SEO Statistics for Dentists

Marketing your dental practice is a necessity. As of 2015, the most recent year for which we have reliable statistics, there were 195,000 practicing dentists in the U.S. alone. With the high cost of equipment, lab and office fees, and staffing, a handful of patients are not going to carry your practice. You’re going to need a bigger slice of the pie than your competitors if you want your practice to thrive.

Of course you only have a limited budget for marketing. This means that you need to spend that money on the highest return exposure you can get. We here at netpozitive strongly believe there is no greater return on your advertising investment than ranking high on Google and other search engines. But don't take our word for it. Check out the stats in the infographic.

In addition, you can also get a greater share of the clicks by having your practice show up in the top 3 map results. (More on that later)

Organic vs. PPC vs. Map Pack

PPC – Pay Per Click

First, what do we mean by ‘organic’, and what is ‘PPC’? PPC, or Pay Per Click, is just what it sounds like. Businesses pay a fee for each time someone clicks on their ad. These ads appear at the top of the page, above the map results. These PPC ads are the primary way that Google earns billions every year. You might also remember that ads used to appear in the sidebar as well. Google killed this in 2018 because, believe it or not, they make more by only having ads at the top of the page.

Organic Search Results

Organic results are unpaid. They appear below the map results. There are only 10 organic results displayed per page. Google determines these results through their very smart algorithms, in a genuine attempt to give searchers the best and most relevant sites to answer their query. If, for example, someone types in ‘find a dentist near me’, Google’s algorithm goes to work looking for websites that are most likely a dental office based upon their content and where the address of the business shows that it is geographically close to the searcher’s location. Google knows their location by their IP address, a unique string of numbers that identifies their internet connection and which is set by their internet provider.

Google Map Pack

Map pack results are the 3 results that are displayed just below the map. Google displays these map results for all searches which they determine have ‘local intent’. Google determines this by a number of factors, but the type of business is one of them. If they search for ‘dentist + city name’ or any variation of that keyword, Google will assume the person doing the search is looking for a dentist, rather than just general information on dentistry (such as simply searching for 'dentist'), and will display map results.

Which practices end up on that short list of results is determined by a number of factors. Mostly by the fact that the business has a Google My Business listing, the listing is complete, the address and phone number information on the listing matches their WhoIs data, by the number and quality of Google reviews for that business, and of course by how close to the searcher the office is. This sometimes causes consternation for business owners, when they discover that their business shows up 2nd or 3rd on the map pack from one location, but in another, which might only be a few blocks away, it doesn’t show at all.

The map used to display 7 results, but in 2015 Google updated this to show only 3, as seven didn’t fit well on phones. This was around the same time that phones began to surpass desktop computers for total number of searches. This means that if your dental practice isn’t in the top 3 map results, you’re missing out on a lot of potential clicks. Sure, people can click on ‘More places’ and Google will happily show you every dental office in your area, but very few people do this. Most prefer to click on one of the top 3, and assume that these are the best dentists in the area rather than understanding that sometimes, they are just the closest.

Why Organic is Better Than PPC – Much, Much Better!

In the old days PPC could be a very profitable strategy, unfortunately in recent years people have become less and less likely to click on these ads. Early in the days of search engines many people didn’t realize that those top few results were paid ads. Today they are labeled ‘Ad’ and very few people trust an ad over an organic result. In fact, while exact statistics differ, we’re safe saying that only about 5% of people today will click on a PPC ad. The other 95% are clicking on organic results. This means that if you’re advertising with PPC, and your website does not appear on the first page of Google in the organic results, you’re only accessing about 5% of the potential market. This doesn’t mean that a properly structured PPC campaign can’t be profitable, but why would you want to miss reaching 95% of your potential patients?

PPC Will ALWAYS Have a Narrow Profit Margin

There’s a second problem with PPC as well. Competition. The click price of each keyword will always rise to the maximum that the market can support. Here’s why…

Let’s say you run a PPC campaign for the keyword “Find a pediatric dentist near me” and furthermore let’s say you’re the first dentist in your area to set up such a campaign. Google helpfully informs you that you can rank first in your area for $1.30 per click. (How Google sets initial prices is a bit of a mystery. They’re not telling). Now a competitor comes along and bids $1.40 for the same keyword, knocking you out of 1st position. You retaliate by raising your bid to $1.50. This continues until one or the other of you can’t afford to raise it any higher because you would no longer be making a profit from the ad.

This means that, except in a very few special cases, PPC advertising will always have a very narrow profit margin. You also need to keep paying for the ad in perpetuity. Stop paying, and your ad disappears and so does the business it was generating.

Why SEO is the Way To Go – Hey, That Kinda Rhymes

Organic ranking, on the other hand, can pay huge dividends when done properly. Yes, it takes time to reach the top of the 1st page of Google and the up-front cost can be higher than PPC (although not necessarily). But, once you reach that position, a minimum of ongoing effort (and thus cost) can keep you there, making it all but impossible for a competitor to knock you farther down the page unless they are prepared to spend even more time and money than you did (and even then it sometimes isn’t possible as Google takes the longevity of your practice into account).

…But What About Staying On Top?

Now that we’ve got you there, you need to stay there. Fortunately that doesn’t require as much time or effort as getting you to that position in the first place. We have an ongoing maintenance package that’s designed to keep your site dominating the organic and map results for as long as you keep us working for you. These ongoing maintenance packages are much cheaper than the original monthly investment.

Vital SEO Statistics for Dentists

Here are just a few statistics about organic searches that demonstrate just how much potential this marketing avenue has for your dental practice…

  • 95% of searchers will only click on organic or map pack results. While you can pay for an ad on the map pack, it will be labeled ‘Ad’. Once again, most people don’t trust that. Ranking organically in the map pack is much better.
  • 63% of clicks are on the first 5 organic results! See our infographic for how these clicks are distributed by position, but don’t put too much faith in ranking number 1 as opposed to number 3, for instance. This is definitely a case where looking at statistics alone doesn’t tell the whole story. What your listing says, and how it says it, can be just as important as ranking. What matters is being in the top 5 and having a compelling title and snippet. Being in the top 3 is even better. Of course, assuming your listing has a relevant title and compelling snippet, the higher you rank, the better. While we can’t guarantee first position, it is what we’re shooting for.
  • 71% of searches result in a page 1 organic click. Pages 2 and 3 get only 6%. This means if you’re not on the first page you’re nearly invisible. The remaining searches result in either no clicks, or clicks on ads.
  • 90.3% of all searches are done on Google. Baidu, Bing and Yahoo! account for another 7.2%. The remaining 2.6% are from smaller search engines.
  • Leads from search engines have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (ex. cold-calling, direct mail, etc.) have a 1.7% close rate. This means that people who find your practice through an active online search are 8X more likely to become patients.
  • 78% of location-based mobile searches result in an offline purchase.
  • 61% of mobile searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site.
  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
  • 61% of business owners say improving SEO and growing their organic presence is their top marketing priority. (HubSpot, 2017) (Source:
  • 82% of business owners see SEO as becoming more effective, and 42% of that group feel the effectiveness is increasing ‘significantly’ (Source: MarketDive, 2016)