Write your website part 3: Winning wordson 3rd June 2019
Kathy Nathan considers the main points to follow when writing content for your practice’s website
You and your website are only as good as your words (or copy, or content, as they say in the marketing industry). Here, I provide tips and techniques to make your website writing go smoothly and to maximise your website readability for your target audience.
Before you write a single word for your website, review the General Dental Council (GDC) pdf on advertising guidance available at www.gdc-uk.org/professionals/standards/team. In essence, ensure your content is legal, decent, truthful, honest, current and accurate.
Include your GDC registration number, your qualification(s) and country/ies from which they are derived, the name, geographic address, email address and telephone number of your dental service, the GDC’s address and contact details or a link to the GDC website, details of the practice complaints procedure and contact details for the relevant NHS (or equivalent) body or Dental Complaints Service (for private treatment) if patients are not satisfied and the date the website was last updated.
Use clear understandable language, backs claims with facts and provide balanced, factual information. Avoid ambiguous statements, statements or claims intended or likely to create unjustified expectations about achievable results and state whether your practice is NHS, mixed or wholly private.
Highlight extra training taken to achieve competence in services offered beyond primary dental qualification scope and only use the title ‘specialist’ or imply specialist status if you are registered on a GDC specialist list. Otherwise use the terms ‘special interest in…’, ‘experienced in…’ or ‘practice limited to…’ where this is the case regarding particular forms of treatment. Do not imply further qualifications by listing memberships or fellowships of professional associations, societies or honorary degrees in an abbreviated form. Do not compare the skills or qualifications of dental professionals on your website with those of other dental professionals.
Ensure product endorsements are from you only, specific to patient needs and verified by evidence, and that promotional offers are subject to a satisfactory patient medical history, assessment, suitability, explanation of all options and consent.
Your brief is the information you require to write your website content. Confirm your ‘go live’ website launch date and your deadlines for submitting or uploading content. Clarify your objectives and criteria for success, eg to get people to make enquiries, book appointments and increase sales by X% etc. Gather together your raw material: practice news clippings and images, graphics, links, market research insights, patient feedback and testimonials, team member CVs, quotes and interviews etc. Evaluate competitors’ websites and note current dental industry norms regarding style and format.
Choose your ‘tone of voice’. Make sure your vocabulary is appropriate to your practice and your target audience. Think what you would say if you spoke directly to your ideal patient. Be conversational by using ‘I/we/our/you/your’ first- and second-person pronouns. Using ‘we/our’ expresses inclusive and collective sentiments and conveys a sense of teamwork and belonging. For a more formal register, use ‘[name]/they/their/them’ third person pronouns to convey authority.
Adopt different mindsets in order to generate ideas. First, be creative. Then, be realistic about making your ideas work. Finally, be critical of your own work and raise objections in order to refine and edit your content.
When brainstorming, particularly for sections with longer content, eg clinician biographies and descriptions of your services, answer the questions, Who? (introduction, name/definition). When? Where? Why? How? (development, information). And what? (conclusion, why is this information important).
Always answer your readers’ most important question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Identify your readers’ problems and the step/s (call to actions / CTAs) they need to take toward solutions, eg to call or email your practice for an appointment.
Find your writing groove, first by procrastinating with a bit of ritual delay and scene setting activity – but only briefly! Gather your kit and find a suitable place with peace, quiet, privacy and amenities etc.
Convince yourself to start by minimising the length and challenge of the task, ‘I’ll just get it out of the way. It will only take half an hour.’ Then, write. Be creative and don’t censor or edit yourself. Write for at least five minutes but longer if you feel inclined. When you are tired, hungry, in need of a screen break, etc., stop. Down tools, close your laptop, step away from your desk, do something different or sleep on it. Then return to your not-so-blank screen or sheet of paper and continue, refreshed.
Ensure readers understand why they should be at your (and not someone else’s) website. Establish your brand identity with a clear, compelling, single-minded main message in your first few words, keeping your unique selling proposition (USP) in mind. Use substantiation (proof points) and carefully crafted copy to turn potentially negative insights or objections your readers may have, eg ‘expensive implants’, into positives, eg ‘transformational tooth replacement for people who deserve the best’.
Site usability and readibility
Make the main things people want to do on your website obvious and easy. Write with your platform in mind; for example smartphones only show the first 35 words of website content so you need to make them count. Aim to make your content memorable, effective and delightful.
Consider search engine optimisation (SEO) to enhance your website ranking but avoid spamming or overuse of key words, intuitive search terms, niche terms and ‘power words’ in your content, eg quick, easy, guarantee, free, sales.
Assume media-inundated readers have very short attention spans. Support scanning. Write in shorter bite-sized ‘chunks’. Each page must stand alone with clear site ID, page name, sections (primary navigation), local navigation, ‘you are here’ indicators and easy search capacity.
Enhance your layout and break up pages with clear visual hierarchies: put your most important content in large, bold headings at the top of the page. Place headings closer to their relevant paragraphs than previous paragraphs. Break up big blocks of copy with shorter paragraphs, subheadings, images and quotes. Reduce sentence length by including sub clauses (added with conjunctions) and vary sentence length throughout your content. Use punctuation to shorten sentences and start sentences with conjunctions for added effect.
Use bulleted lists and highlighted key terms in moderation. Omit needless instructions and words. Avoid big shouty capitals and hysterical punctuation. Minimise small print and make sure you get your grammar, spelling, punctuation and vernacular right.
Use poetry deliberately: patterns, groups of three words, rhyme, assonance (rhyming vowel sounds) and alliteration (words which with start with the same letter or sound. Use the active voice by placing subjects first, ‘Your teeth (subject) need treats (object)’ is better than ‘treats are needed by your teeth’. Employ ‘elegant variation’, using synonyms to avoid the same words appearing in close proximity within your content.
Check the ease of reading of your website content. If you are using Microsoft Word, the program offers a ‘Show readability statistics’ within the ‘Spelling and Grammar’ options, which displays information about the reading level of the document. Scores go from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the easier your content is to read. A score of 30 suggests your material is appropriate for university graduate readers. Average scores are 60. Scores of 75 and over represent comfort for tabloid readers – said to be an ideal score for website content.
Editing and proof reading
If using a proof reader, select a typical reader – ideally a native speaker of the language you are writing in – and ask for specific feedback.
First ‘macro edit’ your work to check your message, structure, introduction, conclusion and suitability of each page or section of your website writing for your intended audience. Then ‘micro edit’ to correct style, grammar, spelling, punctuation, accuracy and references. Fact check your content via internet searches. Check your spelling is culturally accurate for your particular audience; make sure you select English for UK (vs English for USA) option on Microsoft Word spellcheck. Other technological checks (such as /www.grammarly.com) may be useful to correct your grammar when writing online.
Most people make and miss mistakes at the beginning and end of documents. Use a ruler to only see what you’re reading and read backwards line by line. Print your work out and read it aloud to catch errors or get someone else to read your work while you note corrections, a two-person task. Best of all, sleep on it, or at least take a break and return to your work with fresh eyes.
Above all, make it easy for your ideal patients to read all about you and your practice.
Dr Kathy Nathan
BDS BSC DGDPUK MGDSRCS
Dr Kathy Nathan is the founder and director of ‘Writing for dentists. She provides extensive writing and training services for UK dental professionals. A published author, speaker and teacher, Kathy has over three decades of award winning experience and qualifications in dentistry and communication. ‘Write your own Website’ articles are excerpts adapted from her book of the same title.