What is it and what does it mean for your dental website?

We’ve discussed elsewhere on the Dental Media blog how Google uses various signals from websites to determine where they should be positioned in the overall search engine results. There are many of these signals which Google collects and then processes algorithmically to evaluate the quality of your website and most importantly how well it serves users and answers their questions.

The highly experienced SEO team at Dental Media has tracked the numerous changes introduced by Google over the last 20 years or so, from the early days where it website ranking was fairly unsophisticated, through to the far more complex and nuanced environment today. Google has become much better at differentiating between good and bad websites and it is important to understand how they do this so that we can give our dental SEO clients the best chance of success with their own websites.

Today we will look at Google’s Helpful Content System which is part of their algorithmic processing and an important ranking signal. This system has been known about for the last few years and periodically Google will apply changes to the system to introduce new features and update existing ones. Please note that the Helpful Content System is just one of the many mechanisms which Google uses to determine website quality, but it appears to be becoming increasingly important and impactful.

How does the Helpful  Content System work?

Of course we’ll never know the specifics as Google keeps the details a closely guarded secret. However, if we read their guidance we will note:

“The helpful content system aims to better reward content where visitors feel they’ve had a satisfying experience, while content that doesn’t meet a visitor’s expectations won’t perform as well”.

This alone should tell us what they are trying to achieve. They go on to tell us that the system also identifies unhelpful content i.e. of little apparent value and likely not serving visitors well. The system appears to look at the overall levels of helpful AND unhelpful content on a website and then aggregates this to create a site-wide signal for use in their ranking algorithms. Again we should note that this is one of many signals, albeit an important one.

What does this mean for a dental practice website?

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Watch out for these agency tricks designed to hook you in….

Here at Dental Media we have a lot of proven experience in running paid ads for dentists, primarily on Google, Facebook and Instagram. When clients first approach us, we are keen to be as transparent as possible when discussing the pros and cons of this type of advertising. It’s not as easy as some agencies would have you believe and the pitfalls are significant if you get it wrong.

For example, we discuss the speculative nature of enquiries from social media ads and the need to work hard to filter out time-wasters, through to the significant budgets required to gain traction where competition is high. We don’t want clients to be disappointed and consequently it’s important that they understand what they are subscribing to.

No doubt you’ve probably seen the plethora of agency ads on Facebook and Instagram where they appear to claim that ads will be a winner every time and that there is very little effort needed to gain success? Unfortunately this is not always the case and those ads need to be treated with a fair degree of caution – even the ones which claim to offer guarantees as we’ve discussed in more detail in this blog here.

Your personalised ad video

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What to expect for 2023 and 2024

Here at Dental Media one of our core activities is the creation of high-quality websites for dentists, something we’ve been doing since the late 1990s and now with over 2000 sites built during that time. We’ve seen web technology change dramatically, from the earliest “static html” websites, through the advent of mobile-optimised design, to the latest content management systems and CRM integrations.

One of the key features of modern dental website design is that it takes time to do well – typically 3 or 4 weeks per website. This excludes complementary activities such as writing content, SEO work etc. So it’s quite a substantial, time-intensive task.

So what does a dental website cost in 2023/2024?

If you’ve searched around for website pricing recently, you’ll have seen a huge disparity in the pricing, from a few hundred pounds for a DIY system, to £10k+ at the other end of the spectrum. Both of those extremes are “no go” territory in our opinion – at the cheap end, you get something that will look very amateurish and not represent your business professionally, whilst at the other end, you’re paying way over-the-top for zero advantage.

Realistically, you should expect to pay in the region of £4 – 6k for a high-quality dentist’s website with sufficient scope to provide a solid foundation in Google and represent your practice, team and treatments professionally. If you consider that such a website takes 3 to 4 weeks of dedicated work to complete, then those figures should not really come as a surprise – it covers the developer’s business costs and allows for a reasonable profit, or at least it should.

Another important comparison is with websites for non-dental businesses and how much they cost. Typically you will see prices for general business websites also in the £4 – 6k range – so not at the extreme top end prices you will see advertised by some dental design companies. This begs the question, why should dentists expect to pay more than any other business for their website? Unfortunately this is another example of the “dental tax” where suppliers exploit dentists where they can get away with it.

What features should I expect in a £4 – £6k website?

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When your design agency promises you a high quality website, will you really get one?

Virtually all dental web design companies will offer you a high quality website these days, but will you really get one at the end of the process? In today’s blog we take a look at what ‘quality’ actually means when it comes to website design for dentists and what you need to understand before you sign off on a new site development contract.

When it comes to website quality, we can break it down into 3 key areas – aesthetics, content and technical competence. All of those areas need to be addressed and done well before you can consider that a website is of high quality and capable of doing what you need i.e. bringing new patients to your dental practice.

Let’s take a look at each element in turn.

Aesthetics

Lots of design agencies can build pretty websites these days but unfortunately website success doesn’t stop there. Indeed it’s perhaps the main area where dentists fall down when choosing a design agency – they just decide on aesthetics alone without looking at the other key factors which decide how well a website will perform.

Of course an aesthetically pleasing website is very important as first impressions definitely count on the web as well as in real life. So you do need to make sure that your website looks at least as good as your best local competitor and if possible, better. Remember that folk are often quite fickle and they will see your website as a reflection of your own skills and services. Leaving a website to become old and stale certainly won’t help you, so be sure your site is aesthetically pleasing from launch and then kept fresh going forwards.

Dentistry is very competitive and this extends to website design for dentists too. In the last few years, design aesthetics have really moved on so you will need to keep on top of this if you want to keep up with your local competitors. Try to work with a proactive design agency and make regular reviews of your website and the websites of your main local competitors.

Regular updating to build in new features and fresh content will certainly pay off, however it’s also essential not to go over the top. All too often these days we see websites where every ‘bell and whistle’ has been added leading to a website which is confusing and ends up looking like a bazaar – please don’t be tempted to do that!

Content

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Don’t forget these key maintenance tasks….

Whilst most clients here at Dental Media simply leave our team to look after all of their web assets e.g. their website, content management system, blog and domain name etc, some elect to do it themselves.

This is fine of course, but looking after those elements does require a good level of diligence to avoid unexpected problems. Unfortunately we’ve seen too many examples where a panicked client has called us to advise that their website has gone off-line, subsequently for us to find that they’ve forgotten to renew their domain name or hosting. Whilst this is usually retrievable, there are risks involved, for example an expired domain name left too long can be lost or a website off-line for too long, de-indexed by Google.

With this in mind, what are the key things you need to be looking out for if you do prefer to manage your own web assets and what needs to be done to avoid any problems?

Your dental practice domain name

Your domain name is extremely important as this is effectively the address for your identity on the web. Usually a domain name is registered for one or two years, although it is possible to register for longer than this. As long as the domain is registered to you or your business, then you can use it as the address for your website, blog and emails.

Domains can also be set to “auto renew” and this is the default setting we use for client’s domain names. However, we do request that they notify us if the domain is no longer needed and periodically we have to hop into our domain management portal to update the settings for one of more of the hundreds of domains we look after on behalf of dentists.

If you opt to look after your domain name yourself, you will need to manage the regular renewals to ensure you don’t lose the domain. You will also need to allow us access to the admin panel so we can look after any DNS changes (for routing your website traffic and email etc) on your behalf. Please don’t lose any of your details as problems logging in can result.

Your website, content management system and back-ups

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Using Google Ads for orthodontics promotion – things to consider before you begin

As a supplier of ads services for dentists across the UK, we are often contacted to discuss the viability of using ads for promoting high-value treatments such as orthodontics and implants. The viability question is quite tricky and there is no simple answer; for example in areas where there is a lower level of competition, Google Ads can be very useful indeed and the payback quite excellent.  However, in areas where competition is much higher then it gets a whole lot trickier.

To illustrate my point, let’s take a look at an example of Google Ads for Invisalign in London and what you should expect if you wish to start advertising there.

Monthly budget

To begin I have to stress that you can’t launch a dental ad campaign and have it professionally managed for £500 per month, particularly so in an area with high competition. Click budget alone, per treatment type, would typically be well north of £1000 per month, often two or three times this level. Then add around £500 for a typical management fee and you can see that a substantial budget is required.

Click costs

Typical “top of results” click costs for high-value treatments such as Invisalign in London will range from a few pounds to £10 or more depending on various factors. Well-established accounts with good ad rank and quality scores, will have lower overall click costs; whereas accounts which are less well-established will need to bid more for those high ad placements.

Therein lies a bit of a conundrum for when you start advertising, as it isn’t a level playing field. You may need to bid high to establish yourself and to progressively build better ad ranking and quality scores. Where you are competing against mature accounts with big budgets, this can be difficult to achieve.

Competition from the “big players”

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Turn ‘cold’ Invisalign leads into meaningful treatment consultations

It’s very difficult to escape the huge range of ads dentists are using on social media to advertise Invisalign at the moment. Wherever you look, whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram and even more recently, TikTok, there will likely be Invisalign ads in your feed at some point.

This is because social media ads are a proven way to get your treatment offer in front of tens of thousands of people very quickly and then with some focused effort on following-up the leads which result, book some very meaningful consultations and treatments.

However, whilst this sounds easy to achieve, far too many dentists are failing at the point where the enquiries need to be converted from relatively ‘cold’ leads into lucrative new treatments.

So what’s going wrong and why do more fail with social ads than actually succeed?

In this blog we’ll review the types of leads you’ll receive from social media compared to other sources, discuss conversion rates and importantly, what you and your team need to do to make sure your lead follow-up process is effective as possible.

Why are social ad leads the most difficult to convert?

This is perhaps the most important thing to understand before embarking on a dental social ads campaign. These types of ads are presented to people who are essentially engaged in a social activity; communicating with friends or family, posting photographs etc. Those folk are not really searching for products or services as they would be with intent on Google for example, so the resulting enquiries are generally quite a lot more speculative. However, that doesn’t mean that they are pointless; on the contrary, there will be some real “golden nuggets” in there which are well-worth following up. Please see my earlier blog comparing dental social ads to Google Ads for more information.

Why do some dentists fail with the lead conversion process?

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What to expect from enquiries generated from social ads vs Google Ads

In an ideal world, all leads and enquiries into dental practices would lead to treatment with minimal input needed from the practice team. However, this isn’t going to happen unfortunately, irrespective of how much we’d like it to. Particularly when you’re advertising for new patients using ads on Facebook and Instagram, you have to expect that quite a number of the leads will be at best speculative and even some of them completely irrelevant.

But why is this, what should you actually expect and how do you minimise the number of folk enquiring who actually have very little intention of proceeding?

Let’s start by taking a look at the types of enquiries you typically receive from different advertising platforms and why they generally vary in quality. This will help the decision making process when deciding where to place your advertising spend.

Google Ads

People searching on Google are usually there with pre-formed intent i.e. they are specifically looking for a product or service. For dentistry, this could be someone searching for teeth-straightening or even more specifically, for a brand of orthodontic appliance such as Invisalign. Of course the same goes for lots of other dental treatments too.

Carefully crafted dental ads and ad campaigns on Google will successfully target those people searching for treatments and hopefully they’ll click through to your landing page to make an enquiry.

So Google ads are very useful for targeting people searching for people who have pre-formed intent and seeking out specific services. But that’s not the whole story as we’ll see shortly.

Facebook and Instagram Ads

These types of ads are quite significantly different – for example they use a combination of text, images and even video to convey the message required. So from a visual perspective they are far more appealing than typical Google Ads.

However, you also need to understand that people using social media platforms are not usually there searching for products and services; they’re there passing the time of day or updating family and friends about their latest ventures. So in many cases, they are not in “buying” mode.

Consequently when an ad is placed in someone’s social feed, it won’t typically be seen by someone who has a pre-formed buying intent at that particular time.

 A few words about ad targeting

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Is the inflated cost some agencies charge for a dentist’s website justified?

There is a well-known saying in the business of dentistry related to inflated prices – affectionately known as the “dental tax”. This is reasonably self-explanatory but if you haven’t come across it before, it refers to suppliers hiking prices to dentists simply because they’ve historically got away with it.

Well, all dentists are rich right? Absolutely not of course and these days the industry is more polarised than ever. Whilst there are clearly lots of established dentists doing very well, there are lots of new entrants at the other end of the scale who are struggling with large loans and trying to build their practices from scratch.

Notwithstanding market forces, is it fair then for dentists to expect to pay higher prices for services when compared to non-dental businesses? I’m pretty sure that the answer to that is “no”.

In today’s blog we’ll take a look at the “dental tax” issue in the field of website design and how several companies are charging way over the odds for the types of websites they’re producing – and why some dentists are still falling for it.

What is the typical price for small business website?

Small non-dental businesses are typically paying £3-5k + vat for their websites. This would be for a website using the industry standard WordPress system and built to a high-standard.

For a comparable dental website, several companies are charging double this and some even more. So what’s the justification, if indeed there is one? Let’s debunk some of the reasons given.

‘Dental website are built to “special” standards’

Whilst there are standards which a dentist’s website must comply with, these are not onerous and easy enough to achieve. Simply referencing the guidance documents from the GDC is going to cover most of what you need. A few agencies with a dental bias have tried to use these requirements to convince dentists that special skills are required, but this is not really the case as you’ll see if you do your homework.

Whilst it’s useful to know your agency has experience with such standards, it certainly doesn’t justify some of the fees currently being touted.

‘Websites for dentists need to look better’

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Is Instagram worth your time?

One of the popular questions we are asked by potential new dental clients is “can you make us big on Instagram?” – in short our answer is ‘no’. In today’s blog I’ll take the opportunity to explain why we can’t do that for you and why, probably, you won’t be able to do it yourself either.

So why that “negativity” – surely Instagram is where it’s at and offers a huge potential for dentists seeking new patients? That’s true but the missing link is how much effort does it take to gain the traction you need on Instagram before you start seeing the rewards? Unfortunately the answer is a huge amount of effort and way beyond the team at a typical dental practice.

This may contradict some of those glossy books you may have seen about dentists making it big on Instagram, but whilst it is possible, those examples are very few and far between. They are the exceptions and not the norm unfortunately.

What do you need to do to make a big impact on Instagram?

Before we explain further, it is very important to remember that the majority of the content you publish on Instagram isn’t going to be seen by anybody, very much like Facebook. Even where you’ve managed to get a decent number of followers, in itself a huge task, relatively few of these people will actually see your content. This is because the ‘organic reach’ of your content is deliberately curtailed by the platform to encourage you to buy ads instead.

Whilst this curtailment of reach is currently worse on Facebook, it’s going the same way on Instagram too – perhaps unsurprisingly so as Facebook and Instagram are both part of the Meta organisation. Why would they make it easy for you to promote a dental business on their networks when they can make money from you via advertising instead?

Why can’t agencies do all the work for you?

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