SEO: Can You Ever Stay Ahead of It?

Every business dreams of coming up on the first page in an organic web search.  And every day I talk to dentists who want to improve the SEO of their website.  All while Google keeps changing how the results look and what satisfies their search algorithms.  They just did it again on August 6th in a fairly big way.

Let’s talk about that change first.  The big differences are:

1. The map results on computers now only show 3 practices. This now mirrors what happens on mobile phones.

2. The full address of the practice is gone.

3. Everything “above the fold”–what is immediately viewable on a computer screen–is now essentially paid for.

SEO search resultsThere are still listings of organic results on the first page, meaning if you scroll down you will see them, and not have to click to see the next page of results, but in this particular search Yelp had the first three “organic” positions.  This is because they know how to maximize SEO, and can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars making sure they are doing everything that Google wants. You can’t do that.

Also, notice that on the right the paid ads do get their address to show up.  And they can even offer specials or a have a specific message.  But clearly Google makes it easy to get to the paid advertisers’ websites.  And you can be sure that the bidding for those places is escalating all the time.

This is all happening because Google is in the ad sales business, and they want you to pay to appear.  The results are even more narrowed toward paying advertisers when you search on a mobile device (which is where more than 60% of searches begin, by the way.)

Face it, when you have 80% of dentists who now have a website, they’re not all going to show up on the first page organically. It’s not physically possible, and clearly getting more challenging all the time.

So what should your strategy be?

You still need to find as many ways to create good SEO as possible. But don’t fall for some company guaranteeing that they can get you on the first page. There are too many factors out of anyone’s control. Read my previous blog on this for more insight on that.  It’s more true now that ever.

Here’s what you need:

1. A dynamic website that allows you to change content easily yourself and have constant new content feeding to it automatically.  It should be simple, modern-looking, and easy to navigate.

2. Reviews are powerful content, and if you are surveying your patients using PatientActivator or some other application, then you can have those appear automatically.

3. Embed Yelp reviews in your site.  It will only show three, but it will keep people from leaving your website and going to Yelp to see reviews.

4. Add new patient testimonial videos every week.

5. Write a blog, and link it to your website. It should have your town included in most posts, as well as some key dental phrases. Your blog is for Google to read. Most humans won’t. So being local and with relevant words is what matters most.

6. Make sure all the directories across the web have the exact same information about your practice. ReputationMonitor, which is included with PatientActivator, makes it much easier to do this.

7. Have a form where patients can request an appointment.

8. Make sure your website is responsive, meaning it plays properly on every device–particularly mobile phones–and in every browser.  The first test is to look at your website on your own phone.  Easy to read? Pretty? Better be!

But overall, concentrate on giving a great patient experience, because your website is only one part of your promotion and practice awareness. Social media and review sites will play a larger and larger part of that with every passing month.  It all has to work together, with your website as the hub.  And what patients post out there matters more than ever.

We build websites with our WebDirector product, but there are other reputable companies out there as well.  You can tell who they are because they don’t promise magical results.  We will also help you integrate all the social media aspects that you need to make everything look consistent and connect to each other.

It’s a daunting, moving target, I know. But it’s the way of the world, and ignoring it or thinking it doesn’t relate to your neighborhood is going to prove to be failed strategy.  So stay on it!

 

 

 

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!

The Magic of Giving Tours

If you’ve read my book, you know I’m a big believer in giving office tours to new patients, and I wanted to give you an example of how influential it can be based on an experience I had in Chicago last month.

One of the perks of attending the Chicago Midwinter Meeting is getting to eat at some Chicago’s amazing restaurants.  For the second year in a row, I made a point of dining at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, which to my mind is one of the best steakhouses in the world. The waiters are informed and attentive, the atmosphere feels modern and classic at the same time, and the beef is cooked to perfection.Fernando Chicago Cut small

We all wanted to see how they could do everything so perfectly, so we asked for a tour of the kitchen.  And they were entirely prepared to do so. They often give tours of the dry-aging room (they butcher all their own beef right there) but we got the bonus round and were led into the kitchen, where we met master chef Fernando (that’s him with me) who manages to serve more than 500 steaks every night, each one cooked perfectly.

He showed us his unique method for testing if the steak is done exactly right, but those of us on the tour were sworn to secrecy.  (Maybe if you buy me dinner there next time I’ll tell you. 😉 ) All in all, it was a singularly terrific evening in the Windy City.

Am I biased by the tour to believe that their food is superior? You bet. Am I coming back? Guaranteed. Am I going to tell people about this place? I am right now. Will I post about it on social media? Oh, just on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp.

This is the same effect you want to achieve with your new patient tours.

When a new patient comes to your office, they don’t know what they’re in for.  Even if they were recommended by a friend and family member, they’re apprehensive.  A tour relaxes them, informs them, and gives them an experience that they don’t normally get in health care.  It starts the relationship by making the patient feel truly welcome.

In a recent survey done for Futuredontics, we asked patients the reasons why they would go back to the same dentist. Surprisingly, they ranked the cleanliness of the practice as a close third. Most people have no idea the degree of effort dental practices make in sterilization, so show them.  Put them at ease. They may not verbalize it, but they want to know that the practice is safe and sterile.  If you want to know more about what we learned, you can access our white paper “What Dental Patients Want” by clicking on the title.

To give you an idea how serious people are about this, I recently met a woman who told me she only went back to the dentist that we recommended because they had soap in the restroom.  Huh?  But think about it.  She was basing the cleanliness of the entire office based on the bathroom.  Big assumption, but if the bathroom is dirty, what else is?  Keep it clean!

Lots of big companies do tours.  Zappos, the online clothing store, for example.  Anyone can get a tour of their facility in Las Vegas, and i highly recommend it.  A-Dec does as well, and you’ll be amazed at the lengths to which they go to build long-lasting products. And, if you’re ever in Los Angeles, we’ll be happy to give you a tour of Futuredontics. (Lots of soap in the bathroom, I promise you!)

I lay out the details of doing office tours in my book, but here are the basics:

  1. Plan the steps of the tour, and script it;
  2. Pick a tour guide (you generally know who that should be from the team–or take turns doing it);
  3. Let everyone know in the morning huddle when there will be a new patient tour, so that they can be ready to greet the person by name;
  4. Show them your wall of fame (pictures, training, diplomas, patient letters and photos);
  5. Explain all the benefits of the technology that you use;
  6. Show them the sterilization center;
  7. Introduce them to the team members and dentists;
  8. Ask them if they have any questions.

This will give a phenomenal and unique first impression.  Your office doesn’t necessarily have to have an amazing design, but it should always feel warm and inviting, and look clean and modern. Most of all, have fun doing it!

 

 

You’re Just Like Tom Cruise

Living in Los Angeles, I meet more than my share of actors.  Not just the more famous ones, but the ones trying to make it.  And there are many of them at the “undiscovered” tom-cruise-in-mission-impossible-4-movie-hdstage of their careers who are pure artists.  By that I mean they love acting. They are passionate about the process of creating a character and performing.  And some of them are extremely talented. They consider themselves as pure artists, but they are starving, because they have not adjusted to the idea that successful actors know that they are not just artists, but are working in an industry trying to make a profit, not just art.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, knows that he is in a business. He loves acting, and works as hard or harder than almost anyone in the industry at his performances. He has been the lead in 29 films, has won three Golden Globes and been nominated for three Oscars. But, he is also ranked #3 in all-time box office revenue ($6.5 billion so far), because he understands the business of acting, perhaps better than almost anyone.

So what does that have to do with dentistry?  In my experience, the best dentists clinically are artist/engineer personalities.  They want to do great dentistry, and train themselves constantly to get better.  But many of them are in practices that are struggling financially.  Despite being extraordinary “artists”, their careers are not paying off.  Just like the “pure” actors, they don’t like the idea of promoting themselves, or focusing on the business aspects of their practice, and don’t feel the need to understand their “audience.”

Tom Cruise has a PR team, an acting coach, a manager, an agent, a financial advisor and business partners in his production company.  Why?  Because to succeed in acting you need all of those things, as well as talent.

The successful dentists I know all have their team as well. They use a practice consultant to coach them, work with a financial advisor, use outside marketing resources, and have a deeply-engaged relationship with their distributor representative.  And they make sure that their office manager is constantly updating her skills (through organizations like AADOM).

But all that is expensive, you might say.  In response, I say, you know what’s expensive? Houses. Cars. Kids’ educations. Travel. Retirement. That’s why you need to be successful as a dentist, not just clinically excellent.  That takes investment.  Tom Cruise pays his manager 10% of his income because he earns it!  His acting coach isn’t expensive–he’s an investment in growth.  His financial advisor doesn’t cost him money–he makes him money.  And all of these people do these things so that Tom can focus on his performance.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand the business aspects of his career.  You can bet he’s paying close attention to it. (Just as you should.)  And his reputation is also vulnerable, just like a dentist’s is.  You may have some troubling Yelp reviews, but he’s had some issues with his involvement in Scientology.  But he doesn’t ignore them.  And you can’t afford to either. He fixes it with good reviews for a hit movie (The Edge of Tomorrow).  Just as you should have a systematic approach to generating great reviews. (This whitepaper gives you a step-by-step approach for this.)

Successful dentists–dentists who are thriving and enjoying their work–focus on the clinical and the business side of their practices.  Clients of mine use 1-800-DENTIST because they know their ROI is 4-1 on their marketing investment. They have us build their websites because they know they couldn’t possibly keep up with SEO on their own. Fortune Management clients keep using their coaches even as they get more successful, because they know they can always get better (or slip back into old, unproductive habits.)  Patterson clients know that their rep isn’t just keeping their cabinets full of sundries, but are also steering them in the right direction on new technology, office design and clinical training.

Those are just examples of the many good resources that are available to you.  I list my favorites on this blog on the right-hand side, from Gary Takacs to Spear Education to the Madow brothers, and in the resources section of this blog as well.

Long-term success in dentistry is not an impossible mission, but a noble one.  You’re helping people, and the only way you can keep doing it in the next 20 years is by running your business extremely well.  And that takes a team.

Creating Your Panoramic Photo Images

A dentist asked me recently, regarding Facebook Timeline photos, “What camera takes pictures that wide? It’s crazy!”  I took out my iPhone 5 and said, “This camera. And Apple just sold another 15 million of them this week.”  I then showed him the “panoramic” option on my phone’s camera.

Of course, Facebook allows you to reframe an uploaded photo, but the picture needs look right when it is cropped deeply at the top and bottom, and you can only adjust up and down.

But then, wouldn’t you also like to add your logo, or some other message on the photo?  How the heck do you do that!?!?

Amazingly easy, even for us old folk.  First, you sign up at the website www.canva.com.  The tools on this site are FREE.  Their goal is to sell you the rights to uses images, which they provide very inexpensively.  But you can upload your own pictures and combine them, add text to them, frame them, all sorts of things, in a nearly idiot-proof environment, and not pay a dime.

The home page looks like this:

Canva front page

You can create any shape you want, and they have the templates for practically everything, from Facebook ads to Timeline photos, your Twitter heading, website images, your thumbnail photo, your business cards, whatever.  You just upload the pictures you want to work with (and it stores them for you forever as part of your media library), and then you can drag it into the template you want, stretch it, move it add another photo next to it if you want, or super-impose one onto another.

Then you’ll want to add text, and they have all different fonts and colors to choose from.  If you’re color blind, like me, get some help with your choices. Or you can drop your logo onto it. Now just save it, download it, and then upload it to whichever site you made it for.

You can also use Canva to design Facebook contests and promotions, and they have templates for those and many other things.  They also have millions of photos that you can access, and you only pay $1 for each premium element you use for your design.  That’s cheap.  Especially since the rest is free.

You can get way trickier if you take some of the tutorials–framing photos, changing background colors, drawing on the image–but for now you have a simple solution that makes great-looking images.

I did this for my Facebook book page in about three minutes,and the template made sure I knew exactly where the thumbnail photo was going to appear over it, so I could get it looking right the first time:

DENTAL MARKETING GURU.jpg

I still recommend you get team photos professionally done, do nice photos of your office, and take good thumbnail photos of yourself. But now you can dress them up and personalize them easily.

You can also use it to design printed materials, if you’re still into that sort of thing.

I haven’t found any photo tool that’s easier with such versatility. Give it a try!