Updated on July 19, 2022, by Chris Scott
Are you struggling to get new dental patients? Are your competitors crushing you online?
Consider adding dental SEO experts to your dental practice team.
Please allow me a moment of your time to explain why this can help you compete:
I also understand how many annoying emails and phone calls you get about SEO and that you may have feelings of wasteful spending on SEO in the past for lack of results.
How do you find the diamonds in the rough? Is your current marketing strategy and team doing a good job?
I wrote SEO tips for dentists to provide you with a few best practices that you can easily check on your current practice website. You can also use some of the following SEO tips to dig-in yourself and make improvements to your practice online presence and rank highly.
Save time and instantly grade your dental practice website here: Free Instant Site Audit
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.
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.
Successful SEO requires constant effort and analysis over time and absolutely must be part of your practice marketing budget. Google and other search engines, where most of your new patients will find you, are always changing their algorithms and evolving. This is why you need dental SEO experts on your team who are constantly optimizing your website.
If you find that 1 or 2 of your competitors are dominating most online searches, then they most likely have SEO experts on their team. You should too.
Your practice needs to be found. Hundreds of new patients are looking for you right now after freshly moving to your area or after deciding on a life-changing procedure that they want, such as the popular All-on-4. Will they find you or your competitor down the street?
In a nutshell, SEO is an ongoing fight for new patients. You have two options if you want to compete. You can get your gloves on or find your practice a champion to throw down for you.
A combination of both works best.
SEO Tips For Dentists
- Website Architecture & SEO
- Best Dental Marketing Companies
- Google Analytics & SEO
- Google My Business Optimization
- Optimize Services / Procedure Pages
- Request Patient Reviews
- Links, Citations & Listings
1. Website Architecture & SEO
Mobile User First Website Design
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 2021 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.
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.
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.
Google is really throwing the hammer down for mobile speed tests in 2021 and will give your website page a failing grade if it takes more than just a few seconds to load. Google has announced a planned algorithm update for May 2021 which includes implementation of major ranking factors for “page experience“. This announcement can be considered a warning 6 months out that if your dental practice website scores poorly for page experience you will lose.
Google’s new Core Web Vitals focuses on three aspects of the user experience—loading, interactivity, and visual stability—and includes Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS). The dental SEO person or team you select had best know what Core Web Vitals are or you should run. Most “dental marketing companies” out there don’t have a clue. If you’re considering hiring a dental SEO team, ask them to show you a live example of one of their current client’s Core Web Vitals. User experience is a huge SEO ranking factor that up-to-date SEO pros put lots of energy into constantly refining.
Dental SEO with AMP Powered Websites
Here is an example of a Cutting Edge dental marketing package including website and SEO client core web vitals test for the AMP Powered version of their lightning-fast dental implants page:
Here is another performance example for a surgeon marketing package, including website and SEO client site just launched end of Nov 2020. Check out these scores:
Cutting Edge is ahead of the game, having implemented Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for client websites for over a year. 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, a 10% year-over-year increase in AMP site traffic, and a 60% increase in pages per visit. Certainly, numbers any advertiser would love to achieve.
Here is a quick video I made to demonstrate the power of AMP pages with dental SEO:
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 are all handled very carefully and methodically during Cutting Edge design and development phases to be sure SEO best practices are in place sitewide. Cutting Edge dental marketing package includes keyword market intelligence efforts researching live search engine databases to identify opportunities, followed by site architecture optimization and content optimization that reflect our findings. This makes all of our search engine marketing efforts much easier from the start.
Your dental 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 Google has indexed. Do the results look messy? Are all of your procedures and services pages listed there?
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 implants for dentures case then the filename should be smiling-senior-female-with-new-implant-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 either they’re lazy and cut corners or simply don’t know SEO.
You can easily check this on a desktop by navigating to your website, hovering over an image and right-clicking your mouse then selecting Inspect. This will show the 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=””.
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.
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 three or more years ago, then chances are it’s not secure.
Cutting Edge client websites, practice review platform, online patient registration portal, and marketing dashboard are each protected with HTTPS and encrypted using Transport Layer Security to ensure privacy and safekeeping of all patient communications and data. Your website’s security is very important to us and needless to say it is also important to the big search engines.
2. Best Dental Marketing Companies
Avoid large dental marketing companies like PatientPop, Prosites, and Officite if you really want to compete online. In my opinion, the “boxed up” websites they provide are nothing more than an extension of a cheap business card. Their websites usually have abysmal rankings for target keywords and usually only show in search results top positions for the dentist or practice name. This means they’re flawed right out of the box and will leave you struggling to get new valuable patients for however long you are with them.
Another thing to point out is that many large medical practice marketing companies like Prosites or PatientPop “provide” a website as part of a digital marketing deal where you don’t, in fact, own anything. They own it all. The website they provide doesn’t hold much value anyway, but you will have to replace your site to move away from them.
This often makes dentists feel stuck.
Be “One Of The Few,” Not “One Of The Many”
Large dental marketing companies often have thousands of clients and provide very similar sites for all of them with very little if any unique content. Often, the level of personal service and SEO value you get from a smaller company with only a few select clients far exceeds what a big firm will provide.
Sure, those bigger firms are often cheaper than a smaller team with extensive dental marketing experience, but your website and online presence are instrumental to your dental practice’s success. If you steer clear or move away from big providers like this, your practice Internet marketing will have a better chance of success over the long term.
At Cutting Edge, we make ourselves a part of your overall practice “team” and strive for success by taking care of your website, your Internet marketing, and more every single day.
Lack of Exclusivity
Another disadvantage of working with a larger digital marketing company is the lack of exclusivity. They may pump out a site that looks just like yours for your competitor located across the street without even caring about your success.
If your relationship with your digital marketing team is not based on exclusivity, then they are not doing SEO for you. For instance, if our client wants to be the dominant dental implant provider in their area and wants to be highly ranked in organic search results for terms such as “dental implants for dentures” or “full mouth reconstruction,” then we work day and night for however long we need to get them that result and even more to keep it.
I believe it is a clear conflict of interest to take on competing practices. You should only work with SEO companies that offer your practice exclusivity.
Besides, SEO for dentists takes a considerable effort, loads of work, and analysis over time. There is no way large firms with thousands of clients get this right. You should instead work with a smaller niche-focused team like Cutting Edge for the long-term growth of your dental practice. The best dental marketing companies are not the biggest ones.
You’ll get more value for your money and more new patients working with a smaller team who is passionate about your practice’s success and actually has the time required to do a good job.
Cheap Dental Websites Lacking SEO
Watch out for cheap. Cheap is tempting because you’ll think you’re “saving money.” You’ll consistently lose revenue with a cheap dental practice website created by a novice dental marketing team. It’s not good enough to just “have a website.” Feel confident when investing in a proven dental marketing company to create your practice website. If you go cheap here, then your site will likely be thrown out and replaced by a new team who takes over someday.
Every single patient you lose to a competitor who has a better website and marketing team than you equals $4500+ in lost revenue you could have otherwise gained if you instead had a truly skilled dental marketing team working to convert website visitors into new patients. Lifetime value of a single new dental patient is between $4500 (ADA) and $15,000 (dentaleconomics.com)
3. Google Analytics & SEO
Google Analytics and SEO go hand in hand. GA is the standard for analyzing user behavior on your website. By adding a small piece of code to your website, you can discover how users found your site, what pages are the most visited, and more. Google provides this service free of charge.
One of the first things I ask a new client for is access to their Google Analytics account so I can take a deep look at all the data and see what is going on. Often, the response I get is “I’m not sure if I have that” or “I think so”.
As a dental practice owner, you should at the very least know how many people use your website each day. Google Analytics is the easiest way to track activity and see reports about the success or failure of your website and digital marketing efforts.
Google Analytics is connected to your Google account. It is possible that your website provider has their GA code on your website. If this is the case then ask them to add your Google account email to the platform as an administrator, so you have full access to all the data.
Once you have access, you can see detailed reporting on your website traffic, including insights like time spent on the site, bounce rate and more. There is also a nifty Google Analytics app available for Android and iOS. It’s free.
If your practice website is not using Google Analytics, then signup right away. Have your web team add the code to your website. This way, you can see your data.
My favorite GA section is the “real-time” feature, where you can see users enter and browse your site in real-time.
Share data with Google
When you set up Google Analytics, they’ll ask if you would like to share your data with Google. Make sure you select yes on all of them. If your account is already set up, then navigate to the Account Settings area to make sure you’re sharing your data. Details and benefits of sharing your Analytics data with Google can be found here. This gives Google tremendous insights into your website audience and their behavior. That’s something you definitely want as Google will know what your popular pages are etc., and will refine search results based on this activity.
The links shown below some of Google’s search results, called sitelinks, are meant to help users navigate your site. Google analyzes the link structure of your site to find shortcuts that will save users time and allow them to quickly find the information they’re looking for. Sitelinks are often shown in Google results when users search for your practice name or similar. When sitelinks are displayed, it is common to also have a “featured result” on the right side of the page displaying your Google My Business information and map.
Only Google knows the recipe for achieving sitelinks, but I can confidently say that it’s a mix of several things. These include using Google Analytics, sharing data with Google, good website architecture, and quality search engine optimized content. Time is also a factor as Google needs time to analyze the behavior of your website users.
Sitelinks can have descriptions attached to them, as seen below, or can be short quick links just under your main description area.
Google is a very unique website as they often measure their success by how fast they can get you off of their site. They measure this in milliseconds.
Search for your practice name in Google. Do you see sitelinks that provide your target patients with a selection of popular web pages and procedures? If not, then your website architecture may be bad, or you haven’t had enough traffic on your website for Google to analyze.
Google also provides a tool that allows you to easily add campaign parameters to URLs so you can track Custom Campaigns in Google Analytics. It’s called the Campaign URL Builder. You can attach parameters to any link to your site to laser focus your tracking for different marketing campaigns and sources of referrals to your dental practice website.
For instance, you could use a unique link provided by the tool to place on your AAID profile page (see graphic below). This way you can track exactly how many people your profile on AAID is sending you. This tool also works great for measuring the performance of different marketing campaigns such as Facebook Ads and more. Google Ads automatically places these on your links.
If you get into the practice of using campaign URLs for all your incoming website links, your Google Analytics referral data will be improved. These can be attached to specific goals.
For instance, imagine someone is researching dental implants on the AAID site and then searches for a credentialed dentist in their area via the AAID “Find an implants expert” tool. They find your profile and click your link. They browse your website and then fill out a request for consultation form. The whole process is tracked (see Tracking #8 below), and the AAID link can be credited with sending you the new dental implants case.
Tracking URL’s are an important tool for Cutting Edge digital marketers. They allow us to easily track the success of our different marketing campaigns.
4. Google My Business Optimization
Make sure your listing is 100% filled out, including your business hours, link to your site, link to your request consultation page, and more. Follow Google’s recommendations for content like photos of the inside and outside of your dental practice.
Get verified. Google will send you a postcard with a code on it to verify your dental practice name, address, and phone number. This will help with all your online marketing efforts, including SEO. After Google verifies your practice, some trust is established.
Add as much information as you can fit into the description area about your dental practice and specialties.
It’s also a good idea to use tracking URLs (mentioned above) for the GMB links to your website.
Make regular posts to your GMB profile. Posting through Google My Business lets you publish your events, products, and services directly to Google Search and Maps. By creating posts, you can place your timely text, video, or photo content in front of target patients when they find your dental practice listing on Google.
Here are some detailed instructions for posting to GMB, including a short video explaining how to add or claim your business on Google.
5. Optimize Services / Procedure Pages
Do your services and procedures pages have loads of well laid out and unique content on them? You should optimize these pages by actually writing unique content for each. It’s not good enough to simply have a paragraph or two explaining what a dental implant is or what braces are.
I’ll continue here with the dental implants page as an example. Imagine for a moment that I’m a user searching Google for a dental implants expert in my city. I want to secure my dentures. I’ve been saving for years to finally do this and improve my life.
OK, I found your site in the Google results, and I clicked your link. Now, what are you providing me with? Hurry and convince me. You have about 3 seconds, or I’m gone.
Are you showing me another boring explanation of how implants are most often made of titanium along with a generic stock photo? Not good enough. I’ve already seen that same stock photo and explanation 100 times. I’m not here to be educated. I’m here with my wallet looking to fix my mouth and choose a dentist who can help me improve the overall quality of my life.
Satisfying searcher intent is SEO in 2021. Making your pages for users first is what Google wants. How do you satisfy the searcher’s intent above?
Show off your credentials and experience in detail on the page. Be transparent and provide information about costs and pricing. Provide patient reviews and before and after photos. Patient stories and video testimonials also work wonders. Provide answers to frequently asked questions on the page. What are the steps involved with getting implants at your practice?
Your dental implants page should be designed to convince users that they must choose your practice for this life-changing procedure.
A few paragraphs just aren’t enough to convince this fella to choose your practice. You need lots of unique content (1000 words+) on each page along with other elements like pricing tables, photos, and videos explaining the procedure to get Google to rank your procedure page as an authority in your area.
Thousands of factors contribute to a good ranking procedure page, but one of the greatest is the content. Is your content worthy? If not, get to work on it. Never stop adding content. Ever.
I tell all my clients the same thing early in the relationship: “A website is never done… only ready”. This is because we never stop adding new content and improving our client websites for users based on data that we collect over time. SEO is a continuous effort to improve your online presence and persuade your target patient to choose your practice.
You should put quality effort into each page of your website. Never just ride along with a site that is thin in content and stale or that doesn’t satisfy searcher intent.
6. Request Patient Reviews
Online reviews are more important than ever for boosting your practice and SEO. Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) make up 15.44% of Google’s ranking factors for local map results.
72% of patients say their first step in finding a new doctor is checking online reviews.
Cutting Edge clients use our Automated Review Platform. Cutting Edge packs dozens of customizable features into one solution to easily acquire patient feedback and online reviews.
Get into the practice of requesting reviews, either on a platform or manually via email. Put up a sign-up in your practice asking for online reviews.
Have a patient that is jumping up and down nearly in tears because they’re so happy you fixed their smile? Request a review.
7. Links, Citations & Listings
Links are mega important for SEO. The landscape of SEO and link building is always changing, and today, the importance of building high-quality links has never been higher. The need to understand and implement high-quality campaigns is essential if you’re going to compete and thrive online, and that isn’t going to change any time soon.
There are two fundamental ways that the search engines use links:
- To discover new web pages
- To help determine how well a page should rank in their results
Link building needs to be handled carefully. The quality of your links is paramount. You do not want a bunch of spammy links with zero relevance. Google will penalize websites that buy a big whack of links in an effort to game the results. Some of you may have been victims of an overzealous and amateur SEO who has done this in the past, even years ago, and if so, you need to have your links analyzed by a professional. Identifying toxic links is important because you can ask Google to disavow them. However, first, you need to identify any toxic links pointing to your website.
Creating a disavow file full of toxic links can be laborious and costly if there are thousands of bad links. Links to your dental practice website need to stay clean and natural.
You want quality links from local businesses and quality directories. Are you a member of your local Chamber of Commerce? A link there is often worth the annual membership because each Chamber website is an authority in your location. Also, how about the local labs you work with? Your AAID and board certification websites? Do you have a profile on Nobel Biocare or similar? Make sure you get links from authority websites like these if possible. If an authority site offers an “enhanced listing” of some kind, buy it.
Cutting Edge runs tests on potential linking websites for our clients to be sure each link is worth it and won’t create a penalty.
Name, Address, Phone Citations – Ensure NAP Presence and Consistency
At Cutting Edge, we maintain listings for our clients at the five main aggregators of location data that send information to U.S. local search engines: Infogroup, Neustar Localeze, Acxiom, Factual, and Foursquare. We push the correct, consistent location information for your dental practice to all of these data sources, including 60+ popular online directories such as Amazon Alexa and Apple.
Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) make up 10.82% of Google’s ranking factors for local map results.
Your marketing team should be building your online presence and identifying opportunities for links and listings as routine. Over time these efforts can pay off in a big way.
You need tools to track your progress over time. Cutting Edge clients use our Marketing Dashboard software to monitor our progress & all of their marketing channels in one place. Cutting Edge Marketing Dashboards are provided to our SEO clients, and digital marketing clients and included in our All-In-One marketing package for dentists. Click to Download Pricing.
Software that tracks your rankings for target keywords over time and against the competition is a vital tool for SEO.
You can manually check where you rank in Google for a certain keyword but make sure you’re using an incognito window when you search. Google will tailor results for an individual if you’re logged into your Google account. This can prevent you from seeing your true rankings as Google may place your website higher in the results because you have frequented the site before.
If you want to see results as your potential patient would when searching Google, then use an incognito or private window. Also, the location of the actual user is a big factor in search results for local businesses.
Keep tabs on your traffic with Google Analytics. Is the traffic to your practice website growing, stagnant, or declining? Our Marketing Dashboard is connected to GA via API, where our clients can log in anytime to see traffic reports and detailed analyses. Always keep an eye on your traffic.
Use goals in Google Analytics to measure how often users complete specific actions. Goals measure how well your site fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion that contributes to the success of your practice. An example of a goal is the submission of a request consultation or appointment form.
Defining goals is a fundamental component of any digital analytics measurement plan. Having properly configured goals allows Analytics to provide you with critical information, such as the number of conversions and the conversion rate for your practice website. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your online business and marketing campaigns. Learn more about setting up goals here at this link.
I hope you found this information helpful. SEO is important. If you have any comments or questions feel free to reach out to me directly or comment below. Do you have any helpful SEO tips that I should add here?
Cutting Edge provides comprehensive dental SEO services.
Check out our Dentists on the Cutting Edge All-In-One marketing package.
At this time, we are looking to add 1 or 2 new clients.