Only 5.7% of all studied pages ranked in the Top10 search results (first page) within 1 year for at least 1 keyword.”
Sometimes when we are trying to get a real understanding for advertising in an area, we need a lot of control over our pages and rapid changes in text and format. Rather than constantly messing with our clients existing website, especially if he or she is already happy with the way it looks, we will create a custom website that we use just for the advertising. This look a bit stripped down, but allows us to create pages exactly as we want them and push people who are searching for dental or orthodontic services to those pages. We actually do a lot of work on the website we create in this way, because we want these sites to make visitors feel comfortable and we need to present a level of professionalism. Sometimes a client might have a website that is controlled by another marketing company that is using a system where every change has to be done through them – that can slow down our response to advertising and cause problems – so we have to go ahead and create a website. Also through years of research we have found that landing pages that prevent people from browsing are not ideal, a full site inspires more confidence which is important for a medical professional.
Google Pigeon released about 1 week ago now, so we have to assume that the Google engineers have settled down any initial bugs and what we are seeing now is more or less what we are getting. The update has sparked a storm of comment across the biggest SEO sites in the world- with MOZ describing it as the month that Google shook the SERPs.
Many people commented on their particular areas of interest, noting huge shifts in local search results in industries all the way from real estate and hotels to ice-cream. The fact is that Pigeon is another huge shift for SEO consultants – one of a series that has hit this summer.
Google Pigeon Showing Fewer Local Results
One of the most noted effects of Google pigeon was smaller map packs. Instead of getting 7 results of businesses close to you- suddenly we are now getting only 3 or none. In the So-Lo-Mo world (Social-Local-Mobile) the google local results are a mainstay, so dropping these results way down makes little sense. But while that has been getting most of the attention, I am seeing another, much more damaging change.
The Google Pigeon Poops
I follow a particular tight niche and I can’t comment on the world-wide effect of the Google pigeon update. What I can say is that in my niche, the small business owner got a real slap down.
I do SEO work mostly with dentists, and mostly in Central Texas. In San Antonio, Google really smacked down the local dentist with the pigeon update.
In the past, if you were in zip code 78148 and you searched the work “dentist” or “dental” with no other modifier, the map pack would show you a list of dentists that were in your immediate geographical area. The geolocation was very tight and would center on your zip code. This was also true even if you searched for “san antonio dentist”. What Google would show you was appropriate matches in as close as possible to your location.
What I am seeing is a massive broadening of the geographical search area to encompass a much larger “local” area. I did not see it in all my searches, but I saw it in a great many of them. I tested this in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. What this means is that no matter where you are in any of these huge metro areas, you see the same 8 or 10 top dental offices. Because the “local” area is so wide, google is picking up the ” most important results” – the offices that are perhaps a 40 minute drive from where I am, but they have great SEO. And lets face it, for a great many local choices, distance is the key – not how well they SEO’ed their site. The super-wide “local” results that I am seeing make them pretty much worthless.
Google Pigeon Hands Local Results to the Big Chains
Another really unpleasant side effect of these large geographical bite is that a chain might have two or three offices in a large city. What then happens is that you might search “dentist” and google maps shows you half of a city as the “local results”. Because the BigBoy Chain has three locations in the area and because they have an overall excellent SEO ranking ALL THREE of their locations show up in the map pack.
This is the antithesis of “local” results. This is Google pushing you to the people who are paying them the big advertising fees. This is squeezing down the small guy. This is the complete opposite of the stated Google objective which is to bring more accurate and more usable local search results.
While the “pigeon” moniker came from SearchEngineLand, not Google, I think it’s time for Google to create a “Scarecrow” update and get rid of all the recent changes. They had a great alogarithm, it worked well. Now they have a real mess.
Please Google, don’t go all Bing on us.
By San Antonio SEO Consultant Wayne Baumgarten
After having worked with dozens of dental practices on the full spectrum of marketing ventures – including television ads, radio, billboards, Yellow Pages, major newspapers and local publications, websites, internet marketing, direct mail, newsletters and email marketing – we know what gets the best results. Our years of experience gives us insider perspective and context to be able to hone the strategies for attracting the most new patients for the least monies spent.
Why Internet Advertising Should Be the Backbone of Your Paid Dental Marketing
- Internet advertising is by far the best method of dentist marketing for new patients. In the past two decades, most prospective customers have come to depend on the internet, not only for online shopping, but for researching, discovering, and comparison shopping of real-world service providers, such as dentists and professional offices. Especially effective is “Pay per Click” (PPC) search advertising, when it is set up professionally.
- PPC advertising is very cost-effective and inexpensive compared to broadcast and print media advertising – you only have to pay when someone clicks on your ad.
- Search targeting delivers ads contextually – your ads are seen only by people specifically searching for “(your city) dentist” or “cosmetic dentist.” And these ads are seen above and to the side of the search results.
- Search ads can be targeted closely by geography, and in some cases, by age, gender and interests.
- More than any other media, search ads can be tracked and analyzed. Results can be continually tracked and integrated with analytics, allowing quick monitoring of ROI. This means your ad performance can be tightly controlled and adjusted on the fly.
- The internet is always “on” and accessible to customers. It doesn’t depend on a customer being in front of a television or listening to a radio at the time your advertising airs. It also does not depend on a customer turning to a particular page of the newspaper.
You can set your monthly budget at whatever level you want and it won’t overspend.
Find out how internet marketing can make a difference in your practice with a free internet marketing evaluation.
Second best is direct mail, which traditionally has a high response rate, and is relatively inexpensive. Direct mail can also be tightly targeted to a specific geographical area and also to specific income levels. Direct mail however has to be well done, or your postcards and brochures simply slip into the mass. Postcards can be very wasteful if not well planned. We have found that humourous cards get better response. People get too much regular promotion in their mailboxes so if they get a card that is more alive, humorous or in some way engaging, it gets a much better response. Don’t do plain or boring.
Special Offers- Reduced Cost Exam, Cleaning or Whitening
Special offers have an upside and a downside. The downside is that you don’t want people travelling from all over town to take advantage of your special offer and then going back to thier regular dentist the rest of the time. This actually damages your office because it ties up your staff doing the introduction process for patients who will never be coming back to you anyway.
The upside is that special offers DO get new people coming into your office and this can lead to a lot of repeat business.
The Secret: You must strictly control your special offers to the geographical area directly around your practice. Do NOT put special offers on your website or in your internet advertising. Definately DO put special offers in postcards and brochures that are being distributed locally. If it’s going out local- put the special offer. If it’s going out wide- do not.
Use special offers to pull in people who are close to you anyway. Then it is very likely you will be seeing them again for more services.
Referrals are Free. So “Care to Share” and “Spread the Smile”!
Of course referrals are the bread and butter of all dental offices. They form the foundation on which a dental office rests. So anything you can do that increases referral is a good thing.
We often will print a 6 month supply of “Care to Share” cards for as little as $250. These cards can contain some simple (and acceptable to the Dental Board) incentive to “Spread the Smile” by referring a friends and family to your dental clinic. Any program that is pushing for referrals is a good thing. Cards with incentives just help the process along. If your patient appreciates your work, they won’t throw it away. They will give it to someone. Someone that you might be seeing in a month or two. Get something printed up. Postcard size is good, some practices like business card size. Either way it is more than worth the couple of hundred dollars to print these up.