Generating New Patients With Search Engine Optimization
THE NEXT DDS
Building a professional, comprehensive website for your practice is an integral first step in the development of any online marketing campaign; however, its effectiveness is dependent upon the number of patients who actually view it. Unfortunately, simply building a website is not enough to generate traffic, especially in a market that is saturated with local competition. To increase your website’s visibility, make sure that it appears near the top of the natural search results for keywords relating to your practice -- a strategy known as search engine optimization (SEO). The earlier your practice appears in the search results of major search engines, the more traffic you will generate to your site.
Google and Yahoo! determine a website’s ranking based on various factors, including keywords, quality of content, links, domain age, and site maintenance. When implemented properly, SEO provides the highest long-term return on investment of all online marketing methods.
Identify Your Keywords
Keyword research is a fundamental step of any SEO plan. Online search engines use these words and phrases to identify your site, and they should consist of terms that prospective new patients are likely to use when searching for dentists in your area. For dentists, the optimal keywords will generally be “dentist” and the “town name” (eg, Springfield dentist) or “dentist” and the “service elective” (eg, veneers Springfield). Search engine optimization requires that you not only choose the right keywords and phrases but also imbed them in clear, compelling copy that your sites visitors will find useful, including the web page URL, title tags, meta tags, headlines, sub headlines, and body text.
Strong Link Building
Another key factor used to determine how well your site ranks in the natural search results is the number of authoritative, relevant links pointing to your website. While time-consuming, acquiring valuable, quality links from a major news site or blog can significantly influence your ranking and improve your site’s credibility. A way to generate these important back links is by syndicating keyword-rich press releases and articles to mainstream and niche press outlets. In addition to strong link building, you will also get additional traffic from potential patients clicking from those sites to yours.
Keep Your Site Fresh
You may be tempted to devote less energy to your SEO tactics once your strategy is in place. It is important to note, however, that a successful SEO campaign requires ongoing, ever-vigilant efforts in order to maintain a prominent position and prevent competitors from out-ranking your site. In fact, search engines thrive on fresh content and essentially reward sites that devote time and energy to keeping them updated.
A blog is an easy and very effective way to keep your site fresh. A practice blog can create the perfect avenue for exchanging information with your patients on a more personal level, while enabling patients to provide comments and feedback. Since every new post is essentially a new page for your website, the search engines will index these pages and reward you with a higher ranking.
Search Engine Optimization is a gradual process of experimenting, measuring, and refining. Keep in mind that once you have your SEO plan in place,it can take several weeks before you see an improvement in your site ranking for the keyword phrases you targeted. But once search engines begin indexing your site and increasing your position, this long-term strategy can be extremely rewarding and worthwhile. If you need more immediate results, consider a pay-per-click advertising campaign while you wait for your SEO results to take effect. Failing to incorporate an SEO strategy as a vital part of your online marketing will leave you with no presence, no clicks, and no new patients.