The purpose of working on your dental website’s search engine optimization (SEO) is to move your dental practice to the top of the search engine rankings – to be near the top of the first search page. While no one can guarantee your practice’s ranking, if you implement a good SEO marketing plan you should see movement in the right direction.
SEO is the most cost-effective marketing avenue for bringing new patients into your practice. Millions of searches happen every day and your placement in the search tells people how relevant you are to the questions they are asking. It may not be fair, but searchers feel more confident calling the practice listed on the first page of their search rather than the sixth page. That is why your SEO strategy should create value for searchers that are looking for your expertise, which then incentivizes search engines to endorse your business by increasing your website’s rankings.
DIY SEO or Hire a Dental SEO Company?
Now that you understand the importance of SEO, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to attempt SEO yourself or seek out a pro?
Optimization is not easy. To begin with, you need to understand Google algorithms and how they impact your strategy, Google Analytics data for your website and what it is telling you about searcher, website, and traffic behavior, and troubleshoot your strategy when you’re not seeing the results you were hoping to obtain. Then you need to turn your search campaign objectives into tactics that will help you obtain the results that you are looking for like creating user-friendly landing pages on your easy to navigate website.
The list goes on and on and SEO is not something you can learn only once. The rules are changing almost daily. SEO marketing is an ongoing process that takes time, money, and skills to do well.
Does all of this mean you can’t do your own search marketing? No, but there are a couple important questions you should answer before making the decision to either do it yourself or hire a pro.
Q1: Do I have the knowledge & experience to do my practice’s SEO?
While on the surface SEO may not seem that difficult – use hot keywords, get relevant links, post regularly – there are often technical aspects that can be tricky. Not to mention the time-consuming efforts needed to keep abreast of critical knowledge. Take a strong look at your current skill set and how much it meets your SEO needs.
Are you a talented content writer? Do you understand HTML, CSS, or any website coding? Is your background in marketing? Do you understand how SEO tactics should be applied so that they align with your overall marketing objectives? If so, you may feel more confident in your ability to perform SEO for your practice.
Now look at your knowledge of new technologies. They often affect search engine strategies which may actually vary from engine to engine. The long-term success of your campaign depends on your ability to stay up to date with search engine rules, changes in SEO algorithms, technical coding details and trends in your website analytics to identify weaknesses in your strategy.
Not keeping up could mean using an outdated optimization strategy or becoming too specific with your keyword plan which could potentially set your campaign back permanently, and even erase your website from search engines completely. Are you still confident in your SEO skills, or is this a job that may be better suited for a professional?
Q2: Do I have the time to handle both my patients’ needs and my practice’s SEO marketing?
Look at how much time you have for your practice and remember there are only 24 hours in a day. Your dental practice is your first priority, and your patients are the heart of its success. Running your business and offering quality patient services takes a considerable amount of your time. Do you really have the hours to devote to your practice’s SEO as well? Assuming you put together a successful SEO strategy you’ll garner new patients and increase your workload. Will you have time to provide the quality services your patients have come to expect if you’re spending extra hours on SEO?
SEO is an ongoing process. The SEO environment is constantly evolving. You can’t just pick a few keywords and be done with it. Performing well in this environment means digging in, researching and updating your knowledge every day. You will need to test keywords, metadata and test tactics based on changes in your rankings. That’s right, SEO marketing implements a lot of testing and retesting, especially if something goes wrong. Before deciding to do it yourself or hire a pro, take an honest look at your time and skills. Then decide where your time and skills make the greatest impact and give the most value to your practice.
It’s probably not a question of CAN you but SHOULD you.
You’re a smart person. You’ve mastered many difficult things in your career and SEO could be your next conquest. The question is: should it be?
While you may be able to learn the ins and outs of ranking factors and understand how to apply SEO best practices, you have to decide if that is where you get the most value from your time. Do you have time to do the hours of heavy lifting an initial campaign requires, the recurring weekly or monthly proactive optimization, as well as ongoing maintenance in response to insightful analytics and changes dictated by the search engines? How many patients could you have scheduled with those hours?
Moving forward, SEO will be the most important marketing effort your practice can make. Users trust Google, Bing, and Yahoo and other search engines to answer their burning questions, provide solutions and give a list of the businesses that best meet their needs. You want to put your SEO in the most competent hands possible.
If after answering all the questions, you decide to do it yourself remember that the SEO process will take your time, skills and knowledge. If you decide that keeping up with your SEO and website management is not where you should be utilizing your skills, you may be better off hiring a pro. A qualified digital marketing firm can tailor an SEO strategy to your dental practice’s goals and expectations.
How to Find a Reputable SEO Company
Within the realm of search engine optimization, analysts refer to the different tactics they use as being “black hat”, “white hat”, or the grey area in between the two. Here’s the difference:
- Black Hat SEO – cheats search engines into giving a website more authority over competitors by using techniques that they consider tricky, misleading, or unethical and can result in your website being blacklisted; blacklisted websites no longer appear within search engine results pages. Examples of black hat techniques include disreputable backlinks, keyword stuffing, and creating ghost pages.
- White Hat SEO – implements permitted optimization techniques outlined by major search engines, including Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. White hat SEO does not put your website at risk of being blacklisted. Examples of white hat techniques include optimizing page content, creating relevant page titles, and claiming and optimizing business listings.
- The Grey Area – Of course, some SEO companies straddle the grey area between the two, using various techniques that are both white and black hat, thereby increasing the risk a website may be banned.
What to Look for When Choosing a Trustworthy SEO Company
When searching for a search engine optimization professional, it’s easy to get confused or duped into a con, because the world of SEO is so complicated and some disreputable SEO companies unfortunately prey on their clients’ naivety. To avoid hiring a SEO firm that employs black hat techniques, ensure they engage in the following practices:
- Sets realistic goals and expectations – Honest SEO firms will not make any promises regarding the outcome of your optimization package. SEO changes constantly; and as you’re optimizing your website, others are doing the same, making your shot at achieving page-one results more complex. If a company offers you page-one results off the bat, queue the red flag; they may be using black hat techniques to improve your search engine ranking.
- Explains the steps involved in optimizing your site – Because your brand image and website are affected by the actions of the optimization company you hire, you want to be sure you understand the types of techniques they use. If you’re hiring a firm that is solely engaging in white-hat optimization methods, they will have no problem explaining their process.
- Communicates with you throughout the optimization process – Whether you’re conversing via phone or email, a reputable SEO firm will be open to your needs and will promptly answer your questions or concerns. SEO professionals that are difficult to get ahold of are not only giving you poor customer service but may be afraid to explain their dishonest techniques.
- Provides you with analytics or reporting to show your progress – Reputable SEO firms will be proud to show you the results that their efforts have achieved and will automatically send you a full analysis of the positive effects their services have provided. If your SEO professional claims they don’t provide clients with analytics or makes an excuse to hide them from you, be suspicious of the product they’re selling.
SEO continues to be a successful and worthwhile investment, provided you do your research and hire a reputable optimization professional. When implemented correctly, SEO can have a positive impact on the success of your website, delivering new patients and improving your visibility on search engines. Keep these guidelines in mind when inquiring about optimization services.
SEO Contracts Put You in Control
You’re interested in SEO services, but you’re not sure you’re ready to sign a contract. It’s a common dilemma for small businesses. Don’t worry. When it comes to SEO, we can help you make the best decision for your dental practice. First, there are a few things that need to be understood about SEO.
- SEO is not a fad. It’s not a powder blue, double-knit leisure suit that will only be seen at Halloween in a couple years. SEO has grown in importance just as access to the Internet, mobile and social media channels have grown. SEO is a must for any business.
- SEO is not a quick fix. Anyone who tells you it is a quick fix, or guarantees specific results is misleading you. It takes an intimate knowledge of your target audience, your practice and your competitors to do it well – and that takes time.
- SEO is your key to Internet visibility. Without an SEO plan it’s highly unlikely anyone online will find you without already knowing where to look. But with a good SEO strategy, your dental practice can receive high rankings from search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. That means more visitors to your website. More visitors equal more potential patients.
With this basic knowledge, you can begin a discussion about what you need from a SEO company.
Understanding An SEO Contract and How It Benefits You
You may understand SEO practices – metatags, keywords, linkbacks, site maps, page optimization, social media accounts and so on. And you may have free time to put towards developing and implementing a strategic SEO plan that takes into account regulations from multiple search engines. If so, you may only want help with piecemeal projects. Many SEO companies offer project-based pricing. However, when you handle your SEO in this way, the ups and downs and analysis of success are squarely on your shoulders.
If you’re looking for more of a complete and ongoing, steady solution, you can look into hiring an SEO firm to manage your online presence. With hiring a firm often comes a contract. We know, this discussion gives you pause, so let us just say:
- A contract is not a way for a SEO company to lock you into paying for work you don’t need or want.
- A contract with a SEO company is a way to ensure you see the quality work and success metrics you expect.
A successful SEO strategy takes time. Time to develop an intimate knowledge of your practice, your patients, your potential patients, and your competitors. Time to be vigilant in keeping your SEO up to date with the ever-changing SEO environment. Time to change. Time to test. Time to work. A contract sets both time and expectations.
A six-to-twelve-month contract allows your dental practice to clearly define what will be provided by your SEO provider – original content, local SEO optimization, linkbacks, free upgrades, social media channel audits and much more – during these pivotal months. The contract gives your dental practice control over their expertise and allows you to hold them accountable. As we mentioned- SEO is not a quick-fix, it takes time, and the contract is the firm’s way of saying “allow us the time it takes to get your practice ranking.”
Google, Bing, and other major search engines are always changing their regulations and search algorithms to offer better search experiences. SEO companies must keep up and quickly adapt. While you might see an immediate bump from one project to another, SEO is a continual process, and those algorithm changes may also result in lower ratings as easily as higher ones. SEO best practices say that six to twelve months is a good measure of time to analyze whether a plan is working or not. At this juncture in the process a good plan should see sustained increases in website traffic regardless of any ups or downs.
Remember that the point of your website is to grow your business. If people can’t find your website, what’s the point of having it? A well-planned SEO strategy creates visibility and increases traffic. And it has some of the best ROI in marketing, exceeding traditional approaches such as radio, newspaper ads and direct mail. A qualified Internet marketing company can develop and implement an SEO strategy for your dental practice to reach its goals.
Avoid SEO Scams
Everyone has heard the stories of retirees who fall victim to scam artists – losing their life savings to what they think is a reputable company. Are you aware that scammers target businesses as well? Think you’re immune? Think again. As a successful dental practice looking to grow through digital marketing and social media, you’re a prime target for unscrupulous SEO agencies. Keep your wits about you. There are a few things you should know that will keep your practice from getting taken advantage of.
There is no such thing as a first-page placement guarantee. Some companies out there will actually tell you they can guarantee first page placement for your practice. We’ve said it before and we will say it again – SEO is not a quick fix. Anyone who guarantees a specific result is misleading you. Google is actually suing a company in California for making false claims that they can guarantee first-page placement in Google search results.
An effective SEO strategy takes an intimate knowledge of your target audience, your practice and your competitors to do it well – and that takes time.
Be wary of anyone claiming to work on behalf of Google. This might seem extreme so let’s give this warning some context. Google does not make automated sales calls; ask you to claim your website; ask you to update your listing; or ask you to pay to be included in Google Search. This information is clearly posted on the Google website. And even Google says you should beware of companies or people who “allege a special relationship with Google,” and/or advertise VIP placements or priority submissions (Google).
Google will not send you unsolicited emails. If you’re receiving unsolicited emails that claim to come from Google about your website’s poor search engine results, read them with a dose of skepticism. Reputable SEO and Internet Marketing companies will clearly state who they are and stand behind their own branding. They have no reason to claim they are Google.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
If you receive an email offer, solicitation or guarantee, check to see if it’s actually Google or a Google Partner. If the email is from Google it will be from an @google.com address and the return path should also contain an @google.com address. Also check to see where the links in the email are directing you. Do they go to a google.com page or someplace else?
If you receive a telephone call, ask the representative to send you an email and look for these same signs.
Verifying whether the company that contacts you is a Google Partner is relatively easy as well. Just look for them at this Google Partner search page. Google partners are agencies, marketing professionals, and online experts who have been certified by Google to manage AdWords accounts (Google).
Don’t be scared away by the shady Internet characters or stories of unscrupulous scam artists. If you’re interested in expanding your practice’s visibility and growing your patient roster, SEO and Internet marketing is a great option for you. It offers a strong opportunity to reach your preferred target audience with low cost and high return. A qualified Internet marketing company can help guide you through the Internet confusion safely by defining your marketing goals and developing an SEO strategy to help you reach them.
Black-Hat Dental SEO Techniques to Avoid
When it comes to dental marketing, many practices want to get better rankings on search results. The difficult part is knowing exactly who they can trust and hire to get the job done – correctly. And in today’s day and age, there’s much more to search engine optimization for dentists than what meets the eye.
To have a good foundation, dental SEO requires white-hat SEO techniques that will help dentists achieve long-lasting, measurable results. However, many white-hat SEO techniques do take longer and more time to implement and see results.
Many black-hat SEO techniques and companies may appease the world’s need of instant gratification, but it could be setting the practice up for short-term success and long-term failure. In fact, if you’re caught doing black-hat SEO techniques, your website could get banned from search results all together!
To avoid getting yourself unknowingly in trouble by hiring the wrong dental SEO provider, here are the top black-hat SEO techniques that you will want to look out for and avoid:
- Private blog networks. Building a lot of backlinks (links on other websites that point back to your dental website) can be a very positive and strong SEO technique – when done correctly. However, a black-hat version of building more backlinks is participating in a private blog network (PBN). Participating in a PBN is a risky practice and it is expensive to join. Plus, it’s incredibly difficult to grow and maintain this strategy. To avoid joining a company that makes you participate in a PBN – either knowingly or unknowingly – make sure to ask them if they participate in a PBN. If the answer is “yes” ask if they will share a list of links that they create for your website.
- Resurrecting expired domains with high authority. Sometimes, a company will look for websites that have expired, but have a high domain authority and strong link profiles. Once they buy the domain, they’ll rehost the website and republish how the website was previously. This isn’t a good tactic because Google now automatically resets a website’s page rank when the domain expires. Ask your agency to share the list of links they have built. If a link looks suspicious, go to waybackmachine.com and insert the URL there.
- Keyword stuffing. It’s important to have keywords throughout the copy of your website that you want to be found for (e.g. cosmetic dentist in Chicago). However, there’s a fine line between being relevant and simply keyword stuffing. Instead of focusing on keyword density within a page, write relevant and timely articles and content pages that have search terms patients are most likely to use. Ask your website provider to provide examples of pages they have optimized on other websites and ensure it doesn’t sound like keywords are being “forced” into the paragraphs.
- Avoid paid links. Buying backlinks to your website goes against Google’s webmaster guidelines. This means if you’re caught, Google will destroy your rankings overnight. According to Bloggers Passion, “if you still buy or sell any links then make sure that the links contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute. It tells search engine that you are using for advertising purpose only and not for page ranking.” Ask your website provider if they plan to buy backlinks to your website. If their answer is “yes” you may want to consider this a red flag and look elsewhere.
Signs You Are Being Spammed
When it comes to improving your website’s optimization, choosing a trustworthy, reputable SEO provider is key. Because search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex process, some companies use this to their advantage, relaying deceitful marketing messages in an attempt to trick those less knowledgeable about SEO. One of the most common tactics is to promise first page results on Google. While this is an appealing claim, it is a feat that cannot be guaranteed and is one of the top ways to identify an unreliable SEO company.
Here are 3 additional ways to identify whether you’re being spammed by a SEO company:
- The email was completely unsolicited – Disreputable companies prey upon anyone and everyone with a website. They use email to convince you that you need their services or to scare you with generalizations about your website’s performance. Rule of Thumb: If you didn’t ask for the information, question the sender’s motives.
- The sender doesn’t offer a business name, location, or contact number – Legitimate businesses want you to hire their services and want to get you on the phone to hear the inflection in your voice. They want to understand how you feel about what they’re pitching. They’ll also likely offer references and results of past clients. Rule of Thumb: If a company makes it difficult to learn about their services and refuses to talk to you on the phone, something fishy is going on.
- The sender uses a free email service (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.) – Any reputable company will have their own email accounts set up with their domain name (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). There is no reason or benefit for companies to use free email services, as they are unprofessional and more likely to be thrown in the SPAM folder. Rule of Thumb: Make sure you’re communicating with a reputable company. Check their email address and be wary of anyone operating with a Gmail or other free email account.
When you receive emails marketing any service, be sure to pay special attention to notable traits that could suggest you’re being scammed. Before hiring any service, check the reputation of the company and be sure to ask for references.
ProSites implements proven, white hat SEO techniques that deliver long-lasting, measurable results for your practice. If you’re interested in learning more about ProSites SEO services, please call (888) 932-3644 for a free consultation