Digital Advertising for Dentists: How It Works and Why You Need It
Picture it: your shiny, brand new website has just been launched and it’s everything you dreamed it would be. Your social media following is growing steadily, positive reviews are boosting your Google listing...yet, your practice still has plenty of breathing room for new patient appointments. So, now what?
When it comes to marketing avenues for dental practices, there is no shortage of options available. A lot of what the dental industry has to offer is, well, I’ll just say it: old-school. So before you run to your nearest printing company to send out direct mailers, hear me out. There is a better (and often more cost-effective) way to get attention to your site and your practice: digital advertising.
Why do you need digital ads?
In the world of marketing, digital ads have a leg up. One, they meet your audience where they are, whether they’re searching for a new dentist or not. Two, unlike a lot of other “old-school” marketing methods, advertising on Google and Facebook, for example, gives marketers and practices alike the unique ability to see real-time results and data to better understand audience behaviors, lead data, and overall ROI. If you’re going to be spending hard-earned dollars, wouldn’t you rather know how they’re being spent, what’s working and what’s not, and where improvements can be made?
How do digital ads make a difference in driving traffic to a website?
I know, I know. You’ve got this new website and it’s been built to be SEO-friendly, so you’re thinking to yourself; yep, Google will start putting my website at the top of the page any day now! Unfortunately, that’s not exactly how it works.
Think of it like a credit score. Google needs to trust your practice's credibility in a digital sense before it starts ranking you higher on organic search results. But, how can it do that without consistent and relevant traffic on your site validating your information and helping Google to see that you're a real place offering what your audience is looking for? Spoiler alert: digital ads are how.
Especially for a brand new site (or a recently updated one), you have to pay to play a little to get in front of your audience. By that we mean people looking for your kinds of services in your local area, then landing on your website, in order to be seen as “credible” traffic in Google's eyes.
When do digital ads come in during the S8E8 Process™?
We like to call it the “Share Your Story” part of your practice journey. You’ve gone through the effort of identifying the brand (Discover Your Story), building your website (Tell Your Story), so the next step is getting some well-deserved attention. The foundation is laid, and starting from this point will ensure that all the hard work you just put into your beautiful website won’t go unnoticed.
Having custom photography and video is a huge bonus, too, which is another reason we suggest waiting to have that on-hand. Just as with our websites, we believe the best possible outcomes for our ads start with the best possible content. Both Google and Facebook ads work best when a brand/business is a bit more established, and when the content is relevant, consistent, and true.
But isn’t it best practice with ads to direct people to a landing page?
For the reasons stated above, we’ve found best practice is to run dental ads with a full website, not a launch page, temporary site, or a service-specific “squeeze page” (also referred to as a “convert-or-die” landing page in the marketing world).
This doesn’t mean that a dental implant campaign, for example, shouldn’t be directed to a dental implant service page, because it absolutely should. However, that page should also allow for more exploration for the user, ie. the ability to get to know you. And I know all of the marketing gurus out there just cringed when I said “exploration”, but here I am saying it.
Here’s the thing, you’re not out there selling something like bicycles, you’re selling yourself. You’re selling your practice. You’re selling people on the idea of why dentistry should be viewed differently, how you’re different, what your practice is all about, and why they should choose you. It’s a story, not a sales gimmick. Don’t let other marketing companies bully you into thinking these one-sheet landing pages are the only way to gain conversions from your ads, because they’re not.
Are there instances where you wouldn’t recommend digital ads?
Unless your schedules are completely overflowing with new patient appointments, or your doors are literally not open yet, a case could be made for just about any practice to run some sort of digital advertising campaign. The times in which we’d steer away from digital ads have more to do with the goals of the practice, the budget available to work with, and finding the best possible strategy to work within those expectations. I’ll give you a couple of examples...
Again, since we normally recommend waiting for a full website to be live before launching a full-blown digital ad strategy, this means start-up practices usually fall in that grey area. Does that mean that start-ups should shy away from digital ads? Not exactly, it’s just good to keep in mind that during the lengthy start-up process (before the doors actually open and/or before a full website is up), a well-rounded social strategy (consider Boosted Posts!), a ground marketing campaign, and true community outreach is a much better application for those marketing dollars. If any sort of digital advertising budget is included, it’s best to focus more on general brand awareness (to help the strategies you’ve already implemented). Predicting or guaranteeing leads are not, and should not, be expected at that point.
We also steer clear of running hyper-focused campaigns where we’re trying to achieve clicks in a small geographical region wherein the search volume just simply doesn’t exist. If there is very low search volume, trends, or relative data in that space, that means enough people aren't searching for that specific thing that you’re trying to target, which means (see where I’m going here?) it's likely not a good way to spend your marketing dollars.
A good example of this would be a client we worked with this past year. They wanted to target Incognito Lingual Braces as opposed to more general Orthodontics search terms. We did the research...turns out, not a lot of people in that area are looking for Incognito Lingual Braces. We couldn’t even really get enough data to work with to tell us what a good budget would be for that particular service. You know what people searched for a lot, though? “Orthodontist”. So, we pivoted, and went with a more general Orthodontics Google campaign, paired with a Facebook campaign geared towards educating the audience about the practice and different orthodontic options. Shifting away from the hyper-targeted approach meant that our campaign wouldn’t fall flat, and we’ve still been able to achieve the desired results.
What should I spend on digital ads?
That is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? (Well, it won’t be a million dollars, I can tell you that.) The short answer is: it depends on your goals! Are you a general practice simply looking to get new patients in the door? Are you a specialty practice aiming to educate your audience and gain leads for larger, more specialized cases? Are you in a big city, or a suburb? Wherever you fall in those categories, your budget should be a reflection of those goals. For the dental industry, we normally recommend starting with a base monthly budget of either $1,500, $2,500, or $3,500.
Overall, no matter your budget, age of practice, or location, digital advertising is a tremendous way to boost your practice’s new patient numbers, get traffic to your site, and help you stand out amongst your competition. Our experienced team specializes in creating custom strategies for ads that fit your goals, and work to create an ongoing marketing funnel aimed at helping your practice grow. Want to get started? Have some questions first? We’d love to chat.