Finding New Patients Online

A stale office on a busy corner or the Taj Mahal on a dead-end road?

When my daughters were young, we’d play would you rather. They would laugh and ask things like, “Would you rather lick a dirty boot or step in dog poop?” The questions got more absurd the longer we played, but we sure had a lot of giggles.  

I thought about that game the other day as I spoke with a dentist complaining about her website traffic and contemplating a new site to fix the issue. I was trying to explain that a new, prettier site was not the answer, but I was failing to get through to her.

Then I randomly blurted out, “Doctor, would you rather have a brand-spankin’ new, state-of-the-art building— I mean cover of Architectural Digest material—located at the dead end of a difficult-to-find road? Or would you rather have a ho-hum office—decorated by grandma a decade ago—on the busiest corner in town?”

She replied incredulously, “The office on the busiest corner in town, of course! I can remodel anywhere.”

I said, “Yes! Me, too. So, let’s get your site on the busiest corner in town—or in online terms, at the top of Google searches—and then concentrate on the remodel. Let’s shift the focus from building the site on the block with no traffic to getting to the busier corner and remodeling later.”

Thankfully, the analogy worked, and we shifted the conversation from new site photos and colors to less-fun-but-critically-important topics like keyword research, link building, new blog content, and the like.

Unfortunately, I work in what can be a shady industry—too many companies offer overnight solutions to website traffic and conversions, with promises of top Google rankings overnight. That’s just not possible because Google will not allow it. Despite what you might think about Google, its business model is founded on giving you the best search results possible.

If you search for best cosmetic dentistry and get results for lipstick and dental floss, you’ll stop using Google and their advertising revenue would dry up. So, Google invests heavily in lightning-fast analysis of sites related to your search.  

Let’s say Google is looking for the best result for your best cosmetic dentistry search and is comparing Dr Ernie’s and Dr Bert’s (short for Roberta) sites.

Dr Bert:

  • has had her site up for several years and it loads very fast
  • has cosmetic dentistry tagged in the appropriate places on her site
  • includes recent blogs about cosmetic dentistry best practices 
  • has links to credible organizations in the cosmetic dentistry field
  • has a boatload of recent reviews from her cosmetic patients
  • is listed in multiple directories across town related to cosmetic dentistry    

Dr Ernie: 

  • has had his site up for a few months and it loads slowly
  • has pictures of cosmetic dentistry without the words tagged appropriately on his site
  • has a blog post from four years ago about cosmetic dentistry best practices 
  • has no links to credible organizations in the cosmetic dentistry field
  • has a few reviews from two years ago from cosmetic patients
  • is not listed in any local directories related to cosmetic dentistry

I mean, if you’re Google, who are you going to rank? Seems pretty clear that Dr Bert’s site is the winner-winner-chicken-dinner. It’s been around for years, it’s fast, it’s chock-full of the words you searched, it’s referenced (linked) to credible organizations and directories in the area, and it has lots of recent, positive reviews. 

By the way, Dr Ernie has a graphically stunning site (think Architectural Digest), and Dr Bert’s is just OK (think grandma decorated this). You’d still choose Dr Bert, right? Because she projects more authority online. Google certainly would. 

Am I saying a bad site is OK, and that you should just dominate search rankings? Not exactly.

Imagine you click on Dr Bert’s site and have to look for the page on cosmetic dentistry. And once you get there it’s difficult to know what to do next, so you move on. Dr Bert won the battle (top ranking) but lost the war (no site conversion into a new patient).  

So, top rankings and a great site go hand in hand.

When thinking about your online marketing spend, consider how your site will help you rank on Google as much as how the site looks and feels. Be at the busy intersection and remodel later rather than building a fancy-pants office and waiting for traffic on a dead-end road.