Is the dash to Instagram marketing really worth it?

InstagramThere has been an awful lot of commentary recently about Instagram and its use as an (apparently) excellent vehicle for marketing and new patient acquisition.

Dental marketing companies and business coaches have been jumping on the bandwagon and someone has even written a book about it!

There’s certainly a lot of interest around Instagram at the moment, but is it as useful as some are making out or just another channel to investigate and test? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons so you can make an informed choice before investing lots of time and resources.

What is Instagram?

Before we jump in further, let’s have a brief reminder of what Instagram actually is and how it might be of use for dentists.

Instagram is a social network which came into being in 2010 and allows users to upload images and videos and share them with followers or selected friends. It very visual and consequently it is relatively easy to see how a business/brand could utilise the service for promotional purposes. It is also free and easy enough to use – so far so good. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Instagram users have a profile and also a newsfeed; so if you are familiar with some of those other platforms, using Instagram will be quite straightforward.

However this blog post isn’t intended to illustrate the mechanics of using Instagram, more about the things to consider before you plough lots of time and effort into using it.

Instagram was acquired by Facebook back in 2012 and this is one of the important factors to remember when considering if it is the right platform to use to promote your dental business; but more on that later.

User characteristics

In terms of demographics, Instagram is more popular with females than males, approximately 68% to 32% at the time of writing. Users also tend to be quite young with 90% of the current 150 million users aged under 35 – another important feature to remember. Research also suggests that the number of higher earning users of Instagram tends to fall away quite quickly as salary increases.

In summary, at the moment it’s fair to conclude that Instagram is used primarily by younger people, early on in their earnings progression and with over twice as many females as males. Data like this is very important when considering if Instagram is right for your dental practice promotion and if so, which treatments.

The question of organic reach

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Dentists, beat the DIY ‘braces-by-post’ suppliers and the national providers!

Clear braces Invisalign The rush to attract new Invisalign patients appears to have reached a peak, exacerbated by dental practices trying to hit treatment targets set by Invisalign to secure lower laboratory costs and other perks.

The savings which can be made by hitting these targets are quite substantial and allow dentists to place attractive treatments offers into the market place to help attract new patients. If you are already an “Invisalign dentist” this will likely sound quite familiar!

However, it’s certainly not plain sailing. It seems that many practices now have an Invisalign provider and consequently competition for a finite number of patients is high. Add to this a couple of national providers of Invisalign treatment and competition from the “aligners by post” brigade, and it’s easy to see why there is a bit of a frenzy in the market at the moment.

Given the current landscape then, how do you compete effectively and ensure that you get those Invisalign cases through the door and into the treatment chair?

To help you get moving, here is an outline of the marketing tools and techniques you need to deploy to get ahead in the clear braces race, tested and proven by the digital marketing team here at Dental Media.

Let’s start with the obvious, i.e. an excellent website with exceptional orthodontics content. Then we’ll move on to the techniques you can use to get the traffic and enquiries you need and how to record and follow them up.

Your website

You may well already have a high-quality practice website, but does it have the depth of content needed to make the difference in Google? Many new enquiries will come via what is known as organic search i.e. people looking for your services and clicking on the traditional, free results they find. To be in the mix in Google you really need to be in the top three positions with the ultimate objective of securing the top spot. Couple this with gaining prominence in the local/map results and you are well on your way to securing over 60% of the traffic from people seeking out your service.

To ensure that Google considers your website to be authoritative, a key factor in securing good ranking positions, you should revisit your content and ensure that it is of the highest quality. This means making sure that you strike the right balance between usability for real people and keeping Google happy with a suitable depth of information – minimalist content won’t make the grade unfortunately, so you’ll have to do some work here. The usual rules apply, i.e. deployment of excellent textual content supplemented with videos, testimonials, case studies etc.

The golden rule here is that content which is appealing and works well for users, also tends to work very well for Google ranking too!

Search engine optimisation

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As competition continues to increase, here’s how to stay ahead

clicking on mouseUndeniably, it is now harder than ever before to get new patients into your practice, and with competition continuing to rise, this is only set to become even harder.

The days of new patients simply walking in and keeping dentist’s appointment books full are long gone other than in a few very fortunate circumstances. So now you have to do a fair bit more work to keep the practice busy and growing.

This is the case not just for new dentists starting out and looking to build their businesses, but also for more established practices looking to make up for churn and also to gain new business across a range of treatments.

Whilst there is some suspicion regarding digital marketing within the dental community, borne out of too many “cowboy” services failing to deliver; when done well the benefits can be exceptional.

Today we’ll take a look at four key aspects of digital marketing and why it is a compelling way to help keep new enquiries flowing.

Visibility

Traditionally dental practices relied on advertisement in the local paper and leaflet drops to promote their presence in the community and to some degree, these mechanisms still have a place. However, the reach of Google, Facebook, Instagram and the like is way broader and a prominent presence on all of the main marketing channels is essential to get your brand noticed. Indeed, people expect modern businesses to have an active professional presence across the web and social media. Most of the time, this is where they will be looking for your services, even if it’s simply cross-checking a word-of-mouth recommendation they received.

Targetability

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Or should it be built to match your audience?

confused website userAs a long-standing provider of websites for dentists, it’s perhaps not surprising that we spend quite a lot of time speaking with dental business owners about how their new websites should look and function.

This is clearly important to ensure that what we build truly reflects the objectives, personality and aspirations of the practice.

Like all businesses, not all dentists are the same and the types of treatments they target can differ quite significantly depending on their expertise, facilities, location and more. This all has to be taken into account very carefully before a website is constructed.

However, what is noticeable in the industry at the moment is that some dentists are launching websites which look quite “flashy” but probably don’t best represent what they are actually trying to achieve. In fact their sites could actually be doing them a disservice rather than helping to attract new dental patients.

The mistake of trying to make yourself look like something you’re not was recently reinforced to me by a dentist who was commenting on another dental web agency whose websites he described as “all looking the same and like the websites of Dubai hotels”. This was despite the fact that a number of the websites he referenced were for relatively small practices based in industrial towns or small villages; some even with quite large NHS contracts. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment and I knew exactly what he meant and indeed the design style he was referencing.

Why does it matter?

You might think this is obvious but it is important to reiterate that the focus needs to be on the patient and not the personal ambitions and aspirations of the dentist – often the latter can be over-emphasised on websites, leaving patients confused. There is clearly a place for very ‘flashy’ websites, but perhaps not if you’re based in small village or town and serving a rather different demographic than if you were based in an exclusive borough in central London.

So matching your offer to your market is extremely important and whilst it’s absolutely fine (and indeed important) to have a professional web presence which showcases your skills and treatments, don’t go over the top with it. Remember the “Dubai hotel” comment from above which I think is absolutely bang on.

Don’t get flattered by your designer

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When it comes to paid advertising, where should dentists look first?

Google symbolContinuing the theme of questions we frequently hear from dentists, today’s blog takes a look at which channel to choose when first delving into the world of paid advertising on the web; Google or Facebook.

But before we jump in, it’s worth a recap on why dentists need to consider paid advertising at all – surely a good traditional, free Google position is enough isn’t it? Well unfortunately it’s not quite as simple as that, particularly these days.

What changed? Why the rush to paid advertising?

Historically it was fair to say that a great Google position was all you needed to secure lots of new patient enquiries from the web and in some cases this is still true. Great search engine positions are still the main cornerstones of digital marketing for all dentists and where competition is relatively light, can still be sufficient without complementary paid advertising.

However, with Google starting to publish more and more ads to the home page of its search engine, particularly in mobile view, and with Facebook minimising organic reach to those who liked your business page to lower than 4%, the picture starts to become clearer. Essentially what we are seeing is Google and Facebook forcing “pay-to-play” i.e. they are making it harder for you to use their respective platforms for free. Hence the upsurge in paid ads as dentists vie for position to get their message out to the public.

Unfortunately, the knock on effect is that it becomes increasingly expensive to advertise as more dental businesses jump into the same pool. That said, it is still very possible to make excellent returns from paid advertising, but you need to know what you’re doing. More of that later.

Facebook logoTo put it into context better, in Google, over 30% of all traffic now goes to websites via paid ads. If you then throw the “local/maps” results into the mix, another 30% of traffic, you’ll see that the remainder left for the traditional “organic” rankings is lower than ever before.

Using Facebook as an example, if your business page had 300 likes, at 4% organic reach, only around 12 people would see your posts – even though way more than that liked your page and were actually interested in your services! To reach them and lots of other Facebook users, you now have to pay for the privilege.

OK, so I may need to pay to advertise, but what next?

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Understanding the project scope, costs and commitments

reviewing website contentAre you about to jump into a new project to build a website for your dental practice? Perhaps you’re finding it all a bit of a minefield with lots of different offers and proposals to consider? If so, then you’re not alone and this is something we hear lots about when dentists contact us for guidance.

With this in mind, here are 12 essential questions you should ask your website designer before you sign-up, together with the types of answer you should hopefully hear if they are potentially “good guys” to work with.

1 – Will I own the website when it’s complete?

The answer to this should be an unequivocal “yes”. There are some companies who “rent” out dental websites and consequently you never own them. This is not a great scenario in that should you receive bad service, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to move your website to another supplier. There may be some assets in use on a website which you, or the designers, don’t actually own, for example licenced images; however those should still usable on your website even if you elected to move on from your designer.

There are also the designers who build on DIY platforms such as Squarespace and the like and once again, you are only renting the service in this scenario. Your website will not be portable and likely also not supportable by mainstream designers who don’t really use those types of platforms.

2 – Is my website subject to ongoing maintenance fees?

This is a big topic and one to be really careful with. Most web design companies push really hard to sign you up to monthly maintenance contracts. In most cases they are not necessary and will cost you potentially thousands of pounds per year, even if you’ve only having very limited work done on the site. There are a few companies, Dental Media included, which do not charge these monthly fees so please check carefully and understand what you are getting before signing up.

3 – How many pages are included?

A lot of design companies will produce a decent home page for your website but then skimp on the internal content. Whilst a great looking home page is essential, it’s also important to make sure that the internal pages are engaging and informative. When it comes to being found in Google, it’s also important to make sure that each of your main treatments have their own individual pages on your website, so please be sure to check what the overall website fee actually covers.

4. Will the website be mobile-friendly?

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Ignoring Conflicts Of Interest

confused dentistIf you take a look through the small print on most dental marketing agencies websites, you will likely find a section which says that the company concerned will not actively promote more than one client in one particular area.

This essentially promises that they will not undertake SEO and pay-per-click marketing for more than one dentist in any one location. If you think about it, this makes absolute sense, as how would a conflict of interest be avoided otherwise?

Let’s consider the situation at the top of the Google search results where over 60% of traffic and hence new patient enquiries goes to the top three positions. What happens when one of your clients is already up at the top but then you take on a new dentist in the same location and start to promote them using search engine optimisation (SEO)? What does the marketer target for the new client? Second position? Third maybe? Actually neither should be the case as it’s not really ethical to set two clients against eachother in such a way.

The problem is that a couple of well known UK dental marketing companies appear to be ignoring their exclusivity claims and are actively promoting more than one client in an area. Indeed it’s easy to see this in the Google search results if you spend a few minutes browsing typical dentistry searches by location. I’m pretty sure this is also becoming more and more evident to the dentists who are subject to these conflicts.

What to do before signing up for marketing services

As this type of practice is now common unfortunately, it makes sense to cover yourself before you sign up to any type of marketing service for dentists. Get it documented so that the company knows you’re serious.

In addition, it really pays to do some quick checks for the type of search results you are targeting in Google. Then check the websites which show up to see who built them. Usually you will see a small link at the base of the home page which points back to the marketing company.

The exception

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Dental web text that works – for new patients and for Google!

clicking on mouseHow many dentist’s websites have you seen where the text is sub-standard?

Most of them to be frank; either bland and unengaging, overly technical or too minimal to be of any use for Google ranking.

Worse still, there are still websites where much of the content is copied from other sites, which not only breaks copyright laws but also attracts Google penalties.

Unfortunately it’s a minefield of mediocrity and few are actually getting it right; but with that comes a great opportunity to get some fixes in place and step ahead of your competitors.

The bottom line is that many dentists fail to understand just how important text content is – whether it’s for their website, blog or even their pay-per-click ad campaigns. The result is that fickle users go elsewhere simply because the content didn’t grab them in the few seconds you have available to hook them in when they arrive at your web page or land on your ad.

Why is most dental website text sub-standard?

I suspect this is down to a couple of things. The first is that many dental web design companies offer text as part of their overall package but don’t make it clear that what they’ll deliver is a few paragraphs of pretty generic treatment text – “same old, same old”  and drearily predictable to be frank. This is usually just a minimalist description of a treatment and is in no way engaging for potential new dental patients who might be reading it.

The second main reason we’ve encountered on many occasions is where the practice principle or nominated members of the clinical team, choose to write the text themselves. What usually happens here is that you either get a long, technical tome which would be better in a text book, or nothing at all. Many dentists struggle to write in the type of customer facing language which is required, or they are just time-poor and never fulfil their wish to get the website text written themselves. There is then the rush to re-work content and it all gets a bit piecemeal as project deadlines approach. Overall, not great!

How should web content be managed and written?

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Don’t get duped by what you read!

mistake signI’ve written before about the unscrupulous tactics used by self-proclaimed SEO “experts” in the field of dental SEO, whereby unsuspecting dentists are duped into buying poor services which don’t deliver the results they promise.

These tactics are now rife as the dental marketing sector becomes more and more congested and an increasing number of false promises are made. We see it all the time with claims about search engine optimisation and you can read more about this here. However, we are now seeing the same types of promises filter into the world of pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, primarily with Google Ads and Facebook.

So what do you need to look out for when searching for a PPC specialist and to avoid being duped by false promises?

What makes a good pay-per click marketer? (and what doesn’t!)

Qualifications – one of the biggest things which PPC teams do to hook in new clients is plaster qualifications all over their website. This includes the Google Ads qualification which on face value looks great. But in real terms it’s typically very basic and perhaps equivalent to a GCSE in the academic world – so not high level. There are much more stringent Google qualifications of course, but a lay person can’t differentiate between those and the basics which PPC teams quickly gain to make them look credible. So you really need to know what you’re looking for here. Just because someone passed the basic Google test doesn’t mean they are any good.

In contrast, the team here at Dental Media has been working with Google mentors to optimise live accounts over several years, trying new techniques and testing to see what works and what doesn’t. This type of experience is way more valuable than a basic Google Ads badge.

A holistic, data-driven approach – increasingly we are seeing the need for comprehensive digital marketing campaigns for dentists, incorporating a multi-channel approach. So the use of organic SEO, PPC, Facebook Ads etc. Whilst these disciplines are independent, they work together to inform overall strategy and to ensure the widest reach possible. Consequently we see much better synergies where the digital marketing team has expertise in all disciplines and work together to meet the client’s targets. For example, Google Ads can be very useful for some tasks where Facebook advertising would be unsuitable – and vice versa. Similarly, the paid channels can be used to overcome localisation issues where traditional SEO falls down.

So bottom line is that you need a holistic approach and a coordinated strategy across all of the marketing channels. Simply contacting someone who claims to be a Facebook specialist but nothing else, won’t deliver this.

Watch out for exaggerated claims and false data

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Big players in the dental website and marketing sector crash in Google – is your site safe?

confused website userOver the holiday period I took the opportunity to take a look at how our competitors were doing with their Google ranking and what I found came as a bit of a surprise; but more of that in a moment. Our own website is typically up near the top of Google, but like any diligent business, we still assess our competitor’s performance periodically to see if we need to adjust our own search engine optimisation.

The process is quite similar to how we optimise and improve the performance of our dental client’s websites to help bring them the huge business benefits of a prominent Google ranking.

So what did I spot? What quickly became clear is that two of the long-standing agencies who are well-known and who have been around for quite a while, have been demoted quite severely by Google in the search results. It didn’t surprise me too much that one of the companies had been hit as they’ve been penalised on a number of occasions before. However, the other company has historically been at the top of Google for various digital marketing terms, and despite using questionable SEO tactics, seemed to escape penalty. However, this time it finally looks like Google has caught up with them and justifiably so.

Both of these companies, perhaps the two largest in the UK, have been pushed way down in the rankings for most of the important dental marketing search terms, e.g. dental web design, dental websites, SEO, marketing for dentists etc. This will certainly have affected the number of web enquiries they are receiving as well as raising a question mark about their credibility. The business owners will likely be quite worried; I know I would be. Indeed we can already see that they’re trying to address the situation by doing things like changing their domain name etc – this type of action normally indicates that the penalty they received was quite severe and possibly even unrecoverable.

Why is this important to know?

So whilst this is quite important to know if you are considering their services, what is even more important is if you are already a client. The reason for this is quite simple in that if they’ve used techniques which have been penalised on their own websites, then it’s extremely likely that they’ve done similar with their client’s websites too. Unfortunately it’s only a matter of time before Google catches up and issues a penalty, whether automatically via their algorithmic tools, or via a manual inspection.

Indeed we’ve had a number of clients move to us from both of these companies and in several cases, we had to remove clumsy SEO attempts to help get their websites back on track. This was both in the off-site and on-site context; for example disavowing spammy back-links and removing stuffed keywords in website content.

Do you think your practice website has been affected?

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