If you are a dentist (or do marketing for a client who happens to practice some form of dentistry) and want to grow your business, then this post is for you. There are more potential clients and patients online then any one dentist (or practice) could ever serve. In order to reach these potential customers, good search engine optimization (SEO) is required to help your practice’s website reach these would-be clients.
In this dental SEO guide, I will outline a detailed plan to put your website and practice in front of consumers looking for your services online. By following these steps, you will be ahead of the vast majority of dentists in your area and be well-positioned to pick up new patients and clients as they stumble upon your practice’s information.
Starting a Dentistry Website
As the focus of this guide is SEO for dentists, I will keep this brief. Naturally, a website is required in order to continue from here. If you do not already have a website, you can buy a cheap hosting plan from somewhere like HostGator, register a domain name, and install WordPress. It is free and requires no technical skill. HostGator’s tech support will walk you through the process if you are stuck. You can install a free theme once inside WordPress and you are ready to go.
Dental SEO Key #1: Make Sure Your Website is Fully Functional
A functional website is much more useful then a pretty website. If you want to generate business, you website has to work for the user. The ugliest site in the world built on a free theme that contains all the elements below will generate many more referrals than an expensive, flashy website that does not provide potential patients with the information they are seeking when they visit your website. Below, I will go over the elements of a functional website.
Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP)
One of the most important elements of on-page SEO for dentists is the name, address and phone number (NAP). The NAP should be on every single page, typically in the footer and sometimes duplicated in the header. The phone number for the practice should be available in the header of the website in large font as well – do not make it hard for potential clients to call you to schedule an appointment!
The name, address, and phone number must match the name, address, and phone number you use for Google Places (discussed in the Key #2 section).
Locations, Directions, and Hours of Operation
Make it easy for prospective patients and clients to find the basics about your practice on your website. Create a Directions and Hour of Operations page that includes the hours for all of your offices listed for the entire week. For directions, you can embed a Google map with the location of your business highlighted. Your users will find this much more helpful than traditional step by step directions.
If you have more than one office, you will want a separate page for each location. Your homepage should focus on the largest area from which your patients are likely to hail, whereas your location pages should focus on the neighborhood where your office physically resides. If you have offices in different cities, each location page should focus on its particular area.
Example: If you were a Baltimore dentist with locations in Canton and Federal Hill (two Baltimore neighborhoods), your homepage could focus on “Baltimore Dentist” while each location page could focus on its own neighborhood. This allows your capture potential traffic from both the city and neighborhood where your practice is located. If you are in a very large metropolitan area like NYC, you might want to break it down even further. Your homepage might focus on “Manhattan Dentist” while your location page might focus on “Upper East Side Dentist”.
The same strategy can be followed when there are offices in different cities. It is not uncommon for an Orthodontist to have surgery centers in two nearby towns, such as in both Baltimore and Towson (Towson is the closest county seat to Baltimore City). The homepage would focus on “Baltimore Orthodontist”, the Baltimore office location page would focus on the neighborhood in Baltimore, and the Towson office would focus on “Towson Orthodontist”.
It is important to make it extremely easy to find this information on your website. If you do not, third party sites will instead show up in the results with information on your practice. These third party sites will display prominent advertising, giving these advertisers a chance to take your potential customers. Someone looking for hours or directions is getting close to making an appointment – do not miss out on this crucial conversion window by not making it easy to find pertinent information about your business.
Service Pages For Each Service Rendered
As any dentist can attest, there are many services that fall under the umbrella of dentistry. Potential customers know this as well and will often search for a particular type of dentistry. In order to capture this traffic, a separate page should be set up for each major service offered. A single page can only rank for so many keywords, so it is best to be as specific as possible by creating more pages.
For example, a cosmetic dentist could focus on “Cosmetic Dentistry + CIty Name” for the homepage. Separate subpages could be then created for “Laser Teeth Whitening + City Name”, “Veneers + City Name”, and “Dental Implants + City Name”. Increase conversions by explaining the procedure, discussing the pros and cons, and if possible including before and after pictures or a picture of the completed work.
Page Titles and Content
In order to help these pages rank, you should set the title tag and create content (i.e. words, pictures, or even video) to go along with that page. Include all of your relevant keywords in the page title of that particular page. Note that Google limits title tags to 70 characters. Sometimes Google will count large characters like a long hyphen as 2 character spaces, so keeping the title to 64 characters or less is ideal. Since we are setting up pages for each location and service offered, you should not feel compelled to stuff your title with too many keywords.
Each page should have at least 500 words of written content relevant to that page’s offerings. Each page’s content must be unique (i.e. not copied and pasted from other sites or from one page on your own site to another page). Writing content for the services page is easy – just explain the procedure in detail, discuss pros and cons, procedure length, recovery time, and the like.
Writing content for the homepage and the location pages can be more difficult. You can always pay one of your staff or hire a freelance writer to come up with the content if you are struggling – top tier journalists typically only charge $50 for a 500 word article and you can get a decent article from a college grad for $10-$15 for a 500 word article.
Now that your static website is mostly complete, you will want to get a mobile website set up. If you are running your site on WordPress as discussed earlier, most modern themes actually already have a mobile version already built into the theme – no further action is required on your part. If you are not sure if your website has this already, visit the page on your smartphone and see what it looks like yourself. If the site is fully functional but looks different from your website when viewed from your PC or laptop, you have a mobile-optimized theme.
Even if your site is already mobile-ready, depending on the theme, it may be good to set up a separate mobile site that makes it very easy for people to set up appointments. Include your phone number in big letters (not a picture, actual text) so that people can just click to call. Additionally, include the hours of operation and name and address right on the homepage. Finally, a link to the location’s physical address on Google maps would be great.
If you do not have a mobile site, you can hire a designer or use a tool to set one up for you. Mobile sites should be much cheaper since they are so simple to set up – a few hundred dollars at most is all you can expect to pay for a mobile site to be created and set up.
Dental SEO Key #2: Google Places and Other High Payoff SEO Activities
Now that you have the basics covered for on-page SEO, you business is now poised to generate traffic and ultimately bring in new customers. However, before your dental site will really take off, you will need to undertake at least a few of the following actions to help get your business found online. It is one thing to have a website, it is another thing to have visibility.
There is really no limit to the amount of effort you can put into some of these steps. The more work you put in, the more traffic and ultimately the more clients your website will be able to generate.
The most important thing you can do as a dentist or any other professional with a physical location is to set up a Google Places page. Google Places is a free service that allows your business to show up in local search results in the “places” and “maps” section in the search results:
Make sure your places page has the exact same name, address, and phone number as is displayed on your website. This is crucial to having a good places ranking.
Google will occasionally spot-check their places listings by calling the phone number or mailing a letter with information to that address, so be sure that you actually have access to the mail at the address listed on the places page. People will be calling the number in the places page for appointments so make sure the phone number matches your appointment line.
Submit to Merchant and Review Sites
Google’s bot likes to crawl high end business directories like merchantcircle.com and yellowpages.com to check to make sure the physical address, name, and phone number all match up with your places listing. If everything matches up, Google knows that your business is more likely to be real. This helps prevent scammers from taking advantage of Google Places rankings to promote call centers that are pretending to be businesses. While these two directories are the most important, adding your site to high quality business directories can help improve the visibility of your business. Stay away from low quality directories (use your judgment – if you are not sure just ask me) as we these may hurt your ranking.
In addition to merchant sites, review sites are very important. Getting good reviews on review sites will not only boost your conversion rate and drive leads in its own right, but highly reviewed businesses rank better in Google Places listings. The most important review sites for a dentist are HealthGrades, Yelp, and Google Reviews. Submit your practice to the former two sites; Google Reviews will automatically be added when you create your places for business page as mentioned earlier. Encourage your patients to leave reviews for your practice on these sites. Do not incentivize patients to review as this can get you in trouble with the review sites; just do a good job and ask your patients politely in person and you will be surprised at how many will leave good reviews. Rather than ask patients to leave reviews on every site, just focus on one site in particular for a month or so and then rotate until you have 10+ good reviews on each site.
Do not worry about paying to use these services, submitting your business should be free. Some sites may try to upsell you to a premium service, but this is not necessary.
Start A Blog
Start a blog on your dental practice website and regularly post articles, news bits, your latest before and after shots, and informative pieces on various dental topics. Topics could include everything from flossing techniques, recommended brushing patterns to new teeth whitening technology. Use your imagination.
Blogs are great because they provide each post is an additional entry page for users to find your business. If your blog is good, you will draw attention from visitors around the country or even around the world. While these visitors are not likely to become your patients, they might share your content with your friends or link back to your blog post. This will help the other pages on your website rank higher – every bit of exposure helps. If your blog is stellar, you might even get invited to speak at events or be contacted by journalists looking for your opinion. Both are great publicity and can pay off handsomely.
Dental SEO Key #3: Link Building for Dentists
Optimal on-page Dental SEO combined with a Google Places listing, great reviews, and an active blog will be more than enough to drive large amounts of business to your practice. However, if you want to get even more out of your website or are practice in a particularly competitive city, you will want to take some additional actions to improve the visibility of your business.
Google will rank both your website and places listing higher if your website gains links from authoritative sources. When another website links to your website, it is as if that website is vouching for your website. The more links you have and the more authoritative the vouching website, the better you will rank.
However, this does not mean you want to get a link from every website in the world. There are a lot of shady SEO providers which will more or less spam other websites with your link or set up artificial links back to your website. This can lead to a penalty from Google as Google does not want you to manipulate their search engine results. Instead, stick to the link sources mentioned below.
Issue a Press Release
Whenever anything newsworthy happens to you or your business, issue a press release with a high quality service like PRNewsWire or PRWeb. A new website launch, a new service offered, or a reward from a prestigious organization for anything from outstanding service to charity work is worthy of a press release. Conclude the press release with an about section describing your practice with a link back to your website.
Get in the Local Online Paper
Getting a link from a local paper’s website will be a huge boon to your business’s rankings. For example, if you were in Baltimore, a link from the Baltimore Sun’s website to your website would help both your website and your Google Places listing ranking immensely. Contact the local paper and let them know if they ever need a dentist’s expert opinion you would be more than happy to contribute. Local news stations also are a great source for authoritative local links.
Any time a story is run on something regarding teeth or oral health, odds are a journalist will want to tap at least one local dentist to weigh in on the matter. You want that dentist to be you. This is where having an active blog helps. Journalists looking for dentists will see your active blog and know that you would be willing to contribute to a media piece as a result.
If you get no traction with your local contacts, try using HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This will give you access to reporters worldwide who need expert opinions from dentists to round out their news and story pieces. While a link from your local paper is best, any newspaper link is generally a good link to have.
Most businesses tend to be involved with the local business association, charity events, sponsoring rec teams, and the like. You do not have to do all of these activities, but note that most of these organizations have websites and will list sponsors or members. Ask the head of those organizations to link back to your website. If you are donating money or participating in their activity in some way, there is no reason for these websites to refuse linking to your website.
If you still do not rank in Google as high as you want once you have exhausted your local link sources, you may want to turn to guest posting. A guest post is when you offer up some content to a health site or blog in exchange to get your name and possibly a link back to your practice’s website attached to the article.
As a dentist, your opinion on matters of oral health carry a lot of weight. Blogs and health websites love to get well-written and interesting articles from dentists and doctors, as these busy professionals often would not take the time to write an article for another person’s website, let alone their own website.
While an SEO company might create “guest posts” in your name and post them on low quality blogs, the sites that will run content hand written by an actual dentist will be worth much more in the eyes of Google. Google actually has a strong dislike for mass guest posting on low quality sites, but if you get a major health publication like WebMD, a university site, or Yahoo Health to run your piece, this type of link can only help you.
Dental SEO Guide: A Summary
By following the strategies in this guide, you can enjoy the benefits of a website with large amounts of targeted traffic. Some of these visitors will ultimately become your patients and your business will grow. Make sure you follow the keys in order: get your website up and running first and then submit to Google places second, monitor business and review sites, and start a blog. Being great at these first two keys is enough to generate new business from your website. If you want to take things a step further, you can engage in some link building to generate more exposure to your website.