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!

 

 

 

Responding to Negative Facebook Comments

You may find that sometimes you will post something on your practice Facebook page and a patient may have a comment you don’t appreciate, or that you find taints the positive impact of the post.  What should you do? Respond? Delete it? Ignore it?

If you’ve been following me at all, you know I’m not going to recommend ignoring it. NEVER ignore a negative comment.  Now, as far as deleting it, that depends on whether it’s something nasty or insulting or inappropriate in some way.  If it is, then you just go to the little “x” on the right of the comment and remove it.  But remember that by doing so you are inviting the person to comment again. If they do, I would just remove the post altogether.

But what if it merits a response?  That’s trickier.  So let me tell you a story which, by way of example, has several key lessons in it with regard to Facebook.

A dentist friend of mine wrote to me about this exact problem.  First let me say that she does an amazing job of building a culture in her practice, and also does Facebook very well.  She is always doing fun events for her team members, from group pedicures to mini-vacations.  And she knows how to stage them as well.  One day she came to work with a new Coach handbag and was making a bit of a deal about showing it off to her team.  They were admiring it, but she knew that there was a bit of “I’m glad you can afford that,” as an undercurrent.  She was setting them up perfectly without them knowing it.

That night there was a team dinner and as each of them showed up they were given a number.  They were not aware that the number was based on seniority.  She was still sporting the Coach handbag as they all sat for dinner, and there was some joking from a few of the team, like, “When will we get ours?”

“Actually,” she told them, “I’m glad you asked.” Her husband, meanwhile, who manages the practice, had set up a separate table earlier, with a tablecloth draped over something, and he stepped over and revealed a row of brand new Coach handbags.

“Those numbers that you have? You get to go up in order and pick your own bag,” my friend told them.

Of course, the crew went wild with excitement.  My dentist friend made sure to document the whole experience, and then the next day she posted a photo on Facebook and explained the team reward.  Herein lies the lesson.

There were many positive comments and likes on the post, but one patient felt the need to make this remark: “I think you are a good orthodontist, but it is upsetting to see your staff get Coach bags when I am struggling to pay my orthodontics bill. They work hard but so do I.”

In this person’s world, no employee should be rewarded, and discounts should be passed on to the struggling consumer.  Ironically, (and typically), this person was already getting a discount and a special payment accommodation, but still felt the team was being enriched to her detriment.

The team, as you might expect, was indignant about this comment, and will no doubt not feel as warmly toward this patient on her next visit.  But my friend responded perfectly, as you can see below:

Romani Facebook response blurred (1)

How perfect is that?

The lessons here are twofold. First, respond well, and positively, and turn it to your advantage whenever you can. But this is a cautionary tale as well.  How many other patients might have had this negative response but didn’t express it? I think it wise to be careful about posts where you are rewarding your team members.

A group pedicure may be fine, but something that seems expensive to the average person is best kept private. Stick to charity events, costume days and holiday celebrations with the team, and avoid flashing your success too much.

For more on ideas of what to post on Facebook, read my previous blog post.  Also if you are interested in our white paper, Facebook 101, click here.

By the way, if you’re not going to CEREC 30, you’re missing out big time.  This is going to be the largest and most exciting event in dentistry all year.  I’m speaking there, as well as Tony Robbins and Magic Johnson, and the band Train will be playing a full concert on Friday night.  Even if you don’t use CEREC, it will be a great learning experience for you and your team. There will also be an Eaglesoft track and several other learning opportunities.  See you there!

 

 

 

 

 

Customer Satisfaction Is Not a Calculation

Customer satisfaction is a perception. It is not based on some calculation of value
received.  Cost may certainly be a factor, but what is expensive is also a perception that varies widely from person to person. To me, a $17,000 Apple Watch is too expensive.  To someone trying to impress people with how much money they have to buy whatever they want, or how successful they are, it’s worth every penny.Caclulating value girl

Understanding this is essential in any business. Pretending it’s not true, that human beings are completely rational in their decision-making, in their assessment of value, in their responses to situations, is, well, completely irrational.

Think about it.

Whether you were treated well is a perception.

Whether you were greeted nicely is a perception.

Feeling respected is a perception. So is feeling disrespected.

Feeling talked down to is a perception.

Feeling understood is a perception.

Trustworthiness is a perception.

Feeling appreciated is a perception.

Notice that none of these are calculations people make are based on a column of numbers or a list of provable facts.

Most important, they are all integral parts of the patient experience.  And the patient experience, much more than the clinical result, is what compels a person to write a positive review, or recommend the practice to a friend or family member, or borrow money in order to get comprehensive treatment.

Which is why the little things matter.

Which is why listening is so important.

Which is why price is not the primary factor in patient retention, unless it’s the only thing they hear.

Which is why genuinely caring about your patients, more than about making money, matters.

Which is why, quite simply, everything matters.

 

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!

 

 

Why Goal-Setting Alone is a Pointless Exercise

 I was talking to a dentist at the end of last year, and he was whining to me that despite all failure-successhis goal-setting efforts, his practice didn’t grow at all, and in fact production was off 4% from the previous year.

I asked him about his process and he told me, “I did what everyone says to do.  I made  my goals very specific and I wrote them down.”

“That’s good,” I said. “That’s key.”

“And then, every day I would take them out and read them,” he continued. “Out loud.”

“And?”

“And nothing changed.  In fact, things got worse. The whole process was pointless.”

“But what did you do to achieve those goals?”

“I told you. I read them every day.  Out loud.”

I had to agree with him.  It was pointless, because he skipped the most important part of goal setting, which is you then have to DO something to achieve those goals.  Usually every day.  And perhaps even more important, DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

A goal without a plan is a wish.

Just as a dream without a strategy is a daydream.  It’s important — critical, even — to set goals and write them down.  But then you have to decide what the steps are to achieve them, and commit to doing those steps every day.  And if you don’t know what the steps are, then you need to get help to figure out what those steps are.

Another dentist I encountered two years ago was very down about how the economy in his area had affected his practice, and asked what I thought he should do.  I gave him a copy of my book, and suggested he read it and if it resonated with him to get his team members to also read it.  I ran into him again earlier this year and he proudly told me that his practice was up 50% from two years ago, and attributed it to what he learned in the book.

But it wasn’t because he read my book.  It was because he decided to ACT on what he had learned in the book. He realized if he wanted different results he needed to do something different.  You don’t have to use my book, but most often you need to get outside yourself to figure out what to do differently. Get a coach, or take a course, or both.

Our world is in constant flux.  Communication is changing — try leaving a voicemail and getting a response. Technology is changing — would you buy a car today without Bluetooth?  And consumer behavior is changing — you can deposit checks with your phone, ask a hundred strangers what they think of a restaurant, and have Amazon deliver your groceries. And thinking that you can keep doing the same things you’ve always done in the face of these changes is a recipe for extinction.

So when we set goals, we often plan to put greater effort into doing the same thing, instead of trying something different, or learning a new approach.  But very often a different approach yields exponentially better results.  For example, you can spend five minutes trying to explain the decay issue with the old amalgam on a patient’s #2, with no success.  Or you can show them on your monitor using an intraoral camera and they’ll accept treatment instantly. (A 3M study showed we respond 60,000 times faster to visual information than text.)

Or you can try to place implants using traditional radiography, and hope you get the angle and depth right, or you can use a Galileos and know exactly which implant to use and how to place it, and even create a drill guide so you can practically do it blindfolded.

The answers are everywhere.  Upgrade your website, ask for Yelp reviews, get a friendlier receptionist, or redo your reception area.  Have evening hours.  Stop wearing Hawaiian shirts (unless you practice in Hawaii).  Or get CEREC. If you think that one visit versus two is not a huge consumer benefit, you are deluded about how much fun it is to be treated by you.

Goals are pointless without a plan to execute.  And as you execute, be sure to pick one thing, get it done, make it part of the fabric of your practice, and then go on to the next change. Trying 20 changes all at once is another recipe for failure.  But make a plan to reach your goals, decide what you’re going to do differently, and then take daily action. Otherwise, this year will be just like last year.  Or maybe a little worse.

Throughout this year, I’m committed to finding great ideas and practical solutions for you, so that you can reach your goals even faster.   Happy 2015!