Search Engine Optimization Imperative for Dentists

A recent study by MerchantCircle/Reply.com surveyed 2500 small business and found that if owners could invest in just one type of marketing, it would be SEO. To dentists in private practice, this study sheds light on where to spend marketing dollars in 2012.

The Statistics

In the survey, nearly one-third of responding small business owners chose SEO as the number-one place to invest marketing dollars. Almost 20% selected traditional media, including newspaper, direct mail, radio, phone book, etc. Another 17% said “none of the above,” social media came in 16%, paid search got almost 10%, and mobile marketing and advertising claimed 3.7%.

What is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization, a strategy intended to make websites rank high on search engines, like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc. Google now holds over 90% of the search engine market, and over 95% of the mobile search market, so small business owners should aim their SEO strategy to please Google.

How SEO Works

Google (and other search engines) have spiders, or robots, that crawl websites and feed their findings through an algorithm. This algorithm’s results determine the search engine ranking for a page of content on the web. Factors that give web pages more credibility include:

  • Text not found elsewhere on the Internet
  • Informative, quality text of good length
  • Links embedded in content
  • Keywords within text
  • Consistent name and address across the web
  • ALT tags, descriptions, on images
  • Incoming links from related websites
  • Longevity of domain name
  • Length of domain name purchase (10 yrs. max)
  • Overall presence on the Internet (websites, blogs, pages, microsites, listings, social profiles, articles, press releases, links, etc.)

There are no magic rules for great SEO. There are no short cuts to success (unless you want to pay per click). To rank high in organic (meaning non-paid) search results, you  have to invest in writing keyword rich content, expanding your online presence, and working to achieve more incoming links.

Gauging SEO Success

To determine your website’s SEO success, look at the traffic numbers. Install a Google Analytics code, a free resource, in the header of your websites, blogs, and microsites, then check your traffic stats every so often. You will notice slight surges and plunges, but overall, you should notice a steady increase in traffic through the months. If your traffic drops two months in a row, add more quality content. Kick up your article submissions. Try to get more incoming links. In addition the amount of traffic, you want your analytics to show mostly new visitors to your website, versus returning visitors, and the traffic should come primarily from your state. For so-called security reasons, Google Analytics no longer reveals keyword successes. You can type your target keywords into Google and see where your websites come up in the results. The goal, of course, is to come up at the top of page one Google results for your targeted keywords.

What About Social Networking?

Facebook is great. Twitter is good. The others aren’t very effective in dental marketing. When it comes to small businesses, the aforementioned survey found that of those that participate in social networking, 70% use Facebook, 55% use Google, 52% use LinkedIn, then further down the list, Twitter came in with 32%. While there are a great number of seminars and classes on social media for dentists, social marketing does not drive as many new patients to dental offices as does solid SEO. Many dentists invest time and energy into social marketing with little or no return.

How Dentists Get SEO

Dentists who want SEO success, meaning those who want to rank high on Google search results, invest in original, keyword-rich and link-rich text for their blogs and websites. A dentist can also increase online presence by streamlining and fleshing out listings with Google Places, Facebook, City Search, Kudzu, MerchantCircle, and other local listings and social networks. Another popular SEO booster is articles. By creating keyword-rich articles for submission on sites like eZine.com, and including backlinks to the primary website and blog, dentists gain more overall web presence. A blog, with daily posts of quality content, can significantly enhance search engine results, taking a doctor from no presence to page one or two in a matter of 30 to 90 days, in most cases. Why? Blogs are indexed faster and more often than web pages because they are considered news.