Deciphering Dental Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is probably the fastest-evolving area of the internet. That evolution is driven by the changes that search engines, notably Google, make to their search algorithms, or web crawlers. Yesterday’s must-do SEO is often today’s don’t-do. The changes, and new terminology, can bewilder the nonspecialist.

With that in mind, here’s a handy reference guide to common SEO terms.

Algorithm: A set of programmed instructions to accomplish a particular task. Search engine algorithms tell the web crawlers what to look for, what to rate highly, and what to downgrade in terms of search engine results page rankings.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors to a website that view only one page and leave that site without taking any further action.

Click-Through Rate: The number of people who access a website via a paid online ad, expressed as a percentage of impressions.

Conversion: For dentists, conversion is variously defined as website visitors who agree to receive further communication from the practice, generally via dental email marketing; or, prospects who visit the site and then call or email the practice.

Impressions: The total number a paid online advertisement is displayed; or, the number of times that the first page of a website is displayed.

Inbound Links: Links from other websites that direct to your website when clicked. High-quality links, as determined by search engines, can increase your site’s search ranking. Low-quality (spam) links draw a search penalty.

Keyword Packing: An outdated practice of “packing” online copy with as many keywords as possible to try to place higher in search engine results. Search engines now downgrade websites that employ this technique.

Keywords: Specific words (short-tail keywords) or phrases (long-tail keywords) in website, social media, or blog copy that mirror search terms employed by users.

Link Farming: Another outdated practice that draws a penalty in search results; typically, link farming hyperlinks every website in a group to every other site in that group in an attempt to increase search engine results placement.

Metadata: Basically, data about a website’s content that is used by web crawlers to help index a site. Metadata includes information about a website’s pictures, a short description of the content, and tags reflecting the various areas that the content touches on, among others.

Organic Search: The non-paid search results that a user sees in response to an online query.

Outbound Links: Links from your website that, when clicked, redirect to other websites.

Page Views: The number of times a web page is displayed in users’ browsers.

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): Online advertising that appears in search results pages and/or on various websites. The purchaser pays only when the advertisement is clicked by a user. Pay-per-click is generally keyword-focused and ads are “won” in a competitive bidding process for those keywords.

Search Engine Management (SEM): An aspect of search engine optimization that focuses on increasing a website’s visibility in search results through paid advertising.

Web Crawler: The search engine’s preprogrammed algorithm that “crawls” the internet and indexes web pages; also known as a bot.