Google the words “cosmetic dentistry” and you’ll get just over nine million hits. Scroll down a page or two and you’ll find dentists from Seattle, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, and many other major cities. Key in “root canal” and on the first page, along with the American Dental Association’s website on the topic, you’ll find sites claiming to expose the dangers and health threats of root canal therapy.
While most patients would prefer to learn about the options of cosmetic dentistry from their own dentist’s website rather than some dentist in Seattle or Houston or Chicago or Atlanta, chances are pretty good their dentist doesn’t have one. They can access dental information from practically anyone and practically anywhere online except from the dental professional they trust the most – YOU.
Similarly, while most dentists want patients to access reliable, factual material on endodontics, or any other treatment recommended, only a fraction can direct their patients to their practice’s website for that information.
When your patients want information, typically, the first place they look is the Internet. According to the most recent Pew Internet & American Life Project survey data, healthcare is the most frequently researched topic among those between the ages of 18-70+. On an average day, 94 million American adults are using the Internet and 72% of adults are routinely online.
What’s more, public trust in the Internet continues to climb. Holiday shopping for the 2005 Holiday Season rose a whopping 30% over the 2004 season bringing in more than $30 billion.*
Your patients are all over the information superhighway - handling bank transactions, slipping in some shopping, catching up on the latest news and weather, scheduling a date, taking an online course or two, researching various topics, etc. It is a way of modern life, yet only a small percentage of dentists have made it part of the modern dental practice. The Internet is the telephone of the 21st century; it’s essential you get connected.
Of course, there are practices that will claim with great conviction that they already have a website when, in fact, it’s merely an electronic yellow page or billboard ad. Their “website” includes basic information about the practice such as doctor’s name, the address, hours of operation, and phone number. Perhaps it promotes a couple of services, but there is nothing of substance for patients or prospective patients who want to learn more.
Certainly, the best websites are dynamic and take time to develop. But when it comes to the Internet, content is KING. The best way to determine what should be included on your site is to view it as your most valuable patient education/communication tool. In addition to basic practice information, address the FAQs - frequently asked questions. Even if you’ve only been in practice for a short time, you have a good idea which questions patients tend to ask. From hours of operation, to insurance policy, to financial policy, to how emergencies are handled, etc. all of those can be in the FAQs. Post operative instructions should be standard on your practice website.
Staff biographies are an excellent means of building a relationship with new patients before they ever even walk in the door. Information on specific procedures that the clinical staff performs, an explanation of various dental terms, links to other credible dental sites, such as the American Dental Association, make excellent content. In addition, some online mapping services will allow your website to link to theirs, which will enable patients to easily access turn-by-turn driving directions to your practice.
A picture is worth a thousand words of Internet content. Include before and after photos. When current and prospective patients see what their dentist can do it instantly increases the value of your care.
Make a fast first impression. Pay close attention to how quickly the home page loads as well as the amount of information that is on that first page. While nearly 60% of users have high-speed Internet connections, the pages need to load quickly. Although users don’t mind scrolling up and down on a page they don’t want to scroll left to right or right to left.
Next week, maximize your website’s Internet marketing potential.
*The Goldman, Sachs & Co., Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive® fifth annual Holiday eSpending Report
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