Whether you’ve given any previous thought to marketing your dental practice online or not, we’re sure you’ve done local searches yourself for goods or services. We can tell you a few things about your search, just from the fact that you were looking for something.

First, you were searching with ‘buy intent’. That is, whether you were looking for dog food, or wanting to join a gym, you were looking for a local business that would meet that need. This also means there’s a very high probability you followed that search up with a visit to a physical location sometime within the next week – and you almost certainly made a purchase. In fact, there’s a good chance you went there the same day.

Second, you most likely visited a location that showed up in the top 3 Google map results. This is because as of 2015, Google only shows the top three by default (they used to show seven but that doesn’t work well on phones so they changed it). You can see the rest by clicking on ‘More places’, but you probably didn’t. We know this because the stats tell us that most consumers will pick from the top three.

Finally, you probably made your decision, at least in part, by checking the number of reviews the location had, and their rating. The more reviews and the higher the rating, the more likely it is that you went there.

And, as a bonus to prove we’re really omniscient, you were more likely to click on a location if their website also showed up in the top five organic results! No, we’re not spying on you. But the stats are very clear in these regards, so unless your behaviour as a consumer is very different from most, we’re pretty sure of all this.

More Local SEO Statistics That Could Change How You Find Patients

97% of customers today not only start their search for a local business online, but it is the only search avenue they use. This means that traditional methods of marketing such as flyers, signs, radio and television ads and direct mail have become almost completely obsolete. If you’re not visible online, you’re virtually invisible.

In fact, the only form of marketing today that remains as cost effective as local SEO is word of mouth, and even that is changing. According to the most recent statistics, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much or more than a personal recommendation.

You may have heard that social media is the way to go, but despite all the social media activity going on today, local searches are over 500% more effective at driving traffic to a local business than social media! This doesn’t mean that a strong social media presence is unimportant. In fact, it should be a vital part of your local SEO strategy, but without being paired with first-page Google placement for your site, it’s very ineffective.

This is because people don’t go on social media to buy stuff. They go there to chat, argue, flame people with differing political and religious views, and just generally hang out. But when people do a search for a local good or service, they are doing so with ‘buy intent’. They have their wallets out and are ready to spend some money.

Leveraging Local SEO for Your Dental Practice

What all of this should be telling you, is that if you’re not focusing on marketing your practice through local SEO, you’re not visible to the majority of your potential patients. They are literally driving right by your practice without even registering that it’s there.

Find a Dentist 'Near Me'

‘Near me’ searches are increasing in popularity steadily. There are approximately 1 million searches done globally every month for ‘dentist’ and a quarter million more for ‘dentist near me’. Considering that some of those searches for ‘dentist’ were people looking for general information, rather than a local dental practice and it’s possible that almost half of all searches done with the intent of finding a dentist are ‘near me’ searches.

More and more people are realizing that Google knows where they are and finding a local business is as simple as searching for that business and adding the keywords ‘near me’. But how does Google do this, and how effective is it?

How Does Google Know the Location of the Searcher?

First, Google knows where the search is originating in one of two ways. If the search is being done from a home or office laptop, Google doesn’t really know the exact location (well, actually, they might, but only if you told them. More about that below). This is probably a relief to most of us, as we might not be comfortable with the idea of Google knowing exactly where we live, and the fact that we’re home right now. Google does know the location of your internet service provider’s server though. And your IP address, the unique series of numbers that identify your computer to your service provider, tells Google who that provider is. From this, they don’t know your exact location, but they do know the location of the server you are accessing the internet through, and this is usually not too far from where you are. At the very least, it’s usually in the same city.

The exception to this, and the case we alluded to above where Google does know your address, is in cases where you are logged in to your Google account. You probably told Google your address when you registered. In this case, they'll display results that are close to your home, because they know where you live!

Google gets even more all-knowing when you’re using your phone to do a search. With GPS, Google actually knows where the search is originating, often to within a few meters. This is why you might get different local results if you search on your laptop at the office, then walk across the street to the deli for lunch and search from there with your phone. Google has a better idea of where your phone is than where your laptop is. Don’t worry that Google is tracking your movements, though. They only know where your phone is at the time you originate the search. Close your browser and move, and they no longer know where you are.

How Does Google Know Where Your Practice Is?

You likely have a website, and your address is on your site, but this is only a small part of the story. In order to avoid certain types of fraud, Google won’t actually take your site’s word for your location. What they trust most is the contact info, including your address, that’s found at your registrar. Your registrar is the place where you registered your web address. GoDaddy is a common registrar. Your registrar might also be hosting your site, but they may not.

In any event, Google verifies your address information mostly by checking your registrar. If the contact info there matches the info on your site, they can be pretty sure you are where you say you are. They also take in to account something called ‘citations’, which are mostly online business directory listings. You’re practice is likely on quite a few of them without you even knowing, as these directories automatically populate themselves via programs called web crawlers. If your address at your registrar, on your site, and on all of your citations match, then Google will trust your location.

By matching up these two pieces of information, the location where the search is originating and the location of your practice, Google can present people with a list of dental practices ‘near me’. They don’t just look at proximity though to determine the top three to display. There are quite a number of factors at play, including the number of reviews you have, the quality of those reviews, the completeness of your Google My Business listing, the ranking of your website and even - possibly - the amount of activity on your Facebook page. We’re not certain of that last one. It’s a theory among SEO professionals, but we’re not sure because Google isn’t telling.

So How Does Google Know to Display Map Results?

Google’s algorithms are very smart. If you type in something like ‘How to properly clean my teeth’, chances are Google won’t show local dentists, or any local results at all. They are more likely to direct you to sites that provide this information, such as the American Dental Association or other informative sites. But, if you enter something like ‘pediatric dentistry’, Google will assume there’s a good chance you are looking for a dentist for your kids, and will display at least some local dentists.

Ranking for the Best Keyword

Your site should be a tool to drive new patients to your practice. In order to do this, it has to rank well for the keyword most often used by people looking for a new dentist. Our research shows that this keyword is 'dentist + your city name', by a wide margin. 'Dentist near me' usually correlates very closely with 'dentist + your city', but due to the way Google determines local results we can't guarantee first page placement for 'dentist near me'.

We also try very hard to get your site in the top three map results. While we can’t guarantee this due to factors beyond our direct control, such as how well you and the staff at your practice will follow our recommendations for getting more Google reviews, and how good those reviews will be, we are usually successful at placing your practice website in the top 3 for searches that are done near your practice.

Also, as already addressed above, someone’s exact location when they do the search is also a factor. It’s entirely possible to have someone search for ‘dentist near me’ from a coffee shop and see your practice in the top three, then drive down the street to the gas station, search again and not have your practice show up. Still, we want to see your listing in the top map pack results as often as possible. It’s good for our egos - and your practice.

How Many Page Positions Can You Have?

Google displays 10 organic (non-ad) results per page. These are the results that show up below the map results. You likely only have one website for your dental practice, but that doesn’t mean your practice can only occupy one spot in those top 10 first-page results. In fact, through a variety of strategies we’ll help you implement, you could also have your Facebook page, a review page such as Yelp, a dental index service, and even a Groupon special for your practice all show up in the top 10 results. Again, we can’t guarantee any of this, but we do work with you to get you as much first page exposure as possible. The more times that potential patients see your practice on the front page, the more likely it is they’ll click on your site and ultimately become a patient.

What We Do For You

We really are nice guys. You can ask our mothers.

We really do want to make your dental practice as successful as possible. In fact, we’re flattered you’ve chosen to trust us with this mission. We are certainly not the only local SEO agency out there and so we want to reward your trust with the highest ranking we can get you.

But even if we weren’t nice guys, we’d still be motivated to get your practice as much exposure as possible. The higher we can get you on the rankings, the more patients you’ll get. The more patients you get from our efforts, the more likely it is that you’ll say nice things about us on TrustPilot when it comes time to leave us a review. And those reviews are our lifeblood. They tell other dentists that we know what we’re doing, and that working with our agency will result in greater success for them and a return on investment that will be multiplied many times over.