Maybe you can relate to this Oregon dentist’s lament: “One of the things that I found with my old website was that we did it and it was great, and it was inexpensive ... and two years later it wasn’t anything. It was just there. I didn’t realize how much needs to go into a website all the time.”
It’s not uncommon for clinicians to have a website that’s stood untouched for two, five, or even 10 years. That’s a problem that should be corrected promptly; in today’s competitive dental environment, you’re losing new patients if your website isn’t up to standards.
Dental patients these days are spoiled for choice, and they take your website to be an accurate reflection of your practice. An out-of-date website that doesn’t load quickly or display properly is the kiss of death for your new-patient recruitment efforts. Your prospects will click away in a heartbeat and choose one of your competitors.
It’s understandable that most dentists and orthodontists don’t do a great job of keeping their websites current; practices across the country report being flooded with patients. With that kind of demand for service, the practice website can often be an afterthought—if that.
There are any number of dental website elements that have to work together to make a site competitive. In this article, I’ll run down the five most crucial elements—the must-do’s. And by “crucial,” I mean that if you don’t do these, the rest of your efforts will be for naught.
1. Stay up to date, and more
Today’s orthodontic patients aren’t your father’s orthodontic patients, and they carry with them a different set of expectations for orthodontists and orthodontic practices. Today’s patients expect service locations from coffee shops to hospitals to have modern appearances and conveniences. Those prospects also believe that a website that’s modern is a good indication of the modernity of the practice—particularly if the website’s practice photos bear that out.
If your website is built on an outmoded template, uses a color palette from the 1990s, or features white text on a black background (a serious don’t-do), your prospects will ghost.
The same holds true if your navigation scheme isn’t obvious and easy to use. Nobody likes having to hunt for the navigation controls or back out of a page to reach another page. Patients demand “at-their-fingertips” content, and your website has to deliver. Don’t make them hunt for what you want them to read.
2. What’s in a NAP?
Your NAP (name, address, phone number) must be correct and consistent across all pages. Far too often, that information is buried somewhere at the bottom of the “Contact Us” page. (You do have one of those, right?)
As simple as it might seem, your NAP is one of the elements that web crawlers look for. Why? Because today the emphasis is on returning the most useful and relevant information for searchers. Being able to locate and contact the practice is both useful and relevant.
You’ll take a hit in your search engine results page placement if there are discrepancies in your NAP across different pages—even between your website and a map page. For best results, put your NAP prominently on every webpage, and make sure it’s completely consistent.
3. Mobile, baby
Searches from handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets overtook desktop searches in 2015. The gap is continuing to widen, which means more and more prospects are looking for a dentist on a tiny screen.
A mobile-compatible website isn’t just a downsized version of your website. Mobile-compatible means the site is constructed in such a way that it will load quickly (you’ve got about four seconds to make that happen) and display properly on any size device.
A mobile-compatible site also has simplified navigational controls, fewer and lower-resolution graphics to speed page loading, and absolutely no pop-up ads that can cover the page content. It’s also designed to load the top of each page first so that searchers can begin reading quickly.
4. ‘We-we’ is a lose-lose
Unfortunately, your prospects don’t care about you: They care about how you can make their lives better by solving their orthodontic problems. They care about how they’ll be treated while they’re in your practice and whether they’ll feel pain from your procedures. They care about whether they’ll have Wi-Fi in your office and whether you have a beverage bar!
They don’t care about the letters after your name, the postdoctoral courses you’ve completed, or the equipment in your practice. If your website is more about you and your equipment than about offering a great patient experience and great outcomes, you’ve missed the boat. At least you’ll have a lot of company on the pier; far too many clinicians make their websites about themselves. You can’t afford a “we-we” website.
5. Today’s prospects demand (social) proof
Social proof is vital to attract the patients you want. Basically, social proof is the new word-of-mouth referral system. Glowing patient testimonials, four- and five-star reviews, and stories about your community efforts constitute third-party proof of your competence. This shows how relatable you are and what prospects can expect when they choose you.
Again, this is a modern expectation. Prospective patients read the product reviews while they shop on Amazon and check out company ratings when looking for a plumber online, so why should any prospective orthodontist not provide the social proof they need to help them decide?
Quality video testimonials (“hallway” videos rarely work well); online reviews that speak to the solutions to specific orthodontic problems, rather than how “wonderful” everybody in the office is; and stories about your practice from reputable sources go a long way to establish your credibility.
Negative reviews demand immediate and appropriate responses. It only takes a small number to poison the well.
Don’t stay stuck in the past
Like the doctor you met at the beginning of this article, you may not know how much goes into keeping a website up to date and competitive. That’s a big ask for most orthodontic practices, and it’s even more difficult when you factor in reputation management.
If, like most orthodontists, you’d prefer to actually do the orthodontics than update your website, you should consider retaining a full-service dental marketing firm that will make all your marketing consistent with your up-to-date website.