Google+ Down, Mobile Up, Facebook Up and Down

Here are some up-to-the-minute changes in social media.

  1. Google+, as far as dental practices go, is over.  Let me be the first one to tell you that you can stop posting there. Google+ is morphing away from being a social media site, as it failed the “me too” challenge with Facebook. I know, in my book I told you to mirror everything you did on Facebook on Google+.  Stuff changes–don’t shoot the messenger!  However, you should still request reviews for your Google+ page, as they will still show up in a Google search, and are valuable for SEO and influencing searching consumers. [Thanks to Jason K. for pointing that out!]
  2. Your activity, likes, and recommendations on your Facebook page are no longer indexed by Google.  No one knows exactly when this happened, but it’s over. So you get no Google juice (my term for SEO) out of your activity. This doesn’t mean you stop using Facebook.  It’s still the best medium to show the experience of being a patient of yours.
  3. On April 21, Google is modifying its algorithms (how it ranks websites) with respect to mobile sites. If your mobile site is not responsive or reformatted to play well on mobile devices, it is going to hurt your ranking.  Not the first time I’ve told you how important the mobile version of your website is.
  4. 74% of consumers will abandon your mobile website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Not the second time I’ve told you how important the mobile version of your website is.  More than 60% of web searches begin on smartphones, by the way.
  5. Videos now start playing automatically on Facebook as people scroll down their wall. (Unless you turn the function off.) This is engaging FB users in a big way. How big? Well, media analyst Socialbakers’ recent study showed video has twice the organic reach on Facebook as photos. And Facebook also has twice the number of videos with 1 million views that YouTube has. That’s serious.
  6. Because of this, I maintain that patient testimonial videos are your best marketing tool. Also, make sure you post natively on Facebook, which means don’t link a YouTube video or other URL source, upload it using Instagram or straight to Facebook with your computer or device.  If you don’t know how to get them done, read this blog post.
  7. Physicists now believe that gravity can leak into parallel universes, creating tiny black holes, and that the Large Hadron Collider may be able to detect them.  This may not seem important now, but wait 50 years. You’ll be saying, “Yeah, I knew about that back in 2015!”

That’s it for now.  But expect more changes.  Social media is a rapidly moving target.  And of course, if your website isn’t playing right on mobile, check out WebDirector.

And Jack Hadley, from My Social Practice, had this important point to add:

Fred, your statement under #2 is only partially true, “So you get no Google juice (my term for SEO) out of your activity.”

Cyrus Shepard, a super-smart SEO guy at MOZ, wrote the following just a couple of days ago… “The basic argument goes like this: ‘Google says they don’t use Facebook likes or Tweet counts to rank websites. Therefore, social activity doesn’t matter to SEO.’ This statement is half right, but can you guess which half? It’s true that Google does not use metrics such as Facebook shares or Twitter Followers directly in search rankings. On the other hand, successful social activity can have significant secondary effects on your SEO efforts. Social activity helps address two of the major tasks facing SEO: 1) Search engine discovery and indexation 2) Content distribution, which leads to links and shares.”

I wholeheartedly agree when you say, “It (social) is still the best medium to show the experience of being a patient of yours.” Spot on! However, in addition, there ARE SEO benefits that result from social media activity. We see it with our clients all the time.

Oh, BTW, if anyone wants to read Cyrus Shepard’s post, here is the link: http://moz.com/blog/seo-myths.

Thanks, Jack!

Are You Drowning in Functionality?

My smartphone makes me feel like an idiot.  It does too much.  For example, it used to frantic web woman phonetake me five steps to play my iTunes, until someone showed me that I just had to swipe up and tap “play”. Or I could just tell Siri to “open music”, if I could just remember to use it.

Our lives are packed with software, applications and technology that have so much functionality that we barely use 10% of them.  And it’s frustrating when we discover that we’ve been doing something the hard way, or wishing we had a solution, when we often had it right at our fingertips.

Why just 10%?  Partly because it’s overwhelming, but also because we don’t have a systematic way of learning and incorporating those functions that we want into our already busy lives.

The average person has more than 30 apps on their phone, and only uses five of them regularly. (Messaging, email, Facebook, CandyCrush, and the camera, if you must know–phone calls don’t even make the top five!)  They forget that they even have the other apps, and sometimes try to download ones they already have.

How does this relate to your practice?

Digital communication applications like PatientActivator, RevenueWell and DemandForce are perhaps the biggest practice time saver o appear in the past 20 years.  Practice coach Gary Takacs, who also owns a dental practice in Phoenix, says their app saves them 30% of the time on the phone, allowing them to focus on the people who do need to have a live conversation.  And that is just using the part of the software that does appointment reminders and confirmations by text and email.

The real juicy stuff, the functions that increase production, are grossly under-utilized by most of our clients precisely because they do so much.  Adapting new systems in a practice is always a challenge.

My solution is simple: make it a process where you incorporate one new function at a time into the practice behavior.  So, if you have or are just getting PatientActivator or another app, this is how I would proceed.

Stages:

The Setup. Here is where you incorporate the basic functions of appointment reminders and confirmations, as well as birthday greetings and other niceties.  You also want to make sure that all your social media is active and linked to the app.  The app is going to start surveying patients automatically.  You will put those responses to good use later.

Updating your Patient Records. Now you want to make sure that you have email addresses and cell numbers for all your patients. This is an ongoing process of updating that information with each patient visit.  Make this systematic.

Requesting Patient Reviews.  This is for Google and Yelp.  The most effective way to get reviews is to email your patients and ask them.  Within that email there needs to be a link that they can click on that takes them directly to your practice profile.  Don’t do this with all your patients at once! You want to be generating a steady stream of reviews.  So once a month, do an email blast to two groups of maybe 50-100 patents.  The first group is patients with a gmail address (those are the only people who can do Google reviews) and the second group you send a request for a Yelp review. If you average one review a week you’re doing great, so don’t expect 100% response rate or anything close to that.  For more on this read this blog post.

Choose Your Newsletter Topics. There are dozens of pre-written articles that allow you to share all the services your practice offers. You want these going out every month, or every two months.  This adheres to the most basic principle of marketing: tell people over and over what you do, so that you catch them at the moment when they care. This can be also done as an earlier step, because it really only has to be done once every six months or a year, but often the dentist wants to write an article or two herself, and this can slow things down.

Posting Reviews on Your Website.  These are the reviews that are generated automatically by the surveys being sent out.  You want to have them load automatically to a review page on your website.  Consumers will want to read them, and it’s huge for SEO. Can’t do that? Then you need a dynamic website like we build with WebDirector.  For more on this, read this blog.

Posting Reviews on Social Media. This is a smaller but very valuable step.  As the survey responses come in, you have the option to post them to Facebook and other social media with essentially a single click.  This should become part of your social media person’s role.  Which means that you need someone in the practice who is responsible for social media.

PA patientCalls_iphone_5Utilizing the Smartphone App. PatientActivator and one or two other services have a phone app as part of the service, which allows you to see your practice schedule. Each team member should download the app. This will serve two purposes.  One, if you have someone who is taking after-hour calls for emergencies, they can see the schedule and tell the person when to come in.  But of equal or greater value is that the dentists can now easily do their evening check-in calls, because the app shows the names and phone numbers of the patients you’ve seen that day.

Doing Marketing Campaigns. Because you have increased your email base, you can do occasional marketing emails such as discounts or contests, or simply letting them know what you do.  You can do a whole variety of these, from free implant exams to Invisalign discounts, to CEREC awareness, and new patient contests. You can also alert patients at the end of the year to use up their insurance eligibility before they lose it. We have templates for all of these.

Of course, your patients can individually opt in or out of newsletters, texts, emails, surveys and marketing campaigns, so you’ll be adjusting this on a regular basis. But doing these steps will tighten your recall and increase your patient awareness, along with giving you new patient flow.  It has become an essential and integral part of your practice marketing.

Do these steps at whatever pace gets them fully integrated into your practice behavior.  You can go too fast, but the real risk is not doing them at all, and missing out on all the production and efficiency that you can achieve. If you’re a client of ours, we offer unlimited customer service, so we’ll talk you through each step when your ready.

Another big plus to fully utilizing these tools is it gives your patients the impression of a modern high-tech practice, which is also a good thing.

The worst scenario is to stop at the basic functionality.  Just like learning to use Siri has kept me from trying to read a text in the car, and Google Maps is teaching me new shortcuts in my hometown, taking greater advantage of all the functionality that you have around you will make you more productive, successful, and smiling a lot more!

By the way, I think this staged approach is useful no matter what technology you’re deciding to adapt.  You may not need all the tools at your disposal, but I’ll bet there are some great functions with a lot of your tech that you don’t even know about or take advantage of.

The Myth of the “Google First Page Guarantee”

Most likely, if your website is more than two or three years old, it needs a serious refresh, if not a total redo. And there are a lot of website companies out First Page Now Poster 1there willing to build you a site and “guarantee” to get you on the first page in a Google search.

There are a number of reasons why that is not possible, and the promise is a false one.  But the primary reason is this: Google gives different results to different people based on their search history.  In other words, you could be sitting there on your laptop, and do a search for “comedy clubs in Baltimore”, and your spouse could be sitting next to you using her iPad, and do the exact same search, and you would get two different results.

That’s because Google has built a profile on you based on your previous searches, and tries to decide what your preferences might be.  Their goal is to give the best possible result for you,  and they have a number of tricks to figure that out. This is not unlike what Amazon does, offering you recommendations based on what you previously bought and viewed.

The fact is that Google gives search results based on anywhere from 400-800 bits of information, much of it variable, particularly location, but most of them Google does not tell us, as they don’t want companies “gaming” the search and stealing the clicks.  Also, different devices and browsers affect results.  For example, if you use Google Chrome, it’s looking at your Google+ page to see what you post, share and comment on relative to that search.  All in milliseconds, of course.

So what does that website designer mean when they make this “promise”? They mean that they can get you to appear on the first page of Google on one computer, one time, and they are going to take a screen shot to show you that it happened, so they can bill you for the website and keep your money.

Why do they promise this?   Because that’s what dentists tell them they want.  Of course. Who doesn’t want to be on the first page?  But when half the dentists in your area have a website, you’re not all going to get on the first page, unless the screen is the size of a movie theater screen. And even if you do appear today on the first page, it won’t mean you’ll be there tomorrow. Or an hour from now.

So what’s a dentist to do?  The operative principle is to have truly relevant, ever-changing  content on a website that is visually appealing and easy to navigate. It used to be that you just needed relevant content. (Of course what I’m talking about here is appearing organically, or naturally, in a search, not bidding on AdWords to show up there.  But even when you bid on AdWords, your site needs to be relevant to the search criteria to appear.)

What is going to happen is that, as people get more and more sophisticated in their searching, they are going to put in more detail in the search box, otherwise they will get too many results, and none of those will be precisely what they’re looking for.  So, for example, instead of searching for “dentist Spokane” they will search “dentist 99026 Saturday hours reviews CEREC”, and get a much more refined SERP. (SERP stands for “search engine results page”, which is an acronym you will start to see more and more.)

This will mean that the more relevant, precise content you have in your website, the more Google will be able to offer you as a first page result when people get this specific.  Google is also advancing to the point where you can ask detailed questions, rather than just putting in keywords, and get relevant results.

But remember where I mentioned that Google wants “ever-changing content”?  This is where your website most likely needs to change.  You need to be able to have reviews appearing automatically, and easily change various texts, images and videos on your website. This has become essential.

And be aware that it has been well-documented that people are making judgments about the quality of your dentistry based on the quality of your website. It doesn’t matter that these two things are factually unrelated–this is what they do with most businesses, and it often makes sense to do so. This is why your website needs to look fresh and modern, and be easily navigated.

I hope this gives you some insight into the escalating importance of having a high-quality website, while also making you suspect of anyone promising you magical results.  Good luck!

P.S. I’m doing a free webinar on September 10 where I go into deep detail on everything you need to be doing to satisfy Google on your website.  It’s free, and if you want to register click here.  Also, it will be recorded, so if you can’t make it at that time, register anyway and we will send you a link to the recording.

 

 

How NOT to Do Patient Videos

Video is more important than ever in marketing your dental practice.  And video testimonials from your patients have two extremely valuable aspects: their credibility and their versatility. They are credible because they are real, spoken endorsements of your practice experience.  They are versatile because you can use them in so many places: your website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, your Yelp and your Google+ page, and in email marketing to new and existing patients.  That’s a lot of exposure.

Videos are also quite easy to do.  But there are several mistakes that people make when doing patient testimonials. Wait, you say, they’re not easy–they take time, they cost money, and people don’t want to do them.  Which leads me to…

Mistake #1. Over-producing your videos

Patient testimonials should be done with a smartphone.  You don’t need extensive lighting or an expensive camera.  Getting fancy actually diminishes the credibility of the video.  Keep it simple and un-intrusive, and people will be much more willing to do them for you. (This is in contrast to office tour or the dentist videos, which I discuss in this post, which should have higher quality.)

Mistake #2. Doing multiple “takes”

Part of keeping it simple is to do it once. Don’t make it complicated or involved. Just ask the patient if they would be willing to do a simple video testimonial.  If they are reluctant, just say, “If you don’t like it, we certainly won’t use it.  But just say in your own words what it’s like to be a patient here.”

You’ll be amazed at what people will say when they speak from the heart.  Every time I’ve seen this done, the person does their most genuine testimonial on the first try.  After that, they tend to overthink it.  Of course, if they want to do it over, let them.

Mistake #3. Making the video too long

Most people can say what they think in 30-45 seconds, which is perfect.  If it gets longer than a minute, people stop watching.

Mistake #4. Editing the video

Along the lines of Mistake #3, trying to do longer takes and cutting them down drastically diminishes the credibility of the testimonial.  People will assume you’re cutting out the bad parts.  A natural flow in a single take is the best.  You can put titles on the front and back, using something like iMovie, with the patient’s name and your practice name and contact information, but that’s it.  No cuts.

Mistake #5. Bad sound

This is the only part of the “production value”, as we say in Hollywood, where you do want to improve the quality.  Either use a very quiet room, with little to no background noise, or use a simple boom microphone that attaches to your smartphone.

Mistake #6. Shaky cam

Hold still.  You’ll make people sick with unstable camera movements.  Which can be solved if you use to hands, which you need to do if you are avoiding the next mistake.

Mistake #7. Framing vertically

Frame your video horizontally.  That’s the aspect ratio used on YouTube, so conform to it.  Holding your phone horizontally with two hands will also keep the image stable.

 

Mistake #8. Not tagging the video

When you post the video on YouTube, be sure to add the proper notations, or “tags”, so that Google knows what the video is about.  The tags should include “dentistry”, “dental patient”, your practice name, and anything specific regarding treatment that the patient may mention (like braces or veneers).

Mistake #9. Not getting a patient release

Don’t use the video if the patient won’t sign a release.  This is true of all photos and video that you do with patients.  And the language should include “for use in all media, including social media, in perpetuity.”  Use LegalZoom or an attorney to make sure you are conforming to the rules in your state.

 Bonus idea:  Show patient videos to teams in your morning huddle. What a great way to inspire the team and let them know how much your patients appreciate them.

You don’t need to shoot a lot of these videos.  Doing one every two weeks gives you 25, which is plenty in a year. If you have a dynamic website, like we make with WebDirector, you can post them easily, along with posting them on social media.  And you know what else this process does? It reminds patients to talk about your practice.  Even better, the dentist and the team gets to hear how much patients appreciate them. It’s a nice thing to watch in a morning huddle to get fired up about your day.

 

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Dental Blogging Made Easy

You may be asking, “Do I really need a blog?  Who the heck is going to read it?” For most of you, the answer is, “Nobody. Except Google.”  In other words, you’re doing it for SEO, the Google juice. You are creating content relevant to dentistry that links back to your website and practice.  Google likes that a lot.Blog for theGooglejuice!

As far as consumers–patients–not that many are willing to read blogs written by dentists.  They like food blogs a lot more (like my wife’s, The High Heel Gourmet).  But if your blog is displayed in your website they will be more likely to at least glance at the posts.

But because search engines like Google are looking outside your website to see what other content or mentions there are about your practice, then a blog is critical, especially since it is unique content, and by that I mean not just content supplied by your website builder. Your blog doesn’t have to be brilliantly unique, just written by you or someone on your team.

GETTING STARTED:

Step one is to pick a blog hosting site.  I recommend WordPress or Blogger.  These are free, and if you pay a little, they don’t run little ads inside your blog.

Step two is to pick a theme.  Many of these themes are like online magazines, which is overkill for what you are intending.  Pick something simple, and also “responsive”, which means it adapts easily to any device and still looks good.  Something like “2011” in WordPress or “Simple” in Blogger.

DESIGNING YOUR BLOG LOOK:

As you set up your blog, they will ask you what you want to call it, and specific questions about how you want it to look.

You will need a name for your blog. Nothing long or elaborate, but not just your practice name or your website domain name.  More like this: “The Blog of Ed Flynn, DDS”.  Part of it should have “dental” or “dentist” or “smile” in it.  You want to be identified as dentistry, not just health care, or just you.

Then you will choose a domain name.  It’s going to have “blogspot” or “wordpress” as part of it right now. Let them add this. Don’t worry about your own domain just yet.  This domain name can be something shorter than your blog title, and they will show you if it’s available. Here again try to get “dental” or “dentistry” into it.

You can choose your favorite color palette and upload an image, possibly your practice logo or a picture of you or your team or even something that just looks good.

As part of your setup, you want to connect your blog to Google+, which you should already have a profile on for your practice. If not, you need to claim your business on Google, which means you need to read this blog and the blog it links to.

Believe it or not, you’re ready to start blogging.  You can tinker with the settings later, none of that is really critical at this point.  And you can even change the theme later on, and everything will change and nothing will be lost.

WHAT TO WRITE:

This is where you are going to write about dentistry, any way you can think of. Two short paragraphs, two or three sentences each.  You don’t need a lot of content here to be effective.

So write about:

  • Your technology
  • Your training
  • Your favorite electric toothbrush
  • Managing gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Etc.

Get it?  Pretty much anything.

HOW OFTEN TO POST:

Weekly, ideally.  But you don’t have to do it every week. The beauty of blogging is you can schedule when they post.  In the “Publish” section on the blog composing page you can see where you can edit whether or not to publish immediately.  So you can write five or ten blogs at a time and schedule them to publish in sequence.

I don’t necessarily recommend the dentist be the author.  I think it could easily be the social media designee in the office.  Remember, you’re not publishing a paper for JADA.  You’re writing for spiders. (That’s the term for the Google robots that “read” everything on the internet.)

AMPLIFYING THE REACH AND SEO:

If you have a website that is dynamic, your blog can feed into it automatically.  This is one of the many reasons why you want a website like we build with WebDirector. To learn more about dynamic websites read this post.

You can also post your blog on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. There is a button in the blog editing page called “short code”, which gives you a simple code to put into a post on social media, and it doesn’t just provide a hotlink but also the title and beginning of the blog, as well as any picture you posted.

This is Blogging 101, to get you in the game.  You can certainly take it to the next level if you find it interesting to do.  An excellent example is Dr. Charles Payet’s blog, Smiles by Payet, which he has been writing for years, and doing a marvelous job.  In fact, he has multiple blogs, some for patients, some for dentists.

So get started. It will take months for Google to index your blog, and you can always go back and re-edit them after they were published.  You can do very little harm and eventually get a lot of Google juice out of it.

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