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a blog by Chris Barrow

Is SEO/Google Advertising Dying?

I posted this article in the Confidence Club ezine last week and it generated some very interesting responses which I’d like to share with you over the next few days because we’re looking at markting this week as our theme. Have a look at this if you haven’t yet and let me know your thoughts! I have recently been contacted by a number of clients across the UK and asked by them to take a look at their Google analytics reports. A rather interesting and surprising picture has emerged and, bearing in mind that I have looked at data from Central Scotland, the North East and the South East of England (also from practices of different styles) I am beginning to see a trend. What has interested me about the reports relates to the analysis of the specific key words that are used by those searching for the practice website. Around 80% of the searches are for specifically either the name of the practice or the name of the owners/clinicians. 20% of the searches are generic and looking for either a dentist in the area or a particular product or procedure. What really gets me thinking is that in all cases the practices have been paying significant monthly sums for a combination of search engine optimisation and/or pay per click. So here is my conclusion that:

  1. Either the optimisation and pay per click fees are not high enough – they have to spend more

  2. The fees that they are paying for these services would be better directed to alternative forms of marketing

Now, before I take this debate any further, I want to apologise to my good friends in the web community who provide an excellent optimisation/visibility service for their clients. I am not questioning that these techniques work – I am questioning their effectiveness compared to other forms of marketing – in particular word of mouth. You will recall in a recent blog post I made the comment that it is becoming increasingly important to identify the exact source of any new patients and also the audit trail of their research before they pick up the phone to make an appointment.

  1. How did you find out about the practice?

  2. What specific research did you undertake before you called/visited?

When a practice does prepare a sophisticated analysis of new patient enquiries it would seem that the most successful method of acquiring new patients is via word of mouth recommendation from an existing patient. I have a sense that what is happening here is that when your existing patients are motivated to recommend the practice or a specific product – they are willing to do so but before the referee picks up the phone they will take a look at your website just to check you out. The same seems to apply if you invest in independent radio advertising, signage outside the building or any other local networking or strategic alliance event. What’s happen is that your website has reinforced itself as an online brochure and it gives people the opportunity to take a good look at your premises and your people before they venture in your direction. This leads me to a second material piece of information that arises from Google analytics – this time taking a look at which pages of your website visitors’ look at most frequently and for the longest periods of time. At the moment the research I am doing seems to indicate that visitors spend between 45 and 50 seconds taking a look at your home page so that they can get an overall feel for what you are about and what demographic of patient you are trying to appeal to. The next 2 most popular places to visit are:

  1. The team page – to find out whether I am dealing with a customer service focused team – or not

  2. The premises page – to see whether you have invested in the right environment, sofas, plasma TVs and Molton Brown.

Analytics reveal that they will then skip through to a specific procedure that they are searching for whether it is tooth whitening, dental implants or anywhere between. So, resisting the temptation to say “I told you so” it is important that the photographs of your team are presented in a professional and attractive manner and it is important that the common areas of the practice look right for my demographic. I have a question – is a substantial investment in optimisation/pay per click simply an expensive form of vanity which is bringing in unqualified leads which may only account for 1 in 5 of your new patient enquiries? To put it another way – would the money be better invested in making sure that you have incredibly effective word of mouth referral and reward systems? I can see my webby friends leaning towards their keyboards already but I would be also interested to hear feedback from practitioners as to whether their analytics reports are telling the same story.

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