Your website is your practice’s identity online and it’s something you don’t want to take for granted. Website design goes far beyond just putting up a business description, contact information and some aesthetic elements. It involves strategic planning and implementation that makes use of high-level knowledge of digital marketing principles. First.Dentist founder Ross Dunn and VP of Marketing Andy Bernhart break these considerations down in another serial discussion. In this episode, they start off with development preparation, which is arguably one of the most important parts of the whole process. They also share some insights on what kind of content you should put up on your website, why video is the most effective in gaining the trust of potential clients, and what to consider when looking for a website design company to work with.
I’m joined by our Vice President of Marketing, Andy Bernhart. Are you having a good day?
I’m having a great day.
We are going to jump into website design considerations. It’s going to be a two-parter, at least. Considering everything that goes into a new website is significant and we want to make sure that we’re thorough. Part one here is preparing for development. When we have discussions with clients about their first website or even upgrading a website, where do you usually start?
It’s because we’re a dental industry-specific website design company, we’ve built a lot of dental websites over time. We’ve got a pretty good idea of what a dental website should look like. One of the things is we’re not starting from scratch. We know all of the different components of what should go on a dental website. For example, one of the things that we try to do with practices is, I’m trying to showcase them authentically because that’s what new patients and existing patients are looking for when they go to the website. They want to see the practice and who works there, all those types of things. We’re coming out of a bit of age for dental practices. There are a lot of large companies in the industry that have made very stock photo basic websites for dentists. That’s usually where I start is talking with the dentist and telling them about our experiences and showing them some of the sites we’ve developed. When they take a look at those sites, they’re like, “That’s what I want.”
When we’re dealing with websites too, I like to focus on understanding what their expectations are. What does the client expect from the process and ultimately the website? There is an interesting discrepancy between what we believe a client should expect from a website and what they believe. Not all the time, but it’s certainly nothing I take for granted anymore.
As soon as we do, somebody will want something unique and we’re usually happy to oblige as long as it makes sense.
We, the business owner, don’t want anything to come out of the blue, because we want to focus on what we know is going to work for them. We’ve already quoted for a certain amount of work. No one likes the surprise. We can handle it, but the more insight we have into what the client’s expectations are, the better off things will be.
Unfortunately, we do have a little bit of insight into that. It’s always an enjoyable process, starting a project and trying to find out a little bit more about that practice and potentially what makes that practice unique. What makes the people work there unique and all those types of things. It’s something I always enjoy getting that kickoff and getting to meet new practice owners and stuff. One of the things that I find is that oftentimes practices are busy being a dental practice. What we try to do is take a lot of that workload of building the site off of them. Sometimes if you’re working with a local agent who doesn’t have experience in medical or dental, we’ve been slug trying to help them figure out what a dental or medical practice website should look like.
Your website is not just a business card. These days you can’t put a website and make it succeed without something of use on it.
Examples of expectations would be an interesting place to go from here. If a client expects their website to simply be a business card for their business and we get that a lot. We say, “Okay, but it can do so much more and we’re going to make sure it does.” As a result, we have certain expectations as well. That’s because these days you can’t put a website and make it succeed without something of use on it. There are occasional circumstances where this doesn’t apply, but in most cases, we’re saying, “If you’re going to have a website, we need to have some fresh content. Something that’s unique and stands out from the rest,” because there are a lot of dentists, orthodontists and cosmetic dentistry. These are all fairly saturated fields in different cities. What’s going to make you stand out? I’m not saying a beautiful website because that’s going to be a given. It’s, “What else can be on there?” Sometimes the clients don’t expect that there’s work involved, that they can’t just pay for. Technically, they can. We could get writers to write more content for them, but at times that’s problematic too because it has to be in their voice. Again, not always, but sometimes. There are a lot of that and that’s part of understanding that expectation.
It is one of those things where sometimes dental practices have had websites built when it’s been a very hands-off process. Oftentimes, it shows because it’s all stock photos and stock content from the dental association that they belong to or something like that which isn’t going to help them rank in the search engines. It’s not going to make an impression besides that dentistry is a commodity.
They’ll say like, “I want to put up a service page on dental implants.” “It’s excellent. What kind of content can we look forward to there? Have you got anything written?” “I wanted to put up this PDF from my industry.” You can’t do that. I’m sure you can, but it’s not going to be beneficial because that content is not unique. It’s being used elsewhere. Either people have copied it and put it on their sites or they’re doing the same thing as you and it’s not going to stand up. You can have it there as a resource and as a download, but there has to be a voice on the page speaking about what you offer or maybe even some video. Video can be touch in the dental realm. Some people don’t want to see anything to do with that. They just want to imagine that their dental implants will be done. They don’t want to know all the details.
There are nice explainer videos with animation just like that.
We’ve had that argument though. We’re like, “People don’t want to see that stuff.” We don’t have to be gruesome about it. Explainer videos are great.
That’s one of the things that I always try to go over with clients whenever we get a photographer or videographer. They’re like, “Let’s get shots of you doing some work.” Dentistry can make people quite nervous. We always try to focus on smiling before and after pictures. Not the actual work with tools in the mouth and those types of things. That’s another thing I see a lot of and I’m like, “I think this web design company probably didn’t work in the dental industry with these pictures on the website.”
That’s one of our later points here, but I’ll jump into it now. It’s creating photography and getting a video done. Those are two strong points for marketing. The beauty of it too, is if you get the video done, oftentimes you get a photographer with that package that can come in and do photos while the video is being recorded because you’re already at your best when the video is happening. You can ask a friend or a family member even to sit in as a sample patient. You don’t have to get in there and do any work, just look like you are. That goes a long way from not looking fake. Especially, if that is in sync with the video. If they go and look at the video or this fantastic tour of your business and you see the same person that’s also in the photos, that’s cool. It’s compelling and it ties you in.
I think that’s what people are looking for from a local business website is authenticity. They want to see what this practice is and what these people look like who work in it. A great video can showcase you, your staff and your practice in a great light. I guarantee if somebody goes to a website that has a fantastic video that showcases your practice and they can see good pictures of people working there. They then go to the stock photo sites, they’re going to choose that person almost every time. It’s a great marketing advantage and it gives you the ability to stand out and create a great user experience. That’s what it’s all about. The person coming to your website who’s thinking about becoming a patient at your practice, do they get what they want? The person who’s already part of your practice, do they go there? What do they want to do? Do they want to contact you? Maybe they want to find out some information about a service or a procedure. It’s one of those things that’s focusing on creating that user experience and what people want to see as important.
One of the things that I didn’t want to forget. I had forgotten more points here, but it’s the differentiation between businesses when you’re choosing a web design company, or frankly often it’s web design and marketing. They’re all together doing it for you. As a clinic practice, you want to look at a couple of the number of things. The first thing many people look at is the quality of their work and the price. You also have to remember, you often will find the best prices for cookie-cutter sites with those stock photos. They’re often on proprietary platforms, which sound fantastic. They’re going to offer so much to you. They’ll cut their costs in half compared to the competition, etc. You hear all these things all the time. That’s a bad move in my opinion because if you go with those people, you’re going to end up with the cookie-cutter site, which no one wants and a look that’s not necessarily going to convert into new patients.
You may be a platform that you can’t get out of easily. For example, if you wanted to transition that site to a new company at some point because you find the fees are too much or you’re not so happy with the service. That’s on their system. You’re going to have that rebuilt to work on other systems. A good company can take that, and we’ve done this before. A system that is proprietary system and we’ve taken a website and rebuilt it to look identical on say WordPress, which is our primary system of use. That’s still money. There’s a cost there and there’s also a bit of headache involved. Just be very careful. There are often hidden expenses as well. You get what you pay for big time when it comes to marketing and web design. I do keep that in mind. We get a lot of companies coming to us that want to switch in that situation. I figured I better mention it.
It’s important. There are a lot of players in the industry that do have specific packages that may look attractive. When it comes to trying to get service or when it comes to updating the site or trying to change, it becomes very difficult.
What occurred to me is that support level too. If you need help or if you’re upset about something or anything, you could be sent to someone who you don’t even know each time you call. Whereas with more boutique companies that have created a service for higher-end results, you’re going to deal with the person that did the website or at the very least, the person that was above them, not below. It’s a huge difference.
It’s a small amount of money too, relatively speaking for a dental practice to develop a website that does look fantastic and you own. You get good service for it and it’s secure and easy to do updates.
I don’t think this is putting us on the spot. I’m always considering that, but it’s a range, let’s say a cookie-cutter site, what do you think would be the costs again? You guys can’t hold this to us, but with $3,000, $2,000 including a basic marketing package.
A lot of them are working more towards getting some monthly thing going. Sometimes you don’t even have to pay it upfront or maybe there’s a little price upfront of $8,000 and then $200 or $300 a month or something like that. It depends on that. Let’s say you went to a local shop or one of those people from your email spam managed to get ahold of you and sell you a site for $2,000 or something. You could have a site built for that much as well.
When you get into the moderate end, you may have that upfront costs for someone who does it more professionally from between $5,000 and $8,000. You’re going to expect that it includes sometimes again, depending on the breadth of the site, the video or photography. Let’s say $4,000 if that would be that if it was $8,000 to $9,000. You’ve got something that is outstanding and something you can be proud of and say, “This is unique.” It’s hard to put a dollar amount on that.
What people look for from a local business website is authenticity. A great video can showcase you, your staff and your practice in a great light.
In this day and age, your website is your community presence as well. Anytime anybody wants or needs any information about you, they go to your website. That’s the impression that they have of you. Why not make it a great impression? Get some great photography, video and a website that works well.
We’re not saying this just because it’s a higher-end website. We’re saying it because we know it works. We see better results and more patient requests. It’s night and day effective having this content.
You think about it from your personal perspective. If you go to a website and you see the business owners and see what the business looks like, and now it’s running and things look well-organized and well-designed and stuff. Let’s track here then you go to some cookie-cutter thing that is very confusing and doesn’t work. You can’t get an idea of what’s going on. It’s not rocket science.
Another consideration is what kind of services do you need to build into the site? Services is not the right word. It’s more technology. For example, your frontend office software may have abilities to port into a website or may accept inquiries through the website and get funneled right into the system. There may be places where you can implement a document section where people can fill out medical information before sending it off. There’s a lot that can be done using these integrations and that’s something your designed company needs to know as well. We’ve run through a couple of these. Nothing super intense, but what are a couple of examples you can think of, or at least one there, Andy?
One of the primary ones is the ability to fill out the forms on the website. If you’re using something like WordPress and you’re not using a proprietary CMS, it can oftentimes be relatively easy and inexpensive to integrate all of those different pieces of office software into it. Sometimes when you’re working with somebody else’s proprietary system, it can be tricky and funky to get all that stuff working. We use WordPress and it’s great. The theme that we use to build the stuff with, it was very easy to integrate all of these and make it look great. Make it work well.
Not every system will be a simple porting over. Sometimes they don’t have very good infrastructure to allow that integration but for the most part, it was pretty good.
We’ve had experience with the most popular ones though. It should be relatively easy. If it’s not, I also want to locate your office software because, in this day and age, all these types of integrations are important.
One key integration is reviews and I think it’s donnish by some of the systems. The very popular ones we’ve looked at that took reviews allowed you to build reviews from your business and testimonials from your patients, but then there was no way for those to be put online. You could put that information on your website. They’ve accumulated the info but there was no way for them to be shared to third-party sites like Google and RateMDS.com. There are a number of places that you can put these and there’s no integration to these third-party platforms. That’s where it’s going to help you. Every system we’ve had to research has to have that. Many doctors and many clinics don’t know this. They have no idea.
It is one of those things too. If you work with a dental-specific website or a marketing company, usually they will have some type of well-thought-out system that you can use or can integrate into your practice. If you’re going with some of these proprietary cheaper end packages or if you’re going with a local company, they don’t know these types of things. They don’t know how a dental practice needs to be marketed and what type of review system is going to make their lives easier rather than making it worse.
When we talked to that company about it, “Do they have this?” “We don’t know but we don’t offer that integration to Google anymore.” “Why not?” I don’t think we even got a reply. It’s astonishing to me. That’s like a car without wheels.
It’s interesting because we’ve lived and breathed marketing for a long time. We are aware of the good solutions and if something great comes along, we will switch over to it as long as it makes sense. Not everybody out there is in the marketing or the digital world. Some of these people invest a lot of money into their tools and their systems in their company and then they can’t get out of them. We tend to go with more cloud-based services. We don’t tend to get as stuck as much.
We should stress, we always go in with HIPAA compliance. That’s critical. We’ll get more into that in the next episode.
People can get confused about the cloud and privacy stuff.
The cloud can be very secure. You have to do your homework and we’ve done that but you can do it yourself. It’s doable. It just takes time.
We’ll be talking about that in the next episode. That’s something that dentists and office managers will be interested in because we still run into it all the time. We see all kinds of violations of HIPAA stuff and insecure websites, but that’s one of the things that we take very seriously. We spent a lot of time developing systems and technology to make sure that dental practices are safe.
From that point of view, make sure that whatever design company or company you choose to do your marketing also considers HIPAA compliance critical. If they don’t even mention it, wonder what’s going on.
Your website is your community presence. It’s the impression that people get about you.
If you don’t work in the industry, you probably don’t know about it.
It’s not a simple read.
No, it’s not at all. We have some good information on our blog.
You do have something, don’t you? It’s an article completely about HIPAA compliance and stuff.
Yes, it is and how it specifically relates to websites and dental marketing too.
The last piece here is expectations and differentiation between site companies and site objectives. This is all stuff we could talk about a lot longer because there are always incidences where we’re surprised by a new question or new consideration. We’ve generalized a fair bit of that. One other area though and I discussed it briefly is content. Who is writing your content? Is it going to be new content? How much of it’s being brought over from your old site if your old site exists? There is a lot to that.
Oftentimes, if it’s from the old site, it may be outdated. You can’t get lazy about content. It’s going to be very important. From your search engine optimization point of view, you want to ensure that it’s setting a great stage for your SEO because whatever they optimize, you want to stick with it. Otherwise, they go back and re-optimize it again. If you are going to use someone in-house, fantastic. Just make sure they know how to do some decent writing. They don’t have to be excellent. Any company that you hire that helps you with the marketing can easily hire an editor or even do the editing for you. Make sure it’s decent. The best solution is to have someone in-house or yourself do the writing.
We know everybody’s busy, but it’s a one-time investment. It can make all the difference. As an example, a friend of mine had to get a root canal. She went to the dentist’s website and the writing on the page to explain the procedure, all those six things, it put her at ease after reading about it all and it may not be that painful. Here are all the details involved in it. If you have a little blurb on your website or some PDF that doesn’t explain things out well, it doesn’t do a service to your patients. Having well-built out pages with good writing on them about these different services that you offer can make a difference to the patients.
Is there anything else we want to mention in this episode? We covered a lot of them and I don’t even remember stuff out there.
You want to say something about content and SEO because that’s a big deal too.
We covered a bit of that, but when it comes to writing additional content, we’ve talked about the base content for your site. The other part is writing and I can already feel the groans because I hear them all the time when I mention it to clients, but blog content. Creating content on a regular basis is not an easy thing to do. Most people hate it but there typically is information that you can share on a regular basis. It could be the latest technologies. It could be about an event that you’re having at your location for a charity or charities that you’re recommending people donate to this Christmas or whatever it may be. There are lots of different things. You can use that content and post them to Google My Business. There is a post section within Google My Business called Google Posts. They only have a certain shelf life. They do disappear after a short period of time, but if you’re active on there and you continue to post, it looks good. It stands out.
That content can be reused too. One of the things that one of our dental practices did was write an article on Alzheimer’s and gum disease. It’s an important topic and it’s very useful information for their patients. They put it in their newsletter. We put it up on the website. They could use it on social media and these are all things that are helpful for patients to see this information. It can help with recalling people back into the practice too. There are always cool studies coming out about dental hygiene and health, all those types of things, picking one of those topics and writing a little bit about it. It’s not just good for your website. It’s good for new patients and getting them back in because I read it and I’m like, “I’ve got to start flossing. I’ve got to go back in for my appointment.”
You can have fun with myths too. I’m sure there’s a ton. Myths about treats at Halloween or what treats are good for you. Myths about what you should or should not be eating and giving your kids for lunches.
Should you drink lemon and water?
“Is fruit leather a good idea?” “No.” Our kids nearly lost their teeth because we were doing that so much. We didn’t have a clue. There’s a lot that you can write about and any company you work with I’m sure would help you create an authority building plan. A concept that’s designed to build people or increase the number of shares of your content and the interest in your content because it’s so well-written that you build authority in Google’s eyes. Google will see that you’ve got shares. They will see that there’s a certain amount of buzz around your content. That leads you to have more authority and more authority gives you more clout to get the rankings you need. These may not get you new patients, the content themselves, but they will build the authority that allows you to get the visibility you need to get those patients. They’re a mouthful, but it is very important.
All businesses in this day and age have a content strategy. Adding content to your website and your practices’ communications goes a long way and people are consuming it.
The next step is we’re going to talk about the development process. We’ve already prepared for development by asking a lot of these questions and we’re going to create a bit of an outline. How the new website will function, what the content will look like on the new site and what needs to be written so you can start doing that or whoever it is that’s going to be doing it. There’s a lot of structure that comes out of this discussion, then development begins. That’ll be the next episode. Thanks for joining us. If you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to email Info@First.Dentist. Thank you for reading and remember to tune in to our next episode where we’ll be sharing more 101 tips and news on Dental Web Marketing.
Thanks for joining us and I hope you have an enjoyable week.