Today a new patient came in for an exam. He is a 50 year old who hasn’t been to a dentist in about 15 years. He is embarrassed by multiple missing and broken teeth… some right up front. Some are starting to hurt. He told me that he keeps conversations short so that people won’t notice his broken and decayed teeth. He was visibly upset just talking about it with me.
Access to Care?
He works in a town that is 45 minutes away from my office. He lives in a city that is 20 minutes away. There are several hundred dentists in the county. I’d bet he drove past at least several dozen dentists on his way to my office. He found my practice website with a Google search. By the way, he works as a computer network administrator.
I had to ask how he found us and why he picked us. He said my site came up at the top, so he clicked on it first.
Pleased to meet you. Hope you ease my pain.
I spent a lot of time getting to know this patient. And, he even remarked, “You’re the first dentist who has taken time to actually talk to me.” We chatted before the exam and after. The “after” chat revealed even more about his motivation. He met a woman online and plans to meet her in person next summer. I was glad he didn’t tell me he was going next week! Last minute requests are all too common when they need a full mouth rehab (like this guy).
He told me that he was impressed with the “before & after” photos on my website and that he could tell they weren’t stock photos. He also mentioned the STORIES that accompany the photos. Booya! I’ve been preaching this to my fellow dentists for years!
Moral of the Story
There are many lessons here. The first, of course, is that people… many people…. use the web to find a new dentist. The web provides a convenient and private way to research dentists. Think about this patient, for example. He’s already very embarrassed about his teeth. Asking a friend or coworker will draw attention to his teeth, and he doesn’t want that. I submit he is one of many who feel that way.
When it comes to search engine ranking, the reality is that a majority of searchers won’t go past the 1st page of results. Consider that there are typically only TEN slots on the first page. Being on the first page is important. It just is. Depending on your local demographics, that is precious few spots being sought by a LOT of dentists. If you’re trying to get on the first page for the primary keywords “dentist your town,” you’ve likely got a LOT of competition.
With that in mind, consider that there are other keywords that are not as competitive. I’ve talked about this on the blog in the past (and written about it in my book). “Long Tail” keywords are less competitive, but they can be VERY valuable. Consider optimizing (SEO) your web pages that feature niche services.
Roll Your Own!
I’ve long railed against boilerplate / canned content websites. A “dental encyclopedia” with “insert dentist’s name here” simply doesn’t resonate with visitors. Accordingly, I advocate for custom content written primarily by the dentist. YOU, the dentist, are the best qualified person to write about YOUR practice. Likewise, YOUR photos are going to sell YOU (and your skills) to prospective patients. Writing STORIES about the patients in those photos is marketing gold. My new patient even mentioned the stories. It makes the before and after photos come alive. It gives them context. It makes them RELATABLE.
I’m so pretty!
So many dental websites are “so pretty,” but they don’t pack a punch like Mohammed Ali. It seems most dentists care more about how “pretty” their websites are. My website is arguably dated (its a 1999 design!) and rudimentary when it comes to its appearance compared to today’s “slick” websites. I contend substance counts more. Good, ORIGINAL content will trump any website with pretty, but canned, website.
Another “pearl” I’d like to offer is that SEO is far more effective if your web pages are SPECIFIC to ONE subject. Most dental websites have a single page for ALL the services offered. That dilutes the SEO to being nearly worthless. Have a page for each topic or service! My website has 52 individual pages! (Bear in mind that I started with about 7 pages back in 1999.) When prospective patients search for a specific dental service or concern, there is a good chance I have a web page that is optimized and tailored to pop up #1 or near the top of Google results.
So, get to work Dental Warriors! Start rewriting your canned content websites. Do it one page at a time. Pick one and do it! OK… That’s all I’ve got for now! If I think of anything else, I’ll come back and edit this post. 🙂
PS… This should be a great case. If I get to do it, I’ll post it as a case presentation in the future.
PPS… And, a very different new patient experience a couple weeks later: You LOST Me at Hello.