According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans polled say that they rely on their own research when making major decisions, including those related to their health. For many people, that research involves the internet, so a strong digital presence is a must for dental students and future practitioners who want to remain competitive. In this article, we outline key digital marketing strategies to start using today.
Your website is the first interaction that many prospective patients will have with you. To make sure it’s not the last, your site should look polished and professional. Even though there are lots of DIY website builders available, when it comes to this “digital first impression”, it’s worth investing in a professional web designer and copywriter for your website if you can.
There’s no point investing in a great website if nobody can find it! That’s where SEO comes in.
Today, many prospective patients will use a search engine like Google to look for local dental providers. SEO involves understanding which search terms people use, e.g. “pediatric dentist in Allentown”, and optimizing your website to show up or “rank” at the top of the search results for those terms.
To optimize your website, choose one keyword (or a closely related group of keywords) for each page, and then use it strategically throughout. Try to use it in headings, and in the “background” data of your page, such as the title and meta description. Don’t overdo it though! Google knows when you’re “keyword stuffing” and will penalize you by dropping your ranking.
As a local business, you can also take advantage of Google’s local SEO tools, too. This includes claiming and optimizing your Google business listing, which shows up when people search for dentists in your area and features photos, opening hours, reviews and a link to your website.
Content marketing is based on the concept of providing valuable content to your audience in return for their attention and engagement. It covers everything from videos, articles, and photos, to guides, emails, and social media clips.
Dental professionals can use content to attract new patients and to engage with current patients. For example, posting before-and-after photos of your cosmetic work on social media can be a great advertisement to others who might be considering the same treatment. Meanwhile, your current patients might appreciate free online oral health guides or video walkthroughs of upcoming treatments.
As a bonus, publishing regular, original content on your website is rewarded by Google, so it’s a great way to boost your search ranking. Some dentists target specific search queries, like “why are my gums swollen”, and then create high-quality content answering the question to attract searchers to their site.
Social media remains one of the best ways for dental professionals to engage with their patients, both current and potential. You can also use your channels to showcase content that demonstrates your expertise while providing something of value to your audience. And if they find your content highly shareable, you’ll reach their audience too.
Popular social content might include:
Dental AMAs (“ask me anything” events).
Smile transformation videos/photos.
Quizzes, competition or giveaways.
Facebook is still the most popular social platform across all age groups, with 69% of Americans using it regularly. That makes a Facebook business page a must, especially with its range of free business tools like on-page booking and event promotion. Instagram is also great for showcasing photos and videos of your work. Don’t worry about being everywhere though! Just pick a handful of sites that your target demographic frequents and focus your attention there.
Email marketing involves creating a list or database of contacts and emailing them personalized content. You can use it to stay in touch with current patients, remind them of upcoming appointments, provide aftercare advice, and promote special offers. Email marketing for patient acquisition is a little harder because you don’t have a ready-made list of contacts, but you can build up your list at, for example, outreach events or community clinics.
The best part about email marketing is that it can be fully automated. However, you want to keep the personal touch, so segment your list by interest/need if possible and only email them with relevant, tailored and valuable content.
There are a number of paid advertising methods you can use to drum up business for your practice. Google allows you to create short ads and serves them to people who search for relevant terms. Social media sites like Facebook offer a similar service, in which you can create a wide range of ads to be served in the timelines, news feeds or home pages of your chosen demographic.
The beauty of these ads is that you can get super specific about who you want to target, ensuring your ad spend delivers maximum return. Even better, some types, like Google Ads, work on a pay-per-click basis, so you only pay when people click on your ad and visit your website.
According to a survey by PatientPop, almost 75% of people use the internet to seek out and evaluate potential new dentists, and 54.6% specifically look for online reviews on sites like Google and Yelp. Those reviews carry a lot of weight, with 80% of people claiming to trust them as much as a personal recommendation.
While you can’t necessarily control your reviews (aside from providing a great service, of course!), it’s important to claim your business listing on the sites where people are commonly reviewing you. That way, you can monitor your reputation and take action when an issue arises.