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Tracking marketing metrics can be daunting, but it's possible for dentists to simplify the process.

Dental practice marketing metrics to know about, and why

Sept. 25, 2023
"You can't schedule patients who don't contact you." Marketing metrics can be daunting, but knowing why you need to, and focusing on a few key numbers, can simplify the process.

Tracking marketing results will always be challenging. You can try to dig into the minutiae if you want—you’ll learn some things along the way, but you’ll also find that you’re left with more questions than when you started. Many of these questions boil down to attribution.

How did a particular new patient find you? If they saw your magazine ad, then visited your website via Google Ad click, then talked to a neighbor who recommended you, which source do you attribute the patient to? This question of attribution has been debated for years, and it’s not worth your time. Instead, have your marketing team present you with the following key metrics once a quarter. Make decisions from there, keeping in mind the latest fluctuations that could be due to seasonality, news, and marketing conditions.

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Impressions, reach, and other visibility metrics 

There are several metrics that amount to eyes on your websites, profiles, videos, etc. These are called visibility metrics. Google Ads calls it an “impression” when your ad is displayed in their search results. Meta (Facebook) calls it “reach” when a person with an account sees your ad or post. Google Search Console will even show you impressions for the number of times your website’s link showed up in organic search results.1 Even outdoor billboards are promoted and priced by calculating “outdoor impressions” based on the number of times people drive past the ad.

The more ads you buy, the more people will see them. Google can also send you mountains of organic traffic, but does it matter? Eyeballs don’t pay the bills, so this can’t be the only metric you track. But if you think about marketing in terms of a funnel or a customer journey, impressions are the start of it all. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. For many people who see your marketing and advertising pieces, it’s the start of them knowing you.

Why track it: Track impressions to know if you gain or lose visibility by making marketing changes.

Clicks, web traffic, and profile visits 

Most marketing reports separate all of these metrics, but conceptually, they amount to the same thing: after the impression, someone did something to take the next step. A user saw your ad, then clicked on it. That’s great! If the ad directs to your website, you also now have a website visitor. These are tracked in Google Analytics as visitor sessions. If the ad or post was on social media and the user clicked to see your profile, you now have a profile visit that can be tracked and reported in most cases. These metrics are all exciting because they represent interest and action that could indicate prospective patients are on the way.

Savvy marketers will know that this is where marketing metrics can get frustrating and fuzzy. Now more than ever, Google, Apple, Meta, and other providers of online marketing tools have been under pressure to protect their users’ privacy. This means that your metrics in these areas could:

  • Show as smaller numbers than the true count
  • Lack location information
  • Lack information about what the user did after the click

All of these platforms have gone as far as providing users with instructions on how not to be tracked for advertising purposes. This makes digital dental marketing more difficult to measure.

Despite this, keep an eye on click-related information and visits to websites and social media profiles. The metrics tell us if we are on the right track and how we may need to adapt in order to improve ad targeting (e.g., how much of your traffic is local versus out of state) or ad content to be more attractive to prospective patients.

Why track it: Despite potentially incomplete data, clicks and visits can help you analyze the effectiveness of ads, website content, and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies.

Website speed and usability 

Google has worked on speeding up the internet for over a decade.2 Then, on May 28, 2020, Google announced what it called the Page Experience Update, increasing the importance of website performance metrics that they called Core Web Vitals.3 They told the world, if your website is fast and easy to use, we’ll give it a boost in our search engine rankings.

When that happened, many website designers and programmers really started to pay attention to how their websites performed. It’s still a challenge. Designers care about how their website designs look. Often, that’s the top priority for a dentist too, because that’s what they can understand as the top priority for a potential new patient. They have to like what they see, right?

Unfortunately, if a beautiful website is slow to load, Google will show it in fewer rankings.4 For years, slow websites have been a problem for digital advertisers too, because people often click the back button on their phone or computer browser if they have to stare at a blank screen for even a few seconds.5,6 You’ll still pay for the click, but you’ll miss out on the opportunity to generate a lead (also known as a conversion).

Why track it: Slow website load speeds and mobile usability problems will hurt search engine rankings and waste advertising dollars.

Leads/conversions 

A new-patient phone call is a lead. So is an email from a new patient. Even an appointment scheduled online without a call is a lead. People in advertising sometimes call it a “conversion.” A new patient has to contact the office in some way or the marketing dollars are only benefiting the office’s growth goals indirectly at best.

Track phone calls using call tracking numbers and tag new-patient callers as “new patient.” Identify holes in your intake processes by looking at call tracking logs on a monthly basis. Look for calls that went to voicemail and tag them as “voicemail.” Listen for problems with call handling. You can run reports based on the tags over a period of time.

Track emails and other types of conversions such as virtual consult requests or chats. Be certain that follow-up is happening with these—not just as one-time events, but continued follow-up to make sure each lead is handled with care.

Add up your new-patient leads by type (e.g., phone call, email) and by source (e.g., Google, patient referral, Facebook, etc.). Use a spreadsheet to put the information in a table and graph so that you can see progress over time. Look for correlations between changes in your marketing strategy and increases or decreases in new-patient leads. It’s best to review the data on a monthly or quarterly basis, as every campaign will have fluctuations. Week to week analysis is a waste of time.

Why track it: You can’t schedule new patients who don’t contact you.

Patients and production 

Dentists should track their new-patient numbers and production over time, recording the number of patients who came in for a new-patient appointment, the number who said “yes” to treatment, and the associated production dollars.

Marketing metrics should show a positive correlation with your in-office metrics. If you see a disconnect, examine in-office performance as well as marketing performance. You can boost your marketing result by having well-incentivized team members who make leads a top priority.

Track the marketing cost per new patient by dividing your marketing spend by the number of new patients. Then divide your production by new patients. You should see an average return on investment that is very positive when you subtract your marketing cost per lead from the average new-patient revenue. Finally, track that average ROI over time.

Why track it: Track new-patient appointments and treatment acceptance to avoid wasting money on marketing and advertising that is not converting to production dollars.

Make great marketing decisions for years to come

Base your marketing and advertising decisions on trends in your marketing metrics. This is crucial for practice growth. Work toward gradual improvement rather than big, immediate (and usually bogus) wins. As you improve your visibility, make sure that your website, social media, and office look fresh and impressive.

Online reputation and AI learning continue to grow in importance in how search engines recommend dentists. Dental practices can improve their marketing results and attract more prospective patients simply by being great and making sure that people and robots on the internet can’t miss the evidence of that greatness.

Keep marketing, tracking, and staying informed about emerging trends, and you’ll see growth year after year.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

REFERENCES

  1. What are impressions, position, and clicks? Google Search Console Help. 2016. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7042828#impressions
  2. McGee M. It’s official: Google now counts site speed as a ranking factor. Search Engine Journal. 2010. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://searchengineland.com/google-now-counts-site-speed-as-ranking-factor-39708
  3. Crowe AL, Anderson R, Indigo J, Montti R, Southern M, et al. SEJ eBook: Core Web Vitals: A Complete Guide. Search Engine Journal; 2021. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/ core-web-vitals/
  4. Google. Using site speed in web search ranking. Google Search Central Blog. 2010. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2010/04/using-site-speed-in-web-search-ranking
  5. Jakober P. Site speed & PPC performance: why you can’t ignore a slow site anymore. Search Engine Journal. 2015. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://searchengineland.com/site-speed-ppc-performance-cant-ignore-slow-site-anymore-213029
  6. Patel N. How loading time affects your bottom line. NP Digital. 2018. Accessed February 20, 2023. https://neilpatel.com/blog/loading-time/

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