What is the typical lead-time and what do you need to prepare?

In this week’s blog I thought it would be useful to outline what should be expected when you commission a new website from the team at Dental Media. I’ll cover typical lead-times for the project, from inception to launch, together with the roles of the team here and what also needs to be provided by the dental team.

Whilst all dental website projects and designs are unique, the project sequence is quite standard and well-established. We guide our clients every step of the way and do our best to ensure that the project runs smoothly; albeit occasionally we understand that challenges can crop up along the way – a pandemic for example!

A good place to start is the lead-time you should expect to design a new dental website. Let’s cover that first and then move on to the how content for the site is generated and the practice’s role in that.

How long does it take to build and launch a new website for a dentist?

With our design team, you should typically expect 10 – 12 weeks. To complete the job professionally, we need to allow time not just for the design, but also for information gathering, design iterations, approvals, testing and go-live. Here’s a typical sequence:

  • Week 1 – raise the design documentation and issue the design questionnaire and deposit invoice
  • Week 2 – following receipt of the documentation and deposit payment, the draft design begins
  • Week 3 – submit the draft design for client feedback
  • Week 4 – design iterations and further client feedback
  • Week 5 – finalise the design and move to the full “coding” stage
  • Weeks 6 – 8 – build the internal website pages and start to add content
  • Weeks 9 – 10 – client feedback and iterations
  • Weeks 11 – 12 – approval, testing and launch

Sometimes we are asked to take on “emergency” jobs, for example where a client has been let down by their designer and their website has gone off-line. We will certainly try to assist in cases like this, even if it means publishing a holding-page to help maintain a web presence whilst a new website is built. However, we prefer to plan appropriately and allocate time – simply because this leads to great websites! So if you can pre-empt any problems and approach us in good time, that will certainly help.

As with any project, there is some time in the schedule where design pauses whilst we wait for the client to feed back or to provide certain types of content. During these periods, the designer will move to a different project and then switch back again when the client’s feedback arrives.

We understand that dentistry can be a very busy profession and sometimes these “lull” periods can be quite protracted where the dentist is otherwise occupied. We can usually accommodate this within reason and adjust the schedule accordingly – all we ask is to be advised as soon as possible and to be kept updated please.

The role of the dental team in helping the project run smoothly

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It may surprise you to know that some dentists still use free Hotmail and Gmail accounts for business purposes

Today’s blog is quite short and to the point, but also very important. It’s born out of frustration caused recently when trying to help dental clients approve their Facebook accounts. You  may well ask what that’s got to do with email addresses, so let’s take a quick look – hopefully it will help to avoid similar frustration on your part and also reinforce why a professional business email address is essential.

For those that are unaware, Facebook is now particularly strict when it comes to approving businesses for advertising on their platforms. It’s no longer a case of simply signing up for an account and away you go; often you have to prove who you are and that your business is legitimate. I’ll explain more about this in a separate blog but for now, please accept that getting your dental business approved by Facebook isn’t necessarily trivial.

So what’s that got to do with an email address? Part of the approval process is to demonstrate to Facebook that you own the online assets that you say you do; so for example verifying the domain name of your website etc. In some cases they will even ask you to submit documentation to prove that you are who you say you are. Part of this involves the use of an email address which is specific to your website domain, NOT a free address such as Gmail or Hotmail etc.

What actually surprised me and showed that you should never take anything for granted, is that a couple of the new clients we were helping set up Facebook and Instagram advertising, were still using free email addresses, in this case, Hotmail and Gmail. As expected, Facebook rejected approval when it was attempted using those types of addresses and they insisted on an email address which matched the domain name of the business concerned. This means that something like oaksdentalcare@hotmail.co.uk has no chance of working whereas admin@oaksdentalcare.co.uk would be fine.

It’s not just for Facebook verification….

Of course having a professional email address is not just about getting your account verified by Facebook and I acknowledge that most dentists completely understand this. However it’s clear that quite a few still don’t appreciate this.

Let’s reiterate why a professional email is essential for business these days:

  • It looks much more professional
  • It lends credibility to your business
  • Better for compliance and privacy – e.g. Gmail apparently still scans mail content to target ads to users
  • Flexible – whilst you can export email from free providers, it isn’t exactly straightforward. Professional business email services can make migrations of this type much easier.

What does a professional email service cost?

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The downsides of automated, outsourced marketing systems

Dentistry is a busy profession and even more-so now that pandemic restrictions are lifting and patients head back to get the check-ups they’ve missed or to complete treatments started a while back. Understandably, dental business and their managers are looking for ways to streamline processes whilst still remaining effective and this includes how practices run their various marketing channels.

The drive to automation

You don’t have to look far to find dental marketing agencies offering “all done for you” marketing packages incorporating everything from organic SEO to paid social media advertising. To many, this may sound very attractive; simply sign the contract, pay your £2k per month (and often more) and let the third-party company get moving on your behalf. But is this really the best way to go in the quest to be a dominant force in your local market, or do you need a more sophisticated and personalised approach?

Let’s take a look at what can work well via third-party services and also the areas where strong participation from the practice team is needed for best effect.

I’ll begin by saying that full “done for you” marketing packages aren’t the optimal way forward, both from effectiveness and a cost perspective; but why is this? Here are the main areas where those type of packages fall down:

Too generic:

  • Lack of personalisation – most dental marketing agencies are pulling the same content from their libraries and using it on multiple different websites. This becomes very generic and is particularly obvious on social media where visual presentation I key to engagement. The same old images and strap lines appear again and again and it just doesn’t cut it with users.
  • The effects above are exacerbated by marketing agencies automating as many processes as possible, so for example using automatic posting tools to distribute content via their client’s social media accounts – extremely repetitive and of limited value.
  • Copied or minimally adjusted blog content – we see lots of dental practice blogs where it is obvious that the blogging is being done by an agency rather than a local team member. These types of blogs are characterised by minimal content, regurgitated themes and sometimes even copied from elsewhere. High-quality blogging is an excellent tool to provide useful information for patients and also for SEO, but not the type of minimalist material noted above.
  • Generic newsletters – agencies also re-use newsletter content with only minimal tweaks; all rather bland and very probably consigned straight to the recipient’s email trash bin.

Too expensive:

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Stale dental ads on social media can seriously impact campaign performance – here’s why….

Here at Dental Media we manage a lot of Facebook and Instagram advertising for dentists with excellent results. Part of the investment dentists make when working with us is directed towards a key part of managed campaigns known as “ad refresh”. But what is this and why is ad refresh necessary to ensure social media advertising campaigns like this remain effective? Let’s take a closer look.

Stale ads and the concept of ad blindness

Advertising on Facebook and Instagram is very visual and relies on great images and/or video to engage new dental patients. Highly tuned ads like these can be targeted to reach appropriate demographics across social channels and when done well, the returns can be exceptional.

However, the performance of the campaigns is very reliant on the ads remaining fresh and engaging. Where an ad is shown a number of times to the same person, a phenomenon known as “ad blindness” occurs. This basically means that even though the person is still “seeing” the ad in their feed, they essentially disregard it because it no longer stimulates interest. Effectively the ad is now stale and its ability to perform is significantly reduced.

How do we know when ad blindness is likely to start occurring?

Fortunately Facebook provides a set of monitoring tools which allow us to evaluate various aspects of how your social ads perform. One of these metrics tells us how often an ad has been viewed on average and we can use this information to predict when ads need to be “refreshed” i.e. changed.

If ads are not refreshed when the viewing thresholds are exceeded, what we typically see is that performance starts to fall away quite significantly – this is not really surprising as the ads are now effectively being dismissed by those who have seen them several times before.

How can ads be updated to avoid ad blindness?

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Why you need to know if your SEO team uses guest blogs

Back in 2016 I wrote a blog covering the concepts of “white hat”, “grey hat” and “black hat” SEO and their potential impact on dentist’s websites.

Today we’ll recap on that and in particular how one key aspect known as “guest blogging” is presenting an increasing risk for dental websites in the context of over-zealous SEO and Google penalties.

Let’s begin with a quick refresher of the various terms:

White hat SEO – this is where only techniques which comply with Google’s web publishing guidelines are used. For example, generating high-quality content for you own website or blog which attracts 3rd-party links naturally. Some manually placed links can also be considered to be “white hat” and risk free, for example ensuring that your web link is included in your Google My Business page.

Grey hat SEO – this is where techniques are used which are on the margins of acceptability, at least in Google’s view! So placing links manually in business directories which are not human-reviewed, creating location specific pages on your website, duplicating content to try to deceive search engines, using micro-sites etc.

Black hat SEO – this is full scale disregard of Google’s “rules” and really does risk getting your website banned very quickly. Techniques such as cloaking, buying links, building secret blog networks etc would fall into this category.

Other web optimisation professionals might have slightly different definitions based on their ethics and experiences, but in the context of what Google looks at when determining if your site gets banned; those mentioned above certainly aren’t far off.

Get on the wrong side of Google with too much grey hat SEO or any black-hat SEO, and you’ll be in line for getting your site demoted or worse, banned completely. Sometimes it can take Google several months to find non-compliant techniques but they tend to catch up eventually. How far you push is up to you, but you do need to understand the risks or at least be sure that your SEO agency does. Remember that a site penalised in this way can be extremely hard to recover and the business lost as a result, huge.

Guest blogging – what is it and why is it risky?

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How much is your practice website really costing?

Perhaps one of the most striking factors dentists miss when it comes to their websites is just how much they are paying for them. It’s often reasonably clear what the upfront costs are but the “hidden” ongoing charges can be significant, indeed often exceeding the initial cost of the website after just a couple of years of ownership.

In today’s blog we will take a look at the “total cost of ownership” for a dental website and how you can avoid getting sucked into ongoing contracts which drain your budget and don’t really offer good value.

Total cost of ownership for a dentist’s website

In a moment we’ll take a look at the total cost of a website over a period of 4 years – the average length of time a dentist in the UK maintains their site before seeking to upgrade. But before we do, let’s recap on the dental website maintenance landscape which currently exists in the UK.

Website and marketing companies in the UK typical push clients to sign up for a monthly maintenance fee, indeed most of them mandate this as it keeps a known amount of revenue flowing in. This is great for the web company as they make money even when they are not working on the client’s site. However, it’s a significant problem and poor value for the dentists as they end up paying out regularly even when nothing is being done.

You may think it’s incumbent on the dentist to ensure that they make good use of the website maintenance service, but in reality, most dentists only update their sites two or three times per year. Here’s where the web company ends up “quids in” of course. What’s worse, we’ve also seen lots of cases of those same web companies demanding additional one-off payments for anything other than simple site updates – so not just “quids in” but potentially “cake and eat it” too.

You may question whether this is actually fair? Unfortunately it’s very common in the dental web design business and even more bemusing is that some dentists seem to accept it as the norm. I think what is happening here is that so many supply companies levy the “dental tax” that it almost becomes accepted and the dentist’s pay up anyway.

Here’s what you could pay for your website over 4 years if you don’t challenge the fees:

  • Implementation cost – £4 – 8k
  • Monthly maintenance fee – £115 – £185
  • “Ad hoc” updates – outside of maintenance fees – £300 (yearly)

This gives us an overall cost over 4 years in the range of £10.7k – £18.1k – a significant outlay even in the best case!

What’s the alternative?

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Are defined keywords still critical? Yes and no….

Three or four years ago I wrote a well-received article regarding the gradual demise of keyword importance for dental SEO and why some of the tactics being used to sell SEO services to dentists had largely become obsolete.

Let’s recap briefly on what keywords are and their history before moving on to how the use of keywords has changed in the last 3 or 4 years since I wrote that original article. We’ll also see how some search engine optimisation agencies still persist with old, defunct techniques and how that ultimately fails their clients.

Keywords – the history

In the infancy of Google and more generally SEO, keywords were perhaps the most important marker which told Google what a searcher was looking for. This was very much for discrete searches such as “dental implants” and consequently optimisers would cram websites full of the exact term in as many places as possible. This often made web text read very badly as websites were configured more for Google rather than users.

Google started to tackle keyword spamming and “thin” website content using punitive search algorithm penalties such as the infamous “Panda” update around 10 years ago and this did reduce the amount of optimisation spamming quite considerably. However, those “blunt” tools were complemented by arguably more subtle search engine updates several years later such as the “Rankbrain” and “Bert” updates in 2015 and 2019 respectively. It is these updates which have moved us to less of a reliance on simple discrete keywords and more focus on the context of what is actually written on a web page.

Rankbrain and Bert were key steps in the evolution of Google where the search engine became far more capable at recognising what a searcher was looking for, rather than just zeroing in on a specific keyword search. As an example, this means that Google understands that someone who is searching for “lost tooth replacement” is actually very likely to be interested in services providing dental implants. So we can see that we now need to be far more subtle when optimising a web page, rather than simply adding recurring instances of the same keywords and phrases.

Keyword optimisation – how it should be done

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Avoidable SEO errors when dentist’s websites are moved or consolidated

Over the last few years we’ve seen several clients taken over by larger dental groups as UK dentistry reorganises and consolidates. This is inevitable and something we expect to see periodically as clients retire or otherwise move on in their careers.

Part of the transfer involves a transfer of the seller’s website which usually starts with transfer of the domain name and within a few months, transfer of the website itself. It’s at this stage that our involvement in management of the website typically ceases and the new company takes over. Unfortunately it’s also at this stage that the mistakes begin and bad things start to happen, particularly with the search engine ranking of the website. But why is this and what happens to cause it? Let’s take a closer look.

Websites built here at Dental Media typically rank very well in search engines, particularly where we carry out ongoing SEO for the dentist. This optimisation is a continuous process whereby we use legitimate techniques to improve the search engine positions of the website for numerous search terms. The returns from this process are exceptional in terms of new patient enquiries and it’s something we encourage all of our clients to participate in. However, the process is quite technical and easily disrupted and it’s this disruption we tend to see when a new business takes over.

Common website take-over errors

In the example of a corporate of micro-corporate website take over, the main (and disastrous) error we often see is where the site is incorporated into the single website of the company taking over. This usually involves taking a multi-page website with excellent Google rankings and rationalising this down to a single “location” page on the corporate website.

This results in lots of great Google results essentially disappearing overnight as the overall website footprint for the business is drastically reduced. Even where some mitigation is completed e.g. page re-direction, the search engine traffic to a website which is rationalised in this way will be significantly reduced. It does beg the question as to whether the web/marketing representatives of the new business actually understand what they are doing, particularly in that the importance of Google for new patient acquisition is abundantly clear.

As a slight aside, we have also seen this quite recently in another scenario where a dentist moved his website to the control of a local company who had associations with his partner. The new company rebuilt it on a DIY platform known as Squarespace, failed to complete any optimisation and page re-directs etc. We still had access to the analytics data and we saw an instant 3 fold reduction in website traffic and Google ranking dropping dramatically over the following weeks. This also resulted in far fewer patient enquiries to the point where the dentist contacted us and requested that the old website be re-instated. This is quite an extreme case, but similar adverse effects often also occur in the corporate takeover scenario discussed above.

What should happen when a website is transferred?

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Wondering why your new practice website isn’t paying back?

It’s widely acknowledged that a dentist’s website is the cornerstone of all marketing activities and that a high-quality site which ranks well in Google is essential, particularly in times of ever-increasing competition.

However, it’s not simply a case of “build it and they will come” and all too often, dentists and their practice managers are left bewildered when their posh new website doesn’t achieve the results they expected, or indeed what they were led to believe by their chosen designer.

Let’s take a look at the main reasons why some dental websites fail, the common pitfalls in the design process, and what you can do to avoid those issues.

Trendy websites which don’t suit your audience

I’ve written previously about a current trend in the building of dental websites where one or two companies are churning out sites to a set formula with lots of glitzy images and other “bells and whistles”. Whilst these websites may well be suitable for certain types of dental practice, they are not suitable for everyone. They are also starting to look rather generic when compared to the “classy” websites which leverage on personalised images and a more welcoming feel.

If your website doesn’t properly represent what your business is all about and doesn’t resonate appropriately with the patient demographic you are trying to reach, then unfortunately you are setting up to fail.

My guidance here is to avoid design trends and assess very carefully before you step into the design process. Just because a website looks a little bit glitzy is absolutely no guarantee that it will work well in all circumstances. You’ll probably end up paying well over the odds for it too.

Your website is technically poor

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Are you struggling for time to generate web content which works brilliantly for patients and Google?

The text writing team here at Dental Media is busier than ever generating lots of excellent web content, written to engage website users and help those sites power upwards in the Google rankings.

But what is it about great text that makes all the difference to the performance of dentist’s websites and blogs? Equally, how does poor text content work against you? Let’s take a look at the key factors.

Why good website content improves new patient enquiries

There is a misplaced notion in the world of dental websites that minimal content is best in that it doesn’t overwhelm the user. Indeed it is a theory espoused by a few dental coaches, albeit somewhat misguided and not really in their client’s best interests. The truth is that minimalist content tends to originate from design teams who simply want to knock out a few paragraphs quickly and move on to the next project.

In reality, you are selling services to a range of folk, not just those who are keen to simply get a quick overview of your treatments without wanting to delve too deeply. However, there are also those folk who want to look into the subject matter in detail, for example the older generation researching the pros and cons of dental implants. With this in mind, when we generate content for a dental website, we need to cater for the minimalists and indeed those who are looking for more – and everyone in between.

You may wonder how this can be done? Minimalist and comprehensive on the same page sounds mutually exclusive right? Well actually not, it is very possible to lay out the text on a web page to achieve just that. For example we can use a bullet-point list to showcase the pros and cons of a treatment succinctly at the head of the page, but support that with more information further down on the page, perhaps via an FAQ or similar.

If you aim for text that is minimalist, you may well miss out on patients who need to know that you are well-versed in your treatments and that your website is an authoritative source of information. Indeed, we know that websites with well-balanced, comprehensive information tend to work a lot better than those which simply focus on glossy visuals. That isn’t to say that good visuals aren’t important, they certainly are, but overall you need to seek a balance.

It’s not just the performance of your web page when it comes to engaging new patients, you also need the right content to engage with Google too and ensure that your site gains a great position in the search results. But what is it within your website text which dictates how it performs in Google?

Web text and how it contributes to an authoritative website

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