Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing for Dentists

As a dentist, securing more patients is arguably your greatest priority. In today’s market, competition is high, which is why you need a digital marketing strategy.

Digital marketing is the modern, dominant form of marketing that utilizes the power of the internet. It’s a practice that seeks to promote your dental office to all the potential patients in your area.

If you want to win more patients and beat out the competition, you 100% need a digital marketing strategy.

Don’t know anything about digital marketing? Don’t stress — this guide will cover everything you need to know, including:

  • What digital marketing is

  • Why digital marketing is important

  • What the advantages of digital marketing are

  • The most common digital marketing channels

  • Why search engine marketing (SEM) is the best option for dentists

  • How to get started with digital marketing

Ready to get into this? Let’s go. 

What Is Digital Marketing For Dentists?

Digital marketing is a major form of marketing that occurs on the internet. Businesses promote their products and/or services with the web, through various different channels — some of them include:

  • Google/search engines

  • Websites

  • Social media

  • YouTube

  • Email

As a dentist, you’ll be attracting and acquiring new patients through these channels. Each of these act as pathways for you to interact and engage with your target audience.

Digital marketing as a strategy or activity can be broken down into more specific subcategories. Common examples include:

  • Search engine marketing (SEM)

  • Social media marketing (SMM)

  • Content marketing

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)

  • Video marketing

  • Email marketing

  • Native advertising

  • Mobile marketing

  • Conversion rate optimization

Later on in this article we’ll cover the ins and outs of every subcategory you need to know as a dentist.

Why Is Digital Marketing Important for Dentists?

Digital marketing is important for dentists because it’s the #1 way you can get more patients in 2021. When someone needs the services of a dentist, they’ll go on the internet and search for one. This is usually done through Google, but can also occur in other places, like social media.

The internet has largely replaced directory books — consumer research is primarily done online.

It’s also important to note that competition online is tough. The field of dentistry — like many other industries and niches — is highly competitive. To be able to stand a chance, you need a full fledged digital marketing strategy.

Each year, more and more dentists are entering the market, which has only a finite supply of potential patients. While those in the countryside rural areas don’t face big competition, dentists in the city do.

Dentists of all demographics are starting to understand that it is no longer possible to wait until patients come through the door. They understand that they have to engage in active marketing to get their name out there. They understand this is how you get on the short list of patients looking for a new dentist in their area.

Dental patients are online, researching on Google to find a dentist. Those dentists who are visible during those searches have a much higher chance of growing their patient base and business. Those that aren’t visible will struggle, relying on traditional forms of marketing alone.

What Is the Main Advantage Over Traditional or Offline Marketing?

Digital marketing has many advantages over traditional offline methods, like print, TV, and radio — below I’ll outline the best.

Lower Cost

The great thing about digital marketing as opposed to offline marketing is that it can be far cheaper. The old traditional channels — TV, radio, and print — are hard for smaller businesses to access. Digital marketing provides a low budget option, accessible to all sizes of businesses. 

Superior Return on Investment (ROI)

When it comes to marketing and advertising, nothing is more important than the ROI — return on investment. Every campaign costs something, whether that’s time or money — and time is money.

Digital marketing has been shown time and time again to be efficient and successful. Low cost campaigns have the potential to go viral, resulting in superhuman levels of ROI.

Easy to Track and Optimize

The great thing about digital marketing is that — due to its technological nature — it’s easy to track and optimize. Statistics and metrics are used to gauge the success of your campaigns, regardless of what channels you’re using.

Want to know if your emails are actually being read? Check out your open rate, click-through rate, and bounce rate.

Curious as to the engagement of your social media profiles? Every platform has its own analytics features that’ll clue you in.

What about your Google Ads performance and organic page rankings? Yep, they can be tracked too.

You’ll have a good idea as to whether or not you need to make some changes, based on the numbers. With traditional marketing methods performed offline, this is much harder to know.

Specific Targeting

Digital marketing makes it really easy to ensure you target the right market, audience, and people. This is so important as nobody wants to waste money on ineffective marketing and advertising campaigns.

Want to get your blog posts seen by potential customers? Utilize effective SEO strategies.

Trying to increase the effectiveness of your email marketing? Segment your subscribers and send personalized emails to the right subsets of your list.

Are your Google Ads lacking? Try using some retargeting ads to boost ROI.

Digital marketing offers so many tools, features, and strategies to target the right people, audience, and market. Traditional offline marketing methods are much more limited — you’re more so shooting in the dark, wasting your budget.

Greater Reach

Harnessing the power of the internet, digital marketing allows you to reach millions of people around the world. In the past your reach was limited based on your budget. This meant only the big guys could get regional, national, and global exposure.

But with digital marketing? It’s possible to get your brand out there.

Greater Local Exposure

Not only is digital marketing great at getting wide exposure, but it’s also great at getting you local exposure. As a dentist, this is crucial, as the patients you serve — and potentially gain — are mostly from your local area.       

The Power of Web Analytics or Conversion Tracking

The great thing about digital marketing is that it’s easy to track, thanks to web analytics and conversion tracking. You can get real-time reports on how your campaigns are performing. This makes it extremely easy to make appropriate optimization adjustments.

Compare this to traditional, offline marketing methods, like print, radio and TV. These were largely shots in the dark, hard to measure, track, and optimize.

With digital marketing, there’s no more guesswork when it comes to whether things are working or not. This is so important as you could be throwing your budget at channels that aren’t generating a sufficient return on investment.

Your Google Ads, blog posts, and website pages can be tracked via Google Analytics. Your social media profiles can be tracked with free on-site analytic suites. Your email service provider will help you track your email marketing campaigns.

The web analytics component of digital marketing ensures efforts stay data-driven. Your profitability will be maximized, helping you attract more patients.

Conversion tracking will also help you identify very specific issues that need to be tweaked, changed, and optimized. We’ll cover it in depth further below.    

Decision-Making / Buyer-Journey in Today’s Always Connected World

In today’s world, the buyer’s journey is no longer linear and disconnected. Due to new digital technological advancements, consumers make decisions at their own speed. It’s now a multi-dimensional, interconnected journey with multiple touchpoints before a purchase is made.

Digital marketing is a way for you to provide your potential patients with all the resources they need to make a decision. 

Your website provides them with information about your services, while your blog posts help solve their problems and issues. Google Ads offer a solution when intent is established.

The modern buyer’s journey is all about creating a consumer-centric environment where they’re in control. They can progress through your funnel at any pace they like, and revert back to the top of the funnel. It’s about giving them the freedom to make informed, educated purchases. 

The Most Commonly Used Digital Marketing Channels

As was mentioned earlier in this guide briefly, digital marketing utilizes various different channels to promote your business. I’ll detail all of the important ones below. 

Pay-per-Click or PPC Advertising

PPC advertising is a form of online paid advertising, usually done on platforms like:

  • Google

  • Facebook

  • Bing

  • LinkedIn

  • Twitter

  • Pinterest

PPC — which stands for “pay-per-click” — is a specific payment model, which means what it implies. You pay every time an individual clicks your ad. So, for example, if you had an ad on Google and I clicked it, you’d have to pay Google.

As mentioned above, PPC ads exist on a variety of different platforms. In general, you can classify them into 3 types:

  • Paid search ads

  • Paid display ads

  • Paid social media ads

Recommended Reading: Dental PPC Guide | Pay per Click Dental Advertising

Paid search or Search Engine Advertising

Paid search ads are the ads you see on Google, above the organic search results. 

Adspace for keywords are purchased via an auction system — bids are placed , which people bid for. 

Paid display advertising

Paid display ads are ads that appear on various websites all across the internet. They’ll be either at the top of the page, the middle, or the side.

They’re extremely common, cheaper than paid search ads, and face less competition. They also provide you with more ad customization compared to paid search ads. Images and texts can be altered extensively, to align with your brand.

Although being cheaper, they don’t get as many clicks, and they get blocked by ad blocking plugins.

Paid social media advertising

Paid social ads are ads for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. These ads are targeted for a very specific audience, using demographic information available on the social platforms. 

Paid social ads are easy to use, highly effective, and skyrocketing in popularity.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves the creation of content, with the intent to educate, inform, and entertain your target market. You are providing them with free, valuable resources that’ll help them solve their problems, and address their pain points.

It’s a philosophy of marketing where you first provide value — at no cost — so you build trust and authority. With these in place it’s likely they’d eventually become customers.

The types of content you can create include:

  • Blog posts

  • Social media posts

  • Videos

  • Emails

  • Website content

  • Infographics

  • eBooks

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Content marketing occurs across various different platforms, like email, social media, and your website. 

Recommended Reading: The 2021 Content Marketing Guide for Dentists 

Search engine optimization (SEO)

A large component of content marketing involves what’s known as SEO, or “search engine optimization.” These are strategies and methods that help your blog posts and website pages/content rank higher on Google and Bing.

SEO is important because it helps increase organic traffic to your website. As a dentist, it’s also crucial because local SEO is how the majority of your potential patients will find you. In fact, local SEO is probably the most important aspect of digital marketing for your dental office. 

Recommended Reading: The Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO in 2021

Recommended Reading: Local SEO for Dentists: How To Boost Local Rankings in 2021

Social media marketing

Social media has become a huge component of modern content marketing. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram provide ways for you to interact and engage with your target market. Social media content will vary depending on the specific platform.

As a dentist, you should definitely be on Facebook. Most dental offices have business pages on there, as it’s often how patients find them. They can find out details about what services they offer, physical location details, and opening hours.

Video marketing / YouTube advertising

Video marketing largely occurs on YouTube, but also happens on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Videos can be created to help promote your dental office, giving potential patients a visual before coming in.

Types of video content you can create include:

  • Staff introduction

  • Dental office tour

  • Services demonstration

  • Results/case studies/testimonials

  • Educational videos 

Email Marketing

Email marketing involves sending emails to a subscriber list, in order to promote your business. The emails will vary, typically either informing, educating, and/or entertaining — it’s very much an extension of your content marketing.

Some common types of emails include:

  • A weekly newsletter

  • Specific and important updates

  • Sales letters

  • Testimonials/case studies

  • Onboarding emails

  • Re-engagement emails

An email list is usually built up through opt-in forms placed on your website. For example, these opt-in forms might be placed on blog posts, or a landing page.

As a dentist, your email marketing can serve as a way to keep in touch with patients. You can inform them of any important details regarding your practice, as well as send them valuable content/information.

Native Advertising

Native advertising is basically paid content that blends in with the platform that it features on. It’s a way to blend in paid advertising, so that it seems like natural, organic content. It could be a variety of different types of content, including blog posts, infographics, and videos.

The native advertising content has to align with the platform it’s being posted on. It should seamlessly fit in with the regular content produced, or else it doesn’t really work. 

Native advertising provides one with a more effective way to advertise. People are usually instinctively defensive when it comes to ads — native ads circumvent this. They’re also less intrusive than say banner ads or popups.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is the specific digital marketing practice wholly concerned with promoting your business for mobile users. Given that 69% of digital media is consumed with a smartphone in the US, mobile marketing is essential.

More specifically, mobile marketing refers to strategies that all you to target consumers on their phones. Localized and time-sensitive content can be created to take full advantage of the popularity of smartphones and tablets.

Some of the type of content could include:

  • SMS message campaigns

  • Mobile app marketing content

  • QR code content

  • Voice marketing content

  • Bluetooth marketing content

  • Mobile banner ads

As a dentist, not all of these types of mobile content will apply to you. Most offices will run SMS message campaigns as a way to remind patients of scheduled, upcoming appointments. Some even have created their own mobile apps.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion rate optimization is the digital marketing practice that involves looking for ways to increase conversion rate. If you didn’t know, conversion rate is how often conversions occur, which are desired actions.

For example, a conversion could be getting email sign-ups from a blog post or landing page. It could also be opening an email, clicking on an ad on Google, or following a link on social media.

Conversion rate as an equation can be expressed as simply as:

  • Conversion rate = (no. of conversions / total no. of visitors) x 100

Conversion rate optimization — CRO for short — can be any tactic, strategy, or method that improves conversion rate. It could be something as simple as the color of a call to action button, or an email subject line. It can also be more complex, like your website’s page speed/layout.

As the name implies, CRO looks to optimize your already existing digital marketing efforts. It’s about taking what you’ve already done and saying “how can I improve this? How can I improve efficiency?”  

Why Is Search Engine Marketing the Best Option?

When it comes to running a dental office, no digital marketing channel is more important than search engine marketing. Both SEO and PPC are integral strategies that’ll get you more patients. 

Why is search engine marketing (SEO + PPC) the best option?

Because of the concept of search intent.

Search intent is the reason why someone has searched for something into Google. If they’ve typed “nearest dentist” then obviously they’re looking for the services of a dentist. Pretty straightforward — this is what’s known as a commercial search intent.

There are 4 main types of search intent:

  • Commercial: researching products or services.

  • Navigational: looking for directions to a specific location.

  • Informational: searching for information on a topic or issue. 

  • Transactional: looking to make a purchase.

When it comes to search engine marketing and dental-related keywords, there’s a high commercial intent. This means that they’re ready and willing to become a paying patient. When people turn to Google to find a dentist, they’re highly likely to book an appointment right then. 

Other channels like social media marketing, video marketing, or email marketing don’t have the same intent. You’re largely interrupting them and trying to build demand generation — awareness about your dental services.

Search engine marketing (SEO + PPC) is a demand capture practice for dentists. This means that it capitalizes off of the awareness demand generation creates.

  • Demand generation: building awareness about your products and services.

  • Demand capture: attempts to convert awareness into patients.

In summary? Search engine marketing should be your digital marketing channel priority as a dentist. This means the practices of SEO for ranking your website’s pages and blog posts, and PPC for paid Google ads.   

How to Get Started With Digital Marketing for Your Dental Practice?

Not sure where to begin with your digital marketing? Follow the steps outlined below.

Identify Your Marketing Goals

Start by identifying the specific goals you want to achieve with your digital marketing efforts. This may include:

  • Driving sales

  • Lead generation

  • Gaining more patients

  • Building brand awareness

Set Appropriate Marketing Budget to Meet Your Goals

Typically 7-12% of revenue is recommended for marketing, for established offices. Start-ups should set aside $30k – $50k to establish their brand.

Solidify the Sales Process to Handle Incoming Leads

To ensure you experience maximal digital marketing benefits, outline, solidify, and understand your digital sales process. You need to know how your potential patients will become paying customers.

Recommended Reading: Learn To Convert Leads Into New Patients

Identify and Define Your Target Audience

It’s vital that you identify and define your target audience. You need to know the demographic that you’re targeting — creating buyer personas can help paint a picture of who that is. They’ll help you identify who needs the services of your dental office.

Choose Marketing Channels

With the appropriate target demographic and buyer persona information, you should be able to identify the best digital marketing channels. For dental offices, this is generally going to be search engine marketing — SEO and PPC — and social media.

Set Clear KPIs or Benchmarks

Ensure that you set clear key performance indicators and benchmarks. These are necessary to be able to evaluate the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts. They’ll be able to measure your progress and success.

Make Necessary Adjustments as Time Goes On

As time passes while you run your digital marketing efforts, make appropriate and necessary changes. You’ll have web analytics and conversion tracking to help you monitor progress towards your KPIs and benchmark goals.

Pro Tip: Leave Your Marketing to Experts

Digital marketing can get overly technical and require your attention and effort. As a dentist, you’re busy dealing with patients, paying expenses, and managing potential employees. You might simply not have enough time to run your own digital marketing strategy.

If you fall under this umbrella, then it’d be wise to outsource and leave your marketing to professionals.

If your dental office needs help with its SEO or Google Ads, don’t hesitate to get in touch.