When the Internet was first becoming a viable option for marketing, it was a wild virtual place. No one really knew how best to use this new medium, and some of the things that were tried then would be considered outrageous compared to current best practices.
That’s because today there are standards, and those standards are enforced by the Internet’s “sheriff,” Google.
Google is still by far the most used search engine, with about two thirds of the market. The remaining third is divided among Bing, Yahoo, and a few other search providers. With that large a share, Google has the power to lay down the law for online search and to enforce its rules.
Practices that follow Google’s rules have a better chance of being seen online. Those that don’t follow these rules get penalized in search results with lower search engine results page (SERP) placement. And if your dental prospects don’t find you, they won’t choose you. It’s that simple.
Google’s rules, though, are anything but simple, and they change fairly frequently. Not only that, but the rules aren’t explicitly published and have to be inferred by those people whose business it is to figure out what Google likes.
Fairly recently, Google has begun emphasizing online content that it perceives to be authoritative, trustworthy, useful, and relevant to searchers’ queries. The company is now focused on the needs and wants of the people who use Google rather than on the companies or individuals who happen to have a website or a blog.
Communication with Potential Patients
That’s a game changer for a lot of dentists, because today most of your new patients will visit your website at least once before deciding to book an appointment.
My company works with more than 500 dentists to help them get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. I’ve seen a lot of dental websites. Far too many of those websites are written to impress other dentists rather than providing helpful, understandable answers to patients’ dental problems.
That statement may have you bristling, but let me explain. Patients don’t speak dental jargon. They understand “bite,” not “occlusion.” They think “filling” rather than “restoration.” They have sore, inflamed, or bleeding gums, not “plaque-induced gingivitis.” They use “root canal” rather than “endodontic procedure.” And those are just some of the most common examples.
Your website content has to speak to dental patients in their own language and at their level, not in the language of dentistry for dentists. Your website also has to provide useful answers, not platitudes. It has to give patients’ clear, understandable solutions for their problems. And, your website has to focus on the benefits of treating the problem as much as, if not more than, the problem itself.
How does your current website match up to those criteria?
On the Backend
Speaking of current, Google also prefers fresh, or at least updated, content. The underlying thinking here may be that the most recent information is more authoritative and useful.
If you’re like most dentists, you have a “fire and forget” approach to your website. You put it up, it was good, and you got back to the business of helping people and making money doing it.
It’s not uncommon for us to see dental websites that haven’t been updated in 6 years or more. When was the last time you updated your website’s content?
And that’s just the content side of Google’s rules. There’s also the search engine optimization (SEO) work required for your website or blog to have a fighting chance just to make it onto the first or second page of search results.
SEO is a constantly evolving field, and yesterday’s common practices can draw a penalty today. In part, that’s because “black hat” SEO providers can’t seem to keep from trying to game the system.
For instance, when keywords first became important, the black hats decided that if some keywords were good, a ton of keywords was better, and they stuffed as many keywords as possible into their clients’ website content.
The same goes with “backlinks” from other websites to your site. Quality backlinks are a plus, but the scammers would create bogus sites just to backlink to their clients’ sites in hopes of boosting client rankings.
It takes Google a while to catch onto the latest tricks, but once it does, it’s ruthless. Keyword stuffing draws a very heavy search results penalty today, as do bogus or spam backlinks. The result is that your website can be exiled to Internet Siberia.
Your prospective dental patients aren’t looking in Internet Siberia.
What You Need to Do
I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it takes to be found on the Internet today. Most dentists have neither the time nor the inclination to learn and follow Google’s constantly changing rules. But if you’re not playing by those rules, you’re at a huge competitive disadvantage.
Rather than trying to add several more marketing chores to your current dental specialty, why not find a reputable dental marketing provider that can offer proven results to manage your online marketing? That way, you can get back to doing what you spent a lot of money to learn to do and do it for more (and hopefully better) dental patients.
Colin Receveur is a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker who has appeared as a featured speaker at Infusionsoft’s PartnerCon in Chandler, Ariz; at Capacity Academy in Nashville, Tenn; and at the Dentaltown Townie meeting in Las Vegas. He is also the author of a number of bestselling books on Internet marketing. His company, SmartBox Web Marketing, is an Infusionsoft Top 5 partner and works with more than 500 dentists on three continents to help them get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. And, his Patient Attraction System has revolutionized how dentists attract the patients they want to treat.