Nobody uses search engines to look for a dentist on the internet do they?
Organisations have different opinions about the benefits of a website; some believe that a good website can be used to help significantly grow their business, others believe that websites are optional and of little value. Steve Harris of web specialists Polymorph puts the business case for investing in your dental practice website...you'll find it hard to resist!
How would a prospective patient use the internet to find a dental practice? Well, there are a number of different ways to find organisations on the internet. Some patients may know the web address (URL) of a particular dental practice through perhaps seeing an advert in a local newspaper. These users could type in the web address and go straight to that dental practice website. Others may find dental practice adverts on the internet and click through to the practice website. More likely, however, is that potential patients will use a search engine like Google.
Google provides a free tool for web analysts to report on what people are searching for. So, we ran a check on a couple of terms: 'dentist in Chester' and 'teeth whitening Chester'. Whilst not everyone carrying out a search on these terms will actually be looking for a dentist, the number of searches, on average, that Google reports for these will give us some indication as to how many people search for dentists, or a dental service in a particular location. The figures may surprise you: 'dentist in Chester' is used as a search term in Google, on average, approximately 1,600 times every month; 'teeth whitening Chester', on average, is searched 320 times a month. To use Google's free tool yourself, perhaps to check how many similar searches were made for dentists in your town, search for 'keyword tool' in Google and click on the first result. The web page is self-explanatory - it's really interesting to see what people are searching for!
With approximately 320 people every month searching for 'teeth whitening Chester', it's clear to see that you would want your website to appear in the list of websites that Google returns for that search, if you have a practice that provides a teeth whitening service in Chester... and then to turn those visitors to your website into customers!
Hopefully, we're now in the territory way beyond believing that websites are optional and that patients don't find dental practices using the internet.
If I were a dentist in Chester providing teeth whitening services, I would be thinking 'how do I help ensure that my website appears in the search results list in Google for that particular search term?', and 'once a visitor gets to my homepage, how will my website persuade them to become a patient of mine or, at the very least, make contact?'
Very interesting questions! So let's explore them; to gain an understanding of how the Google search system works, you need to put yourself in its shoes and give it some thought.
dentist in Chester is Googled on average 1,600 times a month! That's 19,200 times a year!”
Google is very simple - if you search for 'teeth whitening Chester', Google will want to list websites that it feels the person who has submitted the search is wanting to find. So, your website needs to have lots of information about teeth whitening - and this doesn't mean information about the services you offer - it's information about teeth and information about teeth whitening. Google will also want to see other websites relevant to teeth whitening linked to your website (Google sees each link as a recommendation - the more relevant 'recommendations' the better).
I don't intend here to go into a detailed description of how Google works, or how it decides that a particular practice's website in Chester is more relevant than another one for the search term 'teeth whitening Chester'.
But Google wants to see certain things. By giving it some thought and making changes to your website based on what you might think Google would want to see on a site relevant to the search terms you would like your website to 'rank' for - then you'll be doing more than most practices.
It's worth remembering, however, that it is a competition - Google reviews sites all the time and, as more practices optimise their websites for search engines, the more you will have to do.
So, that brings me on to what makes a good website - what will turn a casual visitor to your website into a patient?
You want a website that's so good for the visitor that they will forget that they were searching for something - i.e. when they get to your website, you need to demonstrate that they don't need to search anymore”
Firstly, we need to look at how people use the web. Most people have performed a Google search, so imagine you've just searched for something. You're presented with a long list of websites that may be relevant. So what do you do? Usually, you click on the first one and, whilst you're waiting for the page to load, you're probably a bit skeptical that the website will be relevant and therefore you'll move the mouse cursor over the 'back' button. Why? Because in the first second the website loads you'll decide whether you want to read or see anything else on the site. If the website doesn't appeal to you, you'll hit 'back' before you can say 'website'! That's why it's so important to be instantly appealing. You need to think about your intended audience and make your website live up to their expectations. If you don't do this, your website visitors won't get past the first page - and they won't even read that!
Ideally, you want a website that's so good for the visitor, that they will forget that they were searching for something - i.e. when they get to your website, you need to demonstrate that they don't need to search anymore, or be so interesting or distracting to the visitor, that they simply forget that they were searching for. When creating websites for our clients, we always start with a single question - what are the objectives of the website? This starts to shape the project immediately as it is important to know what the ultimate objectives are. The more specific these objectives are, usually the more easy they are to review. For instance, a specific objective of the website could be to encourage people to download a practice brochure. Each objective should then be detailed into a plan - how are we going to achieve it? How are we going to report on progress? Do we want to know who has downloaded the brochure, or are we happy with just the fact that it's been downloaded?
If we want people to download the brochure (and although it sounds simple, you'd be surprised at how many websites don't do this), then we need a good amount of website 'screen estate' (space on screen) for the link or button clearly pointing people at downloading the brochure. And if it's relevant, we need it on every page. Provide clear pointers to your website visitors to the things you want them to click on, let's 'advertise' and 'sell' to them, and finally let's make it easy - if the visitor has to fill in a large questionnaire, or subscribe to the website before the site will allow the user to download the brochure, then you'll probably find that many visitors drop out of the process before the actual download.
In summary, we've discovered that people are definitely using the internet to search for dental practices and services and we've explored some of the things to turn an average website into a client referral machine.
About Steve Harris
Steve is Manging Director and owner of Polymorph Ltd who create IT and web-based solutions for their clients.