You’re a great dentist. You care about your practice and your patients. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading about how to make your practice’s website great.
The first thing you need to know is simple:
Your website matters more than you think.
It’s the first impression you get to make to potential patients and it’s the first place many of your existing patients will go for information. Your website is your chance to showcase yourself and your practice and your opportunity to provide the information your patients (and potential patients) are looking for.
You need to take advantage of that.
Today, I’ll tell you what visitors to your website are looking for, and what you can do to make your website great.
I’m Your Website’s Visitor
What do I know about filling a cavity and owning a dental practice?
I’m not a dentist, but I am your website’s visitor. I’m one of the millions of people whose lives are lived on the internet. I shop online, I watch TV online, I make friends online, and I found my dentist online.
During my search, I found many websites that frustrated me, and lacked the information I needed to make a decision. Other sites were confusing or frustrating to navigate, especially from my iPhone.
I’ve thought a lot about dentist websites, researched them, and talked to many people about what makes a dentist’s website great.
Here’s what I’ve found.
Your Website isn’t For You
If you stop reading right now (and I hope you won’t, because I’ve got a lot more information to share), you need to remember this one fact:
Your website is for your patients, not for you.
Keep in mind that your website exists to meeting your patients’ needs. You’re making their lives easier and solving their problems, all of which may be fundamentally different from your own.
You Have Two Kinds of Patients
Take a second and think about this question:
If you were to divide your patients into two groups, how would you do it?
When thinking about your website’s visitors, you have two kinds of patients:
You might be thinking, “But prospective patients aren’t even my patients?”
Not yet they aren’t. But with a great website, they can become current patients-- your most valuable patients.
When anyone, either a current or prospective patient, visits your website, their needs are predictable. And your website can be optimized to meet their needs.
To a website visitor, when your website solves their problem or provides just the information they were looking for, it feels like magic.
But it’s not magic. You just need to spend time thinking like your website’s visitors.
Fortunately, I’ve done that for you. We’ll look at what both current and prospective patients are looking for and show you the information a great dentist’s website needs to have.
Thinking Like a Current Patient
Acquiring a new customer costs 7 times as much as keeping an existing customer.
It’s a cliche for a reason: it’s true. Don't forget the importance of your current patients.
What do your current patients want from your website?
Based on my experience, their needs are straightforward. Your current patients come to your website to quickly accomplish a variety of very specific tasks.
I love how easy it is to make an appointment on this dentist’s website. One click from the homepage and I’m on this easy to complete form:
I love it!
Your current patients want to make appointments quickly and easily. Allow online scheduling for cleanings and exams.
If online appointments aren’t possible, make it clear who to call, and when, to schedule or cancel an appointment. Don’t forget to include your cancellation policy!
If your current patients want to pay you, you need make it as easy as possible. Your system could be as simple as accepting credit card payments through PayPal.
If you aren’t ready to start accepting online payments, provide clear instructions on where to send the check and who it needs to be made out to.
Does your practice accept Care Credit, DocPay or other methods of payment? Which insurance plans do you accept? Check out the payment plans page for Hillsdale Dental Care in San Jose. They clearly explain the payment and credit options their practice accepts:
Downloading Forms & Paperwork
Who wants to arrive 15 minutes early just to fill out a few forms? Provide downloadable and printable PDFs of any forms a patient might need to bring to his or her next dental appointment.
If you pride yourself on being green, save a tree and allow patients to sign documents digitally and email them to you.
You need to be accessible to your current patients. They've got all kinds of questions and want to get ahold of your office quickly and easily, without hunting for your contact information.
Try this quick test:
Take out your phone and load your practice's website. Without pinching, zooming, or scrolling, can you easily see your office phone number? Is it in large clear numbers?
If not, that's the first change you should make to your website.
Now the Perspective of a Prospective Patient
What about those prospective patients? What are they looking for on your website? Let's imagine we're in the market for a new dentist and want to decide if you’re the right dentist for us.
Does your website’s navigation menu have a page just for new patients? Great!
Are you accepting new patients? That’s the first thing a prospective patient needs to know. If not, say so. You're wasting both their time and your staff's time if a call is required to find out that you’re not taking new patients at this time.
If you are accepting new patients, are any special offers available? Some special offers that prospective patients find appealing include:
Free cleaning with first exam
Dr. Caitlin Batchelor, one of the dentists I work with at DelMain Analytics announces that her practice is accepting new patients and her new patient special right on her website’s homepage.
Prospective patients have many questions about costs and finances. If your website answers these questions, you’re one step closer to acquiring a new patient.
Do you accept insurance?
Can payment be made with a credit card?
Is there a cash discount for uninsured patients?
Are payment plans available?
Do you accept Medicaid?
What about specialized services? Do you specialize in pediatric dentistry? Cosmetic dentistry? Periodontal treatments? Answer these questions and you’re getting even closer to converting a prospective patient into a new patient.
Location, Location, Location. It might not matter as much as you think. What matters to prospective patients is a combination of location and business hours. The key is flexibility.
Patients, especially those in suburban areas, are willing to travel further for the right dentist with hours that fit their schedules. For dental practices in bigger cities, you may find that patients are less willing to travel long distances, but appreciate the flexibility of early morning or evening appointments.
Let prospective patients decide if your hours and location work for them. Make your address and the hours you're open clear. Include a link to Google Maps to make it easy to get directions to your office.
Let’s look at how Dr. Batchelor displays her practice’s location:
Everything we need to know about where Dr. Batchelor’s practice is located-- all in one place.
Extra Information to Seal the Deal
What about those website visitors who want a little more information about you and your practice?
Make sure there’s a page on your site telling your practice's story. Above, you’ll see a great example from Blodgett Dental Care, here in Portland. Dr. Kelly Blodgett, talks about his holistic dental philosophy, his educational background, and everything else a prospective patient might need to know.
Include a brief bio (with pictures) for your staff, including their educational backgrounds and any special certifications they hold. The best about pages are skimmable, and are heavy on bullet points. Don’t feel the need to write a book-- just give the highlights of your story!
Don't forget to feature testimonials from satisfied patients with pictures of their smiles. Link to your practice’s Yelp and Google Plus reviews, too. If your practice is listed on Health Grades, 1800dentist.com, ZocDoc, Angie’s List or other online directories, include a link to those, too.
Here’s a testimonials page I found from Dr. Tom Anderson’s practice. Look how he uses video testimonials! You can really see how happy his clients are.
I also love how he includes his professional associations and Better Business Bureau rating, too. What a great way to establish trust in prospective patients!
If you're active on social media, include links to your Facebook page and Twitter account.
Check out the social media links on the homepage of Dental Choice in Maryland. The links are right there, ready to be clicked on. This practice is proud of their social media presence and it shows.
My only suggestion: If your practice has a blog (and it should!), include a link to it as part of your social media links. That’s one of our best practices we recommend to all dentists.
What’s the Missing Piece of the Puzzle?
I’ve talked a lot about your website visitors. I’ve told you how we can divide website visitors into two groups: prospective and current patients. And I’ve shown you how your website should have information that meets the needs of every visitor.
I keep saying, “website visitor.” But how does a person on their phone or sitting at their computer become a “website visitor”, let alone your website visitor?
For current patients, it’s not that difficult. Either they’ll know your practice’s website address by heart or they’ll search the name of your practice.
But what about prospective patients who don’t know you yet? That’s the tricky part. You’re probably not the only dentist in your area. When someone starts searching for a new dentist, you’re competing with other dentists.
The competition starts on Google-- the place most people start when looking for a new dentist. Here’s the Google Search results for “dentist Portland”:
This is what people in Portland, Oregon see when they’re searching for a dentist. Why does one dentist appear higher than another? What is one dentist doing that another isn’t?
By optimizing your website, you can influence where your practice appears in Google’s search results. That’s what we call search engine optimization or SEO.
Optimizing your site starts with adding the information that patients look for in a dentist’s website-- everything I’ve talked about so far today.
By making it easier for visitors to find the information they’re looking for (also known as improving the user experience of your website), you make your site more likely to rank higher in Google searches!
The higher your site appears, the more visitors you’ll get.
But that’s just scratching the surface of SEO. There’s so much more you can do (and that you should do) to keep improving your website’s placement in Google search results.
Taking the Next Step
You might be asking yourself, “What else can I do to improve where my website appears in Google’s search results?”
That’s something we do everyday at DelMain Analytics. I’ll even show you how we do it.
We’ll email you our proven strategies for improving your practice’s Google search rankings, as well as advice on how to get the most out of social media, how to write great blog posts, and much more.
PAUL COLE - CONTENT MARKETING STRATEGIST
Paul Cole joined DelMain Analytics after spending 3 years building an active blog and online community for a software startup. He knows there's no secret to creating great content. It all comes down to honesty, respect and a genuine desire to be friendly and helpful. Paul bikes to work everyday and enjoys running along Portland's waterfront in the evenings. He's a lifelong sports fanatic and roots for the Jacksonville Jaguars in addition to his adopted hometown team, the Portland Thorns.