In this Article we tackle the second key to a successful website, namely, attracting the visitor.
Before your website can encourage patients to visit your office, they first must find your website. For this to happen, you need to position yourself so that, when people and businesses in your community are searching for dental care, it’s your website, or a page within your site, that they find.
A simple way to attract people to your website is to include your website address (URL) everywhere prospective patients will see or hear it: on stationery, business cards, external signage, your on-hold message and, of course, on all conventional marketing channels such as: direct mail, TV, radio, billboards, etc.
Another way to get your website noticed is via online search . Online search is sub-classified into free (also called organic) and paid (sometimes termed pay-per-click) search. The advent of social media (Facebook, My Space, You Tube, etc.) is a relatively new and increasingly robust source of website visitors.
The goal all methods of online search is to get your website ranked high on search engine listings when the web surfer looking for dental care enters words or phrases (called keywords and key phrases) that are a match for what your website offers.
Online search, while not new, is assuming an ever greater “local” character. It is also rapidly gaining in importance. Even analysts who work for the Yellow Pages reported way back in 2006 that individuals used the Internet 70% of the time vs. only 30% for the Yellow Pages when searching for a local service.* That percentage will only increase in favor of Internet Search.
Pay To Play
A reasonable question to ask (and have answered) is: Should I employ a pay per click strategy and, if so, what should my investment be?
Anyone is permitted to manage a pay per click program. However, it can be a complicated and tedious process to build, maintain and update the list of terms that reference your site. More important, if managed by anyone other than an expert, it can be unnecessarily costly, especially when the wrong terms are selected and the price paid for the correct terms is too high.
When done by a professional, high quality patient leads are captured by purchasing ads with Google®, Yahoo®, Bing® (formerly MSN), and perhaps other search engines. This lets you target people within the desired radius or other boundaries of your office who are searching for the dental services you offer. These are qualified prospective patients by virtue of the fact they have taken the time and effort to find you.
Your goal with a pay per click campaign is to maximize qualified site visits by directing local individuals and families searching for dental care right to your practice website.
When a potential patient searches for, say ‘(your city) dentist’ on a search engine, your site must show up at or very near the top of the SERP (search engine result page).
This was always important, but never more so than now. Just ask yourself how often you click past page one of search engine results and you’ll get the idea. And you’re not only competing with your esteemed local colleagues. There are: dental product, search directories, specialists, insurance companies and more with which to contend. As many of these represent large commercial interests, they have, often on staff, professionals specifically trained in search engine marketing.
The bottom line on paid web advertising is that it can be a great way to quickly get your website noticed. Even if your site already ranks high for certain search words and terms, it can also help get you ranked more highly for additional terms and phrases of relevance. The only way to know is to try it. Fortunately, there should be no lengthy commitments and you should be able to increase or reduce your monthly outlay with a single phone call or email. NOT JUST WHERE BUT WHAT !!
Web Marketing, Take 2
At the core of…sites qualifying for this moniker are simple, yet compelling designs with well-chosen visuals, and…tools that let users interact with, and construct content in, unique ways. In addition to creating useful sites, the principles behind 2.0 can be used to increase organic traffic to your site, retain visitors and convert those visitors to customers, hence, Web 2.SEO.
Incorporating a well-structured Web 2.0 design into your site will improve search rankings through both improving the informational architecture of your site (cleaner, simpler code makes your site more easily indexed)…(it)…also improves the probability that high-quality sites will link to you. A simpler, more streamlined design will make your site easier to read for engines and users as well…Now, more than ever, you can please both “search bots” and visitors by keeping Web 2.SEO principles in mind when designing your site.
Getting visitors ?With limited space on a site, especially ‘above the fold’ (what a visitor sees without having to scroll down), you should aim to maximize the effectiveness of the visual communication: each graphical element should convey a message, and the textual content should be concise. The more logically organized your site is, the easier for both search bots and web visitors to find relevant information.
- A simpler 2 or 3-column, central layout structure will convey a simpler, bolder message that communicates more clearly with your visitors. The central column is the ideal place for your key message, with highly targeted and compelling text.
- Use your top header section to clearly present your site and navigation options to draw in your visitors with a bold, opening statement on what they can find on your site.
- Keep your navigation simple: this will create a logical structure for your visitors, and translate well into a clean sitemap, which search engines can use to index your site.
- Local, Local, Local ?Search engines have recently begun to focus more of their attention on their local search directories. As noted earlier, Local Search is growing exponentially, and so is your need to be sure the search engines know the location of your practice, and the community to which it caters.
Whoever markets your website should be adding it to the local search engine maps and directories. Our company had, until recently, used a list of local web directories we compiled over the past years to be sure our Clients’ sites were listed locally. We have now discarded that list as we found a resource that is constantly updating its listing of local directories.
Here it is:http://www.locallytype.com/pages/submit.htm#localsearchenginesus
Google also recently announced its commitment to helping consumers locate and compare local services of all kinds.
Here is an excerpt:
Find and compare local businesses
Many people come to Google.com to navigate the web, but are you aware that you can use it to navigate the real world as well? Over the past few months, we’ve been hard at work making it easier to find and compare local businesses and services right from the standard web results page.
Here’s what we’ve come up with:
From now on, you’ll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.
What it means for you is, if you are not listed in their local business directory, you may not receive a prominent placement at the top of Google’s search results.
To test it out, type your city, state, and service in Google and you’ll see the map. The businesses that are in this local list are the sudden recipients of a huge gift from Google – qualified and desirable traffic to their site.
A recent article in Clickz.com cited a keynote address by the Internet media and marketing, managing director for Piper Jaffrey who had some interesting points, among these that local search was second only to e-mail in importance on the web. He continued that satellite mapping will become an integral part of local search marketing.
Two Down, One To Go ?While a good looking website and even high traffic are necessary, alone they still cannot guarantee success. The next key link in the success chain is what happens once the patient finds your website, and that is the topic of our next Article.
Whatever your preferences, know what constitutes reasonable expectations, not only from your finished* product, but also from the process.
*In reality, your website should be viewed as a living and evolving instrument in a number of respects.
To help ensure error-free implementation, someone must take responsibility for coordinating all tasks and resources. Be careful about “promoting” say, your schedule coordinator to the role of website coordinator. If you do choose to manage the process internally, be certain the person to whom you assign this important responsibility is competent, and has the time and resources to take on the challenge.
Confidence and Competence
It is reasonable to expect that whomever you retain to design your website demonstrates competency so your site is delivered on time, on budget, and as specified. This means your designer will ideally have experience in the dental field, or at least be able to show you sites he has created for other clients, which possess the aesthetics and function you require.
In general, the firm you retain will listen as much as they talk about your website design because, only by listening will they truly ‘get,’ so they can deliver, the appearance and function you desire.
Look ‘n Feel
In choosing your website’s content and layout, imagine your website from the perspective of all who might view it: your current and prospective patients, your team, the media, and yourself.
Most practices are primarily concerned with how their site is perceived by current and prospective patients. If you want your website to be used by patients of record to: ask questions, request appointments, learn more about proposed treatment, receive appointment confirmations, take surveys, offer suggestions, complete paperwork, etc. be sure the firm is experienced with handling such ‘back-end’ functions. Most websites lack a means for capturing contact information on prospective patients, and an automated means for communicating with them during the ‘gestation period’ when they metamorphose from ‘tire kicker’ to ‘trigger puller.’ As most first-time website visitors fall into the former category, this is an important success component that should not be overlooked.
General Design Considerations
Secure your domain name Careful consideration should be given to naming your site. If you have already established a strong practice brand, the name of your website will closely match your practice name. If you select a URL matching your personal name, remember that, when it comes time to sell the practice, your successor may not value it as highly as you do. Be sure to consult an attorney, or perform a comprehensive name search, to confirm you have the legal right to use your chosen name.
In structuring the layout of your site consider not only the format of your home page, but also any ?‘landing pages.’ You’ll want a landing page for each of your services as well as a(n):
•Meet the Dentist(s) Page ?
•Meet The Team Page ?
•Photo Gallery ?
•Schedule an Appointment Page ?
•Unique telephone number so you can track and calculate the return on your website? marketing investment ?
•Form visitors may complete to receive a report on a topic of interest and relevance to? them ?
•Automated direct response communications campaign (more on this in an upcoming? article)?
•Easy to use CMS (content management system)?
•Cost-effective hosting solution, report system, and reliable technical support
Who should build your website?
Look for a firm that:
- Specializes in the Dental field
- Guarantees delivery within a reasonable timeframe, although you must be an equal partner in? this process.
- Is able and willing to test your existing design for efficacy.
- Offers robust, but user-friendly, reporting
- Will assist with selecting and securing an appropriate name for your website
If you get the sense the firm’s representative is reading from a canned script, you may expect to be treated as a commodity, which probably is not what you want. In general, trust your gut.
Pay Now or Pay Later
We usually get what we pay for. In choosing who should build your web presence, be wary of the ‘free lunch.’ This can happen when the practice chooses to have a friend, relative, student, or someone else perform the project ‘for free,’ at a greatly reduced rate, or ‘on trade.’ Human nature being what it is, the person who agrees to these ‘terms’ will prioritize accordingly. More than one practice has been dismayed to learn the ‘deal’ they made resulted in inordinate delay, an inferior delivered product, or both.
The Post-Purchase Experience
Rest assured that, once your website goes live, you will want to make changes to it. You might even experience ‘technical difficulties’ from time to time. It can be a frustrating experience not to have these concerns and requests addressed to your satisfaction, or within the promised time frame, so ask for references and specifically ask what their experience has been with post-purchase service. ??Caveat Emptor?Tim Healy of TNT Dental warns “If you haven’t received correspondence from companies with names like Liberty Names of America or Domain Registry of America, you probably will. Don’t let the “domain name expiration notice” fool you. Although the expiration date of your domain name may be real, it is NOT a real invoice. The document looks official, and leads many intelligent individuals to send a check for domain name renewal.” This is a form of “slamming,” which changes your service to another company without you realizing what you have done. Sending a check to such companies constitutes legal “permission” for them to change your service.
To protect yourself from having your domain slammed, “Know who your registrar is, and if you’re not sure, visit www.whois.sc, type in your domain name, and the name of your registrar will appear.
Check it out (and off)
Here’s a checklist to evaluate your site’s performance, and to help judge when your new website is ‘ready for prime time’:
- Navigation bar at top makes pages accessible and easy to find
- Site Layout is organized in a familiar pattern with important section at top and left and main content in? center
- Professional and clean Look ‘n Feel
- Page Width not more than 800px (max printable width)
- Contact Information is ‘above the fold’ for quick viewing and access ?•Quick load time e.g. not too much use of Flash and other animation, which is also a distraction to visitors
- Interactive features e.g newsletter sign up, free consultation, etc. allows practice to efficiently build? prospective patient contact list
- Free offer for visitor to further encourage completion of a Form
- Means to capture site visitor contact information
- Follow-up aka drip marketing system to communicate with registered site visitors
- Site ranks in top results in Google for city and ‘dentist’ demonstrating ‘relevance.’ Goal is to rank in top 3? results as these listings receive over 80% of clicks.
- City name is included in the title bar
- Site meta information included (such as keywords and description) to assist with search engine? marketing
- Important words should be in text, not graphical images, which search engines cannot understand.
- Pay-Per-Click (PPC) program in place, at least until the site is optimized for ‘organic results’, and uses? ‘best practices’ i.e. are managed by a firm certified to manage the program offered by that ? search engine.
- Links for specific services send visitor to specific landing pages where the visitor quickly finds what they? are looking for
- Analytics are easy to access and interpret
Fortunately, and unlike, say, printing, where one has either to pay to redo or ‘live with’ errors, websites, are quite forgiving. This means that, should you change your mind, most changes to your site are easily made. It also means your site does not need to be ‘perfect’ to launch. Applying the same care and attention to detail that you use in planning and delivering treatment will serve you in this process as well.
The next Article will focus on website marketing, that is, attracting qualified visitors to your website.
Daniel Bobrow, MBA, is president of the American Dental Marketing Company, a dentistry marketing and patient communications consultancy. He is also Executive Director of Dentists’ Climb for a Cause™. Readers interested in learning more about integrated marketing and patient communication products, systems and services are invited to contact Mr. Bobrow at 312-455-9488 or DBobrow@AmericanDentalMarketing.com or visit AmericanDentalMarketing.com.