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 By Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, Editor September 12, 2007 - Tip #294 
 Contact Dr. Gailmard | Subscribe | Archives | Print this issue Visit: optometricmanagement.com 
Practice Websites, Part 1

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Additional Information

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All eye care practices should have a website because without one, the practice appears to be out of date.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:
  • Consumers frequently perform a search via Google or other search engines for terms like "eye care" followed by the name of the city and state they are located in. Without a web site, your practice will not likely pop up as an option in the results. With a website, your practice name will appear with a link allowing the consumer to move directly to your site with one click of the mouse.
  • A practice website facilitates word of mouth referrals from existing patients. Consider the patient who loves your services and wants to tell a co-worker about it. Let's say he does not have your business card, but he knows that you are called The Eyes Have It Eye Center. He types that name into a Google search window, but doesn't find a hit for your practice because you have no website. This is not a good impression for the co-worker and the referral may be delayed or lost. On the other hand, an instant hit on Google and a jump to your website reveals a list of your services and specialties, photos of the office and plenty of assistance with how to make an appointment. The co-worker easily remembers your practice web address (called a URL) and he can revisit your site on his own anytime.
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.
  • Practice name, location and contact information. Be sure to include an email address in addition to a phone number and fax number. You are communicating with people who use the Internet. But be sure someone checks that email mailbox every day and responds immediately. Email is meant to be fast.
  • A map of the area showing how to get to the office.
  • Information about your services.
  • About the doctor and staff.
  • Photos are very important, of doctors, staff members, instruments and the optical area.
  • Insurance plans accepted and methods of payment.
  • Promotions and events in the practice.
  • Links to other websites of interest about eye care.
  • Articles about eye care topics.
  • Animated educational videos about eye care topics
  • Office forms (such as patient history and registration) that can be completed and submitted online or printed by the patient and completed before the visit.
  • Online appointment scheduling.
  • Online ordering of replacement contact lenses.
  • Virtual frame inventory with a virtual try-on feature.
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,

Read Past Tips Neil B. Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO
Editor, Optometric Management Tip of the Week

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Dr. Gailmard offers consulting services to eye care professionals through Prima Eye Group; information is available at www.primaeyegroup.com.
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