Optometric Management Tip # 294   -   Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Practice Websites, Part 1

A recent survey of large optometric practices (greater than $1 million gross revenue) revealed that 29% do not have a website. I was surprised that the percentage was that high and it prompted me to appeal to all eye care providers who do not have a website and those who have one that's only very basic. I'll also offer some food for thought for practices that already host a site.

Why have a website?

All eye care practices should have a website because without one, the practice appears to be out of date. A website offers many strong business benefits, but the mere absence of a site sends a very negative signal. Today, strong businesses, large and small have a site because the Internet is such a widely used business tool and websites are so easy and inexpensive.

Many eye care providers think that the Internet is so big that it won't be effective in attracting new patients to their practice in the local environment. That assumption is incorrect for a few reasons: Beyond the marketing power of attracting new patients, your website is a valuable tool for established patients who need more information. Often more convenient than the phone book, many people use the Internet to look up phone numbers or addresses. In fact, most local communities have yellow pages online and will list your practice there and allow you to include a link to your website URL. See below for features you may want to include on your website.

What should be in a website?

In its most basic form a practice website is like an electronic brochure, but it can also be much more than that. It should tell a visitor the key features and benefits of your practice. It's a marketing piece that allows you a great opportunity to showcase your office. Spend some time writing short and interesting statements about each aspect of your practice. Consider these elements for your website design. Domain names

Tune in next week for some tips on how to get help designing and publishing your practice website, but in the meantime, here is some homework for you. Select and reserve your domain name. A domain name is a unique name that includes the .com or the .net part of an email address or website URL address. It should be related to the name you use for your practice, which could be the doctor's last name or other practice name.

I strongly believe that you should have your own domain name and not add on to another entity that might host your website. Your practice needs its own identity, not that of another company. For example, if your practice name is Migilicutty Eye Care, you might like to own the rights to Migilicutty.com, or MigilicuttyEyeCare.com. That would mean your website could use www.migilicutty.com and your email address could be DrM@migilicutty.com.

It's very easy to own a domain name, or actually you rent it on an ongoing basis for about $10 per year. The difficult part is finding the domain name that you want, now that millions of names are already taken. If you have an unusual name, the one you want may be available. If you have a more common name, you may want to consider alternative domain name suffixes. While .com may be the most popular and most desirable for many people, you may have to go to .net or .org or .biz or others to get the name your want. These suffixes may be slightly more difficult for people to recall. There are also country codes that can make a suffix unique.

To check if a domain name is available, use the Internet to visit the website of a company that registers and hosts domain names. You can perform a Google search for "domain name" and you'll see many options, such as networksolutions.com or godaddy.com. These websites will do an instant check on any names you wish and offer alternatives if yours are not available. Be creative. If MigilicuttyEyeCare.com is taken, MigilicuttyEye.com may not be.

Once you find a domain name you like, get out your Visa card and reserve it. Later, you can use that name to host your website.

Next week, I will list a few website design firms to help our readers make an informed selection. Please send me an email if you know of a company that should be included.

Best wishes for continued success,

Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Chief Optometric Editor, Optometric Management