As a dentist, most — if not all — of your patients are going to be from your local area. Given this, it’s extremely important that your dentistry office website is optimized not only for SEO, but local SEO.
Local SEO is a specific subset of search engine optimization, wholly concerned with improving local search results on Google. It’s a practice that improves the rankings of your website for valuable local search queries, like “dentists near me” or “dentist + insert your city”.
If you want to beat the competition and secure more patients, you need to be 100% optimized for local SEO.
Don’t know anything about the topic? Don’t worry — this guide will cover everything you need to know, including:
What is local SEO
Why local SEO is important
How local SEO works
What the map pack (local 3-pack) is
Keyword research for local SEO
Local SEO ranking factors
How to rank in the 3-pack
Ready to start winning more local patients? Let’s get into it.
What Is Local SEO?
Local SEO is the branch of search engine optimization, concerned with optimizing websites/pages for local search on Google. From this optimization, one would ideally gain more organic traffic, leads, and more overall brand awareness.
The practice of local SEO generally includes:
Uncovering keywords for local search
Optimization of one’s Google My Business profile (GMB)
Generating NAP citations (Name, Address, Phone Number)
Building local links (local link building)
Creating local landing pages and content optimized for target locations/cities
Why Is Local SEO Important for Dentists?
Local SEO is important for dentists because in 2021, it’s the primary way for you to gain more patients. This is because 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. When they’re looking for a dentist, where do they head? Google.
It’s not just about finding the best option available, but one that’s local — in close geographical proximity. In fact, 72% of consumers searching for local queries visit a store within 5 miles of them. Google knows all of this, which is why they prioritize the most local of results.
Here’s a bunch of other stats that might convince of the importance of local SEO for your dental office:
93% of online searches start with a search engine (source)
98% of searchers choose a business that’s on page 1 of their search results (source)
88% of local business searches made on a mobile result in a call or visit to the business within 24 hours (source)
To beat the competition and secure more patients, you need to rank well on Google for local search. To do that? Optimize for local SEO. Doing so will generate more traffic and leads to both your website and physical location.
The great thing about local SEO is that you’re only competing with those in your local area. This makes it easier for you to rank on the 1st page for the appropriate keywords, like “dentist near me.” Compare this to general SEO, which pits you against a far greater number of competitors.
You also need to consider that going the extra mile and optimizing for local SEO will help you rank in the 3-pack. This is the special SERP feature on a local search result. Here’s an example:
You see, it’s not just about ranking within the organic results — you want to be in the local 3-pack. How do you get there? Local SEO.
How Does Local SEO Work?
Local SEO largely works the same as generalized SEO. When an individual searches for something, Google finds and ranks the best possible results for that query.
What differentiates local SEO from regular SEO is that there are different ranking factors Google utilizes. Some of these include:
Geographic location the search user is searching from
Google My Business listing
Google My Business profile keywords
NAP citations (NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone Number)
Online reviews outside of Google
Keywords within online reviews
Social media shares
GMB profile rating for the business
Check-ins at that business or location
Local SEO can be broken down into 2 basic elements:
The map pack (local 3-pack)
Both of these value the above ranking factors a little differently. We’ll cover the topic in depth later on in this guide.
The Map Pack (Local 3-Pack)
Intro to the Map Pack
The Map Pack — or Local Pack — is the 3 Google Maps business results that appear for a local search.
It’s a special SERP feature for local searches that’s placed above the organic results. As a dentist, having your website in the local 3-pack puts you at an advantage compared to the competition. Businesses that do rank here get more website traffic, leads, and patients.
It used to show 7 different local businesses, but now it’s only 3. This is why optimizing for local SEO is more important than ever.
The local 3-pack has a unique algorithm that determines what 3 businesses appear. The Google ranking factors include both generic ones, like backlinks, but also unique ones like NAPs. Later on in this guide we’ll cover how to rank in the local 3-pack.
NOTE: It’s also important to know that local search results on Google aren’t only for local keywords. What do I mean by this? Well, a general keyword like “dentists” can have local map packs and organic results, too.
This occurs because people are often too lazy to localize their search queries. Instead of writing “dentists near me,” they’ll just write “dentists.” Google shows local results because that’s what people are looking for. Google uses the fact their location settings are on to do all of this.
All of this is important to know when doing your keyword research for local SEO. You want to target and optimize for local keywords, but understand that the general keywords often have more monthly searches.
How to Check and Track Rankings in the Local Map Pack
As with any SEO effort, being able to measure and track your results is essential. When it comes to local SEO and the map pack, you need to know where you currently stand. As you continually optimize you’ll need to keep an eye on your progress over time.
There are a variety of different ranking tracking tools that’ll help you accomplish this. Whitespark is one of the best local SEO tools out there — its local rank tracker is excellent.
SEMrush also has a great set of local SEO tools that’ll help you track your local 3-pack rankings.
It’s also valuable to use a tool like LocalFalcon, which tracks extremely geographically specific map pack rankings.
What makes it great is that it shows you a grid of how you’re ranking per kilometer.
This is so important because you might rank high in a few neighbourhoods, but are slacking in others. LocalFalcon gives you a blueprint to visualize how you measure up to the competition.
Do you need a rank tracking tool? Not necessarily — but if you’re a professional dental office, you should have one. It’s an expense that’s worth its cost, as the effectiveness of your local SEO is essential. It’s how you get your patients.
The Map Pack Should Not to Be Confused With (Local) Organic Rankings
Now, the local 3-pack is absolutely the place you want your dentistry website to be. It’s highest on the page, just below the ads at the top. Those who get featured there will absolutely get the most clicks on the page.
However, we cannot forget about the organic results for local searches on Google. For local searches they appear below the local 3-pack.
Make sure to not only target the map pack, but the organic results, too. You’ll find that organic results don’t vary as much as the map pack does. This is because the local 3-pack prioritizes proximity way more than the organic results do.
From suburb to suburb the local 3-pack will change, but the organic results will be more consistent.
Local SEO organic results are much like regular SEO, valuing backlinks, keywords, HTML tags — those things.
Later on in this guide we’ll cover the different ranking factors for both the local 3-pack and organic results.
Keyword Research for Local SEO
As a dentist, keyword research for local SEO is vital, as it lets you know what keywords to go after. This is generally the first step towards any SEO strategy. Compared to regular SEO keyword research, local SEO keyword research is something only done once.
Some of the keywords you’ll most likely target include:
Dentist + city
Dental office + city
Dental clinic + city
Dental care + city
Emergency dentist + city
Dental implants + city
Each keyword has the potential to bring traffic to your website every month, resulting in more leads and patients.
Recommended Reading: Keyword Research Guide for Dental SEO in 2021
Local SEO Ranking Factors
Before you can optimize for local SEO, you need to know what its ranking factors are. They’re similar in some respects to general SEO, but there are some unique caveats. Below, we’ll cover everything you need to know.
The 3 Main Local Ranking Factors
Within the SEO community, It’s well known that local SEO has 3 main local ranking factors:
Google has actually stated so themselves.
The Google algorithm uses a combination of these 3 ranking factors to provide the best local search result.
Proximity relates to the distance between the location someone is when searching on Google, and a local business. Given this is local SEO after all, proximity is arguably the most important of the 3.
Prominence ranking factors relate to how authoritative a local business is. Google wants the top ranking businesses in local searches to match the best in real life. Google also uses things like links, articles, and reviews to measure the prominence of a business online.
Relevance relates to how relevant a business is to the search query entered in by an individual. When it comes to local SEO, you need to provide Google with as much information about your business as possible. The more context they have, the better.
Specific Ranking Factors
Proximity, prominence, and relevance are simply just general ranking factors. They’re the qualities they look for when analyzing more specific ranking factors, such as:
Google My Business profile
There are quite a lot of different specific ranking factors that Google uses to determine local search results. We’ll cover which ones you need to target further on in this guide.
The Top 8 Local Pack Ranking Factors
According to a local search ranking factors study from Moz, the top 8 ranking factors for the local pack include:
Google My Business
Compared to the top 8 factors for organic, the local pack prioritizes Google My Business and reviews more heavily. This is because the local 3-pack values proximity more, due to the geographical nature of Google Maps.
The Top 8 Local Organic Ranking Factors
That same Moz study also looked at the top 8 ranking factors for local organic results. These were the results:
Google My Business
Organic results clearly don’t value proximity nearly as much as the local 3-pack does. That’s why Google My Business is further down on this list. The top 3 ranking factors — links, on-page SEO, and user behavior — align more with general SEO.
Basically? Organic is less “local SEO-ish.” It’s like normal SEO, but with subtle influences from things like GMB, NAP citations, and reviews.
How to Rank in the 3-Pack
As a dentist, ranking in the local 3-pack is your ultimate local SEO goal. It’s the position on the SERP where you’ll get the most attention, meaning more website traffic, leads, and patients.
Below, I’ll outline the strategies you must implement in order to rank in the local 3-pack.
Setup GMB Profile For Your Dental Office
The first step towards ranking in the 3-pack is to set up your dental office’s Google My Business profile.
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that helps you create, claim, and optimize your business profile on Google.
A GMB account will allow you to either create a new business listing, or claim an existing one. Sometimes someone has already made one of your business.
With regards to setting up and optimizing your GMB profile, here are some best practice keys to follow:
Keep your details consistent: It’s really important that the details on your GMB profile are consistent with one’s on your website and other places. Your name, address and phone number (NAP) should be the same across all platforms.
Complete every information box: Try to get your profile completion percentage as high as possible. Complete the category section — add a primary and secondary categories. Also complete the services and products tabs.
Keep your essential business information up to date: Make sure your opening hours and any operation details are kept up-to-date. This could cause a negative review, which sucks for local SEO.
Recommended Reading: Google My Business for Dentists | 8 Tips to Make You Stand Out
Local SEO vs Hyper Local SEO
When living in a large city, it may well be worth optimizing search presence for a specific part of the city.
In large cities competition levels will be extraordinarily high, and it will be nearly impossible to rank for general city terms. In such scenarios, dentists can decide to rank for smaller geographic areas instead.
By optimizing their pages to specific districts or city parts, they will be more relevant to searches in those geographic areas. Doing so will give you a better chance to make it to the top of the map pack.
For example, can go for very difficult broad keywords such as dentist phoenix az, or go more local and optimize for dentist glendale, dentist tempe, dentist mesa, dentist maryvale, dentist scottsdale, etc..
When it comes to on-page SEO for the purposes of local SEO, the same normal rules apply. You want to:
Put a keyword in your title tag
Front-load your keyword in your title tag
Put a keyword in your URL slug
Keep your URL short
Write an enticing meta description
Write descriptive alt tags for your images
Recommended Reading: The 2021 On-Page SEO Guide for Dentists
But there are also some local SEO specific on-page tactics you should implement.
Create local landing pages
If you have dental offices in multiple areas then you need to create individual landing pages for that local. Each page will target a specific local keyword, such as “dentist glendale” or “dentist scottsdale.”
Keep the URL structure clean and simple — for those examples here’s how it might look:
NOTE: Avoid making multiple pages for the same location. This is overkill and pointless, as the single page you make will rank for all the variations of your local keyword.
Optimize your local landing pages
Each of your local landing pages should have 100% original content, and be optimized for that specific location.
Standard on-page SEO practices apply here. Make sure to note your opening hours, and show the right name, address, and phone number for your real location.
BONUS: Use related keywords throughout to give your page content a little boost.
Add schema markup to your pages
Adding Schema Markup to your pages can help Google understand them. It’s basically a small bit of code added that improves its structure so that Googlebot has an easier time crawling.
You don’t have to be a technical geek to add it — just use Google’s Structured Markup Helper.
Select Local Businesses and paste in your page’s URL at the bottom. Then click Start Tagging.
A visual editor will load on the URL you entered, allowing you to select (highlight) elements of your page. You should select the following if possible:
Your dentistry office/business name
Try to fill out as much information as you can, after which you should click CREATE HTML.
You’ll be given some code to copy. Make sure the output format is JSON-LD.
You’ll then want to copy this into the head section of your HTML.
NOTE: Use Google’s Rich Results Test Tool to make sure there are no errors within your code.
This ensures the code you enter into your HTML actually works.
Once you’ve done that you should repeat this for all of your pages, particularly the local landing pages.
Citations and the Importance of NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
What are NAP citations?
Citations in local SEO are basically mentions of you online that list your NAP — business name, address, and phone number. They sort of function similarly to backlinks.
There are 2 types of NAP citations:
Structured citations mention your NAP in a very organized, structured manner. You often see them on social media, or business directories like Yelp. Here’s an example:
Unstructured citations list your business name, address, and phone number in an unorganized format. Examples where these might appear include blog posts and news articles online.
Why are NAP citations important?
There’s really only 2 reasons why NAP citations are important for local SEO:
They’re a top ranking factor for both local 3-pack and local organic search results on Google
People find your business on places outside of Google
As we mentioned earlier, a study from Moz showed NAP citations are one of the top ranking factors.
Having the correct information about your business on business directories, social media, blog posts and articles is important. People will find you through these channels, so they matter.
Run a NAP audit of existing citations
When it comes to the NAP citations of your website, you need to make sure the information is all accurate. As was mentioned earlier in this post, Google extremely cares about the consistency of your citations.
You might likely already have some existing NAP citations — and they might likely have incorrect information. That’s why you need to run an audit.
You can use Moz’s free Local Listing Score tool to check how accurate your listings are across the internet.
Alternatively, you can do an audit manually through Google. Try searching for these, using advanced search operators:
“Name of your business” + “partial of your address” + “old phone number”
“Name of your business” + “right phone number” + “partial of your old address”
“Right phone number” + “partial of your correct address” + “old name of your business”
Get creative and search for different, outdated business names, addresses, and phones numbers.
NOTE: Make sure you use the brackets as that’s how you actually use advanced search operators on Google.
Fix the issues
Of all the incorrect NAP citations you find, you’ll most likely be able to change them yourself. For ones that you can’t, you’ll have to reach out to whoever has the power to do so.
Here’s an example of an email you could send:
Be polite and they’ll most likely correct the error for you.
You can also use a tool like Bright Local or Yext to do this email outreach at bulk.
Find citation opportunities
Now that you’ve fixed your existing NAP citations you can begin looking to create new ones.
You should start by creating core structured citations. These are ones for places like Yelp, Apple Maps, Facebook, FourSquare, and Bing Places.
You can use this excellent resource from Whitespark: “Top Local Citations by Country.” It’ll let you know the best ones to have in your country.
After that you can target more local-based citations, like business directories and associations.
As a dentist, you’ll want to perhaps create some industry-specific citations, such as on HealthGrades.com.
To help find these citations, you can use a tool like Whitespark’s Local Citation Finder.
Ahrefs is another tool you can use to find local citation opportunities. Its Link Intersect feature lets you find out who’s backlinking to your competitors. You can use this information to find these local citation opportunities — and potential backlinks as well. Two birds, one stone.
When it comes to optimizing for local SEO, you want to prioritize online reviews. This is because — as mentioned earlier — they’re a top ranking factor for local search on Google. In fact, they’re the 3rd most important one when it comes to the local 3-pack.
As a dentist, your goal should be to aim to have the most reviews in your city over time — or at the very least top 3.
This may seem like an unrealistic tall order, but in most cities, 50-200 reviews is enough volume. For an established office with patient bases in the thousands, it’s absolutely realistic to get 50-100 reviews in 1 year.
So, what can you do to prioritize and optimize your online reviews?
Stay active on google my business
When it comes to your GMB profile, you want to be active on it for 3 main reasons:
To respond to existing reviews
To correct any errors
To create new Google posts
Responding to reviews is fairly obvious. If you show that you acknowledge their thoughts, opinions, and even criticisms, they’ll think more of you. It creates an environment where more people are likely to leave reviews, too.
Staying active on your GMB profile will keep you on your toes, ensuring no errors are left unattended to
Lastly, you should be creating new Google posts as it’s a great way to attract more attention and increase conversions. If you didn’t know what Google posts are, here’s an image:
Some studies actually show Google Posts can improve local 3-pack ranking. You can read both of them here:
Why Google Local Business Posts Matter to Local SEO (Bipper Media)
Treat Google Posts like your social media content. Images and short text posts up to 300 words are allowed. You can also add a link, which acts as a call to action for your posts.
Consistently create content
Creating new content for your blog not only encourages links, but it’s attractive to Google. This is because Google wants new, fresh, unique content. They reward those that keep an active presence.
Potential customers, leads, patients, and website visitors will find it attractive also. A blog that is frequently updated and maintained suggests a level of professionalism.
When creating your content, be sure to prioritize quality over quantity. Poor quality posts are likely to do the opposite of all the above mentioned.
Also make sure you establish a consistent frequency. Posting once or twice a month is pretty good for a dental office.
Last but not least, one of the biggest factors of local SEO success simply comes down to proximity.
Google wants to serve relevant results to users — it understands that they want something closeby. Hence Google will first try to rank local sites in the direct geography, if those sites are not optimized or have bad reviews Google may show pages from a bit further away.
Think about it, if you open Google Maps and search for the best pizza restaurant, it will most likely show you pizza restaurants in your city, and even your neighborhood.
Google does so because it wants to fulfil the search intent and your ultimate need, find a good restaurant for pizza within a reasonable radius. Google knows that you will not travel 30 minutes across town just to get a pizza.
Local SEO Strategy For Dentists
A local SEO strategy is a blueprint for your dental office’s success on Google. It’ll outline all the steps you must take in order to rank well for local search on Google. It’ll cover the specifics regarding how you’ll rank in the local 3-pack, as well as the 1st page of organic results.
Local SEO Checklist For Dentists
A local SEO checklist is a resource you can follow to ensure your strategy is being followed. It’ll have key criteria — important activities that you need to attend to.
As a dentist, your local SEO checklist will include such details as:
Setting up and optimizing a Google My Business profile
Creating local landing pages for all your dentistry office locations
Running a NAP citation audit
Addressing NAP citation errors
Finding new NAP citation opportunities
Responding to reviews on Google
Creating Google posts
Creating blog content
Local SEO Services For Dentists
As a dentist, you have your hands full dealing with patients — you don’t have time to do everything. Local SEO is something that requires frequent and constant effort, which is something you might not have freely available.
Hiring the affordable local SEO services of an agency or consultant is what you need. A team or individual that is solely dedicated to improving your dental office’s rankings for the local 3-pack and organic search.