In the dental marketing space there are a lot of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies trying to get doctor's attentions. They use a lot of tactics to get your dollars and claim they can do local SEO for dentists. Here is how SEO is done and what you should expect from your SEO company.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is managing your web presence so that more patients find your local business. This is different from regular SEO which is: managing your web presence so more people come to your website. Notice the focus:
Local SEO is about getting people to your local business.
The purpose of Local SEO is different from SEO, so Local SEO uses some different tactics than regular SEO.
How to do Local SEO for Dentists.
There is a long list of things that we do,2 but they can be summarized in a few categories:
This is what most people think about when they hear about local SEO for dentists. Website SEO involves making your website more attractive to search engines. There are a few things you need to do to accomplish this:
Content – If you want to rank for fillings, then you had better have at least one page about fillings on your website. As a dentist you want to rank for things people might be searching for (dental implants, teeth whitening, etc.).3 Content includes text, pictures, videos and even interactive elements.
Unique – This has become more important as time goes on. Your content needs to be unique.4 If Google finds two sites with the same page, they'll rank the one they think is the original. If you are already the original this isn't a worry.
Useful – There are a few factors that make one page of content more useful than others. Since search engines aren't personally reading your website, they need simple indicators that will tell them if a page is useful. These include images, videos and a well-structured length of content. A wall of text just won't cut it.
User Interface (UI) – If your site is easy to use and nice to look at, people will stay longer and come back more often. Similar to mobile friendly (below), UI is important to your website.
Authoritative – This takes useful content and makes it even more valuable. Authority can be created by increasing the length of a page, adding more images/videos, adding annotations/citations (outgoing links), and getting links from other related sites (incoming links).
Mobile – More than half of all searches are on mobile phones and sometimes more so for local business search. This is why you need a mobile friendly website.5
Code – This can include the Meta Title, Meta Description, Meta Keywords (not so much), Open Graph, Twitter Cards, Schema and other back-end stuff.6 These are mostly signals and indicators that only Search Engines see.
The Ideal Page - A web page written by an expert that is:
Easy to read.
Well structured with headings, lists, links, etc. (not just a wall of text).
Has unique, useful images related to the topic.
Has a video better explaining the topic.
Has links & citations to source material.
Has incoming links from related pages & sites.
Long (at least 2000 words).
Has interactive content (a poll, game, etc.).
Well designed with less distractions, like advertisements or a large banner at the top.
Online Directories (Citations)
This is something unique to local SEO for dentists. Local directories are where you can find listings for local businesses. The more you are listed in the more confident a person can be that you exist. The more consistent your Name, Address & Phone (NAP) is across these directories, the more confident a person (or search engine) can be in that information.7 Most can be submitted to by a bulk listing service, however there are some that should be handled manually:
Yelp – Currently the website with the most valued reviews.
Google – Reviews also valuable here.
Bing – A verified listing with good influence.
Facebook – Becoming more valuable.
Healthgrades – Industry related verified listing.
Manta – Industry related verified listing.
Verified listings are important because their accuracy can be trusted. Search engines can then give more weight to their information and reviews. We use bulk submission systems to hit as many directories as possible with consistent, accurate data.
Regular SEO would have lumped these into the directories section, but for Local SEO they deserve their own section. Social media is important in regular SEO because it gives an indicator of how people interact with a business.8 Depending upon the industry, local businesses might have a very active social media presence. Most do not, and reviews make a great substitute for that lack of engagement.
Positive reviews are a way for the public to give their opinion on your business and those reviews are handled differently depending on the service they are posted on:
Google Reviews – Google knows who made the review based on their Google account.
Yelp Reviews – Anyone can see how many reviews a person has left on Yelp. The more reviews, the more valuable their review. If the person is leaving their first review, it might be filtered from your listing entirely (till they get more authority).
Facebook Reviews – These were less valuable, but Facebook has been making great strides in verifying the accuracy of business information. This makes their reviews and listings much more valuable.
Other Directories – Getting reviews on the top 3 should be hard enough. Getting a few on other established services could be helpful, but shouldn't take up too much of your resources.
Review Services – Some marketing services say they will help you get reviews. Be careful, many of those reviews will be on their own website and the reviews will go away when you stop paying them.
How long does Local SEO take?
Here's a question no one answers honestly. Here is the most honest answer you will get: We don't know. Our best guess is we can get you to page 1 in about 6 months, but local SEO for dentists can vary by as much as 6 months.
Google makes manual changes to their algorithm at least monthly. They have now added a smart algorithm that updates their algorithm that can make changes instantly. There are so many factors that affect ranking that it's hard to predict which one needs to be appeased to rank properly. Here's a few anecdotes:
Content – We had done everything to get a client's site ranked. They had well optimized content with all the meta bells and whistles. Images, video and after six months they still weren't on page one. We decided to increase the amount of content on the site which meant doubling the number of pages. We were nearly to that mark when the client suddenly jumped up onto page one of Google search.
Uniqueness – The client had a lot of content on their site. Plenty of images and some of that link-y goodness. After eight months we couldn't get them ranked. We decided to check the uniqueness of content (before people knew this was a significant ranking factor) and it came back as 30% unique. We rewrote some key pages bringing the site up to 60% and they jumped to the bottom of page one.
Launch – We launched a site for a brand new dental practice in a major city that was hard to rank for. Did two months of SEO on it and the client canceled all SEO services (though they kept their webhosting with us). At the end of month two they were on page one of Google search.
Those were extreme examples of what can happen. The most common results are we get to work on a site and it jumps up to page 3 within a month or two. We continue to work and in another month or two we're at the top of page 2 for the primary search and we start to see secondary searches start ranking on page 1. By month 4 to 6 the site shows up at the bottom of page 1 and then begins the slow climb to the top.
"Anyone who guarantees ranking in a period of time is lying." – Evan Davis, SEO Manager
There are many SEO companies that employ this tactic of promising results. Here are some of their tactics:
Or it's free! – Sign up for a 6 month contract and if we don't get you to #1 the next 6 months are free. They charge you twice the price and don't care if you get ranked or not.
The Checklist – They've got an easy checklist of SEO things to do that works often enough for them. They do it all in the first month and never touch your site again (unless they need to prove they did).
Cherry Picking – There are 1000 ways to SEO a site and no company does 100% of them in the first year. These companies check your site for 1000 things and tell you the 100 your existing SEO company is not.
Joe Genco at the WEO Booth
Can I do SEO Myself?
There is a lot you can do and it will move the needle. The expertise our SEO staff has, is the ability to diagnose what-is and what-is-not working. We keep up with the industry changes, but in a lot of cases the industry hasn't caught up to what we've learned working on websites day-in and day-out on local SEO for dentists. That said, here are things you can do that is much harder for us SEO folk to do:
What happens after my site is #1?
We get this one a lot. We spend 6 months working on a client and now they've been #1 for a year. "Why do we need you anymore, we're number one?" SEO is not a goal, it's a race with no finish line. We don't stop SEO because you rank #1 and neither should you.
More and more companies are paying for SEO the can catch up quickly. As we continue to do local SEO for dentists, we stay ahead by adding more content and doing the things that are less important. We do all the tasks that give us the most ranking benefit for the time we put in. As time goes on the benefit we get from each task goes down. Getting a verified listing on some obscure dental directory doesn't add a lot of value, but if your competitor has done everything else it could be worth it.
If you look at it in percentages there's 100% of things you can do, but the best things will get you 30%, 25%, 15%, 10% of the way there. When you're at 95% and your competitor is 94.9%, that link from the chamber of commerce might get you to 95.1% keeping you ahead of them. Dropping SEO could give them the time to get to 95.2% and put them ahead of you. You still have all the value of 95.1%, but they kept doing more.
Local SEO Metrics
How do you keep track of how you are doing? Unfortunately Google has slowly been taking away data from us SEO folk, but there are still many metrics that can show this information.
Organic Traffic – This is a measure of the number of visitors to your site that identify as coming from a Search Engine. We used to know what keyphrases these people searched with but that has now become "(not provided)" in Google Analytics.
Phone Calls – We place a tracking number on our SEO Client's websites and directories. This is usually the closest we can get to knowing how many new customers a client is getting. It also helps us diagnose some Local SEO specific behaviors like: Ranking in the Local Block will cause a sudden drop in Organic Traffic. This is because the local block is above organic results and people tend to engage with your listing there instead of your website. So, if your calls stay the same or improve and your organic traffic drops, this is probably the cause.
Total Traffic – This is a measure of everyone who came to your site from any source.9
Landing Pages – These are the first page landed on by a visitor. As you rank for more different types of searches, this number should increase.
Search Impressions – Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) tracks how many searches your site shows up in (ie. impressions). This is not how many times someone clicked on your site, just a measure of opportunity. As you rank better and for more terms this number should (but not always) increase.
Aggregate Ranking – GWT also shows your average ranking for searches. We have found that individual raking can be inaccurate or vary too much to be trusted, but the aggregate ranking for a period of time still seems to be a useful metric.
Reviews – The more reviews the better…always.
Most importantly, can you talk to the person actually who does your SEO? That is an uncommon thing in this industry. They might not be able to tell you what's going on off the top of their head, but just being able to talk to them is enough to know they are assigned to you and are accountable for your site's success.
The SEO Team Andy, Evan, David, Bryce & Jay
WEO Media has been serving the dental industry since 2009. Our current SEO staff has an average of 7 years of experience per person. We know SEO, we love SEO and we are continually figuring out new ways to get our clients ranked. Why not give us a call to learn more about our services? We know how to do local SEO for dentists.
Traffic Sources – When a visitor lands on a website their browser tells them where they came from. Here are some of these sources:
Organic Traffic are visitors that arrive on your site from a Search Engine.
Referral Traffic are visitors that arrived on your site from another website (not including search engines or social media).
Social Media Traffic is visitors from social media sites including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.
Direct Traffic is supposed to be people who came directly to your site by entering your domain name into their browser. It has now become anyone who arrived on your site that didn't identify where they came from.
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