November 28, 2019
by Drew Whitaker, ClearDent
How often do you use search engines to help with a decision? If you’re anything like me, the answer would be dozens of times every week. Whether it’s looking up restaurant reviews online or deciding which resort to book for a vacation, search engines and the associated results can dictate almost all decisions in today’s technological landscape.
This is no difference when it comes to patients looking up dental practices online. New or even existing patients will make decisions on which dental office to visit by simply analysing the search results for the area around them. This means that every dental practice owner today needs to have a focus on local Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for their business in order to promote long term organic growth, as well gaining real time feedback from their patient base.
Local Search Engine Optimization is defined as the strategy of optimizing websites and marketing tactics to increase organic search traffic to local businesses. Below I will outline how enhancing your local SEO strategy will help attract more new patients in your area and also allow you to have a better understanding of what is important to your current patient base. Simply put, local SEO puts your dental practice’s website in front of people who are likely to become patients.
While there are many ways to enhance a practice’s local SEO strategy, I will outline four easy ways to quickly and effectively optimize your results for better growth. Employing these strategies will ensure that your practice is best positioned in today’s online landscape and that you will continue to meet the needs of your current patients and attract new patients in the digital age.
1. Ensure your website is technologically viable
One of the most important pieces of any local SEO strategy is ensuring that your website itself is built in a way that generates organic traffic based on key indicators. Sites like Google have constantly changing algorithms in order to make sure that the top results are not being manipulated by Webpages trying to ‘game’ the system. This means that you need to adjust your website architecture to the changing landscape in order to continually appear near the top of the results page.
The key aspect of a technical SEO strategy is making sure that your site has the appropriate Google Maps location, phone number, email, HTML titles, HTML tags, links and keywords included. Technical factors like these are the ‘bread and butter’ of generating strong search engine results, because sites like Google are constantly analysing digital architecture when generating results. A high number of searches online will be keyword driven, so it is of paramount importance to make sure that the keywords included in your site are relevant and content driven. On top of this, it is important to make sure that your site is not filled with generic keywords in an attempt to drive traffic. Recent updates to the Google algorithm will actually punish sites built this way, as they are seen as trying to ‘game the system’.
2. Build local and mobile
It may seem straight forward, but the most important part of any local SEO strategy is to involve yourself in the local community. Engaging in neighbourhood fundraisers, sharing local content and involving your practice in community events will help set your practice apart when someone is searching for a local dentist recommendation. Google will track your local activity and will reward the local businesses who get involved in the community around them.
The second piece to ensuring your practice ranks highly in results is to make sure that all local information is included. You can imagine how hard it would be for a new patient to choose your office over others if the address and contact information does not show up on Google. If you are not inputting the correct contact and address information on your site, then you will be losing valuable visibility to new patients and your practice’s website will slip lower on the results page. It is also beneficial to make sure all this information is included on secondary listing sites, such as YellowPages.ca.
Another important piece of a successful local SEO strategy is to build your website in a way that is compatible with mobile devices. In today’s world, more than 50% of all website traffic is generated through mobile devices. This is massive and means that if your site is not optimized for mobile use then you are losing access to 50% of your potential new patient base. Additionally, Google will actually rank sites higher in their results if they are formatted for mobile use. Therefore, making sure that your website is built for both desktop and mobile access is of paramount importance.
3. Leverage quality content and social media
When building a Local SEO strategy, it is extremely important to make sure that you are contributing quality, informative content to local stakeholders. This would include items such as blog posts, testimonials and appropriate links to relative sites. Google will track the content that is being uploaded through the practice’s website and will reward the sites that are consistently contributing valuable content. This is why consistent postings that relate to your local community can help set your practice apart from local competitors, because Google will recognize the contributions and increased activity as a result of the postings. To take it a step further, include rich media items such as photos or videos because this type of content is proven to draw increased traffic from relevant parties in the community.
One of the most effective ways to contribute content is by having accounts for your practice on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. By creating profiles on these sites, you will be able to share relevant content directly to your local patients. New patients will be able to gain an understanding of your practice before they ever decide to visit and can actually interact directly if the content drives a reaction. You will also be able to leverage this momentum by linking all of these accounts directly to your website home page. This will help drive increased traffic to your page and will also help boost your results online, as websites like Google will directly reward local sites that engage in this type of content by boosting their rankings in their search results. We live in a very unique time where the Social Media landscape allows for direct access to new patients, so it is certainly best to take advantage of this fact!
4. Utilize the power of online reviews
When is the last time you visited a local restaurant without first checking out their online reviews? Whether we want to admit it or not, the digital age has brought about some serious changes to how individuals make purchase decisions in their everyday lives. This is no different in the dental landscape, where new patients will check online to verify that a practice is worth visiting. Put yourself in a new patient’s shoes – if you were deciding between two practices for your next appointment would you choose the one with the higher ratings and many online reviews, or the practice with very few reviews and mediocre feedback? The answer seems simple and it is.
This is why it is so important for dental practices to prompt for online reviews when building a local SEO strategy. New patients are putting more focus than ever on online reviews and search engines will directly reward the sites that have many reviews or positive feedback. There are many ways to prompt your patients to leave their positive experiences online and this is something that can be automated through software in the practice. Placing an increased focus on generating online reviews is one of the best ways to enhance your SEO strategy while also targeting new patients from the local area. However, it is extremely important to make sure that you are prompting patients who had a great experience in your practice, because negative online reviews will harm not only your practice’s image, but also your website’s location on the search engine results page.
Here is a quick pro tip to help boost the value from your online reviews; interact directly with the patients leaving them! Studies in this field, specifically in relation to revenue, show that businesses that simply take the time to interact or respond to their online reviews can see up to 35% increase in overall revenue (link at bottom). Leveraging the power of online reviews and using low cost tactics to maximize their value will help set your practice apart from local competition in the online space.
In today’s digital age, there are many tools at your disposal that will allow you to grow your practice while also focusing on better patient care. Having a focused, consistent local SEO strategy will help you consistently grow your practice with engaged new patients, while also allowing for a better understanding of the needs of your current patients. Follow the strategies I have outlined to help take your practice’s local SEO strategy to the next level!
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About the Author
Drew Whitaker is a software expert with ClearDent. He works with Dentists and Dental Office Managers every day to streamline their operations by consolidating software operations within their practices. Drew has a Marketing degree from the University of Guelph and has extensive experience managing large scale marketing executions. A life-long learner, Drew loves researching new industry trends to stay on top of what is coming next in the exciting dental software landscape. If you have any questions in relation to this article, please feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.