By Howard A. Fine, DMD, MMSc
In orthodontics, we are fortunate to have a few companies who can efficiently create for us Web sites that are sophisticated, practical, and often get compliments from patients because of their utility. More important, these sites can integrate with our practice-management software to provide patients with e-mail appointment reminders, access to their records, and financial functions. These services often cost significantly less than other forms of marketing.
Now the big problem. I have come to realize that if our Web sites are not periodically reviewed, refined, enhanced, and rewritten, their usefulness as a marketing tool can rapidly deteriorate. I was walking through the exhibit hall at a recent constituent meeting and came upon a small company trying to sell Web services. In fact, they were right around the corner from my Web developer. They were analyzing existing Web sites and suggesting ways that their company could improve their marketing potential. What I initially thought to be a hard-core sales pitch actually turned out to be a revelation.
The goal is to be on the first page of listings when people search for something. We all know this to be true, because how many of us go through all the pages of a search? That means that for orthodontists, we are all trying to jockey for position on that first page. This other company said that my Web site was poor, the graphics engine was outdated, and I was LUCKY that search engines were still able to place my site on the first page of Web listings. Not that my Web site was really that bad. It still looked nice, it served patient needs, and it had actually only been created a few years before. Here is the message: It’s not the Web site that’s the problem, it’s the search engines that are the problem. They are constantly changing, and we are now forced to adapt to these changes.
I immediately went over to speak to my development team, with steam coming out of my ears, to question them on this issue. They admitted that the other company was correct and that my Web site needed to be rewritten, from scratch, again! They reiterated that their product was well-developed, efficient and attractive, but because of the rapid changes in search engines, Web sites that appear to be current can in fact be outdated. I just wish they would have told me this up front. I really did NOT want to hear this from a third party.
After the meeting, we began building a new Web site, and all is well. It’s clear to me that our Web sites have to be updated periodically so that the search engines can easily find us. The issue I have is that our Web developers are for some reason afraid to tell us this. I don’t understand why they don’t just tell us that, as soon as our Web site is up and running, we should start planning for refinement. Alternatively, they should include regular SEO updates in their pricing. The old adage, "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it," does not apply to the Wild West of the Web!