Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) For Dentists

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) For Dentists
Marketing Practice Management

If you’re wondering your website’s traffic is going nowhere, or why visitors are arriving then immediately leaving again, it’s time to look at your dental website’s search engine optimisation (or SEO). Over 63,000 searches are carried out on Google per second and 51% of traffic to all websites comes from organic search. People use search all the time. So, if you’re not appearing in the SERPs (search engine results pages), and your competitors are, well, you’re losing out. Big time.

The thing to remember with SEO though, is that it’s a long-term strategy. You won’t see instant results. Changes and updates can take time to implement, and it can take even more time for search engines to recognise them. The work never really ends!

Charts in Google Analytics on laptop

SEO Keyword Research for Dentists

The cornerstone to every SEO strategy is keywords. Without the right keywords, you won’t appear in the search results for the queries that your prospective and current patients are searching for. So, it’s important to do some research and find out what people are searching for and how they’re searching for it.

For example, if you offer emergency dental care, but the words “emergency dentist” are nowhere to be found on your website, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever rank for that term. Start by making a list of topics relevant to your business, then think about keywords that relate to these. You could try doing a Google search for some of them and looking at the related searches at the bottom of the page. There are keyword research tools out there, but a lot of them tend to be paid. Using a few different sources though, you can put together a pretty good list.

Some free tools you can use include Answer the Public (this will give you lots of question-type queries among other things, which can be great for blog posts), Google Search Console (you should have this on your website – this provides a list of keywords you’re already ranking for, which can give you ideas for improvements) and Google Correlate, which can help you find words and phrases that are often searched for together.

You should end up with a list of keywords for each page that’s a mixture of “head” terms (shorter, more generic phrases, e.g. “teeth whitening”) and “long-tail” (longer, more specific phrases e.g. “teeth whitening costs”, “teeth whitening side effects” etc).

Searches related to "teeth whitening"

On-Page SEO for Dentists

Once you’ve found the right keywords, it’s time to start looking at your website, and the various on-page SEO factors that can affect how your pages rank (or don’t rank, as the case may be!).

Title tags and meta descriptions

Title tags are among the most important on-page SEO factors. You’ll see title tags in the search results as the blue clickable heading above each result, like this:

Title tag and meta description in Google search results

Title tags are important because they send a clear signal to the search engines as to what a webpage is about. Therefore, if your title tags are not clear or optimised for relevant keywords, the search engines are going to have a hard time figuring out what your pages are about. And if they can’t figure that out, then they’re not going to rank them for those relevant queries.

Unlike title tags, meta descriptions are not a ranking factor, however going back to our search result example above, you will see a couple of lines of text under the blue headings. These are the meta descriptions for these pages. If well-written, they can help to increase clickthrough rate to your pages.

Using your keyword research, write a relevant and well-optimised title tag and meta description for each of your pages. The ideal structure for a title tag looks like this:

Primary Keyword: Secondary Keyword/s – Brand Name

You should include your brand name in your title tag, but only if there’s space. Never sacrifice clarity for branding.

On-page copy

Like your title tag and meta description, your on-page copy should contain relevant keywords. However, don’t take this as an excuse to jam in the words “emergency dentist Nottingham” at every available opportunity on your emergency dentist page, for example. Search engines are smart; they have a good understanding of synonyms and contexts, and they’re getting much better at processing natural language than they used to be.

So, write for your visitors. Use synonyms and related words (e.g. for emergency dentist, you would likely see things like weekends, evenings, emergency care, urgent dental care, be seen quickly, out of hours and so on on the page). Search engines can now connect these (and expect to connect these) to the concept of “emergency dentist”. Above all, keep copy relevant, concise and informative. Think about what visitors will want to find out from a particular page, and make sure you answer that question.

Technical SEO for Dentists

It’s important not to overlook the technical side of things. There are some technical improvements that you can make when it comes to helping your website rank better. Bear in mind that these will need developer support, so if you don’t have a web developer, it might be time to find one.

Mobile-friendliness

Did you know that 1/3 of mobile searches are related to location? Or that local searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit a business within 24 hours? These stats prove that mobile and local search are inextricably linked.

More and more people browse the internet on mobile devices, and this is particularly true when it comes to local searches (which, as a local business, you really want to be found for!). Google recently moved to a mobile-first index, which means it will take the mobile version of a website as the primary version. Google also uses page speed as a ranking factor. All of which means that if your website is slow on mobiles or offers an otherwise poor mobile experience, then it could have an impact on your ability to rank well.

If your website is not already mobile-responsive, that’s your first port of call. Work with a designer and a developer to get a mobile-friendly site built. If you already have a mobile-friendly site, you can check just how friendly it is here.

woman checking smartphone

Page load time

On the subject of page load time, Google provides another useful tool which allows you to check this for each of your pages. It’s called Page Speed Insights (PSI), and you can find it here.

Just input a web address, and PSI will come back with a score based on how quick your page is to load, plus some recommendations for improving slower load times. The quickest win here, and the one that’s likely to have the biggest impact, is compressing your images – large images take a long time to load, which results in a poor experience.

Structured data

Structured data (or schema markup) may sound slightly intimidating, but it’s really just a way of indicating to search engines what different elements of your website are, such as images, product listing, prices, contact details, videos, articles and so on.

This helps search engines to understand your content better and makes you eligible to appear with different search features in the results (such as Knowledge Graph cards, star ratings or contact details), which can help you to stand out from the competition.

Link Building for Dentists

Links are still one of the biggest ranking factors out there. Really good, natural ones from great quality, relevant sites can improve your domain authority and see you climbing the rankings, while really bad, unnatural ones from spammy, low-value sites can see you getting penalties from Google and dropping down (or out of) the SERPs.

Example of a dentist profile on Yelp.co.uk with link highlighted

For dentists, places to consider getting links from include partners and suppliers, specialists, industry directories and professional societies, educational establishments (if you’ve had papers published or you offer internships for example), charity partners, local newspapers… in other words, plenty of possibilities! But remember they should be natural. You should have a mix of anchor text (brand name, exact match and “naked” links (links that use the actual URL as the anchor text)). Don’t ever pay for any links, and if a site feels sketchy and has low-quality content, avoid it!

Local SEO for Dentists

As your surgery covers a particular area, local SEO is one of the best things you can focus on. So much so that we won’t go into it in great detail here and will devote a whole post to it in future. However, some key things you need to do are:

  • Create and claim a Google My Business profile (if you have more than one location, make sure you have one for each)
  • Include your location in your title tags, meta descriptions and on-page copy (e.g. tooth whitening in Nottingham)
  • Create location pages on your site which give information about each of your locations (address, map, services offered, local landmarks, etc).
  • Make sure your NAP information (name, address and phone number) is consistent across your website, social profiles, Google My Business profiles and so on
  • Build local citations – these are listings for your business in directories and business sites such as Cylex, Brownbook, Scoot and Thomson Local. Again, make sure that your NAP information is correct and consistent across all of these.
  • Ask current and past patients to leave reviews on Google, Facebook or other review platforms.
  • Do some local link building – partnerships, interviews, events, awards, internships etc can all be beneficial here.
  • Mark up local information (name, address, phone number etc) on your website using structured data (see above).

If you do this well, you should start to see your practice appearing for local queries (e.g. “dentist manchester”) – it may look something like this:

Google local search result example - "dentist manchester"

This is just scratching the surface of SEO and its importance. But if you aim to have the best website possible in your niche/area, one that’s well-optimised, informative, quick to load and mobile-friendly, you’ll be on the right track. Remember, it’s an ongoing process, and what worked for one page may not work for other pages or on other occasions, so keep paying attention to and refining your site and you’ll reap the rewards!