Optimize Your First Impression

How to make sure the first exposure potential patients have to your practice – before they visit your website – puts your best foot forward.

Optimizing dental search engine results

Attracting new patients to your dental practice is like speed dating. Studies show that 91% of all Google searches don’t go past the first page of results. That means the majority of prospective clients will look at your practice and nine others in the same neutral environment, and make an initial decision based upon the same 3 elements for all of you.

Most dentists spend a lot of time and money crafting their practice’s online appearance. Logo design, color scheme, image selection, and copy writing all play a part in building a killer website. But in many cases that investment is wasted, because it almost completely focuses on the second impression a prospective patient has of the practice. In most cases, something like this is the first impression someone has of you and your office:

Dental Search Engine Listing

The first time most people see anything about your office is when you turn up as a search result on Google. And it doesn’t matter if you have the best dental website in your state – no one will see it if your search results entry doesn’t persuade them to click your link.

The bad news is that you only have 3 pieces of information to use to convince searchers to visit your site. The good news is that you control all three of them, and can craft them to maximize your click-through rates.

Here is that sample listing again, with those 3 pieces labeled:

Labelled Dental Search Engine Results

The three elements that make up every search engine result are the Title, URL (website address), and Description. All three factor into a user’s decision to click, so it is important to understand the specifications for each one.


The title tag is arguably the most important of the 3 elements, because it both influences user response and directly impacts which keywords you rank for. For ranking purposes it is important to place primary keywords near the front of the title. At the same time you should work to make it both descriptive and persuasive. And all of that needs to happen in a relatively small space.

Google will only display a certain number of characters from your title in the search results, and unfortunately the maximum length for a title tag is not set in stone. The display size is based upon pixel size rather than characters, so the number changes depending on which letters you use and whether or not they are capitalized. But as a general rule of thumb, 55 characters is a pretty safe length


URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, which is a fancy way of saying website address. For most people this element is already fixed. However, if you are going to be launching a new website it is worth thinking through the choice of a domain name before registering one.

The first key in a good domain is your brand. Years ago the more you used your target keywords the better you did in the search results, so many dentists went after exact match domains (ie dentistdallas.com) to get their keywords in the url. As Google has tightened up their keyword optimization limits, having a keyword on every link and every mention of your practice on the site because riskier. A much better solution is to use a branded domain name (ie sunshinedental.com, thesmilefactory.com, etc.) that you can use without over optimizing your site.

Another thing to consider when picking a domain is the radio test – if a typical person hears your website address on the radio, will they be able to accurately type it into Google? That means dentists with difficult to spell last names might want to think twice before using them in their domain.


While the description tag doesn’t directly affect your site’s rankings, it is a key element in convincing searchers to click through your link. And since click-through rate is an element in Google’s algorithm, that makes the description an indirect contributor to your cause.

A long time ago Shakespeare wrote that brevity is the soul of wit, and that adage will serve you will in crafting the perfect description. 155 characters seems to be the cutoff point for a description, so trying to include every dental procedure you offer is definitely out. A better course of action is to try to describe your practice in terms that inspire trust, while at the same time inviting a response.

Trial Run

Since changes you make to your site’s title and description aren’t instantaneously picked up by Google, it may take days before they show up in the search results. If you want to try different combinations to see how they look before making the changes to your site, this preview tool allows you to see what any proposed changes will look like before you make them.

A Fourth Factor

Of course, there is a fourth element that influences how often visitors come to your website: your rankings. While title, url, and description all have an effect on click-through rates, the primary factor that drives traffic is how high you rank. Statistically, the #1 result for any given search gets 32.5% of the clicks, while the #10 entry gets 2.4%. With over 13 times as many new patients on the line, ranking as high as possible is critical. If you need to improve the rankings for your dentist website, contact us for a free SEO analysis today!