Use Google’s Page Speed Insights Tool To See What’s Gone Wrong!

waiting for a website to loadWith networks speeding up all the time and with 5G mobile data already with us, you might think that optimising your website’s loading speed is irrelevant theses days. However, that would be a bad mistake to make and there are a couple of very good reasons why.

The speed at which your web pages load is particularly important, so just opting for form over function when it comes to web design is a critical error if you are serious about presenting a great user experience and doing well in the Google search rankings.

Unfortunately not too many people realise just how important good website performance is and this leads to them accepting really rather poor new websites from their chosen designers. All too often, the designer will know that what they are delivering is substandard and well outside of Google’s requirements, but they go ahead and hand the site over anyway. Most of the time they know they can get away with it and the designer will be long gone before the website owner starts asking questions.

The key of course, is to let your designer know that you understand the issues related to website speed and that you will be testing your new website to make sure that it performs properly.

Why is page load speed so important?

We’ve touched on this a few times in our blog, but to recap, websites need to load quickly to ensure that users get a good navigation and usability experience even where network speeds are quite slow. Not everyone is blessed with fast internet or the latest mobile speeds so you need to be sure that your site is still accessible and easy to use under these circumstances.

Equally important these days is that Google wants your website to load quickly. There are numerous theories as to why this is, ranging from them trying to take responsibility for promoting a fast and efficient internet, to the more cynical suggestion that they want it to be as fast as possible to facilitate serving ads! The truth is probable some combination of a number of factors, but suffice to say that if Google desires us to comply, then comply we should! To encourage this, Google now rewards fast websites with better search rankings whilst demoting those which are less good. It should be said that this isn’t the only factor which dictates where your website will rank; however it is becoming increasingly important as time progresses. So please don’t ignore it!

Google ranking is so competitive these days, so if there is a factor within your control which you can optimise such as website loading speed, then you really should take the opportunity to do it. If your designer says it doesn’t matter, then they really aren’t doing their job properly. Incremental improvements such as this really do make a difference.

All that glitters isn’t gold!

Here at Dental Media we design hundreds of websites for dentists and as part of the process we ask potential new clients to show us examples of websites they already like. This is useful to help us gain an idea of the type of design style they prefer. When we are referred to these example sites we also take the opportunity to asses their strengths and weaknesses and discuss these with the client. Invariably we get shown some really “glitzy” websites often built using WordPress visual editing tools, or worse, tools like Squarespace, and on face value they look decent enough. However, when we dig deep into the code and evaluate the actual performance of the sites, a lot of them are real shockers! There is often quite a strong correlation with relatively poor search results too.

The moral of this story is that form doesn’t rule over function and these days, both factors are extremely important. Simply put, your website needs to look great and function extremely well too.

How can I check my website?

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New tools to enhance your Google pay-per-click performance

Extending AdWordsOver the last few years we’ve written several blog articles covering the use of Google Ads (formerly AdWords) as part of comprehensive dental marketing strategies and how it is becoming commonplace to support organic SEO campaigns.

Google Ads done well, can pay off handsomely and it’s well worth getting on board to help boost new patient enquiries.

As with all sophisticated marketing tools, you do need expert assistance to get the most from it, together with the use of comprehensive reporting systems to quantify the payback. With these things in place, Google Ads can be an excellent way to help grow you practice.

Google makes a huge proportion of its revenues from Ads (> 90%) and consequently they put a lot of time and resources into the tool. This ranges from regular technical and feature updates, to providing support in helping you set up you campaigns. If you do go the DIY route, just be careful as to the quality of the support however, because it can be a little bit hit and miss!

In today’s blog we’ll take a look at a couple of recent and useful additions to your ad campaigns which we’ve already found useful to improve conversions. We’ll already assume that you are using the full Google Ads suite of tools (not the Express “lite” system which is rather poor) and that you have all of the basic features in play. This means a granular account with appropriate data hierarchy, correct choice of keywords, negative keywords and a range of carefully crafted ads. We’ll also assume that you have your account integrated with Google Analytics so you have clear visibility on performance. If you are yet to implement some of these features, please take a look elsewhere in our blog for advice or give our team a call.

Recent Google Ads features for you try

You will likely have seem some ads on Google which stand out much better than others? These prominent ads are making use of the full suite of tools available in the ads management system to help make them stand out i.e. they take up more screen “real estate” than ads which are less-well configured. This is very important as the users eye is more readily drawn to the ads which stand out more – easy enough to understand, but how do you achieve that?

As well as the basic ad text, there are features known as extensions which boost the ad content, adding elements such as links to your website pages, location details, telephone number etc. These have been in play for a number of years and we cover them in more detail elsewhere in this blog.

More recently, Google has added to the list of extensions which you can use. Here’s a couple you might not be familiar with but are well worth using:

Structured Snippet extensions

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These proven techniques are essential within a modern marketing campaign for dentists

New dental patientThe days of expecting patients to simply walk into a dental practice in sufficient numbers to sustain and grow it are long passed. This reality simply means that dental business owners have to be proactive in seeking out new patients using effective and measurable marketing mechanisms.

Whilst “word-of-mouth” referral will always be essential, and indeed is still the best form of new patient acquisition, this alone is not enough and you also need to cast a wide net via other channels such as the web and e-mail marketing. Indeed, with 94 percent of consumers using on-line resources to seek out services generally and 71 percent of patients using search engines to find dentists in particular, it’s quite clear why digital marketing is essential for business growth. Furthermore, those 71 percent then go on to seek out reviews to validate the services they’ve found.

With effective programmes underway in all key areas, staying ahead of the competition is very achievable; but be prepared to work hard on it and provide suitable resources and investment. Not all practices have sufficient resources to handle all of this in-house; however there are a number of specialist dental marketing companies including Dental Media, who can help.

So what are the key marketing mechanisms you will find in most of the successful dental practices at the moment? Here at Dental Media we have deep experience in assisting dentists with their marketing campaigns and below you’ll find an overview of key techniques that work time and again. Let’s go….

Claim and optimise your Google “My Business” page

Google is so fundamental when it comes to marketing any business and a key foundation is to claim and then optimise your “My Business” page on the Google platform. This gives a clear overview of all of your key business details and appears in the “local pack” of search results when someone searches for you using Google. It’s not quite as simple as that unfortunately and associated factors such as reviews will dictate which businesses appear prominently; however without a claimed and optimised page, you won’t stand any chance of appearing. The “local pack” listing (often known as “maps” listing) now attracts around 40% of all clicks through to websites and so it’s plain to see just how important it is to appear prominently there.

Your digital marketing partner will also be able to advise how to optimise your page and boost the factors which make it appear prominently in the search results.

Enhance your website so it stands out from the crowd

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Are those “golden nugget” patient enquiries being followed up diligently by the practice team?

confused dentistAny competent digital marketer should be able to generate new patient enquiries from web, typically using the main Google and Facebook channels and via a mix of paid ads and “free” organic mechanisms.

It’s also relatively straightforward for a diligent marketer to set up a suite of management, monitoring and reporting tools which allow you, the business owner, to easily see how the campaigns are performing so appropriate investment decisions can be made. (Hint – if you are paying for services like these and don’t currently get this type of advice and reporting, then it’s probably time to move on!)

Whilst it’s reasonably straightforward to report on the front-end of the lead-acquisition process, i.e. counting the leads and showing where they came from; managing the back-end of the conversion process, i.e. which leads actually resulted in treatment, is much harder and to a very large part relies on pro-activity and diligence from the practice team. Sometimes this is done well, but more often it isn’t – and therein lies some considerable frustration for us digital marketers who’ve worked hard to gain the leads in the first place. To be fair, it should be a top-priority for dental practice managers and business owners to make sure these in-practice “conversion” procedures are robust and work well; but in reality, way too many practices are failing quite miserably with this important aspect.

What typically goes wrong and how do we know?

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Check out coaching recommendations carefully before jumping in

mistake signThere are now quite a few dental coaches and advisors in the industry who move from practice to practice offering advice to busy dentists. This appears to range from the fundamentals of customer service, right through to the financial evaluation and profitability assessments.

It’s fairly easy to understand why the coaching role has developed given that most dentists leave their clinical studies without too many business skills bolted on. Consequently many of them reach the point where they quickly need some business and financial guidance to help them along with their careers. This is sensible and admirable. Whilst much of the content I’ve seen and feedback I’ve heard about most dental coaches is good, I do occasionally see some “guidance” published which is quite a long way off the mark and hence needs to be treated with a degree of caution in my opinion.

The areas where I have some concerns tend to be where the advisors try to guide the client through complex transactions, for example financial assessments associated with sale/purchase scenarios and where some basic mistakes or incorrect assumptions could easily be made with the numbers. This can lead to wrong decisions being made. My advice would be to use a specialised dental practice accountant, rather than a generalist. We have a couple of clients who almost tripped up like this and now only use specialist services to guide them through specific types of transactions.

Another area where I see what I consider to be innapropriate advice is with digital marketing and suggestions that by-and-large it doesn’t work very well. Of course, this is a rather broad generalisation and whilst poorly implemented digital marketing will yield low returns, when done well, it can be extremely fruitful. Ultimately it’s all about return-on-investment and working out how to measure it correctly.

Let’s take a closer look at some recent advice published by a dental advisor regarding the balance between internal and external marketing and see if we think that the recommendations actually stack up.

Internal or external marketing – or both?

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What does “mobile-first” mean and how does it impact your website?

optimising website designIn today’s blog we are taking a closer look at perhaps one of the least well understood aspects of how Google search works, albeit one of the most important. The topic concerned is “mobile-first indexing” a technical phrase used to describe how Google assesses the content of a website before choosing how to rank or position it in the search results.

At this stage, it is important to note that indexing is actually separate to ranking in that indexing refers to part of the process whereby Google collects information from websites, whereas ranking is the process it uses to evaluate that content and decide its worth relative to other websites. So in very basic terms to illustrate, Google sends out “bots” to crawl website content and then returns this to its servers where complex algorithms evaluate and rank it. The conclusion of the process is the Google search results which many of us use daily.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Historically, Google used the desk-top version of a website to index. This was simply because mobile sites were in their infancy and the vast majority of people accessed websites via desk-top PCs rather than via mobile devices such as browsers on ‘phones. More recently, and with the advent of responsive web design techniques, more and more people have switched their web browsing habits to portable devices, so-much-so that the large majority of people now surf via their ‘phones or tablets.

Consequently it makes absolute sense to use the mobile version of a website’s content to determine ranking results. There are of course other reasons why Google wants to promote the mobile web, including optimal opportunities to serve ad content, and we’ve discussed this elsewhere in our blog.

What does it mean for your dental practice website?

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How to track down non-secure design assets which are compromising your dental website

Encryption for your websiteSo your web designer updated your website to https encryption, possibly at a very handsome fee, but you’re still seeing an insecure message and no green padlock in the browser address bar? This is very infuriating and can happen with one or more of your website or blog pages.

Not only is this infuriating but also potentially business-losing in that it’s very off-putting to users who are now used to fully secure websites and check to make sure before they interact with you.

So what’s gone wrong? Why are you still seeing signs of an insecure page even though you’ve had the SSL certificate installed and all of you website pages switched to https?

Understanding web page security – https

Web pages can be served to user’s browers by using something called an SSL certificate which is installed on the website server. In basic terms, this encrypts the contents of the web page before it is decrypted to show normally in the user’s web browser. This also goes for any data which is transmitted via a website contact form. Over 65% of all websites are now running with encryption protocols and this is increasing all of the time. With user privacy and initiatives like GDPR now firmly with us, encryption is becoming standard practice and frankly, users now expect it.

Back in 2018 ahead of GDPR, we converted hundreds of dentist’s websites to use https rather than the old http standard. As we’ve covered elsewhere in our blog, it’s not just user confidence we are trying to gain by doing this; Google now also gives search ranking benefits for sites which are using encryption correctly.

Now we’ve refreshed our memory about https and the key reasons why your website must have it, let’s take a closer look at where this can go wrong and how you can track it down and fix it.

The green padlock

Perhaps the most well-known indicator that a website is correctly encrypted, is the green padlock which shows in the browser address bar – this is what most user’s look for. If you look deeper, you can also see the details of the certificate which has been used to complete the encryption on the server.

However, very often you will see websites which are apparently encrypted which don’t show the green padlock in the browser bar; they show something else such as a red padlock, or even no padlock at all. This means that the web page concerned is not actually completely secure and could theoretically compromise your data. So you need to establish what has gone wrong and get your developer to fix it.

What causes web page encryption to fail?

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Build & consolidate your local business presence – digitally!

Facebook logoQuantifying pay back on digital marketing spend is clearly very important. Without the correct metrics in place, it is impossible to validate the effects of a campaign and then optimise it to ensure that it performs appropriately as time passes.

As we’ve highlighted elsewhere on our blog, there tends to be a lack of this type of performance measurement and tracking of services offered by many dental marketing companies; indeed the best you can expect in many cases is an automated report from Google Analytics and little else to give you confidence that all is working as expected. Often this lack of transparency is deliberate and done to mask the fact that the marketing being done is completely ineffective.

However, it doesn’t have to be like this! Please take a look here to see how the team at Dental Media demonstrates the success of digital marketing campaigns and what we build into all of our client programmes. If you need for more information about this, simply call us or if you prefer, take a look through the various articles in our blog. We’ll be delighted to help.

But what about the less obvious benefits of digital marketing?

Having established that clear reporting is essential and that campaigns must deliver bona fide new patient enquiries, it’s also pertinent to highlight the other “hidden” benefits of such campaigns when they are done well.

These types of benefits are quite difficult to quantify in that they are not absolute. So not like a website contact form enquiry or telephone call which we can measure. The type of benefit I’m referencing here is “brand exposure” i.e. ensuring that your practice is seen and remembered by the local population, even if they aren’t immediately ready to undertake treatments with you.

A good case in point is advertising on Facebook – of course you want the direct enquiries which come from targeted campaigns, but you also benefit mid and longer term when your business details appear in thousands of potential new patients timelines on an ongoing basis. You need to avoid spamming them as this is very off-putting, but periodic appearance will ensure your business is “top of mind” when they are finally ready to purchase.

You also have to keep in mind that your web savvy competitors are almost certainly already using tools like Facebook, so there is also the element of not getting left behind!

Local brand awareness

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When it comes to SEO or pay-per-click ads, which do you choose?

Google AdsBack in 2015 we wrote a blog which concluded that organic SEO i.e. seeking out best positions in the free Google ranking, was preferable in many cases to pay-per-click, i.e. Google Ads. We weren’t naive enough to completely discount paid advertising, but back then our experience suggested that gaining a broad, prominent organic search presence was preferable to a sole reliance on PPC for traffic.

Since then the search landscape has changed quite considerably and Google has pushed increasingly hard to encourage business owners to invest in pay-per-click ads. For example increasing the number of ads they show in the search results pages and also the positions they show them. As we’ve written elsewhere, this is particularly prevalent on mobile devices where ads take up quite a large proportion of the available screen real estate.

So these days we are much clearer in recommending that our dental clients consider a holistic digital marketing approach, leveraging on traditional SEO and pay-per-click. The proportion of website traffic generated via paid search is just too great to disregard these days.

Despite the evidence, there are still too many marketers in both camps who insist that their preferred channel i.e. paid or organic, is better when it comes to new business leads. But the days of this type of bias are behind us and we need to select the best marketing options for any particular circumstance. So with this in mind, lets take a look at some of the key things to consider when we are reviewing PPC and SEO as part of a dental digital marketing strategy.

Paid search is not a substitute for organic SEO (and vice versa)

Both techniques have strengths and weaknesses and both can be very useful. As we’ve seen in the ‘ad display on mobile’ discussion above, there is almost a necessity to pay to be in the mix these days. Also if you have a new product or service and need to get it out there quickly, PPC is your go-to tool as it really can be immediate. Conversely, it is always desirable to have a broad and prominent organic (free) search presence to keep delivering new enquiries without having to rely solely on a big PPC budget. It is also important to note that quite a lot of web users still distrust paid ads and deliberately avoid them! A broad organic presence is also known to build more trust with users, rather than simply a presence of paid ads.

Both techniques can be real power-houses so why wouldn’t you want both of them working for you?

Neither technique is free

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Check your dental website for these four common errors

optimising website designMany dentists (not all!) have now realised that it is essential to ensure that their practice websites are mobile-friendly. This is not just essential to ensure a good user experience, but also to ensure that Google doesn’t penalise your search ranking results.

It pays to remember that Google now creates its search results index using a “mobile first” methodology, i.e. they recognise that most users now access website using mobile ‘phones and consequently create the search index using mobile content rather than desk-top. So if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, then you are clearly disadvantaged!

However, even though many dentist’s websites are generally mobile-friendly, we still see lots of mistakes which can compromise the user experience and consequently lead to diminished enquiries. Don’t forget that web users are generally very fickle and will soon hop off to another website (your competitor?!) if you don’t deliver the browsing experience they expect.

So let’s take a look at four common errors we regularly see on mobile dental websites.

Slow load speed

This is a function of a few factors but typically a) poor design and coding and b) poor server performance.

Here at Dental Media, when we are designing client’s websites, we always think “mobile first” i.e. when we are creating concept designs, we don’t start with the large desk-top display but primarily look at the mobile layout first. This may sound a bit odd but actually it’s very logical when you consider that most people now access websites from their ‘phone or tablet rather than the desk-top computer. So it makes sense to start “mobile first”! Of course the other layouts need to be excellent too, but if there are any compromises required in the design, it’s always best to know this when you start with the mobile view.

Where we see other design agencies making big mistakes, it’s often down to leaving the mobile layout as a secondary consideration i.e. they start at the desk-top layout, refine that and then try to cobble together a mobile version latterly. But this isn’t the way of modern “responsive” mobile-friendly website design.

We also see designers trying to be too clever with designs; adding far too many bells and whistles which can look nice on a big screen but mess up performance and usability on much smaller ‘phone and tablet screens. A classic example is the use of background video which is always a compromise as we’ve discussed in an earlier blog here. If these are not handled very carefully, it’s very easy to trash your mobile and desk-top performance. This is just one example of ill-conceived design where form reigns over function but your users don’t benefit!

So watch out for any features which might look pretty but don’t actually work well on the mobile view of your website. There are tools to evaluate this so ensure you check in with your designer to make sure your mobile site isn’t compromised by poor design and content; and preferably before you go live!

The second factor which messes up load speed is where a design company cuts cost by using cheap servers or overloads them with too many websites. This is a regular occurrence unfortunately. Whilst you don’t need a dedicated turbo-charged server for most dental websites as they are generally relatively small and not resource intensive, you do need to ensure that the hosting infrastructure being used is not only secure but also fast and efficient too. Again there are tools to test this, so please make your designer aware that you are on the case and checking!

Poor placement of contact details

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