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SEO vs. SEM: What’s Best For Dental Practices?

By Planet DDS
October 23, 2019

When establishing a business presence on the web, the terms “SEO” and “SEM” appear frequently. Many services promising to “optimize SEO” or provide “SEM services” can confuse newcomers who aren’t sure what their business needs. That’s why we’ve broken down each term, and how they relate to dental practices.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

is the process of improving the quality and quantity of traffic to a website. Typically optimization is performed by altering the contents of a site to be more relevant to search engines in hopes of improving its search ranking; for example, including hidden text or specific images. At first glance, SEO services seem appealing, and have historically been especially popular among dentists.

However, SEO today is a complex and moving target. Nearly all search marketing is centered on Google, and the company has vastly changed the ways it indexes and ranks sites. As a result, it can be extremely difficult—and costly—to organically raise the ranking of a site in Google results. Besides, doing so may produce a site that deters prospective patients! We recommend building a website that’s mobile-friendly, secure, and useful to leads, rather than designing it to climb search rankings.

SEM (Search Engine Marketing)

is the process of improving search rankings through paid advertising rather than organically. SEM may seem less “honest” than SEO to some, but for region-specific small businesses (like dental practices!) it’s often the superior option.

With the right targeting and budget, SEM can reach more people in a smaller area by appearing in local search results. When someone searches Google for businesses in their area (for example, “dentists near me”), they’re served results based on their current location. However, advertisements targeting that geographic area will appear at the top of the page, offering a local option that may otherwise be buried in search results. Plus, SEM ads can appear in Google Maps results, focusing attention on local businesses with a prominent pin.

The most important thing to consider when weighing SEO and SEM options is the objective of your practice. For some, SEO optimization may be ideal. But for many, SEM is a better option for driving local traffic without extensive website modifications. Weigh your pros and cons (and your budget!) and pick the option that makes the most sense for your practice.