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For most people, when they find a dentist they will stick with them — very few patients are ‘shopping around’ for a different dentist every time they need some work done or a check-up is imminent. They will also usually bring along their family and name-drop the practice to friends or colleagues; so acquiring new patients can mean an expanding, lifelong revenue stream for your practice.
So what does this all mean from a digital marketing perspective? It means that you need to be pulling out all the stops to make sure that your practice is the one that gets any new patients. In the modern marketplace, that means making sure you are at the top of the search engine results pages — something that can only be achieved through effective SEO for dentists.
Why Is SEO for Dentists So Important?
For the general internet user, the first page of Google or Bing is where they find what they are looking for. Very few searchers go beyond the first page, either through a lack of time and effort, or through the (possibly mistaken) belief that the dental practices on page one are the better dentists. Really all those results show are the practices that are better at marketing, but that does not change the fact: patients looking for dentists are going to pick one from the first page of results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the science behind getting on that front page, and as near to the top as possible. Every search engine uses web crawlers to assess your page, and general digital presence, and then applies an extremely complex algorithm to what they find to rank your site. SEO is about communicating to those crawlers, and ultimately the algorithm, that your site is exactly what each searcher is looking for.
There are five key areas that you should look to address to make sure that you are as well-positioned as possible: keywords, on-page SEO, content, technicals, and links.
The aim of keyword research and use is to identify what potential patients are most likely to be typing (or speaking for voice search) into the search engine when they want to find a practice like yours. So obviously some high-volume keywords would be ‘dentist’ and ‘dental practice,’ but you also want to show up when people ask the search engine for ‘teeth cleaning,’ ‘swollen gums,’ and ‘oral hygiene.’ The list of potential keywords is almost endless — so you should focus your research on the most likely candidates, i.e. the ones that a lot of people are using.
There are plenty of tools to help you with keyword research. Google Trends will help you identify what people are currently searching for, and tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs can help you do a deeper analysis. You can even use the autocomplete function on Google to help you — start to type a query and see what comes up.
On-page SEO is focused less on engaging directly with the site visitor, and more on communicating with the search engine itself. This includes the URL of your page (the address that appears in the bar at the top of the page when someone visits your site), as well as meta titles and descriptions.
Meta titles and descriptions are what actually show up on the search engine results page, so make sure that you write these carefully and thoughtfully. Include the name of your business, your top keywords, and, ideally, a call to action like ‘call now for an appointment.’ All of this must be done in relatively few characters — there is no room for multiple sentences and paragraphs here.
Your site is (or should be) packed with content. Every image, every word, every video are all just different types of content. The search engine web crawlers assess your content for relevance, quality, and overall user engagement — this all adds up to making your site a trusted authority, which is necessary to be well ranked.
Your text should be seeded throughout with keywords, but not to the point where it seems deliberately ‘stuffed.’ This can be a fine line to walk, but, as a general rule, you should try to put your top keywords in headers and subheaders, and then expand on them in the text below. This makes the text more organic and easier to read for the user, and boosts your standing with the search engine.
For images and videos, be sure to add relevant keywords by way of your meta tags. These are the only way that the web crawlers can tell what is in the picture or footage, and, therefore, needs to be accurate and closely associated with the content for maximum results.
Your site technicals are also key factors in your ranking. If your site loads slowly, images do not appear properly, or links are broken, then your site will essentially be seen as not user friendly, or even broken, and as such will plummet down the search engine listings.
Be sure to check your site periodically for these factors — if you have a link that no longer works, then you might never realize it, but you will be penalized for it.
Links do two things — on your page, internal linking helps your visitors (and the web crawlers) to easily navigate your page and find what they are looking for, and external links help you to convey authority and trust.
Make sure that each page of your site links to other pages. This can be easily achieved with header menus and footer links, as well as in content with calls to action (‘meet our team’ on your home page links to an about us page, for example).
For other links, you will need to make sure that what you are linking to is itself a trusted site. So linking to the American Dental Association will strengthen your position, whereas linking to a random blog with very low traffic will have less of a positive effect.
Backlinks are links to your site on other pages, and they can have a massive effect on your search engine ranking — so wherever possible try to get your links out on other sites. This can be through business directories (like Yelp or Yellow Pages), local media sites, and guest posts/blogs, for example.
So now that you know the general best practices for SEO for dental practices, you can launch your own marketing efforts to make the lifelong goal of gaining new patients and increased revenue easier than ever before.