Solo practitioners without an established local marketing effort are in trouble. Dental service organizations (DSOs) are eating their lunch because they have a larger brand presence supported by a larger marketing effort than any individual office typically exerts on their market. They can obviously do this because they have a multitude of dentists who are not competing with each other, and so the marketing cost per dentist in that DSO goes way down. But the cost is not what is making the DSOs successful on Google- not by itself anyway.
DSOs are viewed by Google as simply well-known brands in the cities where they operate. Google believes in the value of a brand. In 2008, Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, said, “Brands are not the problem. They are the solution. They are how you sort through the cesspool” (Wired). He was speaking about content, but Google wants to be able to evaluate businesses just as well as they evaluate content. These businesses include dental offices.
By building recognized brands, dental service organizations and other well-known dental corporations, are winning top visibility because Google believes that a well-known brand is more likely to be reputable and capable of providing quality service.
Google loves Yelp for much the same reason. They let Yelp do the hard work of figuring out who deserves their top organic spot for nearly all dental-related keyword searches. This has the added benefit of prompting dentists to buy ads so that they can get higher visibility in these dental searches. Unfortunately, organic search engine optimization (SEO) cannot beat these big brands while Google is operating this way.
So, am I saying, like so many other marketing companies, that “SEO is Dead”? No, but I agree with Neil Patel that it is changing. That’s why I like to call what we do at Pro Impressions Marketing “Targeted Local Online Marketing”. I doubt that TLOM will ever be a common marketing acronym like S.E.O., but… Targeted local online marketing is a more true description of what dentists have to do.