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March 2015

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Social Media

Social Media’s Impact on Internet Trends

Your practice’s website isn’t BuzzFeed or Huffington Post and it never will be, nor should it.

But you can learn from what these Internet giants are doing and apply it to your own online strategy.

Consider an interesting fact about Buzzfeed, the “click bait” king of online content:

It draws a healthy 200 million unique visitors to its site every month. Not too shabby!

But it gets over 18 billion impressions to its content via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

To put those numbers in context, Buzzfeed gets 90 times more impressions from social media than it gets to its main site. And Buzzfeed doesn’t seem to mind.

What does it mean in the context of dental practices?

When the world’s biggest online content websites are more than happy to meet their viewers where they already are (on social media) it means everyone with an online presence should consider following suit, and start focusing on social media as well.

Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter and Pinterest, account for the lion’s share of our truly valuable attention and time spent online.

And there is a difference between “valuable” time, and “worthless” time when it comes to internet use.

Unlike with traditional media, (where users always have a passive relationship – they watch TV, read a newspaper, listen to the radio) there are both active AND passive types of media online.

Passive types are like Youtube, Pandora and Netflix, which have very highly engaged users for long stretches of time – but they’re not active participants.  Youtube famously boasts having the most engaged users – but that engagement isn’t good for much, because it results in almost zero interaction or action taken.

It makes sense: you can’t expect people to be active in a passive medium.

The active segment of internet use is where people interact with other people and businesses. Most of this traffic is on social media. That traffic is much more important for businesses – including dental practices – precisely because it’s interactive.

People do take action based on what they do and see on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

And it’s a significant amount of action.

According to market research firm Shareaholic, social media drove 31% of site traffic in Q4 of 2014.

Much of that traffic is at the expense of traditional search engine traffic. And it’s a trend that’s on the upward slope: more people are interacting with businesses via social media than ever, and it’s projected to continue in that vein.

In other words, having a social media presence is a strategy that complements search engine optimization and website strategy. It all fits together.

According to a study in the Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice, over half of all practices do have a social media presence.

If you don’t, then by the numbers, your practice misses out on about 3 out of 10 potential patients and referrals.

Big websites like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post have already conceded to social media – and decided to put themselves where they know their audience interacts.

Dental practices should take note and follow suit.

For more information on how to grow your practice via social media, take a look at our new and improved Social Media Management service – which takes care of some of the more time consuming aspects of social media for you.

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Search Marketing

The Essential SEO Dictionary for Dentists

Like all niche fields of expertise, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has its own vocabulary – which makes it impossible for the uninitiated to effectively navigate SEO. It’s especially difficult in the SEO because everything gets minimized into acronyms. So it’s doubly confusing.

If you don’t understand basic SEO acronyms and the underlying terms, you’ll never understand how to improve your ranking.

Before I reveal and define the most commonly used terms in SEO, you should know why optimizing your website for search engines is essential to your practice in the first place.

Why SEO Matters

While SEO has changed quite a bit over the past 10 years, one thing has stayed relatively constant and important above all else.

The entire point of SEO is to “optimize” your site to ensure it has the best possible search engine ranking. In the world of search engines, that means one thing: showing up on the first page of results.

Most people never click over to the 2nd, let alone 3rd or 4th pages. Why would they, when Google gives them five to ten compelling options on the first page?

In search, if you’re not on the first page, you might as well not exist.

To be clear, optimizing your practice’s web presence IS THE ONLY WAY to get first-page billing.

And even if you’re not actively seeking new patients, you should care about having a good ranking.

That’s because your practice’s current patients frequently look for your practice with an online search.

You probably know from personal experience that web users search for products, businesses and web pages they’re already familiar with. In many cases, a search engine gives you more specific, useful information than the actual website of the business you’re looking for.

A Google search shows you right there, in the search window, all of the information you need: address, directions, phone number, reviews…

 

 

So putting your site on page one should be a priority because it makes it easier for your most important patients to easily find you.

Who knows, maybe if they can’t find your practice, they’ll switch to a dentist who does have first page results?

Before you can do anything to improve your ranking, you have to understand some basic industry terms so you’ll know with certainty what to do.

I’ve compiled nine of the most important terms you need to understand before you can help move your site up in the ranks.

ProSites SEO Dictionary for Dentists

(I’ve put these terms in non-alphabetical linear order so you can understand them without having to skip back and forth.)

Google Algorithm: A very detailed and ever-changing set of rules and tests that search engines use to validate and verify how well optimized a site is for search. Sites with lots of click bait, bad links, duplicate content, irrelevant content or obvious black-hat techniques will not pass the algorithm’s tests. Algorithms really serve as stand-ins for the human user – to try to figure out what users want so the search engine can display the most relevant and authentic search results.

White Hat/Black Hat: Just like in old cowboy movies, white hat SEO techniques are the good, proper SEO techniques that make a site well-suited to users who are likely to search for it. Conversely, black hat uses all kinds of tricks to fool the algorithm into giving a site a better ranking than it should. Google and other search engines are constantly finding ways to punish black hat techniques, so web masters who think they’ve “won” the SEO game with black hat do so at their own risk. Black hat techniques don’t last, and they’re a terrible way to try to build an online reputation for a dental practice.

Organic Listings: Having a site that matches well with search terms isn’t enough: the site also has to “test” well with search engine algorithms, which look at a variety of factors to determine how good a site will be as a legitimate search result. Sites with good organic reach satisfy a variety of “reputation” metrics that algorithms look into, like linking between other reputable sites, social media presence, the overall content of the site, advertising, and original content.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP): What sites show up in a search engine when a user searches for specific terms. Search engines use somewhat complicated methods for displaying the results, but they mainly focus on matching specific search terms with sites that have good organic reach, or good paid reach.

Local Listings (7-Pack): Search engines display between 4-10 local businesses that best fit the search terms. The 7-pack shows the top closest, best ranked businesses that match.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who click on your site only to immediately hit the “back” button to return to the search engine. It’s an action that tells the search engine your site was not what they were looking for. If your site has a high bounce-rate, it will hurt its page rank. Part of SEO is figuring out why your page causes bounces, and how to fix it so it doesn’t happen as often.

Keywords:  Keywords are the individual words that make up a user’s search query. When the same keywords or keyword phrases are used in the content of your website as the search query, search engine algorithms may potentially rank your site well for the given query.

Crawlers/Robots: Simple programs that surf web pages, make copies and bring them back to search engines to be analyzed and indexed by the algorithms.

Impressions: How many users see a page or ad – not the same as a click. It’s important because it’s the most commonly used technique for measuring and accounting for web advertising.

This list is just a small look into the world of SEO. Click here to download a free dictionary of SEO terms.

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Website Design

What’s Mobile-Friendly and Does It Matter?

In basic terms, ‘mobile-friendly’ means a site can be as easily viewed on a small smartphone or tablet screen as it can on a traditional laptop or desktop screen.

In technical terms, your site needs to have three basic functions that make it easy to read across both large and small formats:

  • It must avoid 3rd party software plug-ins that most mobile devices can’t handle, like Flash, Silverlight or Java.

  • Its text and graphics must be viewable without needing to scroll or zoom.

  • Links must be spaced far enough apart so they can easily be tapped.

These three functions are easier said than done. For most site platforms, there’s not a “mobile” switch you can just flip.  

I’ll go over your options on how to “mobilize” your site in a minute. But first… why should you care?

Here’s why it matters

Search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) want people to be able to see and interact with your site on all types of devices. 

That’s because search engines know that if something is searched for, there’s a good chance the follow-up will be some kind of financial transaction. 

For local businesses (like a dental practice) a mobile search yields an in-person visit about 50% of the time. That’s really incredible!

And it makes sense if you think about it. Why else would you search for a business on your mobile phone unless you were en-route or already looking for it? 

Are people searching for your practice for fun or out of boredom? Not likely. They’re searching for you to call you to schedule an appointment or to verify your address to visit in-person. 

So, these types of searches are valuable to Google because they’re valuable to you (and visa-versa).

Moreover, mobile devices aren’t just a small segment of internet use anymore…

in early 2014, mobile internet traffic overtook desktop traffic. 

And that trend isn’t likely to reverse. More people are using mobile devices to interact online, and Google is taking steps to ensure mobile-friendly sites get better visibility. 

In February, Google formally announced it would start giving preferential treatment to mobile-friendly sites starting April 21, 2015. 

You should care because mobile sites will get better rankings, more page views and ultimately, lower costs.

Okay, so if mobile is so important, how can you make sure your site passes muster for Google?

How to get mobile

There are basically two ways to make your site mobile friendly. 

Make your site responsive. Responsive sites have dynamic graphical elements that scale and adapt to fit the page they’re in – so they can be easily viewed in just about any format. 

Have a dedicated mobile site. Dedicated mobile sites are designed and laid out to fit mobile devices. It’s the same website address, but they “know” when they’re being viewed on a phone or tablet, and are programmed to load the correct version. 

Neither solution is necessarily better than the other, and all different kinds of businesses choose one fix over the other. 

For instance, almost every large retailer or consumer brand like Home Depot, Wal*Mart or Coca-Cola has a dedicated mobile site in addition to their regular desktop site. 

Blogs platforms and social media sites tend to be responsive. 

There are exceptions to both rules, and there are endless debates over which is better. 

The answer is: it depends. 

Responsive sites, even though they usually satisfy all of Google’s three rules, can sometimes be hard to use or unattractive on mobile devices if they’re not thoughtfully implemented. 

And to have a whole new standalone mobile site built can be overkill/unnecessary for many types of businesses.

For dental sites, it’s important that components don’t get lost in the “flow” of responsive design. 

Some designs that look really nice on a full-sized screen don’t convert well to a small screen. 

The important thing for Google is that sites are correctly displayed on mobile devices, so it’s something dental practices need to be on top of – especially going into Google’s April 21st deadline.

At ProSites, we offer a standalone solution, because we find it fits best with our different site designs. We can make the mobile version as attractive and functional as possible, and we don’t have to worry about things looking strange on the screen. 

If you’d like to see how a mobile version of your site might look, give one of our consultants a call at (888) 932-3644. 

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