The Ultimate Guide to Dental SEO in 2020
Let’s face it; it’s 2020, so if you want to find the answer to anything… what do you do? You Google it, of course! So, if I were looking for a new dentist, I would open Google and type “dentist near me” or “dentist in X”. I would take a look at the first few results and get in touch with them. I wouldn’t even bother clicking through to page 2.
So, it’s every dentist’s dream to get onto that first page of Google for these keywords… but how do they do this?
I’ve put together this ultimate guide to dental SEO 2020, which should help you understand exactly what SEO is, how to rank your dental office on Google, what the trends will be for the rest of this year and next, and even a content strategy to help you on your way.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and is the process of improving your website’s rankings on search engines like Google and Bing. It refers to the “organic” listings, which are the ones which have not been paid for. If you’re looking to find out more about paid search results strategy using Google Ads, then please check out our article on this. (Link to another article)
Simply put, if your website comes up higher in Google rankings, it’s visible to a lot more people and therefore the traffic to your website will increase greatly. Your brand will be trusted by many more customers and you will be sure to see the number of patients register at your dental surgery increase.
SEO is about creating the right website for the audience you want to attract. What do your customers want to see when they come to a website for a dental office? Most likely, they will want to see clear information about the dental services you offer, where you’re based, your opening hours and any costs involved. Websites which look professional and have easy-to-find information will most likely do well, as Google always wants to suggest the best websites for its customers.
Is SEO difficult? Can I do my own SEO?
Google has over 200 factors affecting the ranking of websites! They are public about a lot of these factors and so these are the ones we work on to optimise your rankings. However, Google also keeps a lot of the detail about what goes in their algorithm a secret, so it’s impossible to fully control the SEO rankings.
In this ultimate guide to dental SEO, we will cover the basics of SEO to help you do some of the simple thing yourself. These are not difficult, and they can even have a majorly positive impact on your dental website rankings.
However, SEO is not a short-term marketing strategy; it takes months to take effect and a lot of work is involved in order to get things right. So, if you do not have the time to dedicate, then it’s better to get a dental SEO expert to help you.
Let’s start off with some SEO terminology that you may have heard being thrown around. It’s often very tricky when you’re looking for dental SEO help and all the articles have lots of buzzwords which are not explained.
What is domain authority?
Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine score between 1 and 100 (the higher the better) which predicts how well your website will be ranked on search engines. It’s calculated by taking into consideration numerous factors including the number of total links and linking root domains. This score will change over time as it’s compared with other website of similar ilk.
This Domain Authority score, although discussed a lot in SEO, does NOT affect your search engine ranking position. Google does not consider this in its ranking factors. Instead, this is a tool developed by Moz and you can easily check your score for free on their website.
What is page authority?
Whilst the domain authority predicts how well a whole website will rank on Google, the Page Authority (PA) will predict how well a specific page will rank on Google. This will help you determine which of your pages are the best performing and allows you to develop a more sophisticated content marketing strategy around the best-performing pages on your website.
This is also a tool developed by Moz.
What is Black-Hat SEO?
You may have heard this term before as there are lots of articles out there warning people about black hat SEO techniques. However, what exactly is black hat SEO?
Black Hat SEO refers to unethical techniques that are used to try and manipulate Google’s algorithm so that your dental website ranks quickly. They are purely aimed at the search engine’s factors and they do not consider any customer experience or human interaction in these techniques.
If you ever have an “SEO expert” say that they can guarantee to get you to the top of Google in a short space of time, there’s no doubt that they’re using black hat SEO. Whilst it may work in the very short term, Google detects sites that utilises these techniques, issues them with penalties and can even go as far as removing them from Google altogether!
So, you definitely do not want to be participating in any black hat SEO techniques!
What is White-Hat SEO?
It’s no surprise that White Hat SEO is the opposite of Black Hat SEO – it refers to all the ethical SEO techniques that stick to Google and Bing’s guidelines and rules. Any true dental SEO professional will only ever use white hat SEO techniques.
These typically include consistently producing quality and relevant content that’s relevant to your business, optimising your website overall and quality link building. No spammy links or fake Facebook profiles etc.
White hat SEO is a long-term dental SEO strategy designed to improve the experience for your website visitors, e.g. those people who are likely to become your new dental patients.
What is a SERP?
If you hear people talking about SERPs, then all they’re referring to are the search results that you get when you type something into Google! SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page.
Essentially, when you search a keyword or term in Google, you will receive a page of results (the SERP) that shows relevant websites to the keyword you searched. At the top of these SERPs are the paid ads, then the local map pack (where applicable) and then the organic listings. Users rarely look at results seen on page 2, so it’s all about getting your dental website to page 1 of Google!
How do search engines work?
Essentially, search engines work in three stages:
Sometimes known as “spidering”, this is when search engines use thousands of small bots to scan websites. Any data on your website can be crawled, including the body content, headings, images, hyperlinks etc. So, this is why a good dental SEO strategy is to put your chosen keywords in all these sections.
After the website has been crawled, the pages then need to be “indexed”. Essentially this is like organising your website pages in a giant catalogue of pages. You need to actually “tell” Google to index your pages and it won’t do it automatically. It also takes a bit of time before they start showing up on Google – roughly 1-10 days from my experience.
If you update your website with new pages, the crawling protocol will happen again in order to index the new pages!
When someone types in a term into the search engine, the bots go through this giant catalogue of indexed pages to pull out the most relevant pages based on the search terms. These bots use specific algorithms to decide what pages to show that will be most useful to the user. It’s these algorithms that we wish we knew more about!
What are some ranking factors for dental websites?
From my experience, the most important SEO ranking factor for dental websites is content. Content has been known to be king for a while, and in my opinion, this hasn’t changed.
Developing a really strong content strategy for the website, covering all the topics that potential new dental patients want to find out about, will drastically help a dental website’s SEO.
It’s also extremely important for the site to be technically set up correctly, in terms of how the URLs are structured and the sitemap. These parts alone will see some very positive SEO results.
However, here are some factors that I highly recommend that you implement in your website:
- Well-targeted content: know your user and create content that’s completely tailored to them.
- Fresh content: consistently produce new content that’s up to date. If you’re regularly updating your website, Google loves it.
- A good backlink profile: which is based on the quality and the number of backlinks which leads to a website. Google essentially sees backlinks to your website as your site being trustworthy with great content, so it’s more likely to recommend it to users.
- Website speed: people expect results instantly and Google doesn’t like slow websites!
- Fully responsive website: Google only likes sites that work well on every type of device, so ensure your website is mobile/tablet-friendly!
- Unique content: don’t be copying other people’s websites, because Google knows and detects this duplicate content. Unique content that cannot be found anywhere else usually performs better for SEO purposes.
- Crawlable website: ensure that all your pages are indexed.
Why is SEO important for dentists?
SEO is one of the most powerful marketing tools for any business that relies on local customers, so SEO is extremely important for dentists. Most people will pick the dental office which is closest to where they live, but they’d always be happy to travel a little further for one with a better reputation, typically up to 15km / 10 miles at the top end.
This is why it’s highly important to keep your website up to date and ensure it is professional, quality and highlights the great work you do. New customers will Google “dentist in X” or “dental office near me” to find their nearest dentist, so if your dental office is on page 1 of Google, you will have a good shot of signing that new customer.
Some customers may be looking for a specific service and google “where can I get root canal surgery?”. If your dental practice offers root canal surgery as a service, it makes sense to have a dedicated landing page for this, so you can attract those customers who are looking specifically for that service. With SEO, you can be very tailored to your audience.
Dentistry is a highly competitive industry and you will likely know who your local competition is. If your dental website is featured on page 1 of Google, you’re more likely to sign a great deal more new customers than those found on page 2. Plus, the higher up on Google you are, the more trustworthy you seem. Audiences trust businesses with results that are higher on Google, and dentists are a profession where customers require this trust.
SEO has longer-lasting results than with paid advertising. Google Ads is a quick way of getting your dental website in front of thousands of potential new customers, but as soon as your advertising credit runs out, your business is no longer visible. Plus, the costs for a PPC campaign can quickly lead up to multiple thousands per month. SEO done properly (by white hat techniques) will be fairly stable over time and the traffic you receive is free traffic – no need to pay for each click.
Typical focus areas for dental SEO
If you haven’t already guessed it, SEO can be quite daunting. There are so many types of ranking factors (200+!) and things are changing all the time. So, how do you find the time to do all of this? The problem is, most dentists simply will not have the time to do this themselves. Plus, this is not your area of expertise. It’s ideal if you have a dedicated marketing/sales professional in-house who handles all these kinds of activities for you. If you do not, it makes sense to hire an external dental SEO specialist.
However, if you would like to give your own dental SEO a go, there are three main areas I would suggest you focus on:
These are the search results that appear organically on Google. This is where most of your traffic will come from, as these results are the ones most trusted by customers. It can take around 9-12 months to get your dental website to the top of Google, but the results will be huge once you’re up there.
You will need to develop a really strong content marketing strategy and release quality new content regularly. These will need to be keyword-rich and engaging for the types of customers you want to attract.
You will then need to work on getting backlinks to your website. Remember, you want quality over quantity, so think about all the most influential dental websites out there, which have thousands of traffic to it already. You most likely want to get a backlink from those types of websites. Or, directory websites in your area – the ones listing the top businesses where your dental practice is. If you can get them to list your business as one of the top dentists in the city and have a link back to your website, this will be amazing for your organic SEO!
Getting new customers for your dental practice often relies on local marketing due to customers preferring a local dentist. Most people typically search for a dentist that is close to their home to their place of work. Therefore, you want your dental practice to rank highly on Google Maps.
If you try searching for a local business in your area, you will notice that Google gives you suggestions of businesses in a Google Maps widget on the search results page. Google suggests three local businesses fitting the search term you entered – these results are called the Local 3 pack.
If you can get your dental website ranking on Google Maps so that it shows up in the Local 3 Pack when you search for dentist keywords on Google, then you will be sure to see your traffic increase significantly.
Getting ranked highly on YouTube seems like it would be irrelevant for dentists, but this is a great way to increase your Google rankings. Remember, YouTube is owned by Google! So, if you rank highly on YouTube, it will have a direct impact on your SEO rankings.
Having video tutorials or testimonials on YouTube only solidifies your brand and builds trust to those searching for relevant keywords. When these keywords are searched in Google, your relevant YouTube videos will show up as rich cards in the search engine results pages.
How to create a successful dental SEO strategy
If you were to Google “how to create a successful SEO strategy”, there will probably be hundreds of results, all telling you different things. At the end of the day, your best strategy will be based on the customers you want to attract and what type of dental practice you want to run.
However, there are three main areas where I would suggest you focus:
You know that old saying about not building a house on bad foundations? It’s a bit like that with SEO. You cannot spend months producing great content and an amazing backlink profile, only to send traffic to a shoddy website!
Remember, a search engine crawls the internet to find relevant web pages for its search results. So, it needs to find your pages, scan them to understand what they’re about and identify their keywords. It then indexes these pages, adding them to a database of all the content on the internet. The search engine’s algorithm then decides on what pages to display in its results.
So, the first thing you need to do is ensure that Google can even find your website and “read” it properly. The problem is that Google doesn’t view a website in the same way that you and I would. We see the graphics, the colours, great imagery and cool effects. Search engines only see text. So, even if the website looks amazing to us, search engines may not be able to obtain any indexable data from it.
Therefore, in the technical setup, I would ensure the following are all set up correctly:
Website navigation and links: the search engine crawlers follow links, so ensure that the navigation of the website is clear.
Simple URL structure: these crawlers don’t like lengthy URLs, so keep them short, have the main keyword in them and make them clear to follow.
Page speed: search engines view that the quicker a page loads, the better quality it is, so work on your Google Page Speeds score!
Dead links: if a search engine crawler finds a link and it goes to a 404 page, they will see your site as outdated and not good quality. Get rid of these links ASAP!
Sitemap/Robot.txt files: your sitemap is a text file that simply lists all the URLs on your website. You need to ensure you have one uploaded as search engines look at it to decide what pages to index. The robots.txt file tells the search engines what not to index, in case you want certain pages hidden from search results.
Whenever someone is searching for something on a search engine, they’re looking for content in some shape or form. So, it may just be the opening hours of your dental surgery, whether you perform specific dental surgery, blog posts, videos or directions to your surgery.
All of this is content. And content is the king of SEO.
This is because content is what customers want when they are searching for something. So, if you provide what your customers are looking for, the more visibility you will get and more Google will promote your site. Google uses this content to determine how to rank your site – the more relevant your content is to the customer’s search query, the higher you will rank.
We will discuss content ideas in the following sections.
As discussed, no web page will rank without two major SEO factors – relevance and authority. Google aims to provide the best possible service to its users by making website suggestions which are the most relevant to their queries, but also popular too. Google is somewhat like people in that sense – it thinks that popular = better.
So, a website popularity is measured by how many visits it gets, but also by how many links it has pointing towards it. This is why it’s important to build your backlink profile – to show Google how popular your dental website is!
The 5 pillars for successful dental SEO
In my many years as a dental SEO professional, I have tried many techniques to get all the websites to that number 1 spot on Google. I have determined that no matter where the dental office is held, or the size of the dental practice, there are 5 pillars for successful dental SEO and I am sharing these with you below:
Since we’ve said content is king, we want to produce good quality content that is relevant for our users. You don’t just want any visitors on your dental website – you want to attract people who are potentially interested in becoming registered dental patients.
This is only possible if your dental website ranks for the keywords that these people, located close to your office, are searching for.
Therefore, good dental SEO starts with discovering what phrases your potential new customers enter into search engines.
How to find keywords
One of the questions I get asked the most is “where do I find the relevant SEO keywords for my dental website?” There are many resources out there, but one of the best places is Google Ads Keyword Planner, as it’s completely free to use. Most people worry that you can only use it if you’re running Google Ads, but you can still do the research and not run the ads or spend any credit!
SEMrush Keyword Tool is another great tool, providing really detailed insights into keywords and tons of other SEO data, but their subscription costs from $99 per month.
Of course, you can also use your own intuition. You know what your customers are looking for – try searching some manual terms and see what other related keywrods come up.
How to classify keywords by intent
A digital marketing evangelist at Google, Avinash Kaushik, developed a really interesting model that helps us optimise content for organic search.
It’s known as the SEE, THINK, DO, CARE model.
SEE: The largest addressable qualified audience – anyone who could sign up to be a customer at your dental practice.
THINK: The largest addressable qualified audience with some commercial intent – anyone who could sign up to be a customer at your dental practice who is already showing some intention of becoming a customer.
DO: The largest addressable qualified audience with lots of commercial intent – anyone who could sign up to be a customer at your dental practice who already knows what they’re looking for and perhaps just wants confirmation that your dental practice provides this.
CARE: Your existing customers.
If you can breakdown your keywords into one of these four categories, you can create specific content tailored to each of these audiences.
Expanding on what we discussed when determining a dental SEO strategy, you need to ensure your dental website is technically sound. This means, there should be absolutely no errors found when running a technical SEO audit. The most typical errors are broken pages and broken links, which are an easy fix, plus the fact that the website isn’t even indexed! Ensure you have a sitemap uploaded onto your website and that it’s connected to Google Webmasters.
Other important technical SEO factors are the page load speed. Many things affect the load time of your website, but the common culprits are usually large images uploaded to the website and a poor website hosting company. Improving both of these can drastically increase the speed of your website.
Duplicate content is a serious problem when it comes to SEO, as the bots who are indexing your web pages just do not know which results they should be showing. A lot of the time, duplicate content is accidental and there are ways to fix these, including added 301 redirects, using canonical links and not indexing certain pages.
A lot of people,including myself, consider on-page SEO the most important part of a dental SEO strategy, because search engines analyse website pages and so if you’re optimising these website pages directly, then it should have a positive effect on your dental SEO!
On-page SEO means optimising all the elements of your website that the search engine detects as text:
- Content / Keywords
- Site architecture & URL structure
- Title Tags
- Meta descriptions
- Header Tags
- Image descriptions / Alt text
- Outbound links
- Internal links
As you guessed it, off-page SEO are all the factors that help contribute to your SEO ranking that are not within your website. So, it’s no surprise that building a solid backlink profile is one of the most important off-page SEO strategies.
However, this is not the only type of off-page SEO that’s important. Social media is a huge part of a good dental SEO strategy. Many businesses use social media as a way of increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. There’s no reason why your dental practice cannot do the same.
It’s not just your own social media profiles you should be looking at though, as you can find out a lot about potential customers by monitoring social signals on other profiles about the type of dentists that customers are looking for.
Monitoring what people say about your dental practice is important for your brand’s reputation. If something not so factual is out there on the internet, it could be harming your image. You need to get on top of it right away. This is why reputation management is a huge part of dental SEO too. A way to positively impact this is to get reviews for your business across various platforms, to help build trust in your dental services.
Google My Business Profile
Talking of reviews, one of the most powerful places you can collect reviews is in your Google My Business Profile. They will immediately show up as soon as someone googles your dental practice.
Also on your Google My Business profile, you can detail all the relevant information about your practice:
- Opening hours
- Website address
- Services offered
- What offers are on
Keeping this stuff up to date is something Google looks upon positively.
Content strategy for dentists
Whilst Google robots crawl your site for data and pick up on your content to show to their users, they are just the gateway to deliver the content you provide. The end-user is your customer, and this is who the content should be written for.
There are many self-proclaimed SEO experts who are spreading false information that content should just be created for bots and humans don’t actually want to read content. This couldn’t be further from the truth – people are not interested in poor content that has no value! A great piece of content that perfectly matches the search intent of the user and resolves all their questions will be hugely influential on that user and put your brand in good standing with them.
Don’t you think that potential dental patients in your area will be very thankful to find helpful pages or blogs on your dental website that explain specific treatments in detail? If you can provide value to your local audience over and over again, you will build trust and brand awareness. If, every time they search dental related topics your website comes up, then when it’s time to choose a new dentist, you will be in a very good position to land the business of this patient. Plus, these people who have been searching for your content can also spread the word about your dental practice.
What type of content needs to be created to rank highly on page 1 of Google?
Depending on the nature of the keyword, different types of content will likely be displayed by Google. Therefore, in order to find out what type of content is best to create, highly skilled SEO professionals use a technique called SERP intent analysis.
Let’s take a look at three examples to show you how different types of keywords about the same topic trigger three different types of search results. The reason for the variety of these results is the so-called search intent. E.g. what problem or need the searcher wants to actually resolve.
Cost of dental implants
Since the search term is asking specifically about the cost of dental implants, the user is most likely already considering a dental implant treatment and wants to learn more about the costs involved.
These searches will mostly show results that discuss the variety of costs involved in dental implant treatment. For example, standard costs and what sort of requirements could cause these costs to fluctuate.
Type of content that should be produced
Looking at the SERPs for this term, the results show in-depth guides that clearly explain the costs of a dental implant treatment from A-Z. Therefore, if you want to compete with this search term, you will need to produce a guide of similar detail and perhaps include some graphics, tables or other stats that the readers can refer to. They can then get a good overview of the involved costs, broken down into the stages of the treatment e.g. planning phase, surgical phase, prosthetic phase.
Dental implant procedure explanation
With this search term, users are likely to be interested in more information about what’s involved in a dental implant procedure. Perhaps they’ve just heard the term and are curious about what it is, or they have been recommended one and they want to know more about what’s involved.
These dental customers won’t have much buying intention at the moment, depending on the information that is found.
Type of content that should be produced
Since the customer is not showing that much buying intention at the moment, you want to provide a very clear and easy-to-understand guide to the dental implant procedure so that you give them confidence in what you’re doing.
It’s no surprise that people will want something more visual, so it’s a good idea to provide a graphical guide, and if possible, a video. You will also have more chances of ranking for this competitive keyword with video content. A text-heavy, complicated guide will only put the customer off, as it will make the procedure sound a lot scarier than it is!
Dental implants Phoenix, Arizona
People searching for such a keyword indicate two things: they are looking for dental implants and they are looking in Phoenix. It is likely they have a strong intent to undergo this procedure – either for themselves, or they want to book an appointment for someone else.
All of the search engine results will show dental websites which offer dental implants in Phoenix.
Type of content that should be produced
Targeting this type of customer is perfect with a custom landing page about dental implants in Phoenix, Arizona. This landing page will let your customers know all about what type of dental implants you offer, how to go about the procedure and what previous customers have said about the service.
By showing off social proof, your years of experience, visual evidence of successful dental implants placed and customer testimonials, you will build up great confidence in what you do.
Dental SEO trends 2020, 2021 and beyond
The complicated thing about dental SEO is that trends are always changing and Google views different factors with more weight at different points in time. Therefore, it’s important to keep up with the trends so that you can stay ahead of your competitors.
2020 has been a strange year, but I predict that there will be certain trends in the dental SEO game that will get even more popular in the coming months. I cover these below:
Since 2016, Google has been really pushing for mobile-first indexing. They gave penalties for non-responsive sites then, but now, they’ve officially announced that from September 2020, they will make mobile-first indexing the default.
Therefore, it’s more important than ever to ensure your mobile site is showcasing the relevant data and it’s fully optimised.
Stats show that 41% of adults make at least one voice search per day. This makes sense with the amount of users who are using mobile devices to search. With more devices like Amazon’s Alexa which produce voice search results, you need to start optimising your content for voice search.
You can do this by including content with questions and answers in your website. This can easily be done for your dental website by including an FAQ page!
EAT relates to Domain Authority – it used to all be about links, but now Google evaluates your site based on Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness… EAT!
Therefore, your content needs to be written by experts in your field. Be transparent and get cited and you will increase your EAT profile.
Why wouldn’t people want to be patients of an expert dentist?!
This ultimate guide to dental SEO is an extremely comprehensive guide to SEO, so that you can do your own SEO should you want to. However, it is a time-consuming and complicated process. So, if you ever have any questions, or want to hire a dedicated dental SEO professional, then please do not hesitate to get in touch!