In this mini-series of blog posts, I will try to demystify SEO for dentists and give you some tips that you can do yourself or at least make sure your marketing team is implementing.
Over the years I’ve analyzed thousands of dentist websites. The lack of basic SEO on many of them is astounding. Search engine optimization is something you just have to get right. If you get SEO wrong or if you’ve been the victim of cheap SEO in the past then you’re losing new patients to competitors each month.
Every dentist wants to be ranked first on Google, but not every dentist deserves to be there. Your practice and website have to earn that right. Google now uses over 200 ranking signals in their algorithm and last year, there were 540+ improvements to the quality of their search algorithm.
Your dental website should be carefully handled by professionals who have solid SEO best practices and proven dental marketing strategies in place.
By following SEO best practices in your website publishing and following a process, over time, you can beat the competition.
If you’re not doing SEO right now, then you’re likely falling behind. If you’ve never hired search engine optimization professionals for your dental practice before then you have some catching up to do.
The sooner you make SEO experts a part of your practice team the better. The rewards of great SEO are increased visibility, traffic, and conversions. The rewards can last a long time. Investing in local SEO better positions your practice in the organic search results and local map pack where the clicks are free.
#1 Website Architecture & Dental SEO
Mobile User First Website Design
Mobile users first.
It used to be that websites were designed to look great on the desktop and then made to be “friendly” to mobile devices. Web designers would make sure their client’s dental website would pass Google’s mobile-friendly test.
Today, things have flipped. Your dental practice website should be designed for mobile users first while also looking good on a desktop.
In 2019 it is estimated that up to 90% of your target patients will find you on a mobile device. If visitors need to side scroll or zoom in to read and navigate your content you fail.
Google can and may omit your dental practice website from search engine results viewed on mobile devices if your site is not optimized for mobile.
Check and see if your practice website is mobile-friendly here at this link. If your site is old, you’ll probably fail. If you’ve been putting off updating your website for years it is time. Most newer sites are mobile-friendly. However, passing this test doesn’t mean you have a website that works.
Example Google mobile-friendly test result.
Load time and page speed are very important as people click around the web and in and out of pages in fractions of a second. If your website is slow to load and scores low on website speed tests you need to repair or replace it.
Speed up your dental practice website.
Google prefers fast loading websites. Especially when a user is on a mobile device using a data plan.
Optimally, your web page should be interactive within 3-4 seconds even on a slow 3G connection.
Web page speed can impact your dental SEO a great deal. If Google has two results that are competing for a targeted search keyword and are similar in just about every way except for speed, it is widely accepted that Google will give priority to the faster loading result by awarding the faster site a ranking boost.
Here are two great sites I use to check the speed of any web page: Google Pagespeed Insights & GT Metrix. I prefer Google as you can flip between desktop and mobile results easily.
Google is really throwing the hammer down for mobile speed tests in 2019 and will give your website page a failing grade if it takes more than just a few seconds to load.
For this reason, we've embraced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for clients as an add-on to their website in 2019. AMP is an open-source library that provides a straightforward way to create web pages that are compelling, smooth, and load near instantaneously for users.
The AMP Project is an open-source initiative aiming to make the web better for all. The Google-supported project enables the creation of websites and ads that are consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.
An AMP page is basically a stripped down version of a webpage that removes all bloat. Validated AMP pages are then cached by Google on their own server which allows a mobile user to interact with the content super fast often loading and interactive on-screen within a fraction of a second.
Speed equals revenue on the web, especially mobile. In fact, studies have shown even 100ms delays in page load time correlate with lower conversion rates. To better understand the impact AMP can provide for mobile sites on speed and revenue, Google commissioned Forrester Consulting, a leading global research and advisory firm, to conduct a Total Economic Impact™ study across publishers and e-commerce websites using AMP.
In the study commissioned by Google, AMP publishers are seeing a 20% increase in sales conversion rate, 10% year-over-year increase in AMP site traffic, and 60% increase in pages per visit. Certainly, numbers any advertiser would love to achieve.
Dental SEO Best Practices
Improving certain elements of your dental practice website’s architecture and design can increase the number of pages that are indexed naturally by search engines, and also increase the likelihood that your pages will rank higher for your keyword phrases.
Website architecture and content should be handled very carefully and methodically during design and development phases to be sure SEO best practices are in place sitewide. Most top-shelf dental marketing packages include keyword market intelligence efforts researching live search engine databases to identify opportunities followed by site architecture optimization and content optimization that reflect those findings. This makes all of your search engine marketing efforts much easier from the start.
Your digital marketing team should be doing the same. If not then you should bounce. Business is business.
Unless a web page is indexed, it cannot generate any traffic to the website from search engines. If you could have more than one listing in the phone book for all of the procedures and services you offer, you would. Indexing is very similar. It’s the way that search engines include pages in their database and is the starting point for evaluating your dental practice overall search marketing performance.
Depending on how your site is built and the value it provides to an audience, the search engines might index one of your pages, or they might index thousands of them. If your website has two-thousand pages, but only ten of them are indexed, only .5% of your website is available to people searching. The more pages you have indexed, the more keywords you can compete for. If 100% of your website is indexed, these pages represent hundreds, if not thousands, of ways to be found. Pages can’t rank in search results if they aren’t indexed!
You can check to see how well Google has indexed your website content by searching Google using the site command like this: site:yoursite.com. The search will reveal which pages of yours that Google has indexed. Do the results look messy? Are all of your procedures and services pages listed there?
Example of a Google site: search.
If you identify and eliminate barriers to indexing by search engines, your dental website can increase the number of pages that are indexed, generate more search engine traffic, and extend its reach to target patients. Improving certain elements of your site’s architecture and design can increase the number of pages that are indexed naturally by search engines, and also increase the likelihood that your pages will rank higher for your keyword phrases.
How does Google understand what’s in an image? Google is like a blind person that cannot see the image. Google looks to the surrounding content, the alt tag and the filename among other things to figure out what an image on your dental practice website is about.
If a before & after photo of a happy patient smiling on the dental implants page is a result of a successful implant for dentures case then the filename should be smiling-female-implants-dentures.jpg or similar not 00875.jpg.
All of your website files, especially images, should be named descriptively and include your target keywords and sometimes location. Many dental website designers skip this very important step because they’re lazy and cut corners or just don’t know SEO.
You can easily check this on a desktop by navigating to your website, hover over an image and right-click your mouse then select Inspect. This will show code on the right that contains your image filename and more. Are the filename and the alt tag both descriptive of the image? If not, your site is lacking the most basic level of SEO. Often, I see the alt tag left empty like this: alt=””.
Example of an SEO optimized image filename, alt tag, and title tag.
This same practice should be in place for your URL structure. Look at the address of one of your procedure pages or blog posts as an example. Is the URL (web page address) descriptive of the page content? Is it the optimal length? Although file names are only a small ranking factor in SEO they are important for user experience.
Web Page Title Tags & Meta Descriptions
Each page of your dental practice website should have optimized titles and descriptions. Each page title and description must be unique and descriptive of the page content. Descriptions (often shown in Google results) should contain calls to action words that entice clicks. Action words such as find, learn, see and visit work great. See a sample of your site titles and descriptions by searching Google for site:yourname.com. Do they look optimized? Are they all similar? Are there target keywords in them? Are the titles the optimal length?
Having optimized site title tags and meta descriptions can have a big impact on your SEO success and ability to compete for new patients.
Secure Website SSL Certificate
Is your dental practice website secure? Is there a padlock displayed near your URL at the top left of your browser? Running your site without SSL could be a problem if your site allows patients to send you messages or fill out contact forms requesting consultations.
As of 2018 Google requires that your practice website be secure or it will display a warning to your website visitors that your site is not to be trusted. Most professional websites today are secure but if you’re running an older site built 3 or more years ago then chances are it’s not secure.
Make sure your dental practice website is secure.
Protect your dental practice website with SSL encryption to ensure privacy and safekeeping of all patient communications and data. This is very important to us and needless to say it is also important to the big search engines.
Continue reading my next DT blog post: SEO Tips for Dentists #2 - Best Dental Marketing Companies
Find my full article about Dental SEO at this link: https://cuttingedge.marketing/seo-tips-for-dentists/