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Search Marketing

Don’t Get Fooled! 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:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Want to learn more about hiring the right SEO provider for your dental practice? Click here to read the top questions to ask when hiring a professional dental SEO company like ProSites to help you rank higher and get found by new patients online.

 

 

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Practice Marketing

How to Choose the Right SEO Provider for Your Dental Practice

Looking for a dental search engine optimization (SEO) provider can be painful. With everyone from local agencies to online marketing behemoths offering SEO, the process can be as unclear as online dating. Compound this with the added pressure of having your dental practice’s reputation on the line, and it might seem tempting to skip the hassle. Since that’s definitely not in your best interest, we’ve compiled a list of red flags and questions to make selecting the right dental SEO provider easier for your practice.

Here are the red flags and areas to keep in mind when choosing an SEO provider:

  1. Get to know them. First things first – look the company up online, visit their website and check out their social media pages. How do they come across? Do they appear professional? Trustworthy? Caution, this one is tricky because, as anyone who has ever dabbled in online dating can tell you, things are not always as they appear on the Internet. An appealing online presence is a huge component, but it can be subjective, so don’t base your selection on looks alone. It’s also important to consider how providers interact with current and prospective clients. When responding to client feedback online are they professional and courteous, or do they respond to any less-than-stellar reviews with hasty, defensive comments? If you feel uncomfortable observing how a provider communicates with people online, imagine what it would be like to be on the receiving end.
  1. What’s their MO? You’ve done some cyber-stalking, but that’s not enough. Now’s the time to dig a little deeper and, unlike the second date, playing coy isn’t advised. When considering a dental SEO provider, it’s important to know how they operate because your practice’s reputation is on the line.

In recent years search engine ranking methodologies have become more stringent, but not all SEO providers have updated their practices accordingly. Black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing and link farming, target search engines rather than a human audience, which results in a poor user experience. At first you may see a jump in your website’s ranking but, like a short-lived romance, you’ll soon learn it wasn’t worth the effort. That’s because search engines base rankings primarily on user experience, and your site will be blacklisted faster than you can say “au revoir.”

  1. Some things are too good to be true. We’ve all been there – blinded by love at first sight (or something like that) – our general discernment momentarily disabled. Don’t worry, we’re not judging! There’s an entire genre of reality TV based on the premise. Sure, it’s easy to raise an eyebrow when this season’s bachelorette, a former-model-turned-pediatric-neurosurgeon, says she’s looking for a soulmate who shares her dream of creating a haven for abandon three-legged dogs. But, potential red flags in the realm of SEO can be a bit more subtle.

Some red flags to look for include promising you Page 1 results or claiming to be Google SEO Certified.  Spoiler alert – Google does not offer certification in SEO (though companies can be Google Premier Partners) and the sheer number of algorithm changes alone (500-600 times a year) make it impossible to guarantee a first page ranking. Plus, when you consider the amount of revenue tied to Google’s algorithm, sharing how to crack the code would be the equivalent of Colonel Sanders handing out his fried chicken recipe. So remember, sometimes when things look too good to be true, it’s because they are.

Questions to Ask When Hiring a Dental SEO Provider:

Knowing what to avoid is important, but so is knowing what to move towards. The questions below can help suss out a legitimate provider from the fly by night variety.

  1. What strategies will you implement to improve our rankings?
    1. Make sure the company is able to go into great detail about their plan on how they will work to get you better rankings. SEO strategies are very involved and a transparent company will have no problem explaining what they plan to do both on and off your website to improve your rankings.
  2. How do you plan to create backlinks?
    1. Backlinks are big parts of search engine rankings, but they’re difficult to obtain. Low-quality or spammy backlinks can actually hurt you in the end. Make sure their backlinks are coming from reputable companies.
  3. How often will you report on my progress, and what will that report look like?
    1. SEO companies should provide some type of benchmark data and reporting each month. You also want to see how often they share these reports with you, and how often you will have a call to check-in with them to go over results and adjustments to strategies.
  4. Can you share experience of other clients?
    1. Look for companies who can provide reviews, testimonials, and case studies from their clients to show success.
  5. Can you guarantee that we will rank #1 for a major search term?
    1. If a company says “yes” – run. No one can guarantee page 1 placement for a SEO search term.
  6. Is there a contract and what happens if we cancel early?
    1. It isn’t uncommon for SEO companies to require a contract for at least a few months, as SEO does take a lot of work before results and search ranking improvements are shown – however, it is important to go into the agreement understanding all of the rules around it to protect your dental practice.
  7. Why should we choose your company as a dental SEO provider?
    1. This is open-ended and there isn’t a “right” answer – but you do want to listen to their answer carefully. Do they intentionally make false claims or outright bash competitors? This may be a defensive signal and potential red flag. Ideally when someone answers this question, they’ll simply explain the success of their clients and how they can help your practice.

With thousands of websites launching daily, SEO has moved from the nice-to-have column to the must-have side of the board. But, that doesn’t mean you should jump into the proverbial bed with the first dental SEO provider you come across. There’s a lot on the line, and a bad judgement call up front could mean the difference between growing your practice and burying it somewhere in the black hole of search results. When looking for a dental SEO provider, take your time and keep the red flags we’ve outlined in mind. Don’t be shy about using the suggested questions above and let the answers guide your decision.

Questions? Reach out to a ProSites Internet Marketing Advisor at (888) 932-3644 to discuss how SEO can help you meet your practice goals.

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Search Marketing

SEO for Dental Websites: A Complete Checklist

If you’re like most dentists, getting better rankings on search results to get noticed by new patients is a top priority for your practice. Whether your prefer to try search engine optimization (SEO) strategies on your own, or want to hire a professional off the bat, below is a comprehensive checklist of key items that should be part of your dental practice’s SEO strategy:

Best Dental Website SEO Practices

Do a little homework before starting any actual work. SEO for dental websites is not something you want to do on the fly.

  • Establish a benchmark. Note where you’re currently at by pinpointing key analytics such as rankings, visitors to the site, conversions (visitors who fill out a form), and bounce rate. Utilize free analytics tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics to better understand your dental website’s performance and measure improvements as you implement SEO. (Click here to read our blog about using Search Console on your dental website.)
  • Identify goals. Best dental SEO practices dictate that your benchmark data should also be a window into where you’re doing well, and what areas you can improve upon. Whether you’re looking to increase reach, page visits, time on page, decrease bounce rates, or improve conversions, get clear about your goals and identify how you’ll measure success.
  • Optimize page titles and meta descriptions. Page titles and meta descriptions are within the code of each web page, and should be unique for each page on your website. This text is also displayed on search engine results pages to give searchers an idea of what your website is about.

Creating Unique, Descriptive Meta Tags is Vital to Effective SEO for Dental Websites To optimize your page title and meta descriptions, add relevant keywords and include your practice’s city and state within the copy. Note that the page title must remain under 60 characters and meta descriptions under 156.

  • Optimize website content. Optimizing content requires a balance of including enough keywords within your copy for search engines while also sounding natural to readers. Assign specific keywords to each page of your website and include them in headers, paragraphs, bulleted lists and in the call to action of the page.
  • Check name, address, and phone (NAP) data across all online directories. Consistency is key. Make sure that your website contact information matches all of your online directories, and vice versa. This is important because Google triangulates this information with other third party sites. Inconsistent information across various websites confuses Google and deters it from ranking your website in search results.
  • Claim ownership of your Google My Business (GMB) listing and other online directories.

    Local search is vital to your online marketing strategy when implementing SEO for dental websites!

    Your GMB listing must be claimed and verified by your dental practice to give Google confirmation of your location. This is critical since Google utilizes location and proximity as a ranking factor, so when someone searches for a dentist near you, you’ll appear higher than someone farther away.

Best Dental Website SEO Practices Stress the Value of Local Search, Particularly your "Google My Business" ListingIn addition to claiming your GMB profile, you want to ensure you don’t have two profiles with the same or conflicting information. Click here to read about removing duplicate listings.

Once you claim GMB, repeat a similar process across these top directories for dentists. Remember to ensure consistency with your practice name, address, and phone number.

  • Embed your practice’s verified Google Maps listing to your website. A minor, yet impactful step. Embedding a map on your site helps confirm to Google your true location. Note: this step must take place after you claim and verify ownership of your Google maps listing.

Don't neglect your basic dental marketing strategy when implementing your SEO. Include an interactive "Google Maps" window on your contact page!Dental SEO can be complex – but a at a minimum, exploiting these basic strategies can help you start off on the right foot. To learn more about improving your website’s rankings in 2018, download the free whitepaper about local search and getting better rankings by filling out the form below.

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Search Marketing

What Dentists Can Learn About Marketing from 2016

If you’re on the Internet (and who isn’t?), chances are you’ve stumbled across one of the hundreds of memes that mock how *interesting* of a year 2016 has been. From Bradgelina splitting to the very intense (dare we mention it) election, 2016 has been a year of change for many.

Back in the beginning of 2016, we wrote an article that discussed the top three anticipated social media trends. As we wrap up the year, we’re taking a look back to see which took flight and where we were not-so-right.

1. We predicted that social networks would adopt new algorithms making it more difficult to reach new patients for free; thus, increasing the need for paid social media advertising. 

The verdict? 

It turns out that we were mostly right about this. Facebook introduced an update that prioritizes content differently on people’s newsfeeds depending on the source. For example, posts from friends and family members will always have priority over content that originates from sources that are not personal connections. Forbes.com predicts that this will drive content publishers and small businesses alike to use Facebook’s ads, potentially causing ad bidding to become increasingly competitive. Naturally, when there is more demand for ads, bid prices are driven up, making advertising more expensive.

Whether this becomes a reality has yet to be seen. In the meantime, if you’re advertising your dental practice on Facebook take heart in knowing that it is still a relatively inexpensive option compared to more traditional marketing methods. Especially given its targeting ability.

In the Twitter world, now your current and prospective patients will see “tweets they might have missed from accounts they engage with the most” instead of seeing tweets purely in real time. This means the more your followers engage with your practice Twitter page, the more likely they are to see it.

Bottom line: These updates are proof that content is important in getting in front of your current and prospective patients on social media. These networks are increasingly watching the habits of your followers, and delivering the content they favor. The more they interact with your page, the more often they will see it.

For more help on creating a social media management strategy that incorporates the changes made in 2016, download this free guide to social media for dentists.

2. We predicted that content would remain king and search engines would reward great content with higher positioning in search results.

The verdict? 

Not so right. While it is still important to optimize your website’s content, this year we actually saw a greater emphasis on mobile and off-site (external) ranking factors.

Here are two major updates that Google made this year that may have impacted your rankings for the better – or worse.

    1. May 2016: Google’s update benefitted mobile-friendly sites, ranking those websites favorably in search results from a smartphone. Therefore, if you had a mobile-friendly dental website before May 2016, it likely impacted your search rankings for the better.
    2. September 2016: Google’s Possum update was released, impacting local listings (the list of businesses on a map in search results). Early analysis suggests local businesses that fall outside of the physical city limits are more likely to show higher in local listing rankings than before.

For example, a dentist just outside of Hollywood isn’t likely to rank in the local snack pack (set of the top three local businesses that match a search query, displayed on Google’s search engine results page) even if they are located in West Hollywood. Now, dental practices just outside of the designated city are more likely to appear in search results. This is encouraging since it has been a common pain-point for most dentists that need to expand beyond the neighborhood or city in which they are located.

3. We predicted that visual marketing would become even more important in 2016 (i.e. including photos and videos in your posts). 

The verdict? 

We were mostly right, with one slight adjustment – native video (videos uploaded directly to the social platform, instead of linking from YouTube) is surpassing images in terms of engagement.

Surprisingly enough, Facebook is closing in on YouTube as the number one source of video content. That’s likely because YouTube is so saturated that people now use it as a resource, rather than a way to kill time, making it less integrated in people’s daily lives.

While we’re not saying you should only post videos of your practice on social media, we do encourage you to think about adding video into your follower engagement strategy. As we mentioned above, the more engaged your followers are, the more likely they are to see your posts.

One way you can integrate videos is by experimenting with Facebook Live or Periscope (on Twitter). These allow you to broadcast instantly to your followers. Looking for broadcast topics? Consider:

    1. Community events
    2. Dental association shows and meetings
    3. Public speaking events
    4. Volunteer events, such as Dentists Without Borders
    5. Office celebrations

The list goes on and on. Check out these 30 ideas that dental practices can post about on social media, and adapt some of them for live broadcasting.

So there you have it – a rearview look at our 2016 predictions. Not bad, given that they were written without psychic ability or a Magic 8 Ball. With technology advancing faster than ever, we can say with certainty that you better buckle-up for 2017!

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Search Marketing

Your Dental Practice Website Must be Mobile-Friendly After Google’s Latest Update

According to Search Engine Journal, Google is splitting its index of search results into separate versions for mobile and desktop. Google’s primary index will now be mobile, which means it will be more up-to-date than desktop. 

Since April 2015, Google has been very vocal about their “mobile first” stance. This new update is the latest in Google’s efforts to deliver better mobile-optimized content to its users.

What does this mean for you?

If your practice website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re essentially hiding from prospective patients that use their smartphone to search for a dentist.  As Google continues to prioritize the mobile experience for its searchers, not having a mobile-friendly site will undoubtedly hurt your rankings on search engine results pages. 

Conversely, having a mobile-friendly website will help to boost your visibility on search results pages by delivering a better experience for your mobile visitors. 

Mobile-friendly and/or responsive website must-haves

There are a handful of best practices that you must ensure your mobile-friendly site contains:

1. Quick load times: According to Google, 53% of users will abandon a site if it doesn’t load within three seconds. 

2. Easy Navigation: On a mobile site it’s best to keep things simple. Have a menu that is easy to navigate and doesn’t require multiple taps to get to the desired page. Avoid multi-level menus, and instead aim to have a hamburger menu (where options expand from the side).

3. Designed for Touch: Make sure that your buttons are thumb-friendly and easily accessible so visitors aren’t forced to zoom in.

4. Text and Images: Mobile-friendly websites should have resized images and text to provide an optimal viewing experience. Users are unlikely to take the time to zoom in and out of your content, and rather hit the “back” button. 

5. Keep Forms Minimal: The golden rule of thumb is the longer the form, the less people will fill it out. If you have new patient appointment requests, make sure to ask for only the absolutely necessary information upfront. 

Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? 

Click here to see how your website appears on a smartphone or tablet by entering your website address at the top of the page.

To learn more about mobile responsive designs, click here or call (888) 932-3644.

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Search Marketing

How to Improve Your Dental Website’s Rankings in 2016 and Beyond – Part 5

Up until this point in our five-part blog post series on search engine optimization (SEO), we’ve explored all of the factors that help and hurt your SEO. However, search engine optimization does not happen in a vacuum; your competitors are likely doing the same things that you are to optimize their online visibility. If you’ve been following and implementing the recommendations outlined in this series, yet find yourself just outside of Google’s Snack Pack or still not ranking to your liking on search results pages, you’re probably up against some fierce competition.

To get an edge over your competition, prioritize the 6 following items:

1. Generate high-quality backlinks. Claim your business on online directories, put your website on social media profiles, and ask your professional associations and societies if they can list your website on their membership directory. Ultimately, the more credible and authoritative backlinks to your website will help you see better rankings.

2. Have a consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP data) in your online directories. Remember that searchers and search engines use NAP data to learn who you are and what you do. Look for hidden duplicate listings that may appear under an old address, name or phone number by taking advantage of free tools such as Moz’s Local Listing Scanner, which will give you a consistency score. It will also tell you where you could add more information within your online directories, where your NAP data is inconsistent, and if you have duplicate listings so you may report them.

3.Improve your website’s domain authority. Your domain authority (DA) should gradually increase over time, but it will largely depend on the quality and quantity of websites linking back your site. Here’s how you can increase your website’s DA:

Ensure technical SEO is in place – improve aspects of your website such as site structure, ease of navigation, breadcrumbs, URL structure, meta tags, header tags, word counts, keywords, and alt tags. At times, some of these items may be difficult to implement depending on who your website provider is or your level of comfort with website design. If you’re with ProSites, these aspects are taken care of for you.

Link internally – linking internally on your website from one web page to another creates a network that searchers and search engine crawlers can use to get around your website and it helps keep your content organized. For example, on your services page, have a link that goes to your pricing page (where it makes sense).

Remove bad backlinks – your website is scrutinized by search engines based on your backlinks. That’s why removing bad backlinks from your website is important. Although time-consuming, it’s worth taking the time to remove these links so that you reduce the risk of being penalized. Identify which links are pointing back to your website with free tools such as Open Site Explorer or Search Console and identify any that are pointing to your site that may not make sense. For example, a website from another country that does not mention a topic related to your business is an irrelevant link and should be removed by disavowing it – which essentially tells Google that you have an unwanted backlink and they should disregard it when evaluating your website.

4. List your most important categories first on Google My Business.  Google categories largely dictate which keywords your practice will show up for within Google’s snack pack. Ensure to include the correct categories on your page, listing the most important category first.

5. Increase your number of Google reviews. Implement a strategy to garner more online reviews from your patients, naturally over time. Regularly encourage patients to leave reviews for your practice online through email, after you’ve helped them, and on social media. Make sure that you respond to any and all reviews in a professional and genuine manner!

6. Improve your click-through rate from search results. Click-through rate is a behavioral factor that Google will look at to determine interest in a specific page i.e. how often searchers choose to click on a listing from a search engine results page matters. You can influence whether someone will click on your webpage by optimizing your each page title and meta description across your website’s pages.

Remember, the larger your market, the more work it will be. Check out our previous posts in the series for more information on optimizing your website. Read part 1 to understand overall ranking factors affecting your website. Parts 2 and 3 examine how to optimize your website for Google’s snack pack and organic listings, respectively. Finally, part 4 lists pitfalls to avoid that could negatively impact your website’s online rankings.

If you would prefer help with optimizing your website, ProSites can help you. Learn more about our SEO programs here or call (888) 932-3644.

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Search Marketing

Decisions – How to Choose the Best SEO Provider for Your Practice

You already know that search engine optimization (SEO) is key to driving prospective patients to your practice’s website. And, to ensure it’s done correctly, you’ve decided to go the professional route – but how do you pick the right SEO provider for your practice? The selection process can be daunting because it’s not your area of expertise. Nevertheless, you’ve invested in your office’s online presence and SEO has the power to either expand your reach or hide you on page eight of search results.

The questions you should ask are not too dissimilar from those involved in choosing an undergraduate school. Back then you knew there was a lot riding on your decision, but you didn’t exactly know what to look for. To help you select the best SEO provider for your practice we’ve created the following tips – no admissions interviewed required.

1. Get the inside scoop – Client experience is a central component in selecting an SEO provider. To ensure you know what you can expect from a company, take your research beyond their website. Search the Internet for reviews and reach out to users for feedback. After all, there’s a reason that college brochure showed polo-wearing students engaged in mind-broadening conversation, instead of the quad littered with red Solo cups. Sometimes you need to do a little digging to get the full picture.

2. False Promises – Beware of SEO providers that claim to know Google’s algorithm or promise to remedy your SEO woes in six weeks or less. Similar to assuring your parents that pledging a sorority/fraternity won’t affect your grades, providers that make these claims are simply saying what’s needed to get a ‘yes’. Google’s algorithm changes between 500-600 times a year and given the amount of revenue tied to it, we can safely assume those in the know are few and do not include SEO providers. These changes, combined with an ever-evolving online landscape are also why successful SEO takes time. If you’re in the market for immediate results, consider adding pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to your online marketing strategy.

3. What’s your major? For some of us our college short list criteria was simple. On-campus Taco Bell? Done. Others took a more formalized approach – how much will it cost to graduate dental school? Just as you wouldn’t attend a school for culinary arts if your interest was dentistry, don’t select an SEO provider that doesn’t specialize in your field. SEO and content are closely linked, so the more dental practice knowledge your provider has, the better able they are to optimize your content.

4. What’s the tuition refund deadline? Don’t forget to check the fine print. Ensure you’re familiar with the provider’s cancellation policy and what it means for your practice specifically.  For example, if the optimized content is “owned” by the SEO provider and your practice loses it, your search engine ranking will suffer. Also, in the event of cancellation, be aware of synced content sources, such as your blog and Facebook feed. Remember, if your blog is no longer updated, neither is the synced feed.

5. How about a degree from International Correspondence Schools (ICS)? Many of us are still haunted by Sally Struthers’ ICS commercials from the early 90’s – “Do you want to make more money? Of course, we all do.” Struthers voice of desperation would then tout a long list of learn-at-home programs practically guaranteed to catapult you into success, like TV/VCR and gun repair. No word on the number of injuries sustained by those majoring in the latter. Obviously, things aren’t always what they seem and ignorance can cost you. In recent years, search engine ranking methodologies have become more stringent, but not all SEO providers have updated accordingly. Black hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing and link farming, target search engines rather than a human audience resulting in a poor user experience. At first, you may see a jump in your website’s ranking but, just like those who spent time learning TV/VCR repair, you’ll soon learn it wasn’t worth the effort. That’s because search engines base rankings primarily on user experience, and your site will be blacklisted faster than you can request your academic transcript. Remember, like a good education, there are no shortcuts to quality SEO.

Just like large universities are a good fit for some and small liberal arts colleges work better for others, there’s an SEO provider for every dental practice. A little due diligence up front can save you a headache down the road, but remember, it’s always better to transfer than drop out altogether.

To learn more about search engine optimization and common terms used, download our free whitepaper, The Search Engine Optimization Dictionary for Dentists today by filling out the form below.

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Search Marketing

5 Steps to Make Sure New Patients Find You Online

Many dentists, and small businesses, are turning to search engine optimization (SEO) to help them get better rankings on search results online. That way, when a prospective new patient searches Google for “dentist in [city],” their practice appears.

SEO is incredibly complex. Search engines have billions of websites to keep track of – so how do they possibly know which ones to rank at the top of search results?

Check out the infographic below to get an easy-to-understand guide on how search engines work.

If you’re interested in learning more, get our FREE whitepaper: A Dentist’s Guide to Local Search and How It’s Affecting Your Practice for more information and ideas on what you can do to improve your rankings and visibility to potential new patients today. Download your copy here.

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Search Marketing

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.

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Search Marketing

Online Dental Marketing Advice with Dr. Tippins

It’s great to read about what you should be doing to market your dental practice, but listening to advice from your peers is even better.

In our latest podcast, Dr. Tippins tells us what he’s observed over the last few decades as the world of dental marketing has evolved. He covers the importance of having an online presence, the value of search engine optimization (SEO), and tips on how to monitor your competition.

Listen to his full interview with our VP of Products, Keith Washington, below. A full transcript has been provided below for you as well. Special thanks to Dr. Tippins and Urbandale Family Dentistry for taking the time to talk to us!

 

If you’d like to learn more about marketing your practice visit our dental marketing resources page for free whitepaper downloads and on-demand webinars on SEO, website design and social media.

 

 

Full Transcript:

Keith: Welcome to this edition of the ProSites podcast. I’m Keith Washington, VP of products here at ProSites. And I’m here today with Dr. Thomas Tippins. Dr. Tippins has a dental practice in the heartland of America – in Iowa. And he has agreed to spend a few minutes with us today to talk about online marketing for the dental practice and give us some tips about online marketing in the dental practice. Welcome Dr. Tippins.

Dr. Tippins: Hi, Keith. Thanks.

Keith: Thanks for joining us. So first, why don’t we just start simply- tell us about your practice – a little bit about you and your practice.

Dr. Tippins: Well, Urbandale Family Dentistry – It’s located in Urbandale, Iowa. It’s a population of about 43,000. And we have two dentists on staff and then 9 team members. And we specialize in general dentistry but my associate, Dr. Miller, she also does some oral surgery, endodontics and Invisalign.

Keith: Well that’s great. It sounds like you have a really good, booming practice. And you’ve been in practice for how long?

Dr. Tippins: Uh, approximately 38 years.

Keith: Well that’s great. So this is really good for us to talk about because you have seen, personally, the transition. First from dentists really not doing marketing to dentists doing marketing really traditionally – offline marketing we call it today – and now the trend to move to marketing your practice online to the Internet. So tell me your thoughts on online marketing.

Dr. Tippins: I think online marketing – it’s 99% of everything. It’s very important. Many of the prospective patients are young and middle aged. And they’re using the internet for their searches. I mean, I haven’t used a phonebook in over 7 years.

Keith: Right, ha.

Dr. Tippins: A few weeks ago, my office manager was checking the Urbandale Family Dentistry telephone book ad and she noticed the paid ad we had was missing. So, long story short the office manager called and cancelled the paid ad for ever and received a full refund. And we kept the free listing but, you know, no one ever tells us at Urbandale Family Dentistry that they found us, uh, on the phonebook. Never.

Keith: That’s a great point. Even though most of us still have a phonebook, I guess, you know, it’s continuing to decline. So, what are you doing to currently market your practice?

Dr. Tippins: I do a lot of SEO – search engine optimization. And my SEO goal is to make Google happy. And to keep up with the changes they make all the time.

Keith: Right.

Dr. Tippins: And it’s important in the SEO rankings to have good, fresh content for the patients and Google. And I use the secondary business directories like Manta and Vitals – they’re free. And I also participate in the social networks like Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest. And even Google+. Google+ is dying a slow death but I still use it because Google owns it and Google also owns YouTube so Urbandale Family Dentistry has a YouTube channel with over a 100 dental videos on it.

Keith: Wow.

Dr. Tippins: And as of today it has 118. And I do social media and have fresh, new content for one reason only, and that’s to help boost my rankings on the first page of Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Keith: That’s great! So that’s exciting to have all of that but what about results? Are you seeing any results from these efforts?

Dr. Tippins: Um, a lot of results. I mean, before I had the ProSites website I wasn’t even on the first page of Google. I was still using a phonebook. And, now after having the ProSites dental website for a few years when you search for “dentist in Urbandale” I’m usually number one organic – first page Google. And number 1 on the three-pack local map.

Keith: That’s great and what about actual patients coming into your office? Do feel like the marketing efforts that you are doing online actually bring patients not just to see your website but actually come into your office?

Dr. Tippins: Yeah, I’ve been getting a lot more patients since I’ve risen on Google. Now I’m usually number 1 – we usually average about 30 new patients a month now.

Keith: Wow, that’s great. That’s really good, you sound like you’re certainly a big fan of online marketing. Maybe you could tell us, you know, do you have any tips that you share? Really the bulk of this – really the whole basis of this podcast is “hear from dentists like you with tips that may help other dentists.” Do you have anything you’d like to share on marketing a practice?

Dr. Tippins: I would look at your competitors are doing. There’s websites out there to help you with that. I use seomastering.com and ahrefs.com. SEO is very important so you need to read up on it and you need to just do whatever Google recommends you to do. Or, you could have ProSites do it all for you.

Keith: Oh that’s very nice. Yeah, go ahead, sorry.

Dr. Tippins: My first website was terrible. It was built by my computer guy and he knew nothing about SEO. And after I started with ProSites, I slowly started to creep up on the Google rankings. And now I’m ranked number 1 organic, number 1 on the local map when you search for “dentist in Urbandale.”

Keith: Well that’s very exciting I’m really happy to hear that, well, first of all from someone who’s so well-versed in online marketing and showing the importance of  – if you’re running your practice to know who you’re doing in online marketing and is it key component. I certainly appreciate and thankful that you think of ProSites as positive too. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?

Dr. Tippins: No, not really, Keith. I thank ProSites for being a great company and helping me get to number 1 on Google for most of my searches.

Keith: Great, thank you so much Dr. Tippins. I really appreciate you taking the time. And hopefully everyone who hears this podcast can learn a lot from Dr. Tippins’ comments on online marketing. Thank you again.

Dr. Tippins: Thanks, Keith.

To learn more about how ProSites can help you accelerate practice growth, visit our Dental Marketing page or call (888) 932-3644 to talk with an Internet Marketing Advisor.

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