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The facts about website traffic volume and sources

March 19, 2015
Dental practiceshave embraced the Internet, recognizing that the digital world is where consumers go to research dental services, select oral care service professionals, and interact with their chosen practices. In order to take full advantage of this reality within your practice, four key components are required for an optimized online marketing and patient engagement strategy:

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA

Dental practiceshave embraced the Internet, recognizing that the digital world is where consumers go to research dental services, select oral care service professionals, and interact with their chosen practices. In order to take full advantage of this reality within your practice, four key components are required for an optimized online marketing and patient engagement strategy:

1. Practice website

This is the cornerstone of your online presence and the most comprehensive articulation of your practice brand.

2. Search engine optimization (SEO)

This is a critical complement to your practice website as it ensures you are featured prominently within local search results.

3. Social media

This is your primary method for creating a consistent online dialog with existing patients and sharing their positive experiences to prospective patients within their network of friends, family, and colleagues.

4. Listings on vertical topical search portals and directories

This ensures your practice brand and value is shared with the ever-increasing volume of prospective patients who look for information and online reviews on specific portals such as Healthgrades.com.

Historically, these four online disciplines were regarded within dentistry as separate and optional digital marketing initiatives. Why? There was no valid data available regarding how these areas worked in concert to drive more traffic to practice websites. However, this has changed. In a recently concluded national research study, Sesame Communications evaluated the online performance of 1,245 member practices over the period of February to September 2014. The key research questions evaluated were:

• How do different online properties, like websites, social media, and SEO, work together to drive more traffic to practice websites?

• What are the dominant referral sources of traffic to websites?

• Does the addition of practice website links on Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles drive more traffic to practice websites?

Research Findings

(1) Synergies of online marketing and digital patient engagement strategies

Sesame members who had a practice website but did not activate SEO, social media, or a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile experienced an average of 312 visits to their websites per month. By contrast, dental practices that activated all four components of a comprehensive online practice marketing and patient engagement strategy saw a significant increase in traffic as follows:

• Social, SEO, and a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile: 45% more traffic

• Social media and a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile: 32% more traffic

• Healthgrades Enhanced Profile alone: 5% more traffic

The study clearly demonstrated that website traffic increased with the addition of digital online properties. The more complete the practice online strategy, the higher the benefit of website traffic.

(2) Top referral sources for practice website traffic

This part of the research looked at specific referral sources and how often they were a top-five contributor to practice website traffic. The results showed that social media was most often a top-five referral source (30%), followed by directories (25%), organic search results (20%, which was impacted by SEO placement on result pages), and their Healthgrades Enhanced Profile (9%).

Key statistics:

• Social media traffic (30%) is much more likely to be a top referral source than third-party marketing (2%)

• Social media is a major source of website referrals for dental practices with an activated SEO service

• When a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile is added to the practice online marketing strategy, it rapidly becomes a top referral source for practices

(3) Healthgrades Enhanced Profile as driver of website traffic

The study found that when practices activated a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile, it quickly became a top contributor of referral traffic. Overall, this group experienced more website visits compared to any other combination of online marketing and digital patient engagement deployments. On average, their Healthgrades Enhanced Profile generated 5.3 visits per month to the practice website.

Final Thoughts

This national research study conducted by Sesame Communications provides compelling data. It shows that deployment of a more complete and comprehensive suite of online referral sources is a powerful way to increase traffic to practice websites. It further demonstrates that a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile functions as a valuable incremental source of traffic in addition to traditional online channels associated with social media.

By far the most significant finding is that dental practices using all four components of a comprehensive online marketing and patient engagement strategy experienced an astounding 65% increase in traffic to their websites, as compared to practices that only deployed a website without SEO, social media, or a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile.

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is a recognized leader in the dental industry. Her 20-year track record of success includes leading companies, launching innovative technologies, and fortifying brand positioning for companies in the dental professional and consumer markets. Diana has held senior management roles at Sesame Communications, Novalar Pharmaceuticals, Philips Sonicare and Levin Group. She has also served as a senior market development consultant to top tier companies within the dental sector.

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