Google+: A Must for Dental Practices
Due to the sheer dominance of Google regarding online search, a dental practice cannot afford to ignore its social networking site, Google+. But that’s not all. Google has mastered the local search market and has made Google+ Local an essential component for a local business.
Your dental practice may have a wonderful website with all the bells and whistles, but your practice may still be invisible online. Why? Because of the way most people search for local dentists. According to a study by ReachLocal, 85% of consumers search for local businesses online. Even a beautiful dental website may not show up in search engine results pages if it is not optimized. But there is something you can do about it.
Google+ Local (formerly Google Places) is the most popular tool for consumers looking for local businesses. Having an accurate Google+ Local profile for your dental business is essential.
If a consumer searches for a local dentist and your listing is incorrect or not listed, you are missing an opportunity to gain a new patient. A Google+ Local listing with an old phone number or an incorrect address tells the consumer that your practice is out-of-touch and may not be able to keep up with the latest technologies. Consumers will extrapolate this to mean that your methods and services are also out-of-date.
Not having a Google+ Listing is just as bad as having an inaccurate Google+ Listing. No listing means that your practice isn’t showing up in Google Search or Google Maps. You cannot expect to attract new patients if you are not listed on Google.
If a potential new patient was referred to your dental practice but can’t find your practice listed online, that also gives a bad impression. It indicates that your practice may not be fully established and therefore you may lack the experience to provide the dental care they require. While these impressions may be false, they have still lost you potential patients.
Did you know that 66.7% of consumers use Google to search online (ReachLocal, 2012)? That’s a rather large audience of potential patients that you are missing out on if you don’t list your business on Google+ Local. A Google+ Local listing does not have any fees associated with it, but not having a listing could be costing you.
A lot of research over the past year has revealed a growing trend in using mobile devices (ex. smartphones and tablets) to perform searches for dental services. In fact, 3 out of 5 consumers search for a local business on their smartphone, and Google has the majority of local mobile searches (ReachLocal, 2012). By not having a Google+ Local listing or one that is accurate, you could be missing out on 100% of local consumers looking for a dentist.
How does Google+ fit into all this? Google+ Local allows you to be social, control your Maps information, and manage your online reviews. Social networking is one of the most popular activities for online users.
Google+ is the social networking component of Google. Google+ is the future of Google as social media usage continues to grow. Although Google+ may not see the same activity as a platform like Facebook or Twitter at this time, the integration of Google+ into Google’s other services, as well as the growth of social media, makes it a no-brainer choice. In order to grow your practice and reach new patients, Google+ is imperative to your online marketing strategy.
Put Google+ to Work for Your Dental Practice
In addition to the compelling reasons listed above for using Google’s social network, Google+ also has many benefits for dental practices. It provides your practice the ability to reach out to and connect with current patients using the more relaxed method, social media.
Studies have shown that consumers enjoy connecting with brands and local businesses via social media because it makes them feel “connected” and personalizes the brand (making them more likeable). Using Google+ for your practice also enables you to increase brand awareness and reach a broader audience than your website alone.
Google+, like other Google services, provides businesses with a range of cool, cutting edge tools designed to enhance the consumer’s experience. These tools include Google+ Hangouts, Authorship, and easy integration with other services like Gmail, YouTube, and Maps.
Hangouts are available to Google+ users and are a way to host online video chats with multiple users. For a business, these are a great way to share educational information (like how to properly floss or how to teach kids about oral health) or host a question and answer session for a group. All Hangouts are recorded, can be shared easily, and can be made public for future viewers.
Google’s Authorship tag enables authors of articles and blogs to link their Google+ profile to the blog or article. A good way to picture this is a byline in a newspaper that shows the author’s photo.
Creating and maintaining an active Google+ page enables you to add a byline with your name to anything you author. These bylines show up alongside the blog or article in search results, giving you more authority and credibility on the topic for users searching online. Authorship is a great way to build up your authority on oral and dental care related articles and blogs that you publish.
Google is all about integration, and as you can see, integrating Google+ into all its services. In order to host a Hangout or to add Authorship to your blog, you must have a Google+ page.
From your Google+ account, you can manage your practice’s Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Wallet, Photos, etc. Having a suite of Google services at your fingertips streamlines managing your dental practice’s online presence.
This integration of services also contributes to efficiency in tracking results and activity. If you have a website, you likely are already familiar with the far-reaching capabilities of Google Analytics.
However, there is a tool built right into Google+ that allows you to see who is sharing your posts. This tool is called Google+ Ripples. You can watch a time lapse of shares and see who is publicly sharing the post. Ripples is a great tool for drilling down to find out who is interacting with your posts and what is working or not working for your dental practice.
The Final Word on Google+
You may be skeptical about the true performance of Google+, most likely because you may have only heard about it in passing or because you have never been on the social network.
Google+ is a great tool for local businesses because Google focuses heavily on creating useful and accurate local searches for online users. Ignoring Google+ for Business when creating your online marketing plan could mean that you are giving potential patients a negative impression of your practice or that you are missing out on getting new patients altogether.
As mobile search continues to grow and users flock to Google to search for local businesses, your dental practice will benefit by incorporating Google+ into your online marketing strategy.
Rachel Cunningham is a Marketing Content Writer at iMatrix, a provider of affordable web marketing solutions for small, practice based businesses.