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3 online reasons patients are choosing a competitor's practice

Jan. 28, 2015
The Internet is the battleground for new patients in the 21st century. The days of bigger Yellow Pages ads as a new patient growth strategy are all but dead. One study by Leap Clixx found that an astounding 97% of consumers admitted that when they receive the Yellow Pages they throw it away, recycle it, or use it as a doorstop! (1) Dentists recognize this trend, as 70% believe that print advertising is not important to the success of their practices. (2) Prospective patients searching for a new dental care provider are turning to the Internet to make or validate their choices.

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA

The Internet is the battleground for new patients in the 21st century. The days of bigger Yellow Pages ads as a new patient growth strategy are all but dead. One study by Leap Clixx found that an astounding 97% of consumers admitted that when they receive the Yellow Pages they throw it away, recycle it, or use it as a doorstop! (1) Dentists recognize this trend, as 70% believe that print advertising is not important to the success of their practices. (2) Prospective patients searching for a new dental care provider are turning to the Internet to make or validate their choices.

Even with the recognition that the Internet is the best place for your practice to acquire new patients, it is likely you will find fierce competition in your local area. As of 2014, 80% of practices had a website and more than 50% had some level of SEO in place. (3) With this level of sophistication from your competition, it's critical that your practice be highly visible when a prospective patient decides to look for a new provider. Here are three online reasons why they will bypass your practice in favor of a competitor, along with actions you can take to minimize these risk factors.

1. Can't Find You Online

Search is king when it comes to the Internet. In fact, an overwhelming 93% of online activities begin with a search. (4) Assuming your practice has a website, your ability to rank highly for keywords and target search phrases within your local area will determine your success in accelerating new patient acquisition. As the competition for SEO rankings continues to soar, it is critical to use an SEO firm that intimately understands the nuances of dentistry and focuses on local search results. Ideally, you want to rank on page 1 or 2 of results for your top search terms.

READ MORE | How to set up Google Analytics on your dental website

2. Practice Website Falls Flat

Given that it takes only 2.6 seconds for a prospective patients' eyes to land on the area of a website that most influences their first impressions, (5) your practice website needs to quickly grab their attention. If your website does not have an immediate impact, they will hit the back button and check out your competition. Further complicating this for practices is the proliferation of Internet-connected smartphones and tablets. A recent study found that a staggering 61% of customers who visit a mobile unfriendly site are likely to go to a competitor's site!(6)

To ensure your practice converts prospective patients to new appointment requests, do an audit on your current practice website. Make certain it employs some form of Patient Appeal Rated design, as well as responsive design, which optimizes viewing and navigation on every smartphone and tablet. (Responsive design is recommended by Google as the preferred method of mobile optimization.) (7)

3. Poor Online Review Presence

In today's world, online reviews are critical. As of 2014, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (8) If your practice does not publish reviews online from verified patients, or is posting those reviews on microsites with very limited exposure, chances are prospective patients are making appointments with your competition. To combat this, you need to ensure your practice is able to generate and syndicate (publish) reviews that have been verified as your patients. These need to be posted where prospective patients will see them. The best example of this is a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile on Healthgrades.com. With an enhanced profile, your reviews will be published directly from your patients when they respond to your post-appointment survey. This is the best way to ensure the quality of your reviews, the quantity of reviews published (on average, 22 new monthly reviews added per practice on Healthgrades.com), and prominent placement of your reviews on Healthgrades.com and in search results for your practice.

READ MORE | How dental patients use online reviews

Final thoughts
Your practice faces more competition than ever. The right approach to digital marketing can ensure prospective patients choose your practice over your competition. Your ability to be found online, appeal to patients no matter what device they are using to access your practice website, and provide a robust strategy for review syndication will help you rise above competitors in your area and bring more new patients into your practice.

REFERENCES
1. Leap Clixx Survey, 2012
2. Sesame Communications, Member Survey, 2014
3. The Digital Dental Practice, Sesame Communications, 2014
4. Marketing Charts, 2012
5. "First Impressions Form Quickly on the Web, Eye-Tracking Study Shows," Science Daily, February 2012
6. Karim Temsamani at IABALM 2012 via IAB, 2012
7. https://developers.google.com/webmasters/smartphone-sites/details
8. Local Consumer Review Survey 2014, BrightLocal.com

Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA, is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year track record of success in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at [email protected].

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