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The Repeal of Net Neutrality- On December 14th, 2017, former President Barrack Obama’s 2015 “Net Neutrality” bill was repealed. So, how exactly will it affect your private dental practice? This question along with recommended steps moving forward are the topics we’ll cover in this article.

Who am I? I’m Zeb Clark, a professional internet marketer, full stack developer, entrepreneur, a United States Veteran, a reputable digital strategist, backed with 11+ years of SEO experience. My portfolio runs from construction marketing, oilfield staffing, electronics ecommerce, and of course the highly competitive dental industry- both “dentist to patient” and “business to dentist” digital marketing. I have extensive experience with servers, dealing with ISP’s (Internet Service Providers), dental websites, practice sales marketing, web development / programming, advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimization), full analytical tracking, big data analytics, and SMM (Social Media Marketing). So Net Neutrality is something I’ve been following very closely due to how it could impact me and my clients, (and it will, in both positive and negative ways) while brainstorming solutions to the hurdles that lay in front of us as small business owners.

What is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality was put in place to keep the free enterprise of capitalism “alive” and on a level playing field (allowing fair competition between companies), and to embrace our Freedom of Speech (allowing American’s to have a voice). This bill prevented ISP’s from slowing down or speeding up sites / servers they choose, banning competing ISP websites, creating package deals one must pay for, etc…

e.g. If Joe Schmoe DDS and his staff worked hard to rank high and generate new patients on the World Wide Web, then they could do so without having to pay higher fees for the internet’s fast lane.

This could be jeopardized with your practice having to pay larger fees to your ISP and / or hosting provider, in order to compete with the loading speeds afforded by the larger dental organizations. Yes, the ISP will have the option to slow down your private dental practices website(s) while giving the larger dental chains and group practices (those whom can afford the higher fees) fast website loading speeds; thus currently is a decent size Google Ranking Algorithm- website loading speed! While I hope Google, Yahoo, and Bing will update their algorithms to help compensate for this repeal, it will always be a ranking factor. User Engagement (visitors satisfaction) is measured with how the visitor interacts with a site, and higher loading times having a much higher bouce rate, causing lower rank (Bounce rates are a heavy metric / ranking algorithm search engines use to determine if a website visitor viewed the content of your landing page, or hit the back button- bounced).

Example: Let’s say we have two sites of equivalent quality (SEO, Social Media, Reviews, Servers, Etc...), if one is in the fast lane (as the larger dental chains will be able to afford) versus the other in the slow lane (smaller private practices) - Google will rank the websites with fast loading speeds much higher than websites with slow loading speeds; thus is due to the end user experience / engagement rates will be lower.

The Repeal of Net Neutrality
Image Credit: / Notions Capital

The Negative Side With The Repeal of Net Neutrality

The negative impacts are like many of the other big political decisions we’ve recently been seeing in our government, more laws and regulations to benefit larger corporations (our politicians’ campaign donors, which in many cases fund our politicians more than their actual government payroll does). It’s the typical behavior where Wall Street corps will move higher in the food chain than they already are, while the small business continues to get beat on for a little bit more market share.

An analogy would be making our freeways have fast lanes for big commercial trucks (big business) and slow lanes for smaller cars (small dental practices)- where the small business could not move up in the ranks of Google, Yahoo, or Bing (as easily).

In a nut shell, this greedy repeal allows the big corps to protect their “sometimes” vested interests by blocking your ability to grow, so they don’t have to compete. This creates inequality among dental practices all around our great country. The larger group practices and corporate chains like Gentle Dental, Heartland Dental, Aspen Dental, and so on, will have more Google ranking power via site speed / user engagement than that of a smaller dental practice. Internet Service Providers like Comcast, Verizon (FCC’s Ajit Pai’s former employer), AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter Communications (Now Spectrum), Time Warner Cable, and many others will legally be able to slow your dental website down while speeding up whomever can afford the faster internet lanes; thus ultimately leading to rank loss of the smaller practice and rank gains for the larger dental chains (because site speed is a crucial ranking algorithm for your dental practices website). Furthermore, your consumers / new patients could also have limits as to which sites they can visit / view without paying for additional options / packages. So let’s just say this, “prepare to pay high dollars for your website hosting and / or your Internet Service Provider, ISP” or you’ll get blown out of the water by the corporate dental practices as merely all new patients are generated online.

In the past 5 years new patient generation "via the internet" has blown off the charts and this has been caused by the convenience of a Smartphone being in all of your patients’ pocket. They know which practice they’re going to before they even leave their house. They’ve conducted their research, viewed your services, read your reviews, and know your geographic location, all before they even make their first appointment (the 1st impression was done before they came to your reception desk). If you look into your practices waiting area you’ll see many of your patients staring at their phone- they're seeking their next purchase, chatting with friends about their experience, writing reviews, etc.… The transition from traditional marketing to digital marketing has devastated many practices due to how fast this new “digital marketing” requirement hit the dental industry. I’ve been heart broke with the stories I’ve heard over the phone during the past 5 years I’ve been specializing in solely “digital dental marketing”. I’ve talked to experienced dentists that get knocked off the block by the younger inexperience dentist that knows more about modern marketing requirements than dentistry because he/she grew up in a digital world- many newly graduated dentists look in the paper or phonebook to find where they’re placing their first practice. The phonebook, newspaper, television, billboards, landlines, even post cards in many cases, are highly ineffective / costly. The new market is using Google, Yahoo, Bing, reads blogs, checks local online reviews, watches YouTube, etc… So the fact all of the aforementioned will be in the hands of a few elite corporations will have a big impact on all small businesses across our great nation, especially solo dental practices that have much lower working capital than that of a group practice or larger dental chain.

Though I wholeheartedly believe this bill should not have been repealed (the United States of America is supposed to be the free enterprise and this goes against our nation’s economic vehicle of capitalism), I know I have to move forward and accept things the way they are; thus being the reason I want to discuss the one benefit this repeal could have on many older practices.

The Positive Side With The Repeal of Net Neutrality

The positive side is that many of the older dentists that are still in practice do not have student loan debt while having far more experience practicing dentistry; thus opening up their budget for highly competitive ISP / server options (given the options are reasonably priced). While the younger DDS/DMD grad averages $261,149 of debt right out of dental school, so either they join a group / big chain dental practice in which their employing practice might be able afford the equivalent ISP / server, or they pass up the new car and pay-to-play. This can give the competitive edge back to the more experienced dentist whose been beaten with digital marketing by the new kid on the block. The ones that have experience, paid their debts, and were responsible with how they managed their practice may just be able to pay their way to a boost in web traffic with lesser amounts of marketing efforts; thus boosting their ROI and finally allowing them to retire. Over recent years it’s no question that the younger tech savvy dentists have had the upper hand when it comes to getting new patients via digital power- they were raised on the internet and used phonebooks for a booster seat on their parents’ computer desk.

Recommended Next Steps:
  • Implement full analytical tracking to track conversion rates. Rid the marketing that is ineffective; thus being possible to reveal with advanced analytical tracking. $1000+

  • Invest in a high speed dedicated server as soon as possible. A fast server will speed up your sites loading times and fast loading times increase your rank due to increased patient engagement rates. $150+ per month

  • Familiarize yourself with your sites loading speeds so you can compare your site to your neighboring competition. There are free tools such as GTmetrix to measure / compare site speeds. It’s possible to create very fast loading sites with pure code (HTML5, PHP/MySQL, JavaScript) over a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, Square Space, etc… This does not apply to every CMS site out there, but a site is far cleaner without the excess code required to run a CMS. Google likes clean sites because the Content-to-Code ratios are higher and keyword prominence is clear- this is one of the ways a search engine can identify what the web page is about in order to compare relevance to the users search inquiry. Generally speaking, clean coded sites load faster than sloppy coded and / or CMS sites while making it easier for Google and other major search engines to index / understand. Custom backend pure code site $7,000 - $100,000+

  • Implement Patient Communication Software like DemandForce, Lighthouse 360, etc… This extends the effectiveness of your marketing efforts while boosting overall ROI due to reduced cancellations, increased patient recall, and an increase in patient re-activation. $300 per month

All-in-all, I think the repeal of Net Neutrality takes away from the small dental business and gives power to the big dental business. Regardless which practices will benefit from the repeal of Net Neutrality, the simple fact it’s undermining our democracy, free speech, and the free enterprise our country is based on, by means of pure corporate power, is disturbing. Every business should have equal rights with an equal opportunity to grow and prosper, and like everything in our world, “those that don’t adapt, go extinct”. Since this is something I’m currently having to adapt to I figured I’d write this article on how it will impact me as a freelance internet marketer, my clients, and "possibly" your dental practice. As the repeal of Net Neutrality is implemented we will see how it works out and I’ll write more posts when I learn more about the relations between the ADA, top ISP’s, and ranking algorithm changes made my Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

This was a big blow to all of us and the internet will not be the same with the repeal of Net Neutrality. The internet is a highly complex WEB (massive in size) that depends on coders, developers, designers, engineers, and people of all shapes, sizes, and colors to make it operate correctly. No corporation or combination of corporations can manage the World Wide Web themselves, it’s not possible without it crashing, or they'd have to hire every freelancer / small business they are trying to eliminate (it would be the world’s largest business with tens of millions of employees, globally). Any highly educated network engineer would agree that it requires the WEB of content / developers throughout our great nation and abroad, for it to function the way we know it.

My next article will discuss how the Repeal of Net Neutrality could collapse the stock market- please stay tuned.

If you find this article useful, need my internet marketing expertise, or have questions or comments on the repeal of Net Neutrality, please send an email to Zeb@DentalMarketingTown.com.

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Zeb Clark | Sr. Digital Strategist

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