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 poor performance

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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Choosing between a bespoke, modular design or pre-configured package for your dental website

optimising website design

Why “all in one” web design packages may not be your best bet

The current landscape in dental web design appears to be one of providing pre-configured packages for dentists who are time-poor and just need their designer to pull everything together for them.

On the face of it, this may sound great, but is it really your best route to an excellent website which not only functions well but offer great value too? Let’s take a closer look….

Dental website packages

The types of packages you may see range from an entry level where a basic website is built using a pre-made template, stock photographs and annual website hosting – so the minimum needed to establish a basic foothold on the web. At this level you are looking at something fairly generic which won’t really make you stand-out above lots of the other sites out there.

The next level up, the “middle” ground package, may also offer a photo shoot and some treatment animations to supplement the basic package, but again not too much to really “wow” your audience. Just on the photography, this service is often provided by a design company “staffer” who has photography as a “bolt-on” responsibility, rather than a bona fide professional who has industry knowledge. So something to check if you do go the package route.

Finally the high-end package may offer additional options, for example the services of the “head designer”, fully bespoke design and a video shoot. You may also be offered some generic treatment text so you don’t have to write your own. So at the higher end, you should be able to purchase a dental website design offering more than average – but at a handsome price, often £8k or more (yes £8k!)

So is it worth opting for a pre-configured dental web design package? Here are some things to consider:

  • can be convenient if you don’t have much time to spare
  • can look very generic and “templated” unless you take more expensive options
  • you may be buying services you don’t actually need i.e. part of the package but adding limited value
  • if you opt for photography or video, you may be stuck with a very basic service
  • expensive – you will likely pay a lot more for a one-stop shop service

The alternative to pre-packaged design

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Encrypted email services for dentists

Is email ever 100% safe for transferring sensitive information?

Encryption for your websiteThere is a great deal of confusion regarding encrypted email and what this actually means, particularly if you are considering using email to contact dental patients or perhaps transferring information to other dentists.

There are different elements to consider before making a decision about this which we’ll explain below, but ultimately you will see that unless you have access to a specialist “end-to-end” system such as the NHS email services, or use encryption tools (sender and recipient) then no system is entirely safe.

That said, robust email may still be appropriate for transferring some types of information as long as your risk-assessments and due diligence are in place and suitable.

End-to-end encryption

This is the key to understanding why email is generally not considered to be 100% secure for the most sensitive types of data transfer. But why is this? When email is sent across the Internet, it passes through multiple stations between sender and recipient. Even where the dental email system supports encryption from your PC to the email server, in many cases, the email is then decrypted when it reaches the email server. It could then be encrypted again before it is sent to the recipient’s system, but equally it may not if their email connection is not encrypted. Whilst many are, there is still no guarantee that your recipient is using an encrypted connection and ultimately it is unlikely that you will ever be able to control this fully.

So even if you are doing as much as you can to ensure security, you can’t control the last link in the chain where your messages may be transmitted in readable format. Whilst interception is highly unlikely, it is still possible.

At-rest encryption

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Clickfunnels – DIY landing pages for dentists

Using DIY landing pages builders for dental PPC campaigns

confused website userIf you are reasonably experienced with running pay-per-click campaigns for your dental business, perhaps using Google AdWords and/or Facebook advertising, then you are likely aware of the importance of “landing pages”.

As we’ve discussed in more detail earlier in our blog, a landing page is a hyper-focused page where you direct traffic from your paid advertising campaigns.

They differ from normal website pages in that they are set up very specifically to encourage a swift user interaction. So very clear and concise information about the service you are selling, very prominent contact details, patient testimonials etc. You can also encourage sign-up to your email marketing list via your landing pages, in fact there are quite a few different permutations depending on what your are trying to achieve.

DIY landing page builders

Over the last couple of years, several services have been launched to facilitate the building of landing pages and one of these is Clickfunnels. They are all fairly similar in concept and basically allow a user with no experience to set up a landing page reasonably quickly and with lots of features. However, as with all systems of this nature, there are pros and cons. Let’s take a quick look:

Clickfunnels – the pros

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