What’s in a keyword?
Only the success or failure of your practice. With so much business originating from Google, it’s vital for dentists to utilize a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy if they want to be competitive in their communities.
The Google search bar is the “magic eight ball” of the modern world—it can answer any question. Keywords represent all the phrases that someone searching for your practice might enter when looking for you (or any dentist) online.
A strategy for local SEO should involve catering to the right keywords so that when a user enters them, your practice shows up at the top.
Google will evaluate your website for many things — some of which are not even within your control—before assigning you a rank for a given keyword.
You need to keep one thing in your mind while you conduct keyword research: competition.
Competitiveness: You might love it if anyone in your area who typed in “dentist” was directed to your website, but it’s not so simple. The more practices in your area that are competing for keywords, the more difficult it’s going to be. Some of the competition might have a solid SEO strategy, meaning you’ll have to be diligent if you want to win the race. The more searches conducted using a given keyword, the more important that keyword becomes.
You can always pay to win by running a successful pay-per-click ad campaign, outbidding your local competition for prized keywords. While in some instances that might be a good strategy, many users have become blind to ad placements, automatically scanning for the organic results below them.
What Types of Keywords Are There?
Short-tail keywords are simple, one- or two-word searches you’d like to rank for. The general rule of thumb is that the shorter the keyword is, the harder it will be to rank for. While short keywords like “dentist” are impossible to rank for in the organic search results, you can have a lot of luck in improving your placement in local search, aka the maps, as Google heavily factors in the user’s location. If you can make the top three in short-tail keywords like “yourcity + dentist”, you are sure to get lots of eyeballs on your site.
Keywords that are three words or longer are referred to as “long-tail.” Here we see a trade-off in search volume and competitiveness. Due to low volume and specificity, long-tail keywords are easier to rank for. Here we’d aim content at specific word combinations that users will search for, such as “teeth whitening in Boise” or “Boise ClearCorrect braces.”
Your local SEO strategy should, of course, place an emphasis on branded keywords. These are the searches that users enter when they are looking for your practice specifically. This includes not just the formal name of your practice, but every variation of it that exists. This is more challenging than you’d think at first, so let’s look at an example:
Hart & Olson Family Dentistry
Here are just a few alternate branded keywords a user might search with:
Hart Olson DDS
Hart and Olson Family Dentistry
Heart and Olsen Family Dentistry
Hart & Olson Dental
I’m sure that if you look through your own website, ads, and social media feeds, you’ll find that even you have multiple forms of the name of your practice out there. A little emphasis on variations that a patient is likely to use will help them find you when the time comes.
How to Identify Keywords for Your Dental Practice
There are several strategies provided by Google that you can use to identify the best keywords you should strive to rank for.
- Google’s autocomplete: The search engine itself will give you some ideas. You can start by typing “dentist” and other single keywords to see what Google is prepared to serve you.
- Google’s related searches: Your search engine will show you related keywords that it has content for. Searching for “dentist Boise” served us “reviews,” “family dental care,” “low income,” “dentists that accept medicaid,” “open Saturday,” and “downtown.”
- Google Trends: Trends is fantastic. Google is happy to show you when, where, and how much a keyword is being used, as well as related keywords. I absolutely recommend experimenting with Google Trends, as you might be able to find a long-tail keyword and own it.
- Google Keyword Planner: While this tool is aimed at pay-per-click advertisers, it can help anyone calculate volume and competitiveness for each keyword or even groups of keywords.
A successful SEO strategy requires a good plan for optimizing your site for keywords. Of course, if this is too much for you, then enlist help from a reputable SEO firm or dental consultant.
These days, patients are primarily looking online for their next dental practice, and if you want to be it, then you need to master your “Google fu” to rank highly for the best keywords.