Pay-to-play digital advertising for dentists is here to stay

Pay-to-play digital advertising for dentists is here to stay

Pay-per-click – why do you need to consider it and what are your options?

Three or four years ago, the main channel for gaining new patients from the web was via the organic (free) search results; primarily Google.

But whilst high ranking in the free search listings is still very important, paid advertising channels are now coming to the fore and are now nearly indispensable tools for dentists who wish to make best use of available digital opportunities.

Suffice to say that the pay-per-click phenomenon is well and truly with us and looks to be staying that way.

What changed – why do you need to “pay-to-play”?

It is perhaps Google which set the trend with this. Their “AdWords” (now Google Ads) system has been around for a number of years and has progressively become more and more refined and ubiquitous. In the past, the presence of ads was reserved to a couple of slots at the top of page one of the search results and in a fairly low-key format. However, Google progressively increased the foot-print of the ads which show on page one and is now also showing them in more positions, not just at the top of the page. You will even see ads appearing in the local/map results. This is good for those who know how to use the system properly, but not so good for companies which rely on the free listing for their primary exposure.

This “ad creep” is perhaps best illustrated on a mobile ‘phone where all a user sees on pages one of the search results is ads and the local map listings. You typically don’t see anything else until you scroll down! And with 60% or more of all traffic coming via mobile devices, you will clearly see the issue if you are not investing in ads.

Facebook was somewhat different in the way in which it drove users to pay-to-play. Having encouraged businesses to grow their “likes” on their business pages, they then quickly started to curtail the organic reach of content posted by users. So whereas in the past, most of those who had liked your page would see your content, now less than 5% will. Let that sink in for a moment, all those people who like your page aren’t seeing your content! Not great. So if your dental business advisor says you need to stop wasting money on paid ads, you might want to question how all that lovely content you are posting is getting the exposure it deserves.

What are the main channels to consider for paid advertising?

This is relatively straightforward and boils down to a couple of channels, i.e. Google and Facebook. Alongside Facebook you can also elect to have your ads shown on Instagram which can be appropriate for some scenarios.

In terms of which to choose, there are some considerations and your marketing company will assist. However, in broad terms, traffic is cheaper from Facebook but can be lower quality than Google. So you can get plenty of clicks but be prepared for a lower conversion rate. This is not to say that you should choose Google Ads over Facebook – both channels can be very effective when used correctly.

There are plenty of other advertising options but these are significantly more niche, for example LinkedIn, Twitter, Bing etc. So my recommendation would be to hold off on these and try the primary channels first.

Getting help

Both Google and Facebook have tried to make it easier for the DIY advertiser but seeing the poor results of many DIY campaigns, arguably they’ve failed. This is because there are so many targeting parameters and settings which need to be configured to prevent wasting a lot of your budget and to make sure that optimised ads end up in front of the right audience at least cost. This is where the digital advertising team at Dental Media can help.


Due in main part to the reasons noted above, “pay to play” advertising is now firmly with us and an increasingly important part of any holistic digital marketing campaign. By selecting the right channels and setting up optimally, you can reach your target audience with relative ease – but be prepared to pay Google and Facebook for the privilege! Whilst you will need a realistic budget to get moving (see guidance elsewhere in this blog) the returns on investment can be very good indeed.

So if you’re looking to enhance your existing digital marketing and explore the new patient potential using paid advertising, please get in touch with the team at Dental Media on 01332 672548. We’ll be pleased to discuss your requirements and provide a costed proposal.