Remember when all it took to open a thriving medical or dental practice was a space and great signage?
Today, your practice’s first impressions start way before patients arrive at your office. They start with your digital front door: your website.
As an independent medical or dental provider, you’re busy caring for patients — which means websites and other processes outside of patient care can fall by the wayside. Whether starting from scratch or making long-overdue revisions, here are 8 medical website best practices to help guide you.
1. Determine what patients want from your website
Building a website should always start with your end user, or in this case, your patients. In Tebra’s 4th annual Patient Perspectives survey, patients named their practice website must haves. Here’s what they’re looking for on your medical or dental website:
- Services offered (32%)
- Appointment availability (31%)
- Doctor background information (14%)
- Health and care advice (9%)
- Patient testimonials (8%)
Based on these results, it’s medical website best practices to give patients clear and concise information about who you are, what you offer, and how to schedule an appointment.
Start with this information to build the basic structure of your website. Make sure you dedicate space on the homepage to introduce doctors and staff, and link to dedicated pages for each of your services and specialties.
2. Create visual consistency with a clean, accessible, and responsive design
Pick a website design template or customize it with a designer. Your website’s first priority is to share information, so ensure the design doesn’t overwhelm your message.
- Make sure the template you pick is mobile responsive since 60% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Mobile responsiveness means users can easily access your site on mobile devices and smaller screens.
- Create a consistent look and feel across your site, and don’t be afraid to show some personality. Pick a few colors and fonts to stick to so it’s not overwhelming to your patients and prospects.
- Pick fonts and colors that are easy to read, with high-contrast colors and backgrounds for easy reading.
- Include photos and videos of your staff and office. After all, 42% of patients said pictures influenced their decisions when choosing a healthcare provider according to the Patient Perspectives report.
But your website needs more than just a pretty interface — its content needs to pack a punch, too.
3. Develop straightforward content that informs patients and prospects
There’s no need to get fancy and write pretty prose or huge walls of text for your independent practice website. To start, make sure it’s easy for patients to understand these 3 things:
- What you do: The first thing patients should see when they land on your website, front and center, is your specialty. What do you do? How can you help meet their needs? Don’t overthink this part — just state the facts in clear and direct language.
- Who you are: Share your credentials, a short bio, and a picture of yourself so patients can put a face to your name. Do this for all doctors, nurses, and office staff so patients can get to know the people in your office — it’ll make them feel more comfortable when they first come in.
- Why they should pick you: This is where you should spend most of your effort. Why should patients go to you over the provider down the street? Include testimonials and the most recent 5-star reviews. Tebra can help you keep track of this data.
4. Include basic SEO tactics
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is all about creating a website that users can find on Google. The more important and relevant Google thinks your website is, the higher you’ll rank in search results.
Why is that important? About 77% of patients search online for doctors either often or sometimes, according to Tebra’s Patient Perspectives report. So being near the top of the search results (where patients are looking) is imperative to practice success.
There’s a wide range of SEO tactics, from 5-minute fixes to years-long endeavors. Here are a few basic strategies to keep in mind (go here when you’re ready to dive a little deeper):
- Speed up your website: Fancy designs, videos, and large files can slow down your site loading time — which is a factor in SEO and patient visits. The average website load time is 3.21 seconds. The longer it takes for your site to load, the more patients will bounce to another site and the greater the negative impact on your search rankings.
- Make your practice site mobile-friendly: Around 60% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Anyone searching on mobile devices will be served websites that are mobile-friendly first. Make sure your site is easy to read and navigate on a variety of mobile devices.
- Add meta titles and meta descriptions to each page: Meta titles (also known as title tags) are the first element users see on search engine results pages (SERPs). They should be engaging and under 60 characters to avoid truncation on smaller screens. Complement these with keyword-rich meta descriptions, which summarize the webpage content and appear below the title on SERPs.
- Add and optimize images: Help patients visualize your practice with photos of your team and office. Add alt text to make it easy for screen readers to describe the image and to help Google’s bots categorize your page.
5. Keep your site fresh with regular content
Websites aren’t one-time to-do list items — they need to be updated with new information, new content, and new reviews consistently for Google and other search engines to consider them relevant. New content is also a great way to keep patients engaged and answer common questions.
Here are some ways to add new content to your practice’s site:
- Blog posts: Probably the most traditional form of content, blog posts are great ways to deliver a lot of information. Write about what interests your patients most. Consider creating posts about healthcare trends, any seasonal aspects of your specialty, new findings that may change how you approach patient care, etc. They don’t have to be weekly novels — just keep posts consistent and easy to read.
- Video content: More confident speaking than writing? Consider video content as a fun alternative (or add on). Show up on video and answer frequently asked questions or patient concerns (with their permission and following HIPAA guidelines, of course). Do a walkthrough of your practice or share behind-the-scenes of different procedures. Videos are a great way to engage patients, plus they’re shareable on social media and improve the time your patients spend on your site. Just make sure to provide a transcript or captioning to make your videos more accessible.
- News and events: A news and events page is a great way to keep your patients informed about your practice. Do you have a new doctor on site? Did you hire another dental hygienist? Are you hosting a free clinic? Create a page to share all that information, and don’t forget to post it on social media with a link back to your site for more information.
6. Make it easy for patients to act
What do you want patients to do when they visit your website? The answer’s probably “schedule an appointment,” right? So it’s medical website best practice to make sure every page is driving them toward that action.
- Use CTAs: Call-to-actions (CTAs) are those trigger words that get patients to make a move. “Schedule an appointment” should be the most prevalent CTA on your website. You could also include “Call the office,” “Ask a question,” or “Sign up for our newsletter.”
- Display your contact information: Prominently display your contact information, preferably on both the home page and contact page. Include your address, a map, and any directions to help patients find your office. Note any relevant parking or transit information, if applicable. The last thing you want is visitors giving up because they can’t find your phone number — or your front door.
- Offer digital appointment scheduling: Around 36% of patients said they want the ability to book appointments online with their healthcare provider more than anything else besides quality care. The ability to schedule appointments online is a big deal — it removes the friction of having to call during business hours and hope to catch someone on the phone. It will make patients more likely to book an appointment and free up staff for more important patient service.
7. Ensure patient privacy with solid security practices
While patients prefer more digitization in the healthcare space, it puts their information at considerable risk. Cybersecurity is a constant threat to the medical field. In 2022, there were 707 cyberattacks that saw over 500 records breached — the second highest in history. While that number’s big in itself, countless smaller breaches are happening at independent practices across the U.S..
While your website may not contain vital patient data, it could become an entry point into your practice’s system if you’re not practicing good security hygiene.
What do you need to do to protect your practice and your patients’ data?
- Create stronger passwords for your site: You’ve heard this preached countless times, but password stealing is still a top security risk. Common passwords often fall prey to password spraying — where bots try hundreds of common passwords (like pa55word, password123, etc.) in an effort to guess your login. It’s estimated that 16% of password attacks come from this tactic. There are tons of other ways your passwords can be stolen, like phishing, keyword stuffing, and more. Make sure you create strong passphrases (not just one word), choose new passwords for each website, and change them every few months. If that sounds like a lot of work, opt for a password manager that can help you generate and store secure options and stay updated without the overwhelm.
- Vet your vendors and plugins: When researching third-party vendors and plugins for your website, ensure they also maintain strict security standards. Otherwise, they can be a way in for cyberattacks. For instance, Tebra follows strict security measures to comply with HIPAA guidelines and help prevent data breaches, including 2-factor authentication, next-generation firewalls, and servers located in SOC 2 type 2 certified hosting providers.
- Keep your website, browser, and hardware up to date: Although frequent updates may seem redundant, they’re often a direct result of security concerns. Updates typically have security patches, so don’t let them lapse.
8. Measure your website’s success
Your practice website isn’t a one-and-done deal. After you and your team have built your website from the ground up, there’s still a lot to do. Track and revisit this data monthly or quarterly:
- Unique visits: Measure how many visitors you get to your site on a regular basis. Track the trends over time to determine if changes to your website are having a positive or negative impact.
- Traffic sources: Where do your visitors come from? This number helps measure your external marketing efforts. If they’re mostly Google searches, then you’re nailing SEO. If you get most of your traffic from social media, then your social media manager deserves a raise.
- Bounce rate: This metric shows the percentage of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate might indicate that your site is not engaging or user-friendly. Take another look at your content if your bounce rate increases over time.
- Average session duration: How long do visitors spend on your site? The higher the average, the more engaging your content. While a bare-bones website may only be good for reference, a site with blogs and videos full of helpful content is worth browsing. The longer patients stay on your website, the more likely they are to see you as a valuable resource and eventually book an appointment.
- Conversion rate: A conversion rate is how many visitors to your site actually take the action you want them to take, in this case, by scheduling appointments. This is easier to track with online appointment scheduling, but you can also measure how many people use click-to-call or click-to-email buttons. Use this number to assess trends and see how well your tactics work over time.
- Top-performing pages: Measure which pages are your top performers to get a better idea of the type of content your patients are most likely to consume. On a traditional website, the top visited pages are usually the home, about, and contact pages. You can also look at content pages to see your top-performing blog post and talk more about its subject.
How much does a dental or medical website cost?
It depends. Both medical and dental websites can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a DIY site on a non-healthcare-specific platform to $10,000+ for custom builds with many features and integrations.
Yes, it’s better to have a basic website than none at all, but many independent practices will be best served by going the middle route. Look for a healthcare-specific website hosting platform that has features designed for your practice’s needs, like HIPAA compliance features, appointment scheduling integrations, and more.
Follow medical website best practices for a strong first impression
Don’t let your future patients’ first impression of you be an old website with an even older photo of you and your team. Implement these best practices over time to see new patients flowing through your door.