Tuesday Tip from Pride Institute: What to know before hiring an SEO pro for your dental practice

Feb. 11, 2014
SEO is an imporant part of marketing any dental practice by Naomi Cooper

By Naomi Cooper, Pride Institute Consultant

Outsourcing is a terrific method of delegation, one I often recommend to my Pride Institute clients, especially when it comes to tasks that are out of the normal scope of a dentist’s work. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a perfect example of when it truly makes sense for a dentist to work with an outside professional.

For those who may not be familiar, SEO is the strategy behind increasing a website’s ranking in organic search engine results. Think of it as doing the things that will place your site at the top of the all-important page one. Because search engines are always refining their algorithms, SEO tactics change constantly, and there is no realistic way for dentists to stay on top of the latest SEO trends while also focusing on practicing dentistry.

When I’m working with Pride clients on updating their online marketing efforts, I begin with these three questions:
1. When was the last time the practice website was updated? In order for SEO tactics to be most effective, the current website must be relatively new and optimizable for modern SEO strategies. If the website has not been updated during the last few years, all efforts should be in redesigning it first. Through the redesign, the website developer can incorporate the necessary architecture for SEO.

2. What other marketing is being done? Traditional SEO alone will not increase new patient flow. A solid online marketing plan will include several activities that will work together to build momentum for the practice and boost SEO, including active profiles on social media and patient review sites, video content on the practice website, and even an onsite blog. Additionally, front desk staff must be well trained in verbal skills so that when new patients call, they are handled properly. The point is that SEO should not be the sole focus; other processes must also be in place to support it.

3. What is the marketing budget? SEO is not a quick fix. It must be done consistently on an ongoing basis. As with most marketing tactics, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

If the website is ready to go and the staff is well versed in patient communication, it’s time to hire an SEO professional. When hiring any outside vendor, I emphasize with my clients that it is essential to ask the right questions and have a clear understanding of your goals, as well as some ground rules for your vendors. There are many self-described SEO experts out there, so how is a dentist supposed to know which one to hire?

Here are a few tips I recommend when choosing SEO professionals:
• Are they promising to make your website No. 1 on Google? Don’t fall for it. It is impossible to guarantee that any website will be at the top of any search engine results, unless you’re already there.

• Are they asking to be paid up front? Since SEO is something that has to be performed consistently over time, I recommend that my clients never pay up front for SEO but rather in the form of a monthly fee so that the vendor has an incentive to continue to perform.

• Are they offering to produce videos, help build out online profiles, or create other content? Many factors go into improving a website’s search engine rankings, such as online reviews, social media, videos, and blog content. If a vendor is offering to do this for you, ask how much experience the person has in working with dentists. Be sure that you own all the content once published. Be careful to read the fine print — some vendors license content to you only for the term of your agreement, and once you cancel your service, the vendor retains ownership and reserves the right to take the content down.

• Is the vendor using unethical methods that are frowned upon by Google and other search engines? An SEO vendor using underhanded tactics such as writing fake reviews or creating multiple profiles can absolutely hurt your rankings for years to come.

When it comes to SEO, it pays to outsource. It pays even bigger to outsource to the right vendor. There are certainly trustworthy and ethical SEO vendors out there who are proven entities in the dental industry. The effort put toward finding the right vendor will pay off long-term in increasing new patient flow and building a successful dental practice with a strong online presence. When in doubt, ask your marketing consultant whether your SEO proposal is a good one!

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