marketing for dentists

Here is your step by step guide to optimizing your digital marketing for your dental practice. Once you’ve read through this, if you have any questions, just reach out to us.

Traditional Marketing Strategies in the Digital Age

“There’s no better time than now” is a popular saying, but it holds especially true in regard to small businesses. Now–more so than ever–people of all backgrounds have the means to launch their own startup ventures. The field of medicine is no exception. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, there are about 210,000 practicing dentists in the United States alone. While this may come as good news to the ambitious entrepreneur, the growth of small businesses across America raises a serious question: How is an individual expected to compete and stand out amongst a growing market?

Luckily, recent developments in technology make it easier than ever to advertise and promote your practice. A variety of tools– including SEO, social media, content marketing, and email newsletters–can make all the difference in giving you leverage against the competition. Many people are intimidated by the prospect of navigating these tools. Fortunately, they are neither time consuming or complicated when properly utilized.

In the past, dentists–and many other business people, for that matter–have utilized one of two ways to advertise on a mass scale.

  1. The first method was through mailers, which included pamphlets and postcards as well as adverts in the yellow pages.
  2. The alternative to these widespread mailers would have been through billboard rental, on which massive advertisements could be printed for passerbys.

Each of these methods have serious flaws to them.

  • Both billboards and mailers can quickly become expensive.
  • Mailers are often viewed as junk mail and disregarded entirely.
  • The yellow pages have been infrequently used since the expansion of the internet.
  • Billboards, while more aggressive and more likely to get the attention of passersby, only touch the viewer for a brief moment. Realistically, drivers by may recognize their need for a dentist, but not have the ability to act on the specific advert immediately.


What’s more, it is virtually impossible to to track the return on investment for each of these advertising techniques. While you may be generating new patients, it’s impossible to determine whether or not there is a correlation between your advertisements and your patient influx.

On the other hand, virtual tools and digital marketing methods are completely trackable. And, of perhaps even greater value, they are just as persistent at a fraction of the price.

Understanding and Utilizing Local SEO

Think back to the last time you searched for something online. Did you make it to the second or third page of search results?

The statistics illustrate that we rarely look past the first page of search results, which means the decision you made was based only on the first few listings in the search results. With this in mind, optimizing your website presence is essential in today’s market; a fully optimized site is the only way to boost your ranking with search engines and bring your business listing to appear within those first few results.

Often times, when people are searching for a new dentist, they’ll search for a provider first via Google, Bing, or some other search engine. Very rarely will they go straight to a web URL, or write down a telephone number that they only caught a brief glimpse of. Therefore, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your patients to find you. If you want to reach them, you must reach them where they are!

How Does Google Organize Search Results?

There are three organization methods used in Google search results for local businesses:

  1. The “Snack Pack” (Local Stacks): These highlighted items are displayed first in your search and feature three popular, relevant options
  2. Map Rankings: These pinpoint and display your business as well as other businesses on a local map.
  3. Organic Results: These show up the way any other search result would.

It is important that your business is featured in all three segments of the search in order to maximize your chances of being noticed by a prospective patient. However, knowing the basic layout of how search engines are organized is only the first step. The bigger question remains: Just how does a practice get the coverage online that it needs to thrive?

NAP: Name, Address, and Phone Number

One simple way of increasing your local optimization is by checking the consistency of your NAP across the web. NAP stands for name, address, and phone number – the three biggest factors that go into local SEO. Several services are available that will crawl the web and search for references of your business, then report back how consistent your NAP is. Often times, inconsistencies in your NAP may seem like simple semantics, whether that be a small typo, an old phone number, or a substitution of the word “South” with the letter “S”. However, even the smallest inconsistencies can play into your SEO. By going through and simply correcting each of these inconsistencies, you’ll see a significant change in your results.

Website Optimization

You can also add optimizers straight onto your website. Some standard techniques include:

  1. Have a separate Contact Us page listing the location(s) of your practice and your email address.
  2. You might also opt to have images on your website showing your office and employees. By tagging relevant keywords in the metadata of the images you choose to display, you can increase traffic. Search bots, unable to actually see what an image contains, rely on keywords attached to the image to assign any sort of meaning to them. An added bonus to using images to increase your SEO is the fact that they doesn’t require the same upkeep that goes into maintaining NAP.
  3. Talk about the things for which you want the search engine to value you. For example, if you want Google to know that you are an expert in pediatric dentistry, carefully craft content surrounding the topic so Google sees the value. Remember, Google’s goal is to provide great user experiences, which means showing browsers something as close as possible to what they are looking to find–so it’s critical that you tell Google what you’re about, before Google will suggest your site when browsers are searching.

By simply keeping consistent and making your intentions as a business as clear as possible, you’ll see a major difference in your SEO rankings.


Garnering and Maintaining Reviews Online

As mentioned above, search engines aim to create the best user experience possible for the people that utilize their site. In that line of thinking, it makes sense that a search engine would provide its users with the highest ranked businesses before a practice that’s received negative feedback. This means that reviews online (or lack thereof) could potentially make or break your business.

Register and Request

In order to get your ratings recognized in search results, register your business with Google Business and optimize it so that it’s cohesive with the rest of your online content. From there, the best way to nurture and receive ratings from patients is to simply ask for them. Tell your staff to actively request that patients share their experiences online. Reviews on Facebook also factor into SEO results, so a “positive review” could be as simple as asking your patients to like you on social media.

Don’t Fake Reviews

Sometimes, businesses create falsified reviews in a haste to reap the SEO benefits that come with high ratings. It’s recommended that you avoid inventing reviews of your own; not only does it detract from the trust your patients may have in you, it also may land you in trouble if you’re caught.

In that same vein, don’t encourage patients to spam your page with positive reviews. If you’re looking for a starting point, you can get creative by encouraging employees and staff members to leave a comment detailing their experience working for the practice. This is more than likely to encourage other to start leaving reviews of their own. Just as you’re more likely to get tipped if there’s already money in the tip jar, users are more likely to provide feedback if they see that others have already done so.

Respond to Reviews Immediately

If you do come across a negative comment online, don’t panic. Instead of ignoring it and allowing it to fester, respond to the negative feedback right away. Review sites almost always provide the owner of a business a format in which they may interact with the patient or commenter. Encourage the poster to continue the conversation through phone, private message, or email; just be sure not to engage in a conversation off of the review platform. That way, if the conversation escalates, it won’t reflect poorly on you.

If you’re able to talk away from prying eyes, get to the bottom of whatever the issue may be. Offer reparations in whatever way you can and apologize for the wrongdoing. Before signing off, ask if they would be willing to modify or redact their previous comment. Explain to them how important their opinion is in reflecting upon the reputation of your practice. More often than not, the effort you put into engaging with your patients will not go unnoticed. In that way, the negative of a review can be flipped on its head into a positive, reflecting upon your patient service initiative.

It’s a good idea to respond to positive reviews, as well. The more you’re engaging with reviews online, the better patients will be able to relate to you and your practice on a personal level–which plays a big part in earning the trust of new patients.

Citations and Listings

Along with patient reviews, citations and business listings can be incredibly useful in expanding your user base and increasing your SEO. Signing on with sites like Yelp, ZocDoc, and Angie’s List are a great way to create citations. By plugging in your NAP information and adding as much description to each profile as possible, you are steadily increasing your web presence and in turn increasing your chances of being seen. Not only that, each website provides another opportunity for your patients to interact with you and your practice.

Be sure to include a strong yet concise call to action through each of these outlets. Include keywords relevant to your practice. However, be wary of the way in which you write. A few keywords strategically written into an organically written description reflect better than a keyword-stuffed paragraph that sounds unnatural.


Content Marketing Basics

Content marketing is a phrase often used, but rarely elaborated on. In short, it’s an umbrella term that covers all of the content deliverables created to increase social engagement and brand awareness among existing and potential patients. Methods of content marketing vary between individuals; one person might focus on maintaining a blog, another might regularly share viral articles pertaining to their field, and a third might frequently post photographs of their practice online.

Your main goal for the content you post should be to create a memorable “persona” for your practice that viewers can relate to. The point of the Internet as a whole is to connect people with both information, and one another. Take advantage of that fact and use the tools that you have to engage with your audience. Use email, social media, and other online avenues to illustrate to patients the “soul” of your practice outside of the confines of your personal website.

Social Media

Visibility on social media is a sure fire way to generate traffic to your business. Most people have experienced, at one point or another, a friend on Facebook seeking out advice from their followers for business recommendations for their broken down car or leaking faucet. Perhaps at some point you may have sought out this sort of advice for yourself.

At some point, a friend, family member, or co-worker of a loyal patient is going to be in need of a dentist; they’re likely to seek recommendations online just as they would for a mechanic or plumber. The loyal patient might link their friend straight to your personal website; however, chances are much higher that they’d share an active Facebook page instead. Through sharing your page, not only does the person in need of a dentist receive access to your information, reviews, and personal website, followers of the potential patient will receive notifications as well.

What Content?

Many professionals are intimidated by the prospect of content marketing; to newcomers, creating a constant stream of interactive content may seem like an insurmountable challenge. However, when done correctly, it doesn’t take much time at all and it yields measurable results.

Once you’ve begun promoting your brand and you have mastered a few different social media platforms, the content builds upon itself. Eventually, the time spent creating content pays for itself in improved SEO standings. Not only that, frequent posts and interactions keep you in the forefront of the patients’ minds, making it much more likely to receive a future referral.

So where does one find content to share with the general public? The truth is, there’s content lying all around you. As previously mentioned, content can come in many forms; this means that opportunities to create content are infinite. Even the things that may seem banal or ordinary to you can easily become sharable moments that could entice a potential patient.


A waiting room equipped with plenty of toys for apprehensive children can be recorded in a 10 to 15 second video; this might easily translate into a selling point for mothers seeking out a dentist for their toddler. Said video could potentially be posted on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which translates to three potential platforms with which users can engage with your content.

Everything from workplace rituals to employee spotlights can be used to show viewers the goings on of your practice, the atmosphere that they can expect, and what you have to offer that others may not have.

Success Stories

You might also choose to share the success stories of patients. People can easily connect to the experiences of others, and a brief anecdote can be just what a reluctant person needs to take a step into the door of a new practice. Plus, that anecdote may very well be shared by the subject of the story, opening your practice to a whole new set of potential patients.

Before posting anything, be sure to ask the person if they’d be comfortable with their story being shared; they may opt to be referred to by a pseudonym or they may not want their experience shared at all, and it is of the utmost importance to respect those wishes.

For many business owners in the medical field, fears of breaking HIPAA standards stand in the way of creating valuable content. Be sure to look over the specific rules laid out; once you’re familiar with them, they aren’t especially difficult to stick to. In addition, lay out a set of guidelines for your staff members regarding what they can and cannot post online.


Be Engaging and Engaged

Just as sharing your page on the comment of a Facebook user is bound to exponentially increase your traffic, interactions such as liking and commenting on a piece of content can make a huge impact. Again, the importance of allowing your persona to shine through can make all of the difference.

A promotional post about a generic sale on teeth whitening might easily be glossed over. On the other hand, a feature on what makes the receptionist at the front desk tick is likely to get attention and promote interaction, if only from the friend and family of the receptionist.


What Platforms?

Alluded to throughout this section are the different mediums on which you can share content. There is no one superior platform to share your content; each has a purpose of its own.

What’s important more so than the actual platform is the way that you choose to use it. Two aspects in particular will help you succeed in creating and sustaining a prosperous social media account.

  1. The first is consistency; developing a cadence to your posts and feeling out what’s right for your business is important. That way, patients know what to expect from you and your business.

In that same vein, it is also important to feel out how much you can (or should) post on a platform per day. For instance, four posts on Twitter per day is completely acceptable. Four posts on Facebook per day may be considered spam.

  1. The second important thing that you can do to keep patients engaged would be to mix up your messaging. In other words, post a variety of different types of content to keep your followers on their toes. Get creative. Anything from fascinating articles and infographics to interactive surveys can encourage viewers to explore and think further about your practice.


The Purpose of Paid Advertising

With all of the free tools available on the web to aid in your SEO rankings, many people question the purpose of paid advertisement service such as AdWords.

The answer to that question is simple enough; sometimes, especially in competitive areas, your SEO efforts aren’t enough. The ‘Snack Pack’ only yields three results, while organic searches can go on for pages and pages past what your patient is willing to look through.


Services like AdWords prevent your site from being kicked too far down the list. Utilizing services like AdWords also protects you from your competitors. The competition can easily use your brand name as a keyword, causing patients who are searching for your practice to land directly upon the website of the enemy. AdWords will prevent you from being overshadowed by these sorts of tasteless tricks.

There are a few factors to keep in mind when creating an AdWord campaign.

  1. The first is to create separate versions compatible with the desktop and with mobile devices. If you don’t do so, there’s a good chance that your advertisement might become truncated and lose vital information such as a call to action.
  2. Another advantage to creating a separate mobile campaign is the option to directly connect with your patient. Often times, you can link a phone number to the ad itself, allowing patients to call directly.
  3. On the same note, it’s also important to include portals on your campaign that lead to a contact page or to information concerning the doctor. This way, patients are required to do as little as possible to find out more about whatever it is you have to offer.
  4. Lastly, it is crucial to add keywords. It’s best to strategize and pick words that are specific to your practice in general, as opposed to dentistry as a whole. It’s important to strategically choose your battles. Understand your audience and target them especially. Keeping in mind the context of your practice, consider the sorts of people most attracted to your business. Who are they? What makes them gravitate towards you? Keeping in mind those elements, create the ad best suited for that audience.

Calculating Cost

The better your advertising strategy, the more worthwhile a product like AdWord becomes. To calculate cost, Google has created a quality score algorithm that measures aspects such as the amount of time a person stays on the website and the number of clicks the website receives per visit. The more clicks a site receives, the lower the cost per click goes down.

Keeping this fact in mind, you can also create different ad campaigns and schedule them strategically for times most advantageous for you. For instance, if your practice is one of the few open on Saturdays and Sundays, you may want to run a special promotion advert that focuses on that unique characteristic.


Contrary to popular belief, personalizing a patient’s experience doesn’t necessarily have to be a direct interaction. In fact, it is possible to keep your business at the forefront of your patient’s mind for months after they’ve interacted with your product or business.

More than likely, while browsing a social media account, you’ve encountered advertisements either directly in your feed or on the sidebar of your screen. These ads are not there by chance or coincidence; it is possible to embed pixels and code onto your website that cause your patients to begin receiving these covert ads from your business that will follow them around the web.

Remarketing yourself in this way is incredibly valuable in the long run. Not only is it hard for your audience ignore, it also works as subliminal messaging. When your patient sees your business plastered everywhere, they’re bound to come to the conclusion that the practice is good.

Remarketing also gives you the opportunity to cement you differentiators from the competition. Even if your “differentiator” is not exclusive to your practice, if no one else is talking about it, you can easily make it your own.


You can further personalize your patient’s experience via email. Email is an excellent tool as it is a direct link to the patient.

One way of connecting with your patients through email is be setting up nurturing campaigns. A pre-appointment nurture campaign can be as simple as a reminder of an upcoming appointment a week or even a day in advance.

Once the appointment is complete, you can easily run a second follow up campaign. All it needs is a quick thank you and perhaps a request to leave a review online. It also serves as a means for patients to set up another future appointment.

At the very least, you can interact with patients via a newsletter. Using sources such as Mailchimp or Hubspot, setting up a template can take only a matter of minutes. Once you have a formula set in place, creating the newsletter on a regular basis can be as simple as plugging in existing content and pressing send.

The key to getting patients to form a relationship with the practice is to truly build upon the businesses persona, as explained in the segment concerning content management. Pick a friendly face to represent the practice. It could be a doctor, the office administrator, or anyone really. Attach their signature to outgoing emails, show off their personality, and make them your mascot. In the end, people are looking for a worthwhile connection with their healthcare providers.


Let’s Talk About Your Dental Practice

If you’re struggling with your digital marketing and want to work with a partner that knows the challenges you’re facing, then we need to talk.

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Digital marketing may seem daunting to those whose expertise lies in such an opposite direction, it is a critical aspect of maintaining a successful dental practice in the 21st century. Although referrals will remain a powerful method of generating and activating patients, the prospective patient will rarely contact a new provider without looking them up online–regardless of how much value they give the referral.


Thanks to ever-improving tools, maximizing the success of your online marketing isn’t beyond your reach. There are many resources online that can help you get started, walking you through content creation, social account, or paid ad processes. Alternatively, services like Foxtail Marketing which will immediately begin improving your online presence, and maximizing your ability to generate new patients from the steady stream of prospects who are living online.


Don’t settle into complacency with traditional advertising methods. With time, you’ll find that your new patient generation is simply not making up for normal attrition rates. In order to survive, you must go digital.

For help evaluating your current strategies, or to see how you can optimize your reach, visit the Foxtail Marketing website.

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Don’t settle for low-quality digital marketing for your dental practice and the results that come with it. Instead, drop your current provider and give your practice the care and devotion it deserves. Life is too short to put up with bad marketing.

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