SEO: The science of being seen

July 15, 2013
We incessantly hear about how important it is to have a Web presence. In fact, we hear it so often that we have almost been conditioned to tune out the idea.

by Glenn Lombardi

We incessantly hear about how important it is to have a Web presence. In fact, we hear it so often that we have almost been conditioned to tune out the idea. This might be the natural, comfortable response.

But the idea of a full Web presence is much more than simple white noise. It's real. It's viable. For many companies, a full-spectrum Web presence with SEO (search engine optimization) is one of the main strategies keeping the business afloat. The fact is that a simple website just does not cut it anymore. If that's all you have, you are probably falling short of your maximum return.

Google, along with a few other search engines, has utterly destroyed the Yellow Pages. It's easy to see why. The facts are simple and direct – no trendy window-dressing required. SearchEngineJournal.com reports:

  • Search is one of the Top 2 activities performed on the Internet, second only to email.
  • It's also the No. 1 driver of traffic to content sites, exceeding social media by more than 300%.
  • 90% of online experiences start with a search engine.
  • 80% of American Web users have searched online for health information.
  • 7,480,000 Americans search for "dentist" online every month.

The bottom line is obvious. In order to keep your practice growing, you need to understand how search engine optimization works, and how to effectively use it to enhance your Web presence. Otherwise, you might not appear online at all. This is a play too risky to take.

So how do patients search?

Patients can find your information online in a number of ways. The first of these, a location-based search, might look something like this: "Dentist, Chicago IL."

Unless you are the only dentist in Chicago, you will not show up on the first page of results. Since you are not the only dentist in Chicago, you are absolutely going to need SEO in order to stay competitive in location-based searches.

This is partially because 75% of search users never bother to scroll and click past the first page of results. So if you aren't on the first page, you are only getting a quarter of the traffic you could be. SEO can fix this problem.

Patients might also use a general search, which would appear as: "Implants, Chicago IL."

This kind of search returns results similar to its location-based cousin. So again, SEO is vital in order to achieve the kind of results you want. But these more generalized searches often provide the option to support your other SEO efforts with a pay-per-click campaign, or PPC for short.

This system has a few iterations, but I recommend using it to promote a specific service that your practice provides. This way, when a patient searches for root canal in your city, your practice can appear at the top of the sponsored section of Google.

The last major way patients might search for you is after a referral when they search for you by name. Thus, they might type "John Smith, DDS, Chicago, IL" into the search bar.

At this point, it's likely the patient is already interested in you. And of course, that's a good thing. But your website is not the only thing that will appear when they hit the search button. Anything with your name on it will come flashing up before their eyes.

This means they will see not only your office hours and bio, but also reviews from sites such as Yelp and Healthgrades. Unless you are keeping close tabs on what your online reputation looks like, what they find could potentially be less than thrilling. A successful Web presence means making sure your directories are updated and accurate, and that you nurture good online reviews (or respond courteously to negative ones).

Give yourself a quick checkup today, and find out what your SEO needs are. But above all else, be sure to have a plan. Since the algorithms used in search engines are constantly evolving, what works today may not work tomorrow.

Without constant vigilance, an SEO campaign can falter. But when your online presence is carefully monitored and SEO is used properly, it can bring a slew of new patients to your doorstep.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, a provider of dental websites and Internet marketing strategies, including social media, search marketing, reputation management, and mobile websites. Officite has built thousands of websites that have generated more than a half million new patient appointment requests since 2002. For more information, visit www.officite.com or call (800) 908-2483.

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