If I Were A...St. Louis Dentist - Will Hanke
 

If I Were A…St. Louis Dentist

Written by +Will Hanke on February 15th, 2011

Today is part one of a series called “If I Were A…” – in which I’ll take various professions throughout the Saint Louis area and show just what I’d do from an online strategy perspective.  First up – a dentist.

Prerequisites

There are some assumptions we’ve got to make here.  The dentist should already have:

  • An office
  • Existing patients
  • A website

Step One – Find A Keyword Niche

toothbrushesCurrently the search term ‘dentist st louis‘ comes up with just 860,000 results.  While this may seem like a lot, in reality it’s not.  Any result under a million is worth looking in to, and possibly ranking for.  According to the Google Keyword Tool, 4,400 people searched this phrase last month.

Switching the phrase around to ‘st louis dentist‘ results in 1.1 Million results.  Slightly more competition for nearly the same phrase. But check this out – this phrase gets twice as many (9,900) average searches a month!

And thirdly, the phrase ‘dentist saint louis‘ yields an incredible 2.7 Million results, yet only shows around 12,100 per month.  Which is a better deal?

I’m going with number two.  A number one result on Google for ‘st louis dentist’ would be a nice place for any local dentist.  Who wouldn’t want 9,900 potential new clients a month?

Step Two – Analyze the Competition

Now I need to do is see who’s currently ranking, how ‘valuable’ their website is, and how difficult it is going to be to overtake their #1 position.  (I should mention here that #1 position is optimal, but not always attainable. But being on page one definitely is)

There’s some good news here – a search for ‘st louis dentist’ shows me that the first two results are not very relevant. One is a site called Doctor Oogle, a directory-type site, and the second is another listing site of dentists in saint louis county.  Still no actual dentist website.  In fact, you have to scroll two-thirds of the way down the page before you find an actual dentist site -not counting the locally optimized results which we’ll talk about in step five.

At time of this writing it’s Dr. Derek Vadnal in Bridgeton.  His site is a template from ProSites, his call to action is sad, and the entire ‘above the fold’ area of his website is used very inadequately.  He scores a sad 55/100 on website grader. He could easily be overtaken. (Sorry Doctor Vadnal, I hope you aren’t reading this! – Or maybe I hope you are!)

Step Three -Audit My Website

Is my website up to date? What was the purpose of my having this site built in the first place?

  1. Because I heard from my customers that I needed one
  2. Because my competitors have one
  3. Because I needed a way to generate targeted leads (ie new customers)

In most cases it’s not number three, although it should be.  But no matter which it is, we need to dig deeper.  A website SEO audit is a great place to start.  This ten-thousand-foot view of your site will reveal your strengths and weaknesses.  I’d then follow that up with a report from Website Grader. Between these two reports I should know whether or not I need to rebuild my site or just fix a few things and press on.  If a rebuild is recommended, this will need to be completed before going to step four.

While we’re speaking about your website, what is your URL (domain name)? Are there opportunities for you to get something that’s more memorable? Is yours easy to remember? Easy to say, like over a phone, without having to spell it out?

Guess what – dentist-saint-louis.com is available.  But probably not for long.

Step Four – OnPage Changes

There are some quick changes I’d do to my website.  On the home page I’d make sure my title was ‘St Louis Dentist John Doe’.  Not the name of your business, not the name of the dentist, but the number one keyword/keyphrase I want to rank for.

I’d also make sure that my Heading Tag 1 (H1) is very similar.  maybe just ‘St Louis Dentist’ or even ‘Saint Louis Dentist’.

Next, I’d make sure my website’s contact form was very easy to find, that it is short and sweet.  I’d also make sure that my phone number (using call tracking) was at the top of every page on the site and that I either have a 314 and 618 number or a 314 and toll-free number.  There are plenty of people out there that still don’t have long distance.

Dental XRayNext, I’d have my picture and a picture of each of my staff members.  Maybe even their own page.

It goes without saying that I’d have a blog.  If it were my office, and I had a staff, I’d have each one of the staff write at least one post a month.  If I have 4 staff members, that’s one a week plus what I write.  The blog would answer questions about everything related to my business – How do I brush correctly? Can I get cavities from sugar free gum? Do toothpicks really help? What if I don’t floss? etc etc.  Easy stuff to answer.  Answer it and become the expert.

Most importantly, make sure every page has a clear call to action.  Get a free report, first visit is $50 off, multiple family member discounts, whatever it is – make sure it gets your website visitors to give you some sort of contact information.  This is imperative.

Step Five – Getting Local

There’s no doubt that Google is getting more and more local, serving up results that include dentists right in your area, a map with pinpoints and even click-to-call options.  So you’ve gotta be there.

Filling out your profile on Google Places, Yahoo Local and similar sites is imperative.  (If you can’t do this, or don’t have the time to tackle them all, give me a shout. I know a guy who is awesome at local placement).

You have no choice on this one. You’ve gotta do it.

Step Six – Getting Social

Here’s where it gets fun.  I’m not just talking about signing up for twitter – I’m talking about building an online reputation as the dentist of choice for St. Louis folks.  Here are some ideas:

  • Read Trust Agents, then sign up and actively use a twitter account.
  • Create a Facebook page that tells people about your practice. Have giveaways that are only for your fans.
  • Encourage your patients to share their X-rays on Facebook, flickr, twitter, whatever, however
  • Encourage patients to write a review of their visit on Yelp, Mixx, Yahoo Local, etc
  • Do a monthly newsletter that sells nothing but teaches everything. Use blog post teasers from the past month to get readers back to your site.
  • Have a tooth fairy program – online or offline. Encourage kids to bring in their baby teeth for some sort of exchange. Use it as a teachable moment for good hygiene.  Maybe a new toothbrush or something.
  • Don’t be the anti-candy guy. Be the better-alternative-to-candy guy or the candy-is-ok-in-small-amounts guy. Promote chocolate chip granola bars, oatmeal with fruit, smoothies, etc.
  • Blog about funny things that happen in the office. Become likeable – not just another dentist.
  • Partner with Foursquare to encourage check ins.
  • Blog about pets and their teeth. Dog and cat lovers will be impressed.

Step Seven – Target Local Keyphrases

Here’s where it all ties together.  Starting an SEO campaign around the keywords you found in step two.  Consistent link building paired with blogging will assure that your site will climb the rankings on Google, Bing and Yahoo!.

Since we’re in St. Louis, you’ve got a few different ‘versions’ of keywords that you can target – ie STL, St Louis, Saint Louis.  These will all produce slightly different results in the search engines, so target them all.  Don’t forget zip codes and larger ‘towns’ that people type in often such as St Charles, South County, Florissant, Wildwood, etc.  Obviously not all of them may be your target audience, but if they are don’t forget to build links with those words in them.

If you haven’t already, fix all of your errors that came up in your SEO audit, or if you had a new site built, consider running another audit on the new site. If you use Firefox, check out the plugin called SEO Doctor. Make sure all of your pages are near or at 100%.

Start creating pages (or blog posts) around frequently asked questions.  Then build links to those pages through your Facebook fan page, twitter account, etc.  Become the expert for all things dentist in Saint Louis.

Summary

If I were a dentist, I’d be all over the online space.  There is no clear leader when it comes to searching for a dentist in St Louis, and sooner or later someone will step up and become that authority.

About 

Will Hanke is the Chief Search Marketing Strategist at Red Canoe Media, a top St. Louis Search Marketing & SEO firm. In addition to helping some of the city's most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. STL Beds says:

    Will, Another good blog idea might be:
    Top 10 reasons it’s Fun to go to the Dentists!
    This could explain the health benefits of visiting a dentists regularly and help a person avoid the real pain involved when they don’t visit a dentist.
    Perhaps something that explains new painless procedures and dentistry methods.
    Visiting a dentist twice a year like a person should will save them money!

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