MGE’s weekly webletter, Issue 15.
Are Your Getting Your Money’s Worth with Your Website?
By MGE Marketing
From time to time newer clients will ask me to look at their website to find out why it’s not “working” (i.e., driving many new patients into their practice). While the reasons behind this problem may vary (i.e., little to no traffic or plenty of traffic but very few new patients), there is a common denominator: these doctors have paid good money for their internet marketing for little to no return.
For the most part, each one of these sites have had the basic criteria that make them visible to search engines (i.e., Google, Yahoo, etc.), but they are lacking in actual marketing – and no amount of fancy banners and Google ads are going to replace this.
Addressing this, their websites do start generating new patients. And let me make something clear – the whole subject of internet marketing (or marketing for that matter) can, at first glance, appear very confusing. It’s not. You don’t have to know everything about marketing to have an effective website – you would still hire various companies to create and maintain your site. There are, however, a few things that you must know to ensure that it comes off the way you want it. Let’s start with some basics:
1. Unique Websites Versus Template Websites
Many marketing companies deal in “template” websites. Especially when they service only one type of public or profession – for example, a web developer who only works with dentists. They usually have about 20 or so website templates from which you can choose the one you like best. After you have selected a template, the company will adjust it to your practice or business, i.e., your address, the specific services you deliver, your bio and team, and possibly pictures of your office and a map.
You might think, “Nothing much wrong with that.” And to a degree you would be right. But, realize this: That same template is also used by other dentists because that’s the choice you (and other dental practices) have been given. So, apart from perhaps the colors and some of the text, your site will look virtually identical to other dental sites. Too many times I’ve seen the same websites for two (or more) different dental practices – down to the typestyle. You really had to look closely to determine that they weren’t the same office! This situation can create two fundamental problems:
a. A “generic” website is most likely not going to draw the numbers of new patients you want. Especially if there’s nothing to differentiate your office from a number of others. Why should anyone come to you instead of the other practice? Being generic doesn’t give a prospective patient a reason to select your office over others – other than how far away your office is from their place of business or home.
b. While no one outside of Google knows the exact way they construct search criteria, I can tell you this: Template sites that are constructed exactly the same as others (with only minor changes like some text, images and colors) don’t show up as well. Why? Because Google and the other search engines are looking for unique content, which means that the content of your website should be especially written for your practice and not be the same as many other dental websites. When the content of your site is a copy of many other sites, Google will put you at the bottom of the ranking process and you won’t show up in searches.
Your online marketing becomes exponentially more effective when your website is different from the rest and unique in some way. For example, what makes your practice special? How do you stand out?
You can say: “We care,” or “We are professional and competent.” Fine, but if that’s what is making your practice special, you’ve got to show it! In other words, show yourself as a caring dentist with a patient, show the caring community involvement or charity activities of your practice, show your practice as professional and state-of-the-art. If you’re going to use testimonials or before and after pictures, pick ones that say this about your practice, etc. Now you are stepping outside the box and showing that you are different. This is called “positioning,” i.e., giving yourself a position that’s higher or better than the competition – a marketing technique that is very effective.
There are many other ways in which your website can be unique and different from the rest – way too many to list here. But once you’ve got the idea, I am sure you can find how you can be unique and show it!
My advice: Don’t go for a generic website. Get something put together by your web-developer that typifies your practice and your services, and shows you’re different. You will find that this works a lot better!
2. Target Marketing
There are literally hundreds of millions of websites on the internet and there’s hardly a household in the United States that doesn’t somehow have access to the internet. So you are potentially reaching millions of people. This may look great (and is, for companies like Coca-Cola or Toyota), but for your practice it’s more a curse than a blessing. Why? Because you don’t sell your products to millions—you are trying to get business from your community within probably a 10-20 mile radius.
So how do you get these people, especially the ones you want to come to your practice, to click on your site or to respond to your promotional material? The answer is simple: Surveys!
You can select some part of the community and ask the people that live there what they consider the most important criteria by which they choose a dentist. The answers will vary: Some just want good care, others want the latest equipment and again others are looking for certain types of treatments. If you take the most common answer and start using that answer on your website, you will attract those people you surveyed to your practice. They want the latest equipment? Well, tell them you’ve got it (if you do) and show it on your site!
(Related: Dental Internet Marketing 101 – Part 1)
Most dental websites try to throw in every single treatment they deliver and boy, that usually ends up being very confusing for the potential patient. If 80% of your target market wants only a few specific services, you’d better highlight these on your home page. Then you’ll be targeting that market and you’ll get them to come in.
Here’s another real big advantage of targeting your market: Last year Google changed its search algorithms (the formula they use to search for websites) from wide searches to very local searches. Have you ever noticed that when your laptop is at home, you get all the local ads and search results from your neighborhood or city on your screen? But when you move to another city, suddenly the ads and search results from that city will appear on your screen. In other words, Google is already set up to find and advertise to the local community you’re in.
Now, survey your local target market and use the results on your site or in your promotion and you’ll have a winner! Veneers and laser teeth whitening might be a hot item to advertise in Orange County but maybe not if you live in North Dakota.
3. Domain names
Your domain name (i.e., thenameofyourwebsite.com) is very important because this is what Google and the other search engines look for at first instance. If I live in Tujunga, California and I need a dentist, it is very likely that I will search for “dentist in Tujunga.” If you happen to practice in this city and your domain is tujungadentist.com, it’s very likely that you will show up in the top listings. If your domain is johndoedds.com, it’s not so likely you will show up. So having your city or community in your domain name is good internet practice.
But what if you don’t? Well, there is a solution for this. You can purchase domains for about $10 at companies like godaddy.com. If the domain you want is already taken, just type variations of that domain such as “mytujungadentist.com” or (if you dare) “besttujungadentist.com.” You can also capitalize the different words such as “MyTujungaDentist.com” which may be easier to read.
The same solution works for searches that include the type of dentistry people might be looking for, such as “Children’s dentist,” “Cosmetic dentist,” etc. I know one pediatric dentist who had “pediatricdentistry” in his domain name (along with the city name). That’s better than nothing but to drive more business to his site, he added the domain “bestchildrensdentist.com” which is easier to understand as not everybody knows what “pediatric” means.These 4 tips from MGE are helping me get my money's worth with my dental website!Click To Tweet
The good thing is that you don’t even need an entire website for your additional domain. You only need one web page that acknowledges the person for “landing” on your page (called a “landing page”), and directs them to your web site. You can even have your internet hosting company (the company that actually has your website stored on its servers), add this domain and landing page to your account and set it up so that any traffic to this domain gets automatically forwarded to your website domain. In other words, someone looks for a good pediatric dentist, types “children’s dentist” and gets “bestchildrensdentist.com” as a result. When they click on this, the pediatricdentistry.com website shows up. You can have as many domains and landing pages as you like.
Now this is simple and extremely effective marketing!
Another change Google has initiated in its search results is the addition of paid advertising as the first entries in Google’s search results. In other words, when you search for “teeth whitening” the first thing you will see on Google are the paid ads. So becoming “the first on Google” is no longer possible. Depending on the amount of paid ads on the first page, you may come in last on that page. I am always warning for promises from web marketers “to have you show up first on Google.” Unless you have paid advertising on Google yourself, “first on Google” is simply not going to occur.
You’re likely not going to be “second” either. Because usually, right under the paid ads, you will find a map of the area with local business results or, in our case, dental practices in the local community. So you want to make sure your practice is listed on Google Maps with a picture of your practice and a sentence or two on what makes your services special. All you need is a Google account. This is free and a great way to direct new patients to your practice.
“Well,” you may ask, “What about being third on Google?” Mmmm, not yet, because right under the map, there are usually directory sites, i.e., websites that list the businesses (or dental practices) the internet user is searching for. These directory sites score high because they generate a lot of traffic from people searching for this, that or the other. For example, yelp.com, yellowbot.com, superpages.com are all directory sites that show listings of businesses matching your search.
It would therefore be a smart thing to get your practice listed in as many directories as possible, so no matter where you are on any search engine, your practice and website will show up in those directories on the first page.
Some of these directories are free but most of them charge money or some sort of membership. Usually it’s cheap and definitely worth the investment. I always recommend doing it, because the more ways to attract business, the better it will be for you.
Another directory you will want to get into is on your city’s website. People tend to check the city web sites for hotels, taxis, shops, tourist attractions, etc., and when your practice is in there (for example, in case of emergencies) you will attract more new patients to your practice. Getting your practice listed on a city website, especially if it’s under the emergency listings (if you wish), is usually free.
Marketing means getting your wares onto the “market” and selling them in high quantities for a good return. Key in this process is to market on as many channels as possible. Getting into many directories, on Google Maps, on your city’s website and on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, are all means to drive business into your practice. And the best part of it is that it will cost you very little!
MGE’s Marketing Department provides this general dental practice management advice to furnish you with suggestions of actions that have been shown to have potential to help you improve your practice. MGE may not be held liable for adverse actions resulting from your implementation of these suggestions, which are provided only as examples of topics covered by the MGE program.