6 Questions Every Dentist Should Ask Their Digital Agency, According to a Skeptical Doctor at the SSC Symposium
I attended the 2022 Seattle Study Club Symposium last week, where one of the organization’s esteemed dental practitioners addressed the crowd and called me out as a jerk.
Ok, he did not literally call me a jerk, but sitting in the back of the room as he presented last week, I felt the glare of others who I know were thinking it. Dr. Brian Baliwas, DDS, did not pull any punches about some digital agencies’ shenanigans, which range from overcharging to being worthless to their clients.
As the leader of a digital agency that specializes in targeted marketing for the dental industry, I’m acutely aware that some agencies, especially ones that focus on google search rankings, have earned a reputation for being scoundrels. This has bred skepticism within the industry. Dr. Baliwas addressed this head on, suggesting that dentists ask their agencies, or potential agencies, six key questions:
- How many other practices in my area use the same service?
- How much am I paying for my website?
- How often is it being updated?
- Is it being seen, and which pages are being seen?
- Am I paying for SEO, and if so, what results am I getting?
- Who owns the website and the content within it?
After the presentation, I told him these are excellent questions, and here’s why:
How many other practices in my area use the same service?
The answer you’re looking for is “none!” While you want an agency with proven experience in dentistry (it’s a unique business with specific digital challenges), their goal should be to get you the most new patients possible, in part by ensuring that you rank at or near the top of search engine results. How can they represent both Ernie, DDS, and Bert, DDS, who is located just around the corner, and do that? They can’t.
How much am I paying for my website?
More specifically, are you paying for the design and build of a website (a one-time charge that can be split over many months and seem to be recurring) or the ongoing hosting and maintenance of that site? The latter can sound like fluff, until your site goes down or is hacked. Then suddenly the price of uptime, security, speed, backups, redundancy, and data protection matter—a lot. So, you should pay for hosting and maintenance services, but it should not cost more than $200 per month.
How often is it being updated?
Having fresh, original content on your site is imperative for google rankings, so your agency should have a solid answer to this question. Monthly is a good answer. Weekly is great, but it is also expensive. Daily is unrealistic—your website is not social media. If their answer is annually or never, cancel immediately.
Is it being seen, and which pages are being seen?
This is super easy to answer since the data already resides in Google Analytics. The really revealing responses come from follow-up questions, like “Is traffic increasing?” and “Are site conversions increasing?” I could write about that for days…oh wait, I have!
Am I paying for SEO, and if so, what results am I getting?
This is the best question on this list, and the answer should be a resounding “yes!” SEO is a must if you want folks to find your site. There is a “silver bullet,” but it takes a long time (hint: if you want instant leads, pay for ads). SEO requires heavy lifting when done right, so agencies should charge accordingly. However, this is where they can most easily pull the wool over your eyes. While effective SEO requires tedious work, it is not rocket science. Your agency should take the time to show you what they’re doing and how it’s working. The answer should bore you.
Who owns the website and the content within it?
This is an excellent, yet often overlooked, question. Make sure that:
- Your site is designed in a common content management system (CMS), like WordPress—not an agency’s homegrown system or corner-of-the-internet CMS.
- You own the address/URL, (for example, cotefamilydentistry.com).
- There is written agreement stating that the site is yours, even when your relationship with the agency ends.
Bonus question: What measurement tool do you use for your reports?
Finally, Dr. Baliwas did not include this question, but I will. Make sure the reports generated by your agency are not custom built. A custom report can be misleading; it might accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Get your reports directly from Google Analytics. It’s free and the best tool out there.
When you ask the right questions, and you know how to weigh the answers, you empower your dental practice and help us build a culture of transparency within our industry. Turn your skepticism into a tool that works for you. Let’s change reputations, one relationship at a time.
Ernie Cote, Bullseye Media CEO
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