Local SEO Guide for Dentists

Don't Settle for Mediocre Results: Follow These Guidelines to Rank Highly in Google

If you own a dental practice, then you probably don’t need to be told about the importance of increasing your visibility online or about creating an effective local SEO campaign to boost that visibility.

In fact, you probably have already invested time and money on your practice’s search engine optimization. And, if you’ve managed your own dental local SEO campaign, you’ve likely had a mixed bag of results and you may have even made one or both of these comments:

  • “I’m not sure, but I think it’s working.”
  • “I have no idea what’s wrong or how to fix it.”

If so, that’s only natural because you have a busy dental practice to run and probably don’t have time to also manage your own SEO.

Let’s face it. If you’ve actually hired a professional local SEO agency, then you may have experienced mixed results that way, as well. And, at some point in your journey, you’ve probably asked yourself these questions:

  • “What exactly is that agency doing for me?”
  • “What value am I getting for my money?”

The purpose of this guide is to shed some light on the activities that make up a typical results-driven local SEO campaign, one that will drive actual traffic and leads to your dental practice. If you haven’t heard of some of these techniques before, then you might need to hire a professional local SEO agency or fire the one you do have.

Element #1: Google My Business (GMB)

To be successful in your local search efforts, it is essential that you have a complete and accurate GMB listing, even if you have an excellent website. GMB is in fact intended to complement your website, with GMB information being what appears in Google searches and Maps.

After you’ve claimed or created your listing, it needs to be verified and optimized. At a minimum, you’ll need to ensure that information is accurate and complete, from your name, address and phone number (NAP) to the kind of payments you accept and your business hours.

Be sure to log into your GMB dashboard regularly, since other people (including competitors) can suggest edits that can result in unwanted changes to your business’s listing. If you do see changes, they could be because Google’s algorithm found information they believed to be more accurate (perhaps from a directory listing elsewhere online) or because another user suggested edits that were then made by Google.

You’ll also want to take advantage of additional features of GMB, including choosing the best business category and your best secondary categories.

local seo dentist GMB categories

You should be able to add up to 5 additional secondary categories. This could include:

  • Cosmetic Dentist
  • Pediatric Dentist
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dental Implants Periodontist
  • Dental Clinic
  • Dental Radiology

Also, make sure to write a unique description of your business and, at least initially, creating some Google Posts. These can be as simple as an offer you’re currently running, a blog post you’re wanting to promote, or just general info about the practice. If you find that prospects and customers engage with those posts, keep creating them.

Plus, encourage satisfied customers to write Google reviews about your practice. This is a hefty ranking factor for local SEO and these reviews can make your listing stand out in Google Maps. But, don’t specifically ask for a positive review. Instead, ask people that you believe are satisfied with your dental services to write them; and, to make it easier, create a unique link that takes them right where they need to go to write their reviews.

Never write a fake review or encourage anyone else to do so. Create a plan to respond to reviews, both positive and negative, and respond promptly. Here are guidelines from GMB about what you can and can’t do with Google Reviews.

Element #2: Citations in Online Directories

You’ll also want to have your dentist office listed in as many quality online directories as possible, so work on gradually getting your listing included. Too many citations all at once will look suspicious and may harm your online visibility.

Examples of directories for dentists include (but are not limited to):

Don’t forget to consider to check websites of local or state-wide dental associations when searching for directories as part of your local SEO campaign. There are a couple of reasons why being in these directories makes good sense:

  • People want a local dentist and may very well check directories to find dental professionals in their area.
  • Quality citations help with local SEO rankings and overall visibility.
  • Many of these directories come with links that can help to build up the authority of your website.

Also do Google searches to find out what directories and other websites already contain listings of your practice. Then, double-check them carefully for accuracy and for NAP consistency.

Contact directories with inaccurate information and request that the listings be fixed. Google will cross-reference NAP information listed against what’s in your GMB, and discrepancies can create a lack of trust with Google and lead to less online visibility.

In a related strategy, use appropriate schema on your own website whenever you list your NAP information.

Element #3 Keyword Research

When is the last time you refreshed your keyword strategy as part of your dental local SEO efforts? Are you certain that you’re using the best, most relevant keywords on your site? Is the traffic still good on your chosen keywords? Has the amount of competition changed since you initially conduct your keyword research?

If it’s time for you to review the data on your keywords and check to see what opportunities are being missed, here are keyword tools to consider:

If you’d like to try a new tool, see if a free trial period is being offered. Our favorite is KWFinder since it is easy to find keyword data in local markets. When you find the one you like, then you can subscribe; or you can outsource your keyword research to an internet marketing agency that offers local SEO for dentists.

As you create an updated keyword list for your dental local SEO strategy, include relevant geo-targeted terms. Also make sure that you have some keywords with commercial intent, and others with educational intent.

Terms with educational intent are good for blogging (more about that later in this post); for example:

local seo for dentists keyword research

Keywords with commercial intent, meanwhile, tend to convert at a much better rate because people are looking for dental services, not just information; for example:

local seo keyword research for dentists websites

Also find keywords with research intent, ones where people are looking to solve problems. These terms often start with “why” or “how”; for example:

keyword research for dentist practice local seo

As you implement your revised keyword strategy, monitor levels of success and tweak, as necessary.

Element #4 Technical SEO Analysis

Don’t let the word “technical” scare you. You very well may already be using some to all of these strategies.

For example, review to see how logically your site is organized and how easy it is for people to navigate throughout your site to find the information they need. For example, look at the main navigation bar. Because your dental services are what’s most important, is that selection to the far left in the navigation bar?

If not, fix it, by putting “Dental Services” as a selection, with individual services available through a sub-navigation menu. This makes it much easier for prospective patients to find the services you offer. And, from a local SEO standpoint, putting your services as the first menu item will send authority signals to Google and help these pages to become more visible in search engine results pages (SERPs).

(In one site we recently reviewed, by the way, dental services weren’t even included in the navigation at all!)

navigation example local seo for dentists

Here’s another bonus when you effectively organize your website. When you make your content easy to find, people will likely stay on your site for longer amounts of time. Google notes when people spend reasonably significant amounts of time on site, along with other engagement metrics; and, although Google has stated that these aren’t direct ranking factors, the reality is that there is significant correlation between higher levels of engagement and higher rankings.

Be sure to interlink appropriately among pages, too. This helps to guide site visitors to where they want to go and keeps them engaged.

As one more technical SEO consideration, do what you can to boost page speed. This has been a ranking factor for desktop searches for years now, and is now also a ranking factor for mobile searches. You can test your page speed and receive recommendations for improvements.

Plus, the reality is that people today—including people in your locale who are looking for a new dentist—are impatient. They just don’t want to wait. So, when you boost your page speed, you do more than improve your site’s SEO. You also make it more likely that prospective patients will stay on your site, rather than click off and go to a competitor’s site with more speed.

Here’s more information about the Page Speed Update by Google, as well as the good, the bad and the ugly about accelerated mobile pages (AMP).

Element #5 On-Page Optimization

Using the keywords you found in your research, you’ll want to use them strategically in page copy, blog copy, and backend tags. More specifically, you’ll want to use them appropriately in:

  • Title tags: this is an important ranking factor
  • Meta description tags: although this not a ranking factor, compelling content in this tag will make it more likely that prospective patients will click on your listing in the SERPs, rather than a competitor’s
  • Heading tags: these include blog post titles, and subheadings on pages and posts
  • Schema: as mentioned in element #2
  • New URLs: If you want to use keywords in already-existing URLs, we recommend you contact a qualified internet marketing agency first since changing your URLs can cause adverse effects if not done properly.

You’ll also want to take a second look at the word count on each of your pages. For example, if you offer Lumineers dental veneers, check to see which of your competitors is ranking highly for that service offering, and then create well-written, well-optimized copy that’s about 500 words longer than your high-ranking competitor’s page.

Element #6 Blogging, Including Long-Form Content

2018 is the year for long-form content, with Google rewarding it more and more.

At the beginning of 2018, it was already clear that long-form was the way to go, and recent core algorithm updates by Google are making this strategy even more crucial to include in your SEO campaigns. That’s because the most recent algorithm updates are favoring sites that have E-A-T: expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

You can find more information about the value of long-form blogging, and here is just a partial list of its benefits:

  1. This strategy will position you as an authority on a topic of interest to your patients and prospects. When people have a question on a subject, they tend to turn to the experts (in this case, you), which is just what you want.
  2. Longer posts tend to rank more highly and therefore be more visible online.
  3. Longer content sometimes appears in Google’s in-depth content feature.
  4. People tend to engage more deeply with long-form content, therefore spending more time on your site.
  5. Longer content tends to gain more inbound links, and these links still play a central role in Google rankings.

Content and Blog Post Ideas

Now you know why content is important — what should you write about?

Luckily there are a lot of topics you can write about that can bring in quality searches and new patients. Here are a few ideas:

  • Dental Patients Most Commonly Asked Questions
    • Create a monster FAQ post answering all the typical questions your practice receives.
  • X Foods You Don’t Realize Cause Bad Breath
    • you can make this as many number of items as you would like
  • Additional Services You May Not Know Dentists Provide
    • use this type of post to highlight different procedures and services your office provides but that patients may not be aware of
  • The True Cost of [Subject]
    • this type of post can be a full guide or just touch on any number of subjects you think your patients need to know about — ex: “The True Cost of Invisible Braces” — identify actual prices, what insurance may or may not cover, and the cost of lost school/work
  • How To Ease Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist
    • how to posts are great because they are a common search pattern — this one can be used to address a very specific fear kids have (and parents have to deal with).
  • The History of [Subject]
    • if you would like to address a topic from a purely informational angle, “History of…” type posts can offer lots of great content for your practice. If created properly and kept interesting, this can also be a highly shareable topic.
  • Top Dental Trends of [Year]
    • current events and trends in your industry are always interesting — keep patients up-to-date on new developments, studies, or devices within the dental industry. A nice thing about this type of post is it can be regularly updated to include new information.
  • Create blogs around seasonal blog topics.
    • especially if you work closely with children, content around Halloween and candy (and all the other food-centric holidays).
  • Mythbusting posts
    • every industry has its share of myths and misunderstandings – dentistry and oral health is no exception. Create content that details the prevailing misconceptions and use your authority bust those myths.
  • Round Up Blog Posts
    • to be done correctly you have to be willing to read and stay on top of content being produced by other dentists or within your niche. You should also be willing to make these type of post updates regularly. Just create a nice round up of the best posts you’ve come across in a certain timeframe (the best round ups are done weekly). This is also a great piece of content for newsletters and sometimes, the other sites you mention in your round up will link back to you…

And, this segues nicely into our last element to discuss about local SEO campaigns: link building.

Element #7 Link Building

When the links pointing to your site are of quality from diverse yet relevant sources, this is the basis of a healthy link profile, with Google recognizing sites with healthy profiles as those worthy of trust. And, Google tends to reward the sites it finds trustworthy.

One of the best ways to receive inbound links is through creating high-quality, relevant content. Other ways include:

  • being quoted in online news sources; to make that happen, monitor requests for information from reporters at HelpAReporter.com (often referred to as HARO), ProfNet and so forth
  • writing guest posts on quality sites that permit you to link back to your website

As you continue to develop your link building strategies, it’s crucial to focus only on getting inbound links of quality. Low-quality ones don’t help and sometimes can hurt. If you believe spammy links are being directed towards your site, it may make sense to use Google’s disavow tool to let Google know that you don’t want your site negatively affected by these links. This is a more advanced SEO technique, though, so we recommend consulting with an internet marketing expert before using this tool.

Supercharging Your Local SEO Campaign

If you’ve made it to this point in the guide, then you now have a really good understanding of all the moving parts of a successful dental local SEO campaign. You should now be able to either improve your own local SEO or know how to hire a good internet marketing agency. Any good SEO company will provide a list of action items centered on these areas. If you are having a hard time finding a good local SEO company, then give us a call. We would love the chance to earn your business.