We’ve all been to at least 10 bad websites in the history of our internet usage. They’re everywhere, they’re terrible, and they can happen to anyone. But the problem with bad websites isn’t just how they look, but how they function (or don’t function), and, most important, how they serve (or don’t serve) the business they’re representing.
Veterinary practices definitely suffer from this problem, often because they’re too busy to build a website, write content for the website, update that content, and make sure it’s responsive and optimized for search engines. That’s a lot of work, so it’s understandable if you end up with a website that’s mediocre at best, or useless at worst.
But your animal hospital deserves better! Things don’t have to be this way. Once you know why your website is failing you can start figuring out how to fix it, so you can get it up and working and delivering results like it should.
Below, we’ve compiled some of the most common issues holding back veterinary websites and stifling their potential for greatness.
1. It Takes Forever to Load
Patience is a virtue, but it’s one thing that most internet users don’t have. Today, 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. If it takes more than 3 seconds to load fully, about 40% of users will abandon the page. As ridiculous as that seems, even just a couple of seconds of loading time can feel much longer (you know what we’re talking about). Unfortunately, we can’t make people more patient; instead, we need to make our websites faster. So if you want people to spend more than a few seconds on your website, you’ll need to make sure it’s loading quickly and smoothly.
2. Not Mobile-Friendly
A responsive, mobile-friendly website is essential for today’s animal hospitals. A majority of people visiting your website will likely be doing so from their phones, not their desktop computers. In addition, since 2015, Google has started penalizing websites that are not mobile-friendly. In 2016, it went further and announced it would be strengthening the ranking signals for mobile-friendly websites. Not having a mobile-friendly website means missing out on organic search rankings, traffic to your site, and, most important, more revenue for your practice.
When your website is optimized for mobile devices, it’s easy to navigate and gives visitors the ability to get the information they need quickly and contact your practice with just a screen tap. The last thing you want to do is make navigating your website via smart phone, iPhone, or iPad a needlessly cumbersome task.
3. No Calls to Action
If your website doesn’t have any calls to action (or any that are easily visible, anyway), why have a website at all? The call to action is a critical piece of your website. It does exactly what its name implies–encourages visitors to your site to do various things like “Call Now,” “Make an Appointment,” “Learn More,” and “Meet Our Team.” Not only are you asking people to carry out certain actions, you’re helping them navigate your website and make decisions that could turn them into a client.
Without CTAs, you’re not giving people any incentive to know you or establish a connection with your practice.
4. Confusing Layout/Navigation
Quality websites are designed to follow the natural movements of our eyes by providing the most important information where our eyes are most likely to settle. They also organize content and imagery into digestible sections that guide the viewer from point A to point B, and so on. A poor layout will make it difficult for a person to know where to look on the page, and the resulting confusion will likely prompt them to leave your site altogether. A cluttered navigation bar and a lack/proliferation of buttons and links can also muddle the user experience and discourage people from staying on your site.
5. Contact Information is MIA
If your practice’s phone number is not at the top and bottom of every page on your website, you should, uh, probably fix that. Quick. Because you want people to contact you, start a conversation, and initiate a relationship with your animal hospital. Placing your contact information right where everyone can see it says, “We want to hear from you! Call us now!” Hiding it or not including it at all can make your website (and practice) seem uninviting, which will discourage people from trying to get in touch with you.
6. Site is Never Updated…Ever
An out-of-date website is a sad thing, much like an old, well-loved armchair that has been abandoned on the side of the highway and left to the unforgivable vagaries of nature. Please, don’t leave your website to wither into obscurity and become a relic of the past, moldering away in the dusty, cobweb-shrouded corners of the internet. Websites need to grow and flourish with their practices and always provide their visitors with information that is fresh, up-to-date, and optimized for search engines. Make sure any team members that have left the practice are no longer included on the website, and review the content on your website regularly to ensure it is accurate, useful, and lines up with your overarching message.
An out-of-date website tells people that you don’t really care about your online presence, and this can reflect poorly on your practice as a whole.
7. Stock Photos Everywhere
One of the things veterinary practices need to do in their marketing is communicate warmth, compassion, trust, and accessibility to their clients. While certain, high-quality stock photos can make your website attractive, using generic pictures of models in white coats who are obviously not part of your team can be off-putting. Pet owners want to see your team. They want to know who you are, and put faces to the names.
Outfitting your website with custom photos of your team members and practice provides a much more authentic, friendly experience. It gives your animal hospital the opportunity to show its personality and truly shine. This, in turn, makes your website (and your practice) much more approachable.
8. Not Capturing Any Data
How well is your website performing? Do you know how to gauge this performance? Does your website have the means to capture data at all? It’s important to assess your website’s performance regularly to see how it’s benefiting your practice and holding up to the competition. Every animal hospital website should include a Google Analytics plugin, forms, email sign-ups, and other means of capturing and measuring data that can then be evaluated.
If you’re paying for a website, you should be getting your money’s worth. You should be able to know how many people are visiting your website every month, how well it’s ranking locally, how often people are calling and making appointments through your website, and much more. These stats will tell you if your website is helping you bring in more clients or just holding you back.
9. Poor Content, Not Enough Content, or Too Much Content
Too much content on a website can frighten away even the most avid of readers, and nobody’s going to read a monolithic block of text. They just don’t have that kind of time, and it’s hard on the eyes. While it’s understandable that you would want your website to be an informative place, there is a such thing as too much, and it all but guarantees that no one will want to read your content at all.
On the flip side, too little content can also be a problem. Veterinary websites need plenty of information-rich content for SEO, in addition to giving pet owners the information they’re looking for. The key is to strike a balance and include content that is truly essential for both your practice and your clients, while also abiding by best practices to help with ranking.
Of course, poor content will also harm your website. This includes copy that is badly written and riddled with grammar errors, copy that is written in an inappropriate tone (too formal or too flippant), or dry, stilted copy that sounds like it was borrowed from thousands of other websites (because it was).
10. Keyword Stuffing
Some websites employ keyword stuffing (yes, even now) in an attempt to boost SEO, but this practice is severely frowned upon, both by Google (which doles out penalties for keyword stuffing) and website visitors alike. Keyword stuffing is very obvious and will make your content virtually unreadable. In addition to being used in visible content, this spammy technique can also be found in a website’s meta tags or backlink anchor text. Keyword stuffing is basically cheating and can get your website into trouble.
Here’s an example:
Our animal hospital in Steubenville is your premier animal hospital in Steubenville. Our veterinarians in Steubenville are dedicated to providing the highest-quality veterinary care to Steubenville, Rosewood, and Parker City. We are a full-service animal hospital in Steubenville offering preventive care, dental care, surgery, diagnostics, and more.
11. Auto-play Media
Web users love videos. What they don’t love is clicking over to a website and having a video and/or cheesy music playing the second the page has loaded. It’s obnoxious, disruptive, and kind of tacky. Allow visitors to your website to play videos or other media at their own discretion. It’s better to make your website interactive and quick to respond to the user’s actions, rather than have it do its own thing regardless of whether the visitor wants it to.
Auto-play is distracting and can deter people from wanting to stay on your website. This can hurt website traffic and lower conversions.
12. No Blog, or Blog is Out-of-Date
It’s not easy for veterinarians and/or practice owners to maintain a blog, but we highly recommend having one for several reasons. First, a website blog is prime real estate for rich, informative content that boosts your search engine ranking. Second, a well-kept blog provides visitors with useful, interesting, and relevant information. Third, you can share your blog posts on social media to help direct more traffic to your website.
Many practices with successful blogs use them to provide tips, recommendations, recall updates, and seasonal advisories to help pet owners take better care of their four-legged family members. But you can also use the blog to introduce team members, share inspiring patient stories, and make your overall website more personal and engaging.
Want to know more about building a beautiful, responsive website that can help you grow your practice? Contact the InTouch team at 800-493-9003 for more information and a free digital analysis!