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If business isn’t growing, chances are the answer to that question is an unfortunate “no.”

Word of mouth isn’t entirely a thing of the past, but it’s different now. Writing for Dentistry IQ, Christine Alfano specifically notes the importance of online reviews.

“Sixty-one percent of patients use online reviews before selecting a doctor, and 85% say they’d be at least ‘moderately likely’ to choose one doctor over another based on positive reviews,” Alfano writes. “Though this information is specific to medical, one can see clearly how this data can translate to dentists.”

While your practice can’t control each of those reviews, it can certainly respond to them in a constructive way. It’s a big part of internet marketing and building an online presence (and reputation), but it’s also just a start. Your online branding can be the difference when it comes to attracting new patients. Fortunately, there are several ways to increase your online exposure. And whereas reviews may be outside of your control, other internet marketing efforts allow you to control your messaging.

Marketing online allows you to get out in front of those reviews, establishing a positive presence that says all the right things. This requires some effort and won’t happen on its own.

The first—and perhaps easiest—step is using social media as much as possible. This allows you to regularly share content and ideas with potential patients, giving them a reason to look at your practice. That kind of familiarity is a good thing. The more contact you have with potential patients, the more likely they are to think of you when your services are needed. Better yet, this is a highly affordable strategy.

While it may represent more of an investment, regularly producing content can also go a long way toward exposing your practice to readers (and potential clients). The real trick is making sure that content actually gets in front of a few eyes. Promoting it via social media can help, but it’s not enough.

This is where search engine optimization (SEO) can be an essential ingredient to your online marketing efforts. In the interest of full disclosure, really taking control of your SEO fate may require some outside expertise. Consultants can provide detailed instruction that assure your website’s architecture is fully optimized for search engines. It’s not free, but it can be well worth the cost.

Aside from the more complicated mechanics of building and maintaining and SEO friendly website, there are a few guidelines you should be following.

One important example is the use of keywords. After conducting some research into the kind of keywords your potential patients are likely to search, you’ll be in better position to integrate some of those keywords throughout your content. Don’t bother jamming or repeating those keywords as much as possible. That will actually hurt your cause. The idea is to ensure that your content reflects a topic (or topics) that are consistent with frequently searched terms and phrases.

Because your practice likely caters to a specific region, it’s also a good idea to include your location in your content. Potential patients are more likely to search for a doctor or dentist in their own city, and you want to make sure they find you.  Local search engine optimization is important for just this reason.

Finally, it’s always wise to assess the effectiveness of your SEO efforts. Beyond Google Analytics, there are a number of consultants, services and programs that can help in this regard. Is your content keeping readers on your website and engaged? Is it increasing traffic? These are the kind of considerations that can help you measure what’s working and what isn’t.

In today’s day and age, these kinds of strategies are essential. The internet has replaced traditional yellow pages as your patients’ primary tool for locating medical and dental services. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

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