Dental SEO is Dead! (Hint – It’s Not)

Dental SEO is Dead! (Hint – It’s Not)

Why organic SEO still leads the way for new patient bookings from the web

Apologies for the slightly ‘clickbaity’ title but I wanted to bring attention to a subject which regularly rears its head in the world of dental marketing and is filled with misinformation.

The topic arose again recently when I was in discussion with a dentist who was researching ways to help promote her new practice on the web. She’d heard about SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) but had been told by an agency which solely dealt with PPC that SEO was dead and that she should invest all of her budget in paid ads. Hold on a minute!

Not only is this false but also terribly misleading and potentially compromising the success of the dentist when it comes to claiming new patient bookings from the web.

So why do some PPC practitioners claim that SEO is dead and try to force the issue to sell their own services? Let’s take a closer look at some of the myths and also how you’ll lose out if you believe them.

SEO has undeniably got harder

Over the last 7 or 8 years, Google has pushed hard to ensure that the prominence of their ads is optimised. This is unsurprising as Google makes over 90% of its revenue from ads and hence needs to ensure that as many ads are displayed across as many channels as possible. A large part of this was to progressively increase the number of ads shown in the Google search results, progressively limiting the appearance of the traditional free (organic) results.

Whilst this has made traditional SEO harder, it’s also extremely important to realise that the majority of web traffic from Google still goes via the free results and not via paid ads. So even though you will now see a higher ratio of ads, particularly with mobile devices, there is still plenty of opportunity for Google users to find your business without having to click on them.

Of course those guys who sell PPC services won’t tell you that but they will ensure you know that ads are becoming more prominent.

How much traffic goes via paid ads versus traditional (free) results?

A study from last year conducted by Wordstream suggested that around 37% of web traffic via Google actually originated from clicks on paid ads; so just over a third. This leaves nearly two thirds of traffic still coming from organic results of one type or another. So whilst we can see that SEO has become harder with the advent and evolution of paid ads, it certainly hasn’t gone away, not by a long chalk.

A lot of people actually avoid clicking on ads

This may surprise you but it’s very important to understand as if your strategy relies solely on paid ads, there will be a huge cohort of folk who you’ll never reach. This is simply because lots of people know that businesses with poor reputations can still reach you with a paid ad, whereas it’s much harder to do that via the organic results. For example the “local/map” results are heavily reliant on Google reviews and if you’ve got lots of bad ones, it will work against you. There is no such validation with paid ads and lots of people actually understand that and avoid them.

Conversion data continues to support organic SEO

Here at Dental Media we manage a very broad range of organic SEO and paid ad campaigns and consequently we have detailed insight into conversion rates and ‘cost per conversion’ for those channels.

Whilst it is possible to get very good returns from paid ads, we also know that over time, the conversion data from organic SEO almost always wins out. In a nutshell, it’s more cost-effective to get new patients from the web using organic SEO over the mid/long term than paying for ads alone.

Should you avoid paid ads?

So should you ditch paid ads and concentrate solely on SEO. The answer here is a definite “no”. Both techniques are important and both have a place. Indeed our most successful clients use both very effectively within their broader digital marketing strategies. SEO gets your website into a prominent position and delivers a constant drip-feed of new patients. PPC is great for supplementing that and also when you need to advertise something quickly e.g. an open event or new treatment type. It’s also essential for establishing presence quickly whilst your organic positions build.


Whilst a lot of PPC guys would have you believe that traditional search engine optimisation is dead, let me assure you that it isn’t, far from it. Both techniques are important and have their place within a holistic digital marketing strategy; albeit as time progresses, your return on investment via the organic (free) SEO channel will always tend to win out.

Here at Dental Media we manage SEO and PPC for hundreds of dentists across the UK, delivering excellent returns. If you need help or would just like an initial discussion to learn more, please give our digital marketing team a call on 01332 672548.