Frank Olivo

Frank Olivo is the founder of Sagapixel. He writes on a number of topics related to digital marketing, but focuses mostly on SEO.

SEO for Dentists: A Guide to Understanding Dental SEO in 2024

Table of Contents

Effective search engine optimization (SEO) can be transformative for a dental practice.

Increased search engine visibility can result in countless new patients coming into your dental practice, especially those needing immediate dental work (think about it, someone with an impacted wisdom tooth isn’t shopping around).

Of all the industries that can most benefit from search engine optimization, dentists are right at the top.

If that’s the case, why don’t all dentists work with an SEO company?

Because they don’t understand what SEO is.

This is a digestible, yet thorough guide to SEO for dentists. I share the best practices in SEO you should be looking for as you find a dental SEO company. By the end, you will have a good understanding of what goes into dental SEO marketing, what good SEO looks like, and what SEO practices should be avoided.

What is Involved with SEO for Dentists?

Essentially, the goal of SEO is to increase the visibility of a website on search engines. The myriad activities that go into this largely fall into three categories:

  1. Ensuring search engines are able to crawl and index your dental practice’s website most effectively.
  2. Maximizing a dental practice website’s content to the searches patients are performing. This consists of identifying what keywords you should be targeting on your dental practice’s website through keyword research and producing new web pages and articles to  target them.
  3. Establishing authority and trustworthiness – fulfilling the search intent of internet users and earning links from other websites

Each one of these aspects of search engine optimization may require more or less intention depending on the nature of your dental practice.

In the case of  dental practices with newer websites, technical SEO typically doesn’t require many resources. Most dentists have websites built with WordPress and have an SEO plugin such as Yoast or RankMath. This makes the handling technical SEO tasks such as noindexing low value pages, creating sitemaps, and setting up redirects quite easy.

SEO for dentists mostly involves establishing relevance to the searches internet users are performing (having a page targeting “dentist for wisdom tooth extraction + city” for example) and establishing authority for the website (earning links from local websites as well as other dental websites).

Let’s talk a little more about establishing relevance, expertise, and authority.

The Importance of SEO for Dentists

SEO is crucial for dentists aiming to attract more patients and grow their practices. With a well-optimized website, dental offices can appear higher in search engine results, making it easier for potential patients to find their services.

1. Boost Your Website Traffic with Qualified Patients

An effective SEO strategy brings more than just increased traffic; it attracts qualified patients who are actively looking for dental services. By targeting specific keywords related to dental care, your website can rank higher in search results, leading to more clicks from potential patients. This targeted approach ensures that the visitors to your site are genuinely interested in your services, increasing the likelihood of booking appointments and converting leads into loyal patients.

2. Increase Your Online Visibility

SEO helps dentists enhance their online presence, making it easier for potential patients to discover their practice. By optimizing your website with relevant keywords, creating high-quality content, and ensuring a user-friendly experience, you can improve your search engine rankings. Higher visibility means your practice will be more easily found by individuals seeking dental care in your area, giving you a competitive edge and helping to establish your practice as a trusted local provider.

3. Grow Your Client Base & Fill Your Appointment Calendar

A well-executed SEO strategy can significantly grow your client base by reaching a broader audience of potential patients. By appearing at the top of search results, your practice becomes a top choice for those seeking dental services. This increased exposure not only attracts new patients but also encourages them to schedule appointments. As more patients find and choose your practice, your appointment calendar will fill up, ensuring a steady stream of business and sustained growth for your dental practice.

4 Tips for Establishing Relevance Through On-Page SEO for Dentists

On-page SEO for dentists is largely about the comprehensiveness  of the information included on your home page, service pages, and, if you have multiple dental offices, having well-optimized pages for targeting queries including the names of the cities.

1. Keyword Research for Dentists

Keyword research is the practice of understanding how people search for dentists and identifying the most promising opportunities that exists for a dental practice.

Let’s look at an example just using Google.

Google’s autocomplete generates suggestions of what it thinks I’m going to type in as I enter a query. This is based on actual queries that have been entered into Google by other users previously; for example, despite the fact that I’m writing this in our office in Cherry Hill, NJ, it is telling me that more people search for “dentists in Philadelphia” than “dentists in Cherry Hill:”

seo for dentists autosuggest

If I select “dentists in cherry hill nj,” I can click in the search box once again and it will give me the next queries I’m most likely to type next:

dental seo autosuggest

At this point, I’m seeing two different keyword variations I can focus on: “Dentists in Cherry Hill, NJ” or “Cherry Hill Dentist.” The next step is to determine which is likely to be easier to rank for.

Google used to provide a tool that allowed us to approximate the PageRank of a website, but it is no longer publicly available. These days, we have to rely on SEO tools such as Ahrefs to get an idea of the competition for keywords.

I’m going to enter each of these queries into Google and check the search results:

keyword difficulty for dentist SERP

My SEO tool estimates about 30 monthly searches for this query. Let’s see what it estimates for “cherry hill dentist:”

comparison keyword difficulty dentist SERP

According to the tool, “cherry hill dentist” has more monthly search volume but it is more difficult to rank for. An experienced SEO will look at other factors, however.

2. Content Formats Matter

The first thing we look at when determining the difficulty of a search engine results page (SERP) is the format of the content on page one. When doing SEO for dentists, we always have to check to see if the top results are actual practices or directory sites.

In the case of the search for a dentist in Cherry Hill, Healthgrades had to top spot for one search, but the other spots belonged to local practices. In the other search engine results pages, Healthgrades was nowhere to be found and Yelp had the #4 spot.

Let’s compare this to Google’s search results for “dentist in Philadelphia”:

dentist SERP philadelphia

Not a single actual dental practice website is in the top 4 of the search results for this query.

This means that if a dentist wishes to rank highly in Cherry Hill, it’s definitely doable. The keyword “cherry hill dentist” is the more attractive of the two, but there’s no reason not to test them both and see the results.

At the same time, a dentist in Philadelphia is unlikely to show up at the top of the search engine results for “dentist in Philadelphia.” It is likely that Google has determined that people are more interested in comparison websites with reviews and directories of dentists than they are in actual dentist websites. In the case of Cherry Hill, these directory sites seem to have not really targeted the town.

It is critical to perform keyword research to uncover these details and plan for them.

3. Include Your Targeted Keywords in the Title Tag & Metadescription

Once you’ve completed your keyword research and you’ve identified the keywords you wish to target for your dental practice, you need to include them on the page you’d like to rank for that query.

To start, include the keyword in your page’s title tag. If you’re using a WordPress plugin, it’s quite easy to set. Whatever keywords you put in the title tag will show in the search engine results and will have an impact on your search rank for that keyword, so think it through.

Title tags do have a limit of roughly 60 characters on desktop (~70 on mobile), so try to keep it under that character count. If you go over, your result on Google will be truncated, like this:

example of truncated title tag

It looks cheap and frankly, people want to see your name in the title.

Once you’ve included it in your title tag, write your meta description. Try to include your keyword here as well, since it will increase the likelihood of Google showing the meta description you write. Google will often pull text from your page and display that as your meta description if it thinks your meta description isn’t relevant enough to what the searcher is searching for.

Remember, you have a character limit here too. Keep your meta description to ~150 characters.

4. Include Your Keyword in Your Content—But Don’t Keyword Stuff

This is where mediocre or bad SEO companies most commonly fail when working on dental search engine optimization.

You want your keyword to be included in the headers of your content—typically your h1-h3 tags. Often, they neglect to take this simple step.

You also want to include the keyword in the content when possible, but don’t overdo it.

If you stuff in your keyword in every other sentence you’ll run the risk of having the content get flagged for keyword stuffing, but even worse, it reads terribly and will destroy any credibility you might have with potential patients.

Would you let someone drill holes in your teeth after seeing that their website reads like it was written by a robot? Me neither.

4 Tips for Off-Page SEO for Dentists by Establishing Authority & Trustworthiness

Dentistry is a “your money or your life” (YMYL) industry, which brings certain considerations when doing SEO for dentists. “Your money or your life” is a term used at Google to denote industries that require extra scrutiny in the search engine results because of the potential harm they can cause to an internet user.

For this reason, it is imperative that you build trust.

Since its founding, Google has used links from other websites as a proxy for the authoritativeness and trustworthiness of a website.

For example, if one of the dental practices in the aforementioned example of Cherry Hill had been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Press of Atlantic City, and the ADA website, yet no other practice in town had been as well, it would stand to reason that it would be because it is a prominent dental practice.

This is why SEO for dentists requires links from other websites.

Links have the most outsized impact on search rank of any SEO practice (except for those cases where technical issues are addressed in the opening phases of an SEO engagement).

Link acquistion is also the hardest part of SEO.

It is time-consuming, tedious, and difficult, but because it is all three of these things, it can also be tremendously impactful when done well.

At Sagapixel, we are a well-oiled link building machine, with team members specialized in each step of the link building process. Reach out if you’d like to get more information.

There are many link building methods out there, but the ones we’ve found are most effective for dentists are guest post link building and broken link building.

I’m not going to go into a ton of detail about either of these methods, but here’s an overview:

1. Writing Articles for Other Websites

Our outreach manager reaches out to a number of websites where a post discussing dental work would make sense. With the huge number of health bloggers, beauty bloggers, mommy bloggers, and other bloggers out there, we can find thousands of guest contributor opportunities.

We reach out to a large number of these websites, pitch a few article ideas, come to an agreement on a topic, then assign it to one of our writers. He or she produces the piece—which includes a link to your dental website—then we send it out.

Our outreach manager follows up with the website until it has been published or they stop responding to emails (in which case we bank the post for a future opportunity).

2. Broken Link Building

Broken link building involves finding content that used to be on the web that had a bunch of links going to it. We then recreate a similar piece of content and reach out to each website linking to the deleted post, asking them to replace the dead link with a link to our new and improved article.

Typically, we win 3%-15% of the links we ask for. This can vary wildly depending on where the original content was, but it almost always results in new links to the website.

3. Local Citations for Dentists

SEO for dentists is local SEO. A key part of local SEO is claiming local citations.

In SEO, a local citation is a mention of your website, name, address, and phone number. It is crucial to keep this information consistent—this is referred to as NAP consistency.

An example of this would be keeping one standardized format for your street address. You can’t have RT-103 on your Yelp page and Route 103 on your Google My Business page; this can make it difficult for Google’s local algorithm to understand that it is the same address.

In addition, many of the dental practice directories are considered to be trusted resources; if your dental practice isn’t listed there, that’s not exactly a good sign for your “authority” and “trustworthiness.” This is why local citations are so important for SEO for dentists.

4. A Word of Caution About Link Schemes

Link building is the easiest way to destroy your dental practice’s website’s search engine visibility. If you decide to take shortcuts, you could incur a penalty that results in a complete removal of your website from Google.

Many SEO agencies, especially the cheaper ones, engage in these risky practices, often without their client’s knowledge. If you hire an SEO agency, make sure you understand very clearly what they are doing. If they are building links, make sure the practices they engage in are in alignment with Google’s Webmaster guidelines and that none of their practices would qualify as link schemes.

Developing A Comprehensive SEO Strategy To Boost Patient Leads

A comprehensive SEO strategy is essential for dentists looking to increase patient leads and grow their practice. By focusing on optimizing your website, creating valuable content, and building authoritative backlinks, you can improve your search engine rankings and attract more potential patients.

Effective SEO involves both on-page and off-page techniques, ensuring that your practice is visible to those actively searching for dental services in your area. By implementing a tailored SEO strategy, you can drive targeted traffic to your website, ultimately converting visitors into loyal patients.

Understanding Your Target Audience

Knowing your target audience is crucial for the success of your dental practice’s SEO efforts. Understanding who your potential patients are, what they need, and how they search for dental services allows you to create content that resonates with them.

This understanding enables you to use the right keywords and optimize your website to meet their specific needs. By aligning your SEO strategy with the preferences and behaviors of your target audience, you can attract more relevant traffic and increase your patient base.

Developing Personas To Help You Precision Target Your Market

Creating detailed personas helps you precision target your dental market by representing the different segments of your potential patient base. These personas include demographic information, preferences, and common search behaviors.

By developing and utilizing these personas, you can tailor your SEO strategy to address the unique needs and concerns of each segment. This approach ensures that your marketing efforts are more focused and effective, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates as you connect with the right patients at the right time.

How Long Does SEO for Dentists Take?

Most dentists in smaller markets can see an increase in search rank within three to six months. Often, none of your competitors have worked with a dental SEO company, so it can often be quite easy to start seeing results. In these markets, the goal is to rank in both the local map results the blue link organic results:

dental seo local map results

dental seo organic results

In a larger, more competitive market, the local Google Maps results are going to be the goal. The blue link organic results will often (but not always) be dominated by directory listings, which you may want to consider advertising in:

SERP dentist in manhattan

In larger markets, you can usually expect that all of the top local Google Maps results are working with SEO companies, and often, they have a head start.

That is when you’ll need to find an SEO experienced with SEO for dentists to take a look at the search engine results and give you an estimate of how long it will take for you to start getting new patients through SEO.

Without looking at the specific market where you compete and without knowing your budget, it’s virtually impossible to give you a timeline for increasing the search engine ranking for your dental website in a competitive market.

Also, you’ll almost certainly need a review acquisition strategy. Even if you do break into the map results—which you’ll probably need reviews in order to accomplish—you won’t get the clicks if the other two results have hundreds of reviews and you have 12.

SEO for Dentists Can Have a Massive ROI

The number of new patients you can see as a result of your SEO efforts can be enormous.

I, for one, have had two root canals over the last several years, costing thousands of dollars. I went to a dentist I found on Google.

Also, SEO is unlike PPC on Google Ads that once spent, is gone. SEO lasts.

If you are successful in establishing relevance for the searches patients are performing when looking for a dentist, building trustworthiness and authority, and delivering a superior user experience to your website visitors, you can reap the benefits of having a continuous new stream of patients.

When combined with a comprehensive dental marketing strategy including paid search on Google Ads and a reputation management strategy to acquire reviews, search engine optimization can result in a profitable, stable dental practice.

Check out some of our other dentist marketing articles

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