According to a study by the Local Search Association, 51% of patients use search engines to find a new dentist. This means that if your practice is not visible in local search results, you are missing out on a valuable source of new patients.
With this in mind, let’s look at what Google, the leading search engine, evaluates in order to determine which dental practices to show in local search results.
Consistency is important to Google. Whether you have one or several locations for your practice, you need to ensure that you use one standard name, address and phone number for each of those locations. For example, if this is the information you offer on your website for your practice.
Great Smiles Dentistry
123 East Laney Dr.
Richardson, TX 75014
Then that exact address and phone number needs to be used on every other presence you have online. You can’t use the above information on your website, then create a Yelp listing with 123 E. Laney Drive and a CitySearch listing with 123 East Laney Drive.
In other words, you want everything to match consistently everywhere you are online. This includes the following places.
There is no substitute for having a website (yourpractice.com) for your practice. Your Facebook page, Yelp listing, and your Google+ listing are important, but they should not be in lieu of having your own website.
Your website is the one presence you have online that is fully under your control. You can share as much information as you want about your practice. You can display the testimonials from patients that you’ve hand-picked. You can tell Google exactly who your practice serves and what procedures you offers through proper website optimization.
Most importantly, you never have to worry about your website’s design suddenly changing or closing down with little notice. And, unlike social media and review websites, you never have to worry about anyone saying anything on your website that you do not want to be there.
Your local listings
After your website, your local listings are the next online properties for your practice that you should closely manage. While you do not have complete control over them and what is published on them, you do have the ability to ensure that they are presenting the right information about your practice.
Choosing the right local listings to focus on when you start marketing your practice is tough, mainly because there are so many different local directories to choose from.
First, you have the main local directories like Yelp, CitySearch, Yellow Pages, MerchantCircle, and many, many others. Then, there are the health-specific directories. And finally, you have the local directories.
That’s a lot of listings to claim and manage. This is why you need to make sure that before you begin the process, you have a consistent name, address, and phone number that you plan to use across all of them. If you vary your information, you could end up with duplicate listings that confuse Google and your patients.
And, managing these local listings isn’t a one-and-done task. Many of these directories will pull data from various sources and create new listings for your practice on a regular basis. If one of those newly created listings has inaccurate information, that information can be used by other directories to override your listing data. So, you want to check regularly to ensure your information is accurate.
Your social profiles
Once you have your website and your local listings under control, you have your social profiles to contend with. Some, like Facebook and Google+ act as a local listing and a place for your patients to come and engage with you.
Others, like Twitter, are for engagement only as they do not have a local network built into their platform. Then, you also have Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and a plethora of other social media networks vying for attention.
In the case of social networks for dental practices, the best idea is to start with the main two – Facebook and Google+, then expand to others if you have the time and/or resources to commit to managing them.
Last, but not least, are your reviews. In their 2015 annual survey of consumer behavior, BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers read online reviews when searching for a local business. The survey also found that star rating was the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business, and only 13% of respondents said they would consider using a business that has less than a three star rating.
In terms of importance, letting patients know they can review your practice on your Google+ page, Yelp listing, and/or Facebook is a good start. These are networks your patients are more likely to be familiar with. Google+ and Yelp reviews will help you on those specific networks and in search results, whereas Facebook reviews will help you make an impression with your Facebook fans as well as prospective patients who search for you by practice name and end up on your Facebook page.
A great way to encourage more reviews from satisfied patients is to give them a card at the end of their visit that sends them to a custom reviews page. This allows you to have more control over where the reviews end up online and the page can also have a built in process for reducing the risk of a negative review going public. We have been using this approach with our clients for the past few years, we call it the Patient Review Funnel System and it is very effective.
What to do next
When it comes to managing your practice’s online presence, there are a lot of channels that must be properly managed to ensure your success.
The first step is to click here to request your complimentary Marketing X-ray Analysis so you’ll know where you stand in relation to other practices in your area and the actions required to maximize your online presence.