Does Internet Marketing Work for Dentists?

Written by on December 5, 2011 in Practice tips - No comments
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By Edward M. Logan, DDS

Over the past decade, the Internet has revolutionized dental practice marketing. An ADA study from 1999 reported the percentages of patients finding a new dentist by referral source. The study indicated that 55 percent of new patients to a practice were referred by other patients. The next largest source of referral was direct mail marketing, which came in at 12 percent. There was no mention of the Internet as responsible for providing any new patient flow. Let’s contrast those figures with the present. My practice referral source statistics consistently point to Internet marketing as the leading source of new patients to my practice. Well over 50 percent of my new patients report first finding my practice on the Internet, and it is not uncommon for new patients to inform us that they made an appointment simply because our website was the first they encountered when searching online. Even during these years of economic downturn, my new patient numbers have not dropped off because of my efforts to keep my practice website at the top of Google searches for a dentist in my area.

This is not to say that I do not continue to strive for patient to patient referral sources, as the referring patient can still be considered the best patients to have. However, we cannot neglect the overwhelming tendency for patients to search for their doctors online. If we do, we will miss out on the huge numbers of new patients that our practices could be caring for simply by establishing a highly visible online presence.

It has been estimated that less than 35 percent of dentists don’t even own a website, and this says nothing about how many of those sites are actually optimized for the greatest search engine ranking and visibility. There are a diversity of reasons offered as to why the overwhelming majority of dentists still remain on the sidelines with respect to the greatest marketing opportunity available to their practices. The most frequently expressed roadblock to Internet marketing adoption is that the majority of dentists simply do not know where to start.  Another thought often articulated by dentists is the intimidation factor, fearing that they may be taken for a ride by their website designer. Many dentists feel the cost is too high and they do not value Internet marketing for what it is really worth.

In my practice, we have compiled a list of questions to ask a web designer before having them create your website that represents you to the world. Some of these important questions are listed below:

  • What techniques will be employed to ensure your website will have good visibility in online searches?
  • What does the designer do to stay abreast of the latest trends in SEO?
  • Will the site be designed with a Content Management System (CMS) that will facilitate your own additions?  This is beneficial in allowing you to make simple updates to your website without paying a web designer for each change or requiring you to learn complicated coding.
  • Does the designer provide a contract with a completion date and payment agreement?
  • Under the arrangement, who owns the domain name and website?

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