Refining Your Google Strategy

Most dental practices have at least a basic understanding of the importance of Google, but in order to maximize the results for you, I’m going to start with the basics and work my way into full utilization.

Step 1. Claim your business.  You do this at www.google.com/maps.  Put the dentist’s name or the practice name in the search box, and you will undoubtedly find it listed. (If nothing appears, just go to step 2.) Click on your business name as listed on the left side of the page, and then click “more info” (where the arrow indicates below. Also, clicking on the images in this blog will enlarge them).

 

Google biz claim 2

 

This will take you to a new page which will show your business details and any reviews you might have. You will see a place in the middle right of the page where it asks, “Is this your business?”  Click on the “Manage this page” button below it, and then on the next page check “edit my business information” and click “continue”.

 

Google biz claim 2

 

Now you’ll see your basic information, and as you scroll down you can see all the possible info that you can add.  If you try to change the name or address, it will want you to validate your ownership, and it will send you a code to your practice phone number. (Someone has to be there to answer, so do this from your office.)  This will allow you to become the administrator of your page.

Once you’ve added some information, Google will tell you that they are sending you a letter that will give you a PIN and instructions on how to become the administrator of this page.  They, and you, don’t want just anyone adding or changing information.  Getting the phone call is quickest, usually, so I would modify the address slightly to make that happen.

But do you see all the information you can add: hours, special services, photos, video, and most important, your website? Do ALL of it.  This is free advertising and free SEO.  You can even put in a new patient offer in the “description” box.

Step 2. Create a Google+ business page.  This is easy once you’ve done the first step. Go to www.google.com/+/business/ and click on the “Create a Google+ Page” button.  They will ask you to put in your primary business phone number, and this in turn will find your Google Places page.

 

Google claim biz 3

 

Just follow the instructions from there, and be sure to use a nice panoramic photo as you would do on a Facebook Timeline. If you had your website designed by us with WebDirector, we would carry your design through all these social media pages.  This page is going to be where you post just as you do on your Facebook business page (which hopefully you’re doing).  You would simply replicate the posts at this point, because you’re doing it mostly for the Google juice.

A Google+ page increases in value when you have your patients do a “+1” on your page, because Google will link these notations to Adwords (which I will explain below), and give you a slightly higher ranking.  Every bit helps.  Your website builder should also put a G+1 button on your front page.

Step 3. Solicit reviews from your patients. During the past twelve months, it seemed that everyone’s Google reviews simply disappeared, but now they’re back.  And they are important.  Important because consumers read them, and also because Google “reads” them, in that it looks at the ratings you’re given and the total number of reviews.  They have also announced plans to analyze the text of the reviews to give a “sentiment score”, and so negative reviews will count against you in the SEO game, and you will need positive reviews to offsite them.

So what is the best way to solicit Google reviews?  First, understand that only someone with a gmail address can review your practice on Google.  In some ways, this makes it easier, because you can figure out which patients can review you by searching patient email addresses.  Then what you want to do is send each of them an email asking politely if they would be willing to write you a review on Google, and insert your Google Places URL into the email, so all they have to do is click on it.  To find your URL (which is just an array of characters, not your name, unfortunately), go to your Google+ page, click on “profile”, and then copy what is in the URL box at the top (see the yellow arrow below.)  It will start with plus.google.com and then a long string of numbers–copy this, EXCLUDING anything after the string of numbers and the “/” mark. When you insert this in the email, patients will be able to click on it and it will go directly to your page, where they can then click on “write a review” (see the red arrow below).

Google biz claim 5

 

It is also possible to have patients write a review for you while they are in your office, but there are two key facts to remember:

1.  If they do a review from any device of yours–a computer, tablet, whatever–then Google will discard it, because it believes you wrote it.  They can only do it on their own smartphone.

2. If you offer free wifi in your office, which I highly recommend, then DON’T ASK PATIENTS TO REVIEW YOU ON THEIR SMARTPHONES!  If their phones access your wifi, then Google once again will discard all those reviews as written by you.

These two details are the reason it’s best to email patients to request reviews. If you have digital communication software like Patient Activator or Revenue Well, one of the benefits is the ease with which you can send a group email to your patients.  You could even combine it with a request for them to review you on Yelp, and just put all the information for both places in the email.

You don’t need tons of reviews, but you will want a steady stream of positive ones so that there are always fresh ones for people and Google to read.  Two or three a week is great, but more than five a week is unnecessary.

Step 4. Bid on keywords.  What this translates to is advertising on Google using Adwords. You would go here to do that: www.google.com/adwords/express.

 

Google claim biz 6

 

This is the simplest way to get started.  Just follow the instructions, pick some basic keywords–specifically the word “dentist” paired with your town name, and another paired with your zip code–then add a couple of others, like Invisalign, dentures or dental implants; things you specialize in or like to do.  Don’t go crazy with too many keywords yet, and don’t set a high budget. I suggest starting with $500.  And please, I beg you, track the results, and use some of the analytics that Google will provide you.  You ideally want to appear among the first three places on the right of the search results page, but the possibility of this happening will vary based on hundreds of things, but primarily what other dentists are willing to bid for a click, and how competitive your area is in the online world.

I hope this helps!

 

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Getting the Max from your Digital Communication Software

There are a number of automated digital communication applications on the market now–Demand Force, RevenueWell, and our own product, PatientActivator–and these are excellent timesavers for your practice.  If you don’t know about them, they essentially work with your existing practice management software to send patient reminders by text and email (and also by automated phone calls, with ours).  They cost between $200-300 per month, and pay for themselves easily by time saved and by tightening recall.

But what I’ve noticed is that many practices who use these applications are only using them for the basic function of appointment reminders, while a much higher value can be achieved when you use their other features.  If you are currently using one of these programs, here are the tools you should be using:

Dormant Patient Reactivation

All of these programs have an automated function that allows you to send a specific message to patients who have fallen behind on their recall. You can craft the message yourself, but it basically is, “Hi Susan, it’s been over a year since you’ve been in the office. We miss you! Give us a call and we can get you in the schedule right away.” The software itself will look at which patients need this message that day, and so you’ll have on average four or five of them going out.  Patient Activator will also do this with an automated phone message.  Many people are surprised that a year has gone by, and will call that day.

Email Marketing Programs

You can send what we call “email blasts” to your patients.  These are marketing messages like Valentine’s Day whitening specials, or Invisalign discounts, or free implant exams.  Or whatever you want.  We have a number of them pre-designed, but you can always craft your own.  You can do as many of these as you want, and they is no extra charge to do them.

Newsletters

You can also send patients digital newsletters with oral health tips, practice services and any specials you want to offer.  These programs all have hundreds of pre-written articles to choose from, so you can assemble a year’s worth of newsletters in a matter of minutes. I recommend sending them quarterly, but you can send them as often as you like.  Once you set it up, it happens automatically.

It’s important to know that patients can opt out of any of the individual elements of these programs.  They can say they don’t want the newsletters, or only want text reminders, not email, etc.  So you can tailor each patient’s communication mode to their preference.

Surveys and Reviews

After each visit, patients receive a survey asking them about their experience at the practice.  You can modify the questions or just use the basic ones already set up.  Patients can also write a review of the practice, and this will go up into a microsite specially created for your practice.  This gets you SEO.  Beyond that, if you have a dynamic website, you can have these reviews appear automatically, so that you have ever-changing fresh content on your website.  And more and more consumers are looking for authentic reviews about businesses before they use them, so this is a powerful tool.  Our website product, WebDirector, can import these reviews automatically.  And you can always de-select a review if you don’t want it to post.

 

These are all powerful marketing tools.  Obviously the more email addresses you have on your patients the better, so gathering those should become standard practice in your office.  If you don’t use one of these program yet, pick one. Mine is the best, of course, but they’re all good products. 😉 Don’t do nothing–you’re missing too much utility and marketing power here. Use one of these, and use it to the max.

 

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Five Facebook Fallacies

To some of you this information may seem very basic, but I get these questions often enough from dentists where I think it’s important to clear them up.

1. “I should set up my Facebook business page so that people can’t post, because otherwise some people will say nasty things about me.”  Wrong.  On Facebook, you can delete anything that anyone posts.  I’ll say it again; YOU CAN DELETE ANYTHING ANYONE POSTS.  You want people to post as much as possible, as often as possible.  This isn’t Yelp, where you’re powerless.

2. “Facebook is for kids.”  Nope.  The fastest growing segment of Facebook users is…wait for it…people over 54!  I guess since I’m over 54, and I feel like a kid, and I use Facebook, then maybe that’s why this is a widespread fallacy. But seriously, the majority of Facebook users are over 30.

3. “No one will read my page.”  Even if this were true, which it isn’t, Google, Bing and Yahoo will still be reading your page. Plus you need a Facebook page so people can easily find your practice on their phone when they check in on Facebook. And depending on how many likes, posts and check-ins you have, this will add to the SEO of your practice website.  Don’t have a website yet? Oy. Go here.

Below is what a Facebook check-in looks like on a smartphone.

This is what Facebook's "check in" looks like on a smartphone.

 

4. “Facebook will get me lots of new patients.”  Negatory. Not on its own. There are many social media “experts” who will tell you that Facebook is the new advertising medium, and do it right and you’ll be buried in new patients.  Not yet.  Not until Graph Search comes out.  In the meantime, it is an adjunct, an enhancement, to your overall practice marketing strategy, albeit one that is growing constantly in importance.  Look at Facebook like word-of-mouth reinforcement.

5. “I don’t need a lot of posts or a lot of likes, just good quality ones.”   False. Used to be true; isn’t anymore.  Now that Facebook is about to launch Graph Search and make itself the social Google, the more “likes” you have from patients, the more posts they do, and the more times people “check in” to your practice, the more you will come up in that search.

Often these are all just lame excuses for not getting involved with Facebook. Sorry, but it is high time you got going with Facebook as part of your practice marketing.

 

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Why Do So Many Dentists Hate Yelp?

This is a question I get fairly often, along with dentists simply telling me that they hate Yelp.  The reason, I believe, is that Yelp seems inherently unfair.  If someone does a book review on Amazon, or a hotel review on TripAdvisor, the review appears chronologically with all the other reviews.

Yelp, on the other hand, filters reviews.  Also, negative reviews seem to float to the top, and even if a dentist has many positive reviews, they show up as “filtered” at the bottom of the page, and a viewer has to click to see the good reviews displayed. (see where the purple arrow is pointing?)  Not only that, when you click on it they make you do one of those annoying CAPTCHAs before you can access the reviews.  Two steps instead of none.

Yelp filtered click CAPTCHA

The explanation Yelp gives is that essentially negative reviews are, by their very nature, credible, and positive reviews are suspect. Okay, maybe. But why not let the reader decide that, like all the other review sites?

And now add the fact that virtually no one who writes a Yelp review about a dentist is reviewing the clinical expertise of that dentist.  They have tons of things to say about the experience of seeing that dentist, of being in the practice, of what it costs, how the staff interacted with them, what the decor was like.  And since it’s not easy to give a tremendously fun experience during a dental treatment, people tend to be somewhat negative.

And one more thing: if you are not a paying advertiser on Yelp, when someone finds your practice, Yelp is going to assault them with alternative choices of dentists in the area who do pay them. Notice all the purple arrows here.  This dentist has not even claimed his business on Yelp yet, and so he has very little information listed. (I’m going to get on him about that!) But Yelp has also provided THIRTEEN other dentists to choose from!

Yelp Burnett page

You may not think reviews are important, but 83% of people who search online say they are influenced by reviews. That’s a big number. Also, I recently wrote a blog on the growing influence of Yelp, and it’s worth the read if you are unfamiliar with the site.

So what do you do?  First, claim your business on Yelp.  Second, start asking your patients if they are Yelp reviewers, and if they are, request that they write a review for you. If they review frequently, Yelp ascribes more credibility to their reviews, and they won’t get filtered.  Also, you simply want an overwhelming number of positive reviews and that usually turns the tide in your favor.

You might also consider advertising on Yelp, but as with anything, track your results. It’s not cheap, so it better yield some real patients.

Lastly, ideally your Yelp reviews should be viewable within your own website. WebDirector, our website product, does that, and they feed in automatically. This is critical because it keeps the viewer on your website instead of going out to Yelp to read your reviews (where they will see ads for other dentists, as you see above).  When researching a business, people now tend to check two or three sites, and Yelp is often one of them.  Make it so they can see those reviews without leaving your website, and you vastly increase the chance of being contacted by them.

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Write to Your Best Patients

Want a terrific way to let your best patients know how important you are to them? I suggest writing them a personalized letter, on your stationery, that says essentially this:Girl reading letter

“Dear [patient’s first name],

You are a valuable patient to this practice, and your dental health is important to me.  For this reason, I want to give you my personal cell phone number and email so that you can always reach me if you have an emergency situation.  I’m available to you anytime, and trust that you will consider the time of day and the level of emergency when you contact me.

With any non-emergency questions you might have, please feel free to text or email me, and I will get back to you quickly.  Our practice goal is to preserve your smile while offering you the most convenient and comfortable dental care possible.  We appreciate you as a patient, and hope this is a clear demonstration of that.  I look forward to seeing you soon!

Warmest regards,

Dr. [dentist]”

This certainly will engender patient loyalty.  Beyond that, these good patients will now be even more likely to refer you (and wouldn’t you love a call on your cell phone from a patient introducing you to a new patient?)  My data shows me that patients will not abuse this privilege, but rather will respect and appreciate it. They may feel compelled to write about your letter on Facebook or Yelp. How nice would that be? And lastly, they are more likely to be consistent on recall.  After all, they’re one of your best patients.  They need to act that way!

You can decide who and how many of your patients to send this to, but hopefully it’s most of your patient base.  If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it worked for you.

 

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