Getting New Patients from the Internet

As I wrote you in my previous bulletin, over the last three years the Internet has come on as a significant source of new patients for dental offices in our area. Just two years ago, fewer than half of area dental practices even had websites (about 70% do now).
In the “old days” of dental advertising, we had the hassles of dealing with decisions regarding which Yellow Pages to be in, Yellow Page ad design and negotiating rates. Or planning direct mail campaigns (demographics, offers, mail lists). Those mediums could be plenty expensive but they weren’t all that complicated to figure out.
Internet marketing is a whole different ball game. It can be less expensive (or not!), but it certainly is more complex. Every day you and I are getting bombarded by pitches for SEO, SEM, and this or that great new Internet marketing scheme. I know that getting new patients is important to you so you better believe that we at APM are keeping our eyes open as to what is working, what is not and what the industry trends are.
You have limited amounts of time, energy and money to spend on advertising (not to mention doing dentistry and keeping your patients and staff happy), so we understand that dealing with the nuances and sorting through the hype of Internet marketing can be overwhelming. I’m hoping these articles will help.
Stage I – Establishing Your Google Places Page & Cleaning Up Directories: When a potential patient searches for a dentist in your area, they are most likely doing a Google search for “dentist in Your City” or “cosmetic dentist in Your City.” Their results will list three to eight dentists’ in the local proximity who best match their search keywords. Clicking on the links for those dentists will take them to their Google Places page, a mini¬website of sorts listing contact information, office hours, photos, driving directions, areas of specialty and most of all credible reviews from actual patients.
An absolutely essential first step is to claim and enhance your Google Places page, complete it with information, photos, videos, if available, and then to collect reviews. Some Doctors have multiple Place Pages, for example, and that does not help you get found and in fact, can hurt you. There is often inaccurate information on these directories. We’ve seen completely wrong phone numbers, old addresses and many long¬established practices that are virtually invisible when you try to find them on the Internet. So the first step is getting your presence in the multiple directories straight. This also includes adding pictures and other content on your “Place Page.” A very important part often is getting patient reviews posted.
Then, we want to submit your practice information to the search engines and directories that are getting traction in your area so that your information is consistent across the board and you have the best chance to be featured in this suggested list of dentists. We correct inaccurate information, eliminate duplicate listings which dilute your presence and help you to establish a consistent and broader footprint across the web. We call this first stage “Cleaning Up The Directories,” a very detailed but absolutely necessary task.
Stage II ¬Website Enhancements: The footwork of “Stage I” will increase your visibility in the local directories and get you impressions, and hopefully clicks through to your website. Then, once they get to your website, it’s a matter of engaging the potential patient and moving them to make an initial contact by e¬mail or phone.
A lot is involved, whole books have been written about this. Best practices for effective websites include having a call¬to-action on the home page, pictures and bios of the doctor(s) and staff, video brochures, patient testimonials, and before and after pictures. This also may include introductory offers such as free or low cost whitening, a low cost complete kid’s check-up, or other type of offer similar to what you would see with direct mail advertising.
Different than the SEO methods that were popular a few years ago to load each page with all of your keywords, effective websites today stratege a purpose for each page and align the keywords, content, tags and descriptive code with that message. This is also an important part of Stage
Stage III – Widen Your Internet Footprint: Once the housekeeping is in order, you can start expanding your presence on the web by adding content and through blogging and social media (Facebook, Twitter) or through paid advertising (such as Google Adwords Express or Pay ¬Per¬Click) and special advertising promotions (Groupon, Living Social). As they say, “Content is King.” With a little organization and persistence, your efforts will pay great dividends in expanding your presence on the Internet and attracting potential patients who are looking for a great dentist!
New directories are constantly coming on to the scene and existing directories update and cross check information sometimes sending bad data around like a virus. Most practices

Kelly Larson
need at least some directory work. And you should be checking your listings periodically to make sure they are still accurate. You may have paid your website company to help you with directories at one point, but it’s been our experience that they are often like bad painters. They’ll throw some stuff together but not really pay attention to the details and therefore, some potential patient traffic is lost. Or, you may be already getting a decent amount of traffic to your website but the website itself needs work. Perhaps it doesn’t really reflect the nature of the office (i.e., it looks too “cookie cutter” or too “Plain Jane”) and doesn’t really give the patient a reason to e¬mail or call you.
The devil is in the details. Just the technical nuances in getting the directories straight, the organization of the website and its pages optimized, pictures uploaded, patient reviews, etc. can be a daunting task. But again, it helps to have your priorities. For example, it doesn’t make sense to have a graphically beautiful website if the directories are haphazard and you get very few impressions. And, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend time on Facebook and doing blogs if you don’t have your website in order so that as you get interest, people can learn more about you in such a way that they’ll want to become new patients.
Our clients work with the whole gamut of website providers…everyone from their sister¬in¬law to the big generic companies like Officite and Prosites. It’s been our experience that website providers are happy to take your money each month and not really do much. That’s why we brought Kelly Larson on board. Her job is to “ride herd” over website companies and to keep us and you absolutely up¬to¬date on what is really working in Internet marketing.
I’ve met people with more technical knowledge of HTML programming. I’ve met others who are great graphic designers. I’ve certainly heard from others who are great sales people. I have not yet met anyone who really knows as much as Kelly Larson does in terms of the nitty¬gritty of all this, focused on getting new patients through your door. Whether you are just getting started or already have a sophisticated Internet presence, she can give you a push and help keep you ahead of the competition.