Why agency managed Facebook and Instagram likely won’t bring in new patients

A dental practice is typically a busy place and like most businesses, team members are expected to multi-task to ensure things get done to move the business forward. Effective management usually means that resources are quite stretched and when something new crops up, e.g. pushing forward with practice marketing, it can be tempting to outsource it, simply because everyone in the local team is occupied. But is this a valid strategy?

Whilst outsourcing would be perfectly sensible for some marketing initiatives, e.g. SEO for Google ranking which has a strong technical element; when it comes to growing the practice’s presence on social media, it certainly isn’t.

In today’s blog we’ll take a closer look at why the day-to-day business of building your dental brand using social media is by far best handled by your own team and not handled by a third-party agency working on your behalf. This is very important to understand if you want to make the best of social media for promoting your business.

Why use social media anyway?

I know a lot of dentists who openly state their dislike of social media and understandably so. Some “old school” practice owners don’t really “get it” but take it on board reluctantly as a necessary business tool. Others avoid it completely simply because they are so worried about picking up bad reviews and other adverse comments.

However, these days it is very important to realise that most people seeking out new products or services will frequently cross-reference a business’s social media channels as well as their website. They do this to look for comments about the business, reviews and also to gain a real-time sense of who they will be dealing with. This is often known as seeking “social proof” and it’s proven to be a key part of a person’s buying cycle. It makes sense that if there is no social proof available, then that buying cycle could easily be interrupted.

Given then that these days there is a clear need for an active social media presence, why not just outsource it?

The huge problem with agency led social media

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Local SEO – Key Features Dentists Should Know

As you are very likely aware, getting your dental website prominent on to the first page of Google search results is very important. New patient acquisition from the web is second only to word-of-mouth referrals and so any business wishing to avoid or at least minimise paying significant sums of money for paid ads, will have a solid ‘organic’ SEO strategy in place.

The first page of Google is split into different sections and I’ve covered this in depth elsewhere in this blog. One of the key areas where you need to seek prominence for your dental business is in the local or ‘map’ listings – this is the area near the top of the page where typically three results appear along with a map detailing their actual location. In addition to the map, each of the results is displayed with a link to the business website, another link for directions to it and, very importantly, the number of reviews the business has gained.

These ‘local’ results are very prominent and catch the eye of users very quickly. Data suggests that over a third of all traffic from Google now originates from people clicking on one of the results and so it’s very clear why getting your website into this local pack as it’s known, should be a key objective. But how do you go about achieving that?

In today’s SEO blog we will take a look at 10 of the key ranking signals Google uses when determining which websites to include in the local results on page one. Generating these signals comes with differing degrees of difficulty; some you will be able to achieve yourself, other elements will very likely need the assistance of a dental SEO professional.

Let’s make a start with the fundamentals of local SEO ranking for dentists:

Set up your ‘Google My Business’ Page

Google provides a little corner of the web for all business where basic information for that business can be added. Setting up this page is fundamental as it lets customers and Google know what the business is about and key information about location, opening times, types of services offered etc. You can (and should) upload photographs to show people different aspects of your facilities and services. For a dentist, this could range from pictures of the outside of the dental surgery, through to indoor shots showcasing your surgeries and equipment.

You must not skimp on this set-up and the consistency of the data you enter there is very important too. There are plenty of guides on-line and as part of our SEO auditing service, Dental Media can also assist to make sure you get this key information absolutely spot on.

Name, Address, Phone Number Consistency (NAP)

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Understanding the limitations of dental website CMS

We are regularly asked by new dental clients if they will be able to edit their new website; the answer to which is, “it depends”. This is an important question and one which is often misunderstood by dentists when they sign up to a new site development project. So today’s blog will try to clear up any misconceptions about website content management systems (CMS), including the main advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s start by taking a look at what a content management system (CMS) actually is and how it works.

Website CMS explained

A CMS is a system which allows some or all of the layout and content of a website to be changed online via a management portal and theoretically without the need for your web designer to get involved (I’ll come back to that last point in a moment). A CMS works using a scripting language (“code”) typically PHP, used in conjunction with a database, typically MySQL. All of the website content is stored within the database and the html which makes the website appear in a web browser is rendered in real-time when a user looks at the site.

Before the invention of CMS, dynamic code and databases; websites were typically built using “static” html code i.e. not generated on-the-fly by a scripting language and without a database. These “traditional” types of websites appear exactly the same as websites using PHP/MYSQL and a CMS but what goes on behind the scenes, often called the “back-end”, is quite different. I should say at this point that there are still a lot of advantages of static html websites e.g. speed and security, over CMS driven sites, but these come along with the disadvantage of needing a web designer to makes changes to the website periodically, even relatively simple ones.

How easy is a CMS website to use and maintain?

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Seeking transparency with digital marketing

The world of dental SEO can be quite murky as some of the dentists reading this blog will be only too aware. There are more stories of bad work and banned websites than good unfortunately and over the years I’ve tried to highlight some of the many pitfalls and ‘gotchas’ in this blog.

Last week we took on two new dental SEO clients who came to us explaining how they’d fallen foul of unscrupulous SEO practices which left them high and dry with effectively zero Google presence. It’s prompted me to revisit the subject in today’s blog where we’ll look at the top five things your SEO agency don’t want you to know. The more dentists know about these potential pitfalls when choosing an optimisation partner, the less likely that they’ll get caught out by poor work down the track.

There isn’t any SEO happening

This may sound odd but lots of dentists are actually paying for SEO when there is no, or extremely limited, work happening on their behalf. That’s right, in many cases they’re paying for nothing. This is usually the case when a marketing company insists that a client takes a monthly maintenance contract and then sweetens it by claiming that SEO is also included. But SEO in the real sense of the word i.e. a proactive campaign to significantly improve rankings, isn’t being done at all. At best, the dentist gets an automatically generated report each month and maybe the odd quick adjustment of web page titles. This certainly isn’t sufficient to move the Google dial.

If you need SEO, this isn’t for you, so please don’t waste your money on those misleading offers.

The work is being outsourced

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As “normality” and competition returns, marketing activities should ramp up too

The last 16 months or so have certainly been highly unusual times with the pandemic impacting numerous businesses, dentists included. We’ve seen a range of different effects; successes, failures and more.

Some dental practices have fared quite well as they seized the initiative to introduce new ways of working, for example virtual consultations helping to book new cases even when face-to-face treatments were not possible. Unfortunately we’ve also seen some practices go-under, where already stretched finances were pushed to breaking point as treatment revenues dried up.

Despite continuing uncertainties, we’ve seen dentistry gradually haul itself back on to its feet and come back strong; indeed the last 5 or 6 months have seen a lot of our private dental marketing clients doing extremely well as pent-up demand was progressively released. We saw this reflected quite plainly in website performance statistics and bookings where average activity across the board increased 30 – 40% above pre-pandemic levels in many instances.

However, over the last 4 – 6 weeks, we’re actually starting to see a downturn to pre-pandemic levels as pent-up demand from patients is satisfied and people get more options, not just smile makeovers, to spend their accumulated cash on. Holiday season is also upon us and whilst quarantine uncertainty will certainly deter some folk, others remain keen to spend their cash on that long-awaited holiday.

The effect of this is now starting to be felt by dentists UK-wide and the scope to “make hay” is progressively reducing.

Many of our clients maintained core aspects of their digital marketing e.g. SEO for Google ranking, even through the darkest days of lockdown and they are now being served well; albeit overall patient activity is not quite what it was compared to a few months ago.

However, some of our clients decided to pare costs way back (understandably) and quit some or all of their digital marketing initiatives. As patients were able to return for treatments and the “glut” arrived, several clients also decided to hold off from recommencing any marketing work simply because they felt they didn’t need to – after all, patient numbers and treatments were buoyant.

But how is the landscape changing again and how should you react?

Revitalising your practice marketing

Whilst thing are far from the “normal” we remember, most dental businesses are running well again, backlogs have been trimmed and consequently the demand and supply is starting to balance again. Of course this then knock through into competition and there is a renewed need to ensure your practice is still the most prominent in your area.

As I mentioned, those businesses which continued to invest in Google ranking work are still in good shape, with many of them also running paid ad and social media marketing campaigns to ensure visibility in all of the key channels. In comparison, those businesses which elected to cease their marketing work and hence progressively slipped back in Google, are not in such great shape. Ideally they would have re-started and prioritised those campaigns as soon as revenues became buoyant again, but in some cases, unfortunately they did not and as new patients numbers start to dip again, they are left with a significant amount of catch up work to do.

What next?

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Succeed without huge monthly fees!

Here at Dental Media we’ve really ramped up our Invisalign marketing services, not just for existing clients but also for new clients who have shipped across from their existing providers. These transfers have almost all resulted from dentists being charged what appear to be excessive fees for services which don’t necessarily offer good value for money. Let’s take a closer look.

Why some dentists pay £2k per month for Invisalign marketing (and is it justified?)

It’s quite clear that marketing companies are charging for their services based not on the input they provide based on time and expertise, but on the large profits which Invisalign bookings can yield. They’ve worked out that dentists are still happy to pay £2k + per month on fees where the bookings made actually yield several fold more than that. To some, that may seem fair, but do you really need to pay those fees to get success? The answer is a clear “no” and why dilute your margins if you don’t have to?

Golden handcuffs?

What I mean by that is that even where dentists suspect they are paying excessively, some are still reluctant to move when they are getting relative success. It all comes down to uncertainty and being unwilling to move, even where lower costs and better margins can be demonstrated elsewhere. The marketing companies know this of course and play on the dentist’s uncertainties to hang on to business. But it all gets a little bit out of hand when you realise the limited amount of work which goes on in the background after the marketing campaigns have been set up initially.

Of course not all marketers do this, but sadly a number of them in the dental field do. So you need to be wise and able to make an informed decision to avoid paying way over the odds, to get value for money and to ensure that your marketing remains effective.

Generic marketing templates

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Managing Your Domain Name, Website & Email Services

Managing the technical structure of dentists’ websites, hosting services, domain names and email is something that we specialise in here at Dental Media. It relieves all of the burden from the dentists themselves and allows them to get on with their business of dentistry.

However, it’s not all clients who wish to take a hands-off approach like that and many dentists prefer to have at least a working knowledge of how all of those technical elements are integrated and work together. So without going into lots of technical detail, here is a quick overview of how all of that works.

Your domain name

This is essentially your dental practice website address and in the UK typically takes the form of xyzdental.co.uk. The domain name is registered at a domain registrar of which there are number to choose from in the UK. You can also choose from lots of different domain versions e.g. .com .net etc, but for UK commercial purposes, the .co.uk version is recommended.

A misapprehension we often see if where a dentist thinks that you buy a domain name outright. You actually can’t do this and you effectively rent it on a defined term basis, typically 2 years, although you can register for much longer. As long as renew in good time, the domain remains yours to use. It goes without saying that you never want to lose “your” domain so it pays to make sure that things like renewals are scheduled and that you don’t miss doing it. Many is the time when a dentist has called to say his/her website has gone offline only for us to find that they’d failed to renew their domain registration.

Most dentists prefer that we look after their domain name and indeed we have many hundreds of domains registered and managed on our client’s behalf. Our systems ensure that a domain name can never be lost or expire unexpectedly.

DNS – Domain Name System

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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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