2014 will go down as the year mobile took over the internet. Mobile users outgrew desktop users for the first time in history. Many of us were a part of that as we naturally and quietly switched to our phones and tablets to access the internet. However, the overall effects of this change are anything but quiet. Single-handedly, it is the largest shift in the digital experience that we have seen in the last decade. It’s effect on your website and digital strategy cannot be overestimated.
If you haven’t touched your website since 2013 or before, you’re overlooking some pretty dramatic changes that are likely hurting your marketing efforts every day. Here are five mistakes websites are making right now and how you can fix them.
1. PEOPLE CAN’T FIND IT
We can measure the success of a website very quickly and simply by answering one question, “Can it be found?” That’s it. It doesn’t matter how much the site cost, how good the design it, how seamless the functionality of the backend. If the site cannot be found by patients, it fails.
I learned this one day in the fall of 2011 when I was discussing the marketing efforts of a Washington, D.C. practice with a friend.
“How many new patients are they getting a month?” I asked.
“Roughly 100–120 a month.” It was a big group practice so the numbers didn’t surprise me.
“And how many of those would you guess are coming in from their website?”
“Somewhere around 60.”
I nodded, “60 a year. That’s not bad.”
“No! Like 60 a month. 60 a year… that would be horrible.”
In shock, I fumbled for the calculator on my iPhone 3s. 60 new patients a month is 720 new patients a year. That amounts to roughly $720,000 in revenue a year.
This was like the Holy Grail of dental websites. I had to see it and learn their secrets.
I punched in the web address with my thumbs. Want to know what I found? A website that was… plain… boring… and uninspiring. Completely anti-climatic. It was outdated and stylistically didn’t fit their upscale D.C. demographic. It wasn’t horrible, but I couldn’t believe it.
Change of plans. New browser tab. This time I searched “Washington, D.C. dentist.” Guess who came up number two in Google? They did.
And that was the moment I learned the most important lesson about websites: Patients ability to find you matters most.
Back to the conversation. I realize that Washington, D.C. is an ultra-competitive SEO market, so I asked my friend, “How are they number two?”
“They have an aggressive, on-going SEO strategy.”
“What do they spend a year on that?”
He thought for a moment, “I’d guess they spend between $36,000 — $40,000 a year on SEO.”
Another shocker. Spend $40,000 on search engine optimization every year? That’s more than most dental practice’s entire marketing budget. Spend $40,000 to get $720,000? It would be dumb not to.
What’s your ongoing SEO strategy? And how much are you spending on it? The creation of your website is not a task to be completed on your project list. It’s a an on-going strategy that must be invested into every year.
2. IT DOESN’T DIFFERENTIATE YOU
So let’s say you score the top of the first page of Google. It’s estimated that 80% of clicks on Google go to the first six listings on the page (those “above the fold”). Astonishingly, the number one and number two listings together gather over 50% of the traffic! So we could easily make a case for why you need to be number one or number two. That means a patient searches “Greenville Dentist,” sees the top five to six results and chooses a few to click on.
How do they make the decision on what to click?
Pretend you are scanning a handful of practices on Google looking for a new dentist. You’re basically looking for someone that stands out from the pack. Who is different? Who seems like a good doctor? Which office seems friendly?
Patients are quickly scanning, hoping that someone makes the choice easy.
Your site must stand out. In fact, it needs to stand up and yell, “Choose us! Choose us!”
There are many factors that differentiate your site. The practice name is one of them. What’s the domain name of your site? Do you have a tagline? What does the Google description say?
Once your site is listing towards the top of Google, it’s next job is to make it incredibly easy for patients to make that decision. And trust me, they’ll love you for it.
3. IT DOESN’T BUILD TRUST
Now that patients have found you and chosen you, your site needs to build trust and reinforce that decision.
This is where design and layout come into play. Does the site feel good? Does it accurately communicate your values? Can they easily find a picture of the doctor and/or the team? Does it fit the demographic of the area?
Patients are making these decisions in a matter of seconds. If they click on your site and “feel” like it doesn’t accurately represent what they’re looking for they’ll hit the back button and “bounce.”
I have realized this over and over again in my own search for healthcare professionals. More than anything, I just don’t want to be surprised. I want to see a picture of the doctor and get a feel for the practice. Am I walking into a old residential home? Is this a medical complex? A university hospital?
Please Don’t Surprise Me.
There are a few great ways to build trust. Online reviews are one of them (you need to have a whole strategy there), but the other is so simple and yet almost always overlooked: Build your site around custom photography.
Why do dental practices always use stock photography?
Wait, I know the answer to that: because it’s easy. But who else does that? Can you imagine looking at used cars online and only finding stock photography? You find a black 2012 GMC Yukon with low miles, but the owner choose to put up a GMC stock photo of the car. “But what does YOUR car look like?” That conversation would most likely end there.
Yet we represent our dental practices with cold, stock photos of inauthentic people with unbelievable smiles (unbelievable, like not-believable).
If I can be absolutely honest for a moment, this is the major problem in the dental industry at this very moment. The top dental website companies ALL USE STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY. They do it because it’s easier. They do it because they’ve built templates that stock photography fits into better. They do it because it takes less time and makes them more money.
It doesn’t mean it’s right. And it’s doing the dental industry as a whole a huge disservice.
We design websites…. but we insist on custom photography. We’ve been able to create predictable results and design beautiful sites that win trust.
See for yourself.
4. IT DOESN’T ADJUST TO MOBILE
Somewhere in early 2014 we saw the user shift to mobile devices. Up until that point, patients were accessing websites mostly on desktop computers. Since then the numbers have flipped. More people are looking at your site on a mobile device than desktops. The effects of this are significant.
NUMBER ONE: the user experience has changed. It’s no longer point and click. It’s scroll.
The traditional sites that are deep with layers of pages and links don’t make for the best experience on a mobile device. How many times have you been driving (I know, please don’t text or surf the internet when you drive — there’s the disclaimer) and you tried to click on a tiny little link with your big thumb? So frustrating. Don’t make me click. Let me scroll.
NUMBER TWO: scrolling sites need to have narratives. If the site scrolls down, that means there’s progression to it. What’s the journey you want to take patients on as they discover your practice? In the past we placed a bunch of links in front of them and let them choose. Now we get to determine how the journey unfolds.
NUMBER THREE: the site must automatically adjust to the device. Forget “mobile” sites. Move to “responsive” sites. Responsive websites automatically know what device they are being viewed on and adjust their layout accordingly. They’re responsive. You can prioritize content and images, hide irrelevant information and even change button size so if someone does need to click there’s plenty of room for their thumb.
Websites must be designed for the year we live in. Right now, they have to work seamlessly on any mobile device.
5. IT’S YOUR ONLY ONLINE PRESENCE
The creation of a single website is another mistake we make. We must approach it from a “online presence” strategy.
The website is important. It’s the hub of your digital presence. Imagine it like the center of a bicycle tire. Nothing else is going to work without it, but then we must add our social media and review sites. We must optimize all of our online listings. We need to add a blog and regularly produce content. What about a youtube channel?
A really great strategy that increases your digital presence and brands you as an expert in your area is the creation of landing pages. Landing pages are single developed web pages that focus specifically on service lines of the practice. For example, are you placing implants? If so, you absolutely need a specific landing place for patients interested in dental implants.
Landing pages accomplish so many great things:
They increase your online presence by adding content. Google loves this.
They win searches for those specific services — a valuable SEO strategy.
They establish you as an expert on that service. Patients decision to choose (trust) you goes up exponentially when they realize your’e the “go-to” doctor for these procedures.
They allow you to specifically market services through AdWords, direct mail, email, etc. You could put together a spring orthodontic campaign and instead of sending everyone to your main website, you can send them to greenvilleorthodontics.com instead. The content specifically matches their search.
They allow you to provide more content and educate patients that are interested in those services. Have you ever been on a page that just had too much information?This is your chance to get geeky and talk about the cool technology you have and your advanced treatment options. The patients that end up here want to see that stuff.
EVERYTHING CHANGED IN 2014
We’ll look back and see that 2014 was the year that mobile took over the internet. The good news is it’s not a trend that’s going to change anytime soon. That makes 2015 the perfect year for you to re-evaluate your website and your online presence. Get ahead of your competitors now and put a comprehensive digital strategy in place that communicates quickly and efficiently to patients.