Dental Practice SEO – Part 4 – Link Building – Getting Google to Trust Your Website
Welcome back to part 4 of our dental practice SEO series. Today we’re going to talk about link building, which is the part of the SEO process that is going to have the BIGGEST impact on how well your practice shows up on Google, but it is also the hardest part of SEO to do. I’m going to try my best to simplify this as much as possible and give you some actionable advice that you and your staff can use to get more links to your website and really improve how well your practice shows up online in order to attract more patients.
Link building is arguably the single most important thing you can do to increase your rankings on Google. It is the biggest factor that Google looks at in order to determine whether to show your practice to potential patients or show one of your competitors instead. It’s a difficult part of the SEO process and funny enough it’s something many SEO companies don’t really know how to do very well.
A lot of people can do keyword research, a lot of people can optimize your website or write some content, but to really boost the visibility of your website you need to know how to do link building.
what is link building?
Link building is the process of finding and getting backlinks to your website, or in other words, getting other websites, ideally good authoritative websites to link back to your website. So for example, if my website has a link to your website, that’s a backlink. If someone wrote an article about you in the local news website that published an article about you with a link to your practice website… that’s a backlink.
Now why is this important? Why does it matter? To answer that, let’s look a little deeper into how Google works and why it is so good at helping people find what they’re looking for.
Back in the day there used to be A LOT of search engines. Meta Crawler, Ask Jeeves, Alta Vista, etc. What happened to all of them? Why did they all die out and now Google is pretty much the only search engine everyone uses? Well the reason for this is that Google was able to give people much more useful and accurate search results. And how was it able to do this? By looking at backlinks.
When Larry Page and Sergei Brin, the founders of Google, were at Stanford, they had a very simple but at the time very novel idea. When they looked at different research papers in University they found a correlation between how many times a given piece of research was cited by other research papers, and how useful that research was. So for example, let’s say you were going to do some research on a topic like physics, and you found two research papers on this particular topic but wanted to know which one was more worth your time to read. Let’s say one of the research papers was cited by 100 other research papers, and the second research paper was cited by 1,000 other research papers.
They argued that the paper that was cited 1,000 times by 1,000 other papers was probably better and more valuable than the research paper cited only 100 times… and they were correct. So they applied this logic to organizing websites.
The idea was that the more other websites link to a particular website, the more useful that particular website must be. So for example, if you run a dental practice, and you have a website, and I run a dental practice, and I have a website, and let’s say your website that 10 other websites linking to your website, and my website has 100 other websites linking it it, Google thinks that my website must be more valuable because more people are talking about it and linking to it.
So if you want to rank better on Google, the most important thing you can do is to get other websites to link to your website. But it’s not just a numbers game. Google takes a look at the quality of the websites linking to you as well, not just the number of links you have. So going back to my earlier example, let’s say your website only had 10 backlinks, but they were from really good, authoritative, trustworthy websites in the dental field, and my 100 backlinks were coming from crappy, spammy, low quality websites, then your 10 links would be worth a lot more in Google’s eyes than my 100 crappy links.
How to get more backlinks?
Let’s get into the meat and potatoes of it, the practical advice you and your staff can use to improve your practice rankings on Google. First, let’s talk about the easiest links to get, the low hanging fruit. Directory Listings.
Building a profile page on Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, YellowPages, Yahoo, Better Business Bureau, etc… these all count as backlinks because on those pages is a link to your website. Now these are not going to drive a huge amount of authority to your website because anyone can go on Yelp for example and add a new business, and Google knows that, but they are still very valuable links because if other practices in your area aren’t doing this then adding your business to a number of directories may be enough to catapult you to the first page of Google.
The next best types of links you can get are called Niche directory listings or citations, they are basically websites that are directories specific to dentistry. This includes things like RateMDs, or being listed on ADA.org, or the American Dental Academy, or if you’re an Invisalign provider, filling out your profile on Invislign’s website so there is a directory listing for your practice with a link to your website. Because these links come from more dental or medical specific websites they carry more weight in Google’s eyes and will improve rankings more than being listed on Yelp for example.
The next best types of links after this would be professional affiliations and sponsorships. For example, let’s say your practice sponsors the local little league baseball team in your town… you should have your practice mentioned on their website on their sponsor’s page with a link. This carries a lot of weight in Google’s eyes because this is a local organization in your area talking about you. If you’re part of the local Chamber of Commerce, you should be listed on their website with a link to your website. This is another really good link to have.
The next tier above this would be blog posts and articles from good credible websites. If the local paper writes an article about you on their website, make sure they have a link to your website. Let’s say there is a local blogger in your town who writes a blog on parenting. You can collaborate with them to create an article on dental tips for first time parents with young kids and on that blog it mentions your practice with a link to your website.
Here’s a real example, one of our clients in Ontario, Canada is very passionate about orthodontics and functional appliances and we partnered with a local blog in their area, Modern Mississauga, and had an article written to educate parents that there others ways to treat crowding in their kids teeth beyond just removing teeth and adding braces. It’s an informative piece of content and at the bottom it has a link to their website. This is a really good backlink that drives a lot of website authority in Google’s eyes.
Local awards are also really powerful backlinks. For example, here is a local reader’s choice award for one of our clients that drives a lot of ranking power because Google knows this is a legitimate award that isn’t easy to get.
Here is a top 3 best cosmetic dentists in Hamilton award that also drives a ton of SEO value. Because Google looks at the links from that website and realizes that it is a credible, trustworthy, high quality website, a link from them carries a tremendous amount of value. The links need to come from truly legitimate sources, you can’t just create 100 fake award websites and give yourself the first place prize, this would never work.
The very high quality backlinks, the ones that will really drive a ton of value and help you get to the first page on Google are not easy to get. They take research, you have to find people in your area you can collaborate with, it involves you doing a legitimately amazing job where you actually start to win real local awards. It involves being active in your local community, being part of the events, sponsoring local kids teams or other charities that are doing great work, etc. SEO in many way is kind of like doing good PR.
How many backlinks you need to be #1 on Google?
It really depends on who you are competing against. If you’re in a small town where nobody is doing anything, then all you may have to do is simply create some directory listings like Yelp, Google, YellowPages, etc. You add some nice photos to your listing, make sure there is a nice description of your business, all the hours of operation are correct, and you have a link to your website.
In bigger and more competitive cities where a ton of dentists are doing SEO as well, just building some directory listings is not going to be enough, because everyone is doing the same thing too, so you need to get a lot more creative and find ways to get local organizations and websites to talk about you and link to your website. You need to get much higher quality backlinks. This is what makes really good SEO companies so expensive. To build some directory listings… that’s simple, anyone can do that, it’s just data entry. Anyone can go on Yelp and just create a profile page. That’s typically all you get from SEO companies that charge a few hundred dollars a month.
But often this is nowhere near enough to help you rank better in competitive cities because there are just too many other dentists doing the exact same thing so you don’t end up standing out in Google’s eyes. It’s like…hh you have a Yelp directory listing? Cool… so does every other dentist. Oh you made a Facebook page, a Google my Business page and an Instagram account? Big deal… so did every other dentist in this city.
The really good SEO companies focus on getting you the links that are really difficult to get and drive a lot of authority to your website, the ones you can’t just buy, you have to earn. This includes winning legitimate awards from real and authoritative websites, having interesting articles written about you in local newspapers, partnering with local writers and bloggers to create great educational content that links back to your website, sponsoring the right organizations and knowing how to get the spotlight to shine on your practice because of your involvement with them, etc.