Why Google Ads Stopped Working For Dental Practices

Findings From An Analysis of 400 Dental Ad Campaigns

I recently analyzed 400 Google Ad campaigns launched by dental practices across the United States. My goal was to understand if dental practices were getting a return on their investment in Google Ads. We analyzed over a dozen factors that contribute to successful ad campaigns, and I came to the following conclusion:

Dental practices aren’t making money with Google Ads

I was floored by the results. In my six years of running pay-per-click marketing campaigns, I’ve seen many egregious campaign mistakes across various competitive business sectors, including legal, software, and eCommerce. But I had never before seen such poorly executed Google Ad campaigns.

Surely, pay-per-click advertising for dental practices can’t be that difficult? Afterall, there's a large ecosystem of dental marketing companies catering to this niche.

Ask any owner or office manager, and they’ll tell you that agencies are relentlessly hounding them over email, phone, and social media, claiming they can attract more patients than anyone else. Many of these practices have gone through a couple of agencies and burnt through a lot of advertising dollars before finding an agency that actually delivered results.

Look up skeptic in an online dictionary, and you’ll see a dentist.

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Who could blame you?

It’s tough running a dental practice today. These are just some of the challenges you face today as an owner:

  • Decreased revenue due to the C-19 stay-at-home orders
  • Increased competition from corporate dentistry
  • Reduced fees from insurance companies

You know you need to take action to bring in more of the right type of patients. But the last thing you want to do is risk spending your hard-earned money on online ad campaigns that fail to deliver results.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand:

  • How to identify inefficiencies in your Google advertising and eliminate adwaste
  • Why big box digital marketing agencies are failing to deliver on their advertising promises for dental practices, even when dental marketing is all they do
  • How to capitalize on the market opportunities available to your practice

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How To Lose Money with Google Ads. Let Me Count The Ways.

1. Waste Your Ad Dollars in the First Three Months of a Campaign

Typically, a significant amount of the funds allocated to ad spend are needlessly wasted during the early months of the Google Ads campaign. Admittedly, even good pay-per-click marketers go through a discovery period that involves figuring out what works and what doesn’t work. During that period, some ad waste is inevitable.

But there’s a difference between marketing discovery and the marketing incompetence we came across while analyzing the 400 Google Ads campaigns. Through our research, we identified two types of repeated ad spend waste common to the dental niche, including:

Trash generic search queries

An example of this is when you bid on “dentist in Miami”, but your ads attract search queries such as “Dentist assistant jobs in Miami.” Or when you bid on “dental implants” but you’re attracting and paying for searches such as “How much are dental implants?” This type of query is indicating someone who is in the research phase rather than the buyer phase.

Competitor Brand keywords

It’s common to pick up keywords relating to your local competitors. Consumers will commonly search for a local competitor and click on the first ad they see, assuming that it’s the office they’re intending to visit. However, it was your ad that they clicked on. There goes a few more dollars down the drain.

Most ad agencies take a reactive approach by waiting for the trash search queries to come in and then build a negative keyword list on these irrelevant queries. However, it can easily take 2-3 months before you’re able to create a sizable list and cut down on cost. And in the meantime, marketing dollars aren’t being appropriately spent.

Both scenarios can create a situation whereby 50% or more of your ad spend budget is wasted.

How To Fix Ad Waste, Proactively


Spend time creating a proper account structure from the very beginning. Most agencies don’t devote the necessary staff or resources to do this detailed work, making it difficult to create a positive ROI.

Ensure all local dental offices are included in a negative keyword brand list. Most advertisers don’t invest the necessary resources to review the actual search data required to build an accurate negative keyword list, a proper safeguard to additional adwaste.

Conversion Marketing Is Your BFF

Most Google Ad accounts are managed by marketing agencies that perform typical bid management services such as:

  • Writing ad copy
  • Performing keyword research
  • Optimizing ad campaigns

These efforts, designed to direct traffic to your website, account for just 50% of the work needed to run a successful Google Ad campaign.

The other 50% of success is referred to as conversion-focused marketing. This is a set of tactics and strategies that many marketing agencies aren’t implementing in the dental marketing space. That’s why only 38% of all of the 400 websites we analyzed use dedicated landing pages.

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Homepages Are Public Enemy #1 to Dental Practices

Homepages are designed to include many different calls to action for all of your website visitors. Some are existing patients looking for your phone number or a form to download. Others are prospective patients who want to see what you offer. To meet these different visitors’ needs, homepages end up cluttered with many different links directing visitors to other parts of the website.

In short, the homepage lacks focus. And when you’re paying to acquire traffic, you need to be sure that every click will lead your visitor down a specific path. In the world of conversion marketing, we have a saying; “One page, with one message, for one audience.”

Homepages can't match this philosophy. Neither can the about page, contact page, or an inside page.

What Are Conversion-Focused Landing Pages and Why Are They Better?

Let’s say you are bidding on the keyword, “root canal dentist Austin Texas”. Clearly, you’re trying to attract visitors searching for a dentist who does root canals in Austin, Texas. A conversion-focused landing page will address everything a visitor needs to know about how you handle root canals and lead them to take action.

But suppose you direct visitors to the homepage, with its assortment of call to actions. In that case, you risk losing the visitor right away.

Let’s say you’re spending thousands of dollars advertising to attract patients in multiple treatment areas such as implants, Invisalign, and general dentistry. It’s impossible for your homepage or any single page to appropriately address all of these treatments.

Instead, the majority of your prospective patients will simply leave your homepage.

The difference in how a conversion-focused landing page affects your bottom line is astronomical. I’ve taken on multiple clients whose homepage only converted 5% of monthly traffic into an actual lead. My experience has shown that replacing the homepage with a conversion-focused landing page can increase conversions from 5% to 15%!

Instead of only five leads a month, we produced 15 leads a month. Once you factor in the closing rate and the average lifetime value of a new patient, we can see the importance of using a conversion-focused landing page. This revenue difference can be as high as five or six figures on an annual basis!

So if high converting landing pages are so obvious, why aren’t more advertisers and agencies doing this? That’s a good question. This leads me to the next point below.

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