The Fail Proof Way to Market a Local Small Business Online


Like any business, the dental business is not easy and often competitive in nature depending on your geographic region. With such extreme overhead costs in the start up phase, it can be scary at times if patients aren’t coming in the door, which leaves you with a vacant office and money lost through general upkeep expenses. Our other division, Secret Consulting, recently documented a case study on how we turned a struggling dental practice into a booming one with online marketing.

We were approached by a newer dental office that was several months old and looking to boost their customer base and revenue. They were referred through another client we had consulted for in the past. After the initial consultation, we were able to fully understand the scenario and what we were up against. The dental office was only several months old in a competitive area, meaning several other dental offices were already established in this territory. They had tried various marketing from direct mail to even hiring a Pay Per Click agency with less than stellar results. Their website was subpar at best and their Search Engine Optimization visibility was practically non existent. This meant for nearly an entire overhaul of their marketing strategies and funnels.

We were tasked with developing and implementing a comprehensive dental internet marketing campaign that comprised of Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, and Email Marketing.

Pay Per Click Marketing

dentist pay per click marketingThe first thing we rolled out was a Pay Per Click marketing campaign. Why PPC instead of SEO? Because PPC can get you traffic almost instantly, while SEO would take weeks or even months to start seeing traffic. Remember this dental office had hired another company to handle their Pay Per Click marketing and they decided to end that contract to consolidate all the services under one roof with us. However, prior to them ending the contract, we were able to save as much information and data as possible for our own use. This significantly helps reduce some of the legwork and provided us a baseline for best keywords to bid on, successful ads to mimic, and much more. The previous PPC agency had created a standalone website built strictly for PPC purposes and to be honest it wasn’t bad at all except we had to forfeit it once the contract expired. This meant we had to develop landing pages on the existing website for both SEO and PPC purposes.

We talked with our client to figure out what specific areas/services we should target. We settled on creating several different campaigns based on their goals.

  • The first campaign was to target “city dentist” type keywords because they were not being found in the ‘free’ organic results. Our plan was to phase out the PPC campaign for “city dentist” once the SEO became effective and started to rank the website organically, thus making the transition.
  • Our second campaign was to promote Invisalign services. This seems to be a very popular service since the margins are high but it also means it is competitive and consumers will price shop which leads to wasted clicks.
  • The third campaign was to promote emergency dentistry services for after office hours. You would be surprised how many teeth issues occur after hours and on weekends. This campaign would only run after dental office hours and on weekends.
  • The fourth campaign was to target the local Hispanic community by targeting Spanish dentist keywords with Spanish ad copy. Obviously they had bilingual staff on hand to help with this campaign.

As mentioned previously, we had quite a bit of data from the previous PPC Agency. It was a good baseline to get some insight on the searcher dynamics and intent before creating our Ad Groups. We also used Google’s handy free Keyword Tool to find keywords we may have missed. Google Keyword Tool is great because it gives you a rough estimate on search volume, estimated cost per click you might pay, and also trends to see if a keyword is seasonal or not. Once we found the right keywords it was time to create the actual Ad Copy and Landing Page.

dentist ppc marketing

When you search for something on Google, it often is clustered with an assortment of ads. We had to make sure our ad stood out from the rest. We looked at the competitive landscape and it was pretty generic with your typical “city dentist” get a free consultation or free ‘add-on’ type ads. We also looked at the data from the PPC Agency as well but ultimately made our own ad copy. Obviously we had to test several different ads per ad group until we found a winning ad.

dentist pay per clickFor the landing page we decided to just piggy back off the existing website and made sure it was highly relevant to the searcher and what they were looking for. For example, our Invisalign campaign wouldn’t send visitors to the homepage but rather the Invisalign subpage as it was much more relevant to the searchers interest. We simplified the navigation a bit by keeping only the essential pages like About, Insurance, Services, etc. We also implemented a promotional coupon for each campaign on the actual landing page that would expire exactly in three days from when they visited the website. This created a sense of urgency that would entice searchers to set an appointment. We also did the simple things like list important information and benefits, as well as the contact form above the fold, which is the first thing users see before they scroll down.

Pay Per Click Marketing Results

The results were very good with only one dud campaign. The dental office felt comfortable with a monthly budget of roughly ~$750 and our goal was to make sure they were getting a positive return on that advertising spend. Eventually we lowered the monthly budget once we were able to pause or consolidate a few campaigns. We were also able to lower their cost per click to under $4 through having a high quality score.

  • The campaign targeting the local area (“dentist city”) was a success. Since it was a newer dental practice, their offer was a several services packaged together at a low cost. The cost for all this was lower than most dental practices and this dental office was comfortable with this knowing that these patients would become longterm customers. This campaign lasted roughly three months until we decided to pause it once the website was ranking naturally for “dentist city”.
  • The Invisalign campaign did not turn out as well. Invisalign can cost upwards of $5,000 which forces consumers to do their due diligence and price shop. You can only lower your cost before taking a hit. Even loyal patients would go to another dental practice to save money if they could. This lead to an unsuccessful campaign that resulted in clicks that didn’t convert to appointments. If given more time we could have made it work, however, the client requested to pause it.
  • The emergency dentist campaign proved to be our best and continues to remain that. We created a very compelling ad that set this dental office apart from the rest. This worked extremely well with ad click through rates average around nearly a remarkable 10% and sometimes as high as 15%. Most PPC ads have click through rates of 2% or below. We learned that patients will drive as far as 20 miles out to see an emergency dentist which in turn can become a patient for life.
  • The local hispanic campaign also proved to be a success. We targeted the right spanish keywords and built good ad copy and landing pages with the help of their bilingual staff. We wanted to make sure the first generation hispanic community would feel comfortable at this dental office. The ad copy also has worked well with roughly a 7% click through rate and as high at 10% at times.

dental pay per click

Search Engine Optimization

dentist seoWe like to consider Search Engine Optimization as an investment. With Pay Per Click you always have to pay for your ad to maintain its position. However, with SEO your rankings are sustained for the most part with minor upkeep. This particular client had no online visibility at all. In fact, the website was newly registered and created, which put us at a disadvantage against already established competitors. From our understanding, no SEO had been done to the website, nor were there any analytics we could use as insight and a baseline. This particular website was running on the Joomla Content Management System which is good but not great. Out of the box it is not SEO friendly which meant we had some major cleanup to do. Before we began we installed Google Analytics to record our efforts and submitted the website to Google Webmaster Tools to find any errors.

As with all things related to search marketing, we began with proper keyword research. Luckily for us this is not difficult as most people usually type the same thing when looking for a dentist. The word dentist is almost always used more than orthodontist. The most common keywords were “city dentist” or “dentist in city”. There were small variations in keywords but they were all pretty much more or less the same. We also had tons of data from our Pay Per Click campaign which has proven valuable in showcasing keyword popularity. Once we found the right keywords to target it was time to look at the competition.

The difference between local SEO and national SEO is quite staggering and as you would expect local is a little bit easier. Most local businesses are not SEO optimized which lowers the barrier to entry. The search results were pretty much the same across all the keywords with a few local companies consistently occupying the top spots. Another thing that was consistent was the presence of Google Places listings in the search results. Using tools we were able to double check the competition to get a look at their overall SEO effectiveness.

dentist search engine optimization

The first thing we did was clean up the general appearance of the website to make it less clustered as we believe simplicity wins. As mentioned earlier, we removed/consolidated unnecessary or redundant pages. We also tweaked a few design elements by moving important sections up higher. We also noticed a tremendous amount of grammar and spelling mistakes which was corrected immediately as professionalism speaks volumes for any business. The homepage and all the important service pages were added expiring promotional coupons just like we added to the PPC landing pages. We moved the appointment sign up form closer to the top and integrated that form with our email marketing campaign that we’ll cover later. Last but not least, we added social media widgets, including testimonials, to showcase the dental practice’s loyal fans and followers as a way to build social proof and trust. The general color scheme and design was sufficient so we left that alone.

This dental practice had hired a website designer who threw up a website on Joomla content management system. To be honest it didn’t look bad at all but SEO was clearly an after thought. The first thing that stood out to us were the dynamic URLs that Joomla outputs ( This is bad SEO practice and just plain messy. We used Joomla’s built in SEO friendly URL settings to change it to static URLs ( The next area we looked at was the overall content of the website. Lots of the content was copied from other dental websites and we had to rewrite it in our own words to reduce the risk of being penalized for duplicate content. We also kept in mind to make sure the content was ‘SEO friendly’ for the pages we were targeting such as the home page for “city dentist”. Much of the title tags and meta descriptions were duplicates as well which required us to rewrite them to match the page content accordingly. For the homepage title we actually included the promotional offer within the title to increase the click through rate. We further increased the click through rate by writing a compelling meta description and utilizing reviews in rich snippet format to showcase a five star rating on the search results for any search that triggered the website. Much more On-Page SEO was done from a technical aspect such as creating a Sitemap, blocking important folders from being accessed by search engines, or internal linking.

dental search engine optimization

The next step was to create inbound links to the appropriate pages with the bulk of them going to the homepage as that specific page was targeting “city dentist”. The website had a weak backlink portfolio as it was a new website so we sped up the process by doing some competitor analysis. We used tools to look at where our competitors were receiving backlinks and then tried to acquire the same ones. We also went out to find our own relevant places to get links from such as relevant niche dental directories. Our plan was to compile a list of link sources so we could slowly build links to the website over several months as consistency is key here as well. We also set up Google Alerts to be notified of any new mentions of our competitors to keep tabs on what they were up to which usually meant they were actively optimizing their websites as well.

dental seo

Search Engine Optimization Results

dentist internet marketingThe results were fantastic with the website slowly moving to the top #1-#3 keywords in several months. It’s been almost 12 months now since we began this project and the rankings have sustained themselves with some minor upkeep. We are proud to have competed against older established websites to only beat them out with a new website. Our desired keywords get anywhere from 150-200 searches a month so the top rankings have done wonders for this business. For the keywords in where we are #2 or #3, we don’t worry as we still have a very high click through rate by implementing the offer in our title tag, showcasing our five star reviews, and also having a very compelling description. Needless to say, our ranking mission was accomplished and we were able to phase out the Pay Per Click “city dentist” campaign.

Email Marketing

Email marketing can be a very powerful and cheap tool if used wisely. It is often said your best customers are the ones you’ve already worked with in the past. For this reason email marketing is a great way to generate repeat business and establish a relationship with your customers. Not many people utilize email marketing or know how to do it. It’s actually quite simple and you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Our strategy was to use a professional email newsletter platform like AWeber.

dental email marketingSince our client was open for several months, they had built up a decent client list. With any business you must collect as much information as you can ranging from name, address, phone number, or email. Luckily they had this information available and most importantly their email addresses. We imported the email addresses into AWeber but that did not mean we could start emailing these patients again. By law they have to confirm they want to be receive email notifications so these patients had to opt in again and confirm their approval. For all future patients, we switched out the old appointment signup form to a new form that integrated AWeber’s email marketing platform. Any patient appointment scheduled through the website would then also opt-in to the email newsletter once they confirmed their email and appointment. This was a subtle but effective way of collecting email addresses. Now keep in mind that these emails collected were actual patients. Many other people simply collect email addresses by giving away free items as an incentive to have people sign up. An example of this would be a free eBook called “10 Things You Must Know Before Choosing a Dentist”.

The next step was to stay fresh in the customers mind by utilizing a newsletter campaign. A newsletter should not be all promotional. Our goal was to provide educational content in the form of general dental hygiene tips, company news, and a few promotional items sprinkled here and there. We developed a drip campaign which consisted of a series of followup emails that would send automatically to the customer after scheduling their appointment. These emails would go out about every two weeks. The first email was an introduction to the dental practice to help them prepare for their visit. The following emails were then just general dental healthcare tips. This followup email series lasted several months and was all automated. We also sent out emails spontaneously when appropriate such as to request reviews, to wish a patient happy birthday, or to just make a general announcement in preparation for a seasonal trend. With creativity the sky is the limit here.

Email Marketing Results

Our email marketing campaign has proven to be successful as well. Like we said, it is a cheap way to remarket to your customers time after time. There will be some people who will opt out of your email newsletter because they might feel overwhelmed by the emails and that’s entirely ok. Our goal was to collect customer information which allowed us to stay fresh in their minds and also form that personal relationship between company and customer. The only hard part was making sure the dental office was committed in helping us reach our goals by keeping us aware of anything news worthy and just general dentistry content we would of needed. We highly recommend AWeber and email marketing for any business.

dentist email marketing
The Bottom Line

This case study was to prove the effectiveness of proper internet marketing. What we want you to notice is that we were very diversified in our marketing channels. We looked at the situation presented to us and felt that a combination of Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click Marketing, and Email Marketing were all needed in order to have a successful dental internet marketing campaign. We were able to reach our personal goals of ranking a website at the top of the search engines and creating a profitable PPC campaign, all in only several months time. This increase of visibility has brought in more qualified customers and repeat customers and ultimately lead up to over $30,000 in new monthly revenue from new patients, specific high dollar services, and general repeat business. You can learn more about our consulting services over at Secret Consulting.