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!

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!

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.

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.