Over the past decade, the Internet has revolutionized dental practice marketing. An ADA study from 1999 reported the percentages of patients finding a new dentist by referral source. The study indicated that 55% of new patients to a practice were referred by other patients. The next largest source of referral was direct mail marketing, which came in at 12%. There was no mention of the Internet as responsible for providing any new patient flow. Contrast those figures with the present. Well over 50% of my new patients report first finding me on the Internet. Some 90% of my marketing dollars go toward Internet marketing and optimization of my websites’ visibility. An added benefit is that the marketing budget is greatly reduced because the return on investment is vastly higher with this form of practice promotion.

This is not to say that I do not continue to strive for patient to patient referral sources, as these can still be considered the best patients to have. However, we cannot neglect the overwhelming tendency for patients to search for their doctors online. By doing so, we miss out on the huge numbers of new patients that our practices could be caring for simply by establishing a highly visible online presence.

It has been estimated that less than 35% of dentists even own a website, and this says nothing about how many of those sites are actually optimized for greatest search engine ranking and visibility. Some estimates have the actual number as being much lower, at less than 20% of dentists having a presence online. The main question that comes to mind is, “Why would the overwhelming majority of dentists still remain on the sidelines with respect to the greatest marketing opportunity available to their practices?”

One thought I have heard expressed by dentists is the intimidation factor. They commonly do not understand a lot about website design or search engine optimization and feel as though they may be taken for a ride by their website designer. Most feel the cost is too high and they do not tend to value Internet marketing for what it’s really worth. The majority of dentists simply do not know where to start. Many dentists wonder “Does a dentist really need a website?” These are understandable concerns and I have made every effort in Dentistry’s Business Secrets to overcome all these obstacles by providing practical steps, written in non-techie language, which can be taken on Monday morning toward the development of any dental practice website. I hope you will take that first step and welcome the productive boost that Internet marketing can lend your practice!