This article originally appeared in August/2023 on DentistryToday.com.
Dental Practices Online: Why It Is Important to Have an Online Presence
By: Jackie Ulasewich Cullen
Have you recently tried to search a business, service provider, or medical professional on the internet only to find that they don’t have any real online presence to speak of? Maybe you can find the phone number and address on Google, but no website. Maybe you find them on Facebook, but there hasn’t been a post in over a year. Maybe you locate a website, but it does not contain much useful information other than contact details. How likely are you, as a consumer, to trust that business or professional? If you are like most Americans, probably not likely at all.
In 2023, we are so accustomed to every business, large and small, having a somewhat strong online presence, that we find it surprising when we come across one that does not. Even when we get a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member, it might raise suspicion if the business is not online. Word of mouth might open the door, but that door quickly closes when a potential new patron wants to get a bit more information and finds very little. That is precisely why it is extremely important for dental practices to have an online presence, beyond an address and phone number or a one-page website.
Give Your Practice a Chance to Shine
When your dental practice invests in building and maintaining its online presence, it will automatically stand out from others in the area. The unfortunate truth is that most dental practices have a website and not much else. Moreover, once that website is up and running, they assume that it is “self-sufficient”, requiring updating or maintenance only when there is a major staffing change, but often not even then.
Without the proper attention, not only does your practice’s website get buried underneath all the others in search results, but, more importantly, it does not get a chance to do its job, which is providing patients with helpful, accurate information about the practice to make their decision-making process easier. A website is a powerful marketing tool, and when it is well built and properly maintained, it becomes essential in generating new revenue for your practice.
In addition to an appealing website, every practice can benefit from having a social media presence, as more people than ever are turning to social media for news, advice, and, yes, finding their healthcare providers. Facebook is the most common and easiest way to get started with social media. It remains popular in the US, especially among adults — i.e. the people who make the household decisions. Taking the time to develop a social media presence will give your practice an edge over all others in the area, which are not likely to be on social media at all.
Keep It Current
Having a website and Facebook page are just the first step. For your practice’s online presence to be truly effective, you must maintain it. This means making sure everything is up to date. For a website, this entails adding landing pages when you run a special campaign and creating new subpages when you introduce new services. It also means keeping the staff bios current and having recent photos of the office. For social media, it is important to post on a regular basis. Twice a week is ideal, but once a week is the minimum you want to shoot for. An active social media page signifies a practice that is paying attention and making an effort.
To take your practice’s online presence one step further, add a blog and short videos to the website and link to them on social media. These also must be kept current to be most effective. If you choose to have a blog, you should upload new posts at least once a month, with twice a month being ideal. You can upload video content as frequently as you wish. Just be sure that it is relevant and timely.
Like it or not, most people let their online impressions guide their decisions. When they want to start patronizing a new business, even if they have heard good things from friends and family, they are not likely to make a final decision until they dig deeper. And this goes for dental practices as well. While getting a referral from someone they trust can go a long way towards their decision, patients are not relying on the word of their friends alone. They want to go online, find more information about the practice, its services, its people, and its personality to see if it is a good fit. A practice’s online presence is, therefore, crucial for attracting new patients, even if they have been referred by existing ones.
What about when a potential new patient has not been referred by anyone? Then, your practice’s online presence is even more important. People most often start their search for a new dentist online. Gone are the days of thumbing through the Yellow Pages to find a dentist in the area. It’s all online now. Perhaps a potential patient may notice your sign when driving by, but that is going to be the rare instance, and even then, they are not likely to walk right in and ask for an appointment. The more probable scenario is that they will go home and search for your practice online before contacting you. What they find will make all the difference in whether they become a patient or not.
When it comes down to it, a dental practice must have an online presence to attract new patients. Word of mouth is simply not enough. People are making their buying decisions based on what they find online, and that also applies to where they go for their dental care. If your practice has a strong, up-to-date online presence that includes a well-developed, well-maintained website plus social media, you are already ahead of the game.