Dentists who want to reach a wider scope of potential patients can increase their presence through local search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. Local SEO uses a combination of digital tools, such customer reviews and localized web content, to get a business's website ranked highly on Google and other search engines. It is an effective way of marketing a dental practice’s website to attract prospective patients at the instant they’re looking for dental services.
One tool for ranking well on Google is a Google My Business listing. Google My Business is free for businesses and gives owners a chance to appear in Google’s local search results. Google My Business is important for a dental practice—or any local business—to get a competitive edge in its local market.
Most businesses haven’t learned the significance of using Google My Business. In fact, only 44% of businesses have established a Google My Business profile. (1) Dentists should start using Google My Business as soon possible to gain an advantage over their competition. Otherwise, they are telling competitors, "Please take all of the new patients that are searching for dental practices in our area."
Before discussing the details of Google My Business, let's look closer at how local SEO helps a business's website.
The benefits of local SEO for businesses
There are three fundamental reasons why local SEO benefits businesses. The first is the rapid growth of mobile services. People use mobile devices such as tablets, laptops, and smart phones to conduct searches for services near them when they’re on the go. When people are mobile, local search results are prioritized. A recent report shows that 51% of digital media time is on mobile as compared to 42% on a desktop. (2) Local SEO covers both mobile and desktop devices, so you are sure to reach your target audience.
Second, people increasingly use the internet to search for local businesses. Statistics from one study indicate that:
- 46% of searches conducted on Google are local.
- 64% of local customers use major search engines like Google to find local businesses.
- 50% of local customers conduct searches when looking for company contact information, such as a telephone number or address.
- 78% of all local searches conducted online result in offline conversions. (3)
Third, the search market for local businesses is highly targeted. In the case of dentistry, prospective patients use search engines to locate reputable dentists nearby. This is very different from traditional marketing campaigns that have a broader reach, such as placing an advertisement in a newspaper, mailing brochures to a neighborhood, or buying television ads. But in the local search results of Google, Yahoo, and Bing, you allow your business to be highly visible to potential patients who are in need of your services and are actively searching for them.
Google My Business and Google's local 3-pack
In search results, Google My Business listings are embedded in what is called the "local 3-pack." Every time Google notices that a search has a local intent, such as "business + location," it will show the local 3-pack at the top of the page.
Thanks to the local 3-pack, local businesses have an advantage over national businesses that don't have a local presence. Here are additional search examples that Google classifies as having local intent:
- searches that contain a geographic reference, like a city name or zip code
- search phrases that contain terms such as "near me"
- searches that request services often provided by local businesses, such as dental clinics or yoga studios
Being able to get your dental practice’s website in the Google local 3-pack is vital for driving new patients because your practice website can have a higher impact. Also, it's worth noting that Google has now made proximity of the business’s location in relation to the user’s location a high priority in determining which businesses are displayed in the local 3-pack. (4)
If you don't have a Google My Business profile, you won’t have a chance to acquire new patients through the local 3-pack. Prospective patients have a lesser chance of knowing you exist online and could pass up your office when deciding on a dentist. In addition, they can’t read reviews that others have left on your Google My Business profile. Just like proximity, Google has announced that local reviews are a high ranking factor when determining what businesses to display. (5)
Practices using Google My Business listings not only appear at the top of the search results page, they also come with a map. This is great for potential patients to quickly access directions to your location.
How to optimize a dental practice’s Google My Business profile
Once you have claimed your Google My Business profile and established an address and phone number (one that is local and permanent), take the following steps to help your profile appear in the local 3-pack.
1. Enter accurate data into your profile—This includes business name, hours of operation, phone number, website, appointment URL, etc.
2. Verify your dental business—Note: it takes approximately five to seven business days to receive your Google verification code to claim your Google My Business listing.
3. Make sure you are adding the correct primary and secondary categories—Be very specific with your primary category so Google can quickly determine what your business is about. Secondary categories can be treatment-specific, such as "emergency dental services." The primary category would be "dentist" or "dental clinic."
4. Add at least five relevant photos—To take it to the next level, geo-optimize your images.
5. Consistently manage and respond to reviews—Reviews are one of Google's top local ranking factors, especially those on your Google My Business profile. To increase reviews, you can use review software like Bird Eye.
6. Share content from your website on your Google My Business post option—This is great for local brand awareness.
Your ultimate goal should be to enhance your Google My Business profile by completing as much information as possible. In time, your hard work will reap the reward of a steady stream of new patients selecting your practice.
1. Jones R. Only 44% of Local Retailers Have Claimed A Google My Business Listing? Local Marketing Institute website. https://localmarketinginstitute.com/44-percent-have-google-my-business/.
2. Chaffey D. Mobile Marketing Statistics compilation. Smart Insights website. https://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-marketing-analytics/mobile-marketing-statistics/. Published January 30, 2018.
3. Sterling G. Study: 78 Percent Of Local-Mobile Searches Result In Offline Purchases. https://searchengineland.com/study-78-percent-local-mobile-searches-result-offline-purchases-188660. Published April 9, 2014.
4. Shaw D. Proximity to Searcher is the New #1 Local Search Ranking Factor. Moz website. https://moz.com/blog/proximity-to-searcher-is-new-top-local-search-ranking-factor
5. Charlton G. The importance of user reviews for local SEO. Search Engine Watch website. https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2436136/the-importance-of-user-reviews-for-local-seo. Published December 2, 2015.
Lamar Hull is the Founder of Organic Clicks LLC, a local SEO Company based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Organic Clicks LLC specializes in local SEO, website design, paid search, and social media marketing for health-care practices such as dental offices. Get a free SEO audit on your practice’s website to see how Organic Clicks LLC can help improve your online marketing performance.
Also by Lamar Hull
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.
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