Maintaining a positive online presence is becoming more significant every day. Even those who were directly referred to your practice by an existing patient will likely look at your business online before deciding to make an appointment.
Sixty percent of consumers conduct online research before going to a business’ website to weigh a purchase decision. Even if you have a new top-of-the-line site, people may never make it there if they don’t like what they see on popular review sites. Consumers don’t know you, so all they have to go by is what they find online.
If you don’t have an online presence or are questioning how strong it is, there are many simple steps you can take to begin creating a more favorable digital reputation for your practice.
The practice website — have one
I’ve spoken with recent dental school graduates who shared some interesting thoughts about websites being antiquated. They believe they can attract new business digitally using social media sites only. While I love their forward thinking and I agree that this may be the future of digital marketing, I don’t believe we are there yet. Google’s SEO — search engine optimization — algorithm weighs heavily on the presence of a well-made and current mobile-friendly website. (SEO is how favorably Google ranks your business compared to others.) Research shows that the majority of consumers don’t make it past the first page of search results.
… and make it mobile-friendly
If you’ve ever visited a website on your mobile device and found that it doesn’t read or perform well, you probably noticed it immediately. You probably also closed it immediately and clicked on the next search result due to the distorted text and photos, lack of responsiveness and the need to scroll around to find the information you’re looking for.
Google has a helpful tool called the Mobile-Friendly Test that can quickly and accurately tell you if your site performs well on mobile devices. Simply copy and paste your practice’s website URL into the provided search bar.
If the test comes back negative, reach out to your website provider to discuss. If your site is not mobile-friendly according to Google’s algorithm, it’s likely hurting your SEO and your consumers’ experience. Google currently owns 80 percent of all searches, so their search algorithm is the one you need to follow. It’s also helpful to know that of all Google searches, 60 percent are conducted on mobile devices and 50 percent of those mobile searches relate to health care.
Social media — ownership and engagement are key
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media; the choice is how well we do it.”
– Erik Qualman
Fifty percent of the world’s population is under 30 years old, and 90 percent of people ages 18-24 will trust health care information found on social media sites. According to additional numbers cited by author and speaker Erik Qualman, social media influences 93 percent of buying decisions.
Ready to start taking social media seriously?
First, claim your pages. You have the ability to claim all of your accounts, from Google and Yelp to Facebook and Instagram, to ensure they show the correct physical address, phone number, website address, hours and, in some cases, pictures. Some members have told me, “I don’t want to do Yelp.” Again, as a small-business owner it’s not always a choice you get to make, for if you don’t create and claim your page, a random person may “do it for you.” Claim your Yelp page or claim your business listing on Google.
Next, get some positive reviews. This can take time, especially if you are not actively soliciting reviews. The more, the better, as Google’s algorithms favor numerous positive reviews on multiple platforms.
Here’s a quick test you can try: Google “dentists in my area.” Do the top results have several good reviews? Of course they do! Think about building your review sites like you would approach the stock market — you’re not going to get rich and famous overnight. One review can lead to a couple more reviews, which reach more people who leave their own reviews, which keeps pushing your practice up the SEO ladder.
Third, get involved. It’s not enough just to have a Facebook business page or Instagram account. Be active on them: Post pictures of yourself and your staff or family. Someone may not even be looking for a dentist but if they see that a friend of theirs likes a funny video their dentist made and posted, they might think, “That place looks fun! I’m going to give them a try.” You can also post practice-specific details such as promotional offers or new technology you’ve added. Create a presence, engage, promote and listen, as active pages help with SEO. However, although we live in an age of information sharing and discovery, concerns about privacy and potential misuse of users’ data are valid, and you should only post what you are comfortable sharing online, be mindful of who your online audience is and adjust your privacy settings accordingly.
Several premium or pay-for options are also available for social media sites. You can place ads (or have them removed), “boost” posts to reach a larger audience and advertise on your competition’s pages. Be sure to work with an experienced marketing professional before deciding to conduct a digital campaign.
All of these networks work together to support SEO strength. If you invest in something, you want to be sure that it makes sense for your practice and your community.
This column appeared in the August issue of the CDA Update and was authored by Lee Bentz, practice analyst at CDA Practice Support.