Running a dental office in the digital age demands a strong online presence to grow your business with new patients. And that means SEO (search engine optimization). SEO improves rankings in search engine results pages (SERP), which sends more patients to your website and through your practice door.

Search optimization raises the profile of your business and increases quality traffic to your site via free (organic) search results. Quality traffic for a dental business means potential patients in your locality actively looking for a dentist. SEO is a long-term strategy. According to Google, it may take four to 12 months to reap the rewards of an SEO campaign. Search engine optimization may appear complex, with the technology behind it constantly evolving. However, the fundamentals remain pretty much the same.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of SEO, including:

  • How search engines work.
  • On-page SEO.
  • Off-page SEO.
  • Technical SEO.
  • How to make SEO work for your practice.

How Search Engines Work

Search engine web crawlers accumulate material from a huge number of web pages and organize it in a search index. When you ask a search engine to find information for you, it uses an algorithm to return results from this index.

The way these results are ordered is known as ranking. When deciding how to rank search results, the algorithm looks for:

  • Relevancy – content closely-related to the search term.
  • Authority – content that’s accurate and trustworthy.
  • Usefulness – content that provides a good user experience.

There are more than 30 major web search engines, but most SEO professionals concentrate on getting good rankings in Google Search. Google commands the lion’s share of the market and is where the vast majority of people search the web. More than 90 percent of web searches happen on Google sites – 63,000 every second.

What Is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO – also known as on-site SEO – refers to optimizing the content on your website for search engines, particularly blog posts and procedural pages. Search engines like Google look for keywords in your content that match the search queries of their users. To optimize content, you also need to understand user search intent – the reason people enter a specific term into a search engine.

The main types of search intent include:

  • Informational – the user wants to know something like “why are my gums bleeding?”
  • Navigational – the user wants to find a business online but doesn’t know its web address. “Cosmetic dentist in Orlando”.
  • Transactional – the user is interested in buying something. “Buy dental floss online”.

Other on-page SEO factors include:

  • Title tags – web page meta titles displayed in search results.
  • Internal links – any link on your site from one page to another.
  • URLs – the uniform resource locator (the address of a resource on the web).

What Is Off-Page SEO?

Off-page SEO represents more than half of ranking factors used by search engines. It typically involves actions you take outside of your own website to increase the authority of its pages, typically by getting backlinks.

A backlink – also called an inbound link – is a link to one of your web pages from another site. It acts like a vote of confidence, helping search engines recognize the relevancy and trustworthiness of your content for users. Links from authoritative sites have the most influence. Backlinks can also drive referral traffic to your website. Some backlinks may come your way naturally without any action on your part – if a blogger likes your content and links to it from their site, for instance. Or you can get backlinks through self-promotion by asking other sites to link to you.

Other off-page SEO strategies besides backlinks include:

  • Social media marketing – extending the reach of your content on social networks.
  • Guest blogging – providing content for another website.

What Is Technical SEO?

Technical measures to improve search ranking include making it easier for search engine web bots to crawl your site. Besides helping to get your pages indexed, crawlability also facilitates updates in search results as you add fresh content. According to Google, it’s inevitable that some pages won’t be indexed. This means the content will never see the light of day in search results.

One reason for this is when site design makes it difficult for Google to crawl the content effectively – if your site uses computer language other than HTML (hypertext markup language), for example. Google offers advice on how to make sure your site is being indexed so it will appear in search results. Keep in mind that if you’ve just launched a new site, it can take a few weeks for Google to crawl and index it. The same goes for changes to an existing site.

How to Make SEO Work for Your Business

You can harness the power of search engine optimization for your dental practice by following the basic principles of SEO. There are also some tactics you need to avoid. SEO basics include focusing on ethical aspects such as:

  • Content that makes your dental site unique and engaging and valuable for potential patients.
  • Content produced mainly for the benefit of patients, rather than search engines.

Things to avoid include:

  • Keyword stuffing.
  • Pages with little if any original content.
  • Automatically generated content.
  • Buying links.

Taking SEO Basics to the Next Level

We hope this guide to SEO basics has given you some idea of how search engine optimization can significantly benefit your dental office by generating more business. As a long-term strategy, SEO has to be an ongoing process that takes into account many different factors and keeps up to date with constant changes in how search engines judge the value of web pages. And the technical requirements of SEO can be difficult to master.

If you want to take your dental site SEO to the next level, DentalROI can help. We provide specialized dental SEO services that take care of every aspect of increasing your online visibility to produce a steady stream of organic traffic to your site – visitors who're primed to become your patients.

Get in touch to find out how SEO basics can be expanded into a solid business strategy that maintains a strong online identity that reflects your brand image – key to generating qualified leads and more new patients.