Top Trends in Dental SEO in 2019

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The most recent numbers suggest there are nearly 200,000 practicing dentists in the United States. That’s a lot of options. With such a crowded playing field, how will your practice stand out when someone searches online for “best dentist” in your city or town?

 

The answer is search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO helps fine-tune your website and match it up to the results page of someone searching for related material online. As technology improves and algorithms change and evolve, so too do the best SEO practices. Read on to examine some of 2019’s biggest projected trends, and how you can use them to your practice’s advantage.

 

Video Content:

We have discussed it in previous articles, but the importance of video content in today’s marketing landscape cannot be stressed enough. Not only does it improve your user experience and help your brand stand out among the competition, it enhances your standing on search engine results. In fact, your site is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of Google’s search results if it features a video.

 

Voice Search:

Over the past few years you’ve likely encountered a voice assistant like the Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home, but you may have not considered that these products are playing an increasingly big role in SEO. In 2018, 58% of those who owned these devices used their voice search function to look for information about local businesses. It will be valuable to ensure your website is optimized for voice search, as voice recognition is projected to become a $601 million industry this year.

 

Microformats:

Microformats are essentially pieces of code used to mark up your website which help convey unseen information to search engines, essentially labeling or tagging them. The more thoroughly your website’s content is labeled like this, the more likely a search engine is to match your site to a search. Microformats can be especially helpful for businesses with brick and mortar locations who want to display their business hours… dental offices, for example!

 

Mobile Friendliness:

As consumers increasingly shift to mobile searches in lieu of desktop searches, it’s essential that your website is geared towards mobile searches as well. If your site is not optimized for mobile viewing, search engines are less likely to show it to those searching. Google is rolling out its mobile-first indexing system, meaning google will search for the mobile version of a site first. According to the company, “Since the majority of users now access Google via a mobile device, the index will primarily use the mobile version of a page’s content going forward. We aren’t creating a separate mobile-first index. We continue to use only one index.”

 

Take stock of these items and make sure your website aligns with them. Stay tuned to our blog for more industry tips and insights!

Is Your Money Safe?

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The word “embezzlement” usually conjures images of shady bigshots high up the corporate ladder, but the truth is, it’s a lot more common than you might think.

 

What’s worse: it often happens within dental practices. And the numbers are alarmingly high.

 

It’s thought that three out of every five dentists – or 60% – will be embezzled at some point over the course of their careers. However, some experts estimate that the number might actually be closer to 80% due to undetected or unreported cases. It should also be noted that while stealing money is the most common form of embezzlement, it can manifest itself in other ways – such as employees ordering extra medical items or equipment in order to sell themselves.

 

According to leading dental embezzlement investigation firm Prosperident, the crime often goes undiscovered for nearly two years, and the average amount stolen is $109,000. This is why it’s so important to take stock of all the moving parts and employees that make up your practice. It’s easy to think that this is a crime that only happens to other practices, or that it’s a big-city crime that could never happen in your rural office. It’s also easy to fall victim to “illusory superiority,” which Prosperident describes as “a basic human characteristic where we overestimate our capabilities relative to those of others.” That is to say, it’s easy to assume we have the knowledge and perception to catch the crime before it happens. This is a mistake.

 

While these facts and figures can be alarming, there are steps you can take to both prevent embezzlement and red flags to look for in the unfortunate event that it’s happening to you.

 

Screen Every New Employee

 

It may go without saying, but even if you are hiring a close friend or family member who you’ve known all your life, it could be a costly mistake not to do your due diligence. In addition to criminal and credit checks, you would be wise to confirm their stated education history to ensure they were honest in their application process and talk to past employers to make sure they haven’t had any prior issues.

 

Avoid Single-Person Control

 

Do not let one single person control the finances of your practice. Instead, delegate different tasks to different employees so that each function gets performed but no one person has the opportunity to manipulate or reroute any resources. You can also provide opportunities for employees to review each other’s work,

 

 

 

 

Stay Aware of Abnormalities

 

Keep your eyes peeled for an increase in patient refunds, adjustments or debt write-offs, or for an above-average number of accounts being transferred to a collection agency. Also make sure there are no inconsistencies between accounts receivable records and patient statements. It’s always smart to print out your own computer reports so you get the full picture straight from the source. Also review and initial day-end reports.

 

Keeping up practices such as these and staying aware of your practice’s financial goings-on can help you thwart embezzlement. Stay tuned to our blog to keep up with the latest industry pointers and insights.

5 Ways Marketing in the Dental Industry Will Change in 2019

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The dental industry, and the marketing thereof, has seen some big changes over the last year. Some of these trends are expected to continue into the new year while new ones will emerge. In this age of technological improvements, new digital platforms and evolving audiences it’s more important than ever to anticipate change and stay one step ahead of the curve. Read on to examine 5 predictions for changes to marketing in the dental industry in 2019.

 

Video Content

We touched upon this in our roundup of 2018, but the importance of video content in the digital era cannot be stressed enough. More than 500 million hours of YouTube content is consumed daily, and more than 500 million people watch videos on Facebook daily. In this digital era consumers want fast and easy access to information, and they want to consume that information to be as easily as possible.

 

Influencer Promotion

The importance of using influencers as marketing tools is on the rise, especially among young people who often turn to prominent social media figures for insight and direction. But “influencer” is a term that spans far beyond viral personalities and Instagram superstars. Local influencers can be invaluable in helping a practice achieve good positioning. Not only that, practices themselves can become influencers as well.

 

3D printing

While the rise of 3D printing is not a new concept in and of itself, it’s set to reach a new level of ubiquity in dentistry in 2019. In fact, a group of Texas prisons will use 3D printing to produce dentures for inmates, a move that will ultimately save money and time spent transporting inmates to offsite dental offices and clinics. Such a large-scale utilization of the practice seems to almost guarantee that it will be a prominent fixture in dentistry at large. Marketers would do well to educate themselves about the process as it becomes more commonplace.

 

Group Practices

The shift from individual practices to group practices has been emerging and looks to become a trend in 2019. There are a lot of benefits to joining a group practice, especially for younger dentists fresh out of school. Some of these include:

 

  • Paying off student loans
  • Lower overhead
  • Shared costs
  • Use of staff
  • More flexible schedule
  • Larger patient base

 

Marketers should keep this shift in mind as different dentists within the practice may have different needs.

 

Social Media Algorithms

Over the past few years, changes have been made to the algorithms of leading social media sites which are still affecting how dental groups and practices market themselves, and confronting these changes should be a top priority in 2019. There is no one solution, but some remedies may include increasing your social media ad budget or curating your content so that it resonates more with your new or smaller audience.

 

Keep these 5 predictions in mind as we head into 2019 and stay tuned to Big Buzz for more industry predictions and insights.

2018 Dental Marketing Year in Review

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It goes without saying that the marketing landscape is in a constant state of transition due to evolving technologies, shifts in consumer behavior and more. As with any industry, it’s imperative that dentists and dental practices stay current in their familiarity with these trends and changes to keep their practices visible and new patients coming through the door. A good place to start is examining the trends that either began or gained prominence in 2018, so as to accordingly develop marketing approaches and areas of focus for the new year.

 

One of the fastest growing trends in marketing is the importance of video content. 85% of the internet audience in the United States watches online videos, and their use can be mutually beneficial for potential patients and dental practices.  practices can reach and actively engage a wider audience – potentially bringing new patients into the practice – due to more easily ingestible content which allows  the viewers to have an easier time researching a new dental office or practice with more easily digestible content.

 

Additionally, video content gives doctors and practices an opportunity to showcase their personal brand, something that simple photos and text may fail to do. Showcasing your personal brand is not a new concept for 2018, but its importance has become heightened due to the crowding of the dental marketing space. Viral dental practice associate Tracy Driver, one of the speakers at the 2018 Dental Digital Marketing Conference, advised that your practice “[has] to find something to share on social media that sets you apart from other practices. Do something you love, something you’re comfortable with, then push yourself beyond that.” In addition to promoting your personal brand, sharable video content reaches a wider audience, resulting in more people talking about your practice. As Mark W. Schaefer, another speaker at the 2018 Dental Digital Marketing Conference, pointed out, “The world is moving away from big advertising – people don’t trust ads anymore… but when your patients post stories about your practice, it gets 600-700% more traction than if you did it yourself.”

 

Of course, videos aren’t the only way to employ a word-of-mouth approach. While every dental professional undoubtedly understands the importance of referrals, it’s important to recognize that they’re becoming more crucial by the day, and dental software can help capitalize on this. Between 2010 and 2016, the average number of patients referred by someone else rose by 13,000. Explore how your dental software program can help you track your referral sources.

 

To that end, brand advocates have become invaluable in 2018. While these individuals may be known by other names like brand evangelists or ambassadors, they all accomplish the same thing: promoting and advocating your practice to others in their daily lives – beyond having just been asked to refer a friend or family member for a gift card or discount. To quote dental marketing guru Jack Hadley, “Ultimately, the goal of digital dental marketing is not just to attract and retain new patients. It’s to turn those patients into advocates for your practice. That’s the core of digital marketing.”

 

Keep this information in mind as we head into 2019, and stay tuned to the Big Buzz blog for more news and insight into developing dental marketing trends.

These 4 Marketing Mistakes Are Ruining Your Patient Flow

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1. Failure to embrace a hyperlocal SEO strategy

Where local SEO focuses on cities, districts and regions, hyperlocal SEO gets more granular, focusing on neighborhoods, towns, streets and areas surrounding well-known landmarks. The benefits of embracing a hyperlocal SEO strategy include:

  • A simpler search journey for the patient
  • Reduced competition among other practices in your location
  • High-intent phrases such as “near me” or “near to” are more often paired to hyperlocal locations

2. Missing out on voice and mobile search trends

A Forbes article noted that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, citing a ComScore projection. With the rise of smart home devices and with voice assist technology becoming more advanced, more users are turning to voice search. Local searches are now leading around 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day, 18% of which convert to a sale.  It is more important now than ever to adjust SEO and PPC targeting to capture search phrases associated with voice and mobile search.

3. Following up less than 5 times

In a perfect world, a patient would contact your practice and schedule an appointment after one interaction. Sadly, that’s not always the case. In fact, nearly 80% of sales require five or more follow-ups after initial contact. In a recent report survey by Propeller, they discovered that nearly 92% of salespeople gave up before the fifth try! Getting even more granular, 44% of most salespeople gave up after the first attempt, 22% gave up after just two rejections, 14% after three and 12% stopped after four. That leaves only 8% of salespeople who followed through to the most important touch point for converting a potential patient. The “one-and-done” days of scheduling a potential patient are done.  This is why also why lead nurturing is so important as an internal marketing strategy for new patient increases. According to Propeller, nurtured leads typically resulted in a 20% increase in sales opportunities and tended to spend 47% higher on services in comparison to non-nurtured leads.

4. Focus on vanity stats

Although it’s not bad to monitor and track keyword rankings, traffic sources and engagement statistics, such as bounce rate and time on a website, the most important metrics are those that correlate to actions that result in added revenue to your practice.

  1. The Initial Action (a click) – When a user sees your brand or service do they take an initial action by clicking on the link?
  2. The Intent Action (a conversion) – Once a user performs the initial action, are they compelled enough to perform an intentional action? By intent action, I mean a call, a download or a form submission. In other words, this prospect has shown intent to become a patient of your dental practice.
  3. The Final Action (an acquisition) – Now that you have converted a prospect by getting them to call or submit a form, can you turn them into a paying patient?

Where a keyword ranking or changes in page views may be difficult to measure, action stats are easily quantifiable and relate directly to return on marketing invested (ROMI).

Eager to learn more? We’ve helped hundreds of dental practices just like yours increase patient inquiries.  Contact a dental expert for a complimentary 30-minute consultation. 

Get Patients to Yes!

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Last week, Big Buzz had the pleasure of speaking with Elliott Carson of Patterson Dental about how dental offices today are competing with consumer expectations now more than ever.

Consumers do not necessarily buy things for logical reasons. In many cases, it’s more emotional, which is a trend we’re more commonly seeing in the dental industry.

In the past, being clinically trained, taking CE courses and having a place to practice dentistry was enough to equal success. However, today’s patient seeks instant gratification – convenience, high-tech tools, quick turnaround. Simply put, today’s patient has high expectations.

There is a disconnect between how treatment plans and cases are presented by the doctor, and how they are received by the patient. Dentists live in a clinical world, which is likely not understood by the patient and may leave them feeling confused, fearful or anxious. When doctors find a way to communicate the patient’s situation, needs and plan of action in a way that resonates with them and is understood by the patient, acceptance rates skyrocket.

The environmental and cultural experience at your practice can set the tone for quality, and ultimately impact the buying decision that way. Compare this to any given restaurant’s environment: they may have the best food in the world, but if the environment is dirty, falling apart, not taken care of, or is misaligned with expectations in any other way, the restaurant will not succeed. In the same breath, how can you expect a patient to invest thousands of dollars in a single procedure if the environment does not align with that expectation?

Presently, the most successful dental practices have these traits in common:

  • The team is connected to the vision of the practice. They’re clear on who they are, what they do and what the practice is about. This team dynamic breeds success and a progressive culture.
  • The physical footprint of the office is up-to-date. It has stayed current with trends, techniques, procedures, offerings, etc.
  • The doctor and the entire team have an understanding of the evolving customer expectation. They have found a way to work in a manner that resonates with the consumer.
  • The doctor or owner is investing back into the business each year in a strategic way. Any business that refuses to evolve with market trends will suffer to stay relevant.

Imagine that each time you present a treatment plan, the patient is engaged and ready to move forward. Imagine what production and profitability would look like. Get your patients to “Yes!”

Elliott Carson is the General Manager for Patterson Dental’s Denver Branch covering Colorado and Southern Wyoming.

How To Maximize “Per Patient Value” With Robert Taylor of BuzzDoc

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Big Buzz had the pleasure of speaking with Robert Taylor of BuzzyDoc about the evolutionary shift of a patient acting solely as a consumer that is happening in the dental industry, and how practices can create brand loyalty to maximize per patient value.

Presently, there is a macro-shift in patient experience taking place across the entire healthcare industry. With the implementation of ACA, constantly changing and evolving healthcare rules and regulations and a great shift around fee-for-service environments to value-based care, now more than ever, there is an emphasis on taking care of the patient. That said, this allows and maintains the complete control of care to be in the patient’s hands, which may or may not enhance compliance.

Breaking it down a step further, in private practice, the patients are the consumer, the end all be all, and the ultimate decision maker. Because of the ability to infinitely shop around, utilize technology for instant gratification and constantly compare options, it is imperative for private practices to enhance brand loyalty and make patients feel like a VIP to retain and remain successful.

This consumer behavior shift in healthcare has caused a cultural and societal shift, much like that found in a retail setting: special offers, promotions, discounts, etc., that allow for patients to easily and affordably hop around from provider to provider. However, as patients, people would still prefer to stick with a single provider that they trust, someone who knows their medical history and who they have a relationship with.

Additionally, private practices don’t have the infrastructure to generate reward and loyalty programs like the big retail players – Target, Costco, etc.

There is an inordinate amount of time and resources being spent in dental practices to get foot traffic in the door, yet closing the back door, anchoring patients, and treating them like gold often falls by the wayside.

The answer is three-fold: enhance patient loyalty, engagement and compliance. Once you get patients further engaged in the practice and they intrinsically realize the benefits of staying with your practice, it helps them hurdle the budgetary boundaries of accepting treatment and they already trust and know you. This benefits your practice, but even more importantly it benefits the long-term health of the patient.

Robert Taylor grew up understanding the nuances of the dental industry living with his father who ran an orthodontic practice for over 30 years. Robert and his team’s efforts at BuzzyDoc to increase awareness about their platform, which provides the technology infrastructure for dental practices to engineer patient engagement programs, stems from their deep knowledge of the healthcare industry and business acumen necessary to help practices increase their bottom line through alternative marketing and patient retention strategies.

The Pros and Cons of Content Marketing

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Content marketing is the act of creating and delivering timely, relevant and valuable material consistently to one’s database in order to change their behavior without necessarily selling.

It is different from the promotional marketing you may do on the radio or the humorous posts you write for Facebook. Content marketing is a powerful tool that can change someone’s thoughts or behavior without them even knowing it. That said, it can also involve a lot of manpower.

Below are three pros and cons of content marketing for you to consider if adding this tactic to your strategic marketing plan has been on the brain.

Pros:

  1. It positions you as the expert. Associating your name with educational and relevant content shows your audience that you are experienced, skilled and knowledgeable, which gives them the confidence to take that next step with you. More casual posts on Instagram will help them to like you, but content marketing will help them to trust you. In order to do this, you need to be writing expert content. Content should not be promotional and should rarely even mention your practice by name. Share insights on the most common questions you receive or the fears you see in your patients on a day-to-day basis. Reaching deep down to hit on those emotions that are holding your patients back from proceeding with treatment will truly get those thoughts and behaviors to change. For example, if you want to attract more dental implant cases, skip the part about your state-of-the-art technology and share a case study about a patient who received a full-mouth-makeover and in turn got a new job or a new love – essentially a new life! These are the stories of transformation people can believe in.
  2. It helps with SEO. Adding new content to your website on a regular basis shows search engines that your website is alive and well. Among other metrics, Google looks at how long website visitors read your content to assess if your website is trustworthy. While straightforward topics such as “What You Need to Know About Dental Implants” are important, think creatively about how to engage your patients. How-to manuals, product reviews and videos are a few examples of content that will really help you stand out.
  3. It keeps patients engaged when they’re not seeing you face-to-face. Similarly to social media, content marketing can help readers to stay engaged with you and your practice well beyond the walls of your office. Consistent email blasts will make your name part of your database’s inbox on a regular basis. And when the time comes for them to make an appointment or finally get that nagging tooth checked out, they will think of you.

Cons:

  1. It can feel cumbersome. If you’re stumped at where to even start, begin with an editorial calendar. An editorial calendar will list all the topics you intend to write about and share over the next few months. It is best to schedule out a whole year, but if that feels overwhelming start with a quarter. Think of 12 topics you can send out weekly over the next three months. Again, think about frequently asked questions, challenges or fears your patients face before/during/after treatment or success stories you can share (with a signed consent form for HIPAA). Once you have that initial outline, you just have to sit down and actually write, which leads to con number two.
  2. It takes time. Content marketing is not one-and-done; it needs to become part of your weekly or monthly schedule of activities. This can sometimes feel like a task too big to bear for a lot of busy dentists. One way to make it easier is to crank out a significant amount of posts all at once. Spend an evening or Sunday morning with your laptop writing 5-10 posts that can be delivered over the next few months. Have another member of your team proof the content, add it to your blog page and send it out to your database on a weekly basis.
  3. It is a long-tail approach to lead generation. Content marketing is similar to SEO in that it is vital for success but can be hard to associate with new patients right away. It may take up to 12 months of educational and insightful content for a patient to realize that dental implants are right for them, but when that big case comes through your door, spending a few hours each month on content marketing will be 100% worth it. Don’t give up on content marketing if you don’t see immediate rises in new patient inquiries. It is a long-term approach to building brand awareness for your practice and establishing trust in your care.

If you are interested in content marketing and would prefer to have an experienced marketing agency handle it for you, contact Big Buzz today!

Beyond Page 1: What Truly Matters in SEO

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There are so many SEO (search engine optimization) “facts” that circulate the internet that it can be hard to distinguish the hype from what truly matters. Dentists are constantly inundated with marketing offers and exposed to new trends concerning search engine optimization. It is easy to get caught up thinking that getting “on page one” is the end all and be all of SEO. Many of SEO facts, including that one, are actually not facts at all.

Here are a few SEO myths debunked:

SEO is one-and-done. Continuous SEO management is critical to achieving a successful online presence. Search engines like Google and Bing are constantly changing their algorithms. Your website, and each individual page, are in constant competition with millions of other dental websites. The content of your website should always be up-to-date and accurately reflect your dental practice, the services offered, your team, hours, etc.
Being one page one is all that matters. There are so many varying factors that impact the ranking of search results. Search results vary from person to person, depending on each individual’s search history, location, exact keywords, etc. Having high-quality, pertinent search results based on keywords is much more beneficial and important to the long-term success of your online presence than just being on page one for a seldom-searched term or two.
SEO is a quick fix. There are several “black hat” techniques, like keyword stuffing and use of duplicate content, that may appear to be quick fixes for high website rankings. These techniques are unsustainable and will likely be flagged by search engines. If Google or another search engine suspects these techniques, the website will very quickly be pushed to the bottom of search results, and getting back on Google’s “good side” can be a very long, nearly impossible process. It’s best to be sure that your provider is offering “white hat” SEO practices, such as content marketing and backlink strategies.
Social media doesn’t impact SEO. Consistent and engaging social media activity (posting regularly, gaining positive reviews, etc.) can greatly impact SEO. Social media activity increases your web presence, increasing the opportunity for potential patients to land on your practice’s online profiles over a competitor’s.

SEO myths are plentiful and should always be addressed by a trusted SEO expert. If you have specific questions regarding your online listings, rankings, content, or website in general, our search engine marketing expert would be happy to help. For more SEO expertise, download the complete SEO Guidebook today.

Beyond the Doctor: What Makes a Practice Thrive

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Big Buzz had the pleasure of speaking with Kim McCleskey of Avitus Dental about the vulnerability of private practices as the dental industry evolves, and how the entire dental team is absolutely necessary to a practice’s success.

The dental industry has evolved significantly in recent years. Practices are not competing like small town dental offices anymore, doctors are dealing with increasingly complex cases and the dental staff (practice administrators, treatment coordinators, financial advisors, consultants, etc.) is tasked with running a business: operational, financial, internal, medical and dental billing/insurance, and more. Each member of a dental team is wearing multiple hats and stepping outside of their comfort zones.

The catch is, these team members are not taught these highly technical skills in school, yet they are absolutely vital to the success of a practice. Beyond the hard skills and knowledge necessary, the empowerment of education allows these players to be elevated to the highest level of professionalism.

The other key to a successful small business, such as a private practice, is getting creative with what success looks like and knowing where and when certain services or tasks should be outsourced. The most successful practices maximize their internal strengths – the innate and fine-tuned strengths of the doctor and his or her team members – and then surround themselves with professionals and experts that can complement and supplement their weaknesses, as well as take tasks off their plate that are disinteresting or tedious. Oftentimes, these may include marketing, payroll, billing, HR, accounts receivable, etc.

The future of private practice dentistry depends on strong independence and sustainable growth, both of which need to be thoroughly considered, strategized and made agile as the industry continues to evolve.

Kim McCleskey is a dental practice management consultant with over 25 years of experience administering and leading large dental practices. She has managed individual practices as a practice administrator and has overseen multiple practices as director of operations. She has also founded and run her own consulting firm. Kim specializes in practice management, strategic business planning, leadership coaching, team development and post-acquisition consulting.

Avitus Dental has created Mastery Courses for practice administrators, dental consultants and regional operations directors. These are jam-packed, education-filled, coaching-based yearlong training courses to learn the business of dentistry.