Master the Secret Weapon of SEO to Attract New Patients
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the best method to help your practice rank high in search results when someone searches for the service you offer, such as dentist near me. SEO is a long-term strategy. When implemented correctly and given a strong foundation, it can have a tremendous impact on your practice.
With returns on investment ranging from 906% to 3900%, it’s safe to say the time, money, and effort that go into search engine optimization are well worth it.1 Here’s what you need to know about SEO to attract new patients and begin optimizing your practice’s online presence today.
Why Do I Need SEO?
Although patient referrals may constitute one of the best conversion marketing strategies for your practice, chances are word of mouth by itself won’t result in the volume of new patients needed to reach your business growth targets. So what are your other options?
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ProSites offers dental professionals website design and marketing expertise to boost their digital impact and draw in more patients. ProSites’s digital design portfolio is said to make your dental practice’s website run smoothly, capture attention, and improve patient satisfaction. There is a review feature that can be a boon for both practice reputation and SEO best practices, as well as photo galleries for before-and-after pictures, easily editable pages, HIPAA-complaint forms, and more features for the dental practice. ProSites empowers dental professionals to take charge of their image and digital presence.
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Pay-per-click and online ads are great for some goals but are limited in effectiveness; half of patients do not respond to paid advertising.1 Ranking well in search engine results serves as a vote of confidence that you do what users are looking for in their search. This organic traffic is more budget friendly but can also help you reach users who pass over your ads. Although SEO takes time to bear fruit, you can easily lay the groundwork for a great SEO strategy with a few simple changes.
Optimize for Local Search
The first step in building an SEO strategy is to optimize for local search. Potential patients searching for dentists likely have a serious interest in finding one. Google treats local search queries such as “best dentist near me” differently from broad searches such as “best smart phone.”
Here’s how to improve local SEO to connect with searchers in your area:
- List your location(s). Make sure your practice location(s) and the cities and zip codes you serve are included on your website. This will help you show up in “near me” searches.
- Talk about your community. Talk about your involvement as a local practice owner, the organizations you sponsor, your favorite hangouts, etc. Doing so will make your site more relevant and build your reputation with patients.
- Add your services. Make sure to include the services you offer that are relevant to users’ search queries such as “dentist near me” and “pediatric dentist near me.”
Now that you’ve optimized for local search, it’s time to evaluate your content for on-page optimization. On-page optimization means you create value by providing relevant, high-quality content for searchers and search engines by extension. What you say and how you say it influences how a search engine determines whether your content is relevant to a specific search query and categorizes your pages and website overall.
To optimize your website content:
- Think like a patient. Write for prospective patients first and search engines second. Start by thinking about whom you want to reach. How would they search? What topics would they talk about? Integrate those topics into the content of your site while ensuring the language sounds natural.
- Stay on point. The topic of the webpage should be clear and easy to understand. If you are writing about dental services, don’t go on a tangent about dentistry. If dentistry is relevant to a specific part of the page, you can always link to another page on your site that elaborates on the topic.
- Listen to voice searches. Forty-one percent of today’s searches are voice searches using services such as Siri or Alexa, with search queries spoken into a device rather than typed. Since voice search provides a better user experience, Google places more emphasis on sites optimized for voice searches in search engine results. This means your content should have a conversational tone.
- Format for skimmers. Most individuals skim webpages to find topics of interest. A site visitor faced with lengthy pages of plain text usually won’t read them. Break up text with relevant subheadlines, shorter paragraphs, bullets, and lists.
- Avoid duplicate website content. Google and Bing have policies against publishing duplicate content. Although unscrupulous individuals may try to artificially inflate search engine rankings by posting duplicate content stuffed with keywords, search engines take great pains to detect and penalize these activities. Steer clear of these shady practices and focus on producing unique, high-quality content. Your search engine rankings will thank you for it.
- Add metadata. Metadata are information about your website that search engines use to rank your site in search engine results. To add them, simply include a title and description at the beginning of your homepage. It’s a quick action that’s critical to improving your rank. However, as this can be a little technical if you are new to SEO, we recommend asking your website or SEO provider for guidance in this area.
Optimize Your Website’s Performance
Having a fast, secure, and responsive website is essential to your SEO success. Complete your on-page optimization by addressing these 3 key points.
If a site is built for desktop users only, it won’t display properly on a smartphone or tablet; content will be miniaturized and navigation difficult. Today, websites are most often viewed on a mobile device rather than a desktop computer, so be sure your site is mobile friendly.
For user security, Google requires all sites viewed on a Chrome browser provide an encrypted connection to visitors. If you fail to provide secure access, Chrome will warn users that your site is unsafe. To make matters worse, the search company may penalize you with a lowered position in search results. Ask your website or SEO provider how to provide secure access to your site visitors.
One key factor Google uses to rank your site in search results is speed, especially in response to voice searches. To ensure a faster load time, avoid Flash web players, music, and autoloading slideshows. If you choose to include a video or slideshow on your homepage, let the visitor decide whether to press the play button. Have a professional website developer set up slideshows or videos on your site to ensure rapid load times.
After mastering on-page SEO, you should address off-page optimization. For local SEO, claiming and maintaining your Google Business Profile (GBP) is one of the most effective SEO steps you can take. Done right, a GBP gives your listing prime real estate on first-page search results, shares your business information with Google Search and Google Maps, and allows you to upload photos. What’s more, it’s completely free.
Your GBP dashboard will provide helpful metrics including:
Where your listing is showing
How many users have requested directions to your listing and from where
How many calls were made to your practice based on the listing
How much traffic the listing is driving to your website
If your business doesn’t have a profile or has an unclaimed profile, visit the GBP website and follow the prompts to set up your profile. Once set up, maximize your listing with the following information:
• Contact information
Your contact information—name, address, phone number (NAP)—should be accurate and kept up-to-date. As a sidenote, NAP consistency can affect how you’re shown in local search results. Therefore, the NAP on your GBP should be replicated across all your business directory listings.
• Website address
Include your website URL and use the same URL as your other directory listings. Consistency is important for Google to determine your practice is legitimate.
• Office hours
Posting accurate office hours is essential to let searchers know when they can speak to a real person or schedule an appointment. Be sure to post any schedule changes.
• Business description
Describe your practice in layman’s terms. Incorporate a few keywords where it makes sense but avoid keyword stuffing. The clearer your description, the better it helps prospective patients and Google understand the services you offer.
Google ratings and reviews are a very important ranking factor, so be sure to collect and monitor your reviews and respond quickly and professionally to any negative ones.
• Photos and videos
Photos and videos are a great way to engage users. But remember, they visually represent what happens at your practice. It may be fun to post pictures of the staff in Halloween costumes, but what impression does it give to prospective patients? Use professional headshots and sharp, well-lit photos of the staff and front desk area.
• Google posts
Google posts are similar to Facebook and other social media posts. You can include images, text, and links. Use Google posts to offer a complimentary consultation, announce the arrival of a new doctor, share scheduling availability, or link to a blog post on your site.
Beyond Your Google Business Profile
Once you’ve tackled your GBP, create or claim your profiles on other leading directories such as Yelp, Facebook, Angi, and Yellow Pages and keep them up-to-date as well. You’ve probably noticed social media pages are included in Google search results just like other webpages. Google denies factoring social media profiles into its criteria for ranking websites; however, there seems to be a strong correlation between them. Whether social media pages directly affect your search ranking or not, creating and maintaining social media profiles can only help your digital marketing efforts.
Backlinks are links from other websites that connect to your website, and they are essential to Google’s search rankings. Obtaining good backlinks is arguably one of the most difficult aspects of SEO. Building a good backlink profile takes time and effort, because not every backlink will improve your rankings.
In the past, it didn’t matter where backlinks came from, leading to a surge in spam-type websites that were scrambled and incomprehensible. As a result, irrelevant information was displayed in search results, frustrating users and deterring them from using the search engine. Google changed its policy to treat spam backlinks as an unethical SEO tactic.
Because of this, Google now places more emphasis on the quality of backlinks. To support your SEO strategy, focus on relevant backlinks such as those from a chamber of commerce directory, local media outlet, state association, or other professional society.
Implement Your SEO Strategy
Because SEO takes time to gain credibility, it’s not an instant fix like paid advertising—you need to start developing your strategy today. Your competitors are doing everything they can to improve (or simply maintain) their position within local search results. If you aren’t implementing SEO for your practice, your competitors may be grabbing the attention of prospective patients. Try implementing these small steps over a few weeks to see big returns in your search listings in the coming months.
- Search engine optimization: the ProSites experience. ProSites. October 2019. Accessed September 13, 2022. https://www.prosites.com/customer-reviews/case-studies/SEO-Case-Studies-Combined.pdf