In this comprehensive, instructive guide about SEO for dentists, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about dental SEO, from keywords and backlinks to on-page optimization, so that you can get traffic from potential patients.
I’ll also show you some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your dental SEO strategy. So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing SEO for dentists for years, this guide has something for everyone. I’ll show you some excellent examples of dentists ranking on Google and some techniques they used to get there.
You’ll also learn about some of the most common mistakes dentists make regarding search engine optimization and how to avoid them. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of how dental SEO works, and you’ll be well on your way to getting your dental practice ranking on
My name is Lori Ballen, and I’ve been doing SEO for over 20 years. I’ve helped hundreds of students and clients improve their organic search visibility and ranking in that time. And I’m excited to share my knowledge with you so that you can get the most out of your dental SEO efforts.
I’ll start by explaining what SEO is and how it can benefit your dental practice. Then I’ll dive into how to research and choose the right keywords for your dental SEO campaigns. After that, I’ll show you how to create content that ranks well in Google and other search engines. And finally, I’ll wrap up with some tips and tricks for getting the most out of your dental SEO efforts.
The tools that I use the most for SEO content are:
- SEMrush (for keyword research and SEO audits)
- Surfer SEO (for on-page optimization and topic clusters)
- Jasper AI (for improving titles, intro paragraphs, closing paragraphs, creating headings, and assisting in writing tasks)
For technical SEO, I use
- Link Whisper (for internal linking)
- RankMath (for schema, redirects, and other geeky SEO things that run in the background)
For blog images, I use
So let’s get started!
What Is SEO?
SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It’s the process of optimizing your website and content for Google and other search engines. SEO aims to improve your organic (or unpaid) search visibility and ranking to get more traffic from Google and other search engines.
I’m going to “plus” that “generic” definition and tell you what I believe it really takes to rank on Google today.
Topical Authority (be the expert) + Reputation (backlinks, mentions) + Comprehensive Content (and a lot of it) + Relevance (how well your page answers the search intent).
The Basics of SEO
There are three main pillars of SEO: technical SEO, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO. I’ll explain each one in more detail below.
Technical SEO is the process of optimizing your website for Google and other search engines. This includes things like improving your website’s speed and performance and making sure your dentist’s website is mobile-friendly.
On-page SEO is the process of optimizing your website’s content for Google and other search engines. This includes things like optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions and creating keyword-rich content.
Off-page SEO is the process of building backlinks to your website from other websites. Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. Google and other search engines use backlinks as a signal of your website’s quality and authority.
Today’s most important part of SEO for a dental SEO company is relevance. Google wants to return the most relevant result to the user for their search query. Your website and content must answer the searcher’s query to be relevant.
To show you what I mean, let’s say someone searches for “dental implants.”
If your website is about dental implants, then your website is relevant to that search query.
Relevance is more important than ever because Google’s algorithm has gotten very good at understanding searcher intent. They can now determine the keyword being searched and the type of search (navigational, informational, commercial, etc). This means that if your website is not relevant to the searcher’s intent, it will not rank.
To create relevant content, you need to understand what the searcher is really looking for when they type in a particular keyword or phrase. This is called “search intent.” Once you understand the searcher’s intent, you can create content that is relevant to them.
The easiest way to find out what content Google finds relevant is to perform a keyword search on Google. Open the top few pages. Are they a list? A video? An article? Look at the title and meta descriptions. These are clues to understanding the searcher’s intent.
If you invest in an SEO tool like the one I use, SEMrush, it will also tell you the searcher’s intent next to the keyword you are targeting.
How to Do SEO for Dentists
Now that you have a basic understanding of the SEO components, let’s dive into how to do dental SEO and how you can use your dental practices as content for your website.
1. Set Up your Local SEO
Local SEO is important for any business that wants to be visible in search engines for local searches, but it’s particularly important for dentists. That’s because most people who are searching for a dentist are looking for one in their local area.
You need to do a few things to set up your local SEO for better online visibility and attract local patients.
First, set up your Google Business Profile with a link to your dental practice website. This free listing allows you to list your business in Google Maps and Google Search. You’ll need to verify your business by phone or postcard.
Once you’ve verified your listing, be sure to fill out as much information as possible, including your business hours, website URL, and photos. You can also add additional information about your dental practice, such as your services and specialties.
This is where you will collect your online reviews, which will help your pages rank. I’ll cover that SEO strategy shortly.
Next, claim your business listings on other directories, such as Yelp, Bing Places, and Apple Maps. These listings can help you rank higher in local search results.
Then, add a contact or about us page that lists your location, phone number, and, ideally, a map. Keep your NAP consistent. This is your name, address, and phone number. Anytime these are listed on the web, they should be exactly the same, including abbreviations, street names (St. vs. Drive), and Suite or floor numbers.
Add your NAP to the footer of your website so that it appears on every page. This will help Google and other search engines index your website correctly.
Finally, add local schema markup to your website. Schema markup is code you add to your website to help search engines. It’s not visible to website visitors.
Adding schema markup to your dental website can help you rank higher in local search results and get your listing to appear in the “Local Pack,” which is the box of local businesses that appears at the top of the search results page.
If you are building your dentist’s website on WordPress (which is ideal, in my opinion), add the RankMath plugin and go through the setup wizard. Then, RankMath will take care of your schema markup. This is a fee-based plugin that renews annually. This is the plugin that I use.
2. Research and choose the right keywords
The first step in any dental SEO campaign is keyword research. You need to identify the dental search terms to build content around. The best way to do this is to use a keyword research tool like SEMrush (that’s the one I use, anyway). It’s more about topical research than it is about keywords, specifically.
When choosing keywords, you want to focus on keywords relevant to your dental practice and have a good search volume. You also want to choose keyword phrases for which you think you can rank.
SEMrush lists a keyword difficulty score for each keyword. You’ll need to start with a KD score of around 30 or less when you have a newer website with fewer backlinks. You can target keywords with a higher KD score if you have an older website with more backlinks. SEMrush will list the authority score they gave you based on your backlink profile.
Once your authority score is over 30, you can start targeting keywords with Keyword Difficulty scores of 40 to 60. And once you have a domain authority score of 50, work up to the higher competition keywords.
While Google doesn’t use authority scores in its ranking factors, the algorithm which determines which pages rank for a particular query on the SERP (search engine results page) considers backlinks. And since your AS determined by SEMrush uses backlinks, there’s a correlation.
To find the right keywords for your dental SEO campaign, start by brainstorming a list of relevant terms and phrases. then plug those terms into SEMrush’s Keyword Magic Tool to get ideas for which content to create. Make a list called “Search Engine Rankings” and save the list of keywords you want to target.
For example, if you want to rank for the keyword “dental implants (KD-90 out of 100),” you could brainstorm a list of related terms and phrases like “dental implant costs (KD-60),” “dental implant procedure (KD-51),” “dental implants before and after (KD-17)” etc.
If you do dental implants, it would benefit you to create a blog post (and a video potentially) that showcases dental implant patients before and after their procedure.
And since Google is so smart these days, it will know your location (if you have set up citations (more on that in a bit), and you are likely to rank higher for people that live near your office without them typing in the location.
2. Create keyword-rich content
Once you’ve identified the right keywords for your campaign, it’s time to create keyword-rich content.
You need to keep a few things in mind when creating content for your dental website.
First, Google loves video. You should also create videos for your website and post them on YouTube. You can also embed the videos on your website. In addition, Google favors “brands” or “experts.” The more Google comes across your brand name on search, social, and mentions (web conversations), the faster you will establish yourself as an expert or brand in your field.
Next, focus on creating comprehensive and high-quality content. While Google doesn’t rank content based on word count, there is a correlation between longer content and top-ranking pages. In some niches, it’s as much as 2000-6000 words.
I quickly searched Google using our previous example of dental implant costs and determined that the top 3 ranking pages have a combined average of 2,280 words. In my niche, digital marketing, I frequently compete against content that has 5,000 – 6,000 words.
The bottom line is this; you have to cover topics as well as they have been covered by others to rank. That doesn’t always mean more words, but quite often, it does.
I’ll cover more about on-page SEO in a section coming up soon.
3. Create Topic Clusters
A “topic cluster” is a group of content assets (usually blog posts) around a particular topic with one in-depth piece of content that serves as the “pillar” for the cluster.
This concept was popularized by Hubspot. They have an excellent post on the topic if you want to learn more about it. This kind of content building is called a Silo or a hub and spoke mode.
To give you an idea of what a topic cluster looks like, let’s say your main keyword is “dental implants.” You would want to create a piece of pillar content around that keyword (an in-depth guide on dental implants) and then a group of blog posts that link to your pillar content that cover different aspects of dental implants.
For example, you might have an in-depth blog post, your “Comprehensive Guide to Dental Implants.” Then, you might have smaller, long-tail keyword-focused blog posts like:
- Full Mouth Dental Implants
- Cosmetic Dentistry
- Creating a Perfect Smile
- Types of Dental Implants
- Costs of Dental Implants
- Bad Dental Implants
(These suggestions were all provided by Surfer SEO’s content planner based on other ranking content)
Your pillar post would be your “money” or “transactional” keyword (dental implants). Then, the blog posts that link to it would be your “informational” keywords.
The benefit of this is that you can target a wide range of keywords with your content while still remaining focused on one central topic.
Each of your topic cluster posts should refer to the pillar post (your comprehensive guide) to let link equity flow from each cluster post to the pillar post.
These internal links help Google understand the relationship between your posts and indicate which is most important.
4. Optimize for On-Page SEO
When it comes to dental marketing, on-page SEO is critical for getting your website to rank in Google search.
While old-school keyword stuffing is no longer relative and could get you in trouble with Google’s spam filters, proper placement and use of keywords still come into play.
There are several on-page SEO factors that you need to pay attention to, but here are a few of the most important:
Title Tags: Your title tag is what shows up in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It should be 50-60 characters long and include your target keyword. The best way to determine the title of your webpage is to look at what’s already ranking on page one.
Your title should be similar but not exactly the same. You want to stand out from your competition, after all. The closer you can get to what’s already ranking in Google, the better your chance of ranking.
If the other top-ranking pages all start with a number, include the year, or have some other element in their title, you can use that to your advantage by including something similar in your title.
For example, in my search, all of the top-ranking “dental implants” pages started with the words Dental Implants, and then something after. For example, Dental Implants: What you should know. These are not “list” style posts, so a number is unnecessary.
Meta Descriptions: Your meta description is the short summary that shows up underneath your title tag on the SERPs. It should be 155-160 characters long and include your target keyword.
Your meta description is your chance to “sell” your content to searchers and convince them to click through to your website instead of one of your competitors. Make it interesting, and make sure it includes a call-to-action (like “read now” or “learn more”).
H1 and H2 Tags: These are the headlines on your page. Your title tag is technically an H1 tag, but you should also have H2 tags throughout your content to break it up into smaller sections.
Your target keyword should be included in both your H1 and H2 tags.
I like to use Surfer SEO when creating content because it suggests paragraph headings (h2) based on the other pages that are ranking. While I don’t copy their content, it does give me some ideas for section headings that I can use in my own content.
You can make a heading an H2, H3, or H4 by highlighting it and selecting the appropriate heading from the edit.
Images: Every image on your website should have an ALT tag. This short description of the image tells Google what it is. ALT tags are used with screenreaders in case someone can’t see the picture.
Table of Contents: If you have a long article (like this one), consider adding a table of contents at the beginning with links to each section. This makes it easier for Google to crawl your content and understand its structure. It can improve the user experience, and Google may use it to create sitelinks to improve the appearance of your snippet on the SERP. If you are using WordPress, you can install a free plugin such as Easy Table of Contents. It will create your TOC automatically out of the headings you choose (generally H2’s).
- Sitelinks: These links appear underneath your website’s name on the SERP. They are typically your highest-trafficked pages and can help improve click-through rates.
- Crawl: The process Google uses to discover new and updated content on the web.
- Snippet: The preview of your website that appears on the SERP. It includes your title tag, meta description, and URL.
- SERP: Search Engine Results Page. This page appears after you enter a query into Google search.
Using NLP Keywords
Once again, using correlation rather than causation, we follow the common strategies of top-ranking pages rather than blindly following the latest SEO fad.
When we analyze a web page, we use what’s called “Natural Language Processing,” or NLP. This is the same technology that Google uses to understand the meaning of queries and match them with relevant results for search engine ranking.
NLP looks at the entire page, not just individual keywords, to determine the topic of a page and the relationships between relevant keywords. This differs from the traditional keyword research method, which looks at individual keywords in isolation.
When we use NLP to analyze a web page, we can see which words are most important to the topic of the page, and we can also see how those words are related to each other.
For example, if we look at the target keyword ‘Dental Implants’ in Surfer SEO’s on-page SEO ‘content editor, we see some NLP keywords that we should use in our blog.
Some of these are:
- natural teeth
- missing teeth
- implant surgery
- implant dentistry
- periodontal disease
Clicking on any of the NLP keywords in Surfer SEO will show examples of how they were used on other blogs. There’s no more guesswork. It’s all here.
Optimizing the URL
While you don’t need an exact match keyword in your URL anymore (URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator, by the way, and it’s the page of your website that appears in the search results), it’s still a good idea to include your target keyword after the top level domain.
The top-level domain, or TLD, is the part of the URL that comes after the dot, such as .com or .org.
For example, if your target keyword is “dental implants,” you might want to include it in your URL like this:
This is called a “slug,” and it’s the part of the URL that comes after the main domain.
The slug is usually just a few words, but on-page SEO tools like Surfer will score you higher if your target keyword is in the URL. That being said, plenty of #1 ranking pages don’t. It’s not a cause, it’s a correlation. In other words, a best practice.
Internal and External Links
I mentioned internal links earlier when we talked about topic clusters. There are other links to include in your content. These are called external links. These are links to other websites, and they help Google understand what your website is about.
For example, if you’re writing a blog about dental implants and you link to an article on the Mayo Clinic website about periodontal disease, Google will interpret that as a sign that your blog is also about periodontal disease.
External links are a good way to show Google what your website is about, but you don’t want to go overboard. A few high-quality external links are better than many low-quality ones.
The same goes for internal links. You don’t want to link to every page on your website from every other page. That’s just too much for Google to process, and it won’t help your SEO. Instead, link to a few related pages on your website from each blog post or web page.
To sum things up, there are three types of links to use in your content:
1. Internal links (links to other pages on your website)
2. External links (links to other websites)
3. Backlinks (links from other websites to yours)
Each type of link has its own SEO benefits, so it’s important to use all three in your content.
Building Authority through Backlinks
Authority is important when you want to rank on Google. The more authoritative your website is, the higher you’ll rank.
There are two types of authority:
1. On-page authority (the authority of your website)
2. Off-page authority (the authority of other websites that link to yours)
On-page authority is important, but it’s not enough to get you to the top of the SERPs. You need off-page authority as well.
The best way to get off-page authority is through backlinks. A backlink is a link from another website to yours.
For example, if I were to link to your dental implants blog from my blog about dental health, that would be a backlink.
Backlinks are like votes. The more backlinks you have, the more authoritative your website appears to Google.
To get backlinks, you need to reach out to other websites and ask them to link to your blog post or web page. This is called link building, and it’s a whole other topic.
You can build some backlinks by creating content that other websites want to rank to. Popular posts would include but are not limited to, top ten lists, statistics, guides, and infographics. That before and after blog post, we talked about could also earn backlinks.
You can probably reach an authority score of 30-50 without doing any manual link-building. After that, you may have to get more strategic. As a local dentist’s office, however, that might not be necessary. You’ll have the Local SEO adding a boost there as well.
You can do a few other things to build authority, such as getting social signals through social media platforms, and mentions from high-authority websites, but those are topics for another day.
The bottom line is this: if you want to rank on Google, you need to build authority. You can create great content and get backlinks from other websites.
Reviews and Ratings
Another way to show Google that your website is relevant and authoritative is through reviews and ratings.
If you have a lot of positive reviews on your Google Profile, for example, that’s a sign to Google that you’re a reputable business. The same goes for ratings on other platforms like Yelp and Facebook.
Google also takes into account the number of reviews you have. The more reviews you have, the better.
You must ask your patients or customers to leave a review on your Google Profile. You can also encourage them to leave a rating.
For my Las Vegas real estate business, I often hear from new leads that come in, that they found us in the map section on Google.
When they click on our business listing, they see that we have a lot of five-star reviews. That builds trust and credibility and helps us convert those leads into customers.
Google uses all of these signals—content, backlinks, reviews, and ratings—to determine whether your website is relevant and authoritative.
If you want to rank on Google, you must ensure you’re doing all these things. That’s how you show Google that your website is the best option for the keyword or phrase that someone is searching for.
Dentist SEO Examples
As promised, here are a few examples of how local dentist’s offices can use SEO to get more patients.
I just used Google to search for a dentist. Since I had a bad experience with my last dentist, this time, I searched Google with the keyword “gentle dentist,” hoping to find someone with that description.
Immediately, the local map pack (Google Map rankings) is presented (this comes from your Google Business Profile), and the three listings are:
- Gentle Dental Green Valley
- Gentle Dental Warm Springs
- Gentle Dental Flamingo.
While I assume those are all the same business with various locations, they may not be. The key here is that using the keyword in their business name did, in fact, help them in the local SEO section.
After Google Maps, we have the standard listings. In my case, the top 3 are:
- Gentle Dental Warm Springs
- Gentle Dental Charleston
- The Gentle Dentist
So once again, our keyword is part of their business name, and they get the advantage. When I search family dentist and Las Vegas dentist, it’s more of the same. It’s either in their business name or included in the title after their business name. Prospective patients are likely to click on these websites because they’re at the top of the page.
Therefore, think if your page titles very carefully. Especially your home page and Google Business Directory are going to matter, in your case, significantly.
Example 3: Teeth Whitening
This example is a perfect demonstration of understanding intent. You might title a “teeth whitening” page and list your teeth whitening services. Yet when someone is searching for teeth whitening, based on the search results, they are looking for teeth whitening kits rather than services.
By following these tips, you can use SEO to improve your chances that your web pages will rank on the first page of the search engines.
However, dental websites appear on the SERP when I type in teeth whitening services. Some suggested keywords that are related, according to Surfer SEO, are:
- Teeth Whitening Dentist Cost
- Teeth Whitening Dentist Before and After
- Teeth Whitening Dentist Recommended
The top result is for Aspen Dental, which has the following meta description: Teeth Whitening is a fast, easy way to brighten teeth while enhancing your smile. Learn more about teeth bleaching from Aspen Dental today.
Based on what my SEO tools are reporting for this term, this page will not require a lot of content. to rank on the first page of the search engine. However, you may want to have a blog post that covers best practices in teeth whitening and even best teeth whitening kits so you can establish yourself as an authority on teeth whitening.
How can I rank in Google Maps rankings?
Set up a Google Business profile (formally called Google My Business) and make sure your NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) is consistent across the web. Optimize your website for local Search engine optimization by including your city and state in titles and tags. Get reviews from patients on Google and other platforms.
What are Search Engine Crawlers?
Search engine crawlers are bots that visit websites and collect information about those sites to be added to search engine’s databases. These are also called web crawlers. Search engines like Google use these databases to answer searchers’ queries.
What is the most important factor for ranking on Google?
The most important factor for ranking on Google is relevance. Your website must be relevant to the keywords or phrases that someone is searching for. If you’re not relevant, you won’t rank.
What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search Engine Optimization is the process of optimizing a website to rank higher in search engine results pages. This can be done through various means, such as On-Page SEO (optimizing website content for keywords), Off-Page SEO (building backlinks to your website), and Technical SEO ( optimizing website code and structure).
Will running Google Ads help with dental SEO?
Google does not give preference to businesses that run Google Ads. However, Ads can help increase traffic to your website, which may, in turn, help your dental search engine optimization efforts.
How much should I budget for dental SEO?
There is no set answer, as dental SEO campaigns can vary greatly in scope and scale. Typically, businesses should budget at least $500-$1,000 per month for dental SEO, although more may be necessary for larger campaigns.