The Digital Search Evolution

14-SPEC-012, The Digital search1Author: Diana P. Friedman/Sesame Communications

When consumers, including prospective orthodontic patients, head to the Internet, the vast majority of them begin by using a search engine. According to research conducted by Pew Internet, 93% of online activities begin with a search.1 As these consumers initiate their searches, the topic of health is quite popular. In fact, 72% of Internet users looked online for health information within the last year.2 On Google last month an average of 1,124,160 searches were conducted for keyword phrases specific to orthodontics.3 Even as consumers continue to search for information, the landscape for how and where they search is undergoing a shift.

The name Google is synonymous with Internet searches. However, due to the immense amount of content available on the larger search engines, there has been a rise in what’s known as vertical searches or topical sites. Basically, these are websites that cater to a specific topic or area of interest. In the last half of 2012, topical sites had an 8% increase in search traffic while major search engine traffic decreased by 3% over the same period.4  Examples for successful topical sites in the consumer world include websites such as WebMD, Amazon, and eBay.

In the dental and orthodontic space, the best example of a topical site is Each year, more than 225 million visitors use the website to search, evaluate, and connect with healthcare providers that best meet their treatment needs. More than 20 million of those prospective patients are searching for a new dental care provider in their local area (including searches for an orthodontist).

14-SPEC-012, The Digital visitors represent the ideal demographic for an orthodontic practice—they are overwhelmingly female (72%), highly educated (84% have some post-secondary education) and affluent (52% have annual household incomes greater than $75,000).

Healthgrades offers dental and orthodontic practices a large, highly focused audience of prospective patients. Any way you slice it, Healthgrades visitors are an ideal target audience for growth-minded orthodontists. More importantly, Healthgrades users don’t just search—they schedule appointments. More than half (54%) of Healthgrades visitors will schedule an appointment. Among those who schedule, an astounding 95% make an appointment within the first week they search, and 38% schedule the same day.

Topical search sites such as Healthgrades are building the prospective patient traffic you want for your practice. The question for your practice is how to best take advantage of this to drive more case starts.

Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles

 Healthgrades offers a basic profile that practitioners can “claim” for free. It includes limited information about your orthodontic practice such as name and address. However, it also includes 3rd party and competitive practice advertisements. Most critically, it does not provide visitors with a way to schedule an appointment with your practice.

Healthgrades visitors can submit a review of your practice, but they are not verified as your patients. While a basic profile is better than no profile, the ability to gain top ranking or convert visitors into patients is severely limited. Healthgrades recently established a partnership with Sesame Communications that lets dental and orthodontic providers secure an Enhanced Profile. This new offering has numerous advantages over a standard profile, including helping practices maximize the value of their high quality patient reviews.

A Healthgrades Enhanced Profile includes the ability to:

Click-to-Request Appointments – Enhanced Profiles allow patients to request an appointment with your practice by simply clicking a button on your Healthgrades profile. This quick, automated process removes a potential barrier for patients looking to make an appointment, allowing your practice to optimize your conversion of new patients.

Automatically Publish Verified Patient Reviews to Your Healthgrades Enhanced Profile – With a Healthgrades Enhanced profile, verified and high quality reviews from Ortho Sesame are automatically published to your Healthgrades Enhanced Profile. This ensures that the vast majority of patient reviews are verified and represent the true value your practice delivers. It also helps prospective orthodontic patients have confidence that the review ratings are accurate and credible.

Rapidly Build Patient Review Volume for Better

Search Results – Automatically published reviews help your Enhanced Profile garner better placement in organic searches on This will naturally increase the volume of reviews over other profiles and positively impact search results for your practice.

Priority Placement in Search Results – A Healthgrades Enhanced Profile gives your practice higher placement in search results and greater visibility to patients searching for an orthodontist in your area. It provides premium postings in their “Featured Listing” section as well as organic searches. On average, a visitor to will visit 1.9 profiles during the visit, so it is imperative that your practice be featured prominently in the search results. Only Enhanced Profiles can show up in both featured and organic search results.

Comprehensive Doctor and Practice Information –

When a prospective patient sees a large quantity of high quality reviews, they naturally want to find out more about the practice. The Healthgrades Enhanced Profile includes significantly more information about your practice than a standard profile, including full biographies, practitioner photos, procedures, contact information, and directions with maps for all office locations. It also includes a click-to-request an appointment feature and premium phone number placement. A comprehensive profile not only gives prospective patients a fuller picture of your practice and capabilities, it also gives them the ability to instantly ask for an appointment with a single click.

Tracked ROI of Your Healthgrades Responses –

Activating an Enhanced Profile allows your practice to track every new patient call and online appointment request received through This important data lets you easily see how effective your practice’s Healthgrades profile is at bringing in new patients.

14-SPEC-012, The Digital search3The Enhanced Profile provides your practice with a multitude of benefits over the standard profile and is the only way to turn the 20 million prospective patients searching for a dentist or orthodontist into new patient appointments.

A recent study conducted by Sesame Communications measured the call volume for dental and orthodontic providers with Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles.

The evaluation tracked the number of prospective patient appointment request calls generated from a unique local phone number placed on the front page of a practice’s Healthgrades Enhanced Profile. The analysis showed that practices generated, on average, more than 11 calls during a four week period after the initial launch of their Enhanced Profile.

The study analyzed the volume of incoming calls received by 98 dental and orthodontic practices with Healthgrades Enhanced Profiles from Sesame during the time period between December 9th, 2013 and January 25th, 2014 and, in addition to the average of 11.1 calls received, also found that:

• Practices, on average, had 21.33 post appointment reviews automatically published from Dental Sesame or Ortho Sesame.

• Of practices with Dental Sesame or Ortho Sesame and a Healthgrades Enhanced Profile, 94.12% showed up on page 1 of local organic search results on, in addition to their Featured Provider listing.

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Driving more new case starts is the cornerstone of practice growth and profitability. For many orthodontic practices, online searches have become a primary source of new patients. It’s also where patients go to get a sense of comfort and confidence when a referral is made. More and more topical search sites, such as Healthgrades, help you get in front of a highly targeted and qualified set of prospective patients looking to make an appointment with a provider in your local area. With increased traffic on topical sites and performance percentages like this, your practice needs to utilize this new channel as a primary source for new patients.

14-SPEC-012, The Digital search4Diana P. Friedman, MA, MBA is president and chief executive officer of Sesame Communications. She has a 20-year success track record in leading dental innovation and marketing. Contact Diana at

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1. Pew Internet, 2012,

2. Pew Internet, 2013

3. Google, February 2014,

4.ComScore,2013, Future_in_Focus_Report

This article published in 2014 OrthoWorld.

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