Dental SEO: The Ultimate Guide
Welcome to DDSRank’s Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO.
Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive guide to search engine optimization for dentists,
along with a little humor.
Why did we create this guide? We created it because we love to see people succeed (and we love SEO).
We hope our Ultimate Guide helps you better understand digital marketing (specifically SEO) and the steps you can take to improve your online presence and GROW YOUR BUSINESS.
Yes, SEO to grow!
With a well-defined SEO strategy along with implementation (don’t miss this: implementation is key), you can see an increase in your search rankings, an increase of organic traffic to your site, and ultimately drive growth and revenue for your dental practice.
Of course search engine optimization is not specific to dental practices. It can be applied across any industry or business type (thank you, Captain Obvious).
The fundamentals do not change, so the information and concepts in this Ultimate Guide are not limited to dentists only; it just has a certain spin or focus toward the dental industry because, of course, that is what we do at DDSRank.com.
Like you, we think the world revolves around dentists (and guys like us help the world revolve around certain ones).
What Is Dental SEO? Here’s an Overview
Similar to certain relationships in life, Dental SEO can seem complicated, but that’s exactly why we wrote this Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO, to help demystify it.
With some help, guidance, and diligence, you can get the understanding you need to go from digital marketing newbie to a full-fledged dental marketing guru.
Okay, maybe not a guru, but you will definitely be a contender in the battle for online users and potential dental patients. That’s exactly why we wrote this Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO. We’ll provide the help and guidance; you bring the diligence and desire.
So to answer the question “What is dental SEO?”: It is the process of optimizing the online presence for your dental website to increase your chances of being found online through the organic search results by increasing your rankings for particular keywords.
More specifically, it is designed to help you be found when potential patients are searching for dental services in your area. That is why we are here, after all: We want more patients for your practice.
Remember, we love seeing people be successful.
Why SEO Is Important for Dentists
The challenges you face are common for many dentists and dental practice owners.
We get it. As dentists you had to go to school for many years. Long days, no sleep, cramming for exams. You are a special breed because not only did you go to school for years and years, BUT THEN you decided you would be an entrepreneur too. No safe jobs for you. You mortgage buildings, hire staff, buy equipment, and start looking for patients.
With great risk can come great reward for all your hard work. Laid Back Larry need not apply.
But is success guaranteed?
You find yourself wanting more patients to help your practice grow. After all, you do have rent that’s due, staff relying on you, equipment to be paid for. You may be finding yourself with big gaps in your schedule and the dental chair empty.
No one wants that. You can only play so many games of solitaire or pin the tail on the prosthodontist while waiting for your next appointment.
Look: I don’t know if aliens exist, but I do know that people searching for dental services DO. Often times hundreds of them EVERY MONTH, using all kinds of different search terms.
I’ve seen the proof; I am a believer.
That’s right. They search in January when it’s cold, April when Easter is coming, July when fireworks are scaring dogs across this great country, September when the leaves are changing in New England, and November when you are planning to roast your turkey and eat too much.
If they can find you, you can help clean the stuffing out of their teeth or bond a tooth that broke when they were too aggressive with that drumstick.
Ah, but that’s just it; can they find you in their moment of need?
That is why SEO is so important for dentists. They are going to search for help with that tooth; that is not the question. The question is will it be YOU they find, or will it be Dr. Biff Braggart, DDS, your archenemy across the street with the full parking lot?
It depends: did Biff have the forethought and insight to invest in search engine optimization as an integral part of his digital marketing strategy to grow his business, or did YOU?
The good news is you are here reading our Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO, so Biff isn’t going to stand a chance, even if he was the starting quarterback of your high school football team and you played the tuba in the band (unless of course he is reading this too!). It’s okay, I played the clarinet.
So what is the impact of not being found on page one of the Google search engine results page? (FYI, geeks like me call this the SERP.)
Here’s the deal: Over 90% of Google searchers never go beyond page one.
I know, I know, you have heard this before. Especially if you’ve ever talked with Steve at DDSRank.
According to several studies, including this one from chitika.com (not to be confused with the banana company), here is the breakdown of the value of Google’s organic search results:
Driving Growth for Dentists
So how does all this SEO stuff drive growth for a dental practice? Let’s say that Timmy, Tommy, Jimmy, Johnny, Billy and Bobby, plus roughly 194 other people search for “Dentist in Margaritaville” this month because their teeth are wasting away again and they need a cleaning.
That’s 200 people this month that searched for that term. They are looking for you, or someone like you. Could you be the one? Is this the perfect match made in dental heaven?
According to the chart above on the value of Google results positioning, if you are in the number one spot, 32.5% of those searchers believe you are the right one for them.
That’s right: 32.5 out of every 100 people searching for dental services clicked on that number one spot. So in our example, 65 of the 200 Margaritaville searchers chose the dentist at the top of the search results.
What Is a New Dental Patient Worth?
Although we think SEO is cool in and of itself (we are geeks, after all), we understand the reason people invest their precious time, money, and effort into search engine optimization and other digital marketing is because being found online at the moment people are searching for dental services will bring growth and revenue to your practice.
Just think, warm beaches in January for vacation, paying off your all your student loans, finally getting rid of your 2001 VW Jetta because you can afford a new car, and more.
That’s right. Getting new patients is a great thing.
Let’s run the numbers of what a new patient is worth to your practice.
Dental Patient Revenue Breakdown
So here is what we need to consider when we look at the value of SEO: average annual customer (patient) value and average lifetime customer (patient) value.
Obviously there can be a significant difference from practice to practice depending on your patient mix and the procedures you perform. If you do a lot cosmetic dentistry, dental implants, veneers, etc. then your average customer revenue is going to be higher than that of your typical family dentist.
Average Customer Value (ACV) for the year equals the revenue generated by all dental visits during a year, divided by total number of visits.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) equals the revenue generated over the lifetime of providing services for the patient.
Note that the average customer or patient lifespan (length of time a patient stays with the same dentist) is roughly 10 years.
So CLV is the ACV times the average number years patient stays with a dentist.
Customer Lifetime Value Example
Average Patient Value = $700 revenue per year
Average Patient Lifespan = 10 years
Customer Lifetime Value = $700 * 10 years = $7,000
Every new patient you bring to your practice will generate roughly $7,000 in lifetime revenue. That doesn’t even take into consideration the referral value of of those patients.
So let’s say your search engine optimization campaign brings in an additional 10 new patients a month.
That works out to $7,000 per month and $70,000 in customer lifetime value added to the revenue of your practice that month. Over the course of the year the additional 10 new patients per month from your dental SEO campaign translates into $840,000. This is precisely why your online presence and search engine optimization should be viewed as an investment into your business and not purely as an expense.
We used the example of 10 additional new patients, but the reality is it could be even more depending on the size of your community. Even in a community of 30,000 people, a single search phrase such as “Dentist YourCoolCity” can get over 300 searches a month.
Again, that is one search phrase, and there may be dozens of similar phrases being searched each month in your area.
Search Engine Results Page and Ranking Overview
Google is in the business of providing what it believes are the most relevant search results when people search for terms like “dentist in San Diego” or “dental implants San Diego.”
Search engine optimization is the ongoing process to address the many aspects required to convince Google that your website is more relevant than your competitors, and thus put your dental practice in front of those searching for your services.
Grandma’s Love Is Unlimited but Google’s Is Not: Ranking on Page 1 Is Not Easy
It is not easy to rank organically on page one (meaning without paying for an ad), and your competitors are working hard to make sure you don’t.
Worldwide, Google provides search results for more than 2.5 billion searches every day. And for every one of those searches, there are only 10 web pages that will rank on the first page of the search results.
Why do people use Google, you ask?
It’s because they believe Google will provide them with the most relevant content and answers to what they are searching for. This keeps people coming back to Google again and again for their searches. As a result, Google was able to generate over $52 billion dollars in 2015 from ad revenues.
Are You Relevant?
Ask yourself why Google should choose your site as being relevant for its search results. If you can’t come up with specific reasons, then you need to rethink your strategy.
Understand that your loss is your competitors gain when it comes to search results. They are trying to secure a better rank and beat you out for the search traffic. SEO is an ongoing process to implement and refine, not a one-and-done approach. What is good enough to rank you today is likely to change tomorrow. You need an active strategy to compete. There’s a limited number of spots on page one of the search results, and often-times there are thousands of search results competing for page one.
As a matter of fact, 91.5% of searchers never go beyond page one. To illustrate this point let’s take a look at the search results for “dentist boise idaho”:
As you can see, Google returned about 560,000 results for that search. The reality is that the majority of those search results will never be seen.
It Starts with Your Website
Like picking out your dream home, your website comes with a lot of features and options to choose. But how much of it truly matters?
If your logo is blaze orange instead of burnt orange will Google really care?
No, not when it comes to search results. To be honest, the person browsing your site isn’t going to care either. I’ve seen people get bogged down in the weeds when it comes to the design of their sites, only to give no thought to the things that are truly important.
That is not to say how your site looks is not important or that a consistent brand doesn’t matter. It does. Your website should have a clean professional look that is mobile friendly and has the end user in mind. Most importantly, it needs to provide the information users are looking for.
A company’s online presence should convey a strong brand, convey professionalism, instill trust, and establish the company as an authority in its field. As you can probably guess, it also needs to support being found.
If your site looks like it was designed in 1999, is not mobile friendly, and has limited content, then you should be worried. Google is going hate you. Pretty good chance the people who find themselves on your site will too.
Why Your Website Is Important
Think of your website as a 24/7/365 marketing platform. It’s like having an employee that never stops working to promote your business in the best light possible (hopefully). The cool thing is that YOU are able to control exactly what information goes on your website. It can be a powerful influencer as it is the window into your dental practice for people searching for dental services online. It is common knowledge the majority of people research local businesses online before making a final purchasing decision. Yet another reason visibility online is important to your dental practice.
People are going to visit your website to learn more about you and your business.
Build for Users First and Search Engines Will Follow, or Will They?
In an ideal world, you would build your website to provide the best content and user experience, and as a result Google would automatically make you skyrocket to the top of the organic and local rankings. While there is some truth to that (providing the best content and user experience are important), we do not live in an ideal world and there are many factors that Google takes into consideration for their ranking algorithm.
User Focused but Search Optimized
We will get into the details later on, but understand there are hundreds of factors involved in Google’s ranking algorithm. Not only that, but Google is constantly refining, testing and adjusting this to try and get the best search results.
Start with What Dental Patients Are Looking For
The best approach is to consider things from the web searcher and users’ standpoint.
What are they looking for and what do they want from you? Think about why people would be going to your website and and the information they are looking to acquire.
As people are browsing your site, whether they know it or not, in the back of their mind they are asking themselves, “Are you a trusted resource that can meet my needs?” and “Are you the best choice for me?”
Realize that the 24/7/365 business promotion employee (a.k.a. your website) will answer those questions for potential customers as they search.
So how do you get found? Let’s take a look!
Basics of Search Engine Optimization
As we look closer at what exactly search engine optimization is, it can be helpful to break it down into two major categories: on-page SEO and off-page SEO. Broadly, on-page SEO concerns things that can be done to the website itself to increase the site’s ranking in search engine results, and off-page SEO deals with things that can be done in other places on the Internet to increase the website’s ranking. Let’s look at them in turn.
Much of what falls under the category of on-page SEO relates in some way to user experience, known in the industry as UX. Google places a high value on the overall experience users have on websites; therefore, the goals for your website should include making it relevant, easy to use, and of high quality.
Being relevant to the search query is extremely important. There has to be a strong correlation between what the searcher typed in and the information on your website. If the search string was “emergency dental services rittenhouse square” and your website talks about the emergency dental services you offer to people in Philadelphia, you are not likely to show up high in the search results even if you are located in the Rittenhouse Square area of Philly – your website must make specific reference to the neighborhoods you service within Philadelphia if that’s how potential patients will do their searches.
And relevance means if someone is searching for “emergency dental services,” your site won’t show up in the results just because you perform those services in real life.
Google only knows about the services actually mentioned on your website.
Focus on Quality Content
Always try to provide the best result by being clear, concise, and on target for what your potential clients are searching for. While the exact definition of “high quality content” can be tough to pin down, the folks at SearchEngineLand have a post that addresses this issue. They point out that it’s easier to describe poor content than high quality content. Essentially, the more thoroughly you can answer the searchers’ questions, without copying content from somewhere else or using poorly edited content, the more likely Google will consider your content to be of a high quality.
It’s About Your Users
Don’t forget that ultimately it is about your users. Create your content in way that meaningful and helpful when users land on your website. Make each page of your website easy to use. Site users are typically trying to answer questions, so don’t make them click through more menus and pages than necessary to find what they seek. While you don’t need to doggedly adhere to a 3-click rule (as in everything on your site should be reachable with no more than 3 clicks from the main page), try to make navigating your site as easy as possible without overwhelming users with too much information on any one page.
What Are They Looking For?
Potential patients may want to know how much an initial exam is going to cost, or will dental x-rays be included in the exam, or what cosmetic dentistry services you provide. Make it all about them! Provide them with the information they are seeking by spelling out as much as you can right there on your site. Many searchers would much rather find this info on your site than make a phone call to your office.
Site Speed Matters
Site speed may not be something that immediately comes to mind when you ask yourself, “How can I make my dental website optimized?” but it ties back into user experience. No one wants to wait a long time for a webpage to load. If it takes too long, they will click the back button which reduces your dwell time and increases your bounce rate. As you can imagine, poor dwell time and bounce rates will have a negative impact on your ranking. Google actually provides a tool that you can use to test the speed of your website so you can see how it’s doing.
Consider Multiple Devices
You should consider load time on mobile devices too, not just the site speed on desktops. And while we are talking about mobile, make sure your site is compatible across multiple devices: desktop, mobile, netbook, tablets, etc.
Linking Within Your Site
There is more to easy navigation and ease of use on your site than just a great menu structure. Make sure you use internal linking within relevant content to bring users to additional pages.
For example, in a paragraph on your home page you may describe the different cosmetic dentistry procedures you perform and mention dental implants. This would be a perfect place to put an internal link going to your dental implants page.
It may be included under your services menu, but your users will appreciate having the option to click through at the moment they find the information relevant to them. And as a bonus, this internal linking to relevant pages (not your home page or main navigation pages) is a signal to Google that is likely to boost your SEO.
Meta Tag Description
Your meta tag description is not really used by Google in their ranking algorithm anymore, but it is still an important feature from a user standpoint because it is the description of the page returned in their search results. It helps the users see that your page is relevant to them, which will help with click-through rates. As you can see in the image below, the keywords from their search phrase are bolded, which helps it stand out to them.
Title tags show on the top of the browser tab and should represent what the web page is about or the overall theme and focus of the page. It is one of the indicators that helps Google figure out what your page is about.
Let’s say you have a web page for cosmetic dentistry, where you outline services such as bonding, teeth whitening, and dental implants. A proper title tag would include the term “cosmetic dentistry,” or if you have further content on a separate page for dental implants, it is a good idea to have “dental implants” in that title tag.
Personally, I try to match the keywords of the page focus in the very beginning of the title tag. Not only does it help from an SEO standpoint, but it also helps from a usability standpoint, as the topic of interest should stand out to the person browsing your site.
Other On-Page Factors
In brief, here are a few other on-page concerns:
No broken links. Check periodically to make sure all the links you included on your page still go where you intend them to. Sometimes things you’ve linked to on other sites go away or get moved to different pages. Don’t frustrate your users by pointing them to a dead end.
Exactly one H1 tag per page. The H1 tag tells Google the primary headline of your page – you’ll confuse Google if you have more than one, and you are missing a key indicator if you have none on a page.
Image optimization. Make sure your images are not bigger than they need to be or they’ll slow down your page load time. And be sure each image makes use of “Alt Text”, which you can think of as a short summary of the image you’d give to a person who was blind.
Avoid ugly URLs. Your site’s pages should have easily understood URLs, which rank better in Google. For example, “www.mypractice.com/dental-implants” is a much better URL than “www.mypractice.com/content/index.jsp?categoryId=4446723”. Most content management software (like WordPress) allows you to edit your URLs to make them more click-worthy.
You may think that the only place online you have control over is your own website. But that’s not entirely true. Sure, managing the on-page SEO is critical for ranking well in search engine results, but there are lots of other rank-influencing factors that you can improve; factors known as off-page SEO.
Trust and Authority for Your Site
Trust and authority can be fuzzy concepts when it comes to search engine optimization. In a general sense it is about whether or not users trust your website and if they see you as an authority in your field based on the information you provide on your site.
One of the ways Google helps to determine trust and authority is based on backlinks. The thought being that if you are trusted and considered an authority, people are going to link to your website as they reference you in other places online. For dental websites, it can be tough to get many backlinks, but this blog post mentions a couple of ways your practice may be able to get backlinks by connecting with your local Chamber of Commerce or other organizations you are affiliated with.
For local businesses, Google considers finding consistent citations around the web another measure of trust. Citations are mentions of your business name, address, and phone number (NAP for short) on various other websites, often on types of directories (YellowPages, Yelp, HealthGrades, etc.). So if on some sites your business has one address and on other sites there’s a different address – maybe your practice moved a few years ago – then Google will look at those inconsistencies and may decide to rank you lower than another local practice that has consistent info across all sources. Most of these directories have a process you can go through to claim your business listing and make any needed changes to ensure consistency.
More to Come
There’s much more to be said on this topic, and since we are (still) building the Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO, we’ll continue to expand on the process in the coming days. We’ll cover keyword research, including knowing how people are searching for your dental services and understanding the searcher’s intent. We’ll look at the importance of content-driven marketing; maximizing social signals; the merits of PPC in addition to SEO; and more.