Getting your own practice up and running — attracting new patients, balancing the books and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere — can be challenging for even the most experienced dentists. Add to that list post-graduation debt that needs to be paid off, and it’s no wonder why many practice-owners are scrambling to get their practices on the map as soon as possible. But attracting new patients and retaining them isn’t as easy as it sounds. Marketing professionals don’t come cheap, and many dentists don’t think they have the know-how to market their practice themselves. In this blog post, I’m going to lay out some quick and easy hacks I’ve successfully used to rank higher on search engines and make my practice more visible.
Search engines have become smarter over the years. Gone are the days when you could simply stuff a page with the same keyword over and over and rank on the first page. All major search engines now weigh a multitude of factors when ranking pages — and it isn’t just about keywords. They’re also considering things like age of domain; keywords within domain name; and, behind the scenes, things like HTML and CSS codes. Some of these factors are within our control (like keywords), some aren’t, and some are too technical for just about everyone except those with a high degree of technical expertise.
Over the years, I’ve developed and tested a handful of free and easy hacks that will boost your search engine ranking. I personally used these strategies to help my own practice’s website make it from a distant Page 6 all the way to Page 1 of Google results for many different keywords. These DIY hacks require no special technical knowledge — any dentist out there can do them! Best of all, they saved me a bunch of money along the way. If you follow these steps, I believe you’ll have primed your practice’s site for the top spot on Page 1 of Google. The groundwork will be laid out and you’ll be ready to hire a professional to help with the final summit to Position 1.
Hack #1: Focus on NAP
This one sounds really simple, but you’d be surprised how many practices miss out on high rankings because they neglect to take care of this simple task.
Your business’ name, address and phone number (NAP) should be consistent across the numerous online directories and websites. Online directory information comes from four major directories: Axciom, Infogroup, Localeze, and Factual. Those four directories then propagate your contact information to numerous smaller directories. Check your listing information on the four major directories and confirm that the information is both correct and consistent. If corrections are needed, you can call their 800 number to edit your information.
The easiest way I found to go about this particular tip was to buy an annual package from Yext, which takes all my contact information and distributes across it vast network of online directories so that it’s consistent across the web. Claim your business listing on major sites so that you can edit information as and when needed.
Hack #2: (Original) Content Is King
Having a flashy, modern website certainly makes an impression on site visitors, but it pales in comparison to the importance of content. Your content is the key to distinguishing yourself from your competition. Furthermore, original content is valued far more by search engines than cookie-cutter, pre-made, copy-pasted sections.
Many dentists feel overwhelmed by the task of creating original written content for their sites — after all, a dentistry degree is a lot different than an English degree! But writing content for your site isn’t as hard as you may think. Friends and family can be particularly helpful for this task. Spend some time asking them what they like and dislike about their current dentist — use their feedback to drive your content. See for example how Definition Dental makes an emotional yet meaningful statement to connect with the local community in Beaverton OR. Think about your own practice philosophy — what makes your practice unique? What are the key principles you and your team follow in your day-to-day work?
Once you’ve gathered these thoughts, I suggest you sit down, write out a draft and get some feedback. Ask your friends and family to read your ideas and tell you what they think. If they were a new patient, what kind of impression would your content have on them? Were there any unanswered questions? You may also ask for feedback from current patients, as well.
As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least 1,000 words of content on each of the major pages on your site.
Hack #3: Build Links to Your Website
The term “information highway” gets thrown around a lot when referring to the internet, but many people don’t know what it really means. The “information highway” refers to the way information flows across the internet — how people talk, share, discuss, and distribute information. Using the information highway the right way can get your site seen by huge numbers of people on a continual basis. Knowing how the information highway runs is some of the most valuable knowledge you can have when it comes to building your visibility — but it can also seem daunting.
I suggest starting out by making a small goal: challenge yourself to get one backlink per week. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, but trust me, this strategy will build momentum fast. Start today — go out there and answer questions people have on social forums like Quora and Reddit. Make guest posts and comment on other people’s blogs. Create and share an infographic or short informational video with your iPhone and educate people about something they’d like to know. You might even consider describing an interesting and challenging case that could intrigue your colleagues. There are a huge range of options here that can meet your goal, but the basic idea is this: generate or share information that people value, information that people are specifically looking for, so that they’ll link your website as source.
Generating backlinks is going to give you a twofold edge. First, the backlinks alone will increase your SEO ranking. The other advantage is lesser-known. There are so many practices out there that don’t use backlinks at all. That’s a huge source of visibility that they’re missing out on — and YOU aren’t. Even just a few backlinks that you can gather will catapult you ahead of your competition. This is a crucial exercise, and the rate at which you build links and the relevant websites will make a difference. One last tip: be patient and consistent with your backlink goals. Search engines take their time in rewarding the links, but the results will payoff.
Hack #4: Build Your Online Reputation with Reviews
Not only do reviews bring an independent perspective from your patient base, but they also serve as signal in search engines. A steady stream of reviews from your patients can work like magic in moving you up in the ranks. Employing this tip doesn’t have to be arduous; there are vendors out there that can integrate into your practice software and automate the process of asking reviews from your patients. These services prompt your patients for a review via text messages, increasing the chances of getting a review. You don’t need a ton — aim for one review for every five requests. The quantity doesn’t matter as much as the consistency. Keep the reviews flowing and you’ll slowly start to move up.
Hack #5: Get Active on Social Media
Full disclosure: this strategy has a smaller contribution compared to the points above.
However, we can’t ignore the fact that social media has completely changed the landscape of things. Everyone and their mother (literally) are on social media these days, and it will most likely not hurt your business to have a presence on Facebook or Twitter. Their importance is growing everyday — why not get a headstart and establish yourself as the social media king/queen? Posting a weekly infograph, your latest blog post, or a picture of staff lunch are great ways to stay connected with your current patient base and connect with prospective clients.
If you create an account on Semrush or Brightlocal (they’re both free), you can track how your website is faring week over week. The software tracks your ranking and your site visitors. It’s a handy tool and I bet you’ll quickly become addicted to watching your site climb the ranks after implementing our hacks.
I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried any of my hacks? How did you do? Do you have any of your own hacks to share? Comment below!
Dr. Rohini Agarwal is New Dentist Now guest blogger and a member of the American Dental Association. She graduated from Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine in 2014 and has since been practicing in suburbs of Portland Oregon. Dr. Agarwal is passionate about oral health education among kids and loves to be involved in local community events.
Editor’s note: The purpose of this article is to promote awareness of issues that may affect dentists and dental practices, and is not intended to provide either legal or professional advice. Dentists are urged to consult directly with a properly qualified professional or with an attorney admitted to practice in their jurisdiction for appropriate legal or professional advice.