When someone is searching for a new dentist or dental practice, the first place they turn is the internet. And if your practice doesn’t show up within the Google 3 Pack, Google Maps, or the first page of the search results, the chances of getting them to see or call your business to make an appointment is slim to none.
That is why search engine optimization (SEO), specifically local SEO for dentists is important. When done well, dental SEO will improve your brand awareness, online visibility, and generate more patients for your practice.
Digital Tooth Fairy is a critically acclaimed and award winning digital agency for dentists. Below we’ll go over the importance of dental SEO and Local SEO, introduce the Google 3 Pack and how to get listed, and review complimentary digital marketing tactics.
Importance of Dental Search Engine Optimization
To succeed in today’s digital age, being present and visible online is an absolute must.
And it’s more than just having a website and Facebook page. Those two items should be part of your digital marketing strategy, however there is so much more that goes into getting your dental website noticed when patients are searching for a new dental practice or dental service nearby.
By optimizing your website and digital properties for your keywords, you’re helping Google, Bing, and other search engine crawlers and potential patients find you at the exact moment of their search.
This is called search engine optimization (SEO).
Dental SEO services can include a variety of tactics, like:
- Image optimization
- Service page optimization
- NAP (Name, address, phone number) accuracy across the web
- Site and URL structure
- Mobile-friendly design and content
- And so much more.
All of these tactics work together to get your website ranked high in the search results when a possible patient searches for your practice, services, or keywords.
A quick note about dental SEO: SEO is not about keyword stuffing, the quantity of keywords, or the quantity of links to your website. It’s about quality. You want to find a good balance between writing for the search engines and writing for your target audience. If you’re not sure how to do this, consult with a dental SEO company so you can make sure your website and content is appropriately optimized.
However, when a patient is searching for a new dentist, they’re most likely looking for someone near them. They’re probably not going to fly across the country or drive across the state to visit you twice a year or in a dental emergency (as nice and dedicated as that may be). This is where Local SEO comes in.
What is Local SEO?
Local search engine optimization is SEO that is hyper-focused to your specific location or service area.
So for example, if your practice is in Arlington, Virginia, you’re going to want to sprinkle Arlington, VA with your keywords throughout your website. Examples of your dental SEO keywords might be: Arlington VA Dentist, Dentist in Arlington VA, Family Dentist Arlington, etc.
By including and optimizing your location on your website and other digital properties, you’re telling the search engines (and patients!) that you practice in that area and should be shown in the results when someone is searching.
Local SEO and SEO work hand in hand together. While the tactics are similar, they use very different approaches to get results.
What Does Local SEO for Dentists Entail?
Local SEO for dentists uses the same tactics as traditional SEO, just hyper-focused to your dental practice’s location.
Local SEO ranking factors typically include:
- Online reviews
- Schema and local data markup
- Keyword + location-optimized service and content pages
- Mobile optimization
- Local linkbuilding and directory listings
- Google Map optimization
Online reviews showcase patient happiness and satisfaction at your dental practice. They’re a key factor in Local SEO for dentists because Google, Bing, and the search engines want to provide search results that provide value to searchers. The search engines look for online reviews at Yelp, Google, Facebook, and dental-specific sites like Vitals, Healthgrades, and OpenCare.
To get reviews on these sites, include includes to your profiles in your after-appointment emails and ask for a review. You should also have your front desk staff remind patients to leave them as they’re making their next appointment.
Schema and Local Data Markup
Schema and local data markup is microdata added to your website that lets the search engines better understand your website. You can tag things like your practice name, address, and phone number, your website, and reviews.
Adding scheme and local data markup to your website involves digging into the source code and adding through FTP. If you’re not too handy with your website, it’s best to let dental SEO experts add this to your website.
Keyword + Location Optimized Content
When a prospective patient searches a dental query, the search engine crawlers scan thousands of websites to find the top results. They’re looking for websites that have the dental query (or similar) on them. This is why your website needs to be optimized for not only your keywords, but your location as well.
If you have a dental practice with multiple locations, you should have a page on your website for each location. On these pages, you should include information specific to the location, including hours of operation, images, reviews, directions, landmarks (is it near a grocery store or park), and other specific data that sets it apart.
More and more searches are performed on mobile devices. Whether from smartphones while people are out and about or on tablets while watching TV, people are using these devices to look for dentists or dental services.
To be competitive, your dental website design needs to be mobile-friendly. And not only does it need to be mobile-friendly, it also needs to be user-friendly. When someone lands on your website, they need to be able to find the information they’re looking for easily. If they don’t and they bounce (and this happens with most website visitors), then the search engines will be less likely to show it in the results because it isn’t providing value to searchers.
Local Link Building + Directory Listings
Link building is a necessary part of both dental search engine optimization and local SEO. When your website is listed on local websites, like local city, neighborhood, or business park directories, it’s signaling to the search engine crawlers that you’re a part of the community.
Other link building opportunities that show you’re local are: Yelp, YellowPages, Bing Places, Google My Business, and Manta.
All of the tactics above play a role in getting your website ranked locally. However, one of the most important tactics is Google Map optimization.
Getting Listed in Google Maps
If you were to Google search for a dental practice right now, you’d probably see search results that look like this:
Right at the very top of the search results is a map of Arlington, VA with several dentist offices shown. Underneath the map are three local dentist listings (one is an ad), complete with their phone number, review rating, directions, and other basic practice information. We refer to this as the Google 3 Pack.
The Google 3 Pack displays the top 3 Google Maps listings for the keywords someone searches. So in the example above, the map is showing the top 3 Google Maps results for ‘dentist Arlington, VA’. The Google 3 Pack results change depending on where the searcher is located and where you are in proximity to them.
So why is the Google 3 Pack important?
The Google 3 Pack, including the map, takes up a good portion of the screen, pushing normal search results down. This means that potential patients might not scroll past the map to see what other practices are out there. They can use the map to see how far they are from the practice’s address, read patient reviews, and call to to make an appointment. There is no reason they need to look further.
This makes being listed in the Google Maps a critical component to local SEO for dentists. So, how do you get your dental practice listed in Google Maps?
Getting listed in Google Maps is part of the Google My Business platform. To get started, you’ll just need to create a free Google My Business account. Before you create the account, search to see if your dental practice is already listed in Google Maps. If so, you can just claim the listing and update the information. If you don’t see your practice listed, then you can create an account and create your profile.
Once you’re in your account, you should enter/update your practice name, address, phone number.
*It’s really important that these three items are the same as what is listed on your website. NAP (name, address, phone number) listings are really important to Local SEO.
You should also enter/update:
- Your business category – Try to get specific if you can. Dentist is an obvious category, but you could also choose Orthodontics, Endodontics, Pediatric Dentistry, etc.
- Images – Show off the inside of your practice, like your waiting room or exam rooms. You could also include pictures of your staff and dentists so prospective patients can get familiar with you and your team. You can also add your logo to improve your brand awareness.
- Hours of operation – This will show up in the Google 3 Pack when your listing shows. You’ll want to make sure your hours are always up-to-date here so that you don’t
- Description – Give a brief introduction to your practice, sharing your services, core values, and team.
- Q&A – Questions and Answers is a relatively new feature to Google My Business listings, but gives prospective patients the opportunity to ask questions before coming in to see you.
You can read step-by-step instructions for getting your dental practice listed in Google Maps here. It’s important to keep your Google My Business account as up-to-date as possible for potential patients always have accurate info about you.
Supplement Your Local SEO Efforts with PPC
Local SEO (and regular SEO) is a long-term marketing play. It can take time to see results.
However, when it comes to getting patients, you might not have a lot of time to wait. After all, an empty dental practice won’t pay the bills. So to help supplement your local SEO efforts, you should take advantage of pay-per-click advertising.
Pay-per-click advertising (also known as paid search advertising) is where you bid on the top spots of the search results. You only pay when someone clicks your ad, however the price for that click can be expensive depending on the keyword phrase. That’s why you want to use this strategy in conjunction with SEO. You want to have organic (free) website conversions to help improve your overall digital marketing ROI.
One of the great things about paid search advertising for local businesses, is that now ads can show up in the Google 3 Pack. Below is the same Google 3 Pack image we used above, however now you might truly notice the first listing is an ad.
Being able to get your dental practice here and possibly also listed in the Google 3 Pack as an organic listing is a double win for you. The more times someone sees your dental practice the more likely they are to click and become a patient.
Ready to Get More Patients with Local SEO for Dentists?
The information on Local SEO for dentists in this article is just the beginning. There are so many factors that go into crafting a digital marketing and search engine optimization strategy.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our eBook, How to Supercharge Your Dental Website and Dominate Your Competition. The eBook will walk you through the ins and outs of dental marketing, including dental SEO.
To see where your website currently stands with SEO, request a free website evaluation. Our dental SEO experts will manually review your website and provide recommendations to take your practice to the next level.
Fill out the form below to request a free website evaluation of your dental website!