If you do any sort of marketing for your practice, and if you want more of the right kinds of new patients, then optimizing your website is by far the No. 1-highest ROI marketing activity you could commit to.
- The vast majority of your prospective new patients will visit your website before making an appointment.
- A supercharged website enhances all your other marketing efforts. Marketing campaigns (and your case acceptance!) will be more effective if they are supported by an effectively optimized website.
- It works for you for your entire career. Most marketing campaigns — like mailers, Facebook ads, or sponsoring your kid’s baseball team — have a shelf-life. They expire as soon as the campaign ends. Not your website. It’s like compound interest — the sooner you start, the more it pays off over your career.
- It’s cheap. You can easily spend thousands of dollars in a matter of weeks on digital ads, social media, or mailers. Optimizing your website can be done for a few hundred bucks.
I’m not a developer, marketer, or SEO expert. I’m just a regular dentist who’s been frustrated in the past by crummy websites, misinformation from the purported gurus, and sales pitches from alleged experts. I took matters into my own hands, learning by observation, mentors, and good old-fashioned trial and error.
In my career I’ve built dozens of dental websites. Full sites, microsites, landing pages. On more than one occasion, I’ve paid five figures for single sites from “experts.” I don’t know how to code, but I’ve done some of my own sites via WordPress, Wix.com and ClickFunnels.
Some of my sites have been gorgeous but totally flopped when it comes to getting new patients. Others have been super effective, but they were so ugly I was ashamed to claim them as my own.
In this article, I’m going to share five hacks I’ve discovered about building great dental websites over the past decade.
Start with the fundamentals
These are my “3 Rules for Dental Practice Website Optimization.” If you can follow these rules, everything else will be so much simpler:
Rule 1: Your website serves one purpose, and one purpose only — to get patients to make an appointment.
You are not trying to teach, educate or lecture. You are not a resource for some grade school kid’s science project from across the country. That’s what Google and Wikipedia are for.
Treat your website like the appointment-generating machine that it should be.
Rule 2: One of my business mentors, Perry Marshall, likes to say: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”
You don't need the world’s prettiest, most awesome, or most viral website. You simply want to look, sound and feel different than your competition.
Do a Google search for dental offices near you. I’m betting they’ve set the bar pretty low.
Rule 3: Another business mentor, Dan Sullivan, likes to say: “Progress not perfection.”
You don’t need to hit a grand slam today.
Slow steady progress is the most sustainable. You are better off changing 5% of your website every six months than 100% of it every six years.
In fact, Google loves when you update your website on a regular basis.
Website hack No. 1: Use more ‘you’ words and less ‘we’ words
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you are not as interesting as you think you are.
Nobody cares how smart you are. Or which CE courses you’ve taken. Or what dental organizations you belong to.
I’m sure your parents are very proud of you. But you are boring, and likely “turning off,” your typical website visitor.
Your typical website visitor is browsing. They are flipping between multiple browser tabs. You are competing for their precious attention with other dental practice pages. They are only a split second away from hitting the back button on their browser and clicking on the next Google search result until they find something that holds their attention.
If they are on their phones (which make up more than 50 of your website visitors), you are also competing with many notifications and distractions.
What’s one of the easiest ways to attain and hold your reader’s attention?
Use more “you” words and less “we” words.
It’s a universal truth. People will almost always take the time to keep reading about their favorite subject — themselves. Write from their point of view, not yours.
Here are some examples of what I mean.
This first example is a phrase you will find on many dental practice websites:
We offer extended weekend and evening hours.
It’s fine, bland, average. Uninspiring. Here’s how I would re-write it with more “you” words and less “we” words:
You don't have to miss work or school for your dental visits anymore, so your family's dental care is more convenient than ever. You can also save trips to the dentist by having your entire family seen at the same time.
This is another example from an orthodontist who is trying to promote Invisalign:
We are the top Invisalign provider in the area. We offer Invisalign for kids, teens, and adults.
And here’s the rewrite that is more engaging and interesting because it uses more “you” words and less “we” words:
Your family deserves the best, and you can be confident your smiles are in good hands when you visit the top Invisalign provider in the area.
One last example. This one comes directly from my own practice website. Here’s a phrase I had on my site for many years:
Our practice uses the latest digital and 3D technology. Our experienced dentists are constantly updating their skills and take pride in offering the best that today's dentistry has to offer.
Until I recently rewrote it with more “you” words and less “we” words:
You’ve probably had some bad experiences in the past. And that’s where they belong - in the past! Digital and 3D technology make your dental visits faster, easier, and more comfortable than ever.
What do you think of the rewrites? Do you think they will be more effective than the original versions? Are they more interesting? At the very least, they make you sound different than every other dentist out there.
Always remember: Readers care a whole lot more about themselves than they do about you.
Website Hack No. 2 — Focus on benefits, not features
Attention dentists: No patient in history has ever bought a dental implant.
We dentists certainly do plenty of implants, and root canals, and Invisalign.
But our patients didn't buy our implant. They bought the ability to tear into a juicy medium-rare ribeye.
They didn't buy a four-canal molar endo. They bought freedom from pain, and a good night's sleep.
And they didn't buy Invisalign. They bought the confidence that comes with feeling great about the way their smile looks in photos.
With that in mind, go read the current text on your website.
As the marketing people like to say, is your website focused on features? Or benefits? If your website talks way more about features rather than benefits, you’re not alone. That’s how 99% of dentists do it.
But if you flip it around, you are no longer selling treatment. You are providing solutions.
Here’s an example to illustrate the difference. A typical dental website would probably say something like this about emergencies:
We offer emergency dental services and are accepting new patients.
But are you really selling emergency dental services? Remember — people don’t buy emergency dental visits. They buy freedom from pain.
Here’s how I would rewrite it to focus on the solution, not the treatment. In other words, “why,” not “how:”
If you've got a toothache that's been keeping you up at night, you can be pain-free by the end of today and finally get a good night's sleep. Call us right away and get same day emergency help.
Here’s another example for a dentist promoting implants:
We offer dental implants, including overdentures and All-On-4. Our dentists are highly trained and use only the latest techniques and highest quality labs.
See how easy and natural it is to focus on features, rather than benefits?
Here’s how I would rewrite that phrase to flip it around, focusing on why rather than how.
What would it mean for you to be able to eat, smile, and laugh like you used to? Now is the time to take advantage of what today’s dental implants have to offer. You CAN order anything off the menu when you go out to eat. You CAN smile in public without feeling self-conscious about people staring. You CAN laugh without being embarrassed that people are going to notice your dentures falling out.
I get it. We dentists are all engineers at heart. We geek out on bond strengths and margin design and implant surface treatments. But most patients do not share our interests.
Instead of talking about all the advanced endo courses you’ve taken, talk about how your patient can get rid of their tooth pain. Fast.
Instead of talking about how implants osseointegrate, talk about how your patient can eat, smile, and laugh with confidence again like they did when they were in their 30s.
Instead of talking about how you’ve got a friendly atmosphere and caring team, talk about how hard it is for your patients to find a dentist they trust, not to mention one that they actually look forward to visiting.
In fact, the best way to do this last one is not to tell them, but to show them.
Website hack No. 3: Build trust and authority
If someone finds their way to your dental practice website, chances are pretty good that they know they have a dental problem and want to fix it. I mean, it’s not like they’re cruising your site for the entertainment value.
Subconsciously, before their brain gives themselves permission to call you, they are looking for reasons why they should trust you to be the one to help solve their problem.
That’s where building web-based trust and authority comes in.
If you’re anything like me, there are dozens (if not hundreds!) of dentists within a 15-minute drive.
So why should they choose you?
Look at your website from a stranger’s point of view. Is it clear why they should choose you instead of the dozens of other dentists in the area?
Your list of services doesn’t help. Everyone else does that, too.
Your claims of friendly staff and taking care of patients like family don’t help either because everyone else says the same thing.
And your certificates and diplomas are worthless. Because we all have impressive sounding certificates and diplomas.
The more clearly you can communicate what problems you solve, why you’re different than everyone else, and why you should be trusted, the more new patients will flock to you.
Here are two effective methods of building trust and authority on your website:
- Post photos of yourself with smiling happy patients. If they look like selfies, even better. Try to get photos with a diverse group of patients — young, old, men, women. The closer your photos look like people in your target audience, the better.
They say a photo is worth a thousand words. A photo as simple as a smiling selfie with your patients on your social media channels makes the viewer think to themselves, “Hey that dentist has lots of happy smiling patients who look like real people and not photos he stole from Google. And a lot of those patients look just like me! Wow he must be a good dentist if all these other people like him. Maybe I will give him a call …”
And the best part? You don’t need 20-unit AACD quality cases to get these kinds of photos. You aren’t showing close-ups of the teeth. You aren’t showing before and after shots. You aren’t even making representations about what treatment was completed. In fact, you can build a library of these selfie-type photos tomorrow just out of the patients you see in hygiene.
- The second method guaranteed to build trust and authority on your website: Use video.
Website hack No. 4: Use video
It’s 2021. By now we all know that video rules the internet.
Why do so few dentists have video on their websites?
And no, your video animation of how implants are placed doesn’t count. If you’ve read this far, you know that patients don’t buy implants, they buy the ability to enjoy steak again. Do you really think that patient wants to see how you’re going to literally slice their gums open, drill a hole in their jaw, and torque in a titanium screw with a wrench? Ouch! I just winced even writing that sentence.
The good news? Since barely any other dentists have video, it’s an easy opportunity for you to do something different.
I hate being on video. And I used to really struggle with knowing what to say.
But with a little planning and practice, you can record six months’ video in half a day.
Personally, over the past few months I’ve worked on building a library of videos to feature on websites and social media.
There’s one more bonus of adding video to your website. Do you know who owns YouTube? Yup – it’s Google. So you’d better believe that Google appreciates it when you add video to your website, particularly when you upload it to YouTube.
If there are two otherwise equivalent websites, one with video and one without, which do you think Google will rank higher in their search results?
If you want to add video to your website, don’t overthink it. You’re not entering these videos into a film festival or trying to become the next YouTube star.
No, the No. 1 goal of adding video on your website is to show that you’re a genuine and trustworthy person.
Hack No. 5: Be human and likeable
Humans want to do business with other humans. Not with companies. Not with “dental practices” or “groups.” Not with websites that sound like they were written by an underpaid, overworked marketing intern.
Our patients are people with imperfections. Vulnerabilities. Personalities. Character. Integrity. Authenticity. So are we all, no matter our discipline or role as dental professionals.
It’s not an accident that your “About Us” page with the doctor and team photos is the No. 1 visited page on your website, after your home page.
People want to know who they are doing business with, so show them who you really are:
- With video! I already covered this in the section above, but what better way is there to get to know someone than to see, hear, and feel their personality coming through a video? If you watch a video of someone, your gut will tell you within five seconds whether you like them, trust them and want to do business with them.
- Write like you talk. Don’t worry about being grammatically correct. Get rid of the corporate lingo.
- Make it easy to skim. Use short sentences, bullet points and line breaks.
- Keep it simple! Write at a fifth-grade level. Or like you’re speaking to Homer Simpson.
- Write your own content! Don’t expect some overseas website developer or marketing company who’s copying and pasting from their template sites to be able to capture your voice, personality, or practice team’s story. Only you can, though you might need a little help.
3 methods to make your dental website (and the one I recommend)
Method 1: Pay an agency.
This might be a marketing agency, dental marketing guru, whoever. Just write the check and never think about it again. Sounds good in theory, but:
- If lots of other dentists are doing it this way, don’t you think you should try something different to separate yourself?
- Cookie cutter solutions get you cookie cutter results.
- Do you really think that marketing company is going to do the five website hacks for you?
Method 2: Hire your hygienist’s husband’s cousin who took graphic design in community college 15 years ago and is apparently really good at building websites.
Not much to say about this option. Except that you may (hopefully) be a million-dollar or multimillion-dollar organization. Act like it.
Method 3: Freelancers.
This is the way to go, for most dentists. I’ve tried virtually every method of building dental practice websites, including the ones above and many more. And I’ve finally found the secret sauce that just works.
Think of the range of skills required to execute an awesome website. You need someone with a keen eye for design. You need someone who can write. You need someone who can code.
Even Dr. Frank Spear isn’t the master of all skills in dentistry. You don’t see him yanking wizzies and troughing for MB2 on upper second molars. Dr. Spear understands his lane, commits to it 100%, and masters it.
Well it’s the same with any profession. Find me someone who is the Dr. Spear of design, writing, and coding and I’ll buy you a Coke.
The beauty of freelancers is that you can hire three different people who have each mastered those three unique skills. It does require some of your time and expertise to go the freelancer route, but not only is result is not only better but cheaper.
Tips for using freelancers to build your dental website
When hiring freelancers, it’s important to know when to pay top dollar, and when it’s safe to cut costs.
If you go on any freelancer site (Upwork is my personal favourite), you will see a wide range of fees. I’ve seen proposals anywhere from $5/hour to $500/hour. Sure, you could just pick the $500/hour proposals and chances are things will work out fine, but we are cost-conscious dentists.
I won’t apologize for it. Reducing wasteful spending is an essential principle of practice management.
Here’s how I save money on hiring the right freelancers:
- I will pay top dollar for a writer.
- Medium dollar for a designer.
- And low dollar for a coder.
Top dollar for a writer
Persuasive and engaging communication is the most valuable skill in the world today. In fact I wish more of our children’s education focused on these core skills.
I use the “10-80-10 method” with my writers to control costs and to make sure that my voice comes through clearly in the final product. This means that I provide my writer with a 10% finished framework. I like to get the writer started with a point form outline about who I’m trying to reach, what I’m trying to tell them, and what I would like the reader to do. And then the writer does the next 80%.
They turn my mess of notes and incomplete thoughts into something coherent, engaging and persuasive. And lastly, when the writer is finished, I put the final 10% finishing touches on it. This makes sure that the final product looks, sounds, and feels like my voice.
In my career, I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to qualified writers.
It’s always been money well worth spending. Don’t go cheap here. Elsewhere you can go cheap, but not here.
Medium dollar for a designer
Design is very subjective. Go to any art exhibition if you need proof. One person sees kindergarten scribbles while another sees the brilliance of a master.
It’s no different in the world of web design. You don’t need someone super expensive. You just need someone decent and reliable. And there are a lot of them out there. Which means that you can get a great one for a reasonable rate.
I will add though that after working with dozens of freelance graphic designers in my career, I do have a strong preference for those based in North America. Maybe it’s anecdotal (sorry Homer Simpson, I broke my own rule about using big words), but I find that “local” designers have a much better feel for the design elements I prefer, so there’s much less handholding required. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s coincidence.
Low dollar for a coder
Coding is a universal language and there are international coders who have the expertise required to build your dental website.
Since there are so many of them, and because many of them live in regions of the world where the cost of living is significantly lower than in North America, they can provide excellent quality work for a comparatively inexpensive fee.
Here’s my workflow for how I get this virtual team of people from across the globe to work together.
- I start by working with my writer on the content of the page, using the 10-80-10 method described above.
- I send the finished written content to my designer, along with some rough design guidelines like colors I like, or screenshots of other websites I like, dental or otherwise.
- The designer creates a layout in PDF format, which are then sent to the coder to bring it to life online.
I know this can feel overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start. This is where Google Analytics is your best friend. If you’re not familiar with it, Google it. In short, it’s a piece of code that allows you to track user behavior on your website.
Why does this matter? You don’t want to spend time and money on parts of your website that nobody cares about.
Start by applying my five hacks to your home page. That’s the low-hanging fruit that will make the biggest difference. Then a few months later tackle your About Us page. Almost always that’s the second-most visited page on your website, after the home page.
Use Google Analytics to tell you which pages are the most popular, and then focus on optimizing those. You are better off having three solid pages than 20 so-so ones.
The key to success is being willing to do the things that others can’t or won’t. Apply these hacks to your website and separate yourself from every other dentist in town.
What website hacks did I miss? Share your thoughts below in the comments.