Dental Search Engine Marketing: Are Google Rankings All That Matter?

Marcus Biggs

By Marcus Biggs

Published March 28, 2017
Updated February 15, 2024

4 min read

Want a rapid expansion of your new patient roster? Just rank on the first page of Google.

It’s that simple, right? Not exactly.

Sure, ranking competitively on Google is a key asset of your online presence. After all, Google is the number-one source of new patients. However, there are many factors that go into optimising your website for search engines.

Below, you’ll learn how to manage your expectations and optimise your website in a way that page-one Google rankings will actually produce new patients.

Empty Dental Search Engine Marketing Promises

Search engine optimisation (SEO), the practice of optimising your website for search engines, is a long-term strategy. And unreasonable expectations often lead dentists down a path of discouragement. This is largely due to overeager SEO providers simply looking to tally another sale.

Maybe you’ve heard the pitch: “We guarantee we’ll get you on the first page of Google within 30 days!”

First off, it’s impossible to guarantee rankings. Google itself even warns of SEO providers who offer such promises:

“No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings [or] allege a ‘special relationship’ with Google.”

Sure, you could rank for a decent keyword within a few weeks. In most cases, though, ranking on the first page of Google can take time. And depending on the authority of your competition, it can take several months to gain traction.

That being said, the payoff is well worth the wait.

What Are You Ranking For?

Anyone can rank on Google for a keyword. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s the right keyword. There’s a formula that determines a successful SEO campaign:

Competitive rankings on Google + Qualified website visitors that convert into patients = SEO success!

Have we partnered with any new dentists due to this ranking? Of course not.


That’s why being “on page one” of Google is, in itself, a meaningless marker. Ranking for “dandiest dentist” was easy. But there was no competition for the keyword and it’s highly unlikely that someone would search this on Google when looking for a website provider – or a new dentist, for that matter.

A website’s performance shouldn’t just be measured by how well it ranks. It’s about the number of new patients it produces.

Tracking Your SEO Success

As many marketers say, “If you can measure it, you can improve it.” In SEO, measurement is essential. Your provider should be able to analyse your website’s performance and create roadmaps for improvement.

If your dental SEO company is reporting strictly on rankings, ask them a few questions:

  • Are prospective patients actually searching for the keywords I am targeting?
  • Are the keywords attracting website visitors that express interest in my services?
  • Do the keywords focus on my core services (the type of patients I enjoy serving)?
  • Do the keywords target prospects who live or work within 20 minutes of my practice?
  • Is my website engaging visitors so that they are encouraged to schedule an appointment?

If your SEO provider can’t answer these questions, they might be hiding something.

The goal is to unravel the mindset of your ideal patients, and build an SEO strategy around their motivations and search behaviours.

Ideally, your SEO or website provider would have a way to track the results of your campaigns. For example, the Smile Marketing New Patient Tracker can prove the results of an online marketing campaign by revealing the channel from which a new patient converts. If new patients are added to the New Patient Tracker dashboard, and it shows they are coming from Google, you know your SEO strategy is working.

Measuring User Behavior

Content, website design, keywords, etc. – there are countless factors that determine the impact of your digital strategy. After all, if you’re not attracting qualified visitors who engage with your website, you won’t meet your ultimate goal: to get and keep more patients.

google-analyticsVisitors don’t convert into patients by merely stumbling across your website. If qualified visitors are arriving to your site, and they aren’t turning into patients, your website design could be the culprit.

There are a few behavioural metrics that help you determine this. They can be found in your Google Analytics account (if you don’t already have an account, you can create one here).

  • Time on site: The time a visitor spends on your site indicates the quality of your content and design.
  • Pages per visit: The number of pages someone visits shows how interested they are in your services.
  • Bounce rate: Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your site and only view the page they landed on. A high bounce rate indicates that your content and design aren’t engaging visitors.

The Hub of All Your Dental Marketing Efforts

There are countless ways to improve visitor engagement. And while a “modern” design is important, aesthetics is only one piece of the pie. If a nice-looking website was all you needed, you could hire any designer, have them build your site, and hope it produces new patients.

But if there’s not a strategy behind the design, your website is little more than a piece of digital art. Great website design strives to fulfill four key goals:

  • Showcase your skills and expertise
  • Establish yourself as an authority in the dental field
  • Improve patient retention and stimulate referrals
  • Attract qualified visitors and turn them into patients

To achieve these goals you need great content, professional photography, and a design structure that takes visitors from the start of landing on your site to the finish of scheduling an appointment.

SEO is one of many other steps to create an impactful online presence. An effective keyword strategy, coupled with a conversion-friendly website design, will nurture a long-term strategy for consistent new patient growth.