Do you know how the Internet impacts how dental patients locate and choose dentists? What do patients expect from the dentist they select?

The digital age is causing significant changes in consumer behavior across all industries, including dentistry. According to a recent Gallup poll, health is a top concern among Americans. A full 1 in 20 online searches are health care-related.

Google recently held an hour-long Partners Connect event that focused on digital marketing in the health care industry. What does the search engine giant say your dental patients ultimately want when they search for a dentist online, based on the data?

  • A feeling of empowerment
  • An easy experience
  • And NOW

We invite you to take 5 minutes to read our quick summary of how you can meet your patients where they are online.

Dental Patients Want to Feel Empowered

Patients Want to Feel Empowered

Source: Google Partners

Customers are more informed than ever before, which challenges the traditional health care business model.

The Internet is a patient’s #1 confidant (61%) over family/friends (38%) or their medical professional (37%). On average, patients consult at least 12 different sources before choosing a health care provider.

Therefore, as dental professionals, we must reach them at the right moments. 60% of patients like to compare and validate information from medical professionals with their own research.

We’ve all researched our symptoms and been convinced of the worst-case scenario by the end of it. As a result, by the time a dental patient finally comes into your office, they may already be certain they need a root canal when they only need a filling!

Dental Patients Want an Easy Experience

Did you know that 77% of consumers will switch to a competitor’s site or app if your site doesn’t make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for?

Many consumers quickly lose patience if your website is slow or requires them to take too many steps to reach the information they want.

What is too long?

40% of shoppers said that if a website took 3 or more seconds to load, they would go to a competitor’s website to get the same information.

Take a quick look at your dental website on both a desktop and a mobile device. Does it load quickly enough to hold the interest of your patients?

To give dental patients an easy experience, you need to:

  1. Show up for the right search terms
  2. Display contact information and action steps prominently on your site

Note: Many dentists’ websites do not display well on a mobile device. They push contact details down to the bottom of the page, and visitors often have to scroll to find the information they’re looking for. Then, when they find it, it often is not sized correctly. All of these issues can add up to a frustrating online search experience for your patients.

Quick tip: Having a mobile click-to-call button helps. This is a simple code that can be inserted on your dental website so that customers can easily click your number and talk to someone rather than navigating your website on their small screen.

Dental Patients Want Information Quickly

1 in 2 patients use search engines to find health information because it is quick, even though they know it may not be accurate. In fact, the correct diagnosis comes up in the first result only 34% of the time.

Then, once they’ve become convinced that they should see a medical professional, 88% of patients conduct an online search to find a treatment center.

When patients have immediate needs, they usually search for you on their mobile devices. Mobile searches overtook desktop searches in 2015 and have continued to rise. Patients frequently search for health care-related questions on their mobile devices before, or even instead of, consulting their dentists and doctors.

“Dentist Near Me”

“Mobile is now the main device that is used for health searches.”                                                                                  —Brendan Jacobsen, Sr. Strategic Partner Manager, Health at Google

Most people constantly have a mobile device within arm’s reach—including your patients.

Check out the trend:

Mobile Trend in Health Care According to Google Partners

Source: Google Partners

People’s attention spans are shorter than ever before, and patients take much less predictable paths to research you online before coming into your dental office.

Your patient’s decision journey might look something like Jane’s story:

  • Jane experiences a toothache
  • She researches toothache symptoms online
  • After reading some terrifying possible scenarios, she believes that she must see a dentist soon
  • She finds your website using her smartphone by searching “dentist near me” on Google Maps
  • Her toothache symptoms begin to fade. She bookmarks your website in case she needs it later
  • Jane goes on with life and forgets she bookmarked your page
  • The toothache comes back. Jane searches online again and clicks on a Google ad that appears on the search results page instead of your Google Maps listing
  • Jane reads your reviews on Yelp, just to make sure people like you
  • She opens your website on her tablet so she can easily read through your dental services
  • She finally calls to schedule an appointment

This all-over-the-place journey makes pinpointing exactly how a patient originally found you more and more difficult. Make sure you are consistently monitoring your online presence across all channels, including your website, social media and reviews sites.

Are You Giving Your Patients What They Want?

In summary, here are some final questions to ask about your dental practice’s online presence:

  • Does my website have a phone number featured prominently at the top of the homepage? On a mobile device, can a patient easily click it to call me?
  • Does my website load quickly enough to keep my potential patient from turning to a competitor instead?
  • Do I have dental treatment information on my website, so a visitor can feel fully informed about the procedures I offer and in control of his or her own health decisions?
  • Do I have positive reviews online that assure a potential patient of my credibility?
  • Is my contact information accurate across all listings, including Google Maps?
  • When a patient in my town searches for “dentist near me,” does my practice show up?

Questions like these are important to ask as you look to market your dental practice. That’s why Launch Loyalty provides mobile-responsive websites to its clients, ensures its pages are optimized for search engines, provides marketing materials for every practice, posts on social media and helps set up in-house dental plans. We know it’s not just about the quality of care you give; patients have to be able to find you, and once they find you, they have to be motivated to choose you.

You can view the entire Google Partners Connect event here.