“What is the difference between SEO and pay-per-click?”
“Should I invest in PPC or search engine optimization?”
We answer these dental marketing questions and others in this article to help dentists make good decisions about how they market their dental practices.

What is Dental SEO?

Dental SEO is the process of increasing a dental website’s rankings on search engines. Dental search engine optimization experts use different strategies for this, partly because the strategies that work tend to change from year to year and even month to month. The tactics include changing parts of the dental website’s content and coding to clarify the relevant concepts on a page-by-page basis. This makes it easier for Google and other search engines to understand what every page is about.

How Does Dental SEO Differ from Pay-Per-Click Advertising for Dentists?

Pay-per-click advertising is an ad-based strategy run through the search engine’s advertising service. These ads show up in the search results as paid or sponsored results. In contrast, dental SEO (search engine optimization) focuses primarily on increasing the dentist’s visibility in the unpaid (sometimes referred to as “organic”) results. 

screenshot of google search ads analytics

Dental SEO used to focus solely on increasing organic visibility for the dentist’s website, but current dental SEO strategies now expand to promoting the online profiles and map listings of the dentists and the dental practice as well as the website. The argument could be made that the best dental SEO strategy will include social media management, online reputation management, and many other strategies. That’s why Pro Impressions Marketing only offers dental SEO as part of its Pro Membership.

To launch these marketing tactics, you must first identify the type of patient that you want to attract. Then identify the keywords those patients might type into Google to find a dentist like you who provides the services that the patient wants. As we share in our Dental Marketing Guide, having this kind of goal must be your first step or everything you do in SEO and PPC will likely fail to attract new patients.

What are the Similarities Between Dental PPC and Dental SEO?

Dental PPC and Dental SEO are search marketing strategies used to generate more new patients for the dentist. Both strategies center around keywords. Both strategies can also increase local visibility on Google but differ in how they target local traffic and in the amount of control that the practice can have on their results.

Both strategies can promote landing pages that encourage patients to schedule appointments or call the dental office with questions. Both strategies can be tracked for efficacy using call tracking software and analytics software such as Google Analytics. This helps the dentist identify which marketing strategies are performing well and which need improvement.

What is the Cost Difference between Dental SEO and Dental PPC?

Dental SEO fees range from less than $100 per month from outsourced SEO providers to $2,500+ per month for dental SEO providers (not including other services). Large SEO firms charge their corporate clients $10,000+ per month. Similarly, pay-per-click management fees for dentists have a wide range depending on whether or not the provider is a dental specialist and how much of your budget they will keep or mark up as part of their compensation.

SEO is sort of free other than the money you pay the people who do the work; dental PPC carries an added cost for the click budget.

When a user clicks on an ad, the dentist pays an amount of money based on the keywords and the competition for clicks in that category. This can range from a penny to $50+ depending on the keyword and the geotargeting of the ad. High competition keywords like ‘cosmetic dentist’ and ‘dentist’ and even brands like ‘Invisalign’ demand top dollar, especially in areas with a lot of dentists fighting for the same clicks.

SEO costs vary due to how much work your dental SEO company will do each month to respond to changes in Google’s algorithm, competitor website changes, and other work that requires upkeep. For example, Pro Impressions Marketing helps keep dentists’ local listings accurate and helps their clients respond to online reviews. All this adds up to more work that must be tended to month after month. This comprehensive approach is not easy, so it’s not cheap.

Why Do Dental PPC and Dental SEO Work Well for Some Dentists but not Others?

viewing the presentation room from the back wallI write this in the back of the room of dentists learning about different bite impression techniques and occlusal orthotics. The dentist is comparing centric relation and neuromuscular occlusion. In the low lights and glow of the projector screen, questions abound as the doctors ponder how to handle different problems and situations that arise as they treat their patients. The instructor, Dr. Michael Myasaki, points out that dentists treat humans and that there are few, if any, physiologic absolutes. The pondering expressions on the dentists’ faces are familiar. 

view of the presentation room from the back of the roomThey are the same expressions I see when the doctors ask me about dental SEO and how it compares to pay-per-click advertising. They want to know, “What is the difference between SEO and pay-per-click?” and “Should I invest in PPC or search engine optimization?” 

They lean back with pensive eyes, often with their hands touching their mouth in some way, as they ponder the answers and begin to understand that absolutes in marketing dental practices are as scarce as they are in dentistry.

Both SEO and pay-per-click are limited by the destination pages and practices that they promote. If the website is old or confusing, or if the dentist has a poor reputation or has unfriendly office staff, the marketing strategy will fail, whether it’s dental SEO or dental PPC. 

Should I Invest in Dental SEO or Pay-Per-Click Advertising?

Predicting the outcomes of a campaign, especially in the short term, is truly impossible. Invest in both SEO and pay-per-click for your dental office if you see the potential for a return on investment, but be willing to give the campaign at least six months to see how the campaign performs before making any big changes in your marketing strategy.

It would be great to have a more concrete idea of the outcomes. Unfortunately, factors such as location and competition can make both SEO and pay-per-click more or less effective and more or less expensive. Try not to make the size of the investment your primary decision-making factor. 

Instead, try to identify the demand and the upside of what would happen in your practice if your investment in these strategies paid off. Dental marketing companies like Pro Impressions Marketing can tell you what has happened to other dentists in similar situations, but that’s it. You should be skeptical of any guarantees. No one has marketed your office today before. 

That’s not a typo. Today is unique. It never existed before…today. Market factors impact demand. Your team changes. Web marketing trends shift. Google changes its algorithms daily now (actually, on average, 12 times per day, according to Search Engine Land).

You need a dental marketing provider you can trust for the long haul. Become a Pro Member with Pro Impressions Marketing. It starts with a no-obligation marketing report and consultation. You can initiate that report here, and we’ll be in touch to schedule the subsequent consultation meeting.

jonathan fashbaughAbout the Author

Jonathan Fashbaugh is a dental SEO and pay-per-click consultant, writer, and speaker with Pro Impressions Marketing. He has been working in marketing since 2000 and has been working in Internet marketing with dentists since 2004. He has written for Inside Dentistry, Dental Sleep Practice magazine, OrthoTribune, and other publications and is currently working on a dental marketing book.