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The 411 on LSAs: Could they help your practice bring in new patients?

July 2, 2024
Local service ads (LSAs) from Google have been generating buzz lately. Read on for info on what they are, how they work, and if they're right for your practice.

Google's local service ads (LSAs) have been gaining traction in the digital advertising space, promising to connect local businesses with potential customers. For dentists, this platform presents an intriguing opportunity to attract new patients. But are LSA ads beneficial, or do they come with significant drawbacks? In this article, we'll explore what LSAs are, how they work, and share our experience with their effectiveness in the dental industry.

What are Google LSA ads?

LSAs are a lead generation type of paid advertisement that appears at the top of Google search results. They are designed to help local service providers, including dentists, connect with users searching for specific services in their area. Unlike traditional Google ads, LSAs charge businesses for leads rather than clicks.

How do LSAs work?

When a user searches for a local service, such as “dentist near me,” LSA ads appear at the very top of the search results page, even above standard pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These ads include the business’s name, rating, and a call button. Users can click the call button to directly contact the service provider.

Screening process: One of the key differences between LSAs and PPCs is the rigorous screening process. To be eligible for LSAs, dental practices must undergo a thorough verification process. This includes:

  • License verification: The practice must provide proof of a valid dental license.
  • Insurance verification: The practice must show proof of liability insurance coverage.
  • Background checks: Google conducts background checks on the practice's owner and relevant employees.
  • Google screened badge: Once verified, practices receive a “Google Screened” badge, which adds a layer of credibility.

Ranking based on lead score: Google ranks LSA listings based on a lead score, which is influenced by several factors:

  • Response rate: How quickly the practice responds to inquiries and phone calls. Prompt responses lead to higher scores.
  • Review rating: The practice’s average rating and number of reviews on Google. Higher ratings and more reviews positively impact the lead score.
  • Review rate: How frequently the practice collects reviews from patients who have used their services through LSAs.
  • Scheduling rate: The percentage of leads that are converted into scheduled appointments.
  • Complaints: Negative feedback or complaints can lower the lead score.
  • Lead dispute rate: Practices can dispute leads that do not meet their criteria, but excessive disputes can negatively affect their lead score.

Pay-per-lead: Unlike PPC ads, LSAs charge businesses for each lead they receive. This means dental practices only pay when a potential patient contacts them through the ad, making it a cost-effective option.

LSAs in the dental market

Having worked with LSAs for dental practices, we have gathered some insights and identified several drawbacks:

  • No direct website access: One of the primary limitations of LSAs is that users cannot click through to the dentist’s website. This restriction forces potential patients to call directly, which can be a barrier for those who prefer to gather information online before making contact.
  • Low-quality leads: The leads generated through LSAs have, in our experience, been of lower quality. Many calls end up being inquiries that do not convert into appointments. This is partly because users cannot prescreen providers via their websites.
  • No call recording: Another significant issue is the inability to record calls. Call recording is crucial for tracking lead quality and ensuring follow-up. Without this feature, it’s challenging to measure the true value of LSA-generated leads.
  • Competition with directories: LSAs seem to position themselves as a competitor to services like Angie's List. Google appears to be cutting out intermediary directories by offering a direct lead generation service. While this might streamline the process for some, it can also disrupt existing marketing strategies.
  • Not ideal for high-end leads: LSAs are not particularly effective for high-end cosmetic or dental surgery leads. These types of patients often prefer to research extensively online and visit the practice’s website before making a decision. LSAs, by limiting direct website access, do not cater well to this need.
  • Branding and profile visibility: On a positive note, LSAs can enhance a practice’s branding and profile visibility. Being at the top of search results can help establish credibility and awareness among potential patients.

Future considerations

Looking ahead, several questions remain about the role of LSA ads in digital marketing for dentists:

  • Long-term role: What role will LSAs play in the long-term marketing strategies of dental practices? Will they become a staple, or will their limitations lead to decreased use?
  • Google’s strategy: How many more strategies will Google deploy to dominate the local search landscape? Will these strategies further diminish the role of traditional directories and PPC campaigns?
  • Google business profile: Will this strategy be rolled into the monetization of Google Maps?

While LSAs offer a novel approach to connecting with potential patients, their current format poses several challenges. Dentists and their marketing teams need to weigh these pros and cons carefully to determine if LSAs are a worthwhile investment.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in DE Weekend, the newsletter that will elevate your Sunday mornings with practical and innovative practice management and clinical content from experts across the field. Subscribe here.

About the Author

Keith C. Humes, founder of Rosemont Media

Keith C. Humes, founder of Rosemont Media, is a 25-year veteran in dental search marketing. Keith lectures at national medical and dental meetings hosted by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; the American Society of Plastic Surgeons; the Dallas Rhinoplasty Symposium; the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry; American Academy of Implant Dentistry, and the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry. Rosemont Media specializes in dental marketingdental SEOdental website designdental social media marketing, and high-end custom strategies for esthetic practices.

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