According to Nielson Net-Ratings, 85 percent of consumers say a quality website is fundamental to earning trust. More than 77 percent said they were more likely to make a purchase from an unfamiliar business with a quality website than a poor website from a known business.
Some website developers say veterinarians can expect 30 new clients per month, but a more typical outcome is six to 12 new clients a month. The increased traffic depends on local competition and level of Web marketing.
“On the Web, perception is usually reality,” says Chris Plueger, director of sales for Internet Matrix Inc. in San Diego. “Like a storefront, a website can be indicative of a business’s professionalism, experience and attention to detail. Consumers are constantly evaluating the websites they visit and shopping only with the ones they trust.”
A website also serves as a way to perpetuate a practice’s brand. Incorporating the same business logo onto a website, business card, mailings and social networks makes a practice more identifiable to potential clients.
“Veterinarians often don’t know what to include on a website because they’re not in marketing,” says Mark Feltz, DVM, owner of VetNetwork LLC in Dover, N.H. “The most important thing a website can do is give a potential client a good feeling about the practice. A lot of bells and whistles aren’t necessary.”
“You want your visitors to have a personal connection with you,” Plueger says. “Include things like photos, a virtual tour of your office, your bio and background information. People want to do business with people they like and trust. Building the personalization of your website is important and can be the deciding factor on whether a visitor decides to choose your service.”
Plueger says websites should have customized content, such as an appointment request feature, video, interactive Google map with the practice’s address, office hours and new-patient offers. Most website construction companies offer veterinarians the option of maintaining their own websites after they are created or having the company handle maintenance.
“Adding fresh content to the site on a rotating basis encourages the search engines to visit your site and it helps your search engine page placement,” Plueger says. “Blogs are a great way to keep fresh content appearing on your website. Archiving newsletters or press releases, writing additional content on specific topics or specialties and adding testimonials can also help to keep content fresh, unique and appealing.”
Rob McAllister, senior director of project development for McAllister Software PetWise of Piedmont, Mo., says a website can save money.
“Clients can use the website to gain information instead of calling for everything,” McAllister says. “Some websites can include the option to have pet health information online, which will be available anytime. Making information easy and convenient for clients helps build a relationship. In addition to information, sites can even set up home delivery of a pet’s medication.”
“A site must be easy to navigate,” says Jim Ladd, director of online marketing at
MediMedia Animal Health Inc. in New York. “Let clients know what type of practice you have, stating if you treat equine patients, companion animals, birds or exotic animals.”
Ladd says a website can include analytics to track how many visits it gets, which can also help quantify practice traffic increases.
Although there are many content options for websites, Ashley Shields, marketing consultant at Beyond Indigo In Minneapolis, warns not to place too much information on each page, which can make it look cluttered.
“Focus on the user and making the site user friendly,” Shields says. “Links to other sites can lead to client trust and loyalty. Linking to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks is free and easy. A veterinarian can put a staff member in charge of making regular posts.”
McAllister says having a great website doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.
“A lot of vets get caught up in redesigning their sites just to use new options, but style isn’t as important as being clean, neat and organized looking,” McAllister says. “There are many options now that allow veterinarians to get what they and their clients want and need from a website for a reasonable fee.”