Someone on a dental marketing forum asked:
“Looking for a dentist–my patients who find me via internet almost unanimously tell me they looked up providers through their insurance… why would they ever continue looking past the maps? To me, organic results seem irrelevant….”
Is setting up SEO worth it? Yes. Is doing SEO worth it? Yes. Is paying a lot of money to someone to “manage your SEO” worth it? I don’t think so.
Lots of people have developed “ad blindness” and don’t trust the ads. They skip the ads and scroll down to organic search results. Many people don’t click the first result and continue to explore further down. Lots of people really dig and do their research when they look for a dentist, especially those who search for a second opinion dentist, or for an alternative to their current dentist, or for a dentist who meets their specific needs (e.g. offers financing or a discount plan). So people search and find dentists using all kinds of methods – ads, organic search, insurance listings, social media, local news – and often using a combination of these methods. Therefore, organic visibility matters a lot. You simply never know when and how someone will find you, so you should be as visible as you can.
Unlike ads, SEO will work for you without requiring continuous investment. And, you may get visible results with simple, basic improvements. For example, you may get a ranking boost just by having your website redesigned and improved.
You should set up the SEO foundation for your practice. This can be done relatively inexpensively. You need a professional website that follows all the best practices in web design and SEO, with custom-written and optimized content. You need to set up your Google My Business listing and have it fully completed. You need to set up your social media accounts. I also suggest setting up a YouTube account, because YouTube is a video search engine, and it helps to be present there. You should also make sure that your name, address and phone information is consistent across all your online listings and that there are no duplicate listings. All that is part of the necessary one-time SEO setup.
Then you should “do” SEO, which can mean a lot of things. It’s important to remember that no one knows exactly how rankings work. Google is in charge, and the best you can do is follow the common sense best practices. Every little bit helps: great reviews, blogging, social media activity, YouTube videos, local outreach and community participation, guest blogging for local publications, etc. Basically, whatever you do to attract local patients also helps your SEO. The longer you are around and the longer you do active local marketing, the better your local rankings may get. So by collecting reviews, writing blogs, creating videos etc., you do SEO. SEO is part of your bigger strategy. It gets built up as a side benefit of whatever it is you do to market yourself.
But if you hire an SEO firm to “manage your SEO” on a monthly contract, you will likely get a service that includes writing generic blog posts and building links in places that have nothing to do with your local patient base. You may see in the long term that it’s not worth it and doesn’t produce the results you expect. Also, it’s not worth participating in the SEO rat race and keep paying “or else your competitors will outperform you,” because that can just be a drain of your resources in competitive locations.
If you want results, do whatever you can yourself: get your listings optimized, get a solid website, write blog posts, share on social media, maintain active social media presence, get reviews, do some local marketing. Try to be active and visible as much as you can. If you don’t have time to write and generate content, hire a content marketer who will work closely with you to generate highly relevant local content and market your content to the local community. I think that this will produce results and will be worth the effort.