of dental marketing is “call to action” – but what does it really mean and why is it so critical when it comes to producing marketing assets such as websites, blogs, landing pages and even traditional collateral such as posters or flyers?
It may sound common sense when I say that your marketing materials, digital or otherwise, need to “hook” clients and make it easy for them to take action to get in touch – and here’s where “call to action” comes into play. Let’s take a quick look at the various types of call-to-action (CTA) so you have some insights for when you are developing your own dental marketing materials.
Let’s start with the simplest of features which could be considered to fall under the CTA umbrella. This is your immediate contact information and primarily, your telephone number. You might find it quite surprising, but we still see many dentist’s websites which don’t have a prominent telephone number. Typically this should be prominent in the header of each page of your website but also consider other useful positions such as the footer or at the end of pages and blog articles. People are lazy and so you must provide easy to use information without them having to look for it. Another error we see very often is failure to make contact telephone numbers click-to-call. This is critical for mobile ‘phones where the user simply wants to click your number to get in touch rather than copy and paste it to call you.
You should also consider where to place your website contact forms. One main contact form linked prominently from the website navigation is a given, but also consider the use of “quick” or “mini” contact forms on the treatment pages of your site. Doing this makes it easier for users to get in touch – for many it can be too much effort to try to find your main contact form, so why not make it easy and place them strategically around key parts of the website.
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Why it’s time to “pay-to-play”
I’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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Why keyword SEO is defunct and may be used to trick you
I 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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Getting your new dental website ranked in Google
So 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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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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