Search Engine Marketing for Doctors

By Lisa Thayer,

Surveys show that over 80% of internet users find new web sites by using search engines.

The question that seems to be on everyone’s minds today is “How do I get my website top placement on the search engines?” If you have a website, you may have found other websites above yours when you have looked for your site in Google. In order to answer the previous question, I need to give you a little background on the way search engines work.

There are two primary ways (out of many) that your website gets to the top of search engines: one is to pay for placement, the other is to market and design your website so that it rises up through the page ranks “organically” in search engine results.

Before I begin to discuss pay-for-placement online marketing, I have to get on my soap box and make a special announcement: If you glean nothing else from this article, remember this – having a baseline BEFORE you start paying money for advertising is imperative as is tracking results of an online marketing program. A baseline is the point at which you begin a marketing campaign so you can compare the effectiveness of the campaign.

Programs such as Google’s AdWords and AdSense or Yahoo’s Sponsored Search are good examples of paying for placement. Each search engine has their own individual fee structure. The price you pay to advertise in this manner depends on the “keywords” you choose and the competition for those placements. Keywords can be thought of as the words a person would type into the search box on search engines. They can consist of words, phrases, or alphanumerical terms. If you are spending your marketing budget on keyword ads, you need to choose your keywords carefully.

Using keywords that are overly broad such as “best dentist USA” can result in bringing more traffic to your website, but if you only have dental offices in California, that search probably won’t result in a new patient. Conversely, choosing keywords that are overly specific might bring in too little traffic, like “veterinarians who graduated from Purdue in 1983”. Keywords are so important in fact, that selecting keywords has become an industry all its own.

The two top search engines used by the general public are Google and Yahoo. Google and Yahoo also supply some of the smaller search engines such as AOL, My Space Search, Netscape, Alta Vista, etc. with their search results. In fact, if you added up the huge market share of Google it would account for almost 70% of all searches!

As previously mentioned, having a baseline BEFORE you start paying money for advertising is imperative as is tracking results of an online marketing program. You obtain a baseline by having your web designer add a tracking program/ code to your website. We set up Google Analytics on all of our client’s websites.

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Its main highlight is that a webmaster can optimize his/her marketing campaigns through the use of GA’s analysis of where the visitors came from, how long they stayed on the website and their geographical position. Users can define and track conversions, or goals. Goals might include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file. By using this tool, marketers can determine which ads are performing, and which are not, as well as find unexpected sources of quality visitors.
Many of my clients have asked, “Wait a minute…why is Google Analytics free?” The simple answer is that Google knows that if you have the information to make informed online advertising decisions, you will be more likely to advertise. And, since Google is the giant of the search engine world, chances are they will be able to earn your business.

Next time, I’ll discuss spiders and crawlers and bots…oh my!

Lisa Thayer is owner of, a website design and marketing company located just south of Portland, Oregon. serves clients across the U.S. Lisa can be reached at 503-783-0440 or by e-mail:

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