With 2016 in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to unravel what digital marketing trends are in store for 2017. Take a step back, assess last year’s successes (and potential failures), and look at ways to enhance your online dental marketing strategy.
As usual, 2016 was a year filled with changes in the digital space. Search engines made notable updates to their algorithms. Social media took on new roles in marketing. Google introduced sweeping changes to its pay-per-click (PPC) platform.
There was a lot to stay on top of. And it’s unlikely 2017 will be much different.
Below are eight online dental marketing trends we expect this year.
1. Mobile-Friendly Design
This isn’t new. Smartphones and tablets have been around for years. They’ve become a significant factor in Google’s algorithm. And for years, people using mobile devices to surf the Web have suffered from poor experiences on many websites.
More and more people are using their phones to locate businesses. In fact, many people use mobile devices as their primary computing device. We saw dramatic usage changes in 2016. Early in the year, mobile usage exceeded 50 percent. Late in the year, that number jumped up to nearly 60 percent.
We suspect 2017 will continue this ascent.
2. Link Building
Links, links, links. Get more links. This has been the search engine optimization (SEO) mantra for over a decade. However, the philosophy has evolved over the years. In fact, backlinks –incoming links from other websites – are slowly losing their value.
Now, backlinks certainly haven’t been removed from Google’s algorithm. After all, a website that has a portfolio of high quality backlinks must have a reputation. But backlinks are just one among hundreds of other ingredients in Google’s algorithm. And as one recent study suggests, link building is losing a lot of ground to a critical variable…
That is, quality content.
3. Quality Content
The Internet has always been about content. But not always good content. In the past, webmasters often published poor content strictly for SEO purposes. The idea was simple: the more pages indexed by search engines the more keywords you rank for and the more website visitors you attract. Quality wasn’t a concern.
In recent times, there’s been greater emphasis placed on good content. And in 2017, engaging content will become more important.
Of course, great content isn’t just about SEO. Until converting into a patient, a website visitor is just that – a website visitor. Content isn’t just about attracting visitors to your site. It’s about converting those visitors once they arrive. This means writing browsable, error-free content that answers the question: “Are you the dentist for me?”
4. High Engagement
How can search engines filter out the good content from the bad? Links are one part of the equation. Another part is engagement. It is widely believed in the online marketing community that good website engagement is a ranking factor.
While there’s been no formal announcement, Google can see these metrics (time on page, pages per visit, etc.). And we suspect that in 2017, search engines will take a closer look at how visitors interact with your site.
So how do you improve engagement?
- Write interesting content that encourages visitors to explore multiple pages
- Include professional photography to make your site more personal
- Improve browsability by spacing out your content with headings, bullets, and short paragraphs
Again, it’s not just about SEO. A dull, uninspiring dental website will send prospective patients straight to a competitor.
5. Social Media
Social media is great for building patient community. But it’s not a direct source of new patients, with exception to the new patients you gain from referrals. Interesting social posts provide value, while reminding patients that you are there to serve them.
The impact social media has on new patient growth is less direct than you might think. However, this could change as social signals work their way into Google’s algorithm. Just like backlinks, the social “likeability” of a webpage measures trust. So if your website content – particularly blog posts – gains shares, Tweets, and likes, you could open the door to a stream of prospective new patients.
6. Email Marketing
It’s 2017, and some might presume that email marketing is dead. Far from it. Email is still one of the best ways to improve retention and produce new patients. But don’t be hasty. Develop a game plan before clicking the “send” button.
Email fatigue is at an all-time high. One uninspiring email could spark a flood of unsubscribes. To maintain a healthy list of subscribers, make sure your subject lines and content are relevant and enticing. Think about the clutter of promotional emails you receive each day. From time to time, you might open one. But if it doesn’t catch your attention immediately, it likely goes straight to the trash bin.
7. Online Advertising
PPC marketing – a form of advertising in which you pay only when someone clicks on your ad – took on some notable changes in 2016. For one, Google removed right sidebar ads in the search results. While adding one ad to the top, the reduced ad real estate made optimization more critical. In fact, it made the do-it-yourself approach nearly impossible.
No doubt, we’ll see more changes in 2017. While there will likely be more features introduced, user behaviors will continue to evolve. For instance, people will become more comfortable with voice search, as Siri, Alexa, and other voice-powered search options make online browsing easier. This trend could alter your keyword strategy, forcing you to target longer phrases like, “Find the best cosmetic dentist in Baltimore, Maryland.”
8. Patient Conversion
Your website is only as good as the number of new patients it produces. Sure, over 100 site visitors a day sounds great, as long as a portion of those visitors are converting into patients.
Optimizing your website for conversion has always been important. And as competition rises, it will become even more important. You might be surprised to know that the shelf-life of a website is only three to five years. Considering this, 2017 might be the year for a redesign.
If you run all your marketing campaigns in house, take these projections under consideration. Also, be sure to monitor the digital marketing environment as more changes emerge.