Why do you need ongoing site fees?

We recently had a client who sold his practice, and the new owner was questioning the monthly SEO/maintenance fee. He wrote: “The site has relatively good search results but the high service fee may be difficult to justify considering that the site is already created, functioning, and would only require minimal maintenance and attention in the future.” We have a feeling that there are many dentists who know very little about search engine optimization who have this misconception, that there should be no ongoing work involved, so we decided to publish Dr. Hall’s response to him, removing any personally identifying information.

As an aside, it is interesting how someone would think that a monthly fee of $500 for a Yellow Pages ad that doesn’t produce any patients is reasonable, but a monthly fee of $355 for a website that produces 6 new patients per month and $7,200 in revenue is high. Anyway, here is what I wrote:

“I should talk to you about your website, because it seems that you are about to make an expensive mistake, if you are under the impression that search engine optimization is just something that is put into the website and then it automatically maintains high rankings. If you read anything at all that is a good source of information about search engine optimization, you will learn that a site needs to be well maintained in order to rank well. A site that is ignored will always decrease in rankings and traffic. Sometimes those decreases can be dramatic – usually they are merely gradual.

“This is a problem that we run into in dentistry – so many dentists are really unaware of the requirements of good SEO. The problem is magnified by charlatans in the industry who put out false information. I’m worried you’re going to be like the homeowner who moves into a house with beautiful landscaping and then says to the landscaping company that everything looks great – you don’t need them any more. The reason you have a well-performing website is because of the continual work we are doing on it. You are lucky. We get approached by new clients all the time who purchase a dental practice with a non-performing website, and then we get hired to rescue it.

“For example, part of the reason for the excellent performance of your website is the regular blogging that is done. We do two posts a month, and each time a post is written, the search engines are pinged, and they return to crawl the blog post, and their attention is drawn to the website. Each blog post is written to engage outside visitors. Topics are chosen to be effective in attracting attention. We hire writers and expend considerable resources training them how to do this – to write posts that draw the attention of the search engines to the blog, that reinforce your key search terms, and that keep up the reputation of the website in the eyes of Google and other search engines as being a lively, interesting, and well-maintained site.

“In addition, there are constant changes going on in the search engines. Just last month, Google rolled out its Penguin 2.0 update. In response to that update, we have had to go through and make changes to what are called footer links throughout all the websites of our clients. We just got through, a week or two ago, making those changes to your website. Prior to that, there was the Penguin 1.0 update in April 2012 which caused drastic changes in what we were doing – new blogging systems and a greater emphasis on quality blogs were needed to maintain the rankings of our clients. A number of months ago, there were changes that needed to be made to schema.org coding on the sites in order for our clients to rank in Google’s new maps search. Just this past month, there were additional changes to that coding – new coding that is the new “best practice”, and this has not yet been installed on your website, but it is scheduled for this next month. Mobile search is changing the whole landscape and is gradually overtaking desktop search, and you need expertise to be able to address that. Facebook is on the verge of launching its new “Graph Search.” We are currently beta testing that, and this promises to make great changes to how people search for dentists. You simply cannot stand still and expect to keep up with the changing world of Internet technology, search engine performance, and Internet marketing. One of the reasons I love doing what I am doing now rather than practicing dentistry as I did for over twenty years is the challenge of keeping up – I love that. Yes, dentistry is changing. But the Internet is changing more quickly and much more dramatically. In dentistry, you have new technology that is added to old techniques. You could keep up with it by doing maybe 15-20 hours of continuing education a year. In Internet Marketing, every week you need to be brought up to speed with what has happened. Just this morning, Google rolled out a new slider bar to display the results of map searches, which has given new prominence to the number of reviews for each search result. Our link-building program has totally changed from what it was just 9 months ago. What we did then now will actually cause penalties for our clients, so we’ve had to totally revamp our systems.

“It is difficult for dental practices to thrive these days without some investment in marketing. Well done organic search engine optimization is one of the smartest ways to spend your marketing dollar. While print and broadcast media return a 10:1 return on investment, well-done search engine optimization, which is what has been done for your practice, returns anywhere from 20:1 to 40:1. Is it really possible to get the return without spending the money? I would not recommend trying it. Can you imagine how successful you could be on the dental lecture circuit if you could discover a formula for investing no money in Internet marketing and continuing to reap great returns?

“Let me share an example of a client who tried to do what you are contemplating. Here is a graph of the website traffic of one client:

Performance graph #10

“The graph shows unique visitors to the website plotted against time.

“This is a client who had what seemed to be a pretty good website maintained by a leading dental website company. We took over management of their website in June 2008. By August, 2009, you can see that we were able to more than quadruple their traffic, from just under 200 unique visitors per month to almost 1000. Soon after that, they decided to discontinue their services with us. Traffic then began a steep decline. It bounced back up. I think they did some other marketing to drive traffic to the website – I think it might have been radio ads, and they were able to get traffic back up to 400 unique visitors per month, but then it began to decline again. In August, 2010, they hired us back. Upon doing that, we were able to get the traffic to climb sharply and continue to grow. But it wasn’t until April, 2011, that we were able to reach the previous peak achieved back in September 2009. That was a year and a half gap. If they had just stayed with it, who knows how much growth in traffic we would have been able to obtain for them.

“Furthermore, one more thing we do for you by doing the excellent maintenance that we do, is that we continue to improve the performance of your website. We took over the website for your practice in late July, 2010. At the time, it was getting about 80 unique visitors per month. From August through the end of 2010, with our work on it, it averaged 123 unique visitors per month. The website at the end of the year was fully launched. Many dentists could make the mistake of thinking it was done, and that they wouldn’t need any further investment in it. However, in 2011, traffic more than tripled to an average of 448 unique visitors per month. In 2012, with our continued maintenance behind the scenes, that was up to 724 unique visitors per month. So far, in 2013, you have averaged 885 unique visitors per month. And that is in spite of the upheavals of the Panda and Penguin updates that have caused a general decrease in traffic among a great many dental websites. So we navigated you through those and not only avoided the traffic crash that other dental websites experienced but actually have continued to increase your traffic.

“You are fortunate to have inherited a very well-performing website. Don’t make the mistake of cutting off the very ingredients that have made it so. I’ll be happy to talk to you personally and answer any questions about fees and what has been done and what is being done.”

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