The number-one reason dentists spend time and marketing dollars on a website is to increase profits by attracting new patients who are ready to invest in their oral health and smile.
A profitable dental website will rank on page one of search more than once, preferably in Google Maps/Google Local and in the organic listings, for the most popular keywords that patients search for in a dentist’s service area.
Having worked in search engine optimization and copywriting for dental marketing for over a decade, I have seen how Google and the smaller search engines have grown and changed as they’ve evolved. I’ve also seen how the dental marketing industry has responded to these changes, and how dentists have fared as a result.
Dentists are smart – smarter than most IT professionals give them credit for – but not all dentists have time to do their own online marketing. In this article about building a strong dental website, I hope to enlighten dentists on the how and why behind the SEO and online marketing strategy I have seen work well for my clients. You should know, it only works when a dentist goes all the way and continues to stay the path. There are many factors that influence a dentist’s website strategy, and not all are foreseeable. If we start with a solid plan, then continue to analyze competition and stay abreast of Google’s changes, then make adjustments as necessary, my strategy is a win, because it’s always based on facts.
You can take the tools I describe here and implement them yourself or hire my dental marketing firm, Identiwrite Creative, to manage your site, write and publish content, conduct research, and manage the monthly analysis and adjustments to your site, on your behalf. My hope is to share information and educate you on the reality of SEO and content marketing, so you will not be taken advantage of, but will instead make wise and informed decisions. SEO and content marketing for dentists is not quick, it’s not easy, and it cannot be fully automated. Those truths aren’t going to change anytime soon.
Let’s start by naming a goal, then dive in to the specifics of the work it will take to reach that goal.
Goal: Book New Patients Who Are Ready to Monetarily Invest in Oral Health and Beauty
A website that drives hundreds of potential new patients a day to call a practice may be considered fantastic by some. But if you talk to the dentist behind that website and learn that the callers do not fit the avatar his website was designed to attract, you’ll see how the website is not actually doing its job. Instead, it’s keeping his front staff busy, while cases do not close, and profits do not rise.
In marketing, the first thing a dentist must identify is his goal. If your goal is to attract patients ready to invest in the services you offer, that’s a great start. We must delve further to flesh out that avatar, though. Get a pen or prepare to type. Answer these questions.
- What are the services you want to perform most in your practice?
- Which are most profitable for you?
- Do people who can afford these services live or work within 12-20 miles of your office?
- Do you want to attract insurance patients, or not?
- What is the demographic of the patient who can afford and wants/needs your services? (age, ethnicity, gender, lifestyle factors)
- Where do they live?
- Do they have kids, and if so, will you treat those kids?
Identifying your target avatars will significantly help in creating a website – and homepage – that not only attracts those people, but also entices them to call your office and book appointments, which is what we all conversion.
Driving the Audience
We must determine how to move that avatar from point A, their cell phone or computer, to point B, your operatory. But before that, realize that we have two audiences until the potential patient reaches to your website. To attract potential patients, your website must first attract search spiders to the keyword phrases that your avatars will type into Google Search. The search spiders, or robots or ‘bots, index all of the code on the backend of websites to determine what the sites are about, for Google’s Knowledge Base.
Every website on the internet is indexed in this way, then the gathered data is organized, and Google produces SERPs – search engine results pages. These are what you see when you type a search term into Google Search – the list of results.
An effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy will work to get a website on page one of Google SERPs for certain keyword phrases, then help that website remain on page-one results long term. By far, studies show that the closer an organic result is to page one, position one, the higher click through rate it will have. The take-away from this? Your website needs to be on page one, as close as possible to position one, for your target keyword phrases.
This will require research.
First Research, Then Results
You’ve pinpointed who your avatar is/avatars are – who those target patients are, what they look like and what they do all day. Next, you need to determine what words they will use to find your services online. They may use voice search, meaning that they may say out loud to their phone: “Siri, is there a dentist near me who will give me a free consultation for dental implants?” Or, they may type any number of keyword combinations or questions into Google Search on their phone, tablet, or laptop. You cannot instinctively know how people will use their technology to find you – but Google knows.
I like to use Google’s Adwords Tool to help find answers to these questions. Google has a plethora of data, and is collecting more every second, and all that data is free to us. We can learn what keyword phrases potential patients are using in your region of the country, when looking for the services you provide. We can even find out how often those keyword phrases are searched for and how many other dentists are optimizing for those very terms.
Competing Dentists’ Websites
The next bit of research should be done in the Incognito Mode of Chrome, or the equivalent in your preferred browser. Incognito strips most user data from the browser, to provide a “clean search,” which means my location, preferences, and search history should not be considered when I use the Incognito Mode in my browser. So, in Incognito, I search for a dentist’s city and the term dentist. For instance, Dallas Dentist. The first-page Google SERP should show a list of results unbiased by my own search history and location.
Then, I visit each of the top 10 results and the top 3-5 Map results that are dentist’s sites. Some of the organic results will be on the map. Some results may be listing or review sites, instead of business websites. On each of the dentist’s websites in the results, I use a browser-installed plugin and third-party web tools to assist in evaluating important components of optimization. Some of the areas I assess include:
- Number of websites a dentist has
- Overall quality of websites
- Age of websites
- Number of pages indexed on sites
- Blog quality, originality, frequency, and recent posts
- Original or duplicate text on websites
- Meta data quality
- URL quality
- Broken links
- Alt-image tags
- Backlinks for website (how many; good/bad quality)
I also look at:
- Social media accounts
- Reviews on third-party sites
- Google business listings
The Importance of a Truly Unique Strategy
Just as a savvy football coach evaluates the playbooks and films of teams against which his own team will compete, I evaluate the websites and online strategies of the dentists against whom my clients will be up against in Google SERPs. Many dental marketing agencies do not put the time and effort into a thorough initial competitive analysis, because it takes time and the results will change monthly, and certainly they will change significantly each year. However, how can one wisely attempt any competition without being prepared?
The game plans of your opponents are spread out before you online, and access is free. All it takes to decipher those plans is some time, energy, and know-how. I believe that your hard-earned marketing dollars are only wisely invested when they’re spent on a strategic plan of action that’s based on facts – hard facts that include a thorough assessment of your immediate competitors’ online marketing strategies. Guessing at what will work, trial and error, or basing a dentist’s website strategy on what works for others in different markets is lazy and unwise – and it’s also unnecessary, when hard facts, statistics, and accurate information is at your fingertips.
Once we know what others in your market are doing with their websites and online efforts, we can find weak spots where you can shine. For instance, I’ve seen opportunities in which dentists in a somewhat competitive market have not taken advantage of Google Business’ online review system, so my client can quickly rank first in the Google Map section at the top of Page One SERPs by acquiring Google reviews from satisfied patients.
Commonly, I see the top-ranking dental websites with completely duplicate content and no blog. My client dentist has only to apply original text and a weekly blog to his website to quickly reach page one Google results.
We know these results because we track them. I believe that once a strategy is created and implemented, it must be tracked to determine its success or failure, and to find areas that can continue to be improved.
Tracking SEO Results for Dentists’ Websites
There are two primary areas of SEO that we look at, in reporting. First, we evaluate keyword rankings. Each month, we hand-pull an SEO Keyword Report in Google Incognito mode and compare the rankings with the previous 30, 60, 90, and 120-day listings. The trend should be upward. From this data, we modify a monthly editorial blogging calendar to include primary, secondary, and tertiary keywords that need to move up the SERPs. We also use this strategy, combined with URL naming, alt-image tagging, and link naming, to aid in boosting search ranking for secondary cities, that is cities in which the practice is not located, but from which patients travel.
The second area we look at is traffic. Through a combination of Google Analytics, WordPress tools, and other modules, we average traffic data to find out about how many unique visitors a website has each day, week, and month, or within a timeframe, such as when a direct mailer went out. We can also cross-check the traffic data with Facebook ads and other promotions. If we know that 300 unique people (actual new human visitors, not robots or return visitors) visit your site, but they only stay on the site for 30 seconds on average, they don’t visit multiple pages, or they don’t click on links, and you aren’t getting many calls to the office, then we know that something needs to change.
Perhaps your homepage is not user friendly, or it needs to be recreated to appeal to the avatar we’re driving to your site. If people are clicking through to your contact page, and we see good on-page time, then we may need to question how your phones are answered, how calls are tracked in your office, and what your follow-up protocol is for new patient calls.
Tracking data is one element of the whole – following that data to its result, then making changes to affect a more positive result, is working toward your original goal. As a reminder, that goal is: Book New Patients Who Are Ready to Monetarily Invest in Oral Health and Beauty.
Homepage: The Most Important Page on a Dentist’s Site
Google’s ‘bots, when indexing a site, rely on the homepage code to relate what a website is about, so that page must provide a solid synopsis, not necessarily an intriguing onefor the indexing robot, but an accurate one. On the flip side, the human site visitor does need intrigue and visual stimulation, perhaps interactivity and ease of navigation, to drive interest and keep them pressing on toward action – calling or emailing the office to schedule a consultation, new patient visit, or second-opinion appointment.
Your website’s homepage is the most important page, to Google, so your site will be on page-one results of the search engine, and for visitors, so they will convert to new patients. Your job, or mine if you work with Identiwrite Creative, is to accomplish pleasing Google so that you rank on page one, and pleasing patients so that you get new patients calling your office.
Let’s look at how a dentist’s website strategy can accomplish this feat. First, you must understand what each of your audiences, digital and human, crave.
What Google Wants on a Homepage
- Original, informative text for the Knowledge Base
- 700+ words of well written copy about your website’s main topic
- Text headings and subheadings, with H-tags
- Images, preferably original, with alt-image tags for indexing
- Internal and external links, named appropriately, on related words, embedded in text
- Updates every so often (suggest 3-6 x/yr.)
- Blog with all original content – can feed to homepage for freshness
- Clean code (no Flash, etc.)
- Responsive site, friendly on all screens (phones, tablets, large monitors)
What Humans Want on a Homepage
- Ease of navigation – good organization, easy to click menus
- Interactivity – click to reveal, videos, social feed, blog feed, comment, etc.
- Brevity of text
- Interesting imagery
- Nothing in the way, like auto-start music or videos, pop-up ads, etc.
- Ease of ordering, contacting, whatever the call to action prompt is promoting
How to Balance Your Website’s Homepage for Best Results with SEO and Conversion
Some of the items a human and ‘bot want seem contradictory – like 700 words and brevity. However, you can have balance and harmony, pleasing both site visitor and indexing robot, to ensure top rankings, as well as conversion.
I believe the key is in finding out what your competitors are doing, and filling the gap. Like I mentioned earlier, what’s missing in the first SERP for dentist + your city? Do the top-ranking dental websites have a lot of online reviews with Google and Yelp? Is the text on the websites original, lengthy, and of high quality? Do the sites have weekly blogs with original content? How about good, quality incoming backlinks? If there is an obvious niche to fill, when it comes to SEO criteria, make that your priority.
Then, to strike balance on your homepage, focus first on ease of use. If the content on your site is disorganized or hard to find, the entire navigational structure may need reworking. While doing this, add some new content and freshen up the existing text and images to internal pages.
Make sure that your call to action – call us, email us, buy this, reserve a seat, whatever your call to action is – can be quickly found and acted upon, more than once on each page, but certainly on the homepage. This can be accomplished with a contact box and form or an ad-like image. Reinforce the call to action in text.
Next, work on visual stimulation. If your site looks like it was built in 1998 or has images from the 90s, it’s time for change. Modern images, whether from a stock photography site or your own before-and-after gallery, are a must. While mauve is coming back in style, the old mauve and light blue with baby’s breath is not going to cut it. Mauve is now “blush” – and there’s a whole new style to accompany it. A website with old graphics gives the impression that you practice in the dark ages – no anesthesia and lots of teeth pulling. Invest in reworking the homepage with modern, bright, inviting imagery and tech-savvy appeal that represents your philosophy of care.
Those few things – images and order – will go a long way toward impressing potential patients who visit your website.
Now, for the indexing ‘bots. Two primary elements will do the trick: original text and a solid link strategy. Though you don’t want to put 700 words of original text in a big box under your website banner, you should include that text at the bottom of the homepage. And in it, you need a strong, solid linking strategy in which your most important internal pages (dental implants, Invisalign, porcelain veneers) are highlighted with embedded links in the text. There are best practices for linking strategies, so if you do this yourself, please search my blog for guidance.
Employing these four practices into your dentist website strategy: orderly navigation, visually stimulating elements, original text, strategic embedded links, you can create a homepage that appeals to both human website visitors and Google indexing robots.
Help When You Need It
Identiwrite Creative is a small marketing firm focused on copywriting and search engine optimization, primarily for dentists and physicians in private practice. We also provide corporate copywriting for large website firms that do not want to hire an in-house copywriting team.However, I prefer to keep Identiwrite Creative small enough to be hands-on, so we can serve our clients with what they need, when they need it.
Some of our dentists rely on us to do all their SEO, from building their website to managing monthly SEO and content marketing. Others handle everything except writing their blog and monthly reporting, which we do for them. If you need help with your SEO, copywriting, or a complete dentist’s website strategy, give me a call at 940-395-5115. I’ll review your site and provide you with some ideas for improvement. If you like what I suggest, we can discuss a full competitive analysis and proposal, so you can enjoy new patients through top Google rankings and web visitor conversion.