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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Want More Reviews? Make It Easy!

There is a simple principle to apply when you want someone to help you out–make it as easy as possible for them to do so, and the number of people who do it will increase exponentially.

For example, when the Red Cross was raising money for Haiti after the hurricane, they made it possible for people to simply send a text that would charge their phone bill.  They raised $5 million in the first day!  Just because it was easy.

One of the best ways to raise money for a charity is to ask people in the checkout line at the grocery store if they want to add a dollar for breast cancer research, feeding the homeless, or whatever cause is supported at the time.  It’s a tap of the finger, and it yields millions, one buck at a time.

The same is true for patient reviews.  Most of your patients are more than willing to do one if you ask them, but the easier you make it, the more likely they are to get it done.  The less steps involved, the higher the percentage will complete (this is true of just about everything, now that I think of it!)

Okay, how?  First, remember the four key places you want reviews to appear: your website, Google, Yelp and Facebook.  And with Google, and I believe with Yelp, patients cannot do those reviews from any device in your office, including their own if they’re using your office WiFi, because Google and Yelp will discard them. (Yelp has other filters, too, and this post talks about that.)

The easiest way is for a patient to be able to click on a hyperlink (you know, when the text is blue rather than black in an email, or this blog) that takes them straight to your Google Place or your Yelp page.  Obviously you need to have claimed those already. (If you haven’t, despite my nagging, read this for Google or this for Yelp.)

To do this, you need to have patient emails. This is one of the two main reasons you want all your patients’ email addresses. The other is for appointment reminders, of course. Then you use your automated digital communication software to send a specific email requesting a review.  For Google, you would only send this email to patients who have a gmail address, because they are the only ones that Google allows to do reviews.

PatientActivator and some the other apps have a pre-written email form that you can use, and all you have to do is put in your Google or Yelp URL (and we’d help you with that, too.) It looks like this:

Google_Review_Request

Send a few dozen of these out a week, and you’ll have a steady stream of reviews on both those sites.

You can use the same application to email requests for posts, likes and check-ins on Facebook, but I prefer that you do that in the office.  You can either have a tablet that you have for patients to use while in the chair, with a label on the front with your Facebook location, (you can get really nice ones done at www.skinit.com), or you can simply ask them to do it on their own phone. Half of them will already be on Facebook anyway 😉

PatientActivator, RevenueWell and all the other apps also survey your patients and elicit reviews from them, usually three days after their visit.  You can post these reviews on Facebook, usually with one click, and if you have a good dynamic website like we build with WebDirector, those reviews can appear automatically in your website, which is good for both SEO and for patients visiting your site.

You can also build in a page where your Yelp reviews appear within your website. That may seem crazy, but you don’t want people leaving your website to go to Yelp, which many of them will do to see what your reviews are. It shows confidence that you are willing to post your unvarnished Yelp reviews right there in your own website, and then they won’t go to Yelp and see adds for 13 other dentists at the same time.

I should also mention that a product like ReputationMonitor allows you to keep close track of everything that is being said about your practice online, and can send you alerts whenever a review is written about you, so you can either thank the patient or fix it, depending on what it says.

You need a pro-active, systematic process for gathering positive reviews on a regular basis. One, because people are definitely reading them more and more for every business and product that they use, and two, because the best strategy to counter negative reviews is an overwhelming number of positive ones.

Make it as easy as possible, and the results will be steady and stellar!

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Should You Advertise on Facebook?

Even though there are some distinct advantages to Facebook advertising, I would say that for most dental practices, the answer is probably not yet. Marketing is about properly sequencing your efforts, as much as it is about spending wisely. Even if you already do Google Adwords, you would need to alter your strategy and plan if you want to spend money effectively on Facebook.Facebook like button cash

The difference between Google and Facebook advertising

The main, and huge, difference, is that Google ads appear in response to a search, while Facebook ads are presented (pushed, as we say in the ad biz)  to people who fit certain criteria and have recently posted or liked something relevant to your ad.  The second big difference, which relates to the first, is that you can be very specific about who is shown your ad, what their interests are, and even what time of day it displays.

All that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Except very few businesses are raving about their success with Facebook advertising, and even fewer dentists are. My theory is that Facebook users find the ads invasive or invisible. Neither of those are good. It could also be that 50% of Facebook usage happens on smartphones, where ads are really not appreciated. (Okay, Facebook made $5.4 billion last year in ad revenue, so I have to admit it probably works for somebody!)

Also, as with Google, you are paying for clicks, which is a long way from a real patient. So if you are going to test Facebook advertising–and most of you know I believe in having an experimental budget as part of your marketing–then here are the elements you need in place beforehand:

  1. A robust Facebook business page, with lots of likes, check-ins, and posts from patients, and plenty of before-and-after photos, and ideally some videos, most of them testimonials;
  2. A rock-solid,dynamic website like we build you with WebDirector;
  3. A detailed system for tracking results, which starts with entering the source of each new patient into your PMS;
  4. Money to burn; you cannot be upset about this not paying for itself. It’s an experiment.

Why do you need a good website?  Because when they click on your ad, that is where they will be sent by Facebook.  There are different campaigns you can do on Facebook. You can advertise just to build “likes”.  I do not recommend this.  You can promote specific posts that you’ve done. I don’t recommend this either.  You want to promote your practice, which means promoting your website.

If you do decide to try it, go here: Facebook/advertising. You will be led step by step through the process of creating an ad, selecting your audience, and setting up your budget.  I’m going to take you through the process, but more as an overview.

Your Campaign Type. You will choose “website conversions” as the purpose of your campaign, and put in your practice domain name. (You could technically put in your Facebook URL, but those generally are not as comprehensive as your website.)   As part of your setup of your ad campaign, you will be able to add a little marker called a pixel that tells if people went to your website, and if they requested an appointment. (This requires web code–not complicated, but you’re not going to be able to do it yourself.) It’s a nice feature for tracking results.

Create your ad. You should be doing the image of your ad ahead of time, and uploading it. (Try www.canva.com if you’re a real novice at this. I’ll be blogging about that site next week.) You need a good ad message, with an image. Because it’s going to be small, it needs to catch their attention quickly. This is usually some kind of new patient offer.  As a word of warning, don’t use an image that is eye-catching but totally unrelated to dentistry; Facebook often shuts those off.  I’m talking about things like a girl in the tube top that takes you to a car insurance site.  Not that I’ve clicked on that.

Connect your Facebook page. This will let you track exactly where people came from.  It’s mostly if you want to have ads appear in your news feed. That’s not you.  Put in your Facebook page, but you want new patients to see you, so you’re going to “turn off news feed ads”.  If you have a lot of likes on your page, I’m talking hundreds, you can leave that option on so that people can see those next to your ad.  Otherwise unclick it.

Choose your audience. You can limit it to zip codes, and put multiple ones if you so choose.  I wouldn’t restrict gender yet. Age group I would start at 25+.  Pick languages you want. Under “More Demographics” you can get pretty specific about educational level. This will shrink your audience–Facebook is going to show you how many people that will be as you add filters. Under “Interests”, you can add as many as you want.  These are essentially keywords, like dentistry, toothache, whitening, Invisalign, etc. but for now I’d leave that blank for now.  People are only going to click on your ad if they are interested in dentistry, so don’t narrow it too quickly.

Select your budget. This is your daily amount.  You can change it whenever you want.  Under “Bidding”, leave it at “clicks”, not “impressions.”  I wouldn’t test less than $500 in a month. Place your order and see what happens.  I suggest trying it for at least three months.  You can vary your campaigns and test different  audiences, but don’t expect instant results.

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Is Facebook More Important Than Your Website?

This seems to be the big debate in the marketing world, particularly for small businesses.  From a marketing standpoint, it’s kind of COM-3like asking what’s more important in a car, the engine or the steering?  I guess it could be the engine, but a car without steering has some serious limitations. Like a car, the key to effective marketing is to get everything to work together.  That’s what achieves maximum results.

First, understand that your website is still the cornerstone of all your practice marketing.  It should appear on any advertising or promotion that you do, from business cards to emails. It is where people are most likely to end up on a Google search, and it is also where they will be sent if you advertise on Facebook and they click on the ad.

It also is well to note that many consumers now check multiple online sources when choosing a business.  They will look at a website, Facebook, (which is searchable; read this blog post to find out how that works), and review sites.

Which is why ideally your website already has reviews displaying, and also a page where your Yelp reviews stream, so that the person searching doesn’t leave your website to go look there and see ads for 13 (yes, 13!) other dentists.

But Facebook is dominating people’s Internet usage.  The average American spends 37 minutes a day on Facebook, more than any other Internet activity, including their email, and vastly more than any other social media site. (See the chart below.)Social Media Site usage

There’s no doubt that people are spending way more time on Facebook than ever before. The question is, are they behaving like consumers?  The answer to that, more and more, is yes, because of Facebook ads and because of Graph Search, which allows users to search Facebook almost the same way as they do Google, and find pictures, pages, posts and comments on anything.

So the answer is Facebook page is steadily growing in importance. In part because people don’t want to rely solely on the information they get on a website, and also because they spend way more time on Facebook than they do anywhere else on the web. They will not get the same feel for your practice experience on your website as they will on Facebook, but, conversely, people are more likely to call when they are on your website.

So, does that make Facebook equal or more important than your website? That depends on the individual consumer. And that’s why you need to cover both bases so well.  The amount of time Americans spend online has doubled in the past three years alone.  You need an active, robust presence online.  Which means:

  • A dynamic website, with ever changing content, and fresh reviews (not testimonials) showing up almost daily
  • A mobile version of your website that re-formats completely to conform to what users want to see on a smartphone
  • A Facebook page with a steady stream of likes, check-ins, and posts by both you and your patients
  • Marketing materials that promote both your website and your Facebook page
  • Video content (reviews, mostly) that can be used both on Facebook and your website (and YouTube)
  • Actively monitoring your reviews, ideally using a product that alerts you to new reviews, like ReputationMonitor

Marketing always works best as a comprehensive approach. There is no longer one single medium to master, like the Yellow Pages once were.  And there is no magic advertising bullet.  You will still have to always deliver a great patient experience.

In two weeks I’m going to write about paid advertising on Facebook, so stay tuned.

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Claim Your Custom Google Plus Name Now!

Finally, you can now have a Google+ URL that is your name rather than just a random string of numbers. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have had this for years, and Google is finally making it happen, but in a restricted way. For example, my Facebook link is www.facebook.com/fredjoyal. My Twitter is www.twitter.com/fredjoyal. LinkedIn–www.LinkedIn.com/in/fredjoyal. See a pattern here?

Now, at last, my Google+ link is www.google.com/+fredjoyal. It used to be plus.google.com/u/0/9087854393209822?.  Hard to fit that on a business card, or remember it.

How do you do it?  First, you must have a Google+ profile (that’s you as a person) or a page (your practice).  If you haven’t done a page yet for your business, it means your losing all sorts of SEO and potential patients, so first click here for my blog on how to get it done.

Now go to your profile or your page and if you are eligible for a new name you should see a notation at the top that looks like this:

Click on it, and then you will get the next instruction, which is where it offers up your options for your name.

 

You can add something to the end of your name, but you can’t change or customize what they offer to you as choices. (This is how Google is keeping people from claiming other people’s businesses’ names.)  If this is your personal profile, and you’re a dentist, I would add “DDS” or “DMD” to it.

They are very clear that once you choose this you can’t change it!  So be sure this is what you want. Most of the time it’s exactly what you want, but sometimes, if your name (you or your practice) is common, they won’t let you choose it without appending something to it. This will take some thought. Choose wisely.

If you are trying to customize your Google profile, that is, your personal site, you will need to have at least 10 followers and also have your photo posted before they will offer you the URL.

By the way, for it to work with a page for your website, you have to verify your website, which is done in the “About” section, and then you have to put a button/link to your Google+ page on your website somewhere (it doesn’t have to be prominent).  Otherwise Google won’t offer you a URL choice.

This URL makes it simpler to tell people how to get to your Google page.  It also makes it easier when you are sending Google review requests to your patients.  The only patients who can do that are ones with gmail addresses, so that’s who you should be sending the requests to. This is also explained more on my blog about refining your Google strategy.

I’ve mentioned this before, but make it a point to claim your name (or business) everywhere, both personally and your practice identity. You can click on each one of these for the place to do that: Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube (this teaches you how to link your Google+ page to a YouTube channel, creating it at the same time) and Facebook, both a profile and a business page. (I’m praying you are already on Facebook, but just in case!)

Do these even if you don’t plan to post to them yet.  You eventually will use them, and will want to link them to your website.

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