Why Most Dental Web Sites Fail

To convert Internet users into patients, you need more than just a Web site. Most dental practices derive relatively little business from their Web sites. The reasons for this are numerous and varied, but essentially boil down to 3 areas: the Web site itself, flaws in the practice marketing strategy, and lack of the mechanisms necessary to convert consumers once they visit the Web site. The good news is that a few simple tweaks can make a big difference.

Your Web Site: Play to the Audience

Illustration by Brian Green

Everything starts with your Web site. Without a good Web site, all of your Internet marketing efforts will be for naught. A successful Web site comprises many components, including image, content, contact in-formation, and other calls to action. Content is generally considered the most important of these elements. While aesthetic appeal is perhaps the most crucial element to capture prospective patients’ attention, written content is the most important for keeping them at the site. Only written content can articulate the message and philosophy of a dental practice. (Note: This applies to Web sites that rely on text to tell the dentist’s story. Video Web sites use imagery to accomplish the same task. For more information, contact Einstein Dental.)
Poorly targeted content is often the reason Internet users leave a Web site. Many dentists focus far too much on their own biography and credentials, which are important for establishing credibility but should not be the focus of the Web site content. Our internal statistics at Einstein Dental show that the “About the Dentist” page is typically the sixth or seventh most-visited page on the Web site.
The most successful dental Web sites are those that cater to what dental consumers are looking for: information on dental procedures. With all the erroneous information available on the Internet these days, consumers have learned not to trust just any Web site to provide healthcare information. Countless studies have shown that a majority of Internet users prefer to read healthcare-related material supplied by the Web sites of physicians and dentists. (These days, this includes information in video format, which will be discussed later in this article.) This actually works to your benefit, as long as the content and video you provide is what consumers are looking for. Pro-cedural information can alienate Web site visitors if it is written or portrayed in the wrong tone. Remember that the purpose of your Web site is to attract potential patients, not other dentists, so make sure to cater to your audience.

BEING FOUND

You could hire the world’s top Web developer to design your Web site, but it will do you no good unless dental consumers can find it. Unfortunately, the average Web site designer knows nothing about how to promote a dental Web site. As a result, too many dental Web sites float around cyberspace and are never found. If your Web site falls into this category (is it bringing you much business?), then start by teaming up with as many well-placed, reputable Internet directories as possible.
To gain real visibility, however, the best course of action is to work with a Web development firm that specializes in your industry and understands the needs of your target consumers. Many dentists have succumbed to the urge to take shortcuts or cut costs by purchasing discount services. Some even hire friends who dabble in Web design to create their Web site and handle their Internet marketing. This is a big mistake. Right or wrong, Internet users looking for dental information judge the dentists they find online based on their initial impression of their Web sites. If you expect to achieve the standard necessary to attract these consumers, then you need to hire a professional.
To succeed in today’s Internet marketplace, the firm you hire needs to provide a multipronged strategy that includes not only a Web site and directory listings, but also optimized written content and video.

SEO FOR WRITTEN CONTENT… AND VIDEO!

Without a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, your practice is missing out on some of your most targeted Internet users—those searching the Internet for information about the dental procedures your practice offers. With the recent explosion in video popularity—not to mention the launch of Google’s Universal Results, which include video—SEO is now just as important for attracting those people who are searching for video. While directory listings target relevant Internet traffic deriving from “root term” searches such as “cosmetic dentistry” or “porcelain veneers,” SEO hones in on people who type in search terms that are more specific (eg, “Dallas cosmetic dentistry” or “New York porcelain veneers”). Without SEO, you miss the opportunity to reach these people, even if you have a dental directory listing.
Words added to a search term to make it more specific—such as “Dallas” in the example above—are known as qualifiers. Search-es with qualifiers (specific searches) generate less traffic overall, since less consumers use these terms, but the traffic is more targeted. Although the only way you can realistically expect to attract traffic from local consumers using key root terms is by purchasing a listing in a good dental Internet directory, traffic from specific search terms can certainly be captured through a good personalized SEO strategy.

Three Searches to Target

What specific searches do you need to attract? This question can be answered very easily by asking yourself what types of Internet users you want to attract to your practice. Consumers who conduct searches that are more applicable to your practice are clearly more apt to be-come patients in the long run. For instance, let’s say a cosmetic dentist in Florida is trying to get more patients interested in veneers to come to his or her Web site. Obviously consumers who type in “Florida veneers” are much more likely to become patients than are consumers who type in “California ve-neers” or simply “veneers.” Therefore, the dentist from the Sunshine State would want his or her SEO firm to concentrate on locating people typing in “Florida veneers.”
Again, the object of SEO is to direct to your Web site consumers who use specific search strings that are applicable to your practice. Your SEO firm should focus on 3 kinds of searches pertaining to the practice: dentist name, practice name, and procedure + locality (eg, teeth whitening Los Angeles). By concentrating on these areas, a practice spends its money targeting the people who will actually end up in the practice, rather than people clear across the country.
It is important to make sure that your SEO firm targets searches covering all of the possible combinations for the dentist’s name. For example, Bob Smith, DDS, might want to have all of the following name combinations targeted: Robert Smith; Bob Smith; Robert Smith, DDS; Bob Smith, DDS, and so forth. If the dentist’s name has a middle initial, then the SEO firm should be sure to target this search possibility as well.
The same concept applies for the second type of search that needs to be targeted: the practice name. Your SEO firm should target all of the specific searches that a consumer might use in trying to locate a given dental practice. For a practice with the name Cosmetic Dentistry Center of Houston, the firm should be sure to capture traffic for search terms such as “Houston Dental Center.”
Last but not least, your practice needs to find people using searches that include a procedure name and locality. In the case of the fictitious cosmetic dentistry practice mentioned above, for example, the patient might have typed in “Houston veneers” or “Houston teeth whitening.”

CONVERTING WEB SITE VISITORS

By getting people to visit your Web site, you’ve already done better than most dentists. But this doesn’t help your bottom line unless you can convert the visitors into patients. The key is to create enough interest that visitors remain at your site long enough to want to contact you, and this is no easy task.
You can do several things to increase the odds of this happening. First, to keep visitors on your Web site long enough to convert them, it is imperative that your Web site provide not only interesting written content but also video. Interactive Web sites that include features such as video testimonials are literally taking over the search results. As reality TV has shown, people love to hear real life stories from other people. The Internet is another visual medium that is quickly adapting to this reality. A dental practice that acts now and creates a solid video Web site has a chance to attract a significant number of potential patients.
In the process of creating your video Web site, make it easy for visitors to contact you by placing your phone number and an e-mail contact form in an easily accessible location on every page. Once a visitor contacts you, you need to convert that contact into an appointment. The key at this stage is training your office staff to sell your practice in a way that makes people want to schedule an appointment. A great tool for this purpose is Call Archiving, which allows you to record and analyze calls for future use in training. You will be surprised at what you find by recording your calls. For example, many dentists don’t realize how much time patients spend on hold. The road that begins when a consumer uses a search term that leads him or her to your Web site can end just as that potential patient is about to make an appointment if your staff isn’t trained to convert.
Such issues can be resolved easier than you might think, and the reward for doing so can be substantial. Currently, there are dental practices receiving more than $100,000 dollars a year in new business. By hiring an experienced Web developer and making the necessary tweaks to your current strategy, you could be the next.


Mr. Silkey is the founder, CEO, and president of Einstein Dental, which provides Internet development to dentists and physicians. For more information, or to order any of Einstein’s Internet-related white papers, call (800) 572-3243 or visit einsteindental.com.