SEO For Dental Websites – Mini Series For Dentists
What you need to know in the murky world of search engine optimisation! Part 1
Perhaps one of the most contentious and least well understood areas of dental marketing is search engine optimisation, or SEO for short. Virtually every week I get asked questions by dentists or their practice managers about this important topic. Those questions often arise when lay people read or hear something that is out-of-date or worse, specifically attempting to pull the wool over their eyes! Unfortunately this is one of the main reasons why SEO is viewed with cynicism by some and indeed why it still has a murky reputation.
SEO can be quite hard to quantify and unscrupulous vendors still use this to draw a veil over their work – so where they fail, it can sometimes takes months for a client to actually realise, by which time the dentist is hundreds, potentially thousands of pounds, out-of-pocket.
This is unfortunate because whilst there are many more bad than good SEO practitioners out there, when done well, this type of website optimisation and the resultant improvement in Google rankings, can be hugely beneficial for new patients enquiries. You just need to make sure you get the right service and support.
With all of the above in mind, I thought it would be useful to compile a short mini-series covering the basics of SEO for dentists, including where Google has reached in its relentless evolution and what all of this means for your practice marketing programmes.
I’ll cover the following topics over the next series of blogs:
- What is SEO?
- Why do SEO for dental websites?
- Google – how it changes and where are we now?
- Choosing your SEO partner
- On-site and Off-site optimisation techniques – what are they?
- The influence of reviews and local SEO
- Measuring your campaigns – why it’s not all about keywords any more
- What does SEO cost and what might you expect in return?
- Signs you’re being duped – (don’t hire these guys!)
I’ll try to cover these key aspects in my next few blogs. Let’s go with the first three in the list.
What is SEO?
Simply put, SEO is the process whereby various techniques are used to improve a website’s ranking in search engines. In the UK, where the large majority of web searches go via Google, we tend to talk about optimisation specifically for that particular search engine. Later in this article we’ll discuss the main optimisation techniques in more detail.
So why perform SEO on dental websites?
This may seem like a straightforward question and indeed a “no brainer” if you realise the benefits of doing it, but given that lots of dentists shun SEO, it’s not quite as clear-cut as perhaps you might imagine.
The bottom line is that when a website ranks well in Google, the number of new patient enquiries generated can be huge, on average second only to word-of-mouth referral. When you calculate the return-on-investment, the rewards are typically excellent. To achieve this, your web pages need to rank well for a variety of search terms people use, not just generic terms such as “dentist” but also treatment terms such as “dental implants”, “Invisalign” etc. The techniques optimisers use are designed to advance a wide range of terms in the search rankings. However, these days it’s not all about specific search terms and “keywords” as we’ll see in a later blog.
Google – ever changing!
The main target for SEO here in the UK is Google rankings. Google is constantly changing how it ranks websites i.e. how it chooses which pages appear where. Understandably, Google is very secretive but they do advise that there are hundreds of different elements within the algorithms they use to determine where websites rank. They regularly adjust these parameters to improve the search index, in their words to “surface the best information for users”.
As someone who has a long interest in SEO, I always try to keep Google’s key objective of providing the best information in mind when I’m helping to optimise websites. So where a website works well for users, then it will likely do well in Google too.
Conversely, websites which try to trick Google in an attempt to rank well, will invariably get caught out. Over the years, Google has become very adept at identifying the spammers and those using “over zealous” SEO techniques and they are very punitive when it comes to demoting the website of those who try it. We’ve seen many dentists websites get hit with ranking penalties over the years where their optimisers had tried shady techniques and been caught out – please avoid this at all costs!
Good SEO takes time and a diligent approach, so don’t skimp on it. Professional SEO teams will spend the time required to monitor Google changes and then ensure that your website is best placed to benefit from them.
So that’s the first three elements of my list of SEO aspects all dentists should be aware of with respect to their business website and ensuring that it performs well in the quest to gain new dental patients from the web.
With the introduction complete, next time we’ll look more closely at how to choose a professional SEO partner, the two key aspects of optimisation (on-site and off-site) and also a specific area of optimisation, local SEO.
In the interim, if you have any questions regarding optimisation for your own dental website, please call on 01332 672548 for a no-obligation discussion and we’ll be pleased to assist.Google+