Dentists are part of the clinical establishment in the United States. As such, they’re in a highly competitive landscape where dental practitioners and clinics have to actively seek new clients. Search Engine Optimization or simply SEO for Dentists is rightly seen in today’s dental marketing environment as one of the tools clinics can use to draw in new business. Everyone is talking about SEO (some now broaden the term to include online marketing), but what actually is it?
Search engine optimization means using legitimate methods of shaping your online presence in order to raise your profile in SERPs (search engine results pages). Optimizing the Web profile of your dental clinic or practice can help you ‘rank’ higher in search engines. That means you’re easier to find when people are looking for a dentist in your locality. In turn, and if you’ve been clever with your optimization, more ‘finds’ on the internet will mean more ‘clicks’ on your website, and more clients through your door. That’s the theory, at least, but as with most things, there’s a bit more to it than there appears at first.
The latest figures for practicing dentists in the United States showed that in 2015 there were 196,000 practicing dentists across the United States. This translates to 60.9 dentists per 100,000 population. That’s an awful lot of professionals with cute little drills. What’s more, the US Health Policy Institute projects the rate of increase in the number of dentists per capita between 2015 and 2035 to be 7.9 percent. The HPI reckon that dentists per capita figure will climb in the coming years to 65 or 66 per 100,000. Okay, Greece has twice that figure, but that doesn’t mean you’re not in a highly competitive market as a dentist. You are.
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What all this means is that you need to use every tool available to increase the number of paying clients on your patient roster. We’re not, however, recommending that you use the sharp, pointy things in your instrument drawer to do that.
Since every other tech-savvy dental practice is already well into dental SEO, we’re advising that you turn to the latest techniques in online optimization to boost your business.
It all sounds complicated, right? I mean, you’re a ‘tooth doctor’, not a Silicon Valley whizz-kid. Okay, it’s true to some degree. There are a number of things that you’ll have to get your head around. However, this stepwise, how-to guide will get you started on maximizing your online presence. We’ll explain some of the basic techniques you can use as leverage to
Raise your profile in search engine results
Increase your ‘visibility’ in localized searches
Engage potential clients on social media
Generate new business – and keep it
Go on, admit it. You’ve done it, haven’t you? Everyone opens Google or one of its fellow search engines and does a ‘selfiesearch’, so to speak. Right? Thought so.
When doing search engine optimization for dentists, that’s where you begin the process. Think of it as being the same as taking an initial alginate impression of a new patient’s teeth. But hang on a minute, there are almost 200,000 practicing dentists in the States, aren’t there? Simply typing the word ‘dentist’ into Google will probably get you nowhere. Even typing ‘US dentists’ into Google won’t do you any good, it comes up with 75 million ‘hits’. You could look down that list for days and weeks and not find yourself.
Okay, now try typing the specific name of your dental practice, and the town or county you’re in, into Google, or another search engine. Bingo! You’re right at the top, aren’t you? (at least, right underneath the ‘pay per click’ ads that always appear at the top of page one of Google).
So you’ve learned your first lesson when it comes to dental SEO, or any other kind of SEO for that matter. Language makes a difference. So what’s Google doing? How does it come up with these seemingly magical figures?
Google’s algorithms (aggregations of computer coding that perform specific functions) include what’s known as ‘Googlebot’. When you build a website and put it online, Googlebot ‘crawls’ over your site, exploring it automatically, and ‘scores’ it in a number of ways. It ascertains the nature of your business, looks for key phrases related to that business, assesses the site structure, and examines the content your site contains. When it looks at your content, it judges how ‘clean’ or error-free it is, whether different pages contain repeated content, and so on. It’ll also look at how often you update your content or add to it.
Where to start in dental SEO?
A good place to start is those ‘key phrases’ we mentioned in the previous paragraph. These are known in the SEO business as ‘keywords’. The good thing is that you don’t have to be a technical wizard to optimize your web presence through the use of keywords
Keyword research is probably the core activity in search engine optimization. So let’s do that first, shall we?
There are a whole bunch of keyword research tools out there on the internet. Some are better than others, and if you check our page on ‘SEO for Big Commerce’ you’ll find a detailed explanation of Google’s own tool, the Google keyword planner.
AFTER YOU ENTER YOUR DETAILS TO BEGIN WITH, OR SIGN IN WITH YOUR NORMAL GOOGLE ACCOUNT, DO NOT CLICK ON THE TAB THAT SAYS ‘CONTINUE’. CLICK ON THE TAB THAT SAYS ‘SKIP THIS STEP’. If you don’t, you’ll have to either create an entirely new Google account, or actually create your own ad, which is not what you want to do to begin with.
On this screen, you’ll see the blue-colored click-through that says ‘skip the guided set-up’. Click that. DO NOT CLICK ‘CONTINUE’.
• Fill in your location details, okay that, and you’ll see this screen. Click on the ‘tools’ dropdown menu (the one with the spanner) and click on ‘keyword planner’.
• Enter your keywords into the ‘your product or service’ field.
We’re going to assume, as we said, that you’re a Seattle dentist based in Tacoma, and that you’re damned good at pediatric dentistry.
So let’s do a test run. In the keywords entry field, we’ll put ‘Seattle dentists, Seattle pediatric dentists, and Tacoma dentist’. We’re only using three keywords, but you can use a number more than that. What we’re doing is just for demonstration purposes only.
Here’s what you find if you scroll down a bit:
The two key metrics you’ll be looking at are ‘average monthly searches’ and ‘competition’. When you search for ‘Goldilocks’ keywords, you’re looking for a combination of ‘low SEO competition’ and the ‘highest number of monthly searches’. Monthly searches of less than 1K (1000) are not worth bothering with. Once you start getting into the 1K-10K range of searches per month, that’s where you can find higher-volume long-tail keywords that might help your dental business rise in SERPs. So in the example above, ‘West Seattle dentist’ looks like a decent option, because it has 1K-10K searches a month, but ‘low’ competition.
Now you have your own keyword planner tool at your disposal, you can tweak and adjust the keywords you use to your heart’s content, and find the best ‘Goldilocks’ keywords for your dental SEO. (See below for what ‘Goldilocks keywords’ are)
It’s a good idea to try getting inside the head of potential dental clients. What are they looking for? Think also about your dentist specializations (if your clinic has these), for example, does your clinic focus on a particular procedure or set of procedures? Are you brilliant at making or fixing dentures, or does everyone root for your root canal work? Are you the kind of pediatric dentist that kids look forward to seeing? The idea is to come up with a list of keywords (which can include phrases up to four words long) that your potential customers might use, but which aren’t included in the top-ranking search terms for dentistry in your area.
The way to use the tool is to start your list off with more general search terms, then refine the list. That way, the tool will help you find the ‘Goldilocks’ search terms you’ll be using later.
‘Goldilocks’ keywords are, like the fairy tale, neither too ‘hot’ nor too ‘cold’. The keywords you’re looking for combine two qualities: a high search volume (i.e., as many people as possible put these keywords into search engines), and the lowest competition possible (you don’t want to be competing with 200 other dentists on the same keyword).
In fact, you should think up a whole bunch more, anything up to 20 keywords.
The theory behind these keywords is that your potential clients in Tacoma don’t necessarily want to drive all the way into downtown Seattle to visit a dental clinic. But you do want to pull clients the other way if you can.
Another point to remember is to play to your strengths, as we said earlier. If you’re a brilliant pediatric dentist, then clients may travel a long way to treat their kids’ dental caries (commonly known as tooth decay). The latest figures show that dental caries is the single most common chronic childhood disease. It’s five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.
You’ll need to bear in mind, too, that these days, most searches on Google are
• Made via smartphones
• Localized (when searchers are looking for services in their immediate area)
If a smartphone searcher finds a likely option, they may well do further research at home on a laptop or desktop computer (or on their tablet).
Note that the tool has come up with a whole bunch of keyword suggestions for you. The columns tell you more about search frequencies: ‘Volume’ is the number of searches per month, which is you key metric.
The keywords you want to make a note of when you search for each term are what you might call ‘slightly longer-tail’ keywords. You want words that aren’t searched for by lots of people, but aren’t searched for by no one or just a few people. That’s why I call them ‘Goldilocks’ keywords, by the way. You’re looking for median terms with volumes of a minimum of 1000 (1K), but if you can find ‘low competition’ keywords of 10K and more, those are Goldilocks gold dust.
Once you’ve done this for all your keywords, you should end up with a good list to choose from. This is the 1st step while doing SEO for dentists.
Google’s Googlebot ‘crawls’ over your website (you have a website for your practice, of course) and comes up with a whole bunch of metrics that will inform your ranking in their search engine. All the other search engines operate in the same way, too.
So how do you use your newly found keywords to help you optimize your site and raise it in SERPs? Well, you’ll need to get into your website and change up the text in there.
Here are some principles to help you out:
Don’t use the same keyword lots of times; Google doesn’t like that (it’s called keyword ‘stuffing’)
Make sure your top keywords appear in page titles, paragraph headings, and first and last paragraphs (the ‘bot’ will give extra weight to these)
Rearrange your site’s page structure if necessary to take advantage of your keyword list (if you’re keyword list includes ‘Tacoma dentist Medicaid’, then ensure you’ve a standalone page that covers your Medicaid work
Don’t use a single keyword for a single page (you’ve got a whole bunch, remember, so sprinkle two or three of those keywords into each page of your website’s content
You know we’re going to say ‘no’, and you’d be right. That’s not it by any means. For a start, we haven’t covered social media, which is a whole extra ball game we don’t have space for here. But there are some rules of thumb when it comes to dental websites that you should remember, and follow:
Once your dental SEO is done, you can move on to different marketing strategies for your dental clinic with some confidence that at the very least, your website is working for you in the best possible way:
Despite thousands of changes to Google and other search engines every year, less than 4% of our clients have ever moved on after working with us.That’s the highest retention rate of any SEO service or digital marketing agency we know of.
There are 3 reasons why.
1) As Certified Google Partners, we play by the rules. We work with you to give Google and other search engines exactly what they want. That means you get more traffic to your website and more customers for your business. Without fear of getting your site “slapped” or banned with “black hat” methods that Google frowns on. (And if you found us on Google or another search engine, you’ve just proven to yourself that our SEO methods work.)
2) We analyze and troubleshoot your website. Our software shows you exactly what happened to your site and when. Because defining the problem half the battle of solving it.
3) Our software developers work around the clock, because they work around the world. The sun literally never sets on our team, because we’re global. And nobody else has our systems. That gives you a unique advantage working with us – and nobody else.
Who knows? OTT might be the best thing that ever happened to you.