By Glenn LombardiOnline marketing is playing a more and more important role in dental practices and is a great way to generate new patients. It provides cost-effective tools that are far-reaching, readily available, and easily measurable. The problem is, once a website is launched or an Internet marketing program is started, it is left by the wayside all too frequently — untouched, underperforming, and ineffective. Don’t allow a few wrong turns in the process of building your Web presence hinder its success. Here are three common Internet marketing mistakes practices should avoid ...Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong website provider You may think anyone can build you a website, and while there’s some truth to that, the finished product may not be the website that is right for your practice’s needs and goals. Make sure you do your homework before you select a website provider for your practice. Do they have knowledge of the dental industry? How many dentists have they worked with? Do they offer additional online marketing services or only websites? All of these questions should be considered before deciding on a company to take the reins of your Web presence. Choose a company that understands dental marketing trends ... one that has a proven track record of designing, developing, and launching professional, attractive, and effective websites for health-care practices ... and one that can walk you through each step of building your Web presence from website launch and management to search marketing and social media. Mistake #2: Cutting corners on initial website design When it comes to designing and developing your practice website, launching a second-rate site just to save a few bucks is never the right decision. Since your website is often the first impression a new patient has of your practice, you don’t want your poorly designed site to send the message: “We’re not up to speed.” Today, it’s possible to build a website that is tailored to your specific practice marketing needs for less than $2,000, and when built correctly, you can easily get an ROI in less than a year that surpasses the amount of money you put into building your site. Today, patients expect their health-care providers to have a website that is engaging, easy to navigate, and relevant to their dental needs. If first-time visitors or referred patients perceive your site to be outdated, unattractive, difficult to browse, or not having well-conceived content, they will leave as quickly as they came. First impressions are truly important.Mistake #3: Failure to adopt new strategiesThe world of online marketing is constantly changing. Search engines are always updating their algorithms, new online communication channels are emerging, technology is shifting, and what’s leading edge today may be outdated tomorrow. Just as you can’t have a car without an engine, likewise you can’t build a website and expect it to attract new patients without an online marketing strategy to support it. Getting new patients from the Internet involves much more than just having a website. It includes a wide range of integrated online marketing techniques and solutions that can increase your search engine ranking, improve your reputation, increase treatment awareness, and generate referrals. Search engine marketing, social networking, programs to generate positive patient reviews, blogging, and Web-based patient education are all important and highly effective ways to attract and retain patients online.The success of your practice website and online marketing strategy boils down to two things: your choice of a website and online marketing provider and how committed you are to keeping your Web presence in tune with the latest Internet marketing trends. With a better grasp of managing your Web presence and an experienced website provider leading the way, you can expect a steady flow of new patients to your practice who found you on the Internet. Author bioGlenn Lombardi is president of Officite, LLC, the No. 1 provider of websites and Internet presence management strategies for the dental community. Officite has built more than 6,000 websites that have generated hundreds of thousands of appointment requests since 2002. To learn more, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.