Do you need to increase patient calls and gain additional interest from prospective patients? Local Search Engine Optimisation (Local SEO) is the ideal way to attract new clients and minimise the amount you spend on unqualified traffic coming to your website. By focusing on keywords that are relevant to your local area, you can zero in on those valuable prospects without wasting time and resources.
Exposure Ninja’s SEO gurus are a dab hand at increasing organic traffic for local search terms. In this insightful article on Local SEO for dentists, we share our top tips on how to gain additional website visitors who are likely to become and remain clients of your dental practice for the long term.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the art of optimising your website for keywords that are relevant to residents in your local area. Brick-and-mortar establishments like dental clinics rely heavily on local SEO for visibility and to attract viable clients online. Local SEO is an incredibly effective way to market your dental clinic by promoting your products and services, highlighting positive reviews and providing incentives to attend your clinic, such as discounts or added value propositions.
Local SEO involves a variety of search engine marketing techniques, some of which are different from standard SEO optimisation protocols. There are specific local SEO tools that can help you increase your visibility for valuable keywords, but what are they? In this post, we share the best with you and help you get to grips with using them.
Why Do Dentists Need Local SEO?
Local search is a powerful tool for small businesses and brick-and-mortar shops. According to Google, 46% of searches have a “local intent”, with searchers looking for relevant products and services available in their area. Looking for a local service and successfully finding the right one naturally leads to a visit — 72% of consumers who conducted a local search visited a store within five miles. For dental practices, the potential return on investment gained by successfully attracting local website visitors is significant. You can target potential patients with keywords that are specific, relevant and timely, attracting and converting them into loyal service users.
How to Optimise Your Website for Local SEO
Enjoying success with local SEO will require you to improve your on-page SEO and ensure your website is user-friendly, easy to navigate and rich in useful content. To help you optimise your website for local SEO, we’ve created a comprehensive guide that covers local SEO tools, best practices, how to optimise for directories — especially Google My Business — and more.
1. Optimise Your Website’s Design for Easy Conversions
Improving user experience is critical for bettering your SEO results, as search engines increasingly factor website usability in its ranking algorithm. Ensuring that your website is designed to make conversion easy for users means that you can deliver the kind of experience that naturally leads to more calls, clinic visits and new patients.
Each page on your website should be pushing users towards a micro or macro conversion, with appropriate calls to action (CTA) that are visible above the fold (the section of a website a user sees when landing and without scrolling) and reinforced further down the page. More clicks on your CTAs results in a better website engagement rate, which signals to Google and other search engines that your website functions well and is useful for visitors.
2. Make Your Website Secure
Users expect your website to be secure and safe to use. Securing your site with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is the best way to protect the data passed between your website visitor’s computer and your website. Google strongly encourages all website owners to adopt HTTPS and uses it as an important ranking factor. That’s because data sent via HTTPS is encrypted, so it cannot be modified, corrupted or stolen during transfer.
You can make your website secure by obtaining a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which takes steps to verify your website belongs to you. You can opt for a single certificate or a multi-domain certificate to cover multiple domains you own for the same business.
Not only does making your website secure benefit your website from a ranking perspective, but it will also offer an improved user experience to users. When your website lacks an SSL certificate, visitors will be warned that any data they submit may not be secure. If you offer potential patients the opportunity to request a free consultation or book an appointment online, these users need to be reassured that their data, including their email address and phone number, are secure.
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3. Make Your Website Responsive on Mobile Devices
Most people tend to use their mobile to search for nearby businesses on the go, rather than search at home for nearby facilities, so mobile device optimisation is key for local search success. A surprisingly high number of searches made on mobile have local intent — 56% — and one study showed that 75% of all mobile searches that exhibit local intent produce in-store visits within 24 hours; that’s a lot of potential patients for your dental clinic and a speedy return on investment!
Making your website responsive for mobile devices means that the experience on smartphones will be different to that on desktop — it is possible to customise what information is displayed based on the device used to access your website. On mobile, your website should be simple and clean, using bigger fonts that are easier to read and broken-up copy to prevent large blocks of text dominating the screen. You should also avoid large image files, which can slow loading times and clutter up a smaller page. Your site should be easy to navigate on mobile, with intuitive menus that are easy to access at the tap of a finger.
If you would like to learn more about responsive web design, Google provides a free course covering the fundamentals, which will walk you through the process of creating a responsive web page and what’s involved with changing viewport tags to display elements differently by device. The course is free and takes about two weeks to complete — take it via Udacity’s training portal.
4. Make Your Website Fast on Mobile Devices
Your website should load quickly on mobile devices (in fewer than three seconds). You can use Google’s free page speed tool to test the loading speed of your site and receive a page speed report that tells you whether your site is slow, typical or fast to load and how the loading times trend over time. You can also benchmark your site speed against competitors and see Google’s recommendations for making your site load faster.
Here are some quick ways to improve website loading speed on mobile:
- Defer unused CSS style sheets and any unnecessary CSS.
- Encode your images in newer formats like JPEG 2000, JPEG XR and WebP, which load faster and consume less cellular data. You can serve a fallback PNG or JPEG in case the user’s browser doesn’t support these newer formats.
- Ensure that your Document Object Model (DOM) tree is as small as possible and remove nodes when they are no longer needed.
5. Do Your Keyword Research
Local SEO requires your website to be optimised for keywords that are important to searchers in your area. The process of keyword research is similar to that used during standard SEO research — you just add specific filters that allow you to drill down into local results. It is best to combine search terms that are relevant to your patients’ search intent and your industry by using location-specific terms, such as “Invisalign treatment in York” or “dentures in Durham”. In this way, you are combining insight into keyword intent (what your end-user is searching for) with a local specifier for powerful results. You will need to use Google Keyword Planner or an alternative keyword research tool to complete your research, filtering keyword searches based on location so that you can find the most relevant keywords. Exposure Ninja provides a very informative guide on how to do keyword analysis, which includes a section on keyword research for local SEO.
6. Optimise Your Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Now that you have your keyword priorities, you should be optimising your metadata for the most relevant keywords for each page.
The page title is the text that appears in the search engine results pages as the title of your page, and it also appears at the top of the browser where your tabs are displayed. The page title is vital because it tells Google and other search engines what the page is about. It should be kept under 70 characters for desktop and 60 for mobile — although we advise running these through a pixel width checker to ensure they aren’t cut off on the results page — and your business name should be visible, as well as your most important keyword. Page titles are crucial for local SEO optimisation. As an example, a dentist in Buckhurst Hill might use the following page title for their homepage:
Dental Clinic in Buckhurst Hill | Buckhurst Dentists
The meta description is a text snippet that contains valuable information about your business, services and the content of your website. Each page of your website should have a meta description of no more than 155 characters for desktop and 130 for mobile, and these can also be optimised efficiently for local SEO. Let’s look at an example meta description to complement our page title:
Buckhurst Dentists is Buckhurst Hill’s leading dental clinic. Our highly experienced team provides dental services, including teeth whitening and crowns.
For more information on how to optimise page titles and meta descriptions for local SEO, take a look at Exposure Ninja’s guide on how to write page titles and meta descriptions.
7. Optimise Your Existing Content with Local Information
Make sure that you go over your existing content and check that it is informative, useful and relevant to a local audience. When talking about your practice on your About Us page, explain where your clinic can be found in detail — “Delicious Dental is located in Pie Lane, just a five-minute walk from Custard Road train station and a short bus ride from the centre of Pudding town. We’re opposite Earl’s Ice Cream Parlour — you can’t miss us! Parking is available on Donut road, with 30 minutes of free parking per visit.”
Provide information that is relevant to local website visitors, such as your dental practice address, telephone number, email address and opening hours, on your “Contact Us” page and anywhere you include a call to action inviting people to visit you. Using a Google Maps plugin will allow you to display your clinic location on an interactive map and may also result in Google showing map results as rich snippets — enhanced search results displayed on search engine results pages (SERPs) that add visual appeal and contextual relevance.
Ensure that every key landing page on your website is meeting a specific user intent. If you have a page detailing your teeth-whitening service, ensure that the information is clear, helpful, relevant and well-optimised for local users.
8. Create New Content for Your Content Gaps
A great way to improve your local search rankings is to create valuable blog and news content based on stories and events that are taking place in your area. Has a local school, surgery or childcare organisation released guidance on keeping kids’ teeth clean? Do you have a local fair, event or activity day coming up where your dental practice could raise visibility and promote your services? Write blog posts and news articles about local news and create videos to reinforce the value and depth of the content. You could team up with a local children’s charity to promote the importance of regular tooth brushing or find another relevant local organisation to partner with on wider issues of mouth health and dentistry.
It’s also a good idea to set up location-specific pages for each of the key areas you cover, detailing the services you provide and how you help the local community, answering specific FAQs from local clinic users and displaying testimonials from real patients. With location-based marketing, as with any type of content production, it’s important to bear in mind the importance of E-A-T and ensure that you are always producing content that demonstrates Expertise, Authority and Trust to the reader.
9. Improve and Increase Internal Links to Important Pages
Adjusting your internal linking structure can help to boost your local SEO rankings, assist with information architecture and ensure page authority is accurately distributed. With local SEO, any location pages you are adding to your website must be adequately linked to from relevant pages within your site structure, providing vital context of and authority for each page on your website. Make sure to use relevant anchor text for your internal links and ensure that the text clearly states which page you are linking to.
Your internal links should provide value for website visitors, helping them access relevant additional information and resolve their queries. The more relevant information you link to, the more likely your website visitors are to stay on your website for longer and the more pages they are likely to visit. As Neil Patel puts it in his Commandments of Internal Linking article, never link for the sake of linking. Instead, link to content that is relevant to the source.
How to Optimise Your Off-page Local SEO
1. Optimise Your Google My Business Profile
If you haven’t already, claim your business on Google My Business. Google will create a business listing for you and add your business to Google Search and Maps, providing you with a free business profile that you can manage and add information, menus, enticing images and more to. You can add offers to your profile and entice potential dental practice clients with an appealing offer, show inviting images of your clinic surroundings and give potential patients reasons to choose you over your competitors.
You should add your address, telephone number, messaging information and website address to your Google My Business profile and allow potential patients to connect with you via Google Maps and search by calling, messaging or leaving reviews.
You can also optimise your search engine listing on Bing by creating a free business profile on Bing Places for Business. Although Bing grabs a much smaller share of search engine users, it’s nonetheless a significant platform with a dedicated user base.
2. Increase the Number of Reviews for Your Dental Clinic
Speaking of reviews, the more five-star independent reviews you receive from happy clients, the more that your website authority will increase and visitors will trust your services — making them more likely to call or book an appointment. 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making them a key factor during the decision-making process. Exposure Ninja clients have benefitted from a Google ranking boost and increased clicks, leads and revenue following a successful increase in positive independent reviews.
The best independent review platforms for dentists are Google My Business, Yelp, Trustpilot, Feefo and Reviews.io. You can manage the reviews you display on your website, feature reviews on key landing pages and use them as part of your local marketing campaigns to provide a compelling reason to select your service over competitors. Exposure Ninja provides a useful guide on how to sign up for independent review platforms and add the widgets to your website.
There are many ways to encourage dental clinic patients to leave reviews; asking for a review in-person after successful treatment, sending a follow-up email post-treatment and sending text messages encouraging clients to review your clinic are good ways to increase your volume of reviews. The key is to make it easy for patients to provide you with testimonials.
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3. Optimise Your Directory Listings
Getting your business name, address and phone number into respectable online business directories like Yelp, Foursquare and YellowPages will boost your local SEO and improve visibility. You should include a backlink to your website, an enticing description of your dental clinic and all relevant contact details in your business listing for each directory.
Every local area has a local business directory, but it’s important to ensure that each citation is consistent with how your business is mentioned across the web. You can also seek out listings on industry-focused directories and blogs — there are several popular local SEO tools that help you get citations from relevant local directories, including Moz Local, which provides an automated approach to directory listings and flags any inconsistent listings on the internet.
4. Build New Links to Your Website
Increasing the volume of high-quality backlinks pointing to your website should be an essential part of your local SEO strategy. Links from high-authority, relevant websites will help to increase your website’s domain authority, boost your rankings and increase referral traffic.
As a local dental clinic, you need to generate backlinks that increase your visibility locally while also contributing to your overall visibility. Here are some proven ways to increase backlinks as part of your local SEO strategy:
- Create high-quality content that others want to link to. This might be a resources page others will find valuable that lists the best local services for patients in need of care or families looking for support in the community.
- Enter local awards for dentistry and patient care — the results are mentioned online and a win could be a fantastic point that differentiates your practice from competitors and entices prospective patients to visit.
- Offer to guest blog on reputable local business sites with high domain authorities or for industry websites that provide news coverage for local dental clinics.
- Engage with local influencers and give them a compelling reason to link back to you — invite them to try your revolutionary teeth-whitening treatment or ask them to review your teeth-cleaning service. The key is to turn influencers into advocates on the strength of your quality of service.
- Sponsor a local sports team or identify an appropriate local charity partner to earn coverage on local blogs and news websites.
- Host a local community event to raise awareness, visibility and generate coverage from local press.
- Get listed in local business directories — while we have covered this separately, as it’s a vital part of any local SEO campaign for dentists, any backlink from a high-authority business directory will contribute to your overall backlink profile and local SEO efforts in a meaningful way.
What Are the Alternatives to Local SEO?
Local SEO is almost always cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing, as you don’t have to pay to run adverts in local newspapers, distribute flyers or gain promotional space in local magazines. You also have more control over the distribution channels and who you are targeting, making the potential ROI much higher than when opting for the blanket approach of targeting a wide pool using offline advertising methods.
Should you decide to complement your local SEO strategy with other forms of local advertising for your dental clinic, we recommend the following techniques:
- Trial local PPC (Pay-Per-Click) advertising and target potential new patients via Google Ads
- Secure a bus-stop billboard or two in key places around town to raise awareness
- Create location-targeted ads that appear to people in your local area, promoting your clinic and services
- Sponsor a local team or charity to raise awareness of your dental clinic, ethos and vision
- Post to Instagram using local hashtags — this isn’t strictly an SEO technique, but it will get your dental practice in front of those using Instagram’s internal search to make relevant local enquiries