5 Tips for your Local Dental SEO
Running a dental practice and collecting leads for new business is often seen as one of the more difficult conundrums dental professionals face in the field. Add to that the difficulty of using SEO optimization to bring in new patients, and things start to really get tricky.
Not only do you have to address your current patient’s needs, but you also have to manage the SEO activities of your business as well. On top of all of this, you also have to keep up with the new best practices when it comes to getting the word out about your dental office online.
If you have time to be a tech savvy dentist, then you might have an idea on how to make search engine optimization work for your practice, but even for the tech-oriented and local SEO-skilled, achieving an appropriate level of expertise can be daunting to say the least.
Many business owners correctly have the impression that if you want a successful SEO-centric business, you’ll have to have directory listings. For those who don’t know, directory listings include sites like Yellowpages.com, Yelp, Angieslist, and Foursquare.
Your practice’s presence on these types of sites is very important, especially when considering the local market. An increasing amount of consumers go to these sites first in order to find new services like dental work, so utilizing these can and will help you attain new business leads. Before this can work for you, you’ll need to execute a few important steps to ensure that you’re using these services properly.
Let’s take a look a look at five important tips that you can use for your improving your local dental SEO. Each of these five steps is important for the local SEO health of your business, and they can all help you bring new patients into your dental business.
Optimizing your Listings For Consistency and Accuracy
What is NAP+W? NAP+W or just NAP is very important for local SEO because it stands for all of the aspects of your practice’s online presence that will help bring in new patients which includes the name of your practice, the location of your office, a phone number where you can be reached, and your practice’s website. As you might imagine, these serve as the cornerstone of creating leads from prospective patients who are looking for dental services online.
As it turns out, it’s this area of local SEO that many dental professionals and businesses in general run into problems.
How often do you change your number or even your location as a dental practitioner? As any dentist will tell you, numbers and information can change fairly consistently because there can be cheaper plans, more office space, etc. but what happens then?
Unfortunately, based on a 2013 study performed by ConstantContact’s SinglePlatform division, around 50 percent of businesses never actually update their online listings when they change. The result is inaccurate and inconsistent information about local businesses in SEO. While the overwhelming majority of these businesses know that they have incorrect listings online, many owners say that they don’t correct the discrepancies because of a heavy workload.
Any inaccuracy will drive customers to another local practice, especially if your website or address is inaccurate.
While this might seem problematic due to lost or confused potential patients, the results are much direr from an SEO point of view.
Google and directory services rank businesses based on current information and the chief negative ranking factor for a local business is internet spiders finding that a “listing detected at false business location.” This result will instantly down rank your business in Google search results; and as you already must know, losing page rank is one of the worst things that can happen to your practice from an SEO standpoint.
Having said this, clearly accuracy is paramount when managing your business’s listings.
Let’s take a look at how accuracy and consistency in NAP+W can really matter to your local dental practice.
Suffice to say, when local search engines perform searches for a business, an accurate NAP+W provides confirmation that a business is on the level. In order to achieve the highest ranking for accuracy, you’ll need to be sure that every aspect of your business’s information aligns flawlessly with the data presented online.
With NAP+W in mind, you’ll have to pay attention to minutiae. If your practice is named, for example, DR. Williams & Son’s Orthodontics, you might not consider the slight difference of having listed your office’s citation as DR. William’s Orthodontics as that was the former name. Unfortunately, this seemingly slight discrepancy between your practice as cited on the search engines and your businesses actual name will cause havoc with search engine results and ranking.
All of the data for your business as it pertains to the local landscape has to be mastered. This mastered data must all point to the same location so that you don’t have inaccuracies that can spell disaster for your overall page ranking.
Your information must be the same across platforms. It simply won’t do for your practice’s information to be displayed as 1 Center Street on Foursquare but have your Facebook point social media users to 1 Centre Street. Everywhere your business appear should have the same unified information, which of course can take a long time to ensure, but the effort is worth it for your SEO results.
This will mean that every time your business changes in some way, you’ll need to change the information on every applicable platform, from Yelp to what’s presented on the local business blog of your area. This is in no way an easy process with the huge amount of directory services on the internet today. In order to get this done, you might want to consider hiring someone who can track down and change applicable information so that your local SEO is consistent.
Before you decide to execute this level of citation remediation, take the time to consider whether your business has changed any of its information at all. If it doesn’t, you don’t have to do any work at all, save for maybe adding new citations to broaden your potential reach.
On the other hand, if you find that it does have changes, you’ll want to find all the local citations for your dental practice so that you can ensure that all of your information across the internet is consistent across all sources.
NAP+W Isn’t All You Should Look out For When it Come to Directory Listings
As mentioned, it’s a great idea to have your name, address, phone, and website in the local directory services of your area. This being said, this isn’t the only information that you should have about your business on these services. Many dental practices nationwide don’t quite take full advantage of the opportunity that these directory services have to offer.
For ranking purposes, you’ll want to have the most thorough description available for your business in order to garner page rank. Just like with any other SEO, providing unique attributes that are more easily searchable will only help your practice’s business. Once again, this will take extra work that can be a bit mundane, but the rewards are well worth the tedium. Look at it this way; don’t you want your potential patients to see a little more information about your dental practice than its physical location?
As a matter of fact, many studies indicate that customers have a tendency to search for more deep-dive information when searching for a business. For a dental practice, these can include your hours of operation, your dental website, a breakdown of specialized dental procedures, patient testimonials, and forms of payment that patients can use to pay their bill. Each of these points of information answers a valuable customer question that will help you net new patients.
If you hit these (and more) points of information, it’ll augment the value of your SEO experience. With this in mind, provide as much information in your online citation as you can so that potential customers can pore through it in order to find your dental practice.
Engage Your Customers on Their Social News Feeds
Did you know that your dental business can absolutely kill it online without having a dedicated site or blog?
Amazingly, local SEO as generated by a dedicated site only represents about 18.8 percent of the potential SEO performance of a local business. All your site needs is to be searchable and have some sort of online presence, and local SEO can still net you success.
Consider a 2013 survey completed by Moz. On this survey, the company generated the above 18.8 percent estimation. Some of the other pieces of the pie include a 6.3 percent valuation on social signals like Facebook likes and Twitter followers, an entire 14.4 percent from anchor text and linking domains. An interesting 16 percent comes from the very citations that we mentioned previously like Yelp listings and local directories. Another 19.6 percent comes from local searches via keyword.
As you can see, having a dedicated dental page is great, but it’s far from the only game in town.
In order to get the word out about your practice, you should also make sure that you have your business active in other places like directory services and on social media. As a matter of fact, social media is actually gaining in this regard and many users utilize Facebook to accurately track what people are saying about the businesses that they are interested in.
As a result of this, social pages are starting to become more like the actual website of dental professionals. These pages incorporate the directory-style interface that’s present on pages like Yelp while also serving as a portal to interact with a dental office’s staff.
Just by searching for a dentist’s office, a user can find all of the information they need due to the office being present in social pages and directory listings. This can include reviews, proximity, a picture of the outside of your practice, its number, and office hours. Google doesn’t pull this information from your site; it pulls it directly from places like Yelp and social feeds.
Campaign for Reviews from Your Patients
As with any business, you’ll grow if you learn how to sell your services to a wider audience. This is why local search is great for your practice because, for the most part, it’s under your direct control.
As you are the one creating your local listings, optimizing your practice on Google My Business, and promoting your Facebook account to your patients, you know what it takes to achieve a higher local page ranking through local SEO.
There is one aspect that you don’t have direct control over: how your patients review your dental practice. Reviews that are posted on directory pages like Foursquare or Yelp are recognized on Google, so if you have a five star rating on those sites, potential customers will see that when they do searches for “the best orthodontic surgeon in Poughkeepsie.” You can’t directly control what people are going to say in their reviews or the star rating that you’ll receive in these reviews, but you can actually encourage them to go out there and write one.
To get your patients to post and review on sites like these, you can provide free services like teeth cleanings or free dental checkups. You can also have them do things such as liking your Facebook page or tweet at your office’s twitter account.
All of these things will help you get more traction and build potential leads for your business. Imagine having a patient post about their great experience at your office on social media; their friends will then see that there is a great local option for dental work in their area, possibly netting you new patients.
Reviews and patient testimonials are an important factor of localized SEO, so it’s ok to effectively beg your patients for their reviews on sites that matter to your practice. Of course you want to be tasteful and not seem desperate, but nudging your patients in the right direction towards a positive review can only help your local SEO efforts. Remember, Google actually up-ranks businesses that have better reviews, so if you have more reviews, the better SEO value your business will inherently have.
Utilizing Hyperlocal SEO: There Goes the Neighborhood
Recently, Google has utilized the neighborhood algorithm. This technology, termed “pigeon,” connects web search and map search more seamlessly and will return better results for searches that use a colloquial term for a specific area and those that use a more recognized terminology.
As you may know, local areas can often be hard to search for in a standard search engine. For example, an area of the neighborhood might be called something totally different by the locals than what it is named in a standard Google search.
Your dental practice can actually take advantage of this differential by using the colloquial name for your local neighborhood to help differentiate it from your competitor’s practices. This way, you can generate leads based on web searches that are refined down to a local neighborhood. You should do this in addition to your officially recognized neighborhood so that you can double-dip when it comes to local SEO.
According to an article by Andrew Shortland of Search Engine Land, you can take advantage of local search by:
- Adding the colloquial name of your neighborhood into the description at the end of your Google My Business page. For example, “DR. Williams & Son’s Orthodontics Riverside District”.
- You can add the neighborhood name directly to the description on your Google My Business page as well.
- Mention the neighborhood name within the text somewhere on your website.
- Update your title tags to indicate the colloquial name for your neighborhood on your dental site.
- Check Google Maps to see if it has the colloquial name for your neighborhood. If it doesn’t, simply submit an update.
- Update your colloquial neighborhood name in all of your NAP+W citations as well.
This type of optimization for neighborhoods is still fairly new, so you’re in a great position to really capitalize on the potential SEO benefits of these hyperlocal search refinement best practices.
Standard SEO practices are a great way to bolster the leads coming into your practice, but it takes a little more refinement to fully capitalize on the potential benefits of local SEO. As a matter of fact, you may find that you’ll need to completely rework your preconceived notions of what is best for your practice when it comes to its online profile. Simply put, local businesses thrive when taking local SEO best practices into account.