Why it’s time to “pay-to-play”
I’ve long been a proponent of organic SEO, i.e. the quest to get dental websites ranked high in the natural search listings of Google. This is because it is still the primary source for the best-quality, targeted traffic to your website.
Users looking in Google for the services of a dentist are searching there with specific intent and consequently their clicks through to your website are the most likely to result in meaningful enquiries. So organic SEO is still the number one recommendation for new patient enquiries.
However, things are changing; namely Google pushing harder and harder with paid adverts for dentists and businesses in general. Let’s take a look at the effect of this and why we need to take note.
The changing landscape of Google search results
Over the last few years Google has progressively introduced changes to the layout of their search results pages which have given paid ads much more prominence. For example, there are now more ads showing in search results than ever before. They are also less well-defined as ads in their own right, so it’s much harder for a user to distinguish them from the natural un-paid listings. The issue is particularly pronounced on mobile ‘phones where ads will be the only results you see on a Google search page until you start to scroll.
Additionally we are seeing more prominence given to “local/map” results which are taking up more real estate on page one of the search results. Just recently, we are also starting to see Google introduce ads in to this space too!
A few years ago, you might have expected 75% of all website traffic from a Google search results page to be generated from the free listings, but if we now take into account clicks on paid ads and local results, we are seeing this drop to less than 50%. We actually see this quite clearly in the analytics data we generate for some of our digital marketing clients. Even where those clients have excellent organic search results, where they do not subscribe to ads and/or have not focused on their local search search presence, then their traffic starts to slip. This is not down to failing SEO, it’s simply that the space and traffic they used to enjoy via page one of Google is now much more congested with ads and local/map results.