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Say no to phone directories—and yes to mobile-friendly websites

Sept. 8, 2022
If you're still advertising in phone books, you're behind the times. Here's why you need a mobile-friendly website, and steps on making sure your website is functioning well and attracting new patients.

When was the last time you picked up a phone book or checked the yellow pages for a product or service? I would venture to guess you haven’t done this in the last several years, or ever if you’re a millennial or younger. If you aren’t using a phone directory, what makes you think your patients are?

Phone directories: A thing of the past

Let’s step into the late 1800s. Imagine not having indoor plumbing, electricity, or the technological advances and conveniences of today. People got recommendations by talking with their neighbors. Communication with anyone farther away than the local town was done via postal mail. 

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented a telephone.1 Not long after, telephone operators (often teenage girls because boys were considered too unruly) were hired to route calls across the public telephone system.2 Imagine picking up the phone, dialing “0,” and asking the “hello girl” to route your call to your dentist, doctor, or friend. 

The first phone book was released in 1878.3 A sheet of cardboard with the names of individuals and businesses who had a phone, it was nothing like the two-inch thick yellow pages we’ve seen in in modern times. 

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Fast forward to January 1, 1983, the official birthday of the internet.4 Prior to this, computer networks could not communicate with one another. By the mid-1990s, the World Wide Web (the internet as we know it) was up and running, allowing people all around the world to communicate instantly via messenger sites, emails, video chats, and more. Technological advancements, such as smartphones and tablets, and the rise of the internet forever changed the way people communicate, do research, read the news, and even find their dental providers.

Break away from phone books

The internet has changed marketing strategies for all businesses, including dental practices. When using phone books or yellow pages, dentists had the option to simply list their name and address or pay for a print ad in the book. Think about your life or your dental office today. How long has it been since you used the yellow pages or a phone directory? 

But when was the last time you used your smartphone, iPad, or computer to search for information? It’s time to break away from solely using print ads and yellow page searches and embrace the internet and its mobile-friendly websites.

Get a mobile-friendly website

In this day and age, connecting with a dentist is more complex than just asking the operator to dial the number. For patients, it’s as simple as searching for the dentist’s name or location. Once the Google My Business (GMB) listing or website pops up, the patient can click to call the office right from the palm of their hand. 

Sounds simple, right? On the front end, it is simple—for the patients. That’s the way it should be. Dentists need to be accessible to their patients. If you’re hard to reach, or your GMB listing is out-of-date, or your website doesn’t show up, patients will move on to the next dentist. So, your next step should be to develop a user-friendly, mobile-friendly website with search engine optimization (SEO) that’s designed to attract new patients.

Why does your practice need a mobile-friendly website?

Do you want patients to find you and learn about your practice and all the great services you provide? All the marketing in the world means nothing if you don’t have a website. Patients will research you, and they’ll do it through your website, online profiles, and social media sites. No website means potentially losing new patients. 

When a patient searches for a dentist, their website and GMB profile pop up on the search. The GMB profile gives patients a bit of information, such as your hours, contact information, and reviews. It also funnels them to your website. If you have a social media page, it can do the same thing by sharing social teasers about your practice. The goal is to funnel patients to your website. While these are valuable parts of marketing, your website is the crucial piece. It allows patients to learn about you and then contact you or book an appointment.

What makes a website mobile-friendly?

The answer is in the name—a mobile-friendly website is usable on a mobile phone. This means that your content is readable on a desktop computer as well as on a phone. Patients can easily consume your information, click on links, and navigate the website. 

A website that’s not optimized for mobile devices has very tiny text. Users must zoom in and out and scroll all around the page, making it much harder to navigate and browse the website. A mobile-friendly design is responsive, meaning as the screen size changes, so does the content. The content adjusts to fit the screen in a readable manner. 

Your mobile-friendly website should be easy to scroll through and consume the content. It should include:

  • Responsive, proportionate content
  • Simple navigation menus
  • Clearly displayed calls-to-action
  • Small blocks of text
  • A clear, simple font instead of fancy script text
  • A search bar for easy navigation
  • Limited use of pop-ups
  • Quick-to-load content 

Half of online traffic comes from mobile devices.5 When patients click on your website through your GMB profile or the search results using their phones, what will they find? Is your website inviting and usable on a cell phone or tablet?

What makes a website user-friendly?

Optimizing websites for user experience is a new trend. What is user experience and what does it mean for your website? While previously there was a big push for SEO and keywords, there is also a focus on how easy a website is to use. 

A website that is user-friendly will perform better and can improve your chances of success or of converting potential patients. Not only do appearances matter (your website should look good), but website use and browsing should be seamless. Having both will give you a leg up on your competition. 

A website that is optimized for user experience should have:

  • Mobile compatibility
  • Strategically planned and original content
  • Well-formatted content
  • Speed
  • Accessibility for all users
  • Effective navigation
  • Internet browser compatibility
  • Usable forms and clear calls-to-action

Keep in mind, 42% of users quickly leave websites that function poorly.6 Is your website attracting patients or sending them away? 

It’s time to get with the times. Unless you live alone in a cave, you’ve embraced electricity, indoor plumbing, and modern technology. It’s time to put away the phone directories and their print ads. Update your website so that it’s mobile-friendly and user-friendly and prepare to connect with more prospective new patients. 

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2022 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.


  1. Morris J. History of the Telephone - ITPA. Independent Telecommunications Pioneer Association. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.nationalitpa.com/history-of-telephone
  2. Daugherty G. The rise and fall of telephone operators. History. August 2, 2021. https://www.history.com/news/rise-fall-telephone-switchboard-operators
  3. Eschner K. The first telephone book had fifty listings and no numbers. Smithsonian Magazine. February 21, 2017. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/first-telephone-book-had-fifty-listings-and-no-numbers-180962173/
  4. History of the Internet. June 3, 2022. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Internet
  5. Clement J. Share of global mobile website traffic 2015–2021. Statista, February 18, 2022. www.statista.com/statistics/277125/share-of-website-traffic-coming-from-mobile-devices
  6. Fitzgerald A. 25+ web design statistics that are essential to know in 2022. June 3, 2022. HubSpot. https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/web-design-stats-for-2020
About the Author

Lamar Hull, MBA

Lamar Hull, MBA, is the founder of Med Rank Interactive, a full-service digital marketing agency  that specializes in local SEO exclusively for dentistsorthodontistspharmacists, independent physicians, and multi-location medical practices. Hull has an MBA in internet marketing and uses much of his time learning new strategies in online marketing and health care. He attended Davidson College where he played basketball for Bob McKillop.

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