What is the purpose of your dental website? You may be surprised.
If your answer is “To tell people about my practice,” or, “To inform people about taking optimal care of their oral health,” you’re wrong (Well, from a marketing standpoint, you’re wrong). While these are both respectable and even common answers, they provide evidence as to why your website isn’t performing as well as it could.
It may come as a surprise, but the purpose of your website isn’t to educate patients on oral health—the ADA’s Mouth Healthy, Wikipedia, and loads of other websites sufficiently provide patient education. Furthermore, your website’s purpose is not to educate patients on the specifics of crown and bridge, other restorative procedures, or extensive explanations of clinical procedures. Potential patients are not visiting your website to read about or view video animations on how a crown is prepped. Most don’t care, and the ones who do care have probably found the information elsewhere on the internet.
From a marketing perspective, the purpose of your website is to compel potential patients to schedule an appointment.
It’s true that existing patients may refer to back to your website once or twice (looking for additional information). However, most of your website traffic is going to come from potential patients evaluating whether your practice is right for them, and most existing patients will just call your front desk if they have a concern/question.
The stone-cold bottom line is that there is only one reason why a potential patient visited your practice’s website: they want an answer to their question, “Why should I choose this dental practice?”
If what you just read makes sense, let’s look at some ways (not a comprehensive checklist) that can set your practice’s website apart from the competition and to compel patients to choose your practice.
Keep your dental website content focused and on point
It’s tough to decide what content to include and not include, right? Furthermore, isn’t it better to provide all of the information you can so you can address everything a potential patient might want to know? No.
As a recommendation, focus your content on getting patients in your chair—that means if they don’t absolutely need to know the information before making an appointment, consider leaving it off the website. Mind you, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but a guideline to use when you can’t decide whether to include content on your website.
Remember, people have limited attention spans, so avoid inundating them with a lot of content and a lot of navigation options is not ideal. Keep in mind also that a portion of your potential patients will view your website on a mobile device, which is not ideal for reading large blocks of text. You can send additional communications to patients via email, printed flyers in the office, or have a team member speak to them—the point is, you don’t have to load all that content on the website.
Note: If you write a dental blog, perform special procedures that patients need to know about, or even want to offer additional resources, you can still include that content on your website. Just remember, the more content you have on your site, the more difficult it will be for visitors to navigate and find what they want (and the easier it will be for them to get distracted from scheduling an appointment).
Avoid boring, sterile content
Put yourself in the shoes of potential patients looking at your website and ask yourself, “What does your website say and what feelings does it evoke, that are any different from other dentists?” If you can’t answer this question, your website isn’t effective in bringing in patients.
The following example was copied from a dental practice outside of the state. As you read it (through a patient’s eyes), ask yourself if it would compel you to choose this dental practice over another. Furthermore, do you think potential patients will even believe the content listed below?
Our Atmosphere—We like to combine a relaxed atmosphere with modern technology for our patients to receive the quality of dental care they deserve. At our practice, we will make you feel comfortable, secure, and cared for from the moment you walk in the door. We have the latest equipment at our state-of-the-art facility, so we are able to offer you the most advanced treatment options.
Our Team—We stay up-to-date on all the latest dental techniques and industry standards by undergoing a series of continuing education courses. To give you the best care, we give each patient personal, one-on-one attention to explain procedures, listen to concerns and answer questions.
Our Philosophy—We strive to provide lifetime care because oral health is integral to overall health. We want your smile to last a lifetime, so our philosophy is to provide care that will be in your best interest now and in the years to come.
The previous content example wasn’t engaging, persuasive, or even informative, was it? Contrast that with an example below that I wrote for a fictitious dentist and practice.
I extracted my first tooth when I was five years old—tying my loose tooth to a door handle, and then slamming the door closed. By the way, don’t do that (I have a much more painless way to extract teeth). Instead of immediately cashing in with the tooth fairy, I kept and studied that tooth for days. It fascinated me. So even as a child, I knew I wanted to grow up to be a dentist—to help people feel better about their oral health and themselves.
The state board that regulates dentistry requires that dentists take 72 hrs of continuing education every three years. I take over 100 hrs because I am genuinely passionate about being the best practitioner I can be, and that I want patients to get the very best care I can provide.
The second example will drive patients into dental chairs because it tells a story; it’s personable; and it shows passion. Most important, it feels genuine, doesn’t it? The first example looks like it was generated from the “website content generator, model TK421.”
Dentists, ditch the stock images on your site
Admittedly, these are easily accessible and inexpensive image options…but just don’t. Beyond making your website look like all other dental practices’ websites, but it hurts your practice’s credibility (especially when your visitors have seen the stock photos on other dental websites). No, your practice’s credibility isn’t taking a massive hit, but using images of smiling people (as if they were your patients) gives off an air of disingenuousness—of not being upfront with your website visitors (that isn’t your intent, but visitors may feel this way).
Invest in a photographer to visit for 2-3 hours and take photos of actual patients. Pay the photographer for her time; compensate patients with free whitening or something like that, and you’ll have patient photos you can use in your print/online marketing for years.
Note: make sure each patient you photograph signs a model release so they can’t “change their mind” after they’ve been photographed.
Speaking of photos, consider moving pics on your dental practice’s website
Custom photos from a professional photographer are a great start.
If you’re looking to up your game a little, consider incorporating video onto your website. Hubspot.com reports that 78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day. Wirebuzz.com reports that online viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it. Options range from DIY to hiring a production company. Whatever you decide, remember that your online visitors will equate the quality of the video…and for that matter, the quality of your website photos, website content, and website design, with the quality of your dentistry. This of course is both unfair and ridiculous, but it is how consumers think and shop. Bottom line: avoid relying that friends/family/patients are going to tell you that your website video, design, content, or photos are subpar. They won’t. Budgets are always tight, but it’s best to avoid skimping in these areas.
Your dental website’s written testimonials are hard too believe
In an age of Angie’s List, Yelp, and other online review websites, consumers are overly skeptical of a dental practice showcasing that a patient named A.K said, “Best office ever,” or that G.W. said, “The nicest dental team I’ve ever known. I was amazed!!!” Using a patient’s photo (make sure you have permission first) will help with believability. However, because you have to observe HIPAA patient name privacy regulations, and most website visitors recognize that the reviews can be completely fake, including written reviews on your website isn’t recommended.
Instead of written reviews, consider including/displaying Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and or other online website reviews your practice has received. Note, Google and Yelp are the two most popular, so maybe stick with one or both of them.
The first step in displaying Google or Yelp reviews on your website is to claim your account on these platforms (essentially, you are letting Google, Yelp, etc. know it’s your practice and not someone else’s). After you’ve claimed your account/listing, start encouraging (maybe even rewarding) your patients for writing a review about your practice online. Last, contact your website designer and let them know you want to display your Google or Yelp reviews on your website. They’ll be able to do this for you.
For an extra credibility punch, consider pairing the aforementioned approach with short (20-60 second) videos of your patients sharing what they love about your practice. These videos can be filmed professionally by a video production company, or they can be done by patients just using their own smartphone.
Be responsible for having a dental marketing responsive website
What is responsive web design? Wikipedia says that, “Responsive web design is an approach to web design that makes web pages render well on a variety of devices and window or screen sizes.
That’s important because in 2018, 52.2 percent of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile devices. If your website is difficult to navigate or view on a mobile device, you are going to lose out on potential patients. Whether you are building a new website, or you need to update your old one, reputable web designers who observe best practices can create a responsive website for you. Bottom line: don’t ignore mobile devices.
Websites are time-consuming, at times frustrating, and routinely in need of updating (content or technology). They are a pain. That said, not having an up-to-date presence online is not an option for younger dentists. Comparing dental practices online is firmly a part of the consumer decision-making process in this country. You either keep up with it, or you are left behind.