You want to grow your dental practice, but you need more visitors to your website, right?
New patient enquiries (aka leads) that come from search engines are hands down the most powerful type of enquiries after word-of-mouth referrals.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of implementing tactics to increase the number of targeted visitors to a website by obtaining a high rank in search results.
It’s estimated that 80% of all clicks go to the “organic” results on Google.
Unlike paid search advertising, once you build trust with Google, increase visibility and rank within the search results, you receive a consistent stream of high-quality, pre-qualified website visitors free of charge. These visitors are looking for a solution and are close to being ready to take action.
They’re gold dust.
When done correctly (and within Google’s terms of service), SEO is a long-term growth strategy that will pay dividends for years to come.
We live in a digital age where 93% of online searches begin with typing keywords, like “dentists near me” into a search engine.
Google is continuously improving their system to ensure that they deliver the most relevant, high-quality content to respond to their users’ search.
SEO is a competitive game; there are only ~13 spots on page one of Google (including the three map results) and your competitors are fighting just as hard as you are to take one of them.
But the reward of a top position (combined with some smart tactics), can catapult your practice growth.
SEO has gained somewhat of a bad wrap over the years with Cowboys in the market using shortcuts to cheat Google and get clients’ websites penalised, whilst over promising and under delivering.
This post will to cut through all of the haze and give you a step-by-step guide to getting started with SEO and allow you to benchmark how your current SEO efforts stack up.
Let’s get to it.
There are two types of SEO; Local SEO and Organic SEO.
Local SEO focuses on ranking your Google My Business listing (Google Maps listing) in the local stack that appears when a local search query (keyword) is entered into Google:
Organic SEO targets the website results below the local stack:
The ultimate aim is to rank your Google My Business listing and website for keywords your target patients are typing into Google.
Before you can start to optimise your site, you need to understand what your target patients are typing into Google (keywords) and make a decision on what keywords you want to appear for.
This is known as Keyword Research.
There are different ways of completing keyword research, some more advanced than others.
To get you started, here are three techniques that give you a comprehensive list of keywords to choose from:
– Google Keyword Planner
Google records every search a user makes and allows you to access it in a tool they call Google Keyword Planner. Here’s a YouTube video to get you started with Google Keyword Planner:
– Competitor Analysis
As the famous saying goes; don’t reinvent the wheel. Your competitors’ websites that are already ranked can give you valuable insight into what keywords are effective!
The first step is to search Google for what you would enter to find a specific treatment or private dentist in your area, then take a look at the top results and see what they have used in the titles of their pages.
A more advanced solution is using a tool like SEMRush to see which keywords are generating the most traffic to your competitors’ websites.
This doesn’t always work on low traffic sites but it is worth checking.
– Google Search Suggest
An underused and very useful way of seeing what people are searching for, is the suggested ‘search function’ on Google itself.
When you type a search query into Google, you will notice it suggests different searches, these are based on what people are actually searching and are more up to date than the keyword planner.
– Google Search Console
If you already have Google Search Console setup on your website (ask your website manager), Google will tell you what keywords people have been searching to find your site.
Make a list of your core treatments and carry out keyword research for each one. Compile a list of all the relevant keywords that also have an explicit intent to buy.
By this, I mean focus on keywords like “Invisalign provider in Birmingham” or “private dentist Croydon” where there is clear intent they are looking to take action.
Once you have this list, go back to the Google Keyword Planner and enter them all in to get the estimated search volume.
Now it’s time to choose your target keywords.
Don’t get blinded by traffic volume!
Whilst it’s important that your target keywords have a good number of people searching for them, you want to marry this with clear intent to take action.
TIP: The suggested bid is a good indication of the value of that keyword, as this is what your competitors (and maybe you included) are paying Google for every click on the paid results.
The idea is: if people are paying that amount, it must be good quality traffic.
If you stick to local keywords, with a clear intent to buy, you should be good. In more dense areas like London or Manchester, look for keywords around your immediate local area.
There are two primary sides to SEO. These are On-page and Off-page.
On-page SEO is about helping search engines figure out what a page on your website is about and how it is useful for users. The better optimised a page is for its target keywords, the more likely it is to show higher in the search results.
There are on-page optimisation factors from beginner level right through to advanced. Today, we are going to focus on the 20% of actions that produces 80% of the results!
1. Group your keywords into tight groups of intent and design a website page structure that allows you to target each group with one page.
Main keyword: dental implants in Birmingham
Supporting keywords (variations aka LSI keywords):
TIP: A great way to find what Google considers closely related to your main keyword, is to search Google for the main keyword and look at the “searches related” section at the bottom of the page:
We might group all of these keywords and target them with a page: www.yourpractice.com/dental-implants
Do this for all your keywords, and you should start to see a website structure forming.
TIP: An excellent way to manage this is by using a Google Sheet or Excel Document and planning your site structure against your target keyword groups.
2. Include your main keyword at the start of your title tag
The clickable link that shows in the Google is known as the page title or META title.
The title of the page defines its content and holds more weight if it is at the start of the title.
That said, do not stuff your titles with keywords! This is seen as spammy. Instead, write a title that gives the user a reason to click your link.
e.g. Dental Implants in Birmingham – Award Winning Practice
You will notice when a title is too long, Google cuts it off with a …
There have been recently updated to how Google displays titles and their length but if you stick to under 60 characters you should be okay.
3. Use your main target keyword in the page URL
SEO friendly URLs that include your target keyword is another way of letting Google know what the page is about.
That said, keep it straightforward and clean.
If we were targeting “dental implants in Birmingham” I would choose to use www.yourpractice.com/dental-implants/ and let Google figure out you’re in Birmingham from the page’s content, title and other signals such as your Google My Business listing.
You will see webmasters including location in all their URLs, but we have found this to be less and less effective and a little spammy.
4. Seed your keyword into the first 100 words of content on the page
You want to ensure that your target keywords are used throughout the content on the page.
However! A word of warning, make sure it is appropriate, makes sense and is natural to do so.
Repeating your target keywords unnaturally is going to result in your website being penalised. Remember, Google wants you to deliver REAL value to the user, don’t compromise this by keyword stuffing your content.
Write quality content that delivers real value, include your target keywords where appropriate and you should be all good.
5. Write click-worthy meta descriptions
The META description is the text that shows below the title in the search results:
While the META description does not directly affect on-page SEO (Google’s words), it is your opportunity to sell why someone should click your link, over the competitors on the same page.
We also advise including your target keyword (where appropriate) for good measure. Notice how Google bolds out the keyword in the description too:
This is ultimately going to help you win the click, which is a positive signl to Google that the user clicked your website over the ones above you!
6. Avoid “thin content” and publish quality, quantitative content
Google favours pages with long content, we typically aim for 500 – 1000 words of content at a minimum, however, don’t just publish content for the sake of it.
Take the time to really understand your target patients pain when considering a treatment. Include what they need to know before they can take the next step.
Use this understanding to publish helpful content that delivers real value. If you do this correctly, you should have a page full of high-quality content that converts website visitors, into practice patients.
The combined effect is ranking for more long-tail keywords, more traffic to that page and users spending more time on your website scrolling through and reading your content. Again, all positive signals to Google that you are worth showing when someone makes a search!
7. Establish internal linking structure
Internal linking connects different pages on your website together and is crucial to decreasing your site’s bounce rate (the percentage of visitors to a website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page)
Google uses your internal linking to get around your site and establish the architecture and hierarchy of it. It also uses internal linking to distribute the “authority” of your site across your pages.
Ensure your pages interlink, especially your most important pages, but do not over do it! Only where it seems logical and appropriate to do so.
As a rule of thumb, we like to see 1 – 3 internal links per page.
To see internal linking in action, check out a page on Wikipedia.
8. Use outbound links to relevant authoritative content
This is a little more advanced, but in recent years, linking externally to content that is directly related to your page (and holds more authority than your website) is an effective way of placing you in the same “neighbourhood” as those more authoritative pieces of content when Google is evaluating your page.
Obviously, you don’t want to completely lose the visitor to those websites, so place no more than 1 – 3 links per page and keep them below the fold if possible (where the screen cuts off the page at the bottom before having to scroll).
You will notice we have linked to a few authority sites in this post!
9. Avoid any internal content duplication
If you have the same content on multiple pages on your website, it can really hurt your ability to rank as Google will stop crawling those pages on your site.
Think about it, if you continued to turn a page in a book and kept reading the same content over and over again, would you carry on reading?
Ensure that all of the content within your website is 100% unique.
10. Use a proper heading hierarchy
In its simplest form, a web page is simply a document. When writing a document, you would use different headings and subheadings to break down a piece of content in digestible chunks.
When formatting your content, you have a choice of doing this by choosing a H1 tag (most important) through to a H6 tag (least important).
These tell Google what the hierarchy of your content is.
Try to use a different keywords that are tightly related to your main keyword in your H1 tag on the page, try to avoid using your main keyword in the META title (page title) and H1 tag, this may appear over-optimised to Google.
11. Optimise images on the page
Before uploading images to your website, ensure the file name is descriptive and includes a keyword from your group that is relevant to the page it’s being embedded on.
TIP: We like to separate words using a hyphen when naming files.
More importantly, ensure your web design has used descriptive ALT tags on your images to accurately describe the image, again ensuring you include a relevant keyword to the page and image.
12. Ensure your website is super fast when loading
A slow site is not only a bore for the user and a bad experience, but it is also bad for Google.
Google’s job is to deliver a positive user experience whilst at the same time returning the most useful and relevant information to the user’s search.
Do you think they are going to show your website if it’s slow to load and delivers the exact opposite?
Lots of different factors contribute to how quickly it takes your site to load but start by ensuring you’re using a good hosting provider who maintains high-performance servers. Check that your site is correctly coded with no unessential plugins and optimise your image file sizes.
We aim for 1 – 2 second page load times as a minimum. See how fast your website scores using Google Pagespeed Insights tool!
P.S. If you need help with this, talk to us about how we can guarantee to double your website speed.
13. Your site must be mobile friendly
A mobile friendly website changes its layout depending on what device the user loads it on, from phone, to tablet, to laptop.
The primary aim of this is to deliver the best user experience possible, regardless of the device they are using to view it.
If your website is not mobile-friendly and the user has to zoom in on their smartphone to read your content, you are not delivering a positive user experience, and Google is not going to show you in the search results!
Google now even goes as far as to penalise websites that are not mobile-friendly by pushing them down the results pages, and have began prioritising mobile friendly sites over non-mobile friendly sites.
See how mobile-friendly your site is by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
While on-page optimisation is crucial to ranking for your target keywords, off-page SEO has always been, and continues to be, the most influential ranking factor of all.
Off-page SEO is commonly called “backlinking”, however it is more than just that. It is everything that you and others do away from your website that increases the profile of your site.
A backlink is an incoming hyperlink from one site to another. The Backlinking Strategy is a complex subject with multiple layers.
However, in short, where the links come from and what words are used in those links, tells Google what your page is about and how authoritative it is.
You may have heard of the dreaded Google Penalty that wipes websites off the face of Google! This is because Google maintains a very advanced algorithm that assesses the quality of backlink sources and their relevance to your site and whether they are “natural” or not.
Off-page SEO is not about the quantity of links pointing to your website, but the quality of links (as well as other signals that tell Google how authoritative your content is, such as social media activity).
When executing off-page SEO you should only use white-hat techniques that fall within Google’s guidelines, to get you started here are 8 actionable off-page tactics:
1. Local business listings
There are hundreds of business listing websites, start with the well-known ones that include:
The key is to ensure that your practice’s name, address and phone number is consistent across all of them and matches what is published on your website. This might seem obvious, but a comma here and a postcode format there can make a big difference!
2. Be active on social media
Social media activity is a positive signal to Google that you are publishing good quality content, especially when it is being shared.
3. Offer to guest blog on local and relevant websites
You could offer to write an article on how to correctly brush your teeth for the local school’s blog or offer to write an article on a subject you specialise in for a popular dentistry blog.
4. Offer to write a testimonial for a product or service that you love
Let’s say you’re happy with your dental lab or insurance company, offer to write them a customer testimonial and include a link back to your site.
5. Publish online press releases
Do you have something happening that is worth shouting about? Or maybe you’ve won an award?
Press releases are a great way of building a foundation of high-authority links and getting you on Google’s radar.
6. Find unlinked mentions of your practice
Use a tool like BuzzSumo to find mentions of your practice’s brand.
See whether the person that mentioned you included a link back to your site. If not, contact them and politely ask them to update the content with a link.
7. Create compelling and valuable content and promote it
If you know your stuff and have the time to commit to writing a blog, then do it! Publish great content and promote it on social media and watch the links flow in.
Everyone loves an infographic. Create an infographic on interesting statistics and promote it to your peers as a guest post on their website.
Time To Take Action
Now it’s your turn to take action and apply everything you’ve read in this post.
To beat your competitors and rank your website in Google for valuable keywords, you need to ensure your site is correctly optimised and that you are proactively building your site’s off-page authority.
Start by getting your website’s SEO score and a detailed report of the actions you can take to improve its ranking in Google:
Enter the URL of any landing page or blog article and see how optimised it is for one keyword or phrase.