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How to use SEO and Social Media to grow your practice

Dental Products ReportDental Products Report-2013-05-01
Issue 5

These complementary online marketing strategies can work for your practice, you just need to know how to use them effectively.

These complementary online marketing strategies can work for your practice, you just need to know how to use them effectively.

Online Marketing. Search Engine Optimization. Social Media. These buzzwords have taken over the dental marketing landscape over the course of the past few years. The Internet has forever changed the game for dentists, presenting an entirely new realm of opportunities to connect with patients.

In fact, a recent whitepaper titled “Practice Marketing and Patient Communication Platforms In the Digital Age of Dentistry,” co-authored by Dr. Rhonda Savage and Diana Friedman, CEO of Sesame Communications, cited an incredible statistic from comScore-one of the leading digital analytics companies in the world-that today more than 139 million consumers use the Internet to find health care information every month.

To reach these millions of people who are looking for dental care online, dentists need to make it easy for them to find their practices. This is where Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, comes in.

What is SEO?

SEO is the process of improving a website’s visibility in search engine results. The higher the dental practice’s website ranks (or appears) in the list of search results for specific keywords, the more people will theoretically click through to learn more about the dentist and the practice.

Online marketing experts across the globe continue to debate the best methods to improve website rankings. And the search engines themselves work to stay one step ahead of the marketers; Google changes their algorithm on a regular basis, making it difficult for a SEO expert, let alone a dentist, to stay on top of the latest strategies.

However there are some tried-and-true, low-cost yet highly effective methods that dentists can employ to dial up their online engagement and organic search engine visibility.

What it all boils down to is this: the name of the game in SEO is engagement. Google prefers fresh, relevant content produced in an authentic, ongoing and consistent matter. Dentists can accomplish this in a host of creative ways, starting with social media.

And social media should no longer be regarded as a passing trend; because the most popular sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, are now incorporated into the Google algorithm, they have become essential in helping dentists increase their online reach.

Social media profiles

Social media plays a dominant role in online engagement, most notably in two specific ways. First, it provides dentists with the possibility to interact with patients on a frequent, even daily basis. Gone are the days of seeing patients once, maybe twice, a year.

Building and maintaining an active Google+ and/or Twitter profile and a Facebook business page for the dental practice gives dentists countless opportunities to regularly engage with patients.

Secondly, a practice needs an SEO strategy for its social media as well as its practice website. Activity on social networks like Facebook, or even more importantly, Google+, can help improve the practice’s SEO and online visibility, but there is a catch-not all social media activity carries the same weight.

Simply “liking” posts and pictures and making comments are good for staying connected, but it is the more engaging activities, such as posting fresh, original content on a regular basis, sharing industry-related articles, posting a link to a dentist’s blog, and having influential patients “like” and “check-in” at the practice that will truly work to help improve the practice’s social media presence and will also serve to promote your SEO agenda.

Blogs, YouTube and video

Blogs and online video also play an integral role in increasing dentists’ online presence and digital footprint. Not only are videos increasingly appealing to Internet users, but YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine. Plus, blogs and video play perfectly into Google’s preference for rich media and timely, relevant content; remember, Google also owns both Blogger.com and YouTube.

This makes it no coincidence that in one of its most recent refreshes, Google announced the increasing importance of “fresh content” and video in its SEO algorithm. As a result, having an onsite blog and posting interesting, relevant videos on the dental practice website, YouTube channel, or social media profiles are tried and true tactics that can help to improve the practice’s website SEO.

Blogging and video also lend a more personal approach to dental marketing beyond its advantages from an SEO perspective.

Dentists can blog on a variety of oral and general health topics relevant to patients and the community at large. And they can film brief, 1-2 minute videos such as a quick welcome to new patients, greetings from various staff members, descriptions of common procedures, patient video testimonials or even a virtual office visit, giving patients the chance to see first-hand what they will experience at the practice.

The best part about video is that smartphones and newer handheld video cameras like the FlipCam make it simple to shoot short video messages and upload them to the practice’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel in minutes.

Looking for more ways to grow your practice? Check out these 3 tips from Jameson Management designed to help you improve case presentation in this Morning Huddle:

Online directories

Twenty percent of all Google searches have local intent, meaning that people are looking for a business in their immediate vicinity.

Dentists can make it simple for patients and complete online profiles on local directory sites, the two most popular being Yelp! and Google+ Local. Yelp! is the online powerhouse in consumer reviews, and Google+ Local is a no-brainer-information posted on Google+ Local directly feeds into the Google search algorithm.

Whether dentists realize it, their practice most likely already has an existing profile on both of these sites-and many other local directories as well. All businesses do, as the information is often culled from the online Yellow Pages so most businesses have a profile, even if they didn’t create it. 

And it’s important to keep in mind that it is up to the business owner to log on and take control of each of the practice’s profiles and the information they contain.

Completing your profiles entails claiming it and establishing a password, entering in current contact information and practice hours, correcting the business name if it’s misspelled or includes the name of a retired partner, uploading the practice logo, photos and videos and even including a brief bio or philosophy of the practice.

In the current digital culture, there are countless ways to interact with active patients-and to reach potential patients in a meaningful way and on an ongoing basis.

And while SEO, social media, video and online directories certainly don’t comprise the universe of marketing options for dentists, they are some of the most important ingredients in a dental practice’s successful online marketing strategy.


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