Sustainable Web Traffic – SEO or Google Ads?

Sustainable Web Traffic – SEO or Google Ads?

Paid Media or SEO – What’s Best For Your Dental Practice?

The web is still king when it comes to gaining new patient enquiries for dentists, particularly where you are building a business and the scope from word-of-mouth referrals is still low. But which is the best route to take? Do you go for the “traditional” SEO route to boost your site in Google, or do you go for paid ads to get the instant traffic boost? Or do you go for both?

The answer to this conundrum depends on a number of circumstances which we’ll discuss below. Let’s make a start by looking at search engine optimisation or SEO per the shortened version.

Building your Google presence with SEO

Whilst some dentists shun SEO, the majority do realise that excellent, sustainable search rankings are a fundamental feature for growing their business. The data tells us that a very large number of new patient enquiries arise after a patient has searched for dental services on the web and those websites which hold top ranking positions gain vastly more enquiries than those which lag behind. Even the difference between the top three places and those at the bottom of page one in Google is marked. So if you can, striving to reach those coveted spots, and ultimately position one, is very well worthwhile.

Using techniques such as content generation and broadcasting, link acquisition, blogging etc, the position of your website can be improved progressively over time. Whilst this process isn’t necessarily fast (you can’t rush sustainable SEO), when done diligently and creatively, you will get there in the end and you will notice as new enquiries increase at pace.

Whilst you are paying for an SEO specialist to undertake this type of work for you, the traffic you are building is sustainable for as long as you hold onto those top positions. So the traffic itself is free and you are not paying Google to get the click as you would with paid ad services. In a nutshell, I like to think that SEO allows you to “own” the traffic, whereas with paid ads you are essentially renting it. When it comes to cost, you will invariably find that the “cost per enquiry” with organic SEO is significantly less than the comparable figure for paid ads.

Whilst paid ads still have a place as we’ll see next, SEO is still king when it comes to sustainable traffic generation for your dental practice website.

Instant traffic with Google Ads

As I mentioned above, Google Ads definitely still have a place within the overall patient acquisition strategy, although it’s not necessarily the cheapest route to take, particularly nowadays. Competition can be intense, particularly around implant and orthodontics keywords, and you really do need robust budgets to get traction. The payback can still be good, but please don’t expect to do it on the cheap. The barriers to entry for newcomers can be high and you will need specialist help if you are to compete effectively.

With paid ads, it’s really important to understand that enquiries don’t necessarily lead to treatments and the attrition between the initial lead and final treatments can be marked. As many as 80% of those who enquire may not have treatment, although you’ll still pay for the click which brought the enquiry in the first place. With implant and ortho clicks sometimes costing £5 – £6 or more, you can soon work out that a monthly budget of a few hundred pounds isn’t really going to cut it. For wide coverage of several treatment types in competitive environments, you will need to budget a lot more than this. This type of spend can quickly eclipse what you might spend on SEO and associated activities.

So are Google Ads a waste of time? The answer to this is an unequivocal “no” – they definitely do have a place and can still yield good returns when managed correctly. They are also instant in that you can have you ad at the top of Google within a few hours, whereas building great SEO positions can take months of work. But if you go the ads route, be prepared to pay for it!

What to opt for?

There is no clear answer as to which route to choose and that will depend on circumstances. If your business is new and you need new enquiries quickly, paid ads will likely need to be part of your strategy. One the other hand, if you are already well-established and fancy a cut of the paid ad traffic (circa 30%), then paid ads will likely also figure alongside your organic SEO strategy. Remember that whilst acquisition cost is typically higher with paid ads, they can still return very nicely when done well.

I would recommend seeking the advice of a trusted marketer who will review your business and evaluate what’s best for you. A word of caution here – there are plenty of companies who only deal with SEO and plenty who only deal with paid ads, so be careful that you are not getting a recommendation biased towards their expertise! Better to get advice from a company such as our own here at Dental Media, which has a strong track-record with both formats. We will give you a balanced view based on your business needs, not our own.

Is there an alternative to Google Ads?

Yes, absolutely. Whilst Google Ads is quite attractive in that it is closely tuned to searcher intent, Facebook ads can also be very effective and typically at lower acquisition costs. You do need to be aware that the number of enquiries from “tyre kickers” will be higher via the Facebook route, but then you can afford to weed those out if the net cost to gain a new patient is lower overall. If you’d like to investigate Facebook ads, please call us.


Search engine optimisation (SEO) and paid ads are extremely useful for gaining new patients from the web, but they have quite different characteristics, costs and success rates. Both can yield great results albeit SEO is arguably the most sustainable and cheapest methodology in the longer term. Remember that SEO allows you to own your web traffic whereas with paid ads you are just renting it – and that can be quite expensive to get to the tipping point you need to make it effective. There are other alternatives also worth exploring, for example Facebook ads which can be particularly effective for certain treatment types and in certain circumstances.

I hope I’ve given you an insight into some of the things to consider when you are evaluating how to promote your dental practice via the web, but in most cases, it will be worthwhile having a discussion to determine exactly which systems suit best for your particular needs. For a no-obligation chat, please call the digital marketing team at Dental Media on 01332 672548.