Like most big decisions, choosing a website provider for your dental practice can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. Your website is the foundation of your online presence, so selecting the right website provider is key. To help you get started with the selection process, I have outlined three critical components to address up front.
Expertise – This is foundational. Remember, there’s a reason beauty schools offer free haircuts (let’s just say these budding professionals are still mastering their craft). While I am not against giving people a chance, I am strongly suggesting not to roll the dice on an unknown entity when it comes to your dental website.
Your dental website provider should have deep knowledge of both marketing and the dental industry itself. Dentistry isn’t e-commerce. You are not selling widgets. You don’t treat clients; you treat patients – and this requires a different approach.
Design Capabilities – Contrary to popular belief, there is more to website design than aesthetics. Effective websites employ a combination of art and science to deliver an ideal user experience. For optimum performance, define the types of designs you like while also identifying the goals of your website – is it to attract new patients? Focus on educating existing patients? Appear higher in search results? Note – this should be one of the first questions a potential provider asks, as it will guide the entire process.
Once your goals are defined, what’s next? Is it ok to use a website template? Should you invest in a custom site? The answer often depends on who you talk to, but for most dental practices, the sweet spot is somewhere in between. When designing a dental website, most dentists want a degree of custom personalization (i.e. ability to use their logo, photos of the team, etc.) but don’t necessarily need a website built from the ground up. Be wary of companies that try to make it sound like a 100% custom site is the only way to go, as they may just be trying to upsell you.
Content – It’s easy to get lost in the razzle dazzle of website design – from color palettes and font libraries to layout selections, button options, and more. The key is to not get so sidetracked in choosing images and color schemes that you neglect the actual dental website content.
A dental-specific website provider gives you ultimate advantage in this area. Unless you have time to write web copy (which is an art of its own), it’s helpful to choose a company that provides both design and content. In addition to custom dental content, which is written specifically for your website, companies may also offer a library of pre-written core content that can be modified to reflect your practice’s personality and align with your offerings. The main benefit of core content is that it helps you save time and money – enabling you to build your online presence in days instead of weeks.
Is core content the same as duplicate content? Technically speaking, yes. Google defines duplicate content as “substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.” Essentially, this means that if your site has content that matches another site, it is considered duplicate.
Will my site be penalized if it has duplicate content? Google treats duplicate content differently based on intent. Yes, it’s that smart! If duplicate content is being used to be deceptive or manipulate search engine performance, it will negatively impact your ranking. Auto-generated content is an example of such manipulation; it is comprised of paragraphs of random text that include keywords, but don’t make sense. Another example of this type of manipulation is having multiple pages dedicated to the same topic with similar copy on one website. That said, if you’re not trying to game the system you can relax. Google notes that the presence of duplicate content alone is not grounds for action on their part. The takeaway is that while custom content may be necessary in certain instances, the decision should be based on your specific practice goals and not the fear of being penalized in search results.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Dental Website Provider:
Hiring a new website provider is a big decision that can cost a lot of time and money. Make the right choice and ask the questions below to help identify a legitimate dental website provider:
- What services do you offer?
Today, simply having a website is not enough. In addition to having a website, your practice will likely need a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and/or PPC and social media services. Depending on your needs, ask them what other services they provide so you can streamline and maximize the impact of one service provider.
- Can you provide examples and testimonials of your clients?
Whether you’re getting a template website design or fully custom design, you’ll want to see examples of the company’s work. Testimonials and case studies are also helpful, as they allow you to see how their services have impacted other practices.
- Can I make updates to the website on my own?
The ability to make minor edits and updates to your site is helpful so you can make quick updates on your own timeframe. Closed for an upcoming holiday? If you have access to an easy-to-use content management system, you can update your website in a few minutes. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a queue of other client requests. The importance of this feature really depends on your technological aptitude and how much control you want. Ask a potential provider to see their CMS and ensure it is easy-to-use.
- Is there a contract?
Be wary of providers that require a lengthy website contract. Technology and online trends change at the speed of light, and if your provider can’t keep up, you don’t want to find yourself stuck in a contract.
- How can you ensure that I will stay up-to-date? Will I need to pay more for updates?
- Your website reflects your practice and ensuring it stays current comes down to more than convenience. A website that’s outdated in terms of appearance and/or functionality sends a message to visitors that your practice could be too.
- It’s also a good idea to discuss what keeping your website updated could potentially cost. Will future features be included or are they generally available for an additional fee?
- Will my website be mobile-friendly?
Having a website that provides the same level of functionality across devices is essential because most patients will visit your site from their mobile phones. In the United States, over 70% of time spent online is via a mobile device. If you’re website isn’t mobile-friendly, it’s likely that your turning prospective patients away every day.
- What is included with my monthly hosting/software and support fees?
Knowing what is and is not included in your monthly fees is important. Does it include access to tech support? If so, are you limited to the number of times you can reach out each month? How about domain management (i.e. ensuring your domain registration doesn’t lapse)? Digging into the details upfront will help avoid being caught off guard later.
- What design options are available?
The right website provider should be able to fit your needs, whether through a customizable template or a completely custom website. Steer clear of any provider that approaches web design with a one size fits all attitude.
- Is there a way I can track results from my website?
There are many ways to measure your website ROI. From visits to time-on-page, to call tracking and conversion rates, make sure you understand the tools available to ultimately track your website’s success.
Selecting a website provider is an important decision that shouldn’t be rushed. Overall, you need to be confident in a provider’s abilities and comfortable working with them. Remember, you’re not just looking for a vendor – you’re searching for a partner that can bring your dental practice to the next level.
Heather Frechette-Crowley is Director of Product Marketing at ProSites, a VDA Services endorsed partner. ProSites delivers professional dental website design and online marketing solutions including search engine optimization (SEO), social media, and pay-per-click advertising to help dentists win new patients and stand out online. VDA members receive 25% off the standard website set-up. For more information, or to start a free trial, call (888) 932-3644 or visit www.ProSites.com/VDA.