set of hands reviewing dental search traffic on a laptopThere was a 98% increase in people making COVID-related searches on Google last month. We knew that something was off as early as the first week in January. Since the holidays were gone, when the first Monday and Tuesday following the New Year arrived, we anticipated a spike in traffic. They didn’t blow the doors off of any of our dentists’ Google Analytics accounts. We were puzzled but didn’t sweat it too much. Dental office traffic and leads tend to be higher toward the end of the month.

As January progressed, we still didn’t see the deluge we were looking for. Only a handful of clients saw a significant increase at the end of January. A few of those offices also increased their dental pay-per-click ads budget in January. This made them not just outliers but poor comparisons for our dentists who either didn’t have Google Ads or didn’t increase their spending.

Most clients had a decent month by the end of the month, but traffic to their websites and new dental patient lead (phone calls and emails) volumes were comparable to other good months in 2021.

We compared year of year trends in searches for ‘dentist’ on Google using Google Trends. Here’s the graph:

Google Trends for dentists In January 2022

Source: Google Trends.

Look closely and you’ll see that January 2022 was lower than January 2021 and January 2020.

We checked for an inverse correlation between COVID search volume and dentist search volume.

Google Trends for dentists in comparison to COVID-19

Google search volume graph for COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in January 2019

Source: Google Trends

Search volume for “covid” was higher in January 2022 than in March 2020. This trend naturally followed the infection rate of COVID-19.

infection rates per Google found in the New York Times

According to the New York Times, the infection rate was through the roof; this coming while vaccination rates continue to rise.

Google graph based on vaccination rates and positive COVID-19 test results

Source: Google, Our World Data

We found a connection between the increase in COVID searches and the decrease in dentist searches. Google Trends shows an uptick in people searching for ‘dentist during covid’ in January 2022.

connection between the increase in COVID searches and the decrease in dentist searches from Google

Maybe these people wanted to go to a dentist and wanted to find out if they were allowed to go.

Maybe they wanted to know if it was safe.

Google doesn’t give us those details, and we don’t know how many people performed this search or searches like it. Google Trends only shows data trends as a percentage change.

In the first week of January 2022, there was a better than 77 percent increase in searches compared to the lowest points in the graph throughout the previous 11 months. January 16-22 had a 98 percent increase.

Other Causes for Drops in Dental Searches, Traffic to a Dentist’s Website

What else could be to blame? How about the Great Resignation? People seem to be less inclined to look for work right now. They’re gigging it out on their own or they can’t find a job because companies aren’t hiring due to labor shortages…? That’s according to some analysis of jobs data from the labor department.

Regardless of why, they aren’t working for typical employers. If you don’t have a steady-paying job, I could see you being less likely to search for a dentist on Google unless you really had to.

Google graph with correlation with declines in dentist search trends

This is a conjecture, and it’s harder to correlate with declines in dentist search trends, especially because many local economies have their own booms and busts in employment while other markets have more stability.

Bloomberg reported a 39 year high in inflation at 7% in January.

39 year high in inflation at 7% in January from Bloomberg

And an article by Reuters said that consumer confidence was at its second-lowest point in a decade.

“While the Delta and Omicron variants certainly contributed to this downward shift, the decline was also due to an escalating inflation rate,” Richard Curtin, the survey director, said in a statement.

People are impacted directly and indirectly by these issues. The issues seem more grave as consumers see them repeatedly in the news, making potential patients less interested in what they see as “nice-to-haves” like dental implants.

How Google Trends Data Relates to Traffic to Your Dental Website

We report Google Trends data to our member dentists each month because it speaks to the availability of people searching for terms related to our dentists.

We don’t always “buy” the first time we search for a product or service, even in the best environments. The things that caused a decrease in dentist searches could also be responsible for lower conversion rates.

People who landed on a dentist website in January 2022 may have been less likely to call or email. Data from Pro Impressions Marketing dentists’ campaigns do not seem to prove this hypothesis. Our clients’ conversion rates did not decrease enough to show a correlation. However, common sense says that it could have happened.

Forecasting Dental Marketing Trends

These external forces are pushing a balloon of dental need and desire underwater. It will come back up and it could be as soon as next month. People will view COVID similarly to the flu season, some say, and you can see from the graph below that the flu season creates search trends too.

Google search trends showing traffic during flu season and dentists

Google search trends showing traffic during flu season and dental searches

Despite regular spikes in flu-related searches over the years, we’ve seen healthy months for dental traffic and leads. The latest wave of infections will decrease and we’ll see demand come back like it always does. We can expect higher cost-per-lead numbers until then.

What Should Dentists Do About Lower Marketing Numbers Due to COVID in 2022?

COVID-19 is still impacting dental offices in 2022. Pro Impressions Marketing clients who increased their ad budgets saw lead numbers climb in January, proving that being aggressive when demand is low can boost new patient numbers. Frequent paid visibility in the top sponsored spots makes a difference.

The difference between a typical month and an outstanding month can be a slight increase in your ad budget.  Being aggressive can easily double your return on investment—which is what we all want, right?

It did just that for one of your fellow Pro Impressions Member Offices in January. With a 16% increase in the ad budget, their leads increased by 36%. That’s more than double the budget increase, even though dental demand was lower than usual. This is just one story, but it’s an example of how being aggressive in times of lower than usual demand can help your practice grow and gain new patients.

Talk to your account manager if you are interested in increasing your advertising spend to boost your numbers now rather than waiting to see what February and March will look like. Schedule a call with your account manager today.