You asked—we answered! Justin L. Morgan,
Google’s No. 1-ranked dental SEO expert,
replies to questions about how to get new
patients through search engine optimization
What is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and is any effort that causes you to become more visible on search engines. The process of SEO involves becoming the best, most-authoritative, most-relevant search result for keywords that bring you new patients.
How many new patients can I get from SEO?
If you rank No. 1 on Google, you can expect approximately 30 new patients per month for every 1,000 monthly searches. That said, important variables will affect your estimated website conversion (turning searchers into patients). These variables include the clarity and ease of use of your dental website, the level of customer service you provide over the phone, if you have an after-hours call-answering service, patient experience, and online reviews and video testimonials on your website. If your dental practice has it all dialed in, you will gain more new patients. These new patients will further your marketing efforts through word-of-mouth and online reviews.
How competitive is SEO
in the dental industry?
Dental SEO is very competitive compared to less-sophisticated markets such as carpet cleaning and asphalt paving. You can benefit immensely from being found on Google, but you absolutely have to consider your competition. Certain geographic areas are more competitive than others. Some keywords may be tougher to rank for, such as “dentist [your city]”, while other keyword types may carry almost no competition whatsoever.
SEO for dental websites is more competitive than most markets because the benefit of being searchable by your prospects encourages your colleagues to enter the SEO footrace with you. I work closely with SEO experts in more competitive industries and evidence shows that dental SEO has a lower upfront investment than these other industries like personal injury attorneys, plastic surgeons and e-commerce stores. The good news is, in most geographic areas, SEO is a high-value marketing tactic for you as a dentist.
How do I know if SEO is
right for my practice?
The most critical service an SEO company can provide you actually starts before any SEO begins. You need to know what SEO means to you in terms of your bottom line. If you’re in an area where people don’t often use Google to find a dentist, the benefit will be limited. A true SEO specialist won’t try to push their services on you. SEO isn’t the right fit for every dentist in every area, so it’s critical that you contact a specialist who will perform a preliminary diagnostic analysis.
The preliminary diagnostic phase, often called “velscoping your keywords” by industry experts, is an important first step your SEO company should perform before deciding to move forward. This keyword research includes the most popular keywords “dentist [your city]” and “[your city] dentist,” as well as more specialty service-related searches such as “dental implants [your city].” Learning how many (or few) patients are searching in your area for your dental services will determine the potential success of your SEO investment. An effective specialist will help you decide whether SEO is a good fit for you.
DIY Velscope your keywords: Any of these three research techniques can be used to help you measure how popular dentistry-related searches are in your city. You can use your Google My Business listing to show how many “discovery” searches you appeared in. You can also use semrush.com to get a bird’s-eye view of the bare minimum number of monthly searches for specific keywords in your area. If you’ve run Google AdWords, you can look at the number of “impressions” attributed to various keywords.
Do I have to redesign my website for SEO to work?
It depends on three things. First, does your website match searcher intent? Do you provide an emotionally connecting message that puts your prospective patients at ease? Is your website really the best result among all your local colleagues (according to searchers)? Second, is your website relevant to what keywords people are entering? You need a strong headline which helps quickly identify you as a dental office in your area. “Dentist in [your city]” is an example of a strong headline that will tell Google and searchers you’re a relevant search result. Third, is your website functional and easy to navigate? Providing simple, clear answers to your prospective patient’s hidden fears and apprehensions, while being easy to use on all devices (cellphones, laptops, desktops, etc.) will help you become the best search result. If any of these things are lacking in your current website design, you may have to invest in an upgrade in order to get the most out of your SEO efforts
How long before
I see results?
The same question could be asked about certain dental treatments. For example, a patient may ask, “How long does Invisalign take before you see results?” The results can take a long time, but what you’re doing for them is evident. Your patient gets a consultation, is given clear aligners and leaves with set expectations. The patient has a plan for success that you both agree on. The end result (straight teeth) is what’s desired, but the journey of maintaining trust is paramount.
SEO is no different than dentistry in this sense. Knowing that your SEO specialist is actually working on (and understanding why this work matters to your SEO success) is an important first phase. Being clear about what you can expect can help you have peace of mind. This is especially important before your phone starts ringing, usually months after beginning SEO.
SEO can take time to actually make your phone ring. For competitive markets, this can mean nine to 12 months. For less competitive markets, you may see results in under six months—it all depends on competition levels in your geographic area. I’ve also seen many dental websites rise to the top with only a few adjustments that take a few minutes. Every case is different.
How much does SEO cost?
Based on a careful assessment of your dental website and competition levels, the answer to this question will be unique to your practice’s goals. Obviously, you’re not going to need to invest millions of dollars per year, like an e-commerce shoe store (such as zappos.com or nike.com) would. You also don’t want to fall into the trap of investing in the “pay and pray” method of SEO, where you find yourself investing in mystery SEO, resulting in confusion and disappointment.
As a general rule, $3,000 per month is often sufficient to compensate a well-trained expert for doing effective, transparent dental SEO with swift, long-term results. Fees for reliable SEO vary on the high end at $20,000 a month down to around $800 a month, depending on the level of performance you need.
Can I do my own SEO?
Yes, just like accounting or legal services, with proper training you can build your own SEO knowledge. You can Google “dental SEO course” to find resources that will help you gain the appropriate skills. Learning SEO fundamentals can advance you in the DIY basics and definitely help you select and communicate well with your SEO provider. But, if you’re like most dentists, you’ll likely find your time is better invested in advancing your clinical skills.
Can SEO results ever be guaranteed?
SEO, like any service, can offer a money-back guarantee. However, no one can actually guarantee you’ll be ranked above other dentists because these other dentists may implement the same (or better) strategies. This is why an SEO expert must be highly adaptive and have the wisdom to understand that offering guarantees of unlimited success is a bad idea for both of you. It’s a footrace. The winner is determined through merit, and merit has nothing to do with whether or not a money-back guarantee is part of your contract.
What does an SEO expert need from
a dentist to achieve great results?
SEO is a competitive footrace that benefits greatly from a collaborative approach between you and your SEO provider. Having a strategy in place to assess what other dentists in your neighborhood are doing is part of what makes your SEO effective and future-proof. You’ll want to stay in touch with your provider to get updates. Most good specialists implement a monthly report and phone call, often with weekly communication and updates on what’s being done in the beginning stages.
You should be asked for access to various tools, such as your Google AdWords account, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, past SEO reporting and anything else that might seem relevant based on the strategy developed between you and your SEO provider.
Sometimes, even the best SEO practitioners can get stumped. This is why I recommend only working with practitioners who are welcoming of third-party expert audits. This is sort of the equivalent of sending a tough endo case to your preferred specialist. You want someone who is transparent and whom you can communicate with, and you can both be honest about your intentions and abilities. If you’re stuck, bringing in another SEO expert who can help identify issues can be very helpful! By working with someone who specializes in dental SEO, who welcomes expert scrutiny of his or her work, you’ll both have the best chance of gaining you new patients from search engines.