Act now to ensure your dental website data collection and reporting is preserved – GA 4 is here

Knowing how your dental practice website is performing is essential and one of the key tools to help manage this is Google Analytics. We have Analytics installed for all clients where we carry out monthly marketing and we integrate this with other Google tools to provide clear and concise monthly reporting. Transparent, accurate data of this nature is essential for dentists to help them manage marketing budgets and assess how campaigns are running.

However, Google Analytics is changing and the current version known as Universal Analytics will cease to work as of July 1st 2023. Data collected via Universal Analytics will be available for 6 months following. The new version of Analytics ‘GA4’ is actually available now and whilst you might be thinking that July 2023 is a long way away and you have plenty of time to act, you actually need to start moving to the new system now. This is because you need GA4 in place to start collecting data as soon as possible so you have something to analyse – the legacy data from Universal Analytics cannot simply be ported across.

Moving to Google Analytics 4

Having established that you need to move quite quickly to start building website data in the newly formatted system, what do you actually need to do to go about it? For our marketing clients we will handle this as part of the ongoing service; however for dentistry website owners who are independent, this is a short guide about what you need to do.

Set up a new GA4 property in your Analytics account – there is a GA4 set-up assistant which will help you complete this and you also have the option of setting up using your existing tracking code to avoid any website coding changes.

If you don’t already have a Google Analytics account or perhaps have lost access to it, you can always set up a new account and create a new GA4 property there. However in this case you will need to add new tracking code to all pages of your website. We offer this as a stand-alone service to our website clients who want to know how their websites are performing but aren’t part of our monthly marketing and management service.

Integration with Google Ads – if you run Google Ads, you will want to integrate this with the new GA 4 data collection. Please see the Google instructions linked below on how to achieve this. Again we will cover this for our monthly marketing clients and as a stand-alone service for others on request.

https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/10759417

Import/set-up conversion tracking – if you have conversion tracking set up (you should) then you can import existing conversions from Universal Analytics into GA4. You can do this in the Tools > Settings > Conversions section of the admin console.

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6 key things to look out for to avoid WordPress maintenance and usability headaches

WordPress is an extremely popular system for building websites, including those for dental practices; indeed it is the most popular system in use worldwide.

WordPress has some huge positives but also some significant negatives too – however with a little planning and diligent ongoing maintenance, many of the problems can be avoided and you can benefit from an excellent website for your business. Here at Dental Media we use WordPress to build lots of dental websites and we thought it would be useful to share our experience with you.

Here are some of the main issues to look out for if you choose this system:

Understand the technical and maintenance requirements

WordPress is great but you need to set it up correctly and then stay well on top of it when it comes to maintenance.

WordPress can be quite resource intensive and so will drag down a cheap, overcrowded server. This  results in slow page loading, frustrated users and damage to your SEO. So with WordPress you will need some good quality website hosting and a skilled designer to set the system up optimally. When the site is live, you will then need to have it maintained regularly to a) keep it secure and b) include new functionality as the core program updates (this can be quite frequent).

If you fail to maintain a WordPress website, it is very likely that at some point you will get hacked as vulnerabilities in the system are exposed by the hacking fraternity. Normally any problems can be avoided, but maintenance should be done diligently and in a timely fashion.

Don’t go overboard with functionality

All too often we see designers load a website with lots of bells and whistles in pursuit of an aesthetic masterpiece. However, they fail to balance form with function and the resulting website can be very clunky and deliver a poor user experience. This inevitably leads to poor conversion rates and can also limit Google ranking potential. You may have seen dentists’ websites which are chock full of glamorous stock images and funky menu systems etc which are quite popular these days? However, if you check closely where they rank in Google and how they perform technically, you’ll find plenty of problems.

WordPress works with a system of “plugins” which allow you to add all sorts of functionality, but overdoing it will result in a sub-optimal website for a variety of reasons. Similarly if you go overboard with lots of fancy, generic stock images and funky page effects, you can also drag down site performance very quickly. A great website will always balance form with function.

Select the minimum number of well-supported plugins

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What is SEO dilution and why do you need to avoid it?

We are about to start an SEO project for a dentist who moved to our services having paid nearly a thousand pounds per month to an agency which failed to deliver. His website traffic did not improve and the reporting he was provided with did not show critical metrics such as website traffic or conversions (enquiries) – so the dentist had no real visibility of what was happening until he’d paid out around £11k; for very little.

What went wrong?

In the first instance, it should be said that the dentist was taken in by promises of quick success. He was also lured by the reputation of the dental marketing agency which on face value looked great – however, if he’d looked deeper and checked their actual performance in detail, he may well have seen that all was not quite what it seemed.

With SEO, it is essential to complete an in-depth baseline audit to understand a range of issues, including the current performance of the website, the competitive climate and also the client’s expectations. A strategy can then be developed to address the various issues and create realistic goals. Achievable SEO objectives must be defined and they must be in-line with what Google will actually allow – this clearly hadn’t been taken into account by the former SEO agency that’d developed a “strategy” which was never going to work well.

This brings me on to the topic of what I call ‘SEO Dilution’.

So what exactly is SEO dilution?

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How do you recover the search positions of a dental website which has crashed in Google?

Here at Dental Media we are well-regarded for our work with search engine optimisation, an expertise which we’ve developed over the last 15 years as Google has evolved.

One area of expertise we offer for dentists is recovery of their website rankings after their sites have been relegated by Google, i.e. where search results have fallen away significantly. This can happen for various reasons but the most typical one is where the website has been compromised by poor SEO. When this happens, Google can penalise a website and destroy its ranking results overnight – a pretty awful thing to happen, particularly where a dentist has been used to getting a significant influx of new patients from the web.

Before we step into how we help dentists recover from these ranking penalties, here’s a quick recap on why it can happen.

How does bad SEO get websites penalised?

This is a huge topic and one we can’t cover in detail here. In simple terms, SEO agencies are constantly evolving to try to stay ahead of Google and to give their website clients an edge with search ranking. However, lots of them have pushed the envelope too far in terms of what is acceptable and what complies with Google’s own web publishing standards. Google has progressively tried to tackle this by changing the way they evaluate the quality of websites and is quite punitive where SEO has been over-zealous.

It can take a while for Google to catch up with you but when they do, if you are pushing it too hard with your SEO, then expect a penalty to come and for your website positions to plummet in the search results. Unfortunately this can be very difficult to recover but it is possible and it’s exactly where the team at Dental Media can help.

Search ranking recovery – what needs to be done?

The extent of recovery work needed when a website has been penalised will depend on how bad the penalty actually is. Google can hit sections of your website but also the whole site where bad SEO has been widespread. Often, a small clean-up is all that is needed; however it can be the case where a domain is irrecoverable where poor SEO is egregious and has been going on for a long time. In some cases, it can be more cost-effective to start again with a new website on a new domain name.

So what do we do to evaluate a recovery project?

SEO audit

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An Insight Into Facebook’s Algorithm And How It Can Work For Or Against You

The team at Dental Media provides a wide range of social media ad services for dentists and because of this we receive free consultancy services directly from Facebook to assist with our campaign management.

Whilst we already have a lot of experience, Facebook’s consultants have access to information that isn’t directly available to third parties and hence they have better visibility than we do when it comes to assessing the performance of campaigns relative to others. This is particularly useful in competitive environments and helps to give an edge for our dental clients. Of course Facebook won’t directly reference other people’s campaigns by name, but they will give insights to help with incremental improvements – and this can make all the difference between mediocre performance and excellent performance.

One of the key learning points from our discussion with Facebook’s own experts is a clear idea of how Facebook’s ad algorithm works. This is the “hidden” mechanism which works out how your ads will be placed and works in conjunction with the targeting you set up when the campaigns are configured.

Make Facebooks Algorithm Work For You

In simple terms, Facebook’s algorithm rewards success – so if your dental ads are popular and users engage with them, Facebook learns this and preferentially shows them to people most likely to convert i.e. make an enquiry about your services.

Conversely, if your ads are unappealing and users don’t engage, then Facebook will see these as less valuable and will preferentially show other ads to users rather than your own. This doesn’t mean that your ads won’t be shown at all, on the contrary. Indeed Facebook will still be very keen to use your budget. However, your ads will be seen as secondary compared to others which have historically proved more successful. Basically you won’t be first past the post and by that stage, your treatment enquiry will likely have gone elsewhere.

What does this mean for your own dental Facebook ads?

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What works and what doesn’t when advertising for patient bookings using Facebook and Instagram

Here at Dental Media our social media advertising team looks after the set up and management of hundreds of ad campaigns for dentists across the UK – many of them targeting Invisalign or implants. This work gives us clear insights into what is required for campaigns of this type to be successful and today we’ll share some of that information to help with your own campaigns.

With social media advertising there is a fine balance between campaigns which don’t deliver on expectations and those which are really successful – so let’s jump in and take a look at what differentiates the good from the bad and where mistakes are often made.

Assessing the competition

As with any type of marketing and advertising for dentists, you need to have a clear picture of what your competitors are doing. If you go-ahead and launch campaigns which are not as good as your competitors, it doesn’t take much insight to understand what might happen next.

With Invisalign particularly, competition is quite fierce and it’s usual to find several dentists in any town or city using social media ads to reach the local audience. So before you launch your own campaigns, be sure to check what everyone else is doing. There are online tools to help with this and any experienced marketing team will also be able to help.

Get the targeting right

This is essential if your campaigns are going to be effective and also to avoid wasting budget on random clicks. Whilst Facebook is reducing the range of targeting options available, particularly with dentistry, it is still possible to place ads in front of those people who are most likely to click and also who are likely to have a genuine interest in the service you are offering.

In your targeting assessment you need to evaluate where you want your ads to appear, for example a pre-determined radius around the practice or more specifically to particular areas. For example, you may wish to target “affluent” areas where you consider that more disposable income is available for certain types of dental treatment.

You also need to be aware of just how big the “pond” actually is and also how far you think people might travel for your services. For example, a small town with a limited urban conurbation and not too many surrounding villages, won’t yield as many enquiries as a city location. This may sound obvious but still get quite a number of enquiries where the dentist has unrealistic expectations on the number of cases these types of campaigns will generate. There are only so many folk within a particular population at any given time who will be interested in treatment. That said, even small-scale campaigns with moderate yields can still be very lucrative.

We also use re-targeting techniques where we can show new ads to people who have already shown some interest in dental services; for example where they have visited dental websites searching for specific treatments. This type of follow-up is essential to maximise the return from a particular area.

Get the offer right

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If your SEO team proposes anything like this, move on….

Regular readers of our blog will know that one of our key objectives is to share useful information to help the dental community get the most from their digital marketing. One topic we try to cover is where dentists have been let down with poor marketing advice and service so that others can avoid similar pitfalls.

Today we’ll take a quick look at a couple of cases where clients came to us having experienced issues with SEO and were not getting the results they were promised by their suppliers; even after spending a lot of money.

Let’s take a look at two cases from this past week alone.

SEO sold on keywords without traffic or conversions analysis

It appears to be a recurring theme where certain dental marketing companies provide web optimisation services based purely on a set of keywords and then trying to advance searches for those keywords in Google. I’ll explain why this alone is hugely inadequate in a moment.

In this particular example, a client was recommended to us for search engine optimisation as his existing supplier was not delivering. We carried out our usual audit to see what was failing and made a set of recommendations. There were significant technical issues with his website but also the SEO campaign was ill thought out and executed really badly.

Essentially the dentist had been sold SEO based on a set of keywords which on analysis, were only minimally useful. There were a lot of keywords which were unrealistic to try to optimise in the first place as they were for searches too far away from where his practice was located. In addition, some of the keywords in the list were practically useless as they would have yielded very little traffic even if top of the search results.

What is possibly worse is that the marketing company was not monitoring anything other than the progress of those keywords compared to the last month. There was no use of Google Analytics to assess traffic to the website, no analysis of conversions (actual enquiries) or indeed any other metrics needed to assess the true performance of a website.

The charge for that failing service? £950 + vat per month! The dentist only realised 18 months down the track when his inflow of new patients was no different. He’d paid over £8k for the website and well over double that for ‘SEO’ that had delivered very little, if indeed anything at all. Looking into his own analytics account, we could see that the organic traffic to his website was actually worse than when the campaign started 18 months previously.

It’s difficult to know whether the marketing company was providing the bare minimum deliberately or whether they were just incompetent. I won’t name them but suffice to say that they are very well known and on face value, highly rated. But of course you need to look much deeper than a few articles in the dental press, lots of self-promotion and questionable reviews.

Sadly lots of dentists are in the same boat but haven’t realised yet.

3 practice websites combined into one and search results tanked

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Which components are essential to ensure landing page success?

If you’re using paid ads, either Facebook/Instagram and/or Google in a meaningful way; you’re very likely already familiar with landing pages.

For the uninitiated, let’s quickly recap on what a landing page actually is, its essential role in generating dental patient enquiries and what features need to be incorporated to ensure success.

What is a dental ads landing page and how should it be structured?

Paid media advertising usually consists of the following components:

  • A set of targeted ads deployed on Facebook/Instagram and/or Google
  • A landing page(s) to receive the visits from people clicking on ads
  • A trained reception team to follow-up on enquiries proactively
  • Data collection to facilitate re-marketing and follow-up

In today’s blog we’ll look specifically at landing pages.

Quite often we are asked why a landing page is needed where a client already has a good quality website and this is quite understandable. After all, a decent website should be optimised to encourage people to make enquiries when they visit. However, it’s not quite as simple as that.

With a website, there are inherent features which actually detract from what we call the conversion process (the act of enquiring), for example the presence of a navigation menu which allows users to navigate away to different pages on the website. With a paid ads campaign, you are typically targeting a specific treatment type and hence need to keep users absolutely focused on that. So simply using a website page as the target, allows too many opportunities for users to get distracted.

There are several ways we can optimise a landing page to assist the conversion (enquiry) process – let’s take a look those features and how they work.

Landing page layout

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Is your website failing to generate useful patient enquiries?

When dentists approach us to improve their patient uptake from the web, one of the first things we do is analyse their website. This typically occurs in two main phases; the first is a visual inspection and testing to see if the website is suitably engaging and easy to use. The second is a technical evaluation to see where the website ranks in Google, a thorough investigation of the analytics data and also a check to see how well the site conforms to Google’s guidelines for best practice.

If any of the above elements are in poor shape, it is very likely that the website will underperform when it comes to attracting new patient enquiries.

Unfortunately we often find that the dentist who is seeking our assistance has paid a lot of money for a new website, only to find that it significantly underperforms expectations. Understandably there is often a reluctance to pay more to have the issues rectified, particularly where they’d been led to believe that a new dental website would be the answer to their quest for new patients. However, if the issues are not addressed, that website will never perform correctly.

What are the main reasons for dental website underperformance?

Very often it is one of more of the following reasons:

  • Poor configuration leading to bad usability
  • Insufficiently engaging – e.g. overuse of stock images, lack of personalisation
  • Too “glitzy” – failure to recognise the patient demographic and not representative of the business
  • Too many “bells and whistles” leading to poor page loading speeds (bad for usability and search engine ranking)
  • Failure to use key elements critical for attracting patients e.g. testimonials, case studies, personalised imagery, video etc
  • The website is simply too old and stale
  • The website has technical issues preventing easy use and/or compromising search ranking
  • Poor SEO has resulted in a demotion in Google searches

Rectification

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What are they and why are they important?

For a long time, back-links have been a key driver for website search engine optimisation and helping generate great ranking positions. Get your back-link profile right and you can be fairly sure that Google will reward you with improved search positions; hence why you will regularly see SEO practitioners referring to back-links and their use.

However, there are good links, bad links and pretty much everything in between; indeed bad back-links can actually damage a website rather than improve its rankings. So it’s important to understand what is involved when discussing back-links for search optimisation purposes.

Back in the early days of Google, pretty much any type of link would bring ranking benefits, but this is far from the case today. Google is now extremely adept at evaluating website pages, including the links embedded in the page content. So long gone are the days of seeking out any old link and firing it at a target site as part of a dental SEO project.

Now we need to be much more selective and only use links which will be of advantage to the target site. Get this wrong and your website can easily be penalised by Google; sometimes irrecoverably. Indeed where we are asked by dentists to help recover their search engine rankings, investigation often reveals that they have been subject to outdated SEO techniques which have penalised their website – and as mentioned above, recovery can be very time-consuming.

In our quest to help you understand SEO better, today we’ll take a look at contextual back-links and why this type of link is favoured for website optimisation purposes.

Defining contextual back-links

A contextual back-link is one where the link is embedded within a body of text which is contextually relevant to the target website. So for example a link in a blog post about dental implants pointing back to a website page about implants would be classed as contextual. The formation of the link itself is important and may (or may not) directly reference implants, but we’ll cover that elsewhere in a different blog.

Compare this to a link which is not embedded within contextually relevant text or perhaps is stuck on the end of piece of content or on a business directory. This is still a back-link but it is not contextual and typically less valuable.

There are cases where a non-contextual back-link on a very important, popular website can be more valuable than a contextual link on a lesser site, but these cases are quite rare.

Why are contextual links more valuable?

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