Answer : The importance of appearing on the first page of search engine results was highlighted in iProspect’s 2006 Search Engine User Behavior Study of 2,639 Internet users. The study’s results revealed that 62% of users stated that they do not look past page one for results. Over 90% of users reported that they never look past the first three pages for results. As this study bears out, if your website is not appearing on the first page of results, it is highly unlikely that it will be found by potential patients. Therefore, it is critical to maintain a high ranking with the search engines and this needs to be accomplished my putting in place systems to ensure maximal search engine optimization of your website.
First, let’s explain in simple terms what happens when a potential patient searches for a new dentist online. The patient will choose a combination of words, such as "Dentist in Austin," and click "Search." The listings which appear on the results page will generally be in one of three formats:
1. Organic, also called natural listings,
2. Local listings which are found on a map, as well as within the search results and
3. Pay per click, also called sponsored listings.
Organic listings are those that appear in a search because a search engine such as Google determines their website content to be relevant to the words entered into the search query. Pay per click listings, on the other hand, appear because these companies have paid to have their websites appear high in the ranking for specific keyword search phrases. Local listings appear on a Google map, as well as within the list of results returned in a search query. With a recent redesign in how Google delivers local search results, these local listings now appear higher on the first page in many cities. Local listing ranking results from a variety of factors which I have discussed in more depth in an article on Google Local Search for Dentists.
A recent study by the website tracking company Eightfold Logic determined that for the 5,000 companies it monitors, people were 8.5 times more likely to click on an organic listing than they were to click on a sponsored listing. Despite this data, these same companies spent nearly 80% of their Internet marketing dollars on pay per click advertisements and less than 10% on increasing their websites’ optimization and visibility. This to me is a clear display of the backward logic being employed by the marketing factions of these companies. Therefore, if we know that the overwhelming majority of patients searching for you online will be drawn to the organic and local listings they find, it behooves us to market to this area much more than to the area of sponsored ads. We can conclude that making our websites relevant to search engines in a natural rather than a paid manner will provide us the greatest return on investment.
In order to help dentists understand what they need to know in order to maximize their appearance online, I have created a Search Engine Optimization Checklist. This checklist is one of the many items you will find in the Practice Management Resources for Dentists CD I have put together over time to help make life easier in my practice. I think you will find these gems quite helpful in your practice as well. Below you will find some of the SEO checklist which can help you start and maintain optimization of your website within search engines. Keep in mind that all applications on the checklist can be performed for you by a consulting company if you elect not to spend your time on these items. It is valuable to consider that many SEO experts agree that the most important aspect of optimization is the building up of quality links to your website.
1. Submit your website to the major search engines: Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Dentistry’s Business Secrets provides links to do so.
2. Submit your Sitemap to these search engines as well. Dentistry’s Business Secretsprovides information on how to do so.
3. Sign up for local business listings on major search engines. Dentistry’s Business Secretsprovides links to do so.
4. Research possible sites which can link to your website. Links from dental related websites are the most beneficial.
5. Research online directories such as www.TheDentistSearch.com, which appear high in keyword searches for a local dentist.
6. Continue to add quality content to your website through the addition of articles or patient case descriptions and pictures.
7. Post comments on dental related blogs and general answer forums, always providing a link back to your website. Some examples include www.DentalHeroes.com and www.Dentistry.AllTop.com.