by Glenn Lombardi
Only 20 years ago, the Internet was little more than a technological toddler. It was a strange, uncertain thing. You checked your email (if you had it) maybe once a week or so, and most of the people who had any idea what "HTML" meant had computer science degrees and pocket protectors. Some called it innovation, but many others brushed it off as a passing fad. It's hard to imagine how people could have been so wrong.
Now it's 2013, and a business without a website is a business without a pulse. That's fairly common knowledge. But many people seem to think that a website is all they need for online success.
Unfortunately, this is not the case anymore. A website alone is now such a basic marketing effort that it probably is not doing you much more good than a listing in the Yellow Pages. This is not an exaggeration. Any site, no matter how good it is, can get lost in the crowd, especially if it is not part of a comprehensive and carefully maintained Web presence.
Your Web presence, in simple terms, is your Internet footprint. For the most part, bigger is better. But size is not the only factor. A successful Web presence requires no small degree of finesse as well.
Since maintaining one is a time-consuming endeavor, the best and safest idea for most health-care professionals is consulting an expert management team that can kick off the process and offer personalized solutions for every piece of your Web presence. This team would focus on some of the following items.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
New patients search for dentists online every day. So you need to ask yourself, "Are they finding my practice instead of the competition's?" Good results from search engines such as Google are the modern equivalent of a full-page ad in the Yellow Pages instead of a tiny two-line blurb stuffed into a corner.
For the best search results, you need a proper white hat SEO campaign that includes blog posts, organic link building, unique content generation, keyword research and analysis, photo optimization, directory submissions, on- and off-page optimization, and maybe even PPC.
This is a lot to do. But these steps often represent the difference between getting new patients and getting none. If you do not have the time or know-how to do any of this for yourself, it's best to find somebody who can.
This is another big one in the digital age. Patients of all ages are using social media sites such as Facebook every day, and you need to be where the action is. Any old Facebook page will not quite cut it, though.
You need to be sure your page is built to draw new patients to it while still delivering good content so that current patients stay informed and happy. That way, when they post reviews about you to sites such as Yelp and HealthGrades, they have one more positive experience about which to rave.
Incidentally, if you are not keeping track of online reviews (and I assure you, if you have been practicing for any length of time, you already have a good number of them), you need to start doing so.
When you do, you will know what patients appreciate and what needs work. Knowing how to improve is half the battle. If you do not have the time to monitor social networks, a professional reputation tracking service can help you.
All websites are not created equal. True, anybody with a smart device can access your website whenever they want. But if your site is not optimized for mobile, using it can become a headache for potential new patients.
Even more importantly, Google prioritizes mobile sites for searches made from a smart device. So if you do not have a mobile site when a patient searches for you from his or her phone, you might not show up in search results at all. This is not an opportunity you want to miss.
Staying competitive means keeping abreast of the online market. Consider consulting an expert team to help upgrade your Web presence to a higher, more successful level.
Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, a provider of dental websites and Internet marketing strategies, including social media, search marketing, reputation management, and mobile websites. Officite has built thousands of websites that have generated more than a half million new patient appointment requests since 2002. For more information, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.
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