Blog  Events  |  Sign In

Request a Demo

Dental SEO & How it Works

Home » Dental SEO Essentials » Dental SEO Basics » Dental SEO & How it Works

Dental SEO stands for “dental search engine optimization,” the process of optimizing your dental practice website to rank higher in search engines to attract more patients and grow practice revenue.

Given the effectiveness of SEO and its importance to dental marketing in an increasingly online world, more dental practices today are asking “What is SEO and how does it work?” Indeed, 68% of surveyed practices in our 2023 State of Dental Marketing report are planning to add more SEO marketing or maintain the same level of SEO marketing, and this reflects general business trends. According to recent findings by HubSpot, 69% of businesses invest in SEO. To help your practice keep step with industry trends, rank higher in search engines, and fill more chairs, this guide covers what is SEO and how it works to empower more effective online marketing for your practice. 

What Are the Benefits of SEO for Dental Practices? 

When dental practices ask what the benefits of SEO marketing are, they’re ultimately asking what kind of return on investment (ROI) they can expect, and recent findings by ProSites help shed some light on this. 

To help practices better understand the current state of the dental industry, ProSites conducted a survey of 110 dental practices and discovered something. With people increasingly searching online for health care providers (significantly influenced by online behaviors driven by the pandemic), the survey unsurprisingly showed dental practices were increasing their dental SEO and digital marketing to great success: 

  • 31% of respondents reported annual practice revenue of $1 million or more in 2021. 
  • 33% saw an increase in revenue over the past year, despite mandatory closures, patient safety concerns, and other impacts of COVID. 

In tandem with this, online marketing techniques were consistently ranked as most important for practices heading into 2022. Top-performing practices ranked digital marketing techniques like SEO as even more important compared to the overall sample, and 74% of practices are planning to increase their overall digital marketing budgets for 2023. 

So, the above findings paint a picture of correlation. In an increasingly online world, more dental practices are adopting online digital marketing techniques. SEO marketing is central to digital marketing, and top-earning practices aren’t asking, “What is SEO?” or how it works. They’ve already read through guides like this and now place a high value on SEO, which can’t guarantee overnight annual revenue of $1 million or more for your practice (unless you’re already making that). Yet such possibilities don’t obscure what’s clear. 

Just like using a toothbrush is connected to oral health, the benefits of SEO marketing are connected to using SEO. 

Why Should a Dentist Care About SEO? 

The previous section certainly underscores the big reason why dental practices care about SEO and getting there is linked to some eye-opening statistics (meaning the second reason for dental practices to care about SEO). 

  • Based on an analysis of 4 million Google search results, Backlinko found: 
  • The #1 spot in Google search results is 10x more likely to get a click compared to the #10 spot. 
  • The #1 position has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 27.6%
  • The top three organic search results get 54.4% of all clicks. 
  • CTR begins to significantly drop off after position #3
  • On average, moving up one spot in search results will increase CTR by 2.8%

The last statistic highlights a key reason why more dental practices now ask, “What is SEO and how does it work?” Rising to the #1 spot in search results may take time, but enroute to that spot, practices can still realize gains: 

  • Increase website visibility and traffic. More potential patients will see your practice website when increased ranking increases visibility, which increases clicks and traffic to your site. 
  • Increase leads: A solid SEO marketing strategy that leads more people to your practice website helps increase leads by directing people to action items like booking an appointment. 
  • Increase website conversions. The more leads your SEO strategy generates, the more it helps turn website visitors into patients. 

How Does Google Work? 

When asking “What is SEO and how does it work?” many people are asking about Google, the most popular search engine, and like all search engines, Google is a business like any other business. They’re in the business of delivering the best possible value to users. If they can’t do that, they risk losing users to other search engines. To ensure that doesn’t happen, Google uses a variety of tools and methods to return search results that are as valuable and relevant as possible for users. 


Also called robots or spiders, Google crawlers are programs used to automatically discover, scan, and index websites across the Web. These crawlers are constantly searching for new content, links, and other signals that indicate what a website is about and that pages are new or updated. By understanding how these crawlers work, you can help ensure that your practice website shows up in relevant searches. 


Once a website has been crawled, Google visits the pages that it has learned about by crawling and analyzes the content, images, and video files in the page to understand what the page is about. Pages are then indexed by Google just like a library index lists information about all the books a library has. This index enables Google to quickly determine what webpages best answer a user’s query. 

Serving Search Results and Ranking 

When a user enters a query, Google searches its index for pages that match the query and returns results that Google believes are the highest quality and most relevant to a user’s query, determined by hundreds of factors, including: 

  • a user’s location 
  • language 
  • device (desktop or mobile device), 
  • domain authority 
  • keywords 

Based on a user’s query, search features that appear on a search results page can change. Google’s example: “Searching for ‘bicycle repair shops’ will likely show local results and no image results, however searching for ‘modern bicycle’ is more likely to show image results, but not local results.” The factors behind how Google serves search results also factor into how Google ranks search results. 

Google’s Algorithms 

Though some people believe Google uses one algorithm to display search results, Google uses many algorithms comprising a complex system used to retrieve data from its search index and display results for a query. 

Google’s Secret Algorithms 

Google’s search algorithms are a black box. Though Google releases information about algorithm updates to SEO news companies, Google understandably keeps its trade secrets close to the vest to prevent competitors from copying the algorithms and spammers from using information to manipulate search results. What is known: Google updates its algorithms frequently. 

Google Updates 

In its early years, Google only made a handful of updates each year to its algorithms. Now, Google makes thousands of changes and updates each year. In 2020, for example, Google made 4,500 changes to search. To put that in perspective, that’s roughly 12 algorithm changes per day

While some changes are minor and go unnoticed, others can significantly impact search engine results pages. Google’s May 2022 core update, for example, happened fast and businesses across many industries saw significant swings and drops in website traffic in the early rollout of the updates. Google updates can also impact dental websites.  

For example, when Google made an algorithm update in 2022 to deliver more high-quality content and penalize websites with content reading as if it was written by a robot, Dental Economics wrote, “If you’re a dentist concerned about your Google rankings, this update is especially for you.” 

All of this helps explain why more dental practices now use online marketing providers like ProSites, which manages a range of online marketing services for dental practices, including SEO marketing. Rather than trying to manage it all by themselves and stay on top of changes in an increasingly shifting digital landscape, 58% of surveyed dental practices in the 2023 State of Dental Marketing report said they were using an online marketing provider—a substantial increase over a year earlier (38%). 

Machine Learning at Google 

Google’s new machine learning-based AI algorithms are revolutionizing the way Google crawls and indexes websites. Some of the larger AI algorithms now at work: 

  • Google’s neural matching algorithm better connects search words to concepts and now impacts 30% of queries. 
  • RankBrain is a machine learning-based algorithm that helps Google process search results and provide more relevant search results for users. 
  • BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations) is a neural network-based algorithm designed to better understand that intent behind search queries by considering the full context of a word by looking at the words that come before and after it. 

As Google’s AI algorithms continue to evolve, “AI will completely change SEO as we know it,” writes Search Engine Land. “From optimization to link building, it will significantly impact every aspect of SEO.”  

Quality Raters 

Quality raters are third-party contractors who assist Google in the evaluation of websites that appear in search results. Each year, they manually check thousands of landing pages for their relevance to respective search queries. 

  • Google’s quality rater guidelines (a.k.a. search quality evaluator guidelines) are an extensive set of guidelines (some 170 pages in length) that quality raters follow when making quality inspection of websites. 
  • E.E.A.T. Though Google’s quality rater guidelines cover an extensive range of areas by which raters make quality inspections of websites, the main governing areas under Google’s quality rater guidelines are Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E.E.A.T.), and results are connected to search algorithms. “You can view the raters’ guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go,” said Google’s VP of Search Ben Gomes in a CNBC interview. “They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.” 

As general guidance for businesses in considering the E.E.A.T. impact, SEO expert Marie Haynes writes, “What you need to ask yourself is this: For your topics, do others online truly recognize either your website or your authors as experts on the topics you cover? If not, you’re lacking [E.E.A.T.].” 

Top Google Ranking Factors 

Indexability refers to Google’s ability to analyze and add a page to its index. Just because Google can crawl your practice website doesn’t mean it can index all its pages. 

Content quality is an important Google ranking factor. Writes MonsterInsights, “If you can create content that’s unique, fresh, and helpful for users, then Google will rank it higher on its search engine results pages.” Content also helps improve your site’s crawlability. Crawlers more frequently visit websites that update their content more often, meaning crawlers will index your pages faster. 

Links involve internal and external links. Internal links are links that go from one page on your website to another page on your website. External links (a.k.a. backlinks) are links from one page on your website to a third-party website (ideally one that is authoritative and trustworthy). 

On-page search engine optimization (sometimes called on-site SEO) is the process of optimizing a webpage’s content, tags, and internal links to help search engines better understand your website, improve search visibility, and increase website traffic. 

Content length (word count). Though many websites contain content around the 300-word mark or shorter, longer content provides a depth of content that helps Google better understand what content is about. Because of this, Google tends to rank longer content higher, which is why HubSpot recommends an ideal blog length of 2,100 to 2,400 words. 

Mobile optimization is the process of ensuring your practice website looks great and functions properly on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, which requires many of the same best practices as SEO for desktops. 

Website architecture refers to how information is organized and prioritized on your practice website, including informational elements such as internal links, which help establish site architecture and spread link equity.  

What’s Involved with Search Engine Optimization? 

SEO falls into three main types: 

On-Page SEO 

On-page SEO refers to the practices of optimizing webpage content for search engines and users. Common on-page SEO practices include title tag optimization, content value and authority, and internal links. 

Off-Page SEO 

Off-page SEO refers to practices and activities applied outside of your website to improve search engine rankings. Though predominantly involving links to your website from other websites perceived as authoritative, trustworthy, and relevant, off-page SEO elements also include things like links from online forums, press releases, and directories. 

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO refers to improving technical aspects of your practice website, such as website architecture and how quickly your website loads, and today, people want websites that load fast. According to Google, the chance of a bounce (a.k.a. someone abandoning your website) increases by 32% when a page load time goes from 1 to 3 seconds.  

Setting SEO Objectives 

SEO marketing is a specific marketing activity to increase online visibility, attract more website traffic, and increase revenue through new patient acquisition. Setting SEO marketing objectives helps you reach these goals. 

Examples of SEO Objectives for a Dental Practice 

  • Focus on keyword ranking. While most SEO strategies involve top-ranking dental practice keywords (meaning popular words that people use to search for dental practices), secondary keywords related to primary keywords help boost SEO and help capture additional search terms to attract website traffic. 
  • Focus on increasing organic website traffic. Though online ads and other paid approaches to generating more website traffic can be effective, SEO is an optimal way to increase organic website traffic and maintain results over time.  
  • Focus on growing market share. A steady, well-executed SEO plan to rank higher in search engines and attract more website visits grows market share and online discovery, which helps grow revenue by attracting more prospective patients. 

Dental SEO Strategies to Accomplish Your Objectives 

Step 1 – Research Dental-Related Keywords 

  • Analyze your content gaps. This is the process of identifying missing content pieces on your practice website that could (and should) align with the various stages of your target audience’s journey. 
  • Keyword research. Find the best dental keywords to drive traffic to your practice website. 
  • Map each keyword to your list of content gaps. 

Step 2 – Plan Your Dental Content 

  • Schedule when and where you plan to publish upcoming website content. 

Step 3 – Create and Implement Your Content 

  • Analyze Google’s first page and what’s working for searches to set yourself up for success. 
  • Create an SEO content outline. Decide on the goal of your article. In an SEO content brief, include relevant keyword research and on-page SEO elements. 
  • Write relevant, high-quality content, which Google favors for ranking. 
  • Add a hook, with the most important being the title of your content. It should immediately tell readers what your content is about (e.g., What Is SEO and How Does It Work?) and why they should care about reading it. 
  • Optimize content for search intent. This involves creating content that gives information in exactly the way prospective patients need it. 
  • Add relevant images and calls to action (CTAs). Use professional, high-quality images and CTAs that ask prospective patients to do something (e.g., “Click here to book an appointment”). For more, read, How Images Impact Online Marketing
  • Optimize metadata to match search intent and increase click-through rate (CTR). Optimize the metadata on your website pages so it’s easy for prospective patients to see what your pages are about, which encourages increased CTR. 

Step 4 – Publish and Promote 

  • Publish your content. 
  • Share your content on your practice’s social media channels. 
  • Share content via email with existing patients and encourage them to share your content to help reach potential patients. Be sure to write compelling subject lines to optimize email open rates. For more on how to do it, read, Dental Practice Emails: 10 Musts to Reach More Patients
  • Build links to your new page. Let third-party industry organizations and media know about your new content to encourage backlinks. 

Step 5 – Analyze, Assess and Report on Performance 

  • Create a Google Analytics dashboard to gain insights into what’s happening on your website, from the number of visitors to bounce rates and average time spent on a page. 
  • Analyze and assess performance to determine where you can make SEO marketing adjustments. 

Step 6 – Monitor and Improve 

  • Monitor your website traffic with Google Analytics. 
  • Monitor your Google ranking with Google Search Console
  • Improve and update your content. 

SEO Optimization Tools 

  • Tools to improve your keyword research include Semrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Google Search Console. 
  • Tools to simplify on-page SEO include SEOCrawler, PageSpeed Insights, and Copyscape. 
  • Tools to improve off-page SEO include Google Search, Check My Links, and Majestic. 
  • Tools to monitor SEO and your website include Google Search Console, Google Analytics, and Semrush. 
  • Tools to improve your website’s conversion rate include Google Analytics and Optimizely (formerly Google Optimize). 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q: What is SEO? 

A: SEO stands for “search engine optimization,” the process of optimizing your dental practice website to rank higher in search engines. 

Q: What are the main components of SEO? 

A: The main components of SEO are technical SEO, off-page SEO, and on-page SEO. 

Q: What is the main purpose of SEO? 

A: The main purpose of SEO marketing is to increase website ranking in search engines and improve online discovery. 

Q: How does SEO impact search engine results? 

A: SEO helps dental websites rank higher on Google search results pages, and ranking matters. The #1 spot in Google search results is 10x more likely to get a click compared to the #10 spot. The #1 position has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 27.6%, and the top three organic search results get 54.4% of all clicks. 

Q: What are some common SEO techniques? 

A: Common SEO marketing techniques include using keywords in image alt text, using keywords in headers, optimizing metadata, writing high-value content that doesn’t sound like it was written by a robot, and writing content according to how people phrase search queries (e.g., “What is SEO and how does it work?). 

Q: How does keyword research help with SEO? 

A: Keyword research provides valuable insights into what your target audience is searching for online, and these insights help improve your SEO and online discovery. 

Q: What is SEO writing? 

A: SEO writing is the process of writing content that ranks higher in search engines, based on user queries. 

Q: How does link building help with SEO? 

A: Links signal Google that your website is a quality resource. Since Google favors high-quality websites, links help improve online discovery and ranking in search engine results pages. 

Q: How can I measure the effectiveness of my SEO strategy? 

A: Methods of measuring the effectiveness of your SEO marketing strategy include keyword ranking, organic website traffic, time spent by users on a page, CTR, bounce rate, and domain authority. 

Q: What are some potential pitfalls to avoid with SEO? 

A: Common SEO mistakes include outdated website content, duplicate content, website not optimized for mobile devices, not having an SEO plan, and creating the wrong kind of content. 

Q: What is the difference between SEO and traditional marketing? 

A: SEO marketing is a targeted form of digital marketing that focuses on inbound website traffic and reaching prospective patients actively searching for the services that your dental practice provides. Traditional marketing (e.g., newspaper ads) is a general form of marketing aimed at a wide audience and is generally less effective for dental practices than digital marketing. 


In this module, we’ve covered the question, “What is SEO and how does it work?” and you’ve likely gathered that SEO marketing is an important and highly effective marketing method for dental practices to increase online discovery, attract more patients, and increase practice revenue, which is why more practices are investing in SEO. Yet as you’ve also likely gathered, it can be complicated and time-consuming, which is why more dental practices are using online marketing providers like ProSites

Trusted by dental practices everywhere and endorsed by 15 dental organizations, ProSites helps practices thrive with a comprehensive suite of website design, SEO, and internet marketing services to help dental practices attract, engage, and connect with more patients.