Search Marketing for Dentists: A Guide to Getting More New Patients Online

SEO, PPC, CTR, CPC, SERP, RUSERIOUS? Online marketing for dental practices can be more confusing than ordering a drink at Starbucks. The difference is that while confusing venti (large) and tall (small) might give you heart palpitations for the afternoon, misunderstanding search marketing components is much more costly. To learn the Starbucks lingo we suggest befriending a barista, but if your concerned with successfully marketing your practice online read our recent whitepaper, Search Marketing for Dentists: A Guide to Getting More New Patients Online. Not sure you can fit the full whitepaper into the time it takes to slurp down a grande cold brew? No worries. We pulled out some key highlights to get you started.

The existence of a dental website alone is not enough to attract new clientele. You need to ensure prospective patients find it. Enter search marketing. Like a Frappucinno, this sounds more complicated than it actually is. Search marketing is simply actions that drive traffic to your website by increasing your visibility in search engines (i.e., pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization). Pay-per-click (PPC) is targeted advertising that appears at the top of a search engine results page when a user searches for specific keywords, such as “family dentistry” or “Invisalign.” You get to choose which keywords apply as well as target audience demographics and location.  Search engine optimization (SEO) also impacts your visibility in search engine results, but it is organic (i.e., unpaid). Still with us? Good – at the end of this article you’ll know how PPC and SEO work and the benefits of each. As a bonus, you might walk away knowing the correct way to place a Starbucks order.

Note – While Google is not the only search engine, it does have 90% of the search engine market[1]. Therefore, our whitepaper and this article focus on Google and its pay-per-click program, Google Ads.

Pay-per-click (PPC) is perfect for those of us who like our coffee just so (quad venti, non-fat, upside down caramel macchiato please). That’s because PPC campaigns are customized to deliver your message to people who match selected criteria at the precise time they need your services.

When creating a PPC campaign you bid on specific keywords that you’ve researched (for help getting started, see the full whitepaper for details on Google’s Keyword Planner) and when people looking for a dentist use those keywords in their search, they see your ad. You only pay when searchers click your ad and are subsequently taken to your practice website or landing page. And, unlike with traditional ads that often require a certain number of mailers or spots, Google Ads allows you to adjust your budget daily according to search volume and even gives you the ability to shut-off spend instantly. This means you’re never trapped paying for ads no one sees. How’s that for flexibility? No cup of regular here, friends.

The same customization that allows PPC to target the right patients for your dental practice at the right time also makes it easy to adjust your campaign as needed and track ROI. PPC campaign analytics allow you to track everything from how often your ad appears (# of impressions) or doesn’t appear (lost impression share) in search results to the number of times it’s clicked (click-through-rate or CTR) and what you actually paid per click (cost-per-click or CPC). Campaign results also include conversion rates and the average position your ad garnered on the results page. This level of transparency is great, but only if you stay on top of it. Remember, these indicators are in constant flux so even if your campaign has been delivering positive results, taking a break from tracking can have a negative impact.  Just like a barista who turns his back on a milk frother, failure to monitor your PPC campaign is likely to create a mess.

PPC Tips:

  • Include keywords in your Google Ad headline to make the most of your 30-character limit. Bonus – keywords that are part of a searcher’s query will appear in bold, drawing attention to your ad.
  • Ad body copy is limited to a single line of 70 characters on desktop or two lines of 35 characters on mobile phones. It doesn’t take long to run out of room, so make sure to use this space to describe your dental practice or promotion in enough detail to capture interest and build credibility.
  • Make your call-to-action strong! This is where you tell searchers what to do, so be specific (i.e., call (000) 123-4567 for info).
  • Use ad extensions to get more attention at no additional cost. Ad extensions are pieces of information that expand your advertisement to make it more useful to users. They typically include click-to-call telephone numbers, links to additional pages on your website, patient reviews, and call out text with key details such as, “Same Day Appointments” or “All Major Insurance Accepted.” You should select ad extensions that are relevant to your campaign and its goals.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about maximizing the number of unpaid visitors to your dental website by ensuring you appear high on the list of search engine results. These are visitors who get to your site without clicking on a PPC ad. This type of traffic is known as “organic” in the search marketing sphere, and though it’s essential to reaching prospective patients online it’s a lot like switching to almond milk in that it can’t be done overnight (but it’s worth it in the long run). Why? For starters, local search. Through the power of the Internet and a little Big Brother, just adding “near me” to a Google search automatically delivers results that are, in fact, near you even when you’re on the go. Another reason is that 51% of clicks to a website come from organic listings[2]. Similar to your friend who doesn’t trust the establishment and only buys her ethically-sourced cappuccino from the local café, some people simply don’t trust paid advertising. Ranking well in organic search engine results allows you to reach potential patients who might otherwise write you off.

SEO is comprised of on-page optimization and off-page optimization. Don’t get nervous, we’re going to break these down. On-page optimization is essentially anything you can do within your website to show the search engines that you’re relevant. Not only does this include what you say, but also how you say it. Is the copy easy to understand? Does it incorporate phrases and keywords that prospective patients would use? Is the page layout conducive to skimming? Though content may be king, there are also other factors that impact on-page optimization. One of the most important things you can do to help your SEO ranking is to ensure your website is responsive. Responsive sites interpret which type of device is being used (desktop, tablet, smart phone) and scales the site accordingly. In fact, Google places so much importance on the mobile user experience, it gives precedence to mobile-friendly websites in search engine results[3]. See the complete whitepaper for more ways to improve your dental website’s on-page optimization,.

Off-page optimization includes components that go beyond your dental website. These include business directory listings, such as your Google My Business profile, Yelp, Healthgrades, etc. As well as social media profiles and reputable backlinks (links from other websites that connect back to yours).

SEO Tips:

  • Within your website copy use phrases that prospective patients would use to find your services.
  • Avoid duplicate website content! Google defines this as “substantive blocks of content” within a website or across multiple websites “that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar.”[4]
  • Ensure your website is responsive (i.e., automatically scales to the device used).
  • Confirm your business contact information (name, address, phone #) is correct across all business directories.
  • Obtain qualified backlinks. These should be relevant to your website in terms of both location and industry.

We understand that there’s a big difference between knowing the basics of PPC and SEO and putting them to work for your dental practice. Just because you understand what goes into effective search marketing doesn’t mean you want to start crafting PPC campaigns and SEO-friendly content between patients. Hey, there’s a reason people spend $7 on a cup of espresso marked with caramel. There’s no shame in going to the experts, but in an age where everyone’s an “expert” how do you know who to trust?

Start by partnering with a provider who intimately understands the dental industry. This makes your life easier and expedites the ramp-up process. It’s also important to clarify how a provider measures campaign success and ensure you’re in agreement before signing. And, since the online marketing realm changes daily you can’t assume that all providers keep up-to-date. Check references and ask if they’re a certified Google Partner.

Search marketing isn’t something you should leave to chance – or your nephew who builds websites after school. For more information about pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization download the free whitepaper, Search Marketing for Dentists: A Guide to Getting More New Patients Online. For best results, read it while enjoying the delicious beverage you can now confidently order at Starbucks.

Have specific questions regarding how to put search marketing can help your practice? Our dental marketing experts are here to help.  Reach out to an Internet Marketing Advisor today at (888) 932-3644.

Article written by Heather Frechette-Crowley, a digital marketing expert with 5+ years of experience in the dental industry.

[1] Statista: Worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to January 2019

[2] Search Engine Journal: 60+ Mind-Blowing Search Engine Optimization Stats

[3] Google: Prepare for mobile-first indexing

[4] Google: Duplicate Content