By verifying & optimizing their local search engine profiles or Places pages.
By expanding their digital footprint & boosting ranking signals of those search engine environments through claiming their practice profiles in the most popular local search portals, internet yellow pages sites, and specialty dental health portals.
By using some type of review generation system – however generous, overt, well-timed, annoying, distasteful, or laser-targeted, you choose to make it.
Now for the background and supporting info on HOW to get there…
What Is Local SEO for Dentists?
It’s all about magnifying your location and communicating consistent, accurate business details info. When people in your area search for a dentist, you want to be there – on that piece of search engine real estate – with an accurate, professional, and somewhat alluring presence.
From verifying or optimizing local search engine listings, to fixing incorrect business info in one of the big data aggregators, to replying to online reviews, local search for dentists (or any local business) is more the task-oriented undertaking that will require some organization, but its certainly within the realm of the DIY digital marketing dentists out there.
Local Search Engine Listings – Google Places (or +Local), Bing Places, Yahoo Local
Depending on how many practice locations and other potential roadblocks we won’t get into here…search for, claim, and correct your practice listings in these primary local search engine environments.
Find your practice listing (or add one if you’re new), login to each one (Google, Bing, & Yahoo) to confirm the listing and make sure the information being transmitted is correct – primarily your business name (some nuance allowable – but BE CONSISTENT EVERYWHERE), business address, and business phone.
Example of Nuance – nothing needed for location & phone details, it is what it is:
- Anytown Smile Design: John D Doe DDS – OK, sorta and who knows about the future or previously penalized past.
- Best Anytown Dentist | Cosmetic Dental Excellence Anytown | Call 976-GUMZ – NOT OK. Too much, incorrect, violates guidelines.
Did you know with large or group practices…or even double doc shops, the practitioners can also have Google listings in addition to the primary practice organization?
Read the Google Places for Business Guidelines to learn more. –https://support.google.com/places/answer/107528?hl=en&ref_topic=1656880
Now that you’ve gone thru the postcard or phone call process of verifying your dental practice listings in Google (Plus and/or Places), Bing, & Yahoo, AND properly categorizing the listing, AND confirming correctness of info, AND optimizing each listing to 100% with appropriate imagery, special offers, or captivating call to action copy, AND double-checked your work…now it’s time to work on improving the ranking factors of each listing.
Google, Bing, Yahoo, and an exponentially expanding internet of everything information grabbers take their local business data compiled from a few major aggregators – and there is relatively zero standard for how this information is collected or communicated between parties.
Dentists, as all local business owners, can boost their ranking factors in those foundational search engine environs through leveraging their name, address, and phone data by disseminating it through various local search directories, IYP sites (internet yellow pages), and niche dental health portals.
Your strategy can be as simple as doing a search for a dentist in your area, and taking note of the websites that show up in the organic search engine results pages (SERPs). Local search sites like Yelp or Angieslist, internet yellow pages sites like yp.com or Superpages or Insiderpages, and specialty portals such as Vitals or Healthgrades, are all sites to target with your citation building efforts.
Choose sites that are the most popular with users in your area, or that show up well on a variety of searches – or dig a little deeper and see where your competition is ranking, then follow in kind. After that selection process, go through each listing for your practice (or add new ones if needed) to make sure the information listed is accurate and up to date. Most sites allow some type of search – either by phone number or business name – to see if your practice is already listed.
Most if not all local search sites, IYPs, and even the specialty portals offer FREE listings!
You just need to identify, claim, & maximize those listings to your advantage by creating a window into your practice. To do this, use keywords and locations, ensure proper categorizing, and build out each profile to 100% completeness.
Online Review Generation
Online reviews for dentists can be difficult to come by IF there is no strategy in place to collect, publish, then amplify your digital word of mouth. But for those offices out there either employing a software supported system, or going at it with a stand alone option, building online reviews for their dental practice is a totally automated icing on the cake benefit of local seo tactics.
Online reviews are an important ranking signal in particular to yourGoogle+ Local listings, along with proper categorization, and relative office location relative to the city center – as defined by Google.
So how do dentists collect and publish more online reviews?
It all starts with a plan. Collecting reviews is easy, but the ultimate goal is to recruit new patients by offering testimonials from existing ones. Sure positive reviews make you feel good and reinforce why you chose this profession in the first place, but without prospective patients in your local area actually seeing the reviews when they’re on the search for a local dentist, they’re really only good for the ego.
By this point most major dental software providers offer some type of automated review generation strategy, BUT the one major missing ingredient with amplifying that digital word of mouth is where the reviews live.
You want your reviews on Google+, on Yahoo Local, on your Bing Places page…along with Vitals, Healthgrades, Angieslist, Citysearch, Yelp, Kudzu, MerchantCircle, InsiderPages, Manta…you get the point.
So, while it is good to actively solicit more reviews using automated solution like dental software, ultimately that is the place your reviews live – IN your dental software, ON THEIR site or application (or one hosted by them). That’s all well and good, but what happens to those reviews if you switch providers or discontinue the service?
A better alternative in my opinion is to develop an organic, non-invasive, completely unannoying system of collecting reviews for your dental practice – using email as the foundational element.
- Reviews that patients can publish directly to your website or blog.
- Reviews that your patients can leave on their social media or local search site of their choosing.
- Reviews that are properly marked up with schema.org microdata in order to show those eye-grabbing gold stars in the search engine results pages.
A quick and dirty synopsis of an organic review generation system could be something as simple as:
- Crafting a custom email message to your patients asking them to leave your practice a review – with call to action buttons linking to your social media and local search listings.
- Allowing them to choose where & when they leave the review – present options (not just your software app), and follow up with surveys, news, health tips…etc. (If the only email communication I get from you is an appt reminder 48 hours before my appointment, start communicating more regularly with your patients using email).
- Sending them an email message with these design elements in place so patients are only a click away from positively amplifying your digital word of mouth.
As a channel partner of Constant Contact, we use that industry leading email marketing platform for our members who are looking to organically capture and publish more online reviews for their dental practice. For less than $20 a month, those dentists use Constant Contact’s suite of email & social media marketing solutions to amplify their digital word of mouth – the right way!
A word of caution here for practices using iPads or tablets in their practice to try and collect online reviews onsite – Google knows the IP address of where the review is coming from, and it’s against Yelp’s policy to ask for reviews.
So if Google notices a run of reviews coming from your practice IP, those reviews could get flagged as spam – and never published. And if Yelp catches wind of you soliciting reviews you could watch your listing ranking drop….but maybe the annoying phone calls would drop as well.
We all know by now that a FREE business listing with Yelp is all you need, right? Maybe another argument for another blog post.
To keep reviews meant for your Google+ Local page out of the spam filters, download this Google+ Reviews No Spam Checklist checklist, and give your patients this “Leave Us A Google Review“ handout in their goodie bag rather than having them use the in-office WiFi to communicate their kind words.
To customize that handout with your very own logo and practice info, visit this review handout generator from Whitespark.ca for a great freebie to add to your system.
So there we have it…
3 Ways Dentists Using Local SEO Can Get New Patients
- By Owning (& optimizing) Your Local Search Engine Presence (Google+ Local, Bing Places, Yahoo…etc.)
- By Expanding Your Online Practice Visibility (Yelp, Angieslist, Healthgrades, Vitals…etc.)
- By Amplifying You Digital Word of Mouth (Review Generation)
Still have questions?
Please feel free to leave a comment or grab a copy of our FREE Google+ Local for Dentists ebook if you’re looking for some game-changing insights including:
- How dentists can use Google+ Local to capture more online reviews…the right way!
- The magic number of reviews needed to get those eye-catching “Gold Star” ratings.
- The 3 most important RANKING factors to boost your dental practice Google+ Local listings above the competition.