Dan Brown - Senior Service Consultant MGEWhen it comes to marketing your practice, how important is it to be “first” on Google? Is it much better than second? Or third?

For that matter, what is the normal process or behavior patter when someone searches for a dentist online? And how can you use this to your advantage?

Both of these questions relate back to the subject of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Now, I know SEO can sound complicated, scary and confusing, but honestly, it’s not all that bad! And whether you like it or not, if you’re interested in getting more new patients from online sources (your website or ads), you’d better have at least a basic understanding of the subject – even if you hire a company to handle it for you.  With that in mind, let’s take a step-by-step approach to this, beginning with when a potential new patient in your area is looking for a dentist!

“Googling” A Dental Practice

With Google, you may have a number of search terms that you want to “rank” for (be on page 1 at or near the top), such as “dentist near me,” “dentist in my area,” or “dentist in (your zip code).”

(Related: Comparing the Costs of  9 Dental Marketing Options)

Someone may also be searching for “cosmetic dentist near me,” “family dentist in my area,” “emergency dentist in (your zip code),” “Invisalign dentist near me,” “implant dentist near me” and a number of other search terms.

You can actually find out how popular those search terms are by getting an SEO strategist to analyze it for you – and as a side note, we can help you in this regard as well, just email me at DanB@mgeonline.com and we can get started.

When it comes to the question, “how many people are searching for what search terms?” You should have a good idea of what that is so you can create an SEO strategy that works for your practice. Obviously, the more a term (e.g. dentist near me) is being searched for – the more popular the term and potential benefit to your practice. Again, if you don’t, that’s where an SEO strategist can really help.

(Related: 4 Ways to Get More New Patients… Without Marketing)

So, how do you get found?

Let’s start with an exercise, let’s see what comes up in your area when you Google “dentist near me.”

And I am going to warn you – doing so on your own computer or your own phone will probably make it look like you’re appearing higher in search results than you really are.  You could go incognito (Control, Shift + N) and this could help a bit, but still the results might be skewed.

Why? Well, Google knows who you are, where you go and how long you’re there for. It’s actually kind of scary how much Google knows about you. And that applies to a number of other search engines as well. Your computer, phone and tablets leave a trail of what’s called “cookies” and it tells your search engine that it’s you, your age, the things you like, the things you search for, etc.

So, the best bet would be to go to a friend’s computer or go to a library and don’t login under your Gmail account. Just open up a browser and search “dentist near me” or “dentist in (your zip code)” and you’ll see a series of results.

(Related: 6 Ways to Improve Your Local Ranking on Google)

At the top of those results you’re going to see paid ads – in front of it, it says “ad.” You might have just one result, or two, or even up to four results that are paid ads.

Beneath that, you should have a map, which shows your local search results and there are generally three organic search results in this area.

What does “organic” mean? Organic means they’re not paid advertisements. So, when you see that map and you see those search results under it, those are generally organic search results, meaning they’re not paid for. That is the most important place to be today.

Here’s a statistic for you: Roughly 70% of people ignore paid ads. Even I’m one of those people and I couldn’t tell you why, but I just skip right past it.

So, when you see these paid ads at the top of the page, a lot of people just block that out and that’s how certain consumers are, and you have to be sensitive to that fact.

Now, am I telling you not to have paid Google advertising or other paid online marketing? No, I’m not. Because here’s the other side of that statistic I just gave you: 30% of people will in fact click on those ads, and that’s a big number! But since 70% of people will ignore those paid ads, it is very important to not just rely on paid advertising and to be near the top of organic search results.

(Related: 6 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Dental Internet Marketing)

Alright, now let’s talk about organic listings. Again, organic means it’s not a paid listing.

So, how important is position 1 as opposed to position 2, or position 2 as opposed to position 3, and so on and so forth?

Well, when you have a search term such as “dentist near me”:

  • Position 1 is probably going to get a bit over 30% of that traffic
  • Position 2 is going to get just under 20% of that traffic
  • Position 3 is going to get just under 15% of that traffic.

And it only gets worse from there to the point where if you’re at the bottom of page 1, you’re only getting a fraction of a percent of the number of people searching for that term. That’s a big deal!

So, getting up to or near the top is of critical importance when looking to optimize your new patient strategy online! Making this happen takes a number of actions – many of which are not hard to do and can be done in-house. Others may require some professional help.  In any event – you’ll want to know what that professional is actually doing do you’re not wasting your time!

(Related: Are You Spending Too Much (or Too Little) on Dental Marketing?)

The bottom line – You can improve your ranking on Google, and we can help you do just that at our New Patient Workshop.

The MGE New Patient Workshop is now held in 9 different locations across the continental US, and we cover the topic of SEO, as well as the latest digital marketing trends for your practice, how to get tons of positive online reviews, how to use social media effectively, optimizing your website, and much more! All of which is delivered by some of the top dental marketing experts. Simply go to www.newpatients.net to learn more and to sign up.

I hope this helps and I’ll be posting more in the weeks to come about this and other digital marketing subjects.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at danb@mgeonline.com or call me at (800) 640-1140.  Or, we can meet in person when you come to the MGE New Patient Workshop!

Do well!

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