Our work with helping dental practices maximize their search engine visibility now spans three decades, and thousands of practices nationwide. In that time, we’ve learned several valuable lessons, chief of which is that consistent success in an industry as dynamic as search engine dental marketing requires not only meticulous attention to detail; it also demands constant research, analysis, and interpretation of the ever changing ‘rules of the game.’
Having an aesthetically pleasing website is not sufficient for sustainable practice growth. Studies such as the Chitika Google Positioning Study* clearly indicate that, to experience an acceptable volume of link traffic, your website must rank at or near the top of page one on Google. If you need further convincing, just consider your own clicking behavior.
While it will no doubt continue to evolve (mutate might be a better word), the following list of action steps, at least, as of the writing of this post, represents the ‘latest and greatest.’
Before we get to the Big Ideas, I want to share a framework whose purpose is to present a rationale for the recommendations to follow.
Simply Looking Good Won’t Cut It – Take AIM With Your Web Presence
To win at the online marketing game, your online presence must successfully accomplish three tasks, known around here, for obvious reasons, as Taking A.I.M. That’s shorthand for:
Attract – your website must be found by qualified prospective patients in sufficient quantity. There are two general ways this can occur; Traditional and Web Based marketing. Examples of traditional methods are: including your website address on your business card, a direct mail piece, billboard, radio or TV ad, and the like. Web-Based methods include: search engine optimization (SEO), paid search (aka pay per click), content remarketing, and social media optimization.
Impress – Once someone lands on your website, they must be favorably impressed with its aesthetics and function aka Look and Feel. Another critical component of an impressive website is ensuring it employs fully responsive technology, which renders it for optimal viewing and function, regardless of the device being used to view it – this is especially important owing to the ever increasing majority of web search activity originating from a handheld device**. It is important to understand that mobile ready is not the same as fully responsive – the former simply means that Google will not penalize a website’s rankings. Another important consideration in ensuring an Impressive website is the liberal and proper use of video (more on this soon).
Motivate – The final link in the dental marketing success chain is one that is most often underutilized (if it is utilized at all). That’s because most website designers cut their teeth, well, designing websites. Just as establishing a relationship with a new patient requires a willingness to ‘run the race at the patient’s pace,’ it’s the same with first time website visitors. This is because the web surfing public can be segmented into three distinct groups, which we like to call: Trigger Pullers, DNRs and Tire Kickers.
Trigger Pullers are those first-time website visitors who are immediately motivated to contact the practice to make an appointment. This is, admittedly, the Group to which we would have all web surfers belong but alas, such is not the case. In fact, the largest Group is those who are gathering information, but are also likely make a purchasing decision within a year. These are the Tire Kickers. The final Group, DNRs (for Do Not Resuscitate) are those for whom your Dental Offering is not a match with their wants or needs. Provided your website accurately represents Who You Are, What You Do, For Whom You Do It, and Why, you are actually saving yourself, your Team, and the web surfer time by not having them call or appoint (as we all know, time is money).
Consider Your Audience(s)
The final piece of our framework of analysis concerns the fact that all websites are, in fact, playing to two distinct audiences. To be sure, the ultimate audience is human beings but, to get in front of them, you website must also be structured to gain the ongoing attention and respect of the internet’s ‘traffic cop’ namely, Google and other search engine algorithms, whose job it is to scour the web and serve up the most relevant results to its customers, the web surfing public.
Following are the criteria we use to connect with both audiences. As you go through the list, remember that each criterion may serve to enhance your website by favorably impressing one or both of these audiences:
- Straightforward Navigation – Be sure to have a ‘services’ tab with a drop-down containing landing pages for each service listed.
- Presence of Key Information – These include: Doctor(s) and Team Photos and Prominent Contact Info, for instance: Telephone, Address, and Office Hours. These should be located in the header section of each page.
- Contact Forms – Make it easy for people to contact in the manner and time that suits them.
- A Fully Responsive (not simply ‘mobile-friendly’) site – This ensures your page is rendered for optimal viewing and use regardless of the device being used to view it.
- Video! – While a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth a million. A Forrester Research study suggested that a product page with a unique video on it is 53 times more likely to achieve a page one listing on Google. More important, it serves to deliver ‘social proof.’ Adding video to your website will definitely keep visitors on your site longer. Recommended classes of video include:
- Custom – office tour, owner interview, etc.
- Patient Testimonials – these do not simply help you Impress prospective patients, such videos, when properly optimized, also help improve website rankings Procedure
- Animations – unless they are proprietary, these do not help w/SEO. However, they are a wonderful way to make a website ‘pop’, as well as help ‘sell’ dentistry.
- Aesthetic Appeal – Because even the most aesthetic and functional website today will eventually be out of date, we recommend completely revamping your website every 2.5 years. It’s like remodeling your home or office – only more frequently. The good news is that a website revamp sets you back far less financially than a practice or home makeover will.
- Site Map – Be sure to include both user and search engine friendly versions
- Segment Your Web Surfer Market – Prospective patient web forms are a ‘must-have’ to encourage first-time visitors gathering information to receive such relevant information, and to be enrolled in a ‘drip marketing sequence.’ While your website may well have patient forms, contact forms, and appointment forms, these are not the same as prospective patient forms. A recent study of select ADM clients demonstrated that nearly ten percent of production originated from patients whose initial contact with the practice originated with one or more of these ‘drip marketing’ web forms.
- Ensure consistency of citations including Name, Address, Phone (NAP) – Google hates to be ‘confused’.
- Page Theme / Reputation / Headings – Without delving into painful detail, suffice it to say you want to be sure that alt tags are present throughout your website.
- URL Structure – Be certain it’s organized for maximum SEO benefit.
- HTML Semantic Analysis – For example, the optimum ratio of text to html code is 35-50%. Google knows that web pages are for human consumption so if they see too much code lurking behind too little text, a flag is raised.
- List of Services – Being accessible from your main navigation bar helps not only humans, but also Google to crawl your site.
- Meta Title and Description Tags – Each page should contain these to make them readable
- H1-H6 Headers Must Be Optimized – Headers help Google determine the important subject matters/main keywords.
- Unique Content – While it was not always the case, Google now comes down hard on any site whose content is not original.
- Coding Platform – WordPress continues to be the preferred platform because a) its html coding is easily read by Google’s and other search engine bots and b) it is constantly updated, which ensures the code is current.
- Internal Link Structure – Keyword relevant anchor text must be used efficiently in your website’s link structure within the content of pages.
- Page URLs Need to be Optimized for Keywords – For example, the geographies and services for which one wants their page to be optimized.
- Site Age – While, other things equal, older is better, we recently came across an over-optimized and therefore, tainted site which, notwithstanding its age, was deemed irreparable from an SEO standpoint.
- Geographic targeting – Desired geographies should be included throughout the website.
- txt File -This file specifies how a search engine robot crawls the site.
- Micro-Formats – These allow websites to be more readable and understood by Google
Our next blog will present keys to success with paid search.