Imagine a potential new patient is entering your practice for the first time. Now, imagine the waiting room is a complete mess. There is no front desk to go to when they enter, no receptionist waiting to greet them and tell them where to go. The room is filled with unnecessary items and clutter – so much so that the patient can’t even navigate through the mess to find your office. What would they do? They would turn around, walk out that door, and find another dentist immediately.

Now thankfully, most dental practices have clean, visually appealing, and easy to navigate offices. But the same cannot be said for many of their websites.

Your website is a direct reflection of your practice – whether you like it or not – and if potential patients don’t like what they see or cannot figure out how to navigate it, they will quickly find another dentist with a better site. To avoid losing potential patients, follow these five tips for creating an effective website for your dentistry:

1. Keep it short and sweet.  People tend to skim through content rather than read it in full, so avoid lengthy paragraphs of text. Instead, keep web content concise, interesting, and easy to scan through. Highlight the most important points on your site by utilizing subheadings and bullet points.

2. Make it easy to navigate. Keep the layout of your website simple and user friendly. Try to limit the number of tabs on your homepage, and make sure they are clearly labeled so visitors can quickly find and access the information they’re looking for. Avoid inserting too many graphics or unnecessary text boxes, as this can be distracting to visitors.

3. Utilize SEO strategies. Search engine optimization involves tailoring your website to make it appear higher in a list of search results generated by search engines, like Google and Bing. There are hundreds of different SEO strategies, but the easiest to do on your own is to utilize keywords throughout your website. Keywords are the words that someone would type into a search engine to find your page. Consider which words are important to your industry and try to incorporate them naturally into your site. At the same time, don’t stuff your page full of keywords; Google has caught on to this tactic and will punish websites for it.

4. Make it mobile friendly. Many people access the Internet from their smartphones these days, so if your webpage isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll miss out on a huge opportunity to attract visitors. If you’ve hired a third party to create your website, communicate to them that this is a necessary component.

5. Simplify sign ups or forms. The goal of your website should be to convert visitors into customers (or patients). To do so, you must provide a form or sign-up page on your website for them to fill out to receive more information from you. It is key, however, that you keep this form very simple. If there are more than three or four boxes to fill out, many people will skip over them.

When people are looking for a new dentist, they either ask a friend for a referral, or search for a dentist online. Don’t let a poorly made website be the reason you miss out on a huge potential customer base. Follow these five tips to ensure your website is effective in converting first time visitors into lifelong patients.