Local SEO Guide for Dentists: 5 Steps to Rank #1

/Local SEO Guide for Dentists: 5 Steps to Rank #1
Local SEO Guide for Dentists: 5 Steps to Rank #1 2017-11-12T10:14:16+00:00

As a dentist, competition for first-page rankings in Google is fierce. So how can you set your practice apart from the pack and get the most visibility for your practice? The answer is to implement a local search engine optimization (local SEO) campaign following a proven step-by-step process. By following the 5 steps below, you’ll gain an edge over your local competitors.

But first, let’s look at why you should be investing in local SEO in the first place…

3 Reasons Dentists Should Invest in Local SEO

Reason #1. Google is the new Yellow Pages

More and more patients are using search engines to find local businesses on their computers and mobile phones. Here are the stats, according to Google:

  • 20% of search queries are for local businesses
  • 40% of mobile searches are for local businesses
  • 97% of consumers search for local businesses online

Reason #2.  Free Traffic

When you’re ranking at the top of Google, you get free traffic and free patients. SEO is truly one of the best marketing investments you can make for your dental practice.

Reason #3. Fast Results

Most people believe it can take 6 months to a year to gain first-page Google rankings, but in local markets, results often come faster. Most dentists aren’t following SEO best practices. And as a result, when you follow the 5 steps in this article, it’s not uncommon to gain first-page local rankings within 30 days.

Here are the 5 keys to building a local SEO campaign that increases your visibility on the search engines, attracts perfect patients and adds to your bottom line.

5 Steps to Rank #1 for Dentist

 

Step 1. Keyword research

Start this step by listing the services your practice provides. This list might include fillings, crowns, teeth cleaning, and orthodontics. Inside Google’s AdWords platform, you can enter each of your services in the Keyword Planner Tool to identify the keywords that people are using when they search for dental procedures and services.

(Don’t worry… There’s no need to actually advertise in Google. We’re just using Google’s free Keyword Planner tool to identify the best keywords for your Local SEO.)

Focus on Hiring Intent Keywords, First

There are 2 types of keywords that apply to dental practices:

1) Phrases with hiring intent

2) Phrases with research intent

Your primary focus should be on ranking for hiring intent keywords because they usually signal that the person doing the search intends to take an action of some kind. For example, a keyword like “teeth whitening dentist” indicates hiring intent. These types of transactional keywords can then be used to optimize the homepage and your services pages.

Research intent keywords, true to their name, are primarily used to gather information. For example, a search term like “teeth whitening at home” or “teeth whitening diy” is not looking to hire a dentist. Likewise, a person searching “cost of dental implants” may not be ready to actually visit a dentist yet — they’re likely just gathering information.

But research intent keywords can be useful too. Research intent keywords can play a secondary role in your SEO initiatives because they can serve as great topics for FAQ pages or blog articles. For example, a research intent keyword like “benefits of electric toothbrushes” or “cost of dental implants” could be turned into a blog post to get information produced by your practice in front of potential patients as they’re doing research.

As a general rule, you should focus first on optimizing your homepage and service pages for hiring intent keywords. And then begin developing informational pages (blog articles, etc) about research intent keywords. And that brings us to step 2…

Step 2. Keyword Optimization

There are 2 major types of pages you’ll want to optimize.  Your Google My Business page can provide the fastest improvement. But of course, you’ll also want to optimize the key pages of your website.

Your Google My Business Page

Your Google My Business page is what shows up in the “Map” results for local dentist-related searches. A fully optimized Google My Business page will play a key role in your SEO initiatives and deliver a compelling introduction of your practice to prospective patients. A second benefit of optimizing your Google My Business page is that often it’s faster and easier to get a Google My Business page ranking in Google versus your website. And Google shows these map pages at the very top of the search results.

Here are some tips to do it right:

Verification

To make any edits to your profile page, you must first claim and verify your page with Google. You can confirm that your profile has been verified by logging into your dashboard and finding a checkmark with the word “Verified” next to your business name. If you haven’t verified your business, you’ll see a “Verify Now” prompt on your dashboard to start the process. If you see that you have multiple pages for the same location, you’ll want to merge them so only one is displayed.

Name, Address and Phone Number

Use only the official name of your practice, and be sure to include your exact address, because that’s how Google maps your location. And when it comes to the phone number, use your local number (not an 800 number) to strengthen your presence as a local business. It’s critical that you use consistent Name, Address, and Phone number information across your Google My Business page, your website, and other pages and directory listings (including your Facebook page, Yellow Pages online listings, and so on).

Categories

As per Google’s guidelines for local pages, each category should describe what your practice is, not what it does. For example, you could add a category that states “orthodontics”, but not “teeth straightening.” You’ll want to include all of the relevant categories for your practice. Some examples of available categories for dentists are: Dentist, Cosmetic Dentist, Dental Clinic, Dental Implants Periodontist, Emergency Dental Service, Endodontist and Pediatric Dentist. You’ll want to pick the 3-5 categories that are most relevant to you.

Description

In this step you’ll be introducing your business to potential patients, so make sure that your description is well-written and spell-checked to eliminate any errors. The description of your practice should be written in a conversational tone, and you’ll want to incorporate all of your keywords for your dental services/specialties.

An example format for your Google My Business description would be: {Name of Practice} offers quality {list dental services} in {Your City}. {Provide some information about the history of your practice, or why patients choose you.} Call {Phone Number} today to schedule your appointment!

Aim for about 100-200 words in length.

Hours

Make sure the hours of operation posted on your local page (and your website) are always accurate. This is especially important if you have seasonal hours or are experimenting with being open earlier in the morning, later at night or on weekends.

Images

Google allows exterior and interior pictures, as well as the logo for your practice. Images increase

engagement, can help patients find your location and help to tell the story of your business. Make sure your images have a sharp focus, are sized between 10KB and 5MB, have a minimum resolution of 720px x 720px and are well-lit. We also recommend replacing the generic Google My Business background image with a branded image.

Optimizing Your Website

On your website, the initial focus will be to edit your “core pages” (homepage and service pages) to make them match up with the keywords that prospective patients are searching for. In particular, you’ll want to focus first on hiring intent keywords.

Homepage

The most important part to optimize on the homepage is your title tag (also called the page title). The title tag isn’t visible on the page, but it’s what appears at the top of the web browser (and it’s also the text in the blue underlined link in Google’s search results).

You can think of title tags of webpages as like the chapter titles in a book. And the title tag of your homepage is the most important (it’s like the title of your book). So you want to optimize it for your primary keyword.

What’s your primary keyword? Think about what the most obvious keyword people would search when looking for a dentist in your area. An example of the primary keyword would be “Dentist in {Your City}”. You should brainstorm a list of keywords and then double-check them using Google’s Keyword Planner to make sure you’re choosing keywords that prospective patients actually search.

How do you write your title tag? An example title tag format is: Dentist in {Your City} | {Name of Your Practice}. So, for example, if you’re a dentist in NYC and your practice is Manhattan Dental Associates, your title tag might be: Dentist in NYC | Manhattan Dental Associates. You want to aim for 50-65 characters in length.

You also want to draft a unique meta description for your homepage that highlights your various services. The meta description isn’t visible on the page, but it’s the text that Google shows below the blue underlined link in the search results. An example format for the meta description would be: {Name of Practice} offers quality {list dental services} in {Your City}. Call {Phone Number} today to schedule your appointment!  So, for example: Manhattan Dental Associates offers quality general and cosmetic dentistry in New York City. Call 212-XXX-XXXX to schedule your appointment! The meta description should be 100-150 character in length.

You’ll also want to make sure that the visible headline of the page (known as the H1) incorporates a relevant keyword. Your headline should be descriptive but also concise and readable. For example, {Type of Dentistry} in {City, State}. For example: General & Cosmetic Dentistry in NYC.

In addition, you’ll also want to make sure that you have sufficient website copy on your homepage. You’ll want a minimum of 200 words of copy and ideally 500-1000 words. The website copy on your homepage should provide background information about your practice, and describe your various services. And be sure that you include your target keyword at least once in your body copy. Above all, make sure that your copy reads naturally, is compelling, and encourages your prospective patients to contact you.

While there are some more tweaks that you can make to website content for SEO purposes, those are the main ones.

Service Pages

A common mistake here is to have a single “Services” page that just lists all of your services/specialties with a brief description for each one. Instead, it’s very important that you have separate pages for each of your dental services. By creating a separate, detailed page for each of your service, you’ll have a better chance of ranking in Google when people are searching for that service.

For example, if you provide cosmetic dentistry and general dentistry, then you’ll want to have separate pages for those. And then you should also have sub-pages for the specific types of cosmetic dentistry that you offer (for example, teeth whitening, dental implants, etc). That way, you’ll have specific, targeted pages for each of your services.

And, of course, you’ll want to optimize each of those pages for relevant keywords, following the same steps that we discussed for your homepage.

  • Title tag
  • Meta description
  • Header (H1)
  • Body copy

Important: each page of your website should have a unique title tag and meta description and unique body copy. If your pages have duplicate titles or meta descriptions or duplicate content, that can prevent your website from ranking higher in Google.

Content Pages

After you’ve optimized all of your “core pages” (homepage and service pages), then it’s time to move on to creating content pages (which we refer to as “content assets.”)

The first step is to conduct keyword research (using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool) to identify what types of relevant topics people are conducting research about. For example, if you provide dental implants, then you might find that people are searching “cost of dental implants.” So you could then create a page on your website explaining the cost of dental implants.

Where should you host these pages on your website?

One of the best ways to get started with content pages is to develop a Frequently Asked Questions section of your website. Brainstorm all of the questions you often hear from prospective and current dental patients. Chances are good that if patients are asking these questions, they’re researching these questions in Google as well. And then create a page for each question-and-answer, linked from your main FAQ page. As a general guideline, each question-and-answer can be anywhere from 100 words to 1000 words (as much content as you need to answer the question).

Another good way to post content onto your website is with a blog. For blog posts, we generally recommend going a bit more in-depth, with word count anywhere from 300 words to several thousand words per post (for very in-depth articles, like the one you’re reading!)

For content pages, take the same optimization steps and follow the same guidelines as you did to optimize the homepage and the service pages. Draft a unique title tag and meta description (based on keywords) and make sure that the body copy is well-written while incorporating relevant keywords.

Step 3. Citations and Links

Optimizing your website and Google My Business page are the initial steps you need to take to start ranking in Google. But to compete in a crowded field, you’ll need to do more. Building citations and links are the next major step to separate yourself from the other dentists in your area.

Citations

Citations are mentions of your practice Name, Address and Phone number (known as “NAP”). You’ll first want to include a citation for your practice on your own website, on your contact page and ideally also in the footer of your website.

Then, you’ll want to build citations across the web by getting listed in relevant directories. The most important directory listing is your Google My Business page, which we’ve already covered. But there are dozens of other business directories that you can get listed in, which in turn will build more citations — and help you rank higher in Google.

There are 3 main categories of directories that you’ll want to submit to:

1. General, National Business Directories

A good starting point is to get listed in the major national business directories. For example, in the US, some of the top directories include Yelp.com, yellowpages.com and citysearch.com. We also recommend setting up a Facebook page for your practice.

2. Industry-Specific Directories

You’ll also want to submit to dental and medical-specific directories, such as everydentist.com and implantdirectory.com. Some industry-specific directories will be free while others require a fee. We recommend focusing on free directories first. If you opt to get listed in paid directories, you’ll want to make sure that you’re generating some website referral traffic from those directories (which you can track using Google Analytics).

3. Local Directories

Finally, you’ll also want to search for local business directories in your area. An example of a local directory would be your local Chamber of Commerce website.

Important: you’ll need to ensure that your business Name, Address and Phone number information remains 100% consistent across all directories.

Links

By “links,” we mean hyperlinks pointing from another website to your website. These are also known as “inbound links.” Google places a lot of emphasis on what types of websites are linking to you. Links act as a vote in favor of your website’s authority and relevance. As a general rule, the most links that you have
So, how can you build links to your website?

Directories

As mentioned above, we recommend submitting to general, dental, and local directories. Directories are helpful especially for Local SEO because they are a source for getting citations as well as links.  Most directory listings will provide you with a link to your website, as well as a mention of your practice Name, Address and Phone number.

Offline Relationships

Take inventory of the offline relationships you’ve built, and see if you can gain links from those relationships. For example, perhaps you already have a referral relationship with other medical professionals, and you could link to each other as recommended resources on your websites. Or, perhaps you’re a member of an association and you’re able to gain a link in that directory listing. Or you’ve sponsoring a local event or little league team and you’re able to gain a link as part of your sponsorship.

Competitor Research

Another step is to see which websites are linking to your competitors’ websites and then see if you can get similar links as well. You can research what websites are linking to your competitors by looking up your competitors in a tool like the Moz Open Site Explorer. And in this way, you may find additional directory opportunities or come across other ideas for how you can attract links to your website.

There are several other strategies for gaining links, but those tips will give you a good head start.

Step 4. Reviews

Reviews are another factor that can give you an edge over local competitors and give you higher rankings on Google’s SERPs.

Focus on Google My Business Reviews

There are many places you can get reviews, including on Yelp.com and on medical sites like HealthGrades.com. But we recommend focusing your attention on gaining positive reviews on your Google My Business page.

Getting reviews on your Google My Business page will help your Google My Business page rank higher, so you get more exposure to prospective patients. Plus, when prospective patients see all of your positive reviews, they’ll be more likely to contact you.

How to Get Reviews

What’s the secret to getting reviews from your patients? Well, first and foremost, you need to provide excellent services. But aside from that, you need to ask patients to review you, and you need to make it easy for them.

One of the best ways to ask, and make it easy, is to send an “review request” via email, with a link to leave you a review on your Google My Business page.

How do you find your Google My Business page? Search in Google for your practice name and Google My Business, and your Google My Business page will be the first result. (For example, you can find our Google My Business profile in Google by searching for our company name and Google+: Main Street ROI Google My Business).Then copy down that page and include it in the example email template below.

And then send an email saying something like: “If you have a moment, I’d love to get your feedback on our services. As you may know, many of our patients find us via Google. Would you please take a minute to post a review on Google? {Link to Google My Business profile}. Thanks in advance!

We recommend sending out review review emails to all patients who haven’t yet left you a review. Make this part of your business process, so you receive a steady stream of reviews on an ongoing basis.

Step 5. Tracking

Tracking is absolutely critical to the success of your SEO efforts. To quote business genius Peter Drucker, “What’s measured, improves.”

Here are the 3 core metrics you’ll want to track, and how to track them.

A) Rankings

The first metric you’ll want to track is your keyword rankings. Generally rankings are a metric you’ll want to check once or twice per month.

One way to check is to use Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). Your webmaster can install this for you, and then you’ll be able to see which keywords you’re ranking for in Google, as well as how many impressions and clicks each keyword is providing.

Or, you can use a paid tool like RankRanger.com. This tool will automatically update ranking reports for you across multiple keywords. The advantage of RankRanger is that it can also track your Google My Business rankings as well as your website rankings. (This is the tool we use when tracking rankings for our clients).

B) Traffic

Rankings aren’t everything. You’ll also want to track how much “traffic” you’re getting. By traffic, we mean website visitors.

The best way to track traffic is with Google Analytics. You’ll first need to install Google Analytics on every page of your website. Then, when you log into Google Analytics, you can see how much overall traffic you’re getting, how much traffic you’re receiving from Google, and which pages are receiving the most traffic.

We recommend reviewing traffic stats on a monthly basis, and reviewing long-term trends, so you can see how your SEO traffic is growing over time.

C) Conversions

In addition to rankings and traffic, you’ll also want to track how many “conversions” you’re receiving from your SEO efforts. A “conversion” is a specific action you want your website visitor to take. For example, you may have a webform on your website for patients to “Schedule An Appointment.” Conversion tracking is critical for determining how many new patients you’re receiving from your marketing efforts.

With Google Analytics, you can set up Goal Tracking for that webform, so you can track how many people are taking that action. And then, you’ll want to track how many conversions you’re receiving per month, and how many are coming from SEO.

Conclusion

When managed properly, a local SEO campaign can be one of the best marketing investments you can make for your dental practice. For best results, you need to approach SEO in a step-by-step fashion.

To recap, here are the 5 key steps you must take:

  1. Keyword research
  2. Keyword optimization
  3. Citations and Links
  4. Reviews
  5. Tracking

Follow these steps to rank higher, generate more traffic, and attract more patients!

Want help with SEO?

At Main Street ROI, we specialize in helping dentists attract more local patients from Google.

 

If you’d like help with your SEO, contact us for a free quote.

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