The start of a new year is the perfect time to evaluate your website and determine if it is due for a refresh. The general consensus among the web-savvy crowd is that a website should be redesigned about every 2 to 3 years. Given the speed of change in web technology, waiting much longer than that will put you at risk of having very outdated technologies.
I review dozens of dental websites each month. Below are six of the most common mistakes I see. Which is your website guilty of?
Prospective patients form an impression of your practice within seconds of landing on your website. If your website looks old and dated, you’ll have problems with credibility and trust.
The photo above shows an example of a website that is long overdue for a redesign. This site was created in 2009 and, according to the internet archive (web.archive.org), it hasn’t been updated since. Having a website with such an outdated look puts this practice at a disadvantage not only because of the poor first impression it makes on prospective patients, but also in terms of its treatment by Google (more on this below).
A few of the outdated design elements include bland typography, sidebars on all pages, and the hover function style of navigation along the top. Additionally, the Facebook post is 5 years old, and they still have an icon for their MySpace site.
Out-of-date technology sends the wrong signals to Google. A poorly formatted (or nonexistent) cascading style sheet (CSS), the use of Flash content, and a mobile-nonresponsive design are just a few of the old web technologies that limit a website’s effectiveness. Google assigns higher value in search results to pages that load fast and follow best practices. When Google encounters these old technologies, it immediately judges your site as being antiquated, and this negatively impacts your ability to show up in Google search results.
The image above shows a page that relies on an Adobe Flash element to display the office tour. While Flash elements may look cool, there are multiple reasons why Google penalizes sites that use them. First, Flash has a long history of security issues. Many browsers, like the one in our example image, won’t even load a Flash element without being given permission. Second, Flash elements don’t play on Apple mobile devices. Third, Flash is inefficient. Google places high value on site-load speed, and Flash bogs down a page’s load time.
A significant percentage of the websites we analyze have content that is exactly the same as that found on multiple other dental websites. Writing unique copy is challenging and time-consuming and therefore adds additional cost to a website build. That’s why so many website developers rely on an in-house copy library and use the same content over and over again. When evaluating potential website designers, ask what their process is for developing copy. Do they have copywriters who will write original copy that will be used only on your website?
When the text on your website also exists on other dentists’ websites, it raises a red flag for search engines. Google only gives credit to the first website the content is found on and assumes all others plagiarized from that site. How did you obtain the content for your current website? Did you write it, or did you trust a website designer to provide it? Take a moment to visit the website copyscape.com to see if you should be concerned about your copy. Copyscape.com lets you type in your website address to see if there are other websites with the same copy as yours.
As you can see in the example, the text on the “Dental Implants” page of this website is identical to the text on 34 other dentists’ websites.
You’d be amazed at the difference original, professional photography makes on the look and feel of a dental website. If you are using the same stock images that are found on multiple dental websites, do yourself a favor and contact a local professional photographer, who will be happy to come to your office and help you showcase your practice in the best possible light. This is a small investment that will improve not only your website but your overall brand image as well.
To give you some insight into how common the practice of using stock photography is, I performed a Google image search and took screen shots to show that the following photo is used on hundreds of dental websites, such as these:
Compare that overused, impersonal stock photo with this professional photo:
Ineffective “Meet the Doctor” Page
According to our data, the “meet the doctor” page is the second most frequently visited page on our clients’ websites after the home page. Prospective patients want to virtually “meet” the person who will be providing their care. You need a professional photo or video and a biography that includes more information about you than just where you went to school and the dental associations you’re involved with. Share a bit about your family, hobbies, etc, so prospective patients can get to “know” you.
Here’s our friend from 2009 again. Not only is there no photo of the male doctor, there’s a stock image of a young woman. Beyond just the generic image, reading through the doctor’s bio provides very little insight into what sets him apart. The bio includes empty phrases that could apply to virtually any dentist. Patients want to get a feel for the person they are trusting with their oral health, and this generic copy does not accomplish that.
The meet the doctor page of Seattle Study Club member Dr Michael DeSanti, Jr is an ideal example of how to utilize this valuable online real estate effectively. In addition to using high-quality photography, Dr DeSanti has a welcoming smile and provides well-written, informative biographical information. He shares his numerous professional credentials but also includes details that personalize him to potential patients. For example, he mentions earning a varsity letter as a member of the College of the Holy Cross track and field team. In addition to gaining a glimpse into his past, many patients will conclude that he is self-disciplined and intelligent. Earning a degree in biology with a GPA that is high enough to get into dental school is impressive on its own merit. What makes Dr DeSanti stand out even more is that he was able to earn a varsity letter as a 4-year college athlete while maintaining his classroom excellence. A small personal detail like this catches the attention of prospective patients and is a memorable nugget of information that sets him apart.
Slow Load Time
According to Google’s research, 53% of mobile visitors will leave a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Additionally, Google has said that site-load speed is one of the key factors in the formula they use to rank websites. So, a slow-loading website will not only cause prospective patients to leave your website, it will also reduce the chances of them finding it to begin with.
Visit one of the many website load-speed tests you can find by conducting a Google search for “website speed test,” then run a test to see how your site measures up. We use Google’s own page-speed test with a scale of 0 to 100 (100 being best) to test both the mobile and desktop versions of the websites we manage.
If you would like to learn how you’re doing in these areas and where you stand in relation to other practices near you, schedule a marketing x-ray with me. I’ll utilize eight different research tools to evaluate your website, reputation, visibility, competition, and online directory listings. We’ll then get on a 15- to 20-minute phone call and screen-sharing session to walk through the results. Don’t worry, it won’t be a sales pitch and I won’t bother you afterward. Visit dentalmarketingxray.com to schedule your complimentary analysis.