Content is king, but only if it gets links — the challenge should be familiar. You have the most comprehensive, best-written, best-illustrated page on dental implants in your city, but you’re getting outranked by the practice with the five-year-old website. What’s the deal? It can be a variety of things, but the bottom line is that the most powerful tools in the SEO arsenal to turn that around are backlinks. Nothing will move the dial most effectively like relevant, high-quality backlinks.
Yet, earning high-quality backlinks to dental websites is notoriously hard. Most dental sites don’t have very many backlinks at all, or if they do they are mostly local business citations and press releases. Getting high-quality backlinks outside of business citations and press releases is very labor-intensive, but with the involvement of the doctor and the other medical professionals in the office it can become much easier and it can bring you benefits that go beyond SEO.
In this article, I will share some proven tactics for getting more high-quality backlinks to your dental website to not just increase rankings and organic traffic, but build your overall brand as well.
1. Local Business Citations: Important, But Just the Beginning
Local business citations are websites like Google My Business, Yelp, Foursquare, et cetera. They are websites that host reviews and provide customers your basic business information. They often also provide a link to your website. Local business citations are typically built through a local SEO program.
Business citations are important. According to Moz, Google My Business alone makes up over 25% of your map pack success and almost 9% of your overall local search success. Citations make up over 10% and 8.4%, respectively. This spills into reviews and links, since local citations often provide both.
There are two major reasons why business citations are not enough:
- They are highly competitive and relatively easy to build. Your competitors are likely to have the same high-value citations that you have.
- Citation listing backlinks have stunted value due to their nature and this is more so an issue when the backlink is no-follow.
Long story made short: citations are essential to play on the field, but not enough to win.
What other options do we have?
2. Publish Press Releases
Press releases are an old trick in the link building book, and the truth is that their value has diminished over the years. Google’s John Mueller has said that Google rarely uses press releases links to help determine rankings because they are links that the company sending the press release pays for.
Still, press releases are a good strategy for getting some coverage. If you pay for the larger packages, the release will also get syndicated across a wide variety of websites and how Google treats links across those individual websites may vary.
Write them around charity work, local events that you’re participating at, and big giveaways to increase the chances of being syndicated onto a higher value website or being picked up by journalists. A press release on your new website will get syndicated, but it’s unlikely to get picked up very widely. A press release on how you treated someone in need to free dental work, though, is very interesting.
Bottom line: send out period press releases, one every quarter, but they should not form the backbone of your link building strategy. If you have quarterly marketing initiatives, use press releases to support them.
3. Dental Technology Case Studies and Testimonials
Chances are that you use specific technologies and machines for different purposes in your office. Maybe you use a CEREC machine or you use LANAP. Whatever those technologies are, the company that sold you that machine needs to fuel sales and to do that they need case studies. These companies often feature these case studies on their websites or on their blog.
If you add value to their company by providing them with a case study, the likelihood is that they’ll add value to yours by giving you not just a backlink, but overall exposure for your brand. It truly is a great opportunity that’s easy to execute.
Find a patient willing to take part in the case study. Document the treatment process with notes, photos, and video. Both of the latter are important, as content becomes increasingly visual. These manufacturers will want video and photo, so make sure you’re producing it for them.
Then, have your marketing agency, or someone within your office, reach out to a contact at the manufacturer to coordinate. Alternatively, reach out first, gauge their interest, and then complete the case study — you’ll want to turn the case study around quickly, otherwise, the opportunity may pass.
Sometimes, you may not even need a case study, they’ll just want a testimonial from you.
4. Write for Online Dental Magazines and Thought Leadership Websites
Thought leadership is one of the easiest ways to build both backlinks to your website and an overall online brand for your name. There are so many publications that dentists can write for, show their expertise, and promote themselves. Here are just a few examples:
- Dear Doctor’s Dental Magazine
Thought leadership is easy because you’re a dentist who is an expert in your field and whose insight can add a lot of value. Publications like those above are looking for people like you to contribute to their digital magazines, so if you can offer them unique insight packaged into an interesting topic or premise, the chances of being accepted for publication are very high.
Thought leadership guest blogs are some of the easiest to pitch if they are tailored to where you want to publish. If you can offer something that piques their interest, the success rate on thought leadership guest blog outreach is very high. Brainstorm potential topics with your marketing people and have them do the outreach for you.
A big benefit of thought leadership guest blogging compared to other guest blogging is that you can usually target higher domain authority websites, which will pass more link equity back to your website.
5. Local News
Local newspapers and local news sites are STARVING for stories.
And if you do anything remotely interesting (like an anniversary event or “grand re-opening”), you’ll probably find yourself with a beat reporter covering it.
— Brian Dean, “Local SEO: The Definitive Guide”
Local newspapers and local magazines are excellent sources of backlinks, both because of the technical SEO benefit and because of the local coverage. It builds exposure for your practice exactly where you need it: in your community.
I will warn, however, that from experience you need something more than just “remotely interesting.” Grand openings might work for some businesses, like restaurants and bars, but that story is less interesting if it’s a dental office.
If you’re sponsoring local events, that would be worthy of local news coverage. Or, if you’re offering charity dental work, that would likely be a story that a local news source would cover. Alternatively, you may consider writing an opinion piece or contribute to an article by giving your expert opinion. You can get opportunities to offer your expertise to reports through platforms like HARO (Help a Reporter Out).
This is an old trick in the linkbuilding book, but it works if you are giving a significant enough scholarship and you are persistent in your outreach to local universities. Why are links from universities so powerful? Because their domain, . edu, is highly trusted and universities tend to have strong backlink profiles of their own, offering you a lot of equity if you’re able to secure a link from the university website to your own.
How big does the scholarship need to be? I would think of it from the perspective of the student. The universities just want to help their students out by giving them opportunities to earn money for tuition, textbooks, or other college-related expenses, so the scholarship must be significant enough to be valuable to students. This $1,000 scholarship by Achieve TMS is a good example of how to run a scholarship program successfully.
To get the links, build out the scholarship page and then start pitching it to local universities and colleges. Reach out to specific departments or teachers versus admins that may have nothing to do with the department pages that actually link their students to scholarship opportunities.
Dental Backlink Tactics That Generate Low Return
Buying backlinks — not all paid backlinks are bad, and if you do pay for a backlink you can request that the link be set to rel=sponsored to keep within Google’s regulations. But, if you’re buying backlinks for cheap or buying them in large quantities, the chances are that you’re going to get caught and you’re going to be penalized, and it’s a penalty that you’re going to have a hard time recovering from.
There are high-cost backlink services that do produce quality links, but more often than not you’re paying for the outreach labor and the writing going toward a more traditional PR outreach program. At this point, you’re better off opting for tactic #4 above.
Unrelated local businesses — backlinks from local businesses that are unrelated to yours are not necessarily bad links, they just tend to be relatively low value and are more difficult to secure once you start prospecting higher quality websites. The higher the quality of the prospect, the more likely they are to require payment, or the less likely they are to respond. Furthermore, although they are local links, they tend to be irrelevant to your subject matter.
Backlinks from local businesses are worth it when they are very easy to secure, but I would nevertheless prefer to use my outreach time for higher-value backlinks: technology case studies and reviews (tactic #3), thought leadership outlets (tactic #4), local news (tactic #5), and .edu links (tactic #6). You’re just going to get more bang for your buck.
That being said, if you expect your marketing team to focus on higher quality links, you need to dedicate time as the expert to give them the resources (and knowledge) they need to secure the best opportunities for you.
Quora — Quora seems like an easy enough backlink to secure and Quora has a very high domain authority. Oftentimes, a Quora link can pass a high volume of traffic to your website, making it very valuable. These are outliers and, for the most part, Quora is likely not to give you a high return. For many sites, it can be a great way of building thought leadership and gaining exposure to potential customers, but for local businesses, the value of Quora is diluted by the lack of organic geographic targeting.
Summing It All Up: Action Items
Links are the most important SEO factor. Of course, links need good content to be linked to, but links are the single most powerful tool in your arsenal to bring more traffic to your site. The content is there to convert the visitor into a patient.
Link tactics that work for dentists include, from weakest to strongest links:
- Press releases
- Citation building
- Local news
- Technology case studies & testimonials
- Thought leadership
Your action item: talk to your marketing company about how to make these things happen. Remember, they have running expenses and this will take labor, so you should expect to have to pay for services that secure these link placements for you, but this service is well worth the cost if it’s actively earning you more online authority.
Formerly at [Tony] Robbins Research International and at Now Media Group as their Director of Marketing, Jonathan has a background in quantitative economics and analytics.