Everyone seems to have finally realised the value of having a website to promote their practice, but have you assessed your website in terms of its effectiveness? What contribution is it making to your practice and how could it be improved?
Investing in your website to make it as effective as possible could be the difference between having a website like everyone else that acts as a billboard for your practice and having a website that truly helps build and grow your business and patient base.
Everything must begin with a clear strategy. What are your business objectives? Do you have a clear overall marketing strategy? How do you differentiate yourselves from your competitors? Where does your website fit in with the rest of your marketing communications? If you have thought through the answers to these questions, the brief for your website will be focused, clear and in line with your business objectives.
• Who is the website aimed at? It should be all about your patients’/prospective patients’/referring GDPs’ needs and wants and not about what you want.
• What is the purpose of the website, both overall and on each page? What do you want patients/dentists to do (call you, email you, sign up to your newsletter)? Ideally you should have a clear goal for each page of your website and a call to action.
• Why should people sign up? Your patients/referring dentists will be asking, ‘what’s in it for me?’ For example, don’t just put ‘Sign up to our newsletter’ – give them a reason to leave their details, such as ‘for tips on oral health and latest offers sign up to our newsletter’.
• How will you measure success? Set yourself realistic targets in terms of visitors, enquiries and so forth. And remember, quality over quantity. Don’t be fooled by promises of thousands of ‘hits’ to your website. The most important metric will be the number of enquiries and subsequent conversions that you get – actual paying patients/referrals that come through your practice door.
Do: Take advice from a professional marketing company/website developer – a reputable company will have your best interests at heart and will challenge you to ensure that your website not only meets your practice and patient needs but also conforms to statutory requirements.
Do: Ensure you cater for mobile users and tablet users – you have to, it’s a rapidly growing market. Monitor the analytics for your site and, if the proportion of visitors accessing via a mobile device is high, you may want to consider building a separate mobile specific version of your site. At the very least, ensure your site works on mobile devices.
Do: Write the copy/content for patients not for search engines – if you achieve this, search engines will naturally like your site anyway!
Do: Make your website personal to your practice – use bespoke practice photography, patient testimonials, team profiles and so forth – to ensure that you connect with your audience and really get across what your practice is about and what makes you different from the competition.
Do: Ensure your site is easy to navigate – do keep structure consistent throughout the site, left side and top navigation works best. Apple, Microsoft and others have spent big bucks investigating this so take their word for it, they know what they’re talking about!
Do: Simplify everything – website users are, by nature, impatient. Make sure that you are providing them with everything that they need quickly and that your site is intuitive to use.
Do: Be on brand – your website should showcase your marketing strategy, integrating with other communications and demonstrating your brand values.
Do: Make use of Google Analytics and adjust your site accordingly. In particular, keep an eye on how people are coming to your site (what search terms do they use) and what pages do they look at?
Do: Collect data – enable users to ‘opt in’ to marketing messages when they fill out forms.
Don’t: Do it yourself – yes, there are many DIY web packages out there but is a homemade website really the right impression to give? Remember patients cannot judge the quality of your dentistry so they will make judgements on the things that they can see/feel/touch, like your website.
Don’t: Expect visitors – lose the ‘if you build it, they will come’ mentality. Just because your website is there, people are not going to magically visit your site unless you actively get them to.
Don’t: Add a blog just for the sake of it – are you really going to write regular, meaningful blog posts? A website with an out-dated blog can create the wrong impression and may make people think that you are not on top of things and don’t care – not the way to impress a prospective patient.
Don’t: Hastily add Twitter and Facebook buttons – you need to ensure that you have a social media strategy in place. It could well be, for example, that Twitter isn’t right for you. First build up your social presence, then commit to posting and engaging your fans on a regular basis. Then, and only then, promote them on your website.
Don’t: Feel like you have to try and promote everything you do in one place – take the ‘less is more’ approach and ensure that patients can obtain information quickly and easily. Have a separate section on the site for dentists including details on how they can refer and ideally a referral form.
Don’t: Overuse flash/animation/music – these can slow down load time, annoy visitors and get penalised by Google. The last thing you want is for a potential patient to be unable to open your site and then go to your nearest competitor practice instead.
Don’t: Frighten patients! As dentists we know you love gruesome treatment images but save these for your dental peers. Use simple full-head before and after shots (no retractors). Think in terms of aspiration and selling the end benefit of a confident smile rather than the process it takes to get there.
Don’t: Don’t try to fool Google – you won’t win and your site could be completely struck off.
Don’t: Expect a killer website overnight – good websites take time to build. If you want the best results from your site, be prepared for several months of work.
Don’t: Forget about your website – ensure that you constantly review your website and keep it up-to date.
Zoe Davitt BA DipCAM (MComms) is managing director at Blue Horizons Marketing and has been working within the dental sector for over nine years. A regular contributor to dental and aesthetic trade publications, she has a diploma in marketing communications and is an active member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM).