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A Passing Fad or a Practice Must-Have?

Why Dentists Must Embrace the Power of the Web

While local phone books are still delivered door-to-door, spending dollars from a marketing budget to place a costly ad may not be as effective for dentists today as it once was.  Consumers now rely on instant Internet access via their personal computers and smart phones to locate everything from local restaurants to hair salons and plumbers, whenever and wherever.

For the dental professional, it has become increasingly important to embrace these emerging online trends in order to capture the attention of local patients who are benefiting from the expediency and expansiveness of the Internet. Phone books may not be diminishing completely, but there are significant advantages to shifting focus from traditional print advertising to online marketing.  Starting with a professional website, dentists can leverage existing and emerging online opportunities to attract new patients through the most powerful marketing medium available.

 

Building the Foundation

Like building a house, creating a strong online presence requires the creation of a strong foundation. A website should function as the base of a practice’sInternet strategy, the core from which all other marketing initiatives and communications extend.  Working with an experienced website and online marketing professional, dentists can create a truly customized website that works for their practices 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to engage existing patients, increase treatment awareness, and generate new patient appointments.  A professional practice website should include:

  • Attractive, customizable designs
  • Engaging, patient-friendly webpage content
  • Patient education library and animations
  • Downloadable patient forms
  • Online appointment requesting
  • Mobile-compatible webpages
  • Easy, self-editing capabilities

Often times the first impression a patient has of a dentist and a critical influencer of whether he or she contacts the office, a website is a practice’s storefront to online users. A great-looking website with the right words and tools can positively affect a potential patient’s perception of your practice.

 

Reaching Your Target Market

Search marketing campaigns, such as search engine optimization (SEO) and pay per click (PPC) advertising, are important strategies that help dentists achieve prominentwebsite placement in the search engine search results and, ultimately, more clicks from patients who are actively searching for such services.  A potential patient may glance only once at a dentist’s ad in the phone book, but with a strong SEO strategy, a dentist’s site can gain long-term exposure and continuously appear front and center on a prospect’s screen every time a search for dentist is performed in the dentist’s local area. Additionally, dentists don’t have to wait weeks to see a significant boost in appointments.  With a PPC campaign, dentists can experience real-time results and instant conversion ability.

(Continued from page 1 )

A considerable advantage of online marketing compared to traditional print marketing is its ability to measure results in real-time. It can be difficult to assess the direct sales impact from a print ad, but with search marketing dentists can easily track the effectiveness of campaigns and concentrate efforts on the ones providing the highest return on investment through simple analytics and performance tracking.

 

Managing Your Reputation

Dentists don’t have to have a website in order for a disgruntled patient to review their practices on the Web.  That’s why it’s important for dentists to take responsibility for their online reputation, starting with a website that is optimized for first page Google ranking.  This ensures that a prospective patient’s first impression about the practice is coming straight from the dentist, not a review site such as Yelp, Insider's Pages, Angie's List, or Merchant Circle, where a few negative patient comments can influence the potential patient’s decision to visit the practice down the street.

The first step to an improved online image is building a website optimized for search, followed by submission of practice information to top local directories and a strategy to generate positive online reviews from a dentist’s most loyal patient base.  A dental website and online marketing provider can help launch and implement a natural reviews process that encourages patients to review their dentists online. Acquire 5 or 10 reviews each month and over the course of a year, a dentist will have garnered enough positive reviews to negate any harmful reviews that will undoubtedly appear from time to time. Bottom line: Website or not, potential patients can find information about a practice online and existing patients canshare their experiences (good or bad) on review sites. It’s the dentist’s responsibility to create and shape the practice’s image online by taking hold of its own online presence.

 

Growing Your Referrals

There are currently 500 million Facebook users, and that number doesn’t include those using Twitter, YouTube, and blogs to connect and share information with other online users.  With so many people and businesses plugging into social networks, dentists too should consider incorporating a social media strategy into their existing marketing plan.  This subject is beyond the scope of this Article, however, and will be covered in a forthcoming presentation devoted specifically to social media.

 

A Few Points to Consider

Consider the following when evaluating your Internet strategy for practice growth and development:

  • In what ways has the Internet already influenced your professional growth and development?
  • How do you see the Internet influencing your profession in the next 5 years? 10 years?
  • How frequently, if at all, do you personally engage on social media sites? How do you see social networking impacting dentists now and in the future?
  • Have you considered ways to protect and enhance the reputation of your practice? In your opinion, how significant of a role does the Internet play in a practice’s image?

 

Summary

The Internet has made it possible for dentists to promote their services in a manner that is “always on,” meaning a dentist’s information can be available to patients at the exact moment they are looking for it.  Many challenges faced by dentists today can be solved through a comprehensive website and Internet strategy. Apart from word-of-mouth and leveraging personal relationships with existing patients, a website is the most important marketing tool a practice can have. A professional website integrated with a targeted search marketing campaign, a solution to monitor and encourage patient reviews, and an engaging social media strategy is essential to showing people exactly how a practice is distinctive―and how it can offer the best value to patients.

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