An Introduction to Multi-Location SEO for DSOs
Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) encounter marketing challenges that aren’t an issue for individual dental practices.
Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) encounter marketing challenges that aren’t an issue for individual dental practices. Many turn to Google Ads and other pay-per-click advertising platforms, but PPC’s long-term return on investment is much lower than the long-term ROI of search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is straightforward enough with a single website and location, but how do you do SEO for multiple websites and locations?
The natural solution is capturing organic traffic relevant to each local dental site. In other words, it’s a multi-location SEO strategy that keeps the local nuances in mind for each location you’re trying to promote.
However, DSOs engaging in multi-location SEO will quickly encounter the scalability problem. Engineering every site to page 1 of search results takes time. That’s less of a concern when only managing two or three practice locations, but it becomes a significant challenge when that scale goes up.
Consider, for example, a DSO with 30 individual dental practices. In this case, a simple change across all these sites may take hours. You’ll also need to create new websites and optimize them for local SEO faster than you can take in new practices.
This scalability problem is solvable, but it does require combining subdomains with a healthcare-specific patient acquisition platform. This guide will explain how.
What is Multi-Location SEO?
Multi-location SEO is the practice of optimizing multiple business locations to appear in search engine result pages (SERPs). Engaging in multi-location SEO means taking the core principles of local SEO and applying them to multiple locations simultaneously while maintaining brand and message consistency.
Local SEO is complex but inherently intuitive for a single location or two. Once that scope expands, though, it can quickly become unwieldy. If not done efficiently, multi-location SEO can suck up hours and even days, making the same repetitive changes across every website and location you’re managing.
Solving this scalability problem begins with your web design infrastructure.
Should DSOs Host Dental Practices in Subfolders or Subdomains?
Let’s start with the easy infrastructure decision: avoid creating multiple unique primary domains for each of your locations. Doing so leads to all the worst challenges of the scalability problem.
Instead, the best way to address this issue is to use either subfolders or subdomains for each dental practice you manage.
- Subfolders, also known as subdirectories, organize the content within the larger root domain. For a hypothetical DSO called “River Dentistry,” a subfolder for the Weaselton location might be riverdentistry.com/weaselton.
- Subdomains are distinguished more clearly from the root domain than subfolders. They may have their own content management systems and designs. Using the same example above, a subdomain-based URL would be weaselton.riverdentistry.com.
Most local SEO guides recommend subfolders over subdomains when building a website for multiple locations. The main reason is backlink dilution: for subdomains, every credible link back to the site counts only for that subdomain.
In a subfolder structure, link equity is disbursed across all pages (if they are internally linked to each other).
However, subfolders can quickly become unwieldy when managing many locations, especially if each area needs to have accompanying content that ranks prominently in organic results.
On the other hand, subdomains can demarcate the DSO’s root domain and its different dental sites, allowing each location to build a unique web presence.
Each subdomain needs to have a set of tactics in place for that dental practice to attract its local patients most effectively.
6 Local SEO Tactics for Each Dental Website
Local SEO, the process of making sure each location appears in searches for that locale, is an ecosystem approach. No single tactic will lead to success; instead, implement these six local SEO tactics for each dental website you’re looking to promote and optimize.
1. Claim and Complete a Google Business Profile
Think of a Google Business Profile (GBP) as the dental practice’s digital business card. You can share your location, contact information, and a FAQ. It’s the biggest ranking factor on the local Google Maps Pack.
You can even add open hours, categories, a description with relevant keywords, posts, and photos.
Make sure you update your GBP whenever there is a change
Each location’s name, phone number, and address (NAP) must remain consistent across the web.
Because if Google sees discrepancies in your NAP, it will be unsure whether to trust that your business is legitimate.
That means a drop in rankings.
2. Conduct Local SEO Keyword Research
Local SEO requires finding keywords that target the location of the dental practice you’re looking to promote.
Focus on combining procedure keywords (e.g., “dental implants”) or specialty keywords (e.g., “pediatric dentist”) with location keywords (e.g., “New York”). The focus should be on your potential patient’s search intent.
But what is intent in SEO?
When someone types a query into Google, they have intent behind their action. That may be to find information, navigate somewhere, engage in a transaction, or learn about products and services for sale.
The intent behind the query “cosmetic dentist Austin” is to find a local cosmetic dentist. Google chooses which website best satisfies this intent and ranks them on the first page.
Long-tail keywords take on particular importance in this step. A longer-tail phrase like “cost of teeth whitening Seattle” is less competitive than the more general (and difficult to rank) “teeth whitening Seattle.”
3. Optimize Your Web Design for Local SEO
Add your most relevant local keywords to not just the content itself but also your metadata. Specific local details, like neighborhood or street names, add to your content relevance.
This is when structured data (specifically schema markup) becomes essential. Schema markup is a machine-readable language that only Google’s crawlers see. They can generate rich snippets and enhance your Google Knowledge Panel. Both actions increase a web page’s visibility on the SERP.
If you use only one type of markup, it should be the LocalBusiness schema. That schema feeds Google all the information it needs to determine that your website represents a business at a specific address with a unique phone number.
4. Create and Manage External Citations
Google determines credibility in part through citations, which are mentions of your dental practice’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) in relevant, trusted directories.
Manage your citations to maintain accuracy and implement a plan to increase the number of directories where your practice will be listed.
The opportunities here can range widely, from data aggregators like Factual to consumer directories like Yelp and industry directories like USA Top Dentists.
However, do not depend on citations to move the needle.
If SEO is like building a pyramid, then citations are like the square base of the structure.
It’s a good start but not even close to sufficient.
5. Attract Backlinks from Relevant Sources
Google considers a backlink to be any link that points back to your website from another domain. For maximum impact, backlinks need to be from credible and relevant sources. The best way to attract those is through content marketing.
Emphasize creating “linkable assets,” otherwise known as content that naturally attracts links due to excellent copy and design. The key is building value instead of just spamming keywords.
There are dozens of different types of content from whitepapers to roundups.
6. Actively Solicit Google Reviews
Google reviews have become an increasingly vital piece of the local SEO equation. They help searchers and Google determine the quality of your practice. That quality partially determines local rankings.
This shouldn’t be too surprising. Who wants to see poorly rated dentists on the first SERP?
Google will prioritize local search results based on the quality, quantity, frequency, and recency of reviews on its Google Business Profile.
Don’t just rely on happy patients to create a review on their own accord. Instead, reach out via email marketing, SMS, or physical signage in your practice to encourage posting a review.
That said, a great backlinks profile may be enough to rank a two-star dentist above a five-star dentist.
Solving the Scalability Problem
While the above tactics are essential for local SEO, they do not address the scalability problem. Using subdomains only partly relieves the issue.
To fully solve the problem, your tech stack should incorporate a HIPAA-compliant content management system (CMS) like DoctorLogic’s patient acquisition platform.
Regarding DSO website management for multiple locations, DoctorLogic’s agency can simultaneously implement changes on numerous subdomains. Or, if you prefer, you can edit websites yourself in real time.
Instead of needing months to create a website, DoctorLogic can spin up a site for a new dental location within one week.
Each site is uniquely optimized for local SEO.
Consider Mint Dentistry, a DSO for which DoctorLogic built and managed more than 60 subdomains to account for its locations.
MintDentistry’s Woodland Hills location is an excellent example of how individual practices can still shine even within this larger multi-location SEO ecosystem for DSOs.
In 2022, the Woodland subdomain ranked on the first SERP for terms like “dental implants the woodlands,” “the woodlands dentures,” and “laser gum contouring near me.”
Multi-location SEO is far from the only marketing consideration for DSOs, but its long-term ROI is too tantalizing for rival DSOs to pass up.
Will you match their efforts?