How to Improve Your Dental Website Rankings in 2016 and Beyond – Part 1

When it comes to getting and keeping your website at the top of search engine results pages, it’s not an easy task. Doing so involves local search engine optimization (SEO), and with algorithms constantly changing and more dental practices being created and marketing themselves online, it’s hard to keep up!

That’s why we’re starting a five-part blog series where we’ll break down exactly what you need to know about optimizing your website to improve rankings in 2016 and beyond. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Part 1: Understand overall ranking factors affecting your website
  • Part 2: Learn about ranking in Google’s top map listings in search results (snack pack)
  • Part 3: Discover how to get better organic rankings.
  • Part 4: Identify if your website has elements that are hurting your SEO, known as negative ranking factors.
  • Part 5: Understand how competition can influence your website’s SEO performance.

Before you get started, we’d recommend that you brush up on basic SEO lingo with your free guide to Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Dental Practice.

Local SEO Ranking Factors Overview

Each year, industry thought-leaders analyze thousands of small business websites to understand and weigh the factors that have the biggest influence on your local search rankings. Local search is different from regular searches because users are specifically looking for products or services near their geographical location. Here’s what influencing your rankings:

  • On-Page Signals 20.3%
  • Link Signals 20.0%
  • Google My Business Signals 14.7%
  • External Location Signals 13.6%
  • Behavioral/Mob Signals 9.5%
  • Personalization Signals 8.5%
  • Review Signals 8.4%
  • Social Signals 5.0%

Now, we’ll cover each signal category and explain how they pertain to your practice’s website.

On-page Signals

On-page signals are keywords within your website’s copy and metadata. On-page signals are used by search engines to determine if a searcher is looking for services near their geographical location. It’s essential to include keywords in your website’s title tags and meta descriptions (types of meta data), because those appear on search engine results pages and will help searchers decide if they want to continue to your website.

Your title tags should include a list of your services, city, and business name while sounding natural. For example: Find a Dentist in Los Angeles | John Doe, DDS. Also, ensure that your practice name, complete address, and local phone number appear throughout your website so search engines know exactly where you are located.

Link Signals

Link signals are hyperlinks that connect from other websites back to yours, known as backlinks. Search engines scrutinize backlinks because they use them as a “reference” for your website, just like a reference you would provide to a potential employer. In order for search engines to deem it as a quality backlink, they should come from websites that are relevant to yours, such as being in the same industry or location.

Here are three types of links you should pursue for your website:

  • Location-specific links from directories, including:
    • Directory listings from a local chamber of commerce
    • Links from your local college or local news station website
  • Industry-specific directories like the ADA or your local state association
  • Authority sites like top dental blogs or magazines

Google My Business Signals

This refers to your Google Maps listing and is considered the most important signal for ranking in Google’s snack pack. Google uses the information from your website and Google Maps listing to triangulate your proximity to the searcher. It’s imperative to verify your Google Maps listing and fill out all the information to improve your chances of ranking in the first three positions of the snack pack.

External Location Signals

These are directories that Google looks at to triangulate your name, address, and phone number (NAP) to identify your location. The most common directories Google looks at are Yelp, Yellowpages, Manta, and CitySearch. It’s essential to ensure NAP consistency by using the exact same name, address, and phone number in each directory. Doing so helps Google avoid any confusion when they compare your NAP data from each directory, your website and Google Maps listing.

In addition to being consistent, it’s important to not have duplicate listings in any online directory. Duplicate listings can confuse search engines, as they won’t be able to differentiate whether you have multiple businesses or locations. You may have to go through a verification process for each directory to edit your NAP info and report any duplicate listings within the directory.

Behavioral/Mob Signals

This refers to how many visitors click your website from the list of organic search results. Remember, using the right keyword in title tags and meta descriptions influence a searchers decision to click your website. If a searcher recognizes their keyword within the blue text (title tag), they are more likely to click on your site. The more people who click, the higher your click-thru-rate, which signals the page’s popularity to search engines, and thus improves your chances of ranking higher down the road.

Personalization Signals

Personalization happens when a search engine customizes the list of results based on the users search history, physical proximity to a business, and past behavior with other websites. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to get around this with local SEO. What you can do is consider pay-per-click advertising (PPC). It’s paid ads on search engines that gets you in front of searchers who may not see your practice in the organic results. PPC is an excellent way for dentists to target prospective patients in different markets. Where SEO takes weeks to see results, PPC campaigns can drive traffic to your website within a matter of days.

Review Signals

While it is still largely debated whether reviews directly help your rankings or if they simply influence engagement, they are still important to your practice’s online visibility. From a marketing standpoint, potential patients are more likely to contact you if they see reviews for your practice. And, Google lets searchers to call a business directly from their results pages. Collecting reviews can be the difference of searchers immediately contacting you, or visiting a competitor.

Social signals

Do Likes, comments, and shares actually do anything for your rankings? It’s debatable. However, they do add credibility to your brand. Google takes into consideration how many times your business is mentioned throughout the Internet. Be present and active on social networks while including information about your services and location within your profiles.

Now that you understand overall ranking factors affecting your website, you’ve taken the first step to learning local SEO. Continue to Part 2 of How to Improve Your Dental Website’s Rankings in 2016 and Beyond, where we’ll cover ranking factors affecting your practice’s presence in Google’s snack pack.

Remember, you can always download Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Dental Practice for a complete glossary on SEO terms.