SEO, COVID19 & The Successful Dentist
If the impact of COVID19 and particularly in November the impact of the dreaded second wave is causing you stress and grief, don’t worry you are in very good company. The entire dental industry has been through a pretty severe stress test.
So, if you are stressing about what to do next, how to handle communication with your patients, how to get new patients through your door when regular patients are being a little recalcitrant about keeping hygiene appointment, We at Experdent Web Services have a few answers!
The one answer that we all know is that COVID19 has massively increased computer time for people. Even committed luddites are searching for the information that they need on a device connected to the web, and in most cases adeptly placing their orders online.
What does this mean for the smart dentist? At the core what this means is that the successful dentist will enhance his or her presence on the web and so whatever needs to be done to ensure that they get found easily online.
Consultants will pitch a whole smorgasbord at the dentist to ask them to invest in a sharper website, invest in SEO, invest in pay-per-click advertising, invest in direct marketing, invest in e-mail marketing, invest in social media advertising, etc. You get the picture.
While each of these strategies will bring some value, the advice that you would get from Experdent will be that you improve the content on your website (instead of getting an expensive supposedly sharp website) and invest in Search engine optimization.
These are two pillars on which you can build your online strategy. Both efforts ensure a better visibility for you online and whats more, both efforts will continue to deliver value even if you stop spending money. Yes, your SEO will begin to fall off when you stop investing in it, but it will take a long while for the impact to vanish completely.
Unlike this lasting impact from the website with better content and an investment in SEO, the other efforts are transient, and are directly related to the time of spend and the amount of spend. These other methods of online traffic will sharply fall to zero, the moment you stop investing in the activity.
The question therefore becomes what can you do at this time that will be good for your website’s SEO as well as create SEO value for you long term?
Here are Seven activities that you can undertake to improve SEO. These activities will help you come out of the slowdown created by COVID19, and build tremendous momentum for you long term!
1. Improve The Content On Your Website
In August 2018 Google introduced a major update that is popularly known as the “E-A-T” update of “the medic update” since the update’s biggest impact was on sites that had anything to with medicine or medical or dental treatment.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trust. So why is this important? And why should a dentist care?
The reason is simple Google’s algorithms built with artificial intelligence (AI) are becoming smarter and smarter. Its not possible anymore to tweak a website with keywords, build some links and land on page-1 of Google.
Now, especially after the Medic update, to rank high on Google your website genuinely needs to provide answers to what your clients or patients are searching for. Having the right content that your visitors find to be value is exactly what having Expertise, authority and trustworthiness is all about.
You may therefore need to create some new content or rewrite some existing content. If you have some time to spare during the COVID19 second wave, you could use that to write some interesting authoritative content for your own website or ask your web developer to get this done for you.
2. Refresh Old Content – Especially Refresh Your Old Blogposts
You would have heard that Google and Bing (The other big search engine although much smaller than Google) both have a bias towards what is sometimes simply called “Fresh content”.
How do you find old content? This could be content that had traffic previously but has no traffic now. Or it could simply be a piece of content that you wrote or your web developer wrote that you felt was high quality and you liked it for the value that it represented for your website.
In SEO speak, when a piece of content loses traffic over time, this process is called “content decay”. This decay will happen over time even to the best content.
Refreshing content that has decayed is a key part of indicating to Google that the content on your website is relatively fresh. This refreshing of content has the additional benefit of providing your website with a nice SEO boost.
To find topics that need a boost you could use your judgement of just use two free tools that Google provides the Google Search Console and Google analytics. Using these two tools you can find what keywords people use to find you and ensure that you address those keywords in the content refresh that you create.
This is also the opportunity to modify the content to showcase your expertise. This could be something simple like:
a. Make your articles longer. Meaningfully longer!
b. Merge two or three old blog articles into one longer more authoritative piece. (this needs a technical action too in the form of what’s called a 301 redirect. But that’s for later).
c. Build authority by bringing in “Before and After” pictures into new articles or even refreshed old articles, that help you showcase your expertise!
While you should definitely create fresh new content as explained in point-1 above, you should also use this time as an opportunity to refresh some of your older content that you feel has the potential to be a timeless piece.
3. Create/Update Your Google My Business Page
If you don’t have a Google My Business page, then before your do anything else, you need to build a profile for your business on Google. This is also known as your Google listing.
If you already have your Business Profile on Google, then the next step would be to optimize the listing. Make sure that you fill this out fully.
Take special care that the address that you showcase on your website and your facebook page must be identical to the business address on the Google My Business page. To reiterate your NAP (Name, Address & Phone number) must be completely identical down to whether you write ‘Street’ or ‘St’. Or whether you write ‘No.’ or ‘#’.
Google is fussy about the need for your NAP to be identical in all your directory listings. You can begin with ensuring that your website and the Google My Business page have identical NAP.
Remember that the information that fill in will on the Google My Business page is the information that will appear on the Google search local results that your website shows up in, the Google Search Knowledge Panel, and most importantly Google Maps.
4. Get Reviews From Happy Patients
You would already know that getting 5 star reviews from happy patients is good for the practice as it helps new patients make up their mind about trying your services.
Exactly how much is this important? Getting great reviews from your patients makes your Google My Business page look really good. Buts that only the side benefit. According to Bright Local (perhaps the company with the best Local Search Tools) 85% of all customers believe online reviews as much as they believe personal recommendations.
Use the slowdown if any in your business to reach out to regular patients and ask them for a review on Google, Facebook or Yelp – whichever platform they feel most comfortable with. While reviews matter on all these 3 platforms, the dominant 800 Pounds Gorilla in this space is Google. That’s where your reviews matter the most.
We often hear dentists say, I or my staff don’t know how to ask for a review, or that we feel diffident about asking for a review. Well, here are 3 ways that you could ask for a review:
a. Ask for a review when the patient is finishing the paperwork with your receptionist after a clearly happy experience.
b. Various patient management software allow you to 2-way text a patient. Send those patients that have had a happy experience, a text asking them to click on the link in the text to leave you a review.
c. Send an email with a custom link asking the patient to simply click on the link in the email to leave a review. Again make sure that you ask only those patients for a review, who have had a happy experience in their treatment at your office.
Getting great reviews is a definite ego boost, more importantly it encourages more local patients to come to you for dental services.
5. Expand The Number Of Your Citations
Expand the number of directories that your dental office is listed on. According to the Search Engine Journal Citations are considered a ranking factor for local SEO. What this means is that Google finds value in seeing that your business is listed in a variety of trusted online directories. The signal that Google gets from this is that it now knows with greater certainty that you are a real business.
There are broadly 4 kinds of citations that you should seek to build for your business:
- Major Business Data Platforms: Some of the bigger directories that you could find a citation on are for example: Google My Business, Localeze, Infogroup, Yellow Pages, various WhitePages, YellowPages, Better Business Bureau, and MapQuest, etc.
- Social Media: Social media listings like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, Foursquare, Yelp also serve as strong and trusted citation signals.
- Industry specific directories or platforms: These could be the directories of various dental associations or other related industry bodies that you are a member of.
- Geography specific directories or platform: These could be directories that specific to the city, province and even country that your office is based in
In summary, you should have citations wherever customers are likely to search or platforms that show up when a prospective client types a search into Google.
Getting your business listed in these directories will not only help visibility, i.e. help prspective clients find you, it will also enhance your local SEO.
SEOs generally agree that “Local citations” will impact your search engine rankings. This could be either positive or negative. The number of citations that your business is able to build and the accuracy of the data in the citations and not least, the quality of the platforms that the citations exist on, will influence your search rankings.
Search engines like Google scour the web and constantly update their index. If they find accurate citations consistently across quality and trusted directories, they will use that data as a strong trust signal, which will improve how the business ranks in local search.
If however, the opposite were to happen, haphazard information spread across dubious directories – this will cause Google or other search engines to place a lower degree of trust in the business, thereby reducing the ranking opportunity for the business.
6. Use Social Media To Build Outreach
Everyone uses social media to various degrees. For some it’s just some posts on Facebook or Instagram for others its a more sophisticated effort that brings in Linkedin, Twitter and sometimes some niche social media as well. And some of you even make videos for Youtube.
COVID19 presents an opportunity to broadcast messages that showcase how you are dealing with COVID, how you have changed appointment protocols at your dental office etc. These are subjects that are not just topical they are of burning importance to your audience of current and prospective patients.
Social Media helps drive traffic to your website, when people click on links in your social media message. And traffic we know is one of the factors that affects a website’s ranking on search engines. In addition a Hootsuite study of 2018 confirms that Social popularity does help with SEO outcomes.
Yet, SEOs believe and Google has even hinted that social media presence is not seen by Google as a ranking factor. So, here is what you need to know that will help you score better SEO results by leveraging your social media effort.
a. Social Media profiles show up in Search engines: If you search for a successful business, its very likely that along with the website of the business the SERP will show social channels as well. These social media pages by definition are more personal than the website and can be a great way to get a client or a prospect client in touch with your brand.
b. Social media channels are their own search engines: When someone needs to search for a service they may go to Google or Bing or they may go to Facebook or Twitter. People increasingly use their favourite social media channels in their search.
If a person is active on Facebook, they might go search for a Dental Office on Facebook, see what it has posted there, what the reviews are like etc. and then call the office directly from Facebook. Did you note that Google got completely bypassed in this search.
This same process could play out on Instagram, Twitter, or Linkedin. In fact, a dental office that produces great visual content could leverage Pinterest by smartly categorizing their pins, and Instagram by properly using hashtags.
c. Use Social Media to Create Customer advocacy: The marketing material that you create and use helps over time to build the persona of your brand. Social media perhaps does that even better than a website as it helps to make your practice appear “more approachable”.
This strategy is also known as content marketing – when you share information or data with your patients and prospective patients you have the ability to create significant impact.
If the content that you create and publish is high quality materials you will find that your social media followers will become advocates. This audience your will read and share your content with their friends – that widens the exposure of your dental office and brings a large number of potential clients into your ambit.
d. What kinds of content could you use in Social media – content marketing? There are a wide variety of content types that you could create and use in social marketing. Use whatever you feel that you possess the best talent. This could be internally or though a freelancer or an agency.
- Blog posts
- Pictures of your office/team/events
7. Work On Link-Building
Perhaps the strongest impact to Google search engine ranking comes from the number of websites that link to your website or more accurately link to content on your website.
This is a sophisticated and time consuming exercise. Over time the number of links has become as important as the as the quality of links for search engines like Google and Bing.
This means that you have to be careful about what kind of website you ask for a link. A bad website could actually result in a penalty. At the same time websites that have a high Authority and Trust score in Google’s eyes would help to take your websites search engine rank higher up.
In simple terms, Google sees each link that your website gets as being a vote for your website. Unlike political elections where each vote has the same value, in SEO all votes are not identical.
A vote from a high authority, high trust website has far more value than a link from say a new website that is yet to get established or a website that is low trust and or low authority.
You could still build some backlinks by reaching out to businesses that you receive services from or causes that you contribute to, or events that you support. Each of these could give you a link from their website which will all add up to helping boost the search engine rank of your website.
While doing this, please beware that a link-swapping scheme (you give me a link from your website, and I give you a link from mine) is frowned on by Google. You might get away with a few but Google’s AI is getting smarter by the day and you could get a significant penalty if Google decides that your link swapping was unethical.
Similarly please stay away from people who promise you a hundred (or some other large number) of links virtually overnight. These people use something called a “link farm” which is a bunch of websites linked to each other. This may have worked in the past, but is sure to invite a Google penalty today.
There are a lot of ways that you can ethically build back links to your website. Talk to us and we can help you with Link building amongst a host of other SEO services.
We Can Help:
At Experdent Web Services, we put these very ideas into practice. We are results-driven, dentist focused, and experts in SEO for dental offices in North America. If you are a dental office and are looking for SEO or need advice on your digital strategy, call us for a free 30-minute consult.