You decided what marketing metrics you were going to measure in Step 2 of creating your dental digital marketing plan. Before that, in Step 1, you set a goal that you would aim for with your marketing plan. In your quest to create a digital marketing plan for your dental office, you will find that achieving your goal is only attainable if you can track your progress. Otherwise, you could be well on your way and then end up turning around midstream or stopping short of the destination. You could end up like an airplane circling around and around in the Bermuda Triangle, eventually running out of fuel and your campaign will come crashing down.
Fortunately, you have fantastic instrumentation available and a sound vehicle for your marketing if you build it the right way. Let’s talk about what tools you should use as part of the design and execution of your dental digital marketing plan.
Tools for Your Website Creation
We could write a book about building the ideal dental website. Dental website design is a complex process and the idea of a perfect dental website is in constant flux as user technology and online standards evolve. For the purpose of this guide, we will assume that you probably have an existing website. Does it need to be revamped? Perhaps. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my website look dated when I compare it to some of my favorite websites (dental and in other categories)?
- Where did the text on the website come from and is it accurate? Is the copywriting motivating and written to promote your practice and call the user to action rather than just informing them about dentistry?
- When you open your website on a different computer (ask to use a friend or relative’s computer for a bit), does your website completely load quickly compared to your competitors’ websites?
- Is the way to quickly get to the various pages of your website self-evident?
- Is it easy to find the contact information for your practice?
If any of these questions lead to disturbing or displeasing findings, you’ll want to consider launching a new website and for that, you have a variety of options in terms of tools that you can use to build your website.
First, we strongly recommend using a dental website design company like Pro Impressions Marketing Group. Yes, we are writing this guide and have a bias in writing it to recommend ourselves. We truly believe that we are the best choice for most dentists. However, we give you recommendations based on technology and not just a recommendation to hire us.
Tools and Tech for a Faster, More Functional Website
For a while, dental website design was more art than science. Designers created beautiful websites that dentists loved, but it quickly became evident that Google didn’t always feel the same way. Dental practices also regularly found that when they launched their sexy new site, their numbers of new patient inquiries went down.
Here are some tools to avoid this.
Build a Great Website with WordPress
There are lots of website platforms out there that allow you to build your own website. Tools like GoDaddy Website Builder make it sound so easy. Just say ‘No!’. Easy does not get the job done. Builders with great reputations like SquareSpace and, in dentistry, ProSites, still carry the limitation of needing to use the same back-end programming for all of their websites and end up loading up assets that your website does not need.
WordPress websites are more challenging to build. You’ll need to hire a company to design and build the website for you, but it’s a proven platform with millions of websites using it. Over the years, their technology has grown due to the wisdom of thousands of developers who have used the platform and contributed improvements to its open-source platform. Websites built on WordPress are usually more efficient and powerful while also remaining secure. You can also host a WordPress website on almost any server whereas other companies and platforms force you to host your website on their proprietary system.
Find More Website Speed with Caching and Intelligent Loading Code
When you hire a company to build your website on WordPress, be sure that they leverage a caching plugin to boost your website’s speed. Special programming can help your website load more quickly than it would otherwise by avoiding the load of assets that your users aren’t even able to see right away. Both of these technologies will help your website perform better. Google’s Core Web Vitals are Google’s way of incentivizing website developers to prioritize a better user experience, so if your website performs better for users, it will perform better in the search engine results.
Don’t Share Your Server More Than Necessary
Even if you build your website on WordPress, your website still has to run on a server and it’s highly unlikely that it will be hosted all alone. That would be great. Not having to share the server’s memory, storage, or processing power with any other website, but it’s just not practical. Running a server is complicated and expensive work. Your website design company should have a server where they house websites that they create. Just be sure that your website is on one of their own servers and not a Shared Hosting platform like GoDaddy, HostGator, or BlueHost.
There are many other server companies out there that offer Shared Hosting. All of these companies host hundreds of websites on the same server, allowing each one first-come-first-served access to the server’s resources. This can mean that your website frequently loads very slowly because other websites are using the server. It can also mean that if a server is brought down because another website on the server is hacked, your website goes down too. This is true of any server that doesn’t have a redundant back-up, but in a shared hosting environment, it’s more common.
Website Tools and Tech to Avoid
In the past, websites with more stuff were more attractive and sometimes more successful. Now, it seems that websites that avoid clutter and added gadgets are winning online. Here are some technologies and strategies that you should pass on as part of your digital dental marketing plan.
Dentists, like other business owners who are considering a new website, tend to be attracted to shiny elements that add motion to the design. While these look cool to dental professionals, they rarely enhance the user experience. Banners at the top of the website that use large graphics and added coding to move across the page are a liability. They increase the total file size of the website, which makes the page load more slowly.
Think of downloading a single image file and how quickly that usually loads when compared to downloading a movie file. Users and search engines hate to wait, so just make sure that the top of your website has an eye-catching image with a strong call-to-action that will show your visitors you can help and what they should do next.
Over the years, we have had several clients add a chat widget to their website because a salesperson convinced them that this was the wave of future patient communication. They do get used, but almost without exception, the dentists chose to remove the chat window a month or two later because the chats were a hassle. Either it gave their team an additional thing to manage or the company who handled the follow-up didn’t represent the office the way the doctor wanted. Bottom line: it didn’t generate more new patients.
Chat windows also require additional code to be added to the website. Because the code comes from another server, it’s considered an outside call when the website loads. This means that your page speed and security is then dependent on the speed and security of how that third-party server answers the outside call. This presents a large liability to the success of your website, and it’s usually not worth it.
Other Third-Party Widgets
We’ve been pruning and polishing our websites for a long time, making them the fastest dental websites out there. We have used proprietary technology to load external code quickly and only when necessary. You can get the same effect by not using third-party widgets on your website. If a company or organization wants you to add their code to your website, either pass on the opportunity or take the resulting image or concept and have your website design company code it directly into your website rather than calling on the third-party server. In most cases, this should be an acceptable work-around and will prevent your website from being negatively impacted by a third-party widget. As we discussed, chat windows are common offenders in this regard, but others include virtual patient consult companies and dental organization badges or links.
PRO TIP: Google Maps also offers the ability to embed a map of your office location on your website. Don’t do it! This is still third-party code. Even though the server it calls to is Google’s server, and you’d think it would be fast, the external call for the dynamic map will load more slowly than a static image that shows a pin at your office’s location.
Marketing Tools to Track Results
Once your website is up and running, you’ll be ready to launch your marketing and advertising. Before you start those campaigns, be sure that you have your tracking tools in place and activated. There are some gold standards for these tools that you need to use.
Use Google Analytics to Track Website Activity
Google Analytics has the market for website traffic and usage analysis software pretty well sewn up. Their service is powerful and complex. Using it can be intimidating but for the price (free), and considering the things you can learn about how often people visit your site and what they do there once they arrive, it’s worth becoming familiar with the system.
When you set up Google Analytics, be sure that your account is created under your email address rather than under your Web company’s email address. This will make it easier to take your website data with you if you need to switch companies. You should own your historical traffic data so that you can measure your website traffic and goals on a year over year basis. This is one of the most important uses of Google Analytics.
Reputation Tracking Software to Follow Review Activity
Your team needs to encourage patients to leave positive reviews and negative will happen from time to time for all dentists. You need to leverage an online reputation management system built for dentists to handle both aspects of review metrics. Google’s local ranking algorithm seems to factor in reviews in at least three ways:
- Number of reviews
- Average star rating of reviews
- Freshness and frequency of new reviews
Google also encourages businesses to respond to all reviews. Unless you are measuring these metrics and keeping an eye out for new reviews, you’ll find out later that your competitors have surpassed you and that you have some ugly, unaddressed bad reviews.
There are several online reputation tools on the market. Many patient communication services in dentistry have also added online reputation tools to their dashboards. Unfortunately, the solutions offered by these dental companies either seem to be deficient in their targeting and reach or use automation that makes it too easy for online reputation management to fall by the wayside. They can give you and your team the false belief that the company’s robot has it all covered. Online reputation management is only as effective as the human being managing the campaign.
We offer our clients a solution called Online Practice Center that handles online reputation management, equipping dentists with an easy means of asking for reviews, while also making it easy to track and respond to new reviews. It also integrates the information into an easy-to-read report that makes it easy to monitor online reputation alongside Google Analytics data and other metrics.
Track Advertising Performance with Ad Management Tools
You need a professional you can trust to run your ad campaigns on Google Ads and potentially other websites. But once those campaigns are up and running, you still need to know what is happening with the ads. How do you know if your ads are showing up; if they are being clicked on? There are several options.
Most companies that offer Google Ads pay-per-click management for dentists also offer you some sort of reporting to see what’s happening with the campaign. Unfortunately, many of these reports are grossly limited. You need access to data that tells you how your ads are helping you achieve your measurables and goals. That usually includes the number of times your ads have been shown to you (impressions) and how many times people use your ads to get to your website (clicks). But impressions and clicks are just the beginning of tracking the performance of your campaign. You need to be able to see how much you’re spending by ad groups, which keywords people are typing in to get to your ads, and much more.
Google Ads has its own dashboard for managing the campaigns run on its ad platform. We would advise you not to waste time trying to get to know that platform. In essence, you have to become a pay-per-click advertising expert to truly understand the data that you’re looking at in Google Ads, not to mention how to make changes in order to address concerns in the information. You need a tool that can connect with Google Ads directly and distill the information down so that it’s more concise.
Again, there are many tools that can help you do this. You may alternatively decide to run your own ads via Google Ads Express but this puts more control in the hands of Google- not your control. You can think of it as electing to hail a taxi in an area that you don’t know and feeling like what you thought was a short ride is ending up to be a longer, more expensive trip than is strictly necessary. The right advertising performance tool can be the equivalent of using Uber or Lyft in the taxi analogy, where you know better the route that you will take and how much it will cost you.
Tools like Hubspot and Adstream attempt to solve this problem, and you may find that you like them quite well, but they are expensive and can be just as overwhelming as managing your own Google Ads. They may also conflict with your ad specialist’s way of running your ad campaigns.
We offer our clients ad tracking via Online Practice Center because it distills down the metrics without stripping away important details. You can view performance over a period of time and by ad group. It also helps you track your cost per conversion (how much you spend to generate a phone call or email. Finally, as part of a larger system, your ad performance information can be easily located in a larger report that gives you a complete picture of your online visibility.
Online Practice Center
The number of tools you can find to manage your dental digital marketing campaign are seemingly endless. When providing services to our member dental marketing offices, our specialists use several independent systems to boost visibility, improve the client’s website, and manage the client’s off-site information and reputation. Our dedicated account managers, however, use Online Practice Center to understand how all of these independent systems are working together. We use the Online Practice Center marketing portal to communicate with our clients, set goals, and track results. Our clients use Online Practice Center to manage their online reputation and to hold us accountable for doing what we say we will do.
You don’t have to be a member of Pro Impressions Marketing Group to use Online Practice Center. If you are interested in gaining access to the tool, you can buy it here. Access is a month-to-month commitment and comes with optional free website hosting on our fast, secure server as long as your website is built in WordPress. You do not have to host with Pro Impressions to use Online Practice Center. Call (970) 672-1212 with any questions or schedule a consultation online here.