SEO for Dentists: Attracting Patients to Your Practice

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Search engine optimization (SEO) is a tool that has been around for many years, but it is only recently that its importance and value have been truly recognized. Optimizing your website helps ensure that your site is ranked high on the list of related search results. SEO is something you can do yourself, but it is recommended that you hire an SEO service. This does not mean companies overseas, but rather ones in your area that specialize in patients. There are currently many SEO companies to choose from, and it can be quite difficult to decide which one is best for you. The price they charge does not always reflect the value you are getting in return. Although this is not a very cheap way to go, it is going to produce the most effective results for you and your practice. The process of SEO is a common practice for most businesses, such as technology, restaurant, retail, and many more. The goal is to increase the visibility of the website as well as attract new customers. This process is also one of the best ways to create a larger patient base for dentists. Be sure not to confuse SEO companies with companies that guarantee top placement of your website through a bidding process. Many of these companies are not always legitimate, and the cost of the bids can add up in the long run.

Importance of SEO for dentists

Consider the potential patients who do not yet know your practice exists. Patients who have just moved into your area or who are unsatisfied with their current dental care often turn to the internet to search. Just by having a website and implementing an SEO campaign with specific keywords, you can attract these potential patients to your practice. This, in turn, can only increase your patient base and improve your dental practice.

Now, more than ever, patients are going online to research about medical professionals. This has only been compounded by the fact that almost gone are the days of using the phone book to find a dentist. The various generations of people throughout the country are taking to using search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to find a dentist that is located near them and that has a good reputation. In fact, studies have shown that up to 75% of a dental patient base is within a 5-7 mile radius of their office. This means that patients within your own community are searching online to find you. SEO can help those local searchers find your practice, and this is why SEO for dentists is so important.

If you are a dentist, you may wonder why you should bother investing time and money into getting your dental practice website found on the search engines. After all, most dentists are in small private practices and as such have little need for a web presence or so you may think. However, recently a lot of dentists are realizing just how important having a website is to their business.

Benefits of optimizing your website

Website development generates organic traffic or traffic that is actively seeking the services you provide. These visitors are actively looking for a dental specialist. Whether through presence, keyword narrowing, or both, your site will appear at the top of the search engine for keywords strongly related to the services you provide. These are the visitors who are most likely to convert into new clients. These are considered the best site visitors because they have qualified themselves through their search engine query and landed on your site. This is how organic traffic is continuously generated by SEO. For most dental practitioners, organic traffic will provide the best ROI and the majority of your new client acquisition for years to come. Even if you get a lot of traffic to your website, this does not mean that these visits are converting into patient calls and leads. By analyzing and increasing your SEO, you can increase the effectiveness and quality. This means more patient leads by simply being able to be found on the top of different search engines.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for dental practitioners to produce new business. As more individuals move to the web to discover dental specialists, it has turned out to be essential to have a solid online presence. The times of just posting in the business directory are a distant memory. Improving your site can bring numerous short and long-term advantages. The first and most obvious advantage to enhancing your site is increased visibility. Your site will begin to appear at the top of search engine results for many different keywords. While your site will begin to generate traffic from these searches, it is important to understand that search engine optimization offers a different quality of traffic compared to other methods of advertising.

Understanding SEO

There are various ways to optimize a website for search engines, which we will explore in greater detail throughout this e-book. But before we go into the specifics, it is beneficial to understand how search engines work and the reasoning behind the SEO process. By understanding the search engine ‘mindset’, it is possible to take a more intelligent approach to SEO, working in harmony with the search engines.

Search engine optimization (also known as SEO) is the process of improving a website to make it more relevant to the search engines. By optimizing and targeting specific key search terms, it is possible to attract a higher quantity of relevant traffic. For example, a general dentist based in Omaha might choose to target the key term ‘Omaha dentist’. By achieving a high search engine ranking for this term, the dentist will receive a large amount of local traffic from people seeking a dentist in the Omaha area. This traffic would be far more relevant than, say, traffic from people located in a different country or searching for a dentist specialized in a different area of dentistry.

A search engine is your website’s best friend. Driving traffic to your website, search engines are the major starting point for potential patients online. An astronomical 85% of internet users locate websites via search engines. If your site does not have a high search engine ranking, you are losing patients to your competitors. But attaining a high search engine ranking is a process, one that takes time, planning, and an understanding of the search engine ‘mindset’.

What is SEO?

From this, we can understand that the majority of people who visit a website come from search engine results. Around 75% of website traffic comes from search engine rankings, and the top positions on a search engine result page receive the most traffic. Approximately a quarter of searches click on the first link, and half of all clicks go to the first three links on the page. Even if your site is on the first page, even if it’s the last or second-to-last link, it will still be much more accessible than being on the second page.

This link was likely on the first page of results, and it may have even been the top link. Even if it wasn’t exactly what you were looking for or the best article, you assumed it was what you were searching for because it was at the top of the page. This is the goal of SEO – to improve your website’s placement and make it appear higher in search engine results. By doing this, you can increase the amount of traffic that comes to your website and the number of people who visit it.

To simplify the explanation, imagine the last time you were seeking information and ideas on how to clean your house because you had guests coming over quickly. You probably turned to the web and searched for “how to clean a house.” Then, you clicked on one of the first links that appeared in the results. Most likely, you clicked on the link that seemed most relevant to you.

SEO stands for “search engine optimization”. It is a set of methods and practices that are implemented to improve a website’s placement in search engine results.

How search engines work

So in all, the most basic and necessary function of a search engine is to crawl a path around the web, indexing the information, and storing it in a way that is retrievable later.

Then to go to the next city, the search engines need a method of jumping to a new location. This is where indexing and storing comes in. In order to quickly jump around the vast subway system, the search engines need to have a method of grabbing onto the correct path at the right time, which is where indexing plays a large role. Once the path is discerned by the search engine, they can then store the information in a way that it can be accessed at a later time.

Imagine the World Wide Web as a network of stops in a big city subway system. Each stop is its own unique document (usually a web page, but sometimes a PDF, JPG, or other file). The search engines need a way to “crawl” from the various stops around the city, so that they can find all the stops along the way. The best way to do this is with a program (spider) that will follow every linked path from stop to stop.

Search engines index the web by using programs in order to gather data. These programs are known by a variety of names, such as spiders, web crawlers, or web robots. Google, for instance, has a program called Googlebot, while Yahoo! has a program called Slurp. These programs are essential to SEO because they are used to “crawl” the web.

Key SEO terms to know

Inbound Link: A link from another website. Inbound links are the most important factor for offsite SEO. The number of quality inbound links to a website is a good indication of its importance or popularity. Search engines give weight to inbound links. This is because the more typically good quality sites that link to yours, give good reason for someone to visit your website. Static URLs containing only the keywords separating with hyphens is said to be the best.

Search Engine Friendly (SEF): This is when a website or webpage is built in such a manner that the search engines easily understand what it is about and are able to read the contents and the META data. This is normally an attribute given to URLs. Dynamic URLs with loads of unrecognizable characters are seen as unreadable by search engines. Static SEF URLs containing few variables are seen as legible to search engines. This is highly debated between SEO advisors as to which is the better option. Static URLs containing only the keywords separating with hyphens is said to be the best.

Keywords: Words that are used to find the contents of a webpage. It is extremely important to use the right keywords. Using popular words that are in no way related to the content of a webpage will defeat the purpose. It will attract the wrong sort of visitors to the website and it will only annoy genuine visitors.

Description tag: A textual description that is given to search engines to let them know what the page is about. Search engines then use this information to display info about the page. This is the second most important factor on the page after the Title tag. The description should be kept very brief and to the point and should only be one to two sentences.

Implementing SEO Strategies

A thorough understanding of the keyword research and analysis phase will help your chances of ranking highly within the search engines. There are a couple of important areas involving keyword research and analysis that you should be aware of. The first stage of the keyword research process involves brainstorming and thinking of what your patients and potential patients would type into Google that would make them aware of your services. You need to think the terms through thoroughly and also ask friends, family, other dentists, and patients for ideas on what they would type into Google when looking for a dental clinic. These keyword phrases would typically include a location, i.e., “dentist + your city”, the nature of the service they are looking for, i.e., “tooth whitening”, and also keywords involving pain or a problem that the patient wants fixed, i.e., “how to fix my chipped tooth”. After you have identified and compiled a list of keywords and phrases, the next stage involves going online and researching and analyzing the keywords and phrases to find the best ones to suit you. This may involve finding out the popularity of a keyword or phrase, website competition involved with a keyword, ‘long tail keyword’ identification, and also any synonyms or related keywords you had not considered. A final decision for the best keywords and phrases will then be made. Note that this final decision must be re-evaluated ongoing due to the changing nature of the dental market and the constant change within the search engines themselves. On-page optimization techniques involve making changes to the content and HTML coding of your website. This is done to increase the relevance of your site to specific keyword phrases and to remove any barriers that may prevent indexing activities of the search engine. Changes will typically occur once you have identified specific keyword phrases you want to target for each particular page on your website. These keyword phrases should be strategically placed into such areas as the title tag, header tags, meta-tags, alt-tags for images, and page content. However, you need to be aware that the overuse of keyword placement can be perceived as spam to search engines. Therefore, you need to also include keyword variations within your content as well and remember to write to your audience and not to the search engine. Step two will involve preventing any barriers to indexing activities. This may require changes to the appearance of the website, but those changes must be done behind the scenes and should not be visible to your audience. This step involves improving the coding of your website to improve the rate at which search engines could access and navigate your website to index it effectively. This may require changes to the site structure or the removal of duplicate or unneeded copies of content.

Keyword research and analysis

In order to find the most traffic-generating and relevant key phrases, a quality research phase is needed. There are many methods used to assess a market for suitable key phrases. Frequently, a client will attempt to suggest what they think are the best key phrases. However, this may not be the best route as it can be biased information stemming from their knowledge of their own market. To be told which keyword phrases are competitive is very useful data. Learning what your competitor is doing is always beneficial. Find out who is linking to your competitor by using a link popularity check tool. Overture and Google provide free keyword research tools which estimate the search volume of a query and its corresponding variations. If you are interested in a more sophisticated tool, Wordtracker may be the answer. They provide a tool which will suggest keywords you may not have considered, and give a KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) which helps to identify the most popular and effective keywords. A long list of keywords will be generated and assessed before decision on the best keyword phrase(s). This list will be referred back to and compared to check the site’s ranking status. If no significant change is noted, the site may need to be re-optimized and the process is simply repeated.

On-page optimization techniques

Publishing and/or writing new content such as articles, blogs, and general information about dental care can improve the keyword relevancy and increase the amount of keywords that your site ranks for. This is a very beneficial technique, but it is very time-consuming. In creating new content or adding to existing content, you must make sure that the content itself is of good quality and well-written. This can improve the quality of your site and attract inbound linking to your site, which will be outlined in the next section.

On-page optimization consists of directly editing content and code of your website. This includes metadata, URL structure, content marketing, and many other techniques. Metadata is the information that can be found in your website’s source code. Metadata information includes your page title and page description among other less important elements. Editing this information can make your site more relevant to certain searches. URL structure is also very important. Having a URL that is similar to the search query greatly increases the relevance of your site to the search query.

On-page optimization deals with the factors involved in increasing the rank of your website within the search results. It is often thought of as the foundation of SEO. Most of these techniques are very technical and it is best to hire an SEO expert to do this. Not all SEO experts are created equal, so it is a good idea to let them explain the exact changes that will be done and in what order. If they guarantee you a first page ranking, I would be very wary of their credibility since no one can guarantee a first page ranking, especially within a specific time frame.

Off-page optimization strategies

Utilize the free stuff. There are many free methods of advertising your website and getting backlinks. Taking a bit of time to do things such as submitting your website to local business listings, creating a descriptive blog with a link to your website, adding your site to free web directories, or doing some guest blog posting on other dental-related blogs can make a big impact on getting your website off the ground.

Social Media. Using social media and social bookmarking is a very new but extremely powerful method of promoting your website. By social media, we mean using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. By creating a page for your dental business and trying to actively network and form relationships with potential local patients, you can generate a lot of interest and traffic to your website.

Article marketing. Article marketing is a very effective off-page optimization strategy. By writing articles related to your dental niche and submitting them to article directories, you can generate a lot of exposure for your business while also getting a ton of high-quality backlinks. The key here is to make sure the articles you write are very interesting or provide valuable information. If the articles are boring or don’t give the reader any benefit, then nobody will want to read or publish it. A good marketing dentist article could be “10 Tips for Whiter Teeth”. This may not be of interest to dentists themselves, but it’s certainly of interest to the general public.

Link building. A wise link building strategy not only improves your search engine ranking but also directs valuable traffic to your dental website. Avoid “link farms” and reciprocal link building – this is not seen as favorable by the search engines. Instead, try to get legitimate links from other dental-related websites or businesses. For example, you could create an article about the importance of brushing and post it on a children’s dentist website with a link pointing back to your website about children’s dental services. Ensure that the anchor text (clickable text) being used in the link is the keyword phrase that you are targeting. Implementing this type of link campaign is highly effective and will help elevate your search engine ranking as well as driving traffic to your dental website.

Local SEO for dental practices

Getting ranked in Google maps is the other major way to have a local SEO impact. In a recent study of SEO professionals and local SEO rankings, the highest correlation was with Google organic search results and the Google reviews associated with those businesses. This suggests that the best way to get ranked high in Google maps is to have a well-optimized site that ranks well in organic search and a good amount of high-quality reviews from past clients. When your site is well optimized for the local keywords you’re targeting, be sure to get a lot of high-quality anchor text links to your home page with those same local keywords. After building a few links, your site is likely to appear in the Google maps when doing a search with those keywords. At this point, get some of your loyal patients to post high-quality reviews for your clinic. A steady stream of good reviews coming in will create a high local prominence for your clinic and improve your rankings in the maps.

Localized search and local SEO can be highly effective when implemented correctly, also relatively less competitive and easier to get top rank for in terms of specific category or service in location. The two primary ways local SEO will attract more patients to your dentistry is to get listed in various online local business directories and to get ranked in Google maps. Some of the major online business directories only have listing information about dentists. Adding or claiming your listing with them can improve your online visibility. Other more general directories often have a section for dentists or allow for a listing in a specific category. To get a comprehensive list of the directories available to your clinic, run a quick search for your clinic with a few variations of terms and location in major search engines. Make up a spreadsheet to keep track of the directories available and log which ones you have submitted your site to. This will prevent you from duplicating listings and can also serve as a valuable asset if you ever decide to further outsource your local SEO. When adding your listing, be sure to fill out as much information as possible and include your website’s URL. This will create additional backlinks to your site and provide a source of indirect traffic. Directories are also one of the few ways to get a backlink to your site with specific anchor text in most cases. Be sure to use your main general keyword when possible.

Measuring and Monitoring SEO Success

Measuring SEO success is important for a variety of reasons. Improvement cannot be made if a lack of progress is not realized. Additionally, in order to secure more resources for a project or support a decision to continue a project, it is crucial to demonstrate its effectiveness. By monitoring progress, it is possible to tell if the changes are having a positive or negative impact on the website. If they are not doing anything, it is possible to alter the course of the site before major damage is done. On the other hand, if a large gain in traffic or rankings is realized, it is possible to push through with more drastic changes or keep the current strategy. Finally, and usually most importantly, a measure of progress can be used to explain to others in concrete terms the success of the SEO project. Oftentimes, technical improvements are not realized or appreciated by people who are not close to them. By showing their impact, it is possible to fully demonstrate the value of the changes that have been made.

Tracking website traffic and rankings

The easiest way to track your website’s search engine rankings is to simply search for relevant keywords in popular search engines, and then see where your website is listed. However, this method is impractical if you have a large list of keywords that you’re targeting. It would be a great hassle to manually check your site’s position in Google for free dentist referrals, cheap dental implants, affordable dental surgery, etc. A much more efficient way to track your rankings is to use a program or web service that can perform automatic checks on your rankings. These services will use spiders to check if your website is listed for a specific keyword and tell you exactly what your position is. Some services will even provide a detailed history of your ranking performance, and some can generate reports that will show you how your ranking performance compares across different search engines.

These days, internet users are becoming increasingly stingy with their clicks. If they don’t find what they’re looking for within a few seconds, they’ll often give up and look elsewhere. When people use search engines, they usually only read the first few results. If someone is using Google to find a dentist in their area for general checkups or cleanings, they’ll probably only look at the first page of results, and you want to be on that page. Internet users are fickle, and they expect fast results; you’re going to have to monitor the performance of your website and your search engine results to see how you’re doing.

Analyzing user behavior and engagement

To best understand how users are interacting with your website and to make educated decisions on how best to action out strategies, it is of vital importance to measure user engagement. “The analysis process is vital to gain an understanding of whether the strategies and tasks you implemented have benefited your website in terms of increased visibility, traffic, engagement and conversions” (Marr, 2017). Google Analytics is the most commonly utilised platform to measure user engagement, providing an in-depth analysis and statistics of website traffic. It allows you to view things such as what country users are viewing from, what landing page they entered the website from, what pages they navigated to and how long they spent on each page, what type of device they were on, what channels they used to get to the website. These are just a few examples of the insight that Google Analytics can provide and it can be of valuable use when monitoring if you are reaching the right target audience. A particular dentist website would want local traffic from the specific country that they are practicing in and would be most interested in the users that navigated to the contact or booking pages, so Google Analytics would allow you to measure such interactions from users.

Using SEO tools and metrics for evaluation

It’s important to have a thorough understanding of what the tool can and can’t do before you spend any money on it. Some tools on the market are good at providing data within its specific field, but can be poor at data manipulation once you’ve acquired it. An example is a rank checking tool that only provides data in a table but no way to chart the data over time. This would be inadequate for gathering data to report on the success of an optimization campaign. Get hold of trials of tools before making any decisions. All the major SEO tool providers will give you a trial so you can make an informed decision about purchasing their product.

There are so many different tools available these days and many of them also have free or light versions which are adequate for small sites. When considering different tools, it’s worth thinking about whether each tool is trying to do too many things. While a tool that offers many features may sound attractive, finding a tool that does one thing well will usually be more productive. Some of the tools that we like and use are linked on various pages in this blog.