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One of the most effective ways of driving new patient growth for dental practices is by improving the search engine ranking position (SERP). Practice operators should assume that every single person looking for a dentist is conducting an online search as the main part (or the only part) of their strategy — gone are the days where word of mouth was the only marketing required.
So what can you do to make sure that your practice is as well-positioned as possible? A good first step is to read our overview of the top tips around local SEO for dentists.
Why Is Local SEO So Important?
Dental practices are among the business and service types that are inherently local. Very few people are searching for national dentist chain webpages or nationally ranked dentists — they are looking to find the closest dentist to their location, and will then look to compare the three or four top, closest results. This means that if your practice is not showing up on the ‘dentists near me’ or ‘local dentist’ searches, you are missing out on new patients.
Google Business Profile
Previously known as Google My Business, the Google Business Profile is a fantastically easy way of getting your business noticed by Google. All you have to do is register a Google account and associate it with your business. This profile will be used almost like a snapshot advertisement — it gives searchers the name of your business, opening hours, address, contact details (telephone, email, etc.), and often even review scores.
This then will give you two advantages — it gives potential patients all of the basic information that they need to find out if your practice is a good fit for them, and it tells the Google search algorithm that you can be trusted as a genuine business, one of the many criteria that your site is ultimately rated on.
You can also boost this element of your local search engine optimization by registering your business on other directories. Each will usually link back to your website (providing the much-needed backlinks), as well as show your business in more places. Be sure to keep your address and opening details consistent across directories, and if you need to update any element, then do so across all your listings.
Keywords are the search terms that people looking for your website will use. Your site needs to be as accurate and specific with these as possible: if visitors arrive on your site and then find out it is not what they were looking for, then they will immediately leave. This is measured by search engines as your bounce rate, and will negatively impact your SERP.
It is important when you build your SEO strategy that you consider the process from the perspective of the patient. Chances are that most people are not going to search for ‘gingivitis,’ for example; they will be searching for ‘swollen gums,’ ‘sore gums,’ or ‘inflamed gums.’ As a result, you need to make sure that your keywords are selected accordingly — remember that you are the expert, your patients are not.
In terms of local search, in particular, your keywords should both ask and answer the likely questions that searchers will ask. So for example, you might have a blog article that asks the question ‘where is the best dentist near me for cleaning,’ and then goes on to explain the tooth cleaning services that you provide.
You can find the most-common, current local keywords related to your business by using the Google Trends tool — it will show you the types of keywords that you should be optimizing for. This might include ‘dentists open evenings,’ ‘dentists for children,’ or ‘Medicaid dentist’ for example, and, as long as you check frequently enough, you can stay abreast of what your target patients are looking for.
On the subject of blog articles, your dental practice should one-hundred-percent invest some time and money into this area. It is an extremely effective way of improving your SEO and provides a great opportunity to use a variety of keywords that it might otherwise be difficult to naturally insert into home or services pages.
You can leverage your blogs and articles in a number of ways. Link to them from social media posts, update them periodically with new pictures and keywords to stay relevant, even distribute them for publication on other sites where appropriate. All of these techniques work toward improving your search engine optimization, as they convey to the search engines that you are an authority on dentistry, and can therefore be trusted with a high ranking.
Content is particularly effective when you make your blogs and articles locally specific — refer to your practice as ‘place name dentists,’ and discuss current local trends in your content.
One of the most powerful tools available to you as a local business is reviews. We mentioned previously about word of mouth being less important now than in previous years — and this is true. That does not mean that your potential patients no longer care about other people's opinions on your practice, though; it simply means that they are looking to other places (namely, the internet) to get that ‘social proof’ that they need.
Encourage your current patients to leave reviews, and respond to them appropriately. Obviously, you are looking for good reviews here, and that is going to primarily be dependent on your operations and skills, but even a negative review can be turned to your favor.
For example, let us say that a patient left a review stating that they had to wait for an hour for their appointment. Your response can be apologetic, and at the same time explain the situation and/or any steps that you have taken to prevent it from happening again.
Business reviews tie in with local SEO through the ability to present them on your Google My Business profile, right alongside your address and opening hours information. If there are five business profiles presented alongside search results and one of them has reviews, it is that one that will catch the attention of your audience. Most people will perceive a company with no reviews as having no good reviews — or simply think that they have not been established long enough to generate any customer feedback.
Know that you know what you can do to make sure that your practice is as well positioned for online traffic you can refer back to this guide as you create your own digital marketing strategy for your dental business.