Myth: Social media and search engine optimization don’t play well with each other.
Reality: The whole is greater than the sum of their parts.
Believe it or not, there was a time when word of mouth—in the most literal sense of the expression–was the best way to generate referrals from patients. Co-workers, family members, and friends were considered trustworthy, but the opinion of one person isn’t always the most reliable source of information. Next came search engines, allowing patients to locate dentists with simple keywords. It became the easiest way to locate a dentist, but search results were purely objective; there was no human element.
SEO + Social Media = Social Search
Today social media is the new word of mouth. Social search recognizes the influence of social networks on the decision-making process by combining the concepts of search engines and social media. All other things equal, results that are socially significant to your search will be given priority of those that do not. In other words, you’re more likely to see page results that have been in some way endorsed by a member or members of your network, whether by liking, commenting, sharing, or posting to that page.
You can see why it’s so important to cultivate a social media presence and defend your search ranking—not one or the other. Note that social search and Web search are not the same. At present, the influence of social media activity on Web searches is negligible. The size of your network, your engagement rate, and other social media metrics will not determine your search ranking in a standard search using Google or Bing…at least not yet. However, Bing does offer a social search feature that incorporates social media data linked to your Facebook; this feature is separate from the traditional Bing Web search.
Social Search for Dentists
What does this mean for your dental SEO and marketing strategy? Used correctly, social search creates greater awareness not only among your patients, but also within your patients’ social networks. The average Facebook user has an estimated 300 friends, including a large percentage living within close physical proximity to both your patients and your dental practice. Most importantly, social search highlights the need for a strong social media presence built on a foundation of interesting, entertaining, and relevant content. It’s about connecting with your patients, converting them to followers, and increasing your visibility by attracting comments, likes, shares, and check ins.
Online Reputation Management
For all its potential to benefit your practice, however, social search also has the potential to create major headaches for dentists. It’s great that glowing reviews are visible to all, but this also means those unflattering reviews are visible, too. And while most people know that you can’t please everyone all the time, negative online reviews stand out. For example, a 2013 survey conducted by Dimension Research revealed that 90 percent of consumers factor online reviews into their buying decisions. This is great news, at least if you have mostly favorable online reviews. More troubling is the fact that 86 percent of these respondents cited negative online reviews as directly impacting their purchase choices. These numbers alone warrant the use of online reputation management as part of your online dental marketing strategy.
As always, we encourage you to call or text MDPM Consulting at 972 – 781 – 8861 with your dental SEO questions, or email us at [email protected]