In dental school, you spent countless hours studying and practicing the skills it takes to provide excellent care for your future patient’s teeth, mouth and gums. And if you’re a specialist, like an oral surgeon, periodontist or orthodontist, you spent even more time becoming an expert in your chosen dental specialty. Maybe you took a few business courses or even a generic marketing course as an undergraduate. And more than likely, you studied concepts that are (unfortunately) becoming more and more irrelevant to the rapidly changing marketing environment and the way it influences how people buy goods and services (including how they find and choose a dentist.)
Most dentists know that when they graduate from dental school and decide to open their first practice they need to choose a location, logo, dental equipment and hire a staff they can trust. Most dentists also know that they should have a website that lists their services, specialties and will represent their new practice well.
But, the one thing that many dentists may not think about is making sure that when potential patients are searching or a dentist in their area, they find them. How are folks doing that today?
They are searching online and choosing a dentist based on where they show up in a Google search. Here are the stats:
- 89% of consumers use a search engine (like Google, Yahoo or Bing) for purchase decisions. This includes which dentist they want to book an appointment with. (2013)
- 33% of people choose the first organic listing when they search for something in Google. 18% go to the second listing. (2013)
The bottom line? Your future patients are looking online to find what they need…and if you want them to book appointments with you, you better be there and be easily findable. We know, we know; enlisting online marketing services definitely seems like “one more thing” to do in an already overwhelming to-do list and one more line item in your budget. But it’s important if you want to stand above your competition. Here are the top four things new dental practices should do first:
Build a Mobile-Friendly Website
It’s true. Your potential patients aren’t searching for a new family dentist in the phone book anymore. In fact, they’re not even really searching one their computers, either. Where are they searching? Their tablets and mobile smart phones. Don’t believe us? You should! Of the 30 billion searches that will be completed in the next year, 12 billion will be local searches. What does that mean? Many people searching for local information (like, which local dentist is nearest to their house) will be using their phones and searching “on the go.” This makes having a mobile site or mobile-friendly website absolutely imperative, especially for a new dental practice. Want to know why? 47% of people who can’t access a website from their phone quickly, easily and accurately won’t return again. They’ll move on to the next option faster than you can say “reload a webpage.”
We suggest that all dental websites be built using a responsive design. This means you have just one practice website to update and maintain, BUT it will show up beautifully on a desktop, tablet or smart phone.
Create Facebook, Twitter & Google+ Accounts
Social media is definitely an easy (and relatively inexpensive) way to show your future and current patients that your practice has a fun and playful side. But for a new dental practice, this doesn’t matter much, because you NEED actual patients before you can connect with them via social media. So, for the new dentist, social media plays a different, yet very important role. Here are two reasons how:
- Google is beginning to take social media signals much more seriously. What does that mean? Every time one of your posts or tweets gets a like, share, retweet or +1, Google takes note and tends to rank your site higher.
- Facebook’s new feature, Graph Search, is becoming an alternate method of search for some patients. With this feature, they can search for things like “dental offices my friends like” or “dental offices my friends have checked into” within the Facebook platform and the returned results are somewhat of a “pre-vetted” list of dentists that their friends recommend. We’re calling it the new word-of-mouth marketing and to be included, your practice has to have a Facebook page.
If you don’t have active, engaging social media profiles, your website rankings will most likely suffer and you’ll be missing out on the new ways that your potential patients can find you. We suggest new dental practices start with Google+, Facebook and Twitter and post once a day with a mix of 80% fun and 20% clinical content.
Make sure your Directory Listings are Accurate
If you think taking the time to make sure your website’s directory listing submissions are accurate, up-to-date and identical to each other is a tedious and pain-staking process…you’d be right. But, it’s worth it and oh so important. Here’s why: For local businesses, (dental practices included), Google puts high priority in finding accurate business category, name, address, phone and website information in as many places as it deems necessary to rank your website high in a local search for your services. If your practice isn’t listed in any of those directories or worse, is listed but with inaccurate information, your rankings will most definitely suffer. Here are a few of the most important directories for dentists:
- Google+ (yes this is a directory and social media network)
Protect your Brand (Online and Offline)
Congratulations! You’re brand new dental practice is up and running and you’re seeing new patients. All is well and you’re on the right track. Until…you receive a bad online review. Unfortunately, this happens to the best of dentists who do everything they can to provide excellent dental care and service for every, single patient. When folks feel wronged, they want to share it with the world, even if they really were or not.
With the immense power of good that the Internet has done for dental marketing, it also has the ability to put power into the hands of your patients who can (and often times do) vent their frustrations online for millions to see. So what should you do? Two words. Be proactive! You should protect the new brand you’ve built, not just defend it. Here’s how we suggest new dental practices can avoid a negative online review nightmare:
- Google yourself and your practice name starting the first day you open your doors. Always know what is being said about you online.
- Claim as many directory listings as possible.
- Create as much content as you can (like blog posts or new webpages).
- If you do get a negative review, address it immediately. Always take the high road.
- Consider enrolling in a proactive online reputation management program – one that will keep an eye on your online reputation 24/7.
Starting a new dental practice is an exciting venture; a once in a lifetime event that you should enjoy! Take the guesswork out of the online marketing elements by consulting with our experienced online dental marketing team today.