Good. Bad. High. Low. Do you know how your orthodontic website stands up to scrutiny? A recurring theme is that many doctors don’t know what’s going on with their digital marketing efforts. Nor are they familiar with the art or science of the Internet in promoting their practices.

There is a correlation between appealing website design (the art) and Internet metrics (the science). The best websites combine both, and earn the approval of both human visitors and search bot visitors. And Google Analytics reports give clues as to how your website measures up.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tracking service that compiles an assortment of detailed reports about how your website is performing. The statistics include how many people visit the site, what search engine they use, what search terms they use to find the site, how long they stay, and the site’s most frequently visited pages.

The setup takes only minutes for your webmaster to set up and is done by adding a simple piece of asynchronous JavaScript to your HTML code that loads when someone visits your site. The reports show data for the last 30 days, and the numbers are always current. You can access the reports almost as easily as you check your e-mail, and quickly save them in PDF format for archiving.

Google Analytics can be an informative marketing tool when interpreted correctly. It especially helps to determine whether a website design, recent design update, or Internet marketing program is working or not in the eyes of a consumer visiting your site.

In orthodontics, I find many practices do not have analytics set up, and if they do, they often fail to dig into the data, thus missing golden opportunities to optimize their site. Every time you change the copy, structure, or design of your website, analytics can be used to document results. By understanding the basics of Google Analytics, you can understand how your website stacks up in ways that your competitors often won’t.

As of June 2012, Google Analytics also offers mobile statistics, which allow you to determine how many smartphones and tablet devices are accessing your site. It allows you to analyze the consumer mobile experience based on your site design, or lack thereof. It also shows a breakdown of site visits between mobile and desktop devices.

The Art of Orthodontic Website Design

While there is no empirical data for orthodontic websites as a specific niche, there are benchmarks that I see on a regular basis in orthodontic website design. So what does your target audience want from your orthodontic website? Here’s a short list:

  • Who is the doctor?
  • Where is the office located?
  • How can I contact the office?
  • What treatments are available?
  • How much does treatment cost (and is there financing)?
  • Why should I choose this office over another one?
  • What can I expect during my first visit to the office?

Now, you might be thinking, “I’m golden; I have all that stuff on my website.” You may indeed have those bases covered, but how is the information presented? Is it obvious? Better yet, does it jump off the page? An engaging site design grabs the visitor and entices them to delve further into the site.

When a prospective new patient finds your site for the first time, how many of the above questions are one click away? And is the site design user-friendly or is it a scavenger hunt? If any of your content is more than one click away from your Home page, it is probably getting lost in the shuffle.

This is where the art meets the science. It can be difficult to strike a balance between aesthetics and functionality; Google Analytics helps you figure out if you’re on the right path or veering off course.

Some orthodontists might know that Google Analytics exists, but few understand how to use and interpret the reports to evaluate their website design. I am going to show you how to do exactly that, using real Analytics data from anonymous orthodontic websites. But before we get to the numbers, let’s take a look at how and why we use them.

What Does Your Site Say?

Sometimes numbers can be helpful answers to questions, but if you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get meaningful answers. And without the right answers, you might be led in the wrong direction. So to start, ask the following questions:

  1. Who is using my site?
  2. Where are they coming from?
  3. What content are they consuming?
  4. How are they engaging with that content?
  5. What can I do to make their experience better?

The answers to these questions all have something interesting in common: They aren’t numbers! Yet the numbers provided by Google Analytics, when used in the right context, can be a helpful guide in making smart decisions regarding your website.

Understanding the Basics

To better understand how to use Google Analytics, let’s look at what it can tell us about a website.

Figure 1.Visitors.

First, let’s look at visitor statistics: “Who is using my site?” What we’re looking at in Figure 1 is the Visitors Overview. That’s the first report that Google loads up when you log in to your Analytics account. The average number of visitors to an orthodontic website varies greatly based on page rank, demographic, cyclical marketing campaigns, and other factors.

This overview helps spot any immediate problems. By default, Google is showing you the last 30 days’ worth of activity and displaying it in a line graph across the top. The information shown in Figure 1 is comparable to what I normally see on an average orthodontic website.

Beneath the line graph, Google displays the basic “health” stats of the website (Figure 1). Let’s review what this means.

Visits: This represents the total number of times your site was clicked into.

Unique Visitors: Unique Visitors discounts repeat visits. In Figure 1 there were 93 repeat visits (546 Visits – 453 Unique Visitors = 93 Repeat Visits).

Pageviews and Pages/Visit: Exactly what it says: a view of a single page. So, one visit might have many Pageviews if the user is engaged with the website’s content. The Pageviews are approximately the number of Pages/Visit multiplied by the number of visits (546 x 2.24 = 1,223).

Average Visit Duration: How long does a visitor stay, from the moment they arrive to when they leave? If they come back the next day, they start a new session. So, if patients are frequently visiting your website from within the office, it won’t skew your results.

Bounce Rate: Bounce rate causes the greatest deal of confusion. It is defined as the percentage of visitors who leave your site without visiting a second page. In other words, they “bounce” without exploring more. The lower the Bounce Rate, the better (0% being the best and 100% being the worst). This statistic can be misleading, because a user who “bounces” may have been perfectly satisfied with the one page they visited on the website, even though they left without exploring more. Still, the Bounce Rate is a good indicator of how well your site design engages visitors.

Percentage of New Visits: Part of the metric for “Unique Visitors” is the percentage of new visits. We can conclude from the numbers that the majority of this website’s visitors (three out of four) were seeing the site for the first time.

In reviewing these numbers, we’ve learned a bit about the volume of traffic that comes to this website. But we haven’t actually learned much about how this site is being found, or used. Let’s take a look at the traffic sources.

Sources.Figure 2.

“Where are visitors coming from?” From the pie chart in Figure 2, we can see that the majority of this site’s traffic is comprised of search traffic—visitors that use a search engine and click on your site from the list of results. This is why search engine optimization (SEO) is an important factor in your website development: You want to position your website for the search terms your patients are using.

Overall, the Google Analytics report provides data on three types of traffic sources:

  • Organic search: organic means traffic generated by search queries, not by paid searches like Google AdWords. It is worth noting that pay-per-click advertising does not count toward visits or page ranking of your website.
  • Referral traffic: from mobile, social media, Angie’s List, or the Invisalign website, to name a few.
  • Direct traffic: those visitors who entered the website URL manually into their browser’s address bar or had the page bookmarked.

Figure 3.What’s useful in Figure 3 is that instead of just aggregating all the different search engine traffic into one generic category, you now get to see each one listed individually. Notice that Google receives the lion’s share of search activity.


The content reports provided by Google Analytics answer two important questions: “What content are visitors consuming?” and “How are they engaging with that content?” The “All Pages” report (Figure 4) displays a list of the website’s pages in order of the amount of views each one received. In general, I have found that, other than the Home page, the Meet the Doctor, Contact, and Staff pages are the most frequently viewed pages on an orthodontic website.

Figure 4.Similar Sites, Vastly Different Numbers

By looking at the overview of information as a group—especially Page/Visit, Average Visit Duration, and Bounce Rate—you get a better handle on whether your website design and Internet marketing tactics are engaging new visitors. Figure 5 is the overview of a very engaging website design and marketing program reflected in the numbers.

The number of “Visits” and “Unique Visitors” to the site are similar to those shown in the first example. However, the number of Pageviews is considerably higher, along with Pages/Visit and Average Visit Duration.

This results in a much lower Bounce Rate, which demonstrates the website design is doing a better job at engaging new visitors and pulling them deeper into the site.

Figure 5.How Do Your Analytics Stack Up?

Google Analytics is a valuable source of data that Google offers for free. Use it to determine if your website design is doing its intended job. Build on your strengths and bolster your weaknesses. Watch your competitors to see what you’re up against. If you’re in the know, then your practice’s Internet marketing efforts are more likely to succeed. If you are out of the loop, now is the time to learn more. OP


Image of Mary Kay Miller. Mary Kay Miller, from Orthopreneur™ Internet Marketing, is an Internet marketing consultant for the orthodontic profession specializing in SEO, WordPress® Website Design, mobile website design, and Exclusive Web 2.0 Services. She offers the latest in Google marketing tips and mobile website setup techniques via a complimentary Internet marketing evaluation. For more information, visit or e-mail her at [email protected].