Type “seo for dentists” or “dental seo” into Google’s search bar. While your results page will vary based on your current location, most of them will be links to landing pages and companies asking you to book a consultation for their dental SEO services.
Few sites, if any, talk about how you can make search engine optimization help you get new patients if you want to do it without their help. You know, as a dentist, why try to do SEO anyway when you can pay experts to do it for you?
Now that you’re here, what can you do to enhance the rankings and traffic of your dental website and get new patients from search engines? Read on.
1. Assess your website
Google and search engine bots take scores of factors on your website to determine if you should rank higher or not. A website assessment will consider your:
Generally, in the SEO world, your website should load fast. Really fast. I’m talking page load times of two seconds or less.
Google only considered page speed as a ranking factor on desktop, but from July 2018, they announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.
Check your site’s speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
The desktop version doesn’t fare better either.
In my experience, many sites have better speed scores on desktop than on mobile, even though both scores may belong to the “poor” category of 0 – 49 like the example above.
Sometimes your website host isn’t the problem — your current hosting plan is. For example, if your website cannot handle a sudden surge in traffic, you should consider upgrading your plan. However, I’ve noticed that most dental websites do not need upgrades, at least not before their SEO machinery is in full force.
Content management system (CMS)
WordPress makes website creation painless and SEO straightforward. Well, it’s not necessarily effortless, but I’d bet more SEO providers use and work in WordPress than any other content management system.
Besides, several content management systems (CMS) do not offer the technical SEO capabilities WordPress does, and are often prone to code bloat, which slows down your website and provides a terrible user experience for potential patients.
Choose a content management system that will help you achieve your search engine optimization goals conveniently. I’d recommend WordPress. But the choice is yours.
Poor website design can potentially ruin all the hard work you put into your website’s SEO. Often, I find clients who think that just having an online presence in the form of a website is enough. For dentists, it isn’t.
Web development has come a long way over the decades, so if your site still looks like it was created in the 1990s, you should probably pay for its redesign. Sometimes clients experience higher bounce rates, even when the content on the page is relevant and valuable to visitors, but a website redesign improves their bounce rate, and by extension, the website’s SEO.
Other times, clients in the B2B space object to my using some sites as examples of concepts I’m discussing in an article just because the site looks dated. A website redesign may sound like an insignificant change, but it can improve the returns on your SEO investment.
Sometimes a dental practice cannot justify spending time and money on content creation. Churning out regular content in the form of videos, blog posts, infographics, podcasts, case studies, or newsletters, is hard work. But it is a fundamental part of SEO.
Content doesn’t only refer to the educational stuff. On your website, there’s content on your Home, Contact, About, Services, and other pages.
If you feel you can’t do that for your site, you can hire a professional to help. Although I’d always prefer you hire a professional anyway.
Optimizing your website’s pages for SEO lays the foundation for other SEO-related tasks you’ll perform on your site. Consider these when optimizing your website’s pages:
Headings: Break down your content into a logical format Google can understand. This means using h1, h2, and h3 tags where appropriate.
Page title: The screenshot below features page titles from a search engine results page (SERP).
Make your page title descriptive enough to tell readers what they’ll get when they click through to your site. Also, include keywords you’re trying to rank for in your title.
Page URL: Your page URL incorporates your domain name alongside the page’s title or main keyword. For example, for most sites — dental or not — a contact page URL often looks like this: https://www.amazingsite.com/contact/. Similarly, if you offer cosmetic dentistry as a service, the page URL on your site would be https://www.yourdentalsite.com/cosmetic-dentistry/. Others would prefer adding their city too, especially if they have dental offices in different cities, which is excellent. In that case, if their dental practice is in Boston, it now becomes https://www.yourdentalsite.com/cosmetic-dentistry-in-boston/ or https://www.yourdentalsite.com/cosmetic-dentistry-boston/.
Content: When you click through to a site that ranks on the first page of Google, you expect valuable and informative content. For example, if a potential patient visits a page about cosmetic dentistry, they may expect to find the dental practice’s perspective about the procedure, what types of cosmetic dentistry procedures they offer, and how to book an appointment with a dentist — at the very least.
Links: When you create new content on your site, link to older, already existing content on other pages of your site.
Page optimization isn’t exhaustive, as a professional SEO expert can also suggest optimization for mobile users, using images and video properly, and setting up structured data in addition to what I’ve mentioned above.
2. Register in medical directories
How many medical directories online do you know? And have you listed your dental practice on any of them yet?
Don’t worry about the answers yet.
Look at the example below. When potential patients search for “dentist in Chicago”, this is what they find on Google’s search results.
Opencare (a medical directory) and Yelp (a general business directory) are on the 1st and 9th positions of the search results. Commendably, the other results are all dental practices vying for space on the first page of Google’s search results.
Yelp and Opencare are just two out of dozens of directories where dentists can list their practice online. Other directories include:
Honestly, this is a much longer list, and for some directories, professionals pay a monthly or yearly fee to list their businesses. If you’re cash-strapped, start with the free directories. But understand that the more directories you’re listed on, the better your web presence and the higher the chances of more patients finding you online.
With the first search example, we used Chicago. In some cities, these directories will dominate search results because dentists there generally have a poorer online presence.
To illustrate this, a medical directory like Health Grades gets over 24 million monthly visitors, and a whopping 88 percent of its desktop traffic comes from search engines.
Additionally, some potential patients already know some of these medical directories so they just visit them directly to search for dentists.
Work with your SEO company or SEO consultant to choose the best directories for your dental practice depending on your budget and location.
3. Perform a content audit
A content audit allows you to assess the content assets on your site. You’ll see the pages and posts driving the most traffic to your site. By the end of your content audit, you should be able to decide whether you’ll:
- Leave the content
- Update some or all
- Redirect some
- Delete non-performing content
Let’s look at what these mean.
Keep the content the way it is
Keep content that’s getting meaningful search traffic. The question is, how much traffic is good enough to save a page from deletion?
It depends. I’d say this will differ from business to business. And will depend on the keywords you’re targeting on the page.
Some folks will tell you that as long as it averages a visitor a day, then the content on that page is fine. I’d go as far as saying that as long as it’s getting a visitor every other day or two, and you’re getting leads or making sales from that page, leave the content alone.
Just check your Google Analytics to see how much traffic the pages on your dental practice website are getting and decide which pages will get the ax.
Update some pages
Update outdated content on all pages of your dental site. Content updates sometimes lead to better rankings on Google which means more traffic to your site.
Or sometimes your content isn’t outdated per se, but your headline is. You can update that to 2021 after confirming that the content on the page is still useful in 2021.
Here’s an example.
Make whatever changes are necessary to keep the content up-to-date, then republish the post. That’s pretty much how it works.
Redirect some pages
Redirect pages that aren’t getting any meaningful traffic from search engines after a period of six months to a year. If you’re targeting certain competitive keywords related to your goals for your dental practice, give the page a second chance.
Update the content on the page and build more backlinks. If it still doesn’t show up higher on search results, delete the non-performing pages and redirect them to another page to retain link juice from your backlinks.
Redirecting the page also means deleting the content on the page, or incorporating it into the content of another page.
Delete non-performing content
I’ve mentioned this briefly in the last section. Delete content that’s no longer serving its purpose. This is the point where you decide that you’ve done all you can with that content but it still falls short.
Also, delete pages that serve no purpose at all, including duplicate pages. Run a search of your site like this on Google: site:yourwebsite.com.
This page, for example, serves no purpose. It’s even called a “Test Page.”
This is the page in all its glory.
Delete such pages if you find any during your site search.
The next example below has a couple of pages with the same page title, which I believe should be different.
From the URL and clicking through to the page, you can tell that one page is for Northwest Austin while the other is for Southwest Austin. Those locations should be in the page title to help the site rank for diverse keywords.
There are entire dental practices called Northwest Austin Dentists and Southwest Austin Dental. Changes to the page title would help the former dental practice fight better for a spot on the first page of search engine results for those locations.
Make no mistake. Search engines like Google won’t always turn up all the pages on your site, so you may not see some empty pages. Worry not, dental SEO experts use software like Screaming Frog to crawl your site and catch such pages.
4. Create a content strategy
If you’re anything like me when I was learning SEO, you’re already writing about anything and everything you know about dentistry on your site.
I made the same mistake with my first blog about personal development. I only wrote about topics I felt like writing about because I knew a thing or two about them. My dreams of growing the blog and making money from it faded. Fast.
Thankfully, knowing what I know now, I can’t make the same mistake with another site. This is why I mentioned creating a content strategy first for your dental practice website.
Validate your content ideas with keyword tools and determine what potential clients are searching for on Google. Some dental SEO experts tout finding keywords with high search volumes and low competition for content creation as the holy grail.
But if we’re being honest, most of the best keywords on most topics are already taken by the biggest sites. So unless you have the budget and patience to fight for a place on the first page of search results, I’d say stick with relatively low competition, and even low volume keywords, especially if you’re just starting your SEO journey.
Let’s use a quick example. This is an approximate search volume for the term “dental implants” and its difficulty according to Ahrefs. This is free Ahrefs, and it’s fair if you’re budget-constrained. Or you can use their seven days for a $7 trial period to test the tool.
“Dental implants” is quite competitive. Let’s use their SERP checker to see the pages ranking on the top 3 positions. You’ll see what’s possible with the free tool below.
The sites in the top three positions have an average domain rating (Ahrefs’ measure for domain strength) of 76. But, does this mean automatically that you can’t compete with bigger sites in your niche? Of course not.
The site ranking at no. 3 has half the average domain rating of the first two sites, but it still ranks fairly high and brings in thousands of visitors monthly. The best part is that it’s a dental site.
Build more quality backlinks to your site’s content if you feel like sparring with Behemoths like the first two sites on the search results page. And yes, that will take quite some time, and money — it’s often either of them depending on what’s available to you.
Alternatively, create content for keywords your site can easily rank for before thinking of the difficult ones.
The earlier screenshot for the search volume of “dental implants” shows some easier keywords you can only target for your practice if it’s a service your practice offers. One such keyword is “mini dental implants” with a difficulty of 2 and a search volume of 6,100 monthly.
Using the SERP checker we can see the strength of the ranking websites.
In this example, the second and third positions belong to sites that have a domain rating of 6 and 5 respectively. And they also have less than 5 backlinks between them. Easy peasy.
A relatively new dental website can target and rank for the keyword easily. And in my experience, dental websites with more domain authority can rank even without backlinks.
When the top-ranking pages are relatively low competition, and sometimes don’t need any backlinks or need fewer backlinks to rank on the first page of search results, you have yourself a potential keyword for content creation.
Rinse and repeat. Do this until you have at least three months worth of content. Or just pay for the Ahrefs tool. The seven-day trial will simplify your work.
Ideally, this means that if you’re creating one blog post a week, you’ll need 12 main keywords for three months worth of content strategy. But dental SEO experts know that if you add related keywords, you’ll get a lot more than 12 keywords.
Detailed keyword research for your dental content strategy should cover such discrepancies.
Apart from keyword tools, if you’re running a large dental operation and have hundreds or thousands of potential patients seeking your help, talk to them directly. Ask them what type of information they were searching for and reading online before they eventually contacted you.
For most of you reading this, you do not have access to this type of information. Other options include checking places like Quora or Reddit for questions keeping your prospective patients awake at night.
Here’s an example from Quora for the question “what’s your experience with dental implants?”
You can see just one answer to this question already has over 19,200 views. If you scroll further to check the other answers, you’ll notice they have thousands of views too.
That’s a potential content idea. Plug in a related term into Ahrefs or a keyword tool of your choice.
There’s some interest in that keyword, and with a difficulty of 2, you can create content that ranks for it. At this point, even though you’d find no keyword volume, the presence of that question on Quora is enough validation that there’s demand for content addressing that keyword. Just move to the next step.
5. Create content
Write a post, design an infographic, record a podcast, or shoot a video that discusses the keywords you’ve discovered during your research.
Some SEO experts will tell you to check the content ranking on the first page so you’ll know what’s missing and you can fill in the gaps with your content. For me, it causes uniformity of content which is common in some industries like the online marketing industry. All posts on the first page start sounding the same.
I advocate creating your content, and after you’re done with your version, you can check the first page of Google to see what you can add, if any. Sometimes you’ll decide to leave your content as is.
That’s all there is. When you choose the right keywords, content creation is easier. You’ll only worry more about backlinks.
6. Promote your content
Some folks have a spray and pray approach to content creation. That is, let’s create as much content as possible, and maybe one will go viral then get us the fame and hoards of patients we deserve. Wrong.
Because your site is small, you may not see any immediate traction from SEO alone. So the initial sharing you do on your social media pages will only bring a traffic spike. Like this:
After the spike, traffic returns to normal.
Sometimes depending on the piece at hand, I encourage my clients to boost them with Facebook ads. With ads, you can easily target folks you think or know are more likely to link to your post. Apart from Facebook ads, Google ads can easily help you rank some of your site’s pages and posts quickly on Google’s first page while you’re waiting for SEO to work and bring long-term free traffic.
If you have the budget for ads, ask your dental SEO company if they offer ad services. Alternatively, some guest posting on medical sites can help with content promotion and link building.
In the end, for newer sites, manually building links to the content you create is the way to go. Popular or established sites will get links organically after some form of promotion. But relatively newer sites pound the pavement to get links.
Don’t forget, all this helps you to drive long-term free traffic from Google to your content without running ads.
7. Wait for results
I’m blessed to work with amazing clients, but sometimes I find clients who have unrealistic expectations about SEO.
“We’ve published eight posts already this month, why are we not ranking for wgjmgwjtmg yet?”
“This is not working. Our search traffic is still xx a month.”
Many SEOs and content marketers can relate. But SEO isn’t a quick fix. It’s a long-term investment.
A new dental practice website will not rank for the term “dental implants” in a month or two. The term is too competitive, and the site is still fairly new with little to no authority.
To analyze why this is a tall order, let’s look at “how to stop a toothache” as a search term on Google. According to Ahrefs, it has a Keyword Difficulty of 51, and a monthly volume of 2,500.
A new site would need hundreds to thousands of backlinks to even stand a chance of ranking. Can you get thousands of backlinks from hundreds of domains on a brand new site in a month? Sure, but you’d stand a better chance at winning the lottery.
I try to let my clients enjoy quick wins when they hire me. I’ve been at this long enough to know how demoralizing investing your time and finances into content and SEO without some results can be. Sometimes I re-optimize pages and posts or create content for low competition keywords like the examples I’ve used earlier.
It’s not just for dentists or dental practices. There are plenty of unexplored opportunities like this in many niches. Quick wins empower clients to give their SEO investment more time to yield better returns.
If you can, target quick wins for your dental practice website. You’ll find the strength to go on in your dental SEO campaign, even when results are not always immediate.
Frequently asked questions about dental SEO
What is local SEO for dentists?
Local SEO for dentists involves optimizing your site and other web properties for keywords residents in your locality use during Google search. Other web properties include Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo Local Listings (in partnership with Yext), social media, and medical or dental directories.
How long does SEO take for a dental practice website?
According to Google (and in my experience), SEO for a dental clinic can take anywhere from four to six months to start seeing any results. It depends on the age of your website, the SEO efforts of the competition, and your dental clinic’s SEO efforts in the past. Whenever possible, I try to get quick wins for clients if I find any room for it during an SEO audit. This means you may see some results in as little as 30 to 60 days.
How much does SEO for dentists cost?
A monthly range of $1,500 to $5,000+ is common. Understand that if you’re spending more with your SEO consultant or SEO company you’ll typically see results faster if they know what they’re doing. That said, the right SEO budget is whatever amount you can afford for at least six months to a year — enough time to see decent results from your dental SEO campaign.
Since you’re here:
My content marketing and SEO services can help you grow your dental practice.