Local SEO 101: How To Establish A Strong Local Online Presence For Your Dental Practice, Pt.2
Once you’ve ensured that your practice is searchable, the next thing you need to be thinking about is how to land near the top of the search results. In the previous episode, the local SEO experts at firstdentist.com have covered the first four steps in building a strong local online presence for dental practices. This time, founder Ross Dunn and VP of Marketing Andy Bernhart continue the discussion by tackling the importance of websites, citations, links, and regular Google My Business activity. Join in on this introductory dive into the principles of increasing online visibility and pick up some practical tips that will help you optimize your online presence for local searches.
This is episode number two by firstdentist.com. I’m joined by our Vice President of Marketing, Andy Bernhart. How are you doing?
I’m doing great. I’m looking forward to the show.
How do you establish local rankings for your dental practice? Part two. Where we got to last time was number one, a physical location. These are important and are key steps to building a successful local online presence. Number two is a unique phone number. Number three is to claim your Google My Business listing, and number four is reviews. Let’s get into number five. Let’s jump right in. It’s your website. Sixty-one percent of mobile searches are more likely to contact a local business that they have on a mobile-friendly site. You want to make sure that you have a website that is perfectly mobile-friendly, and that you have answered many of the questions that people often ask when they’re looking at your business and considering it. This is Andy’s department. He loves this stuff. He’s principal in managing a lot of the websites we put out there for the firstdentist.com. Andy, take it away.
That statistic says a lot. Not only is it 61% of mobile searchers, but we’re also seeing such a dramatic increase in mobile website usage as well too. When we take a look at our statistics on some of our customers’ analytics, it’s amazing. We’re seeing 60% to 80% mobile visits. A few years ago, it’s one of the things that we did at the firstdentist.com. We started looking at our websites when we design them from a mobile user experience. That’s even different than having a mobile-friendly website. One of the things that we want to do at firstdentist.com is to make sure that user experience or customer experience is one where they can find the information easily where the mobile layout presents all of that information very simply and easily.
At the top, we’ve got a click to call which is a special little bit of code, and the phone number so that people can immediately call to book an appointment, which is important to customers these days. They don’t want to go searching through a poorly designed website trying to find a phone number. That kind of thing is important. One of the things that we’re doing right now is when we’re designing websites, oftentimes we use video headers on desktop because they look great and it’s a fantastic introduction immediately to practice. You can’t do things like that on mobile websites because you don’t want videos auto-playing. People use up all their bandwidth when stuff starts playing automatically. We use things like images and then you can click to see a video.
We’re going to have another entire show on what it takes to do a website, or multiple shows probably. It’s important to have this initial chat. One thing before you jump forward is websites that already rank well in organic rankings, they typically do better in local. Technically, you don’t need a website to get a ranking in Google My Business. It’s designed to be your presence. Google would love that. You’re putting all your eggs in their basket. By having a website, you’ve established something not only that you own, but also something that adds more credibility and authority to your online presence, which helps with Google My Business. I wanted to inject that because some who may know a little more about this is wondering why we’re mentioning a website, but it is important. Please start with that.
What we try to do at firstdentist.com with our marketing and with our websites is we try to look at the entire journey that a new patient takes to find a dental practice. Dental and medical can sometimes be a little bit commoditized. We want to make sure that a practice is authentically presenting who they are, everywhere from Google My Business all the way down to the website. It does make a difference when people can check out a website that looks good. It showcases the practice. Their Google My Business has up-to-date pictures, hours, and all those types of things. That’s one of our goals. One of the advantages of a company like firstdentist.com is we have a very deep understanding of search, how users do that search, the things that they see along the way when they’re doing that research, trying to find and choose a practice.
Design your website for mobile user experience. It’s one step further than simply having a mobile-friendly website.
We’re here to educate, not just advertise by any stretch of the imagination. Please understand that. If you want to see an example of what Andy is talking about, a great calling card we use, we are proud of it because it does a fantastic job with clients, is VictoriaDentist.com. Go check it out. It’s a fantastic place. The website has been designed with many of these principles in mind and it is very well. In case you want to see a live example. Another thing about a website is the optimization of it. You want to ensure that when Google goes to the website, it is easily determined what each page is about and the overall context of the site. This has been done in many ways, but a few to list off is ensuring that the top of the page is clear, not having a single-page website, which is something that we see often. Also, not using content that’s been repurposed elsewhere.
You want to have unique content. You need to have a very personal touch to the website, showing that you are a different breed. Your practice is a place that people want to go to because it isn’t just run of the mill. It’s offering the best service possible. It’s a truly awesome experience. Having content that’s being used elsewhere, stock photography that’s been used elsewhere, or a stock video that’s been used elsewhere would not be a good thing. This is all part and parcel to helping you with SEO as well. Google does not like to see the same content in other places. It devalues it entirely and it wants to see the various services you provided in a clear manner. If you had it on a single page, it’s difficult for that to happen. You want separate sections or separate pages of your website, at the very least talking about each of the particular services that you want your patients or potential patients to know about. Other than checkups and hygiene, what are some of the bigger examples of those services, Andy?
It varies from dental practice to dental practice. That is an opportunity for a lot of practices as well. One of the things that we oftentimes do with our clients is if they want to let’s say rank for something like dental implants, or they’ve got a new laser in their practice or something like that. What we try to do is flash that content out for them and build a little bit more of an authoritative presence around that, trying to answer questions and create good content. All dental practices have different services that they like to focus on. Sometimes it’s a dental implant, cosmetic dentistry, and in specialist fields, sometimes it’s Invisalign for orthodontists.
One of the things we see a lot of are dentists wanting to publish the latest PDF they’ve received from the manufacturer, and a certain example of everything they do for say Invisalign. It’s not a good idea. Sure, have it downloadable, but the content of the page has to be unique. It has to have proper content that’s been written by an editor and unique to your website.
It is important and valuable to patients as well. I was talking with a friend who had a root canal. One of the things they said was that their dentist had great information about root canals on their website that answered all of their questions. That’s the thing that Google does understand. There’s a lot of great information about some type of procedure, questions are answered, and that type of stuff. Google has ways of understanding that content and how user-friendly it is on people’s sites. It’s worth putting the effort into creating good content that’s unique and answers your patient’s questions. Ultimately, that’s one of the things your website can do for your practice. It can help to service your customers so people aren’t calling the front office and asking these questions. We can say, “Go to our website. There’s a great list of every question that somebody had about this.”
They still will but at least a percentage won’t maybe.
It was a way of reducing some of those questions that people have that you have to spend time answering.
We’ve been doing that in video. That’s another level up. It’s all about showing how much you care and your website can do a great deal of that. That being the website, it’s a bit of a rabbit hole. This whole website thing could be more than one show. Picking your domain is one thing I want to mention before we kick off here. It is generally a good idea that you pick something that people can remember that isn’t too long, and has little chance of being misspelled. It’s a lot to do. Worst comes to worst though, use your business name. Don’t get too fancy about it. There are instances where we’ve got clients who have different names of their domain versus their business.
It is a little hard to connect the dots to remember that. A client or a prospect is likely to remember your business name and type that in. At the very least, buy that if you’re going to use a different domain so you’ve got both domains pointing at the same place. Do not create separate websites for each domain. Have one website and have both domains pointing to it. It’s important. The next one, number six is citations. What is a citation? When I first heard about it quite a long time ago, I had to look it up and get a better grasp of it. Essentially, it is a mention of your business online. This can be a mention in the form of a link, your business name and address, or service area.
Google has gotten brilliant about picking up on this stuff. To give you a couple of examples for each one here, if you were to be mentioned to the local newspaper and they didn’t put a link to your business, but that newspaper had a digital format. Google index has it, they see your business name. They see that the newspapers from your local area have got excellent local signals. It’s a way of Google being sure that you do exist, that your businesses have some authority in your area. That’s going to be a checkmark. This is a business that may deserve to get more visibility. That’s the key here. There are a lot of potential dentists in your area and a lot of competitors. How do you stand out? Citation is a part of it. It’s a way of proving to Google you are who you are, that you deserve to get more additional visibility versus your competitors.
Other citations may be local like a Chamber of Commerce mentioning your business, your address, and a link to your website. That’s the ideal setup. Links are fantastic. Always have been, likely always will be for a business when they’re authentic. They come from highly qualified resources like chambers, places where they qualify anything before they put it on their website and Google knows it. It’s not a run of the mill place that you can add your link and move on. They verify it. Better Business Bureau, anything along those lines. Your local dental association, if it lists the different dentists that are part of it, if you have yours there, that’s fantastic. It can be a mention of your business. It could be a mention of your business with the address. It could also be a mention of your business with your URL. All these things are great. You are opening your domain.
Other citations that we do as a connection to that is ensuring that your business Name, Address, and Phone number, we call that the NAP, are showing up on relevant directory sites, Internet Yellow Pages or IYPs as you would call them. You want to be showing on these different places. There are so many. We talked about some of the aggregators in the last show. In this case, it doesn’t have to be an aggregator like the ones that Andy had mentioned before like Infogroup and such, but they can be top lists of service providers in your local area. Best service, best dentists. They are the best of websites. There are all these different places. Google has to have some certainty of the quality. Don’t expect a site that just came out of nowhere to be having any benefit for you if you get a link on it or anything. Established websites, established directories, get your name in there. We want to make sure that’s there. Those are citations. They add up a vote of confidence for your business, an authenticity, and ensuring that your business does exist. That is important because there are lots of fly-by-night businesses out there, and spammers too. You don’t want to appear like one of those. The more signals you have out there, the better off you’ll be.
One of the statistics that I’d seen was that a lot of top-ranked local websites have between about 80 and 100 different citations to their domain, and also the name, address and phone number. The experience that I’ve had doing a lot of link research and looking at citations at local dental practices is they usually have somewhere between about 10 and 20 high-quality citations. Those are from very trusted sources. Everything from Yelp to Yellow Pages, Facebook, White Pages, those types of things. They usually have anywhere between about 20 and 40 medium-quality ones. Those are the things that we look at.
We have a local specialist, Rose, who we should probably get her to chime in on something at some point. An important part of our job is double-checking every dental practice citations for consistency. One of the things that is important to mention too is that a lot of dental practices don’t think about these things. They don’t manage these things. We see it across all small businesses too. Maybe they’ve changed their name, they’ve been sold, they’ve changed their location, they changed their phone number, somebody registered all these things with their cell phone, or something like that. They’re a mess. We do see good improvements to people’s rankings after we do clean those things up.
Writing authoritative blog posts is a good way to get your practice known to your online community.
When local algorithms were fairly new, citations had more impact because it was fairly infantile. The systems were basic. They have lost a little of their benefit now, but they’re still important to do. They’re not that difficult. It’s time-consuming. That’s why we have someone that helps us to do that. It does make good sense for Google to care if your name, address and phone number are consistent everywhere. If they’re not, it’s another indicator that, is this business there? Is this business worthy of showing up? They want to be confident, especially when there are so many competitors.
One of the things I was trying to say there was that if a practice has had something like that where their phone numbers change or their address has changed or their business, that’s where we do see that benefiting practices more. It’s when one of those situations has happened and there are all kinds of ridiculous different information across the web. In those cases, it is important to clean up.
When you change business locations, it’s a lot of work. Another thing I should mention too is when it comes to managing these citations, in some cases, they’re on directories that begin to want to emulate Google My Business. They start adding features. A feature may be to be able to add your photos. The next one is to add your logo, update your hours regularly. There are a number of different things it could be. It could answer user questions. If you don’t keep up to date on these, it can also be another indicator. It’s not a big one, but one of the things we pride ourselves on is ensuring that we keep on top of that. You should do that as well if you’ve got practice. Have someone helping you ensure that they’re monitoring these, particularly new features that some of these places are doing. Some of them may charge you. I wouldn’t bother doing that. Don’t pay for a citation to increase the amount of data you’re including unless there’s some very good reason to know that it’s going to be worthwhile.
Here’s a good reason though. If you’re a new practice, it is worth submitting to some of the top levels of data aggregators and paying for that one, because then you get everything consistent from the start.
I don’t mean aggregators. I mean individual directories, if they decide to add more features to your listing, you can pay this much more, don’t bother. If it’s free and other dentists are going to do it, why not take advantage of it? Go for it. It’s another signal that you’re there and you care. The next one is very similar to this. It’s links. We’ve touched a bit on that with citations, but links are a bit of a different animal. You can get them from not only newspapers and other fairly authoritative locations, but you can also get them from articles and people interviewing you. I don’t consider these citations simply because they’re not so writ. You can’t just go through and find them. You’ve got a list of them you always go to.
In this case, if you get interviewed because you’ve got a particularly new and very interesting laser, or some sort of cosmetic surgery, or some option for cosmetic dentistry that is worthy of being in the news, you get links from that. That’s beneficial. You can also get links from people who are interviewing dentists in your area. It’s difficult because dentistry is one of those things that there are so many people around. How do you stand out? Is there anything that comes to your mind, Andy, that has stood out over the last while when it comes to links?
I’ve done a little bit of research into looking at how many links dental practices that rank well have. Depending on how competitive your area is. Dental practices rank between about 30 and 80 good and medium quality links. There are a variety of places to get those links, as you said. Local newspapers that may cover things, do interviews, cover interesting people in the community, those are always useful and they’re good. It’s a good local signal from a high authority site. That’s valuable.
I remember what it was that I was driving out there and it was one of the things we recommend. We send out a document to clients. It mentions the types of links they want to be building. I wrote that and I’m an idiot for not remembering that right off the bat. Sponsor your local baseball team. Sponsor an initiative at your local charity, maybe your church. All these different places often have sponsorship pages. They have a thank you article or a thank you press release. If they don’t, you can always recommend it. There is no reason whatsoever for you not to. You’re helping them. If they can help you, wonderful. They’re probably delighted to, as long as it doesn’t cost them a great deal of money or time. You can make that also easy for them as well.
If it involves a press release, you can pay for it. Who cares? It’s going to serve you. A lot of community links are important. The ones that we can see that shared between citations as well are things like Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, but also Buy Local. We have that particular initiative where we are. There are stickers of Buy Local that people put on their windows. It’s an initiative where if you do sign up, you are part of a directory and it works. It works quite well from a local signals perspective. I’ve seen those.
There are local businesses too. People that you’re friends with, people next door, or all those types of things. There are always opportunities to get links from local businesses. That’s a valuable one. One of the things you can do is you can provide links to some of your local businesses and your friends too.
Another thing is you don’t necessarily have to only have link for local ones. If you decide to be in, this will be phenomenal. It does take a special person with a little bit of time. That’s the tricky part. I know most dentists don’t have that time. It’s to be a bit of a content generator like create a video. If you’re going to a dental conference, do some video of yourself. Have someone take some video of you discussing what you’ve seen, the interesting things, and how they might affect your patients. The things that you may be looking into further, maybe there are certain techniques there that you saw that were interesting, but you’re not sure there’s enough interest from patients. Ask them and get that feedback. You can use your social media to post this. That kind of transparency would be pretty phenomenal. It takes a certain person to do that. The ones that do stand out and that’s the trick, standing out. It’s not easy to do.
I’d say we live in a very modern digital age where people are getting a lot of their information from places like Facebook and online. If you can consider how you can spend a little bit of time crafting that personality for yourself and your practice like writing, it’s one of the things that can pay big dividends. It needs a little bit of time. One of the things that we try to do at firstdentist.com is we try to write regularly. We try to write authoritative blog posts and then get those out. It’s one of those things that I have to decide to do every morning. Write a little bit and then all these things eventually come together. It’s for practices that want to get known online and get known in their community. It’s a good idea to try to figure out how to build that into your day to day.
It’s logical too. If someone’s looking at going to a dentist in a specific area and they look at all the options. They’re going to look for the one that stands out because too many who don’t perhaps know better or know what to look for, dentists all seem the same. If there’s a particular location that’s convenient, that’s always going to be important. If one seems to be more extroverted, more in touch with its patients with great reviews, we’ve talked about that, all these things are going to connect. It’s going to make you more appealing. Generally, the newer businesses that want that and they’re hungry for the patients are the ones who are going to take those leaps. They’re going to do better. The old guard won’t be doing that. They have no interest in it. They’re close to retirement perhaps. They’re not going to. They may start losing out. If you’re reading and you’re one of them as well, you can’t sit on your laurels. All this stuff is changing quickly. There are a lot of very hungry dentists out there that are going to work hard.
We see it time and time again. Ross’ sister company, StepForth, works with legal practices and those types of things. We see new law practices open up and they decide to make digital a priority, and they put out lots of content. The next thing you know, they’re outranking practices that have been here for a hundred years.
Your Google My Business page is your online business card. You want it to be the first to get regularly updated.
They’re buying them out.
That is a seismic shift. The other thing is that a lot of dentists aren’t doing these things and they’re not thinking about things. There are some examples of some young doctors who have new practices. They’re making great strides by committing a little bit of time to creating that content, working on it, and getting it out there. It can pay huge dividends. The only other thing I would mention here too that I don’t think we’ve touched on is industry links. Links from your university, certification boards, industry distributors are valuable and important too. The other thing is if you publish some good content and you can get it into dental-related media, those are also very valuable links. Doing interviews with dental associations or dental-related media, we would love to see our practices get links back from some of these big sites that cover the dental industry in general. That’s a valuable one too.
Regular Google My Business Activity
Links is number eight. The last one here is regular Google My Business activity. We touched on it a little bit in the last episode. There is a bit to this. Google My Business is changing so often, it’s a bit overwhelming even for experts like us who are working with it all the time. For example, there’s a section called Google Posts where you can post everything from upcoming events such as charities, “We’re sponsoring this charity. Come on out. It’s at our office.” You get to meet them. Maybe it’s a food drive, whatever it is. Add that there. It stays up for seven days then it scales off. It will disappear. You have to put it up there. If it’s an event that has a date, it does have a set time. If you say that on the 15th of February, it’s going to be happening, then it will stay up there until that date. There are some ifs and buts about that. I can’t recall right now because there are too many things to remember. We have our notes for that.
It is important to use Google Posts. We’re seeing a bit of an uptick from it. It does tend to show up in search results under your listings. We see this occasionally in the wild, as we call it when we see it online, but it doesn’t always happen. You’ll see the Google My Business posts that are relevant popping up below your business name in the local results. Keep that in mind. It does show up. Google likes to see that you’re spending time on their platform. It makes them happier. You’re logging in. They want you to check your hours and update them. If there’s a holiday coming up, update them. Make sure that there’s something that’s stating what your hours are on the next holiday.
We do hear from dental practices when those hours are wrong because some patients will be, “I saw you’re open.” That’s important. The thing is your Google My Business is your homepage for your homepage. If somebody is doing a search for your practice, the first thing they’re going to see is your reviews and your pictures if you’ve posted something cool. It’s an important part in that new patient journey and also for existing patients.
Add images and do that on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if it’s the same area. You’ve got a board, I’ve seen this before and a lot of pediatric offices, but it could be in other places. That would be one of those drawing boards where someone has done some beautiful art or it could be inspiring phrases, but with a dental spin. Have some fun with it. Sometimes people take photos of their patients with a sign saying, “I’m this age and I am cavity-free.” Have fun and take photos, and you can post these with their permission. Google likes to see that kind of activity.
Another key part of this is it’s getting better, but people can suggest changes to your Google My Business posts or Google My Business page. These suggested changes can be uninspired and uninformed. Some of them are stating that you do not offer this service or you do offer this, perhaps you don’t. Unless you go in there and say no or yes, in many cases, those will go live. You’ll start having problems because whatever was posted isn’t correct. Sometimes bad actors have gone in there and changed the phone number, even changed their address, and are technically stealing that business. It’s possible. This is bad and this has happened. I’ve seen it happen twice.
Unfortunately, we have been seeing that with citations and things like that. There are quite a few hackers, spammers, vindictive dentists, those kinds of things.
Your Google My Business page is your online business card. Your website exists. There will be a link from it. You want to ensure that your Google My Business page is number one for being updated, and quickly thereafter, your website. Don’t freak out about it and make sure you are active on it. You will get reminders from Google if you’ve already signed up and you haven’t been on there. They’ll say, “What are your hours for this upcoming holiday?” Don’t ignore those. If you happen to not be there recently but you get that, click on it. Go there.
Go there regularly. Make it part of your weekly workflow to check that out. Somebody should have a responsibility every week for checking it. It’s one of the things that we do help our clients with. If there is a major thing that comes up or a negative review, we notify them. All businesses need to make that part of their workflow. Somebody needs to be assigned to it and be responsible for it.
We had eight points here altogether. I’m sure you could argue for many more, including pay-per-click ads, all that sorts of thing, but we’ll jump into those in other shows. I’ll recap them here. Number one, physical location. Number two, a unique phone number. Number three, claim your Google My Business listing. Number four, reviews. Number five, create a great website. Number six, citations. Number seven, build links. Number eight, regular Google My Business activity. If you do all of these as we’ve outlined, very likely you will see improvement in rankings quickly. You’re following Google’s desires. Why is it not going to work?
It’s fantastic, but you should keep on top of things too. I mentioned on monitoring some of the online websites such as a Search Engine Roundtable. That’s a great place to go. The LocalSearchForum.com, I forgot to mention that one earlier. It’s a fantastic forum, lots of great tips on there, cutting edge. It’s where people are going, “What the hell? What’s going on? Why isn’t this working?” There are discussions. Sometimes Google makes changes based on those discussions. It’s interesting stuff. You want to be on the cutting edge. Sometimes that’s what you need to do.
It is a great place to go to. I’ve written a lot of comprehensive articles on all of these factors.
You can’t dismiss that by any stretch nor our show, or SEO 101, so lots of places to be. On behalf of myself and Andy Bernhart, VP of Marketing, thanks for joining us. If you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to email them at [email protected]. Thank you for reading and remember to come back for our next episode, where we’ll be sharing some more information on how to excel in your dental web marketing.
Thanks for reading.
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