Today, there are nearly 3 billion people online, and when they want information about a product or service, the Internet is the go-to place to research and make buying decisions. As customers shift their attention online, veterinary clinics around the country have also shifted their focus. This has required new marketing strategies as clinics begin to understand how their customers interact in the digital world.
Simply put, the dog owners that visit your clinic are the same people who consume endless content online. For this reason, it’s imperative that you design a website to publish valuable information and content that will keep your customers engaged and coming back for more (while becoming loyal customers).
Your potential customers are online for a variety of reasons. To prove it, the public relations firm Ruder Finn® conducted a survey asking — why, exactly, do people go online? They categorized the reason people go online into the following seven buckets:
- To Learn (research or to keep informed about a subject or product)
- To Have Fun (be entertained by content online)
- To Socialize (connect with others, share ideas, join a community of peers)
- To Express Yourself (be creative and/or have their voice heard by an audience)
- To Advocate (influence others, advocating a cause)
- To Conduct Business (work, sell products or services)
- To Shop (purchase/compare products or services)
Their survey uncovered something interesting: “More than twice as many people go online to socialize (82%) than to do business (39%) or to shop (31%)."
From these findings, it’s obvious that the design of your website (and the content you produce for it) should revolve around the top three reasons people are online: to learn, have fun, socialize.
What Are the Goals of Your Website?
You may want your audience to use your website to buy pet products or schedule a vet appointment, but there are other goals for your website, including:
- Open new markets/locations for your business to thrive
- Provide thought leadership
- Boost brand awareness
- Improve customer retention
- Lower customer service costs
- Gain new customers
- And, of course, increase revenue
Educate Your Audience!
Your website should help establish your brand as an authoritative voice in the veterinary service industry. Work to educate your audience, and ask yourself, “What is my audience actively searching for?”
- Pet behaviors, clinical signs
- Best food options
- Preventive care
- Short-term & long-term care
- Emergencies, procedure information
If your audience needs help overcoming obstacles related to pet ownership, how can you assist them? What factors influence their decisions on animal care?
- Veterinary expertise
- Proximity to their home
- Good reviews from other pet owners
- Better pricing than the competition
Note: Avoid the temptation to hold things too close to the "vets"!
Often, business owners worry about giving away their “industry-secrets” or knowledge for free. This is a misguided decision. You must establish a trusting online audience before reaping the benefits of a successful website. By choosing not to publish valuable or helpful information for your audience due to fear of giving away too much information, you are missing out on potential loyal customers, and giving your competition an edge in the market. If your voice isn’t being heard, another brand is barking loud and clear.
Which Platforms & CMS Should You Use?
Choosing the correct platform(s) and content management system (CMS) can be a difficult decision for those just beginning to design a website. So, to start, let’s break down the differences between the two:
Content Management System
A content management system is the tool you will be using to house all the information and/or content for your website. There are a few CMS options for your website, including:
Depending on your choice of CMS, you will have the same fundamental control of your website, with options such as:
- Simplified management of your website (and blog)
- Multiple people/staff members can edit or add:
- Maintain branding, feel, navigation, and user experience based on audience preference
- Control of basic SEO, site-level tasks
Content management systems are NOT a tool for analytics, email, social - This is where platforms come in.
Specific platforms can be used to optimize your website’s performance, or gather analytics to improve future strategies. Platform options for analytics, email, and social media management include:
Social Media Management:
Use the CMS and Platform options listed above to help develop your website and marketing strategies for your veterinary website. If used correctly, you can streamline complex processes, from content creation and development to lead nurturing and sales.
How Should You Structure Your Website?
If you’re just beginning to design your website, there are a few best practices to consider when structuring the layout. On your website’s home page:
- Make the navigation easy to locate and use (we recommend having 3-8 elements across the top, not including “utility” links like social media)
- Important information should be displayed boldly
- Highlight your most popular or most requested content
The rest of your website should follow a similar pattern. For example, consider this basic structure:
- Home page
- Blog (host this on your domain, not on a separate website!)
- About Us (Services, Staff)
- Contact Us (Locations)
- Client Information (Forms)
How Should You Structure Your Web Pages?
Each web page will need to be created in a way that offers concise information about your company or industry. Every webpage should have:
- Link to home page (using your logo)
- Address, phone number, hours of operation
- External links to social media pages
- Internal links to other pages within your website
Your web pages might cover a wide-range of subjects and information, but they should follow the same best practices:
- Concisely explain the benefits of the page
- Create a clear call-to-action (CTA), such as:
- Download a guide
- Read an article
- Watch a video
- Schedule an appointment
- Reduce excessive choices, other distractions
- Limit required form fields
- Make it valuable! (Would anyone want to share this page with a friend?)
How Should You Optimize a Website for User Experience?
What if you’ve already created a website? How can you improve your website to drive more traffic and bring in new customers to your clinic? Basic optimization strategies should be a priority during and after the website’s initial launch. There are a few simple best practices to follow, including:
- Each page of your website should be self-evident and provide value.
- Content should provide context on various subjects, but shouldn’t overwhelm the reader.
- Respect users’ time. Attention spans have become more limited in our digital age. Get to the point quickly!
- Eliminate small talk or fluff – give the people what they want!
- Start with providing bite-sized information and iterate in more detail with future content.
Veterinary Web Design Considerations
People often get caught trying to add unneeded design elements to their websites, in hopes that something flashy might gather more attention (and traffic). Don’t waste your time developing a website that is overly complicated or difficult to digest. Keep it simple:
- Ensure that all content has a legible font and proper size for the copy
- Use at least 1 image, graphic, and/or video per page, but don’t overwhelm the user
- Use complimentary branding colors and keep images related to your audience
Mobile Design for Your Website
We’ve witnessed an unprecedented growth in mobile technology over the past few years. In fact, more people will own a phone in 2020 than those who have electricity. Because of how we use our phones to take in new information and research topics that interest us, you must consider designing your website for mobile.
Using Mobile for Search (source: Google)
In the past two years, mobile surpassed desktop in all the following areas:
- Number of users
- Number of Google searches
- Time spent consuming digital media
You don’t need to redesign your entire website or create an expensive mobile app to provide content for mobile users. Instead, consider using the mobile tools already at your disposal, such as Instagram® or even SnapChat®. These networks allow you to use their format and create any type of content you want under their guidelines, and are both great for creating engaging, visual content that’s easy to consume and share with others.
Your audience should be able to use their mobile devices to read your blog posts, research veterinary information, schedule an appointment, etc. You can ensure your mobile-friendly by keeping content on your website organized, up-to-date, relevant, and easy to read. You can also use free tools that test your website for mobile-friendliness, such as:
These simple best practices will help make your website design user- and mobile-friendly. Keep the user in mind at each step of the development process, and when you maintain and update your website moving forward.
Learn more about online marketing for veterinary practices: NexGardClinic.com
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