Arlene Shaffer is a New York realtor with the gift of gab. From home inspections with clients to waiting on line at the grocery store, Arlene likes to talk. Her dentist, Dr. Bertman has tried unsuccessfully for years to stop the gab. The best he could do was garble it. Dr. Bertman had come to expect her ending each session with her credo, “It’s all about location, dear”.
After putting Arlene’s porcelain veneers in, and fighting his urge to wire her jaws shut, Dr. Bertman finally took a moment to ask Arlene why she ends every meeting with her seemingly trite credo about real estate. To his surprise Arlene responded, “Who said I was talking about real estate?”
It was at that moment when a light bulb went off in Dr. Bertman’s head, as bright as the veneers he just put in. He remembered the conversation they were having the first time Arlene said, “It’s all about location, dear.” They were discussing Dr. Bertman’s desire to grow his practice. Despite her assurance that his office location was perfect, Arlene had said, “if you want to grow your practice, it’s all about location, dear.”
To grow his practice Dr. Bertman did not have to change the location of his office. He had to change the location of something else. In his case, like many others, to grow his practice he had to change the location of his website.
Like many dentists and cosmetic dentists, Dr. Bertman invested in a very well-designed website. Visitors to his site are always impressed by the site’s design, content and photographs of smiling staff and patients. Also like many other dentists, Dr. Bertman, did not focus on marketing his website. Specifically, he never considered the position of his website in web searches.
There are over 100,000 monthly web searches on Google and Yahoo for dentists in New York as researched in WordTracker®. In fact, the most searched for dental term in New York is “New York cosmetic dentist”. Though this may seem like good news for Dr. Bertman, the fact is his website does not appear in the search results for this term or any other term. His beautiful site goes unseen. This phenomenon is true for thousands of dentists in cities large and small.
Google, Yahoo, and MSN like all search engines determine which websites appear in search results and the order they appear in by applying a complex mathematical formula. The higher a website scores in the formula, as compared to the billions of other webs pages online, the higher it will rank in the search results.
Before going any further it is important to distinguish between “natural” or “organic” results and sponsored results. Though at your local grocery store “organic” may equate to costing more, in search engines organic means they cost nothing. Organic or natural results are the heart and soul of search engines. They appear in the center of the search results pages and are determined solely by how websites score in their mathematical formulas.
In Google, the Sponsored listings are highlighted in beige at the top of the listings, and appear to the right of the natural listings.
In Yahoo, the Sponsored listings are highlighted in blue at the top of the listings, and appear to the right of the natural listings.
Whereas organic results are the heart and soul of search engines, sponsored results are the bread winners. Sponsored links, made up primarily of pay-per-click ads, are placed at the top, bottom and either side of the natural search results depending on the search engine. The sites that appear in these sponsored link sections are determined by an auction system meaning whoever is willing to pay the most will appear on those search results pages. It also means that you pay anywhere from $1.00 – $10.00 for each person that clicks on that link. In the natural or organic listings you do not pay these fees each time someone clicks on your website.
Dr. Bertman who happens to hate math is at first delighted by the prospect of being able to have his site appear in search results through sponsored ads. The thought of his site competing in a mathematical contest is about as appealing to him as the sounds of dental drills are to most patients. Just before he started to research sponsored ad placement he remembered something very important. Whenever he searches for things online he always ignores the sponsored listings and first looks at the natural or organic listings. It is only if he does not find what he was looking for on the first two pages of the search results that he looks at the sponsored listings. He, like millions of others, believes that the natural listings will somehow be “better” than the sponsored listings for whatever he happens to be searching for.
Consumers equate quality with search rankings. The higher a website appears in the search results the greater the consumer’s confidence is. That means when searching online for a cosmetic dentist a consumer will be more confident in dentists who have their website appearing on page 1 of Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines.
Research reported by AmericaOnline(TM) has shown that a website currently on page 2 of Google will experience a 1,400% increase in traffic when it moves from page 2 of Google to #1 in Google. Websites that are not presently on page 2 of Google will see an even greater increase in traffic. Multiply this result by numerous search terms and you can easily see why a dentist’s best friend is a search engine marketer.
Search engine marketing goes beyond your website’s placement in traditional search results. For the general or cosmetic dentist it also means having your website appear when consumers are doing image searches, video searches and news searches.
In Google, above the Google icon are links to see Image results, news results and video results of searches.
Consumers considering cosmetic dentistry procedures will do comprehensive research. For example, if they are considering veneers they will want to see images, news articles and possibly even video. Google and Yahoo make it easy to do this research by allowing consumers to do one search and see all of these results. To maximize a practice’s exposure images, news articles and videos that appear in the search results should appear on the practice’s website or link to the practice’s site.
Website marketers employ some of the same techniques for getting your site on page 1 of search engine results as they do to get images and videos on page 1 of the search engines. These techniques include: employing the right internal linking structure on a website, engaging in a link building strategy, optimizing the website’s coding, creating and adding optimized content and distributing optimized content on relevant websites. Online press releases and E-zine article distribution are the best ways to have a website appear in the news section of search results. The goal is to have the practice’s name appear wherever the potential patient is looking for information.
Having your website appear in the search results is an important first step. It is, however, a first step. The second step is making sure that when someone finds your website and clicks on it that they can easily find what they are looking for.
Web searchers make snap decisions about a website. In fact the average online searcher will spend two seconds or less on a webpage before leaving a site if they do not find what they are looking for. That means the page they land on must very clearly show them that they came to the right place. Sound easy? It is not. It takes a skilled hand and a deep understanding of who your potential clients are and how they search for dentists.
Some website searchers are very specific in the way they search and others are not. It is important to know how your target audience searches for your services and make sure you appear in the search results for those terms and your website pages clearly indicate you provide the services they seek. For the dentist there are two primary considerations in the search terms to target: geography and service.
The majority of web searchers search geographically meaning when they are looking for a service they will include a geographic term in the search string. Instead of searching in Google with the term “cosmetic dentist” they will use “New York cosmetic dentist” or Dallas cosmetic dentist, Los Angeles cosmetic dentist, etc. It is important that research be done on various geographic terms. For example, searchers may use any of the following geographic indicators to find a cosmetic dentist located on Lexington Avenue and E. 51st Street in Manhattan: New York, NY, New York City, NYC, Manhattan, Midtown, Midtown East, Midtown Manhattan, Eastside Manhattan, East 50s Manhattan, etc. It takes comprehensive research and a keen understanding of consumers to know which search terms are most important.
Some dentists may focus on narrow geographic areas figuring that their client base will want someone very nearby. Research has indicated, however, that many consumers interested in cosmetic dentistry use broader search terms. The same is not true for general dentistry. For general dentistry needs, consumers search much more narrowly in terms of geography. The research clearly shows that when seeking a cosmetic dentist quality is more important than geography. Consumers are willing to travel a greater distance for cosmetic procedures. This is precisely why the perception of quality is important. With consumers equating search engine placement with quality broader geographic search terms are just as valuable to cosmetic dentists as narrow geographic terms. Whereas a general dentist would not want to use a broad geographic search term like a region or state, a cosmetic dentist would find these terms to be more valuable to their practice.
The second part of the search terms chosen for marketing is the service being sought. Some consumers are very specific in the search terms they choose and others are more general. For example, consumers seeking veneers search a variety of terms including: veneers, dental veneers, porcelain veneers, resin veneers, etc. For some search terms even specific brands are searched for including: Invisalign and Xoom whitening. It is important that search marketers do comprehensive research in the selection of terms and update their research quarterly in order to maximize the reach and effectiveness of the practice’s website.
Dentists are among the most searched for professionals online. With search marketing offering the highest return on investment the location of a website online may prove even more important than the location of the office. Given the fact that research demonstrates that consumers are willing to travel further distances for cosmetic dentistry procedures or other specialty procedures it appears that Arlene’s credo about location is more appropriate for the search marketer than the realtor in the dental industry. Log onto Google and Yahoo and do a couple of sample searches for the services you offer in the city or state your practice is in and see if your website appears on the first page of Google and Yahoo. If it does not your online marketing plan may need its own set of veneers.