Have you optimised it correctly? 6 main ways

There are few pages more important on your website than your testimonials page and it is a primary destination for potential new patients looking to use your dental services. However, you might be surprised to see how many dentists have failed to recognise this and run with a web testimonials page which is at best minimal, or at worst, non-existent.

It’s easy enough to say how good your services are personally, but new patients will be way more encouraged to believe you if they see excellent reviews about you expressed by existing patients. It really does make sense to acknowledge this and then present your testimonials so that they work for you in the best ways possible.

So what is the best way to organise your website testimonials page so it is set up correctly, engages new dental patients and encourages them to contact you? Let’s take a look at the basics you need to get right.

Grab attention with a compelling headline

Your testimonials need to stand out and the best way to introduce them is via a bold headline. This needs to be in keeping with the rest of your dental practice website styling but make sure it’s prominent. One trusted technique is to quote the main part of the patient testimonial as an introductory headline, for example “Martin’s chairside manner was exceptional and my new dental implant has been life-changing”.

Match the testimonial with the treatments you want to promote

Understandably many dentists are trying to promote significant treatments such as dental implants and Invisalign so it makes sense to give prominence to the testimonials which support this. So please be sure to get glowing reviews from your patients who received those particular treatments and display them prominently.

Whilst it’s always good practice to consolidate a range of top reviews on a single testimonials page on your website, it’s also really effective to use selected, treatment-specific reviews on the treatment pages of your website too. Not only does this help to break up the factual descriptive content, but also helps to build the reader’s confidence as they navigate your pages i.e. it keeps reinforcing the message.

Use photographs and video clips where possible

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Check your content and functionality frequently to ensure top performance

We’ve had a very dynamic year when it comes to the messaging shown on dentists’ websites, all brought about by the fluid situation surrounding Covid-19. This has ranged from messages announcing temporary practice closures early in the first lockdown, through to new and frequently changing protocols as the pandemic progressed. Suffice to say we’ve been extremely busy helping our clients keep their websites bang up-to-date and informative for their patients.

However, where we don’t have website maintenance contracts with clients, and noting that quite a lot of dentists prefer the more cost-effective ‘pay-as-you-go’ approach, we do rely on clients to advise us expediently when they require updates to their websites. This is particularly important where vital messaging is concerned, e.g. opening status during Covid-19.

This was brought home to me last week when a non-maintenance client called to say that the messaging on his website still showed an opening date of June 8th albeit they had been open and treating patients for months! If we see situations like this, we will of course get in touch with clients to advise them; however where no maintenance contract exists, understandably we are not able to carry out regular checks on the hundreds of dentists’ websites which we host on our servers.

So the message here is hopefully clear – please ensure that you are checking your website content regularly, particularly where you are not paying someone to do it for you.

With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to compile a short check-list of the key content and functionalities you should check regularly on your own practice website.

Website key messages

We’ve covered some of this above but in particular, is your website current when it comes to key information such as opening times? Are there any restrictions in place due to current Covid requirements? Are you displaying the correct protocols in terms of what you expect from patients before, during and after their visits? This is vitally important, particularly during the current pandemic and likely to remain so as we ease our way out of it.

Contact forms

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Why organic SEO still leads the way for new patient bookings from the web

Apologies for the slightly ‘clickbaity’ title but I wanted to bring attention to a subject which regularly rears its head in the world of dental marketing and is filled with misinformation.

The topic arose again recently when I was in discussion with a dentist who was researching ways to help promote her new practice on the web. She’d heard about SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) but had been told by an agency which solely dealt with PPC that SEO was dead and that she should invest all of her budget in paid ads. Hold on a minute!

Not only is this false but also terribly misleading and potentially compromising the success of the dentist when it comes to claiming new patient bookings from the web.

So why do some PPC practitioners claim that SEO is dead and try to force the issue to sell their own services? Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and also how you’ll lose out if you believe them.

SEO has undeniably got harder

Over the last 7 or 8 years, Google has pushed hard to ensure that the prominence of their ads is optimised. This is unsurprising as Google makes over 90% of its revenue from ads and hence needs to ensure that as many ads are displayed across as many channels as possible. A large part of this was to progressively increase the number of ads shown in the Google search results, progressively limiting the appearance of the traditional free (organic) results.

Whilst this has made traditional SEO harder, it’s also extremely important to realise that the majority of web traffic from Google still goes via the free results and not via paid ads. So even though you will now see a higher ratio of ads, particularly with mobile devices, there is still plenty of opportunity for Google users to find your business without having to click on them.

Of course those guys who sell PPC services won’t tell you that but they will ensure you know that ads are becoming more prominent.

How much traffic goes via paid ads versus traditional (free) results?

A study from last year conducted by Wordstream suggested that around 37% of web traffic via Google actually originated from clicks on paid ads; so just over a third. This leaves nearly two thirds of traffic still coming from organic results of one type or another. So whilst we can see that SEO has become harder with the advent and evolution of paid ads, it certainly hasn’t gone away, not by a long chalk.

A lot of people actually avoid clicking on ads

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What’s the difference and why do you need to know?

Marketers for dentists sometimes take for granted that their clients know all of the basics when it comes to promoting dental practices. Of course this isn’t always the case and we have to be sure that the key elements and principles are explained in detail so that informed decisions can be made.

This was brought home again to me earlier this week when I was explaining the differences between paid and organic social media to a dentist who was interested in the topic and getting moving with a social marketing initiative for his own practice. What quickly became clear was that he had very little knowledge of how Facebook works and indeed why he needed to “pay to play” to gain any real exposure on the channel.

With that in mind, I think it’s worth a quick recap on the types of social media marketing you can use for dental practice promotion, in this case primarily looking at Facebook and Instagram.

For clarity, I will used the terms “paid” and “organic” in this blog to indicate the two main ways of gaining exposure on Facebook (and Instagram). Paid is exactly as it sounds and primarily refers to paying for ads which are displayed on the channel, whereas as I will use the ‘organic’ term to illustrate how you can publish content free of charge.

Organic content published to Facebook and Instagram

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Rank prominently in Google with comprehensive website information

“Content Is King” is a saying that has been around in the world of SEO for a long while and it’s probably even truer these days than ever before. Simply put, if you want to rank well in Google, you need to make sure that the content on your website is excellent and capable of holding a user’s attention. Achieve this and you will also be sending the right signals to Google when it comes to winning in the SEO wars.

The minimalist 200 words of generic text your average dental web designer supplies free with their websites, simply won’t cut it these days. You’ll need to go much further to ensure that Google considers your website to be authoritative and worthy of those coveted top ranking positions.

You may wonder why this is and indeed why great content is so important. To understand this, it’s probably best to consider one of Google’s core objectives when it comes to working out which website to place where in the search results. Their stated aim is to surface content which answers user’s queries best and to achieve this exposure, the sites that meet those aims are propelled to the top of the search results. Of course it’s not quite that easy and there are numerous and varied parameters which affect where a website is ranked, but for sure, the quality of your content and its ability to engage users is right up there in importance.

So how do you go about increasing your chances of occupying those top search engine positions using website content? Let’s take a look at two key dental treatments where this objective would be particularly important – dental implants and orthodontics.

Top-grade treatment page content

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When poor information leads to mistakes….

I think it’s fair to say that the world of dentistry is quite cliquey and, like many businesses, relatively few “personalities” can hold quite a lot of influence. Unfortunately this can lead to the rapid spread of misinformation and poor recommendations, to the detriment of the end-users, the dentists themselves.

We’ve seen classic cases of this again quite recently where new clients have advised us that they’d received recommendations for a couple of design companies only to find that the service they received was actually very poor. That might sound counter-intuitive in that recommendations usually result from good service; however what became clear in these examples is that the recommended companies had become significantly over-stretched and simply couldn’t fulfil the promises they’d been making.

This seems to be a recurring theme with dental design companies – it’s happened before when the market leader of several years ago fell from grace on the back of multiple failed SEO contracts along with unsustainably high fees. Then again more recently when another company made a big splash at trade shows, grew very quickly and then went out-of-business leaving hundreds of their clients in the lurch. Some of you reading this article will likely know exactly which companies I’m referring to and may even have fallen foul of their demise.

Whilst these types of suppliers eventually get found out, the real issue is the large number of their dentist clients who get caught up in the collateral damage, with broken and unsupported websites, trashed Google rankings and thousands of pounds wasted. It is a genuine concern and not a superficial case of simply trying to trash competitors – it’s really disturbing when we see dentists taken for a ride like this and in over 21 years of operation, sadly we’ve seen it happen far too often.

To help you avoid the pitfalls, here are some of the classic mess-ups we’ve seen over the years which have resulted in dentists paying the price for the failure of their suppliers; paying way over the odds for services, tying in to the wrong type of technology or suffering as a result of poor marketing.

The coach’s recommendation

Dental coaches are quite common these days and some of them do excellent work in helping their clients develop their businesses. However a few of them have arguably stepped well outside of their core expertise and make recommendations about topics where they really don’t have the skills to do that. For example, recommending a web designer and/or SEO specialist without really knowing the best practice in those disciplines. We’ve seen numerous examples of this where, ultimately, a significant number of the coaches’ clients end up disappointed. The more savvy coaches are catching on to this and are distancing themselves, but others are still doing it without exercising due diligence. A couple of coaches also appear to be offering design services so you may wish to research whether that’s a sensible solution before signing up. It could work well in some scenarios but almost certainly won’t in others.

The peer group recommendation

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Is live chat on your dental website really the killer application some suggest?

We first introduced live chat on dental websites over 8 years ago and since then we’ve implemented numerous versions on lots of dentists’ websites across the UK. So we have a fair degree of experience with what works and what doesn’t. Currently there seems to be resurgence in the use of live chat and we are seeing some marketing agencies offering free installations with new websites and even remotely managed services where each “lead” is charged for.

So there are a variety of options when it comes to website live chat for dentists; but are they any good? As with all of these so-called “killer” applications, you have to look closely to fully understand the pros and cons before you jump in. Let’s make a quick review so you know what to look out for.

Website live chat – the positives

There are certainly some positives to implementing live chat on a dental website, albeit it has to be done properly and professionally. But more of that later. The main benefits which are pretty universally acknowledged are:

  • Fewer missed opportunities – if the reception lines are busy, live chat offers an opportunity for users to contact you without having to put up with an impersonal answerphone message. Some people also prefer to use live chat rather than speak to someone in person. It is fair to say that websites which use live chat professionally will often generate more leads than those that don’t.
  • Provide a contact channel outside of normal working hours. If you opt for a service which is manned by trained, 3rd party personnel, you can provide comprehensive information for potential new patients over extended hours.
  • Temporarily free-up ‘phone lines – whilst live chat clearly won’t allow you to switch your ‘phones off for any extended period of time, it will allow you a good level of cover if you do have a temporary issue. It will also “load balance” across your various communication channels and relieve some of the pressure on your ‘phone system.
  • Learn about your patients – most live chat systems store the chat transcript and give you the reference you need to follow-up on the enquiry. Analytics are also available which reveal a variety of information including where the enquiry originated. This type of information is very useful for informing your overall marketing strategies.
  • Help your website SEO – this may sound strange but live chat can actually contribute to SEO in that it keeps a user on your website. Google can measure this “dwell time” and it is positive indicator for better search engine rankings.
  • Appeal to the younger generation – many young folk expect to interact with tools like live chat more than picking up the ‘phone. If only to cater specifically for the preferences of this demographic, live chat makes a lot of sense.
  • Differentiate from the local competition – people are very keen to see that your services are up-to-date and comprehensive and live chat really does help to demonstrate this. Whilst live chat is becoming increasingly popular, many practices still don’t have it and here’s a chance to steal a lead.

Live chat – the negatives

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How we achieved top Google places with new website content and refocussed on-site SEO

Here at Dental Media we have a very strong reputation for search engine optimisation (SEO) which we’ve nurtured and grown over many years of working with dentists. We are specialists in achieving Google top rankings using a variety of techniques. Today we’ll take a look at a couple of those areas and the cornerstones of successful SEO – website content and on-site optimisation.

We have a number of prominent clients based in very competitive locations where the SEO work has to be extremely diligent and comprehensive to maintain ranking positions. This is simply because competitor practices are also running optimisation campaigns and because the search landscape is ever changing.

Towards the back end of last year, we’d seen a couple of cases where our client’s websites dropped from position 1 to position 3 or 4 for the key “dentist + location” search term over a period of 8 or 9 months. During this period, Google introduced several new ranking algorithm changes, in part impacting those website where the content had gone “stale” i.e. not upgraded or reviewed for a long period of time. What can happen here is that Google demotes sites which have become less useful and engaging for users, often caused because the site’s content has not been nurtured.

Before we continue, it’s worth remembering that whilst successful SEO is multi-faceted, it can broadly be generalised into “on-site” and “off-site” work. Off-site work is where external assets are used to help promote the target site, for example building back-links from third-party websites; whereas on-site SEO is all about the work needed to make sure that the website itself is optimised for Google. A huge part of the latter on-site element, is the quality of the content.

The upshot of this is that a good website with excellent rankings, can actually degrade over time if the content is not nurtured and allowed to go stale. In this circumstance, if the on-site content is struggling, no amount of off-site SEO, however good, is going to work as well as it might.

This is exactly what happened in the two cases I mentioned above i.e. the off-site SEO (link-building etc) was being compromised because the website content had become stale and considered less attractive by Google. The slight slip in rankings was the result and of course needed to be addressed.

What did we do to reverse the problem and regain rankings?

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Keeping Patients Informed And Booking New Treatments

Unfortunately we find ourselves in another full national lock-down brought upon us by increasingly infectious Covid variants and arguably compounded by questionable crisis management, together with lack of compliance amongst some members of the general public. Whatever the causes, undeniably we are in another very difficult situation which has to be managed extremely carefully if we are to emerge in reasonable shape at the other side. Fortunately vaccines are on the way and hopefully they are effective quickly and sustainable.

Another piece of positive news is that dentists can remain open and whilst there are still concerns around new levels of risk, at least business can continue. So from a business perspective, we are actually in a much better place than when dentistry closed overnight back in March.

That said, dentists still have to be aware that the general public will be reeling from the rapid announcements and the confusion that brings. Indeed we have spoken with several dentists in the last couple of days who advised that several of their patients believed that dentists had also closed down. So we need to act quickly to ensure that the message that “dentistry is open” is out there and that business can continue in the best ways possible.

Here are some quick actions to get in place:

Update dental website notices and protocols:

This may seem like an obvious one but we are still aware of clients who have the old ‘lockdown 1’ messaging in place on their websites despite prompting from us. It’s essential to make sure that your website is updated to reflect the recent changes and to reassure that you are still open for business. If there are any new restrictions or protocols you’ve had to implement, make sure that these are displayed so that patients know what to expect before they arrive for an appointment.

Remember that just like in earlier months, it essential to try to instill confidence and reassure patients that your environment is as safe as possible, so make sure that this is prominent in any communication. Indeed, with the news of new Covid variants and increased levels of infection, this type of reassurance is even more important than before.

It’s probably also worthwhile auditing the protocols you have in place to make sure that everything is still robust. Compliance with procedures can become lax even in the best run businesses, so auditing compliance, particularly for something so safety critical, is very important.

Announce via e-newsletter

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Boost the “social proof” on your site and blog

You’ve worked hard to get a nice set of positive reviews on Google for your dental business and hopefully they are working hard for you via your Google “My Business” page and regular searches where patients are seeking out treatments and services. However, you may have seen some dentists taking it a step further by actually displaying those reviews on their websites?

If your reviews are in good shape, it really does make sense to display them, so in this short blog we’ll take a quick look at the main reasons why you should get those reviews onto your website and also the main mechanisms to do it. Let’s jump in.

Why display Google reviews on your website?

It’s a well-known fact that people making buying decisions usually look to reviews to support their decision, with some researchers suggesting that on average, a consumer will look through at least ten reviews before proceeding. Of course this applies to dental services too.

In this context, this type of validation of purchase decisions is known as seeking “social proof” and it’s equally as important as a word-of-mouth referral. Indeed Google itself strongly recommends nurturing the review process to ensure that consumers have a clear idea of the service they are purchasing and whether it’s a good decision based on the experience of others. There are other collateral benefits too, e.g. SEO, as we’ll see later.

The first patient interaction

Very often, the first interaction a new patient has with your practice is when they perform a Google search and see your listing displayed in the search results. If your business listing is set up correctly and optimised, they will also see your details, along with your reviews, displayed in the local results section on page one of the search results – this is very, very powerful.

This is obviously important but why not extend the display of those reviews through to your website too? This makes an awful lot of sense, in particular as it reinforces the positive user experience as they click through to your website from the search results.

So unless your reviews are poor, it really does make sense to cascade them through to your site.

The positive effect on search engine optimisation – SEO

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