If there’s one thing that’s true about dental practices in the current age, it’s that patients are looking for their dentists online.
The truth is in the data: not only are record numbers of people using the internet to search for local businesses, but we’ve now reached the point where mobile searches now outnumber searches by desktop users!!! If you’re not building your online presence, you may quickly be overtaken by a more internet-savvy dentist.
Let’s take a look at some of the data to realize the scope of the issue.
- Google has 75% of the market for search engines overall, and 90% on mobile. It’s clear that Google is king, at least for now. Search engines by Yahoo, Bing, and Baidu still have a significant share, so don’t ignore them.
- There are more than 3.5 billion searches on Google per day.
- Over 68% of online searches are initiated by a mobile device, compared with 57% overall. The health industry has a higher share of mobile searches than any sector other than food (which makes sense).
Building your dental practice, online
Dentistry is a hyper-local competitive market.
The number one thing that comes to mind when we think of digital marketing is your ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Search engines are the number one driver to your content, and the most likely way for you to acquire new patients (if you do it right). Your future patients could be out there searching for you right now, but will you even show up in the search results for relevant queries?
To be successful, you have to understand what the playing field looks like.
Top Online Marketing Factors for Dentists
Organic Search Ranking
When someone types in their heart’s desire into the search bar and fires it off into cyberspace, the standard results page that shows below the map is what we call the “organic search”, and where your website shows up on the list is your “organic search ranking”.
There are hundreds of factors that search engines like Google take into account to rank your practice, and they make changes very regularly, and often without notice. Things like your web traffic, bounce rate, and links to your site all tell Google that you’re relevant.
Local Search Ranking
Though it takes an extra step to get here, consider the local search results as the scoreboard for how you are doing. When savvy users are looking for a local business, they tend to go straight to the maps, which only shows local businesses pertaining to the search, their reviews, contact information, website links, location, and driving directions.
Like organic searches, there are a lot of factors that go into your ranking. To make things even more confusing, Google makes these results flexible. A different device, browser, user, or searching from a different location can all change the rankings of your results.
Reviews matter a lot, both to search engines and to patients looking for a dentist. Both your quantity and quality of reviews can significantly impact your search rankings, aside from heavily influencing patients searching for a dental practice. Almost everyone (91%) at least occasionally reads online reviews.
While there have been problems with authenticity in this area, technology is rapidly catching up. Google, Yelp, Facebook, and even Healthgrades have taken significant steps to verify reviews, all with special systems in place to weight reviews differently.
Recent changes to Google emphasize just how important they believe reviews to be. They now display reviews from platforms other than their own within the knowledge panel (the box with your practice info on the right of a SERP). Users can now default to showing only results with a 4-star rating or better when they click through to the local search results, which means if your online reputation isn’t solid, you may not even appear in the local maps.
Building a social media presence is an important part of your overall digital marketing strategy. There are some obvious benefits to investing a little time in social media, such as referrals, community engagement, and some pretty simple public relations. Search engines see your growing social signals as proof of your legitimacy, and social activity will help you rank higher.
Social media has become so prolific that Facebook might be one of the most-likely places for a potential patient to be checking out your practice. Images, reviews, commentary, and how the practice is praised, criticized, or responds to criticism makes social media a goldmine of information. A practice having not even claimed their Facebook page also tells a patient something about a practice.
GMB and other Citations/Directories
What’s a citation? It’s a mention of your practice name, address, or phone number anywhere on the web, and Google tracks them. Examples include business directories (such as your local Chamber of Commerce listing), business association pages, and social media profiles.
By far, the most important of these is your Google My Business page. This is Google’s phone book, and if you want Google to rank you higher, making this listing perfect is your first step. However, you’re not done yet. Google pays close attention to everyone else’s citations, and the more of these that can be identified the better you’ll rank.
While there are hundreds of directories that could list your practice, the basics are GMB, Yelp, Facebook, Healthgrades, and Yext. It’s important that your NAP (name, address, and phone number) are consistent across directories – mismatched citations can hurt your ranking.
On-Site Ranking Factors
Search engines like Google love to look under the hood of your website. Before they’ll recommend your website to their customers, they want to know that you’re for real. That means that it’s not enough to have a website — needs to be optimized so that the Google bots are pleased by it.
The home page and location page are the most important, but there are a lot of factors that are weighed. Your site will be crawled for valuable links, contact information, keywords, content, and location information that tells them if you are relevant. A quality website tells Google that you are trustworthy and have the content their users are looking for.
Search engines care a lot about the little things
The above is just barely scratching the surface, so if you already feel out of your element, a trustworthy SEO expert can help do the legwork for you much more efficiently, leaving you able to focus on what really matters – running your practice.
~ Dr. Rhea Haugseth