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The key to successful online marketing

for an orthodontic practice: Mastering

the plan
Gaurav Gupta, Mary Kay Miller, and Milind Darda

Online marketing these days has sought the attention of everyone in health
care. Internet marketing has opened the portal for dental practices to reach
their target audience and thereby showcase their services in an impressive
manner. According to a health care survey, every orthodontic patient seeks
help on the Internet these days before scheduling an appointment mainly for
the following two reasons: firstly, to find orthodontists in their local area and
secondly, to determine which would be the right clinic to meet their needs.
These consumer habits benefit orthodontists with a good online presence
and who deliver their Internet marketing message in an impressive style on
the web. This article outlines the need, technique, and recent trends in
Internet marketing for practice growth for orthodontists. (Semin Orthod
2016; 22:313–321.) & 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Introduction If a potential patient searches for someone with

a particular skill set and range of services on Google
he Internet is imperfect by nature and a never
T ending process of updates. It is commonly
acknowledged that a successful orthodontic mar-
or another search engine, a well-optimized website
will stand out amongst competitors’. It will show a
visitor that a particular business is in tune with the
keting strategy includes a combination of internal,
times and is working hard to make the practice and
external, and online marketing tactics. That being
reputation grow. A potential patient feels reassured
said, the Internet offers a very compelling mar-
and more confident of their choice when they can
keting format. It is readily available to prospective
find a well-organized and engaging up to date
new patients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365
website that describes the different orthodontic
days a year and has become increasingly pervasive
services offered. This can be the extra little push it
in our society as the preferred format to gather
takes to motivate a visitor to pick up the phone and
information and influence buying decisions.
book an appointment with that orthodontic office.
Nearly, every professional today has some form of
Other people might be looking for special ortho-
web presence and it is important not to be left
dontic services and the website will enable to easily
behind. Long gone are the days where “word of
showcase all the special skills and services.2 The
mouth” was all that you needed to rely on for a
Internet can be a double-edged sword. A strong
practice to grow and there are many reasons today
web presence in ranking and reputation manage-
why most orthodontist have chosen to invest in
ment can vastly improve your business, just as a
their web presence.1 A strong online presence
poor web presence or reputation can cause great
increases an orthodontist’s credibility. Many people
harm. In the online marketplace, business owners
in need of orthodontic care are now using the
must “adapt or perish” in order to survive.3,4
Internet to research their options (Tables 1 and 2).
In this article, we would be discussing in detail
the various aspects of a great online marketing
Department of Orthodontics, MA Rangoonwala College of Dental
Sciences, Pune 41104, Maharashtra, India.
plan which is required for a successful ortho-
Address correspondence to Gaurav Gupta, BDS, MDS, Depart- dontic practice.5,6
ment of Orthodontics, MA Rangoonwala College of Dental Sciences,
131 & 132, Parmar Park Phase II, Wanawadi, Pune 411040,
Maharashtra, India. E-mail: Online digital footprint
& 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
1073-8746/16/1801-$30.00/0 Internet marketing strategies in 2015–2016 (Fig. 1) focus on reputation marketing and

Seminars in Orthodontics, Vol 22, No 4, 2016: pp 313–321 313

314 Gupta et al

Table 1. Demographics of Internet users worldwide capable device. Having a responsive website
Estimated Internet Users Penetration
design not only resolves the question of mobile
Population Rate (%) capability, it also simplifies site maintenance and
updating by eliminating the need for multiple
Asia 4,03,26,54,624 1,40,51,21,036 34.8 versions of one website, thus eliminating a sep-
India 1,25,16,95,584 24,30,00,000 19.4
China 1,36,15,12,535 66,80,00,000 49.1 arate mobile site.
Australia 2,25,07,616 1,95,54,832 86.9 The process of planning and creating the way
Europe 82,58,02,657 56,62,61,317 68.6 a website will look and feel is the first part of
USA 31,88,92,103 27,74,36,130 87.00
creating a website. It is the stage where one can
organize creative ideas, branding and visual
branding of the business name. This is called appeal. As with any marketing strategy or project,
your “Online Digital Footprint.” Your digital thorough initial planning is essential. Planning a
footprint includes the following: website involves considering its role in the busi-
ness plan and allocating sufficient resources to
1. Website the development and upkeep of the website. At
2. Local search the planning stage, the following questions need
3. Reviews to be answered; What is the purpose of the
4. Social media website? What do you need on your website?
5. Video
6. Press releases A. Great website accomplishes the following goals:
7. Online articles 1. Displays a great representation of your prac-
tice with an up to date look and feel. It takes
consumers less than 10 second to develop an
The website: the hub of your Internet
impression of your business based on your
website design. If the site is old and outdated,
A well designed, engaging, and easy to navigate they will consider your practice old and
search engine optimized website is number one outdated. Is this the impression you want to
priority. It is the primary online representation of offer first time visitors to your website?
your practice, and the core of your online “digital 2. It accurately depicts the doctor(s), office, and
footprint” which is the focus of the search engine team to build trust in treatment and services.
algorithms.7,8 3. Directs visitors to pick up the phone and
With a large number of Internet consumers CALL for a new patient exam. “Your website is
accessing the Internet using a smartphone, it is a marketing tool first and an information tool
now a necessity for all websites to be easily viewed second it is all about them…Not You”
on a mobile device. For this reason, a responsive 4. The website should be easy to navigate and
website is the design of choice to accommodate find information. Don’t make patients jump
the ever-growing number of mobile users in the through hoops or spend too much time
marketplace. looking for information of interest. Different
A responsive orthodontic website design can is not always better based on Google analytics.
automatically adjust its layout to properly fit all 5. List both address and phone in the header
devices including smartphones, tablets, laptops, area whenever possible. Many visitors coming
and more. With a responsive website design, to the site are only looking for an address or
orthodontists can be confident that their website phone number. Don’t make them jump
is easy to navigate and viewable on any Internet through hoops looking for basic information.

Table 2. Impact of Internet on users searching health care

More than 54,700,000 results found in google for the term Health assessment tools.
Over 160 million Americans access the Internet for health information.
Four out of five health information seekers discovered information to help diagnose and treat a condition.
In a survey that focused on Internet based health information, 41% of respondents claimed that the Internet did affect their
health care decision, including whether to go to a doctor, treat an illness, or question their doctor.
Google (2007), Harris Poll (2007), Jones (2000, 2009), and Forkner-Dunn (2003).
The key to successful online marketing for an orthodontic practice: Mastering the plan 315

Figure 1. Online marketing tips for orthodontic offices.

6. Top pages, after the homepage, often visited After your website is designed it is also
on an orthodontic website based on Google important to ensure a patient can find your
Analytics are as follows: website in local search.
 Meet the doctor
 Contact us Search engine optimization9,10
 Staff pages (suggest good photos and
short bios) Search engine optimization is the process of
 Types of braces getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “edi-
 First visit torial,” or “natural” search results on search
7. Answer questions visitors are interested in engines. All major search engines such as Goo-
researching, not products and features you gle, Bing, and Yahoo have primary search results,
want to promote. where web pages and other content such as
8. Don’t be too clinical. Write content on a 5th videos or local listings are shown and ranked
to 9th grade level so it is educational and easy based on what the search engine considers most
to understand. relevant to users (Fig. 2).
9. Google compares content from one com- This includes the onsite SEO of your website
petitor to the next. If your website is and offsite SEO that promotes your online digital
lacking in content it could affect your local footprint throughout the Internet. The focus is
ranking. no longer on just keywords, but a well-rounded
10. Emphasize benefits rather than features of reputation marketing program that consists of
treatment. the following 8 top ranking signals:

Feature: digital X-rays benefit: more accurate 1. On site signals of the website—search engine
diagnostics with less radiation. optimization, domain authority (age, popular-
Feature: extended hours on evenings and ity, and size of the website), NAP—name
weekends. Benefit: we understand busy lifestyles. address phone, and Keywords in titles and text
316 Gupta et al

Figure 2. Building blocks to SEO success for an orthodontist.

2. Backlinks—inbound links, linking domain Organic ranking factors

authority. It’s not quantity of the links but
the quality of the links. The website design, search engine optimization,
3. Business—categories, keywords in business title, age of the domain, and popularity of your
proximity and geo-targeting in local search. website with traffic and backlinks continues to
4. Citations or external local signals—data aggre- remain key factor in organic search results.
gators, citation volume, and authority, NAP Social media, which includes video, is #8 in
consistency ranking and not a factor in the top 10 listed
5. Behavior—click through rate, mobile click to call, above in organic or map factors. A strategically
check-ins on social media, and offers to visitors targeted social media campaign will miss the
6. Personalization—results to match the city or mark in eliciting ranking results in local search
metropolitan area based on the user’s loca- without a strong website or search engine
tion. Local business setup, local citations, and optimization. Another key factor in ranking is
coding your website for surrounding areas. the choice of your domain name or URL.
7. Reviews—quantity of reviews, velocity of Businesses whose domain name includes
reviews (consistency), and diversity of reviews orthodontics and city keywords such as mum-
8. Social media—For example for Google search have a leg up on practices
engine, Googleþ authority (priority to busi- listing their personal name ( or
nesses who verified early), Facebook likes, or generic branded
Twitter followers etc. name such as Businesses who
list in their domain, which is not a
The various factors which effect the search keyword, may also not rank as well as ortho-
engine optimization are as follows (Table 3). with all ranking factors equal.

Table 3. Search engine optimization ranking factors

Top 10 Local Organic Ranking Factors Top 10 Maps Ranking Factors

Doman Authority of Website Physical Address in City of Search

Quality and Authority of Inbound Links Consistency of Citations “NAP”
City In Googleþ Landing Page Title Correct Category Listing in Googleþ
Click Through Rate on Search Results Proximity of Address to the Point of Search
Keyword Relevance of Domain Quality and Authority of Citations
Diversity of Inbound links to the Domain Domain Authority of Website
Geographic Keyword Relevance of Domain Service Keyword in Googleþ Title
Physical Address in City of Search City in Googleþ Landing Page Title
Quality and Authority of Citations Branding NAP Matching Googleþ NAP
City listing in Website Title Tags Click Through Rate on Search Results
The key to successful online marketing for an orthodontic practice: Mastering the plan 317

Map ranking factors Citation inconsistencies create havoc and

reduce branding trust, resulting in loss in rank-
Geo-targeting or the method of determining the
ing, especially in the maps area of local search. If
location of a website visitor and delivering con-
the information differs from the correct listing,
tent based on their location, such as country,
search engines might think it’s a different busi-
state, city, zip code, and IP address is now a major
ness. Or they might even decide that the wrong
factor in maps ranking. This was not a factor
information appears so many times in other
prior to mid-2014 and causing a gradual shift in
places where they gather data that the wrong info
might actually be “right.”
Some businesses are now being penalized in
In simplified terms, the Internet is a massive
rankings, based on their location outside of the
spreadsheet requesting one branded listing for
GEO-targeted center determined by the search
each local business. If the search engines finds
engines. Google’s algorithm is more sophisticated
multiple business listings in “NAP,” it reduces
than Bing’s and will change the centroid on the
trust and will defer to competitors with fewer
maps based on the highest concentration of
inconsistencies; thus the importance of manag-
businesses in any given area. Google reviews can be
ing your online digital footprint.
a determining factor in ranking with businesses
found in the same GEO-targeted area. In the past,
the organic ranking of the website determined the
 The sources where Google and Bing pull
information vary from country to country.
ranking in the MAPS area. This is no longer true in
Each has its own set of important players,
2015 and is expected to remain in the same 2016.
known as data aggregators. These aggregators
Even for experts, the local search ecosystem is
typically accumulate their business databases
incredibly confusing! Determining, the local
by scanning and transcribing “NAP”
search ecosystem, relevant to your country, offers
a better understanding of how local data aggre-
gators and databases fit together and where to
 Practices who moved, changed business name
or under new ownership in past 5 years and
start with branding cleanup if there is an issue.
did not notify the Internet are most prone to
If your business has good online branding and
ranking issues based on branding.
has not moved or changed your branded busi-
ness name in the past 10 years, in all likelihood,
 New businesses and those transitioning brand-
ing ownership to a new name will find it
there is no reason for concern. However, if your
difficult to move up or maintain ranking
business is not showing up correctly in the Local
without a targeted citation program to build
Maps area, you have changed location or name
and reinforce branding trust.
and have not notified the Internet of the change,
seeking the services of a Local Business specialist
 Monthly or bi-weekly testing of your business
ranking in the MAPS and organic area in local
familiar with citations is your first step, especially
search for keyword “orthodontist city” is highly
if your organic ranking is doing well.
Now let us talk about one of the most
Mentions of your business on the data aggre- important aspects of Internet marketing and that
gators or databases, and search engines. Citations is social media marketing.11–15
create a mention of your business and a backlink
to your website based on your published
Social media marketing
branding or “Name, Address and Phone Number
(NAP).” Citation consistency reinforces your Social media is another area that expands your
business branding and builds trust on the search digital footprint and can improve your search
engines based on engine ranking.11–15 It is true that listing your
business on the main social media sites such as
 Name (registered legal name) Facebook, Google þ, Twitter, Instagram, Pin-
 Address terest, etc. can contribute to your online brand.
 Phone number Social media ranks #8 in the Google ranking
 Website URL signal. It creates a positive signal for your brand
318 Gupta et al

Figure 3. Social media tips for orthodontist.

identity and authority. It also is a good internal Like, Share, and social interaction your business
marketing tool to engage patients and parents in receives counts as a “vote” for the quality and
how to communicate with your office. It is very influence of your orthodontic practice.
important to have a good social media presence Orthodontic social media marketing is no
(Fig. 3). longer an option for orthodontists wanting to be
Interpersonal communication is not the only successful online; it is now a necessity. Do more
type of communication affected by social media. than survive in the today’s digital marketplace —
Consumers now Follow, Like, Share, and review your goal is to thrive and incorporate all forms of
business online daily. Even if a business wishes not online marketing options available today to
to engage in social media, their patients will be able increase your web presence exponentially.
to discuss them and review them online using social
media and directory sites. Like it or not, consumers This mode of marketing has its pros and cons;
are going online to talk about local businesses. The advantages being; with the popularity of
These social media conversations can make or digital marketing on the rise, many businesses
break your business by influencing the decision are investigating how social media can help
making of potential and existing patients. With them promote their products and services to
orthodontic social media marketing you can join potential and existing customers. Social net-
the conversation about your practice, generating working sites like Facebook and Twitter have
a positive relationship with patients and a transformed the way some businesses think
respected reputation in your community. about advertising. Some businesses direct
Social media doesn’t just help you interact with customers toward their social network pages
your community and generate positive brand more than they direct them to their own
awareness for your orthodontic practice. It is also websites. There are certain advantages to
becoming an increasingly significant online market via social media, but there are also
ranking factor as search engines progressively related drawbacks as well. The primary advan-
utilize the recommendations of social site users tages of social media marketing is reducing
when calculating the value and significance of costs and enhancing reach. The cost of a social
your website and business related pages. Every media platform is typically lower than other
The key to successful online marketing for an orthodontic practice: Mastering the plan 319

marketing platforms such as face-to-face sales- orthodontic websites), Google comes first when
people or middlemen or distributors. In gathering reviews from patients. Your demo-
addition, social media marketing allows firms graphic will determine what additional reviews
to reach patients that may not be accessible are needed to develop a well-rounded reviews
due to temporal and locational limitations of program (Fig. 4).
existing distribution channels. Social media
platforms increase reach and reduce costs by Reviews tips and tricks
providing three areas of advantage for cus-
tomers first, the marketing firm can provide (1) Focus your time and energy building several
unlimited information to customers without reviews on multiple review sites, not just one.
human intervention. This is an advantage over In the United States, the focus is on Google,
other forms of contact because the amount of Yelp, Healthgrades, YellowPages, Ratemds.
information that can be provided is much com, etc. Your goal is to establish a well-
greater than in any other form of communi- rounded reviews “portfolio”of reviews. In
cation. Additionally, and more importantly, other words, “Don’t put all your eggs in
the information can be provided in a form one basket.” Implement a reviews strategy
that customers can easily process and under- you can maintain over the long haul.
stand. Second, social media marketing firm (2) Google tracks IP addresses. It is recom-
can create interactions by customizing infor- mended not to implement patient contests
mation for individual customers that allow to motivate patients to write reviews in the
customers to design products and services that short term. With a sudden influx of reviews,
meet their specific requirements. over a short period of time, you risk the
possibility of your reviews being removed by
The disadvantages of social media marketing
Google. Reviews are difficult to accumulate
are that; the online environment creates not only
and not worth the risk. Your goal is to
opportunities, but also complications and chal-
accumulate reviews slowly and strategically
lenges for the social media marketing process.
over months and years. Both the search
The transparency of the web makes online
engine robots and the human users can tell
information available to all audiences, and
when a business has been soliciting reviews. It
reinforces the need for consistency in the plan-
looks illegitimate to both; slow and steady,
ning, design, implementation and control of
stay the course, to win the race.”
online marketing communication. The main
(3) As of August 2015, patients can now write a
disadvantages need to be considered on social
Google review on a mobile phone in the
media marketing, which are its time intense,
office as long as they are not connected to
trademark and copyright issues, trust, privacy and
your office Wi-Fi. They must be connected to
security issues and negative feedback. Feedbacks
their mobile service to deter Google from
play an important role in image and brand
tracking office IP address. You must have one
building. Similarly in online marketing ORM is
desktop review to open the mobile reviews
an important ingredient.
area. Google is currently penalizing busi-
nesses with no reviews.
Online reputation management16
Writing a Google review on a smartphone
Many practices have the misconception that
reputation management is all about reviews. Instructions may vary on an Android phone since
While reviews reinforce both credibility and trust owners have multiple formats to choose from. It
for your online brand, they are not the sole is suggested that both doctors and staff are
requirement of reputation management as we familiar with the reviews process to guide
have discussed. reviewers through the process.
Google Reviews are Your Top Priority, but not
the only priority. Since 75–80% of orthodontic 1. Google your practice name or doctor name on
consumers use Google as their search engine of a smartphone. Add your city or town if
choice (based on Google Analytics reports for multiple locations.
320 Gupta et al

Figure 4. Online reputation management tips for orthodontists.

2. Make sure reviewer has turned off Wi-Fi Those with Gmail accounts should already be
settings. members of Googleþ, eliminating the need
3. Click on the business name in the listing (not for signup.
call or directions). Another important aspect in creating and
4. Scroll down below the reviews summary area building your online presence would be posting
and find the “rate and review” area. online videos. Let us discuss about this media in
5. Click on 5 stars and write a review. (Must be a detail.
Googleþ member signed in on your phone or
they will ask you to sign in or signup). Anyone
Why online videos to promote your
can sign up with any email address. Once the
signup process is completed they can write a
review. Videos for advertising, marketing, and promo-
tion can give you the edge you need to convert
***Five reviews are needed to show gold stars visitors to new patients. The Internet has revo-
when Googling your business. lutionized advertising and proven how online
There is only a 1 in 40 compliance rate with advertising through videos is effective.
email soliciting of reviews. Completing the
reviews process in the office generates a  Online video is a very cost-effective marketing
higher success rate. Consider running an medium, once created; it can be used over and
email report based on your daily schedule, over again at no additional cost, unlike other
which allows you to concentrate on patients/ advertising mediums. The average video life-
parents with Gmail accounts for efficiency. span is 4 years.
The key to successful online marketing for an orthodontic practice: Mastering the plan 321

 Video increases brand recognition and age along the way, even if you are currently ranking
inherently viral. well and following all the rules.
 More people prefer watching videos and
remember 64% of what they hear and see
versus 22% of what they read.16
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