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Dental SEO

Local SEO for Dentists: The Ultimate Guide to Superior Practice Rankings

Last updated on May 25th, 2023 at 10:34 am

  1. How Local Search Affects Your Practice
  2. Local Google Ranking Factors
    1. On-Page Signals 20.3%
    2. Link Signals 20%
    3. Google Business Profile Signals 14.7%
    4. External Location Signals 13.6%
    5. Behavioral/Mob Signals 9.5%
    6. Personalization Signals 8.5%
    7. Review Signals 8.4%
    8. Social Signals 5%
  3. Ranking In the Google Snack Pack
    1. 1. NAP Consistency
    2. 2. Domain Authority
    3. 3. Google Business Profile
  4. Do I need Online Directories for local SEO?
  5. How to remove duplicate listings?
    1. Common Google Duplicate Scenarios and How to Solve Them:
    2. Other Top Directories to Consider for Duplicate Clean-up:
  6. 9 Useful Local SEO for Dentist Tips (Onsite)
  7. 6 Useful Local SEO for Dentist Tips (Offsite)

Local SEO for Dentists to Attract Local Patients

Marketing your practice online is an intimidating task. The Internet is vast and ever-changing, which makes it difficult to stay abreast of Internet marketing best practices; however, one thing is certain: whether you’re marketing your services on social media or implementing search engine optimization, targeting your local audience is critical. In fact, 67% of all online searchers specify a location within their queries.

If you haven’t started targeting your local audience, the time to start is now. Below is a comprehensive local SEO guide for dentists.

How Local Search Affects Your Practice

Remember the commercial that repeatedly interrupted your favorite television show last week? Chances are you don’t – because we’ve trained our brains to tune out what isn’t relevant to our immediate surroundings and needs. It’s estimated that we are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers’ worth of data a day. If we didn’t filter out most non-essential messages, we couldn’t function.

Does this mean advertising is dead? No, but it does mean that service providers, including doctors, need to change their traditional marketing approach. By using Internet searches to your advantage, there is a way to get in front of prospective patients in that fleeting moment where you’ll be seen as a solution and not an interruption. The key is search engine optimization (SEO).

Simply put, SEO brings visitors to your website by helping your practice appear high on the list of results when potential patients search for a dentist or doctor online. Over 85% of searchers do not go past the first page of results, so where you appear is critical. As far as SEO is concerned, if you’re not on the first page, you may as well be on the last.

ProSites’ publication, Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Practice, breaks down SEO and all that goes into it. From search engine crawlers and algorithms to keyword density and metadata, this white paper outlines the basics in a manner you can understand. Looking for a quick overview? Read on for some highlights.

Keywords are at the core of SEO. These are the terms search engines use to find and rank your practice (i.e. orthodontist, teeth whitening, etc.). Though your services are important keywords to include on your website, so is your practice’s location. Since the average patient isn’t going to travel hundreds of miles to visit a dentist, chances are they will limit their search to providers in close proximity. Therefore, to attract local prospects, your website must be associated with your geographic location. This type of SEO is known as local SEO. And the backbone of successful local SEO is optimization, both on-page and off.

Just as the name implies, on-page optimization refers to changes made directly to your website. The most visible area for on-page optimization is website copy. When writing copy, remember to use phrases that prospective patients would use in their online searches. This allows search engines to correctly categorize your website, increasing the number of times your practice comes up in relevant searches. In addition to copy, on-page factors include HTML tags like page titles and meta descriptions. Backlinks and business listings are two off-page optimization SEO strategies that take place outside your website but still impact your search engine ranking.

Backlinks are hyperlinks on other websites that connect back to your site. This may seem like a quick way to bump you ranking, but beware – Google considers context when giving you points for backlinks. This means that backlinks on irrelevant sites negatively impact your ranking.

Business listings are another type of off-page optimization that can not only drive traffic directly to your website, but also affect your search ranking. While it may seem obvious, consistency and accuracy are the two most important elements to optimizing your listings. Your practice should be in a number of professional directories so be sure your NAP data (practice name, address, and phone) is correct and identical across all listings.

Local Google Ranking Factors

What are the most important areas to focus on in your dental practice’s SEO program?

When it comes to getting and keeping your  dental 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!

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%

On-page signals are keywords within your  dental 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 metadata), 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 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. However, it is important to avoid common link building mistakes that can hinder your SEO efforts.

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 and 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 Business Profile Signals 14.7%

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 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 13.6%

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  dental 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 9.5%

This refers to how many visitors click your  dental 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 8.5%

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 despite its shortcomings. Where SEO takes weeks to see results, PPC campaigns can drive traffic to your website within a matter of days. If you want to know how to budget your PPC, click here.

Review Signals 8.4%

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 5%

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.

Ranking In the Google Snack Pack

Now that you understand which factors affect you overall, we’ll go into more detail on how to improve your rankings within Google’s snack pack (set of the top three local businesses that match a search query, displayed on Google’s search engine results page).

Google Local 3-Pack for dental search

Here’s three reasons why it’s important that your practice ranks within a Google snack pack:

  1. A snack pack is prominently shown on a search engine results page above organic listings, incentivizing searchers to stop looking further down on the page
  2. Your reviews are highlighted within the pack, helping you earn searchers’ trust
  3. Searchers can easily navigate directly to your website, or call you from your listing.

Because Google’s snack pack has made it more convenient for searchers to find local businesses, it’s very competitive to appear within them.

Below are the top 3 factors that influence your ranking within the pack, and what you can do to improve each.

1. NAP Consistency

Your name, address and phone number (NAP) information must be consistent on your Google Business Profile, your dental website, and throughout major online directories. Small differences in your address can confuse search engines and ultimately prohibit you from appearing in the snack pack. For example, if your address is 123 Anywhere St., #201, Sunnyvale, CA, 92777, your address should always appear in that exact format – even interchanging # with Suite or Ste. can create confusion. If you’re not sure how your address should appear, visit USPS’ Zip Code lookup to find out how USPS standardizes your address.

It’s important to be nit-picky about your NAP info because software that collects local business information can get confused and push multiple listings for your business based on the small differences they find, creating what are called duplicate listings. Although this is hard to completely avoid, you can minimize your duplicates by maintaining consistency.

2. Domain Authority

Domain authority, based on the quality of backlinks to your dental website, refers to your domain authority score and can be looked up using Moz’s Open Site Explorer site. Most dental practices should have a score around 10/100, but we recommend that you search local competitors to find out how you compare.

Increasing your domain authority can take time because collecting quality links, or link-building, is time-intensive. To review, there are three types of links that you should be pursuing: location-specific links, industry-specific directories, and authority sites.

3. Google Business Profile

Of course, a well-optimized Google Business Profile is more likely to appear in the snack pack. If you’ve ever seen a business on Google Maps that seems to be missing a lot of information such as business hours, website information or even a phone number, you’re looking a listing that is not optimized and most likely without an owner. The good news is dentists can claim and optimize their orphaned listing. Here’s how to do it:

First, search for your business on Google Maps to check whether there is an existing listing for your business, then verify using Google’s phone or postcard verification process.

Second, fill out all information using your Google Business Profile dashboard (you’ll unlock access only after completing the verification process).

  1. That will include the correct name, address with suite number, local phone number and web address. Do not use a toll-free number, or P.O. Box as that is against Google guidelines.
  2. Upload a cover photo and relevant images of your business. Photos of your interior, exterior, and staff are always appropriate.
  3. Ensure that you assign the correct categories for your practice. This is incredibly important since choosing the correct category will heavily determine which keywords your listing appears in the snack pack for. Categories that are available for dentists are:
    • Dentist
    • Periodontist
    • Oral Surgeon
    • Endodontist
    • Orthodontist
    • Pediatric Dentist
  1. Update the page that your profile is pointing to so that the title tag includes your city and state, example: John Doe, DDS | Sunnyvale CA

Do I need Online Directories for local SEO?

Allocating precious marketing funds is one of the most challenging tasks for business owners, especially in today’s economy. With numerous marketing channels including: banner ads, direct mail, print advertising, pay-per-click, search engine optimization, and so on, how do you decide where to start? The answer is simple… think local.

Since millions of potential patients search for services based on location, it’s critical that you market your practice accordingly. With 83% of households using Internet search to find local businesses, local search marketing is one of the most powerful ways you can reach new patients online.

Local search marketing involves “claiming your listing” within the major online business directories (e.g., Google Plus, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, Citysearch, Yelp, etc.). Claiming (and optimizing) your listings will not only provide searchers with more information about your practice but can also get you better rankings within the search engines. Google, for example, often includes their maps/ listings right on the first page.

Numerous benefits stem from claiming your listings within online directories, and we’ve highlighted a few of them below:

  • Deliver Accurate Information – You can ensure potential patients find up-to-date information about your practice such as contact information, office hours, services you offer, website address, and more.
  • Increase Patient Reviews â€“ People choose businesses they trust. By encouraging patients to leave positive reviews on your local business listing pages, you can build credibility and trust among potential patients.
  • Improved Online Visibility – When location is referenced within a search query, search engines often place local listings at or near the top of results pages, therefore increasing your chances of being found by potential patients in your area.
  • Drive More Traffic to Your Dental Website – Including a link to your website within your local listings not only builds more backlinks (which boosts SEO) but also encourages prospective patients to visit your website to learn more. Thus, you will drive more targeted, qualified traffic to your dental website and ideally generate more new patient appointments.

Bottom line – Local search marketing reaches millions of Internet users monthly which could translate into hundreds of new patients for your practice. It’s never too early to start reaching your local online audience. So, what are you waiting for?

How to remove duplicate listings?

Have you ever had a patient call in to ask where your practice is located because their GPS took them to an old business address, only to miss their appointment? When someone searches the Internet for a dentist in your town, is it difficult for your practice to show up on the map results? Answering yes to either of these questions could mean that you have duplicate listings for your practice. Duplicate listings are multiple listings within the same online directory with inconsistent business information. People and search engines depend on this information to find you.

A clean presence on local online directories is one of the most important, yet neglected, search engine optimization (SEO) components by dental and medical professionals seeking to improve rankings.

In fact, Moz’s 2015 Local SEO Ranking Factor study found that collectively, local business directories account for 30% of ranking factors. Consistency of NAP (name, address and phone) information among online directories is the number 2 ranking factor in Google’s map results in search engine results pages, referred to as the Snack Pack. This means your NAP information must be consistent across all online directories to have a chance at ranking favorably in local search results.

You also must ensure that your practice appears in only ONE listing, per each directory. This is particularly important in Google Maps. Multiple listings for the same practice in a single directory leads to trouble with ranking well within Google’s Snack Pack. Because Google Maps accounts for nearly 15% of local search ranking factors, this article will concentrate on duplicates specific to this directory.

Common Google Duplicate Scenarios and How to Solve Them:

Problem #1: Your practice changed locations, but the old address is still showing.

Solution: Claim your old business listing using phone verification and then change the address. The old phone number will have to be in service for this to work. If you have already claimed the listing with the old address, simply log in to your Google Business Profile dashboard and update the address (this may prompt re-verification).

Learn how to claim your business on Google Maps here

Problem #2: You found a listing for your practice and another one for each doctor at your practice.

Solution: Find all listings on Google maps and submit a report for each repeated listing that you find. Generally, they will be the listings that contain each doctors’ name. After you find a listing on Google Maps, scroll down to find a “suggest an edit” button near the business hours:

You can Suggest an edit on Google Maps when other dentists aren't playing by the rules

Click on “suggest an edit” then toggle to “yes” when asked if this “Place is permanently closed or doesn’t exist”:

Google Maps suggest an edit selecting permenantly closed

Finally, select the “duplicate” option and submit the form:

Google Maps suggest an edit selecting duplicate

If you do this while logged into your Google account, you will get an email confirming the report submission. Once you report each duplicate listing, claim the remaining listing (the one with your official practice name) by going through the phone verification process.

Learn how to verify your address on Google Maps here

Problem #3: You bought a practice from another doctor.

Solution: Do not set up a completely new listing for your new practice! Instead, find the Google listing under the name of the practice that you bought and claim it through the phone verification process. If the listing is verified under the old doctor or dentist, simply request an ownership transfer through Google’s form. The owner will get an email and will then be able to transfer ownership of the listing to you through an existing Google account.

Learn how to transfer ownership of a Google Listing here

Other Top Directories to Consider for Duplicate Clean-up:

Below are some of the top directories for doctors, dentists and vets according to Moz Local Citations. You’ll need to identify which directories have duplicate listings and then report them according to each directory’s guidelines. Then, claim any listings that you did not report by registering with a business account in each directory. Each process will be different, but all may require phone verification through the business phone number so make sure be at the practice when you do this.

9 Useful Local SEO for Dentist Tips (Onsite)

Negative ranking factors are things that may be making your website lose its rankings. The more ranking factors you’re doing (whether on purpose or by mistake), the more they’re harming your visibility. Here are the most common on-page (website) issues that may be hurting you.

  1. Include city and state in your page titles. Your page title is a type of metadata and should include your city, state, and keywords (e.g. Dentist or Dentist in [City, State]). Page titles are shown on search engine results pages. Therefore, it essentially works to persuade visitors into clicking your website over the others listed on the page.
  2. Include your city and common keywords in meta descriptions. Your dental website’s meta descriptions should include common keywords that searchers would use when they’re looking for your services. For example, “Family dental services in [City]”. Similar to a page title, meta descriptions appear on search results pages to help searchers understand what the web page is about and may impact their decision to click through to the website.
  3. Have H1 tags on your web pages. An H1 tag creates a header for the copy on your page. Usually, the copy is enlarged and bolded to look like a title. And although enlarged copy vs. copy in an H1 tag visually look the same, a real H1 tag can be identified by <h1></h1> tags on the back end. To really nail your H1 tags, remember that they should include keywords that are commonly used in searches and only one should be included per page.
  4. Insert ALT tags on images. Anytime you have an image on your website, you should include an ALT tag to provide a clear text alternative of the image. Be sure to use keywords where applicable, too. (Note: These types of tags need to be coded in, so ask your webmaster for help adding these in.) For example, an ALT tag on a firm’s logo could read John Doe, DDS, Dental Practice Logo. This way, both “DDS” and “Dental Practice” are keywords, but also accurately describe the image.
  5. Optimize your page for Google Business Profile. If your Google Business Profile points to your website’s homepage (most dental practices do), make sure your homepage includes your name, address, and phone number exactly how it appears on Google Business Profile. Google relies on this information to triangulate it with the address on your Google Business Profile and understand your geographical location.
  6. Optimize your website copy for local search. In addition to highlighting your services, your website copy should include contextual references to your firm’s location (city and state). This way, when someone searches “Dentist in [City]” your website is optimized for that area. Make sure to read your website copy out loud to ensure that any mention of your city and state sounds natural.
  7. Infuse location into your content – When writing the content on your website, it’s important to personalize it with your location to get in front of your relevant audience. You can use Google Analytics to determine where, geographically, your website visitors reside. Incorporate these locations into your content for better reach.
  8. Focus on quality locations – All too often, doctors think the more cities they show up for in search, the better. Some even see ranking for their state as the Holy Grail. This method of thinking isn’t always lucrative. Potential patients are much more likely to search “San Diego dentist” than something as broad as “California dentist”. The more targeted your location is, the better chance you’ll have at converting online searchers into your new patients.
  9. List your address and phone number on every page – Search engines don’t always scan every page of your website to determine its ranking on their results pages. Adding your address and phone number to every page will ensure the search engines see it, no matter which pages they scan.

6 Useful Local SEO for Dentist Tips (Offsite)

Negative off-page factors are things that occur outside of your website but could still be harming your rankings.

  1. Be consistent with name, address, and phone number information in online directories and on your website. Your business is likely listed in numerous online directories. You want to ensure that all of your name, address and phone (NAP) data is identical and accurate across all directories to avoid confusing the search engines. In addition to having consistent NAP data across online directories, it’s important that this information matches the contact information on your website too. You can check for consistency using Moz Local’s Listing Scanner. Simply enter your practice’s name and zip code to get a consistency score. With the results, you can claim and optimize listings that have wrong and/or missing information.
  2. Avoid listing virtual offices, P.O. boxes, and toll-free numbers in directories. Listing this type of information goes against most directories’ guidelines because it does not specify where you are located the same way that a physical address and area code would. If you do have a toll-free number, make sure to only include it in addition to a local phone number. Solely using a toll-free number prevents search engines from identifying where your practice is located.
  3. Make sure to select the right business category. Most online directories (including Google) ask you to select a business category from a pick-list. Most dentists should list their primary category as “Dentist” or “Dental Clinic.” You can choose additional categories as well but always choose your most important category first. Note: Use this guide to help you decide which to choose.
  4. Get quality backlinks. Backlinks are links on other websites that link back to your website and are essential to helping you rank well organically on search results. It’s extremely time-intensive, but well worth it in the long run. To start building more backlinks, reach out to associations that you are part of and see if they have a membership directory where they can list your website.
  5. Join your local Chamber of Commerce – Not only will most chambers link to their members’ websites but being affiliated with a community organization will give your website increased local exposure.
  6. Encourage Facebook or Foursquare check-ins – When a patient visits your practice and checks-in, each check-in reiterates your location to search engines and shares it with all of your patients’ social connections. This can drastically increase your exposure among local prospects.

If you aren’t sure about your local SEO strategy â€“ or even how well you might rank in Google or other search engines, we can help. We have SEO experts on staff who (believe it or not) love talking about local SEO for dentists and how you can improve. Give us a call at (888) 932-3644 or contact us here to grow your business together.


Ryan Mendenhall

đź’Ą Now: Senior SEO Manager @ ProSites, Dad
⏪ Then: BigLeapMKTG, Disney (WDPRO), agency owner
❤️ Legos, SpaceX, Hiking, Automation, GoogleSheets, SEO