Google My Business, Analytics, Ads, Search Console – here’s why you need to control those accounts

Google provides lots of useful free tools to help business owners monitor, maintain and promote their websites. The main ones are explained below and as we’ll see later in this article, it’s essential that you retain control of these important assets rather than hand over the responsibility for them, to a marketing company.

So what are the main Google assets that you will likely encounter as a website owner at some point?

Google My Business

This is not a website tool itself but is more a page on Google where you can add your main business information such as a short description, category, photographs, location and opening hours. Aside from your website, this is the main library of information which Google uses to reference your business and integrate it with the maps listing and results which show in local searches. You need to claim your business listing and ensure that the information recorded there is consistent with the information on your website, blog or any other digital platforms you use. This consistency is important to ensure that you are best placed to take advantage of Google local searches and to receive reviews – hopefully positive ones!

Your Google My Business page is a fundamental piece in the dental marketing jigsaw and it pays to take time to set up your information correctly and to maintain it regularly.

Google Analytics

Analytics is an excellent free tool which Google provides to allow you to record huge amounts of data about the activity on your website. You can use this in conjunction with other tools to see how your website is performing, to see how effective marketing campaigns are and much more. We’ve covered some of this in more detail elsewhere in this blog but suffice to say here, that Analytics is a “must have” tool to allow you to manage your website effectively. Install it as soon as your website goes live and data will start accruing almost immediately.

Search Console

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Methods to extend your reach and gain new patients!

Whether we like it or not, Facebook seems to be an ever-present feature in many people’s lives and it won’t be going away any time soon. To ignore it would be wasting a great opportunity to acquire new business, particularly as Facebook has ramped up hugely when it comes to offering advertising opportunities across its platform.

Over the last three or four years, Facebook has ported from a social media platform where you could build relationships and perhaps gain a few new patients via recommendations and associations, to an advertising behemoth where, in skilled hands, you can present carefully crafted ads to thousands of people very quickly indeed.

So what are the main techniques you can use to start gaining traction for your dental business on Facebook? Let’s take a closer look.

Organic Reach

This has always been the traditional way of representing and promoting a brand on Facebook. Here you build your practice business page and make regular posts to it to encourage “likes” and interactions. By building this community around your brand, you ultimately hope to attract attention and secure new enquiries and ultimately, business. However, there is a big issue with simply trying to grow organic reach in that Facebook has massively curtailed it in recent years. So whereas in the past, the majority of those following your business would likely have seen most of the content you posted, now less than 5% will. Here we see Facebook rather cynically removing their freebie service and pushing more and more businesses to advertise, dentists included unfortunately.

It still makes sense to build your organic reach on Facebook as people will still look there to see what your practice is doing. However, don’t expect new patient acquisition via organic reach to be anywhere near as healthy as it was before Facebook nailed it down.

When posting to your Facebook page, be sure to make the content worthwhile and something potential new patients might engage with, e.g. events at the practice, business updates, etc. This will work much better than generic, boring content you will often see 3rd party social media services posting on a client’s behalf.

Boosted posts

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Avoiding the self-proclaimed SEO ninjas and marketing experts.

Perhaps it’s the ill-conceived thought of “rich dentists” that continues to lure new companies into the dental marketing space?

Certainly the influx of new start-ups in the sector continues apace and all of them claiming to be an “expert” in lots of areas, or at least so it seems. But behind the flashy veneer, all is not what it might appear to be and the risk of being duped is very high as we’ll see later.

As dentists, you know better than to call yourself experts or claim to be “better” than your peer group; but this doesn’t appear to be the case in the community which offers you marketing services. Indeed one marketer we know had the honesty to write about how he “faked it to make it” several years ago when he first started out.

But if we’re being honest, would you like to be in the hands of someone who professed to be an expert but was simply putting on a show, or working with a team of acknowledged professionals with a long and successful track record? The answer is pretty easy isn’t it, but how do you differentiate if you are not familiar with the subject? That’s less easy unless you really know where to look and who to ask.

I’m prompted to write this as we take over yet another dental website from suppliers who “faked it to make it” – but didn’t and went bust. In their wake they left lots of poor dentists who forked out thousands for websites and huge monthly fees for little or no return. In fact I’m just off the ‘phone to one poor practice principle who is on his third design agency in the space of five years! The first is a long-standing “big” name with a reputation for high fees (but also poor delivery) – they took hundreds of pounds from him each month, but still he couldn’t get them to complete the work they promised. All they wanted to do it seems, is to up-sell him to their next expensive package. Sound familiar?

The second company he fell foul of attended lots of dental shows and snared new clients with the promise of the moon on a stick and so many new patients he’d need a bigger practice. This hard-sell approach appeared to work for the marketing company for a couple of years, but then clients started to see through their glossy website promises and lack of performance, and started leaving in droves. The company subsequently sold off some of their clients to other marketing agencies whilst leaving many of their smaller clients in the lurch. What’s worse is that the websites they’d provided were built with a niche development tool that very few people use, making then unsupportable and in need of full redevelopment. The poor guy I mentioned above has ended up paying for three new websites in five years, but at least this time we’ll be there to support him over the long term.

How do you spot the cowboy dental marketers?

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When should you panic?

I think it’s fair to say, that like most small business owners, dentists know the huge importance of Google for securing new client sign-ups.

Whilst paid ads are becoming more important, organic (free) search ranking is still critical and the the number of new patients acquired from this channel is significant. So it pays to invest in securing those lucrative positions at or near the top of the search results.

Many dentists frequently check their ranking positions, some as regularly as once per day! Whilst this is overkill perhaps, it’s certainly worth a quick check of you main keywords once a week or so to see what’s happening.

Those of us who do that regularly will also know that there is a lot of fluctuation in Google these days and gone are the times when results for keyword searches sat static for months on end in the rankings. This is because Google is constantly adjusting the algorithms which dictate how the search results work – so one day you could be top of the shop for your main keywords, but a few days later you could be down at position three. This type of flux is common now and we should expect it without too much cause for panic.

What we can also be confident about is that if a website is high-quality and that any SEO (search engine optimisation) for the site is within Google’s guidelines, then these small fluctuations can generally be ignored and that any small falls in position are likely to recover within a few days or weeks as Google adjusts again.

So not too much to worry about there. Indeed, if you’ve read any of our SEO blogs before, you’ll understand this ranking “flux” and also know that your overall traffic and conversions (enquiries) are even more important than keyword positions when it comes to the overall performance of your website.

But what happens when there is a more obvious and sustained fall in you keyword ranking positions? This is indicative of something more serious happening and is certainly cause to find out what is happening as quickly as possible. Panic is probably not the best word, but given the importance of website ranking position when it comes to gaining new patients from the web, you certainly need to act with a degree of urgency.

What causes ranking drops?

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Navigating the minefield of dental marketing acronyms and abbreviations

Those who are new to the field of digital marketing may well be confused regarding the plethora of terms and abbreviations which are used to represent the different tools and techniques currently in play.

So whether it’s SEO, SEM or some other description, here is a quick explanation of what they actually mean and how you can benefit from their use.

Let’s start with one of the most important areas to consider i.e. getting your website high up in the search results, in particular Google.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation

Whilst it’s very important to have an excellent, mobile-friendly website for your dental practice, equally important is to make sure that the website has good prominence in Google. Whilst paid advertising in Google is now increasingly popular (and becoming essential as we’ll see later), having a high position in the organic (free) ranking positions is still very important. This includes the traditional results index and now also the “map” or local business pages. Whilst this article isn’t about how to achieve that, and you can find plenty of advice about it elsewhere in this blog, suffice to say that you need to keep SEO, the technique for getting free traffic from search engines, as a priority within your marketing initiatives.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

Whilst SEO is all about free traffic to your website, SEM is all about paid traffic i.e. paying to advertise on various networks to bring traffic to your site. Perhaps the best known system is Google Ads (formerly AdWords) whereby you join an auction to have your ads displayed in Google. Typically, the more you bid for your chosen keywords, the higher your ad will be placed. Your bid price isn’t the only determining factor, far from it, but for ease it helps to think of it this way, particularly if you have limited experience.

So why is SEM becoming increasingly important, to the point where you now need to “pay to play” with Google? To understand this you need to remember that over 90% of Google’s revenues are generated from ads and consequently they have a strong interest in monetising their platform as much as possible! So for example, we are now seeing more ads in the search index than ever before and they are particularly pervasive on mobile devices. So it has come to the point where, essentially, businesses are being forced to advertise alongside their organic SEO initiatives. You will also likely hear the term ‘pay-per-click’ used in the context of SEM.

Again we’re not telling you how to use this technique in this article, but if you need help, our experts will be pleased to advise.

SMM – Social Media Marketing

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Is your website engaging? Or are you stuck in the crowd?

One of the most frequent questions we are asked when a dentist contracts us to build a new practice website is “what type of content do I need to really encourage new patients to contact me?”

This is an excellent question and indeed one of the most important aspects to address when it comes to launching a new dentist’s website. There are other important questions too of course, for example, does the website perform well technically and is it optimised correctly for search engines? We’ll take the opportunity to address those questions in other blogs as they are all too frequently overlooked by most design agencies; but today we’ll focus on the type of content you need to really make your website shine.

What is engaging web content and why is it so important?

Even if you’ve not had a website designed before, it’s still likely that you’ve heard the phrase “engaging content”. It all came about when data scientists studied how users interact with a website after they first land on it. Perhaps one of the most startling things they discovered is just how fickle website users are and that many of them simply “bounced” off the website immediately if the content didn’t hook them in – hence the “engagement” part. It’s now well known that you typically only have a couple of seconds to grab a user’s attention when they first hit your website and that if what you present is dull and boring, then they won’t be hanging around for long!

This “bounce” action where users navigate quickly away from your website, is now a key measure we can use to see just how well a website performs, right down to page level. We report on these types of metrics in detail for our monthly marketing clients and then use the information to make ongoing, incremental improvements.

Two categories of engaging content

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Are landing pages always the best approach to encourage dental PPC conversions?

Let’s start by quickly reviewing what a “landing page” actually is, why they came into being and why there is a huge amount of research associated with their use.

Then we’ll take a closer look at typical applications within dental marketing and other systems you can use alongside your landing pages to make pay-per-click work harder for you.

What exactly is a landing page?

A landing page is a carefully prepared page published on the web to which targeted web traffic is directed; typically from pay-per-click marketing campaigns. These pages differ from standard website pages in that they are precisely configured to catch a user’s attention immediately, keep them focused and prevent them from navigating elsewhere by limiting options for them to click away elsewhere on the site. They are also information rich and designed to encourage immediate enquiries using features as follows:

  • attention grabbing headline
  • clear call-to-action
  • a simple contact form
  • case studies – ‘before and after’ photographs
  • glowing patient testimonials
  • clear and concise benefits of the treatment

This is very much a carefully crafted dental sales page designed to “hook” the user and stimulate a fast enquiry.

Whilst a well-designed web page will also have some of these features, a landing page is super-focused and with no other distractions e.g. no navigation menu so the user has to stay “on page”.

Typical applications for landing pages

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Be cautious or end up with a broken or hacked website!

If you’ve ever researched website design you’ll probably be aware that there are systems available which allow you to update the content of the website directly, without referring back to the original designer.

These tools, known as content management systems (CMS), are useful for making small changes to your website e.g. text in a staff biography, but are not so easy for larger modifications such as adding a new image gallery or a new treatment section. For these types of more complex changes, you will almost certainly need to ask your dental web designer to intervene, as skill and experience is still required.

There are other issues associated with CMS too, for example the need for regular security updates to prevent hacking. So a clear understanding of the pros and cons of CMS is required before you opt for it.

One of the most popular CMS platforms is called WordPress which originally came to the fore as a blogging platform. Over the years, the system has been wrangled into a full-blown CMS and is now widely used for website design, not just blogging. However, to use it as a valid website CMS, you really need to add certain “plugins” to WordPress to extend the core functionality; for example to add contact forms, sitemaps, SEO features and more. But using these plugins requires care, experience and ongoing maintenance if you want to avoid having your website broken, or worse, hacked.

The problem with WordPress plugins

The concept of plugins to extend your website’s functionality is great, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a free-for-all when it comes down to the development of them. This is because the plugin library is vast and not managed directly by the core WordPress team. Anyone can contribute a WordPress plugin and as such the quality of them varies significantly, from those which are diligently managed and updated, to those which have huge, inherent security risks.

The problem is that you don’t have any guarantees which is which – indeed even the most popular plugins with regular support, still periodically get compromised by hackers causing all manner of grief for WordPress website users.

Another serious problem with plugins is that you just can’t guarantee ongoing consistency and support. Developers may start out with the best of intentions and contribute a great plugin, then over the years they get distracted by other projects and move on. Unfortunately you’ve already used that plugin and your website relies on it, but you’ve lost the support and also the security updates which will invariably be required. This can cause you website to break as the core functions of WordPress update; or worse, you get hacked.

What can you do to minimise the risk associated with plugins?

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Why you need more than just a couple of keywords on page one of Google

There is too much hang up about keywords when it comes to dental SEO these days, particularly when considering how far Google has moved on when it comes to evaluating where websites should rank.

As we’ve discussed elsewhere in this blog, SEO is no longer about adding a bunch of keywords to a page and keeping your fingers crossed, it’s a good deal more complicated than that.

However, that said, keywords are still very useful for getting a quick idea of the prominence of a website and a likely indicator of how much traffic it will get. Plus you still do need to include a few keywords and associated phrases on your website pages to help Google understand what they are all about. Ultimately though, this is just a starting point and you will need to invest in some of the other digital strategies discussed in this blog, e.g. links, content generation etc, to secure great positions in search engines.

But today let’s take a quick look at how you can use keywords to evaluate (and boost) the prominence of a website and get a quick idea of how it is likely performing in the search results.

Wide keyword profiles

Quite often, we find that dentists get fixated on single keywords or perhaps a very small set of them. For example, it might be “dental implants Trumpton” and then the dentist focuses on this term and searches for it regularly, using it as an indicator of how well their website is doing. In their head, they want this term to be at position one, but unfortunately there’s far more to the story than just the position of a single search term.

If you look in Analytics and Search Console, the free website data tools from Google, you will see lots of information about the various types of traffic which arrive on a website, for example from free searches, paid searches, third-party link clicks etc. The traffic which primarily comes from search engines, (free or organic) is made up of traffic which originates from hundreds if not thousands of different searches. So in the case of implants, it could come from people who search “dental implants” “teeth implants” “new replacement teeth” or many other associated terms. So not just one or two terms. Of course, some terms will carry more weight, but the spectrum is huge.

The same can be said for all other treatments and services, i.e. lots of varied search queries, hopefully resulting in traffic to your website.

What I’m trying to illustrate here is why it is important to avoid being fixated on a few search terms, but instead understanding the importance of appearing prominently for multiple different phrases across the spectrum of treatments you provide. The key is to develop a wide keyword profile which delivers traffic from lots of different search queries, not just a narrow range of super competitive terms. Ultimately, traffic and conversions (enquiries) are the key success factors and ranking at number one for just a couple of phrases doesn’t necessarily deliver this. You may also wish to read our blog which covers “long-tail keywords” for supporting information.

How do you achieve a wide keyword profile?

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Respecting dental branding and copyright

Understandably, dentists have numerous associations with 3rd party suppliers to their businesses and often want to showcase these relationships on their own dental practice websites.

This is usually a good initiative in that it helps to build credibility; for example, use of the latest equipment such as scanning technology or offering treatments using appliances from leading orthodontics or implant manufacturers. It also shows willingness from the dental practice itself to invest in the latest technologies and services; indeed we actively encourage this when we are designing websites on behalf of our clients.

This may all sound straightforward but there are some guidelines and rules which need to be understood and followed. One of these golden rules is the observance and preservation of third-party branding as well as seeking written approval to use it. This may sound obvious to some, but very frequently we will be asked by clients to do things (e.g. edit the NHS logo!) which are clearly forbidden and would only serve to cause problems if we did.

Brand identity is very strict, particularly for larger companies, and they will issue rigid brand guidelines indicating what you can and what you can’t do with their brand identity once they’ve approved you to use it. Even small businesses, i.e. most dentists, should strive to maintain consistency with their branding and ensure that is used in the correct way.

With the above in mind, here are some essential guidelines on questions to ask and how to use third-party branding on your own website:

  • identify which suppliers/associations etc you want to showcase on your website and what advantages this might bring – do this strategically
  • seek their permission to use their branding, typically a logo, where appropriate. Get it in writing where possible
  • don’t attempt to modify their brand assets – unfortunately we see attempts to do this too regularly!
  • use the correct branding assets in the correct situation e.g. we had one client who insisted on using the Invisalign corporate logo rather than their provider logo
  • review regularly – are logos you are using out-of-date or are there new assets which you can use to your advantage?

Most of this is common sense to us in the design world, but perhaps not so much to those who are at the front-line of providing dental services.

Check to see if there are other supplier marketing assets you can use

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