SEO vs. PPC: Which search strategy will deliver your biggest ROI?

Oct. 1, 2011
In a crowded market, a dentist must establish and maintain positive brand awareness and patient loyalty in order to differentiate his or her practice ...

Glenn Lombardi

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: pay-per-click, search engine optimization, exposure, visibility, Glenn Lombardi.

In a crowded market, a dentist must establish and maintain positive brand awareness and patient loyalty in order to differentiate his or her practice from local competitors. Apart from word-of-mouth referrals and building personal relationships with existing patients, a website is the most important marketing tool a practice can have.

The success of a practice’s website greatly depends on the amount of traffic it generates from search engines. Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising are two of the most effective strategies used to improve search engine visibility and influence clicks from prospective patients. While their goal is the same — to drive more website traffic — the two search strategies use different techniques and work better for certain search objectives than others.

How do they compare? When should a dentist use either? Knowing how to properly implement each can make a big difference in traffic results and return on investment.

Search engine optimization: long-term exposure

The goal of search engine optimization is to drive a steady stream of qualified traffic to your website by optimizing webpages for improved rankings in the organic (natural) search results of major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. By using a combination of keyword placement, webpage content optimization, link building, and directory submissions, a search marketing professional can help bring your website to the top of the search pages when a potential patient searches for a dentist in your practice’s physical location.

For example, if your practice is located in Springfield, a patient would search for “Springfield dentist,” and your optimized site would appear on the first page.

Getting to the top of the search results will not happen overnight or even in a week. That’s because it takes time for search engines to index your site and position it for its relevant search terms.

But once your website achieves top placement, a practice can enjoy long-term traffic as long as they continue to implement an aggressive SEO strategy. Though a time-intensive process, a search marketing professional can leverage an effective SEO plan for your practice to help your website stay on top and reap lasting benefits.

Pay-per-click advertising: immediate visibility

A pay-per-click advertising campaign is a search method that involves advertising on the search engine search results pages. Through a bid and budget process, a practice’s ads display in the sponsored listings — at the top and to the right of the organic search results. The prospect clicks on your ad and is taken to a page on your website where they are invited to take action, such as making an appointment or calling your office. You only spend when your ad is clicked through.

When immediate results are desired, paid advertising is a powerful strategy for generating nearly instantaneous traffic after the campaign has been launched. Unlike SEO, PPC is a great way to promote multiple niche services or electives, such as teeth whitening, snoring, or Invisalign to an audience outside of your practice’s physical location.

Geo-targeting tools allow you to reach patients in a five-, 10-, or even 50-mile radius of your office. PPC is a highly effective use of advertising dollars due to its high ROI, detailed performance tracking, and immediate results.

Search engine domination: when two is better than one

Implemented correctly, both SEO and PPC can get you on the front page of the search engines and in front of your intended audience. So, should your practice invest in an SEO strategy or a PPC campaign? The answer is both.

The two strategies are suited to work together, delivering the immediate results of PPC and the long-term benefits of SEO for a dominant presence on search engines. The two strategies combined are complementary, ensuring you are reaching the patients looking for a dentist in their town, as well as patients three towns away who might be searching for your specific, specialty services.

Implementing any search engine marketing campaign requires learning and time, which is why many practices choose to outsource it to a professional dental online marketing company that can work with you to identify your market, keywords, and goals in order to maximize your online exposure and reach.

Glenn Lombardi is president of Officite, LLC, a provider of websites and Internet presence management strategies for the dental community. Officite has built more than 6,000 websites that have generated more than a quarter of a million appointment requests since 2002. For more, visit or call (800) 908-2483.

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