Local SEO for Dentists: Everything You Want To Know
Reading time: 13 minutes
Marketing your dental practice can be overwhelming. The opportunities to engage your potential clients/patients are broad and the decision on your strategy has perhaps never been so confusing.
But one thing is clear.
“After recommendations from friends and family, online search is the preferred method for Australians researching new health service providers.” (Google)
The same study found that the ‘Top searches focus on availability, prices and quotes, and directions.’
Distance is also a key consideration as health-related searches featuring ‘near me’ have doubled since the start of 2019.
When it comes to online search, those with a local intent trigger a very different SERP (search engine result page) and thus require a distinctly different approach to SEO.
And that’s what I want to help you with, in this article. I want to help your dental business or clinic improve your performance in local search and improve the number of people looking for your services.
I’d encourage you to read from start to finish but if you’d like to skip through, simply use the quick links below.
What’s the Difference Between Local SEO and Traditional SEO?
As I noted, searches with local intent display a different SERP. When users are looking for a local business, they will be presented with what is often referred to as the ‘local pack’.
Google has been known to make some changes to the layout of the local pack but you can typically expect to see an ad, three organic listings and of course, the local map.
Aside from the ‘local pack’, you can also expect to see three traditional ads first, ten organic listings below the pack and then even more ads at the bottom.
But you do want to be in the local pack. For local searches, it ranks #1 for 93% of Google searches.
As mentioned, it does require a few different tactics to improve your performance in the local pack. So let’s look at these in more detail.
Why is Local SEO So Important for Dentists?
Although many factors will influence a user’s choice of a dental clinic, ultimately dentists provide a face-to-face service, so patients will be looking for a local provider.
We can expect that searches will be ‘dentist near me’, ‘dental clinic near me’, ‘best dentist in [suburb]’.
Local searches provide serious value.
“88% of local business searches on a mobile device either call or visit the business within 24 hours.” (HubSpot)
This was the local pack results I received when searching ‘dental clinic Carlton’.
Try searching yourself – ‘Dental Clinic [suburb]’. Try clicking ‘Dentist Near Me’. Did you get into the local pack?
How Do You Rank in the Local Pack?
It’s important to note first that Google does not publicise specific details on how to rank highly in any of their search queries. However, advice can be sourced from established thought leaders in the industry and from Google’s general local ranking guidelines.
One industry source for local SEO advice is Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors. It is an industry survey that compiles the most influential factors for improving local search presence. [Another source I’d recommend checking out is Backlinko’s ‘Local SEO: The Definitive Guide’.]
According to the MOZ survey, the top five factors to rank in the local pack are:
- Google My Business Signals
- Link Signals
- Review Signals
- On-Page Signals
- Citation Signals
So let’s look at each of these in detail.
Optimising Your Google My Business (GMB) Profile
Google even suggests that “Providing and updating business information in Google My Business can help your business’s local ranking on Google and enhance your presence in Search and Maps.”
There’s many facets to optimising your Google My Business listing. Here are five that Google communicates.
1. Enter complete data
The more information you provide, the more valuable your GMB listing is to people searching for a dental practice. So, go ahead and fill in as much as you can, including address, phone, email, payment types and more. But make sure your business details are accurate and consistent with your website and other prominent online listings!
Also another important factor in GMB success is selecting the right category. There are a number of options including:
Dental Implants Provider
Dental Implants Periodontist
2. Verify your location(s)
Of course, Google doesn’t want to be serving search results with location information that’s incorrect. So verify your location. Some businesses can do this by phone and email. Otherwise, the process involves having a physical postcard sent to your business via the mail.
3. Keep your hours accurate
When people search for your business, Google will display if you’re open or closed. If you don’t have accurate hours listed, then you risk annoying clients who get to your business only to find out you’re closed. Or maybe even worse, missing business because people think you’re closed when you’re not.
Make sure to utilise the ‘special hours’ feature too, so you can add public holiday hours, etc.
4. Manage and respond to reviews
We all value online reviews and that’s why Google places great importance on them.
So make sure you’re encouraging reviews (but definitely not paying for them). Be sure to respond to both positive and negative reviews. But keep in mind your response to negative reviews is going to be just as likely to have an influence on others as the review itself is.
5. Add photos
Google knows that users find value in seeing images of your practice, so of course photos will help. Add as many as you can, but make sure they’re great photos that leave positive impressions of your business. I would go one step further and hire a Google Trusted Photographer to create a virtual tour of your practice.
Once you have the basics covered, there are some additional features to add and a few questions you’ll undoubtedly have. Let’s discuss a couple of points.
There are a number of third-party booking software providers that are supported by Google. Using these providers allows you to accept bookings from Google search results.
You can turn this facility on by clicking ‘Bookings’ from within your Google My Business dashboard.
There are differing views on whether we should allow Google to do this and bypass our own business assets, but that’s a debate for another day.
If you have multiple locations for your clinic, then you need to have multiple GMB profiles. But there’s a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Each listing should have specific contact details. Therefore, phone numbers should definitely be different.
- Ideally your website will be set up to have a different page for each location. If you have this set up then the respective GMB profile should link to each location’s page, not your home page.
This is the most confusing aspect of Google My Business for dental clinics and dentists. Who should have a profile and who shouldn’t? You should familiarise yourself with Google’s Guidelines.
What you need to know is this.
- If there is only one practitioner at your clinic, you can share your profile. Google recommends using this format [Clinic Name] : [Practitioner Name].
- If you have multiple practitioners, then you want to create one listing for the clinic and a separate listing for each of your practitioners. But note that when you create a separate listing for your practitioners, each one should have a separate phone number. The title of each practitioner’s profile should not include the name of the clinic. Also keep your categories in min. In this instance, the clinic category should be ‘Dental Clinic’ and the practitioner category should be ‘Dentist’ or ‘Dental Hygienist’.
Building Links and Citations
You’ll note that Moz differentiated between links and citations, but I’ve chosen to discuss them together.
Essentially, a link in this context is when another website links directly to your website. This is seen as an important ‘vote’ for your site. A citation on the other hand doesn’t need to involve a link but it should mention your business name, address and phone number.
Online mentions of your business (whether they include links or not) demonstrate your authority in the local community. If there are no local websites mentioning your name or linking to your website, you have little authority.
There are plenty of link-building and citation options, let’s start with the low-hanging fruit:
- Your local government website. They should have a business directory you can sign up for.
- Find any local business groups that have a member directory. Sign up.
- High-authority business directories. In Australia this includes TrueLocal, YellowPages and Yelp, for example.
- Health-focused directories (HealthEngine is one of those).
- Bing Places. Yes even in Australia, this is worth doing.
Then there’s those options that take a little more effort:
- Get involved with local community or sporting groups who are willing to promote your business online.
- Contribute advice, comments or articles to local media.
- Contribute to local forums.
Improve Your Online Reputation (Reviews)
Reviews are super-important for the user and Google knows it. That’s why you want to be actively encouraging them to boost your SEO efforts.
We conducted our own study into local search results in Australia and found that in terms of online reviews for dentists, you need to be proactive.
“It appears that Australians like dentists. The average GMB rating was 4.49 to be better than the others, and with an average total number of reviews being 68, it is no fluke. So having a process in place to encourage great reviews at volume is a must.”
People have an insatiable appetite for reviews. They play a key role in our decision-making.
In fact, SearchEngineWatch (a leading SEO blog) highlights that “90% of consumers read reviews before visiting a business.”
So getting online reviews is more than just a tactic to improve your SEO. They influence online decisions and drive clients/patients to your business.
Where to Get Reviews
Asking for reviews on your Google My Business listing is a no-brainer. Enough quality reviews will encourage people searching for a clinic to contact you directly from Google ahead of your competitors.
If you have a Facebook Business page, ask for reviews there too. Facebook is one of the most dominant players on the web. The 2020 Yellow Social Media Report highlighted that the average Australian is on Facebook a whopping 29 times a week.
Aside from those two, do a search of your own for something you expect your potential clients/patients might search. For example, ‘dental clinic Melbourne’. You’re looking for third-party sites that rank well. I expect you’ll see healthengine.com.au and even Yellow Pages. So aim for reviews on them too.
Local Website (On-Page) Signals
While considered less influential than your GMB listing, the presence of local factors on your website is still considered a top ranking factor.
Specifically Moz’s study looked at the following:
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone). You need to be displaying contact details from your GMB on your website.
- Titles on your website that demonstrate you have a local presence. A unique contact page for the specific local area is perfect for this.
- DA (Domain Authority) is a metric that Moz themselves created. It looks at a number of indicators which demonstrate the chances of a domain ranking in search. If you have a new business domain, then you will have a low DA.
Traditional SEO is Still Important (and What To Do)
Up til now I’ve been focusing on showing you how to get your business into the ‘local pack’ (and for good reason because it is the prominent feature in local searches). But not everyone clicks on a local pack result, some will scroll further down the SERP and click on a traditional organic result.
This is where more broader SEO advice is needed. Here are four general recommendations.
User Experience (UX)
Google evidently has hundreds of ranking factors, almost all of which they keep tight-lipped and we can only discuss and debate them between ourselves. But they have announced a handful revolving around user experience:
- Page Speed. Google announced in 2010 that they used site speed in web search ranking.
- HTTPS. In 2014, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking signal.
- Mobile. In 2015, Google announced that mobile-friendliness would be a ranking factor.
- Core Web Vitals. Google has recently announced that Core Web Vitals will be introduced as a ranking signal in 2021.
So, it’s time to think about some of the ways your website can provide your users with a better experience.
Your online booking process is a prime opportunity to leave a positive impression with your patients. You could look to embed your booking software on your website or alternatively seek a web developer to integrate your site with the software’s API for a more streamlined process.
According to Healthdirect Australia, each week more than 12 million people in Australia search the internet for health and medical information, yet 78% of these visits land on overseas websites (where there is no guarantee that the information is clinically sound or appropriate to the Australian health system).
So there’s a huge opportunity to provide valuable Australian health-related information to help drive more people to your website. While not all these visitors will be ‘local’, it will further establish your business’ authority.
But aside from helping you to generate more new traffic to your site, your content should also provide value to your existing client base.
Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
This topic has been top of mind in SEO in recent years. E-A-T is an acronym referred to at length in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines (GQRG). The GQRG is a document that helps guide the team of people Google has observing the results being returned in search results.
The concept is to identify if a website or web page demonstrates expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. This is important to Google because it needs to be able to continue to return valuable search results to its users.
It is all the more crucial to understand for dentists.
Why you ask?
Well Google refers to another acronym Y-M-Y-L (Your Money, Your Life) and it speaks to websites in fields related to medical, legal and financial. Basically if your site has the ability to influence a user’s money or their lives, then E-A-T becomes all the more important and your website will be held in higher regard.
There is no instructional guide on how to improve EAT but here are some common suggestions:
- Expertise: Demonstrate your standing in your industry on your website – on your ‘about’ page and within your author bio if you’re blogging.
- Authoritativeness: Try and get mentioned on authoritative websites
- Trustworthiness: Improve your online reputation by citing sources within your content.
Schema is a markup language (code) that you can add to your website to structure your business’ data so search engines can better understand your content.
OK, it’s not for the newbie, so you may need some help. But if you want to give it a shot yourself, then you should check out Technical SEO’s Schema Generator.
It’s worth it because there are visible benefits in Google’s SERPs when you apply various schema markups.
For instance, here’s some logical schema markup applications and benefits for your dental clinic.
LocalBusiness > Dentist: Generally applied to your home page or contact page, you can expect to score a larger knowledge graph when people search for your business.
Person: Great for marking up individual practitioners.
FAQ: If you have any FAQs on your service pages, then you should mark them up with an FAQ schema. If you’re lucky, Google will score you with the rich result below.
HowTo: If you have published a post on how patients could maintain their teeth for example, you could mark it up with this schema and earn yourself a very compelling, rich result like the one below.
Product: If you happen to sell products, then you should definitely have them marked up with this schema. In fact, depending on your ecommerce platform, you may have had it implemented by default already. If you do, you’ll earn a rich result as well which shows your product’s rating, price and stock level.
OK, so it’s clear that there is a lot of work to get your local search results to improve so you get the business you deserve.
And as the Google study I cited in the intro found, the primary source for Australians researching health services is still friends and family – so you might prefer to concentrate on leveraging that opportunity.
But I suggest that well will run dry and that you scale your investment in search. It will continue driving your business for a long time as long as you don’t let things go.
And many of the investments you make will help to convert more than just those potential clients coming to you via search.
But if you take nothing in this article onboard, can I encourage you to at least spend another five minutes reading the Google report ‘Micro-Moments Guide: How Australians Find and Choose Health Services’.
Quentin Aisbett is the strategist at OnQ Marketing. He has a specific focus on local and mobile SEO, content strategy, and marketing automation. Blogging all the time, tweeting even more so. Pick his brain on Clarity.fm.