The Internet has fundamentally changed the way dental
practices acquire new patients. Today, more than ever, where
your site shows up on search engines will determine how much
traffic (and new-patient calls) is generated from your website.
Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines are focusing
more on targeted local search activities. This makes sense given
that recent research shows 97 percent of consumers (prospective
patients) search for local businesses online.1 This bodes well for
dentists, if they navigate their SEO strategy well.
Consumers don't dig too deeply into search results - 87 percent
of all clicks from organic search engine traffic goes to the
first five results.2 To capture the attention - and clicks - of
prospective patients, your practice's website must secure these
top spots in relevant searches for specific keywords.
Making SEO Work for Your Practice
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the "process of improving
the visibility of a website or a webpage in a search engine's
natural or unpaid (organic) search results."3 Think of your website
as a billboard on the highway: No matter how well it's
designed, you need traffic if you want people to see it and take
action. SEO helps you increase the prospective patient traffic to
your practice's digital billboard.
The right SEO strategies, supported with the right website,
will help your practice attract and convert more prospective
patients. Here are seven ways you can optimize your search
1. Ensure Your Website is Easy to Use and Navigate
Google and other search engines use an ever-changing array
of algorithms to generate highly targeted search results. How
long visitors stay on your website is a key factor in search engine relevance rankings. Websites that are confusing to navigate, slow
to load or otherwise user-unfriendly, will reduce the time spent
on your practice website and can adversely impact where you
show up on searches.
To avoid this problem, design your website to provide visitors
with the best possible experience. From the home page on,
focus your website squarely on patients and their needs. Design
your site's navigation to be simple and user-friendly, and make
sure every page, link and image works properly.
2. Keep Your Website Updated with Fresh Content
Search engines generally deem webpages with updated
content more relevant. Make sure to update your site weekly if
possible, monthly at minimum. Keep in mind not all fresh content
is created equal. Updating a link or two in your navigation
bar won't win you many SEO points; adding a new post to your
blog or adding new site content on relevant topics will boost your
3. Use the Right Keywords
When searching online for the services you provide, your
prospective patients are likely to use certain words and phrases.
Including the right keywords in your website copy where appropriate
will help your site show up higher in these searches.
To determine what these keywords are, survey a few patients.
Ask which search terms they used - or would use - when searching
for a dentist. Then, weave these words and phrases into your
website copy. Be sure that your website makes numerous mentions
of the services you offer and your location, including
nearby cities and any metro areas.
Ultimately, if your content is helpful to prospective patients
and relevant to the services you provide, it will be reasonably
keyword-friendly by default.
4. Make Sure Your Website Experience is Optimized
for Any Device
By 2014 mobile Internet use will surpass desktops.4 Today's
mobile devices come in all shapes and sizes. It is imperative that
your practice website optimize the viewing experience no matter
which type of device prospective patients choose to use. In fact,
61 percent of prospective patients will leave your site for a competitor's
if your website is not mobile-friendly.5 There are two
strategies to do this and each have an impact on SEO efforts.
A couple of years ago, building two websites (one for desktops
and one for mobile devices) was the only feasible solution
to this changing web traffic pattern. The challenge was to ensure
that search engines attributed the traffic from these separate
websites to one practice entity and brand. Although this was
possible, it was tricky and you needed to make sure your website
designer knew what to do.
The other more optimized method (and the one recommended
by Google) is to adopt certain design principles, known
as responsive design, that enable your practice's main website to
look and function effectively across all devices and screen sizes,
from desktops and laptops to popular tablets and phones. By
providing one website with the same content for all devices,
responsive design makes it is easier for search engines to index a
website and improve its ability to be found in native search
results. As importantly, the optimal viewing experience of visitors
improves new patient conversion.
5. Feature Video Content
Prominently displayed videos on your site will
engage visitors and increase the chance that they'll
stay engaged. In fact, 46 percent of people who visit
websites see video as a key reason for them to seek
out more information on a product or service.6 Video content is
also great for SEO. Video helps increase the amount of time a
visitor spends on your practice website, which prompts search
engines to increase your relevance ranking.
Compelling video that highlights the unique characteristics
of your practice will boost SEO rankings while providing
prospective patients with a more up close and personal experience.
Today, high quality video content is a cost effective and
powerful way to attract patients and accelerate a call to action to
contact your practice.
6. "Claim" Your Online Business Listings
Online business sites such as Yelp and Google+ are highly
popular starting points for consumers searching for products and
services. Claiming, filling out and verifying your profiles on these
sites will help more prospective patients find your practice.
It'll also net you a few SEO benefits. Verified listings on
Google properties (e.g., Google+ Local) get better exposure in
Google's search engines. Additionally, once you have standardized
listings for all of your local site profiles, search engines will recognize
that these profiles refer to the same business and group them
together in search results, increasing your search-engine visibility.
7. Measure Results and Continue to Optimize
How will you know if your SEO efforts are working without
a way to connect these activities with increases in site
traffic and new patients? Website analytics programs like
Google Analytics let you track site visitors by source, meaning
you can identify exactly how many visitors arrive at your site
via search engines over a given time period. This allows you to
link upticks in search-engine traffic to specific SEO activities.
Additionally, tracking referral sources for every new patient
will help you connect the dots between SEO and new patient
acquisition. Make sure every new patient answers the question
"How did you hear about us?" and capture this information.
Identifying all patients acquired through search engines will
allow you to calculate the ROI of your SEO activities.
Lastly, using an automated call tracking system, such as
Sesame First Call to identify calls from your different online
channels, can provide a conclusive ROI on each respective
Many, if not all, of your prospective patients use online
search as a starting point when seeking out the services you
offer. Without an ongoing SEO effort, your practice will miss
out on opportunities to get new patients. SEO helps prospective
patients to find your website, ultimately allowing you to
optimize your site as a tool for acquiring new patients.
- Place for Business. Google.
- "Share of Listing Types and Share of Clicks." Search Engine Watch.
- "Search Engine Optimization." Wikipedia.
- 4. "ComScore: Mobile Will Force Desktop into its Twilight in 2014." Business Insider.
- "What Users Want Most from Mobile Sites Today." September 2012. Google.
- "5 Stats You Need to Know About Online Video Marketing." Eloqua.