Get ahead through proper planning: Maximizing your dental practice's online presence during a transition

Preparing for a practice transition? Learn how to maximize your online presence with these search engine optimization (SEO) tips from marketing expert Adam Smith.

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Preparing for a practice transition? Learn how to maximize your online presence with these search engine optimization (SEO) tips from marketing expert Adam Smith.
Dental practices are bought and sold on a regular basis. They transition from one owner to another and often change names in the process. We have had several clients come to us during this process wondering what the best plan of action is. They are often confused by what they have read online or advice they have received. The reason for the differing advice and opinions is typically due to the differences in the purchase situations. My intention with this article is to make this process clearer for the purchaser and help you maximize your online presence during transition.

Clearly define your situation before making any decisions

Before you decide what to do with your online presence in transition, you need to ask yourself a few questions to get a clear direction:

• Will the practice name be staying the same?

• Will the location be staying the same?

• Does the practice currently have a website?

• Is that website ranking anywhere on the first couple pages of Google?

• Will the URL for the website be staying the same?

Now that you have clearly identified your situation, let's get into how you can use it.

Citation cleanup

Citations have always played a factor in search engine optimization (SEO). Their importance changes regularly, as does Google's algorithm; however, there are very few people in the SEO world who would argue that they are not worthwhile.

You might be wondering what a citation is. A citation (for SEO purposes) is any other website that lists your business name, address, and phone number. Yellow Pages is an example of one of these sites.

Now that you know what a citation is, let's jump into why it is important and what you should do about it in transition.

Google uses citations as part of a trust factor. If you have been operating under the same name for a long time, chances are that your information will be similar across all of those directory sites, such as Yellow Pages, or at least that is the idea. If your citations are consistent, it is a good trust factor for Google, which is one of the reasons it will bring a business up higher in the search engines.

If you are changing the practice name, location, or URL, you are going to have some citation cleanup to do. For example, when we purchased our dental office in Idaho Falls, they did not have a website, but they had been operating under the same business name—which was changing—for a long time. This meant that we needed to update as many of our citations as possible.

You could go about doing this by hand, but it would require a lot of labor. We ended up using a company called Bright Local to do our citation cleanup. Each citation costs about $3, but they submit your new information and suppress the old information. You can do that for the most important sites for $150 and save yourself a lot of time and energy. You should also submit the new information to the data aggregators to make sure that the information stays correct ($55 from Bright Local). There are SEO agencies that will charge you a few hundred dollars a month just to manage this aspect of SEO. Now you can knock it out for what they would charge for a month. You can thank me later.

URL management

First things first, can you keep the same URL going forward? If so, you should. The age of a website is a ranking factor to a point, so if you can keep the URL, that is probably the best route. Get that URL transferred so you own it, and set it up to renew automatically. You will build your site and update the practice information on that URL. You do not want to lose it due to expiration!

If the business name is changing in such a way that you are not going to be able to keep the URL, do some searching on Google to determine where the current website is ranking. If it is ranking well, you will still want to keep it; if it isn't, you might be better off starting from scratch.

If the website is ranking well, you can use what is called a 301 redirect. This essentially tells Google that the website that used to be there but has moved to a new location, your new URL. This will ideally transfer the rankings of the current website to your new website.

I ran into this situation recently when working with Osborne Dental Care in South Jordan, Utah. The practice had recently moved, and the city that was tied to its website changed. Since that city was in the URL, we used a 301 redirect to a new URL that had the new city in it. The rankings transferred over almost flawlessly.

Takeaways

I know this can be a confusing process, and I hope this article sheds some light on a few ways to make the transition easier and more successful.

In a nutshell, if your name, address, phone number, or URL is changing, use Bright Local to update your listings. If your URL is staying the same, make sure you own it and that it doesn't expire because you are going to be building your new site on that URL.

If your URL is changing, check how well it is ranking, or hire someone who knows how to do that. If it is ranking well and is not penalized, you will 301 redirect it to your new URL. If it is not ranking well, find someone who knows what they are doing and start from scratch.

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me!


Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions. Subscribe to the Apex360 e-newsletter here.


Adam Smith is co-owner of Oxford Dental Care and has personally consulted with more than 70 dental practices across the United States and Canada. He worked as a consultant and a data analyst with Dental Intel, where he fell in love with the statistics and business aspect of dentistry. Adam has a background in online marketing and website development and works with a few select practices on their marketing on a referral basis only. He also runs a dental marketing Facebook group where he provides tips to dentists to improve their online marketing. If you have any questions, he can be reached at adam@dentalseoagency.com.


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