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How to increase your digital ad leads with laser-focused customer targeting


Pay-per-click advertising can prove to be a cost-effective tool for your practice.

Image of a keyboard with a tooth button

PPC, or pay-per-click marketing, can be one of the most precise, cost-effective tools to get you noticed online and grow your appointment calendar. But all too often, dentists abandon PPC because of the price of leads.

In our experience, the biggest money-waster in PPC is not understanding and targeting your core customer efficiently.

The sad part is it’s not a complicated process. In fact, running successful PPC ads has way more to do with traditional marketing than most people think.

If you’re thinking about running a digital advertising campaign or you’re going to stop a campaign due to poor return on investment, then this article may help.

What exactly is pay-per-click advertising?

If you’re a PPC guru and you know the ins and outs of digital advertising, then skip this section.

If you’re new to PPC or you could use a refresher, then keep reading.

PPC ads are advertisements you can buy via online media platforms like Google AdWords, Microsoft BingAds, Yahoo Gemini, Facebook and more. If you go to a search engine like Google and type in “dentists near me,” you’ll generate a results page. If your ad shows up on the results page and a user clicks on it, then you get charged a small amount from the publisher (in this case, Google).

So, why do we love PPC? There are three main reasons:

  • You only pay when a prospect takes an action. In this case, when the prospect clicks on the ad and goes to your website, you pay.

  • You’re able to carve out an audience that’s highly predisposed to click on your ad. You can target your ad to geography, age, gender and user queries (i.e. the keywords someone types into Google).

  • You can match the needs of prospects to an ad that specifically addresses their needs. For instance, if you want to target mothers of babies who are looking for someone to do their child’s first teeth cleaning, you can show those moms an ad that specifically solves that problem.

PPC ads put your dental practice in front of the people searching for the specific services you offer, whether it be pediatric, general, cosmetic, or another specialty. Those are then the people who become your patients.

If you want to get the most out of an ad campaign, it’s critical to understand your perfect audience for each procedure you offer and then give them an ad that specifically addresses their needs. This is where most campaigns fail: They target too broad a slice of the population, wasting precious advertising budgets.

Up next: How to define the perfect audience...


How to define the perfect audience

Here’s the hard truth: Not everyone in your geographic target market is the right fit for your practice. Some prospects are totally focused on price; even if they’re nearby, they won’t visit you unless your price is just right. Others care most about the latest technology. Some are busy and need flexible hours.

By understanding the positioning of your practice, you can put your ads in front of the people who are most likely to respond.

How do you start building the PPC ad that expands your patient list? By defining you perfect audience in detail. We call this creating a marketing avatar. It’s one of the first things we do when we take on a new dental practice. We also know most dental practices have several marketing avatars, since procedures target different types of people.

Below are four steps you can take to build the perfect set of marketing avatars for your dental practice.

Step 1: Write down your unique selling proposition

The first question I ask my dentists is, “If I saw your ad along with the ads of your top three competitors, why would I pick you over them?”

Drill down deep here. Answers like “We’re better” and “great customer service” are meaningless. HOW are you better? WHAT type of customer service do you employ that your competitors do not? Are you open later? Are you bilingual? Do you use only the latest technologies? Do you have better financing options? Define what is unique about YOU. 

To help narrow it down, all businesses typically uniquely position themselves with one or two of the options below:

  • Price – Not only prices of procedures, but what types of insurance you accept

  • Services/amenities – Technologies, breadth of offering, office amenities, etc.

  • Speed/availability – Open late/on weekends, day-of appointments, etc.

It’s almost impossible to be all three - and that’s okay.

Step 2: List all the procedures you want to target

The next step in creating a marketing avatar is documenting all the procedures you want to promote with your advertising campaigns. These can be grouped into similar procedure sets, but they generally include:

  • Emergency/after-hours care

  • Cosmetic services

  • Braces

  • General dentistry

  • Pediatric services

  • Dental implants

Once we know what we are going to promote and what benefits we are going to communicate, we then figure out what audience we need to target.

Step 3: Understand what people in your audience have in common

Your prospective patients want and need the things you listed in Steps 1 and 2 above. Now, we need to figure out what characteristics people in your perfect audience have in common so that we can target them and ignore the people who aren’t in your wheelhouse.

The list of characteristics you could target is almost endless, but these tend to be the most popular:

  • Income – If you don’t accept Medicaid or other state-based insurance, then the income of prospective patients is an important attribute. Don’t target non-emergency services to the bottom 50 percent of income because they likely won’t pay you a visit, even if they need the services you offer. If you’re targeting emergency after-hour services, then the bottom 50 percent may become cash pay, and you would want to target them.

  • Age – Older people have more implants, bridges, etc. Younger people tend to get braces. Pediatrics is children’s dentistry but should target parents, usually between the ages of 25 and 45.

  • Gender – This can be especially important in pediatrics. Moms are more likely to pick up the phone and call with questions or to make appointments, so target females over males.

  • Parental status – This is key if your focus is pediatric dentistry.

  • Geography – The geography you target depends on population density, but you typically don’t want to aim for people more than 10 miles around your practice; patients just aren’t that likely to drive a long distance to get to the dentist.

Bonus tip: Our friends over at DigitalMarketer.com have a great worksheet and blog post on how to create marketing avatars.

Now that we have a laser-focused idea of exactly who you are servicing, we can set up the targeting.

Which targeting options are available to me?

The key to getting the most out of an ad campaign is optimization, or being able to stop what doesn’t work.
When we add targeting to your campaigns, we want to take the lists you made above and find targeting options on the platforms (i.e. Google, Microsoft, etc.) that match the items we know your audiences share.

Let’s start with the biggest platform: Google AdWords.

With AdWords, we can target geographic and demographic commonalities in your audience, including:

  • Geographic

  • Cities

  • Zip codes

  • Counties

  • Radius around an address


  • Age

  • Gender

  • Parental status

  • Income level

  • Education


If we are using Google’s Display Network or Facebook, we can also target psychographic items such as:

  • Personality

  • Interests

  • Buying patterns

  • Desires

  • Beliefs

PPC campaigns do best when they’re consistently monitored, tweaked and optimized. By showing your ads to only those people who really want your services, you can stop wasting money because the people who don’t need your help won’t see your ads. You can get more patients by spending the same amount of money.

Beat the competition by advertising smarter

Dentistry is a competitive market. To win, you have to do a better job than your competitors with the money you have. The more profitable your efforts, the more you can invest.

By implementing the latest targeting options, you’ll create a more consistent flow of patients into your practice at a predictable price.

For more information on Frontier Marketing, click here.

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