Dental Marketing Glossary

While writing The Book on Dental Marketing it became apparent that an accompanying glossary of marketing terms tailored to dental marketing would be a particularly helpful resource. My goal for this work is to provide a compilation of the most common and/or important dental marketing terms with the intention of expediting the reader’s learning curve.



A/B Testing

In the marketing context, A/B testing is the process of testing two or more variables (promotions, designs, call-to-actions, etc) to determine which variable achieves the more desirable result. Simply put, A/B testing sees what thing works better. The process can be applied to everything from email subject lines to the color of CTA (see “call-to-action”) buttons on your website.

Above the Fold

“Above the fold” refers to the visible portion of a website before scrolling down. We encourage website owners to emphasize the most important and/or strategic content above the fold for immediate consumption by website visitors. Current best practices call for contact info, CTAs, review summaries and practice videos to be among the first things seen when a visitor hits a dental practice website.

Ad Group

An ad group is a collection of keywords that, when searched by a consumer, trigger the display of specified ad or ads. For example, if you are running an ad for dental implants, your ad group may include the keywords of “tooth implants”, “implants for mouth”, “replacement tooth root”, or “dental implants”. When someone in your targeted area then searches for “tooth implants”, your ad will display in the results.


The word stems from the latin “advertere”, which means “turn towards”. Essentially an advertisement is an effort to direct attention to a product or service (your practice) to promote sales. Advertising is not a synonym for marketing but it is a piece of the marketing pie. For example, pricing strategy and collecting patient feedback are components of marketing but are not a form of advertising. Synthesizing patient feedback and crafting an online display ad with attractive pricing and messaging is advertising.


An advocate for your dental practice is anyone who publicly recommends and supports your practice. Ideally, your patient experience is so wonderful that all of your patients and team members become advocates.

Affiliate Marketing

A system (usually online) in which a product manufacturer or service pays a commission for traffic and/or sales to partners who refer to them. Amazon Associates is one of the most popular examples of affiliate marketing. When an online influencer provides an amazon link to a product they recommend, yea… they’re getting a cut of the sale.

An ambitious dentist may develop an affiliate system with local businesses to track referrals coming from those sources and then giving them a perk in return. This could be a straight finder’s fee, discount on services, trade, or anything else. Check state laws for limitations.


Alexa is Amazon’s digital assistant interacted with through the Amazon Echo, Dot and compatible devices. It can help set alarms, play music or audiobooks and search the internet. It is one of the drivers of the “voice first” internet trend. Alexa is Amazon’s version of Apple’s Siri.

Algorithm (+updates)

A search engine algorithm is a search engine’s proprietary formula determining how to rank relevant results on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). The value a search engine promises a searcher is that it will deliver up what it believes to be the most relevant results to a searcher’s query. As search engine companies change, refine or modify their philosophy on what should be considered the most relevant search results, they update their algorithm accordingly. These updates often alter (sometimes dramatically) the ranking of millions of websites and are the impetus for a flurry of reactive SEO efforts.


In the dental marketing context, analytics is usually used in reference to the data collection and analysis tools used to track website performance. Particularly Google’s free tool called Analytics. Analytics is also used in a broader sense when referring to any data analysis tool touching any part of your practice — email campaigns, practice management software, finances, etc.

Application Programming Interface (API)

An application programming interface enables cross-platform collaboration. Often a software will build in an API which makes it possible to map its data to another software. E.g., a new patient form on your website may be built on a software that communicates directly with your practice management software so that when a form is filled out, it automatically deposits the entered information into the appropriate fields in the practice management software.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The possibilities of artificial intelligence are exciting, unnerving, inspiring, threatening… you name it. This author is most excited about the speed and precision with which enormous amounts of data can be processed and executed on, based on prior directives. The sequences that can be triggered are amazing.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality is a technology which overlays reality with additional content. Often this is accomplished through a smart device.

Several games utilizing AR are already on the market. Pokemon GO was a worldwide phenomenon in which players were apprised of nearby Pokemon. As the players would look at their surroundings through their phone, the Pokemon they were trying to catch would be imposed on the actual environment players are viewing through their phone.

AR will impact both business and clinical aspects of dentistry. People will be able to hold up their phone to your storefront and immediately see reviews, testimonials, doctor videos and more. A dentist will be able to overlay a smile makeover onto a patient’s current smile right in front of them in real time! The technology is already here, we’re just waiting for people to start incorporating it into their daily lives before developers flock to the AR application land-grab.


B2B Marketing

B2B stands for Business-to-business. Examples of B2B marketing in dentistry include dental supply companies promoting products to dental practices and specialists sending solicitations for referrals to general dentists in their area. Specialists will spend more time in the B2B space where general dentists will usually spend more time on B2C efforts.

B2C Marketing

B2C stands for Business-to-consumer. Examples of B2C marketing include a general dentist sending mailers to residential households or buying PPC ads promoting their practice to consumers. Usually, most of a general practice’s marketing efforts will fall under the B2C umbrella.


A backlink refers to a link from another site to your site (or whatever site you’re referencing). For example, if your website is and your local chamber of commerce links to your site, that link to your site would be considered a “backlink”. Much of the efforts in off-site SEO focus on building quality backlinks. (see “Link / Hyperlink”)

Big Data

Big data is the term used to describe attempts to acquire, store and analyze huge amounts of data and glean strategic insights to most effectively leverage said data.
A hypothetical example of big data in dentistry would be if an organization pooled historical data from thousands of dental practices and found that redheads born in the month of June are statistically more likely to break a tooth playing ping pong. This data could then be used to sell more athletic mouthguards to June-born redheads who are competitive ping pong players. A less silly example would be researchers establishing a statistically significant link between a specific DNA haplogroup and periodontal disease. Members of this haplogroup may then be encouraged to do more regular check-ups.

Black Hat / White Hat

Black hat SEO describes efforts to blatantly manipulate search engine algorithms to artificially lift an undeserving site in SERPs. White hat SEO, on the other hand, focuses on playing by the rules and doing the things search engines are happy to reward you for — which is primarily creating valuable content for site visitors. Black hat SEO may be alluring for the inexperienced practice owner, but the experienced know it is not worth it in the long run. A significant reason search engines update their algorithm frequently is to identify and punish black hatters by trashing their rankings or removing them from SERPs altogether.


The word “blog” is simply an abbreviation of the term weblog. Blog’s were at the forefront of the Web 2.0 revolution and are a great way for average, untechnical people to publish their musings to the world wide web. For a dental practice, a blog built into a website is an easy way to publish content which search engines may notice and reward. I will stress here that currently this is the only real purpose of a blog in B2C dental marketing. Most people I know are not interested in reading the blog of a dental practice. Google however… is.


See “crawler

Bounce Rate

A website’s bounce rate is a metric used to track how long viewers stay on a website once they land on it. If a website has a high bounce rate, it indicates that site visitors did not like something(s) about the site. This could be anything from the colors used, the images, the logo, to the load speed of the site. If a website has a low bounce rate, more visitors are spending more time on the site. Your website’s bounce rate is a good metric to track the impact of site alterations you make.


Your brand is people’s opinions and feelings about your practice, built by their experiences with it. Stated another way, your brand is not who you think you are, but who your market thinks you are. This is a very important distinction to make as I see many dentists with a wide chasm between those two points. A dentist may think they are the premier cosmetic dentist in their market with world-class facilities, but a first-time visiting patient may think the dentist is a hack and the practice is a hole-in the wall. Chasm.

Ideally, the patient experience you promise your market is as close as possible to the patient experience your patient perceives. In a perfect world, those two are not only harmonious but also match your vision of your ideal practice.

Your brand is not to be confused with your logo — which will be covered in “brand identity” below.

Brand Identity (AKA corporate identity)

A brand identity is the set of branding rules guiding the presentation of a practice to its market. Basically, it’s how you want your practice to look and feel to your market. Your practice name, logo, colors, fonts, visual themes and styles all fall under your brand identity. When done right, every single touchpoint your patient (or potential patient) has with your practice looks and feels consistent. A phrase I use when describing this consistency is “Branding Continuity”.


If your brand is people’s opinions and feelings about your practice, built by their experiences with it… then branding is giving people those experiences with your practice. Any touchpoint, great or small, with your practice should be intentional and reflect your brand identity. This includes everything from giveaway promotional items (like pens, frisbees or t-shirts), your signage, your community marketing efforts to how you drive your car which may be vinyl-wrapped with your practice artwork. Any and all of these things create impressions on your current and potential patients and are therefore building your brand. On a side note, if your branding efforts don’t reflect your defined brand identity, those efforts will either not compound to strengthen your brand or, even worse, will give the impression your practice is sloppy and not buttoned-up. Practice branding continuity.

Broadcast Advertising

Broadcast advertising utilizes broadcast media to reach as many people as economically as possible. Traditionally, broadcast advertising included television ads and radio ads. However, I have a much broader scope of what I consider broadcast advertising. The Oxford Dictionary’s second entry under broadcast is “[to] scatter (seeds) by hand or machine rather than placing in drills or rows.” Understanding broadcast efforts as imprecise and scattering motions is the reason for me including things like podcasts, newspaper ads, magazine ads, coupons (valpaks, et al), yellow pages, billboards, etc. as broadcast advertising.


Call-to-Action (CTA)

A call-to-action is the invitation to take a specified action on an advertisement, website, article, etc. It is a vital component of a successful marketing tool as it directs the effort of an interested prospect. For example, on your dental implants page of your website you will want to include a button or text that says something like “call today to schedule a free dental implant consultation!” Or, “click here to schedule your visit.” You may be surprised how many people don’t know what action to take if you don’t tell them.

Spending the time, energy and resources to capture someone’s interest and then giving them great information without then encouraging them to take action is usually considered a serious blunder. As par for the marketing course however, there are exceptions to this rule. Having said that, for almost every dental marketing effort, it’s best to include a great CTA.


A marketing campaign consists of one or more marketing efforts with a specific, strategic objective. Often in dentistry a campaign is a feeble effort at best — sending one mailer offering “free whitening with cleaning”. On the other hand, some practices commit to running a sustained, well-funded campaign and see fantastic results. A savvy practice that has an “Invisalign Month” may create a cohesive campaign by:
Placing a graphic banner on their homepage
Flying a sign out front of their office
Running an online display ad targeting their zipcode
Sending an announcement email to their patient base
Tasking their team to mention the promotion to every practice visitor
Posting testimonial videos from Invisalign patients with accompanying patient stories (mini case studies)
And of course, every one of these campaign efforts will look and feel consistent.


CAN-SPAM stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003. The reason it’s worth mentioning in this glossary is that it regulates a major component of dental marketing — email. It defines three primary types of compliance for marketing emails: 1) Unsubscribe, 2) Content and 3) sending behavior. If you are sending marketing emails via a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, they handle the compliance piece for you. We highly recommend this route. Other countries have similar regulations (like Canada’s CASL legislation).


A chatbot is an automated chat messaging software built on an artificial intelligence engine which can respond to any pre-programmed inquiry. Its skill set can be continuously improved and because it is a program with an API, it’s usefulness will continue to grow. An API enables a developer to build interfaces between the chatbot (program) and other applications (like a practice management software). The possibilities really are inspiring.

Churn Rate

A company’s churn rate usually refers to the amount of subscribers or employees it loses on an annual basis. For a dental practice, one could call the amount of patients which go inactive on an annual basis it’s churn rate, though other terms like “patient attrition” are more common. One aspect of effective dental marketing is decreasing the churn rate through improved internal marketing (marketing to your current patient base).


Clickbait is is the term used for a teaser in the form of a title, image, video or anything else that creates an intense desire in the viewer to click and view the linked content. An example clickbait title would be something like “I can’t believe what happened to this puppy at :38”. You read this and think “What happened to the puppy at :38? I have time to find out. I must find out. I can’t concentrate on anything else or live my life until I know what happened to that puppy!” Then you click on the link and find out the puppy was reunited with its mother at :38. You choke back tears and share the video with your friends. You look at similar videos for another two hours and then realize you were supposed to be working during that time. Then you decide the day is shot anyway so you eat a tub of ice cream, stay up all night binging on a netflix series and then repeat the process the next day.

Clickbait has become its own field of expertise with many, many how-tos scattered across the internet. Though I have made light of the topic, the principles of clickbait are pivotal to the success of your content marketing. An effective hook (clickbait) determines whether all the time and effort you put into creating a piece of content is worthwhile (because people view it) or worthless (because people don’t).

Click-through Rate (CTR)

A click-through rate is the percentage of recipients who click on a link in an email, on an advertisement, or on your website after having the link presented to them (see “Impression”). CTR is determined by the following formula:

CTR= # clicks# impressions × 100

The metric is used to determine how effective a specific digital marketing effort was. For example, if you decide placing a display ad on Google’s Display Network is right for you, you will want to try different ads and see which ad generates a better click-through rate. If ad A has a CTR of .15% and ad B has a CTR of .35% you may want to jettison ad A and double down on ad B (see “A/B Testing”).

Closed-loop Marketing

Closed-loop marketing means accurately linking marketing results to marketing efforts in order to track ROI (see “Return on Investment”). For example, if you spend $800 in PPC ads to drive traffic to a dental implant landing page and end up getting $7500 in revenue from that effort, you have closed the loop and tracked how effective that campaign was.

This is what the preceding example would look like:
(make this graphic a circle / cycle / LOOP)
$800 in ads link directly and only to landing page

Patient used unique tracking phone number on the landing page to call and schedule

Practice notes patient’s account with how they found the practice

When patient accepts treatment that revenue is attributed to the relevant marketing effort.

At any point the practice can run the numbers and see how effective an effort was

In a perfect analytic utopia, a practice could track the results of all their marketing efforts. Unfortunately it’s just not feasible. However, care should be taken to close the loop as much and as often as possible.


In dental marketing a practice’s competition is usually said to be the other dental practices within its area/market. I would here like to remind dentists that often your competition is not other dentists. Your competition may actually be people’s fears, or needed auto repairs or college tuition. A dentist’s competition is anything someone might feel they need to spend their money, time or energy on besides dentistry.

Clayton Christensen’s book, Competing Against Luck, captures a wonderfully insightful response from Netflix’s CEO when he was asked who his competition is. “We compete with everything you do to relax. We compete with video games. We compete with drinking a bottle of wine. That’s a particularly tough one! We compete with other video networks. Playing board games.”

Competitive analysis

The competitive analysis process is used to determine the current position of, opportunities for and threats to a practice in its market. A robust and systematic competitive analysis tool can play a major role in guiding your dental marketing decisions for your practice.

Community Marketing

Community dental marketing is a way for a practice to be ultra visible in their community and be perceived as a staple in it — often at a low cost by the way. Community marketing includes everything from having a float in your town’s parade to sponsoring the local softball team (and ideally getting your logo on their shirts). From a dental marketing strategy standpoint, the intent of community marketing is to gain goodwill with current and potential patients and maintain top-of-mind awareness. It is completely accurate to call dental community marketing a branding effort as it is giving your market experiences to build their opinions and feelings about your practice.

Contact Form

A contact form is a mini program built into your digital real estate (website, microsite, landing page, etc.) enabling a visitor to enter information and submit it. A contact form can be used as a schedule request, treatment inquiry, promotion response or practically anything else a visitor may want to use as a means of communication.

Contact forms offer several advantages over simply listing your email address on your website:
Tracking: When a visitor sends a communication via contact form, that communication can be tied directly to a page, website, ad or wherever the contact form was placed.
Conversion: Contact forms are often directly in front of a visitor the very instant they decide to communicate with you. This convenience can increase visitor conversion because it removes an obstacle for the visitor. They don’t have to take the time to pick up the phone and call or click an email address and compose an email from scratch.
Spam reduction: Posting an email address on your website makes it easy for spammers to “scrape” your address from your site and add it to an email list. A contact form with a human confirmation component (like Recaptcha) substantially reduces spam by blocking automated spamming mechanisms.
Automation: Contact forms can be directly tied to automated marketing sequences. For example, a dentist may place a contact form on their sleep apnea page that says something like “not ready to schedule a visit? Shoot us your email address and we’ll send you additional information about how we can eliminate your snoring and add years to your life.” When that contact form is submitted, it can trigger an automatic three email sequence with the promised information. By the way, each email should have a call-to-action included.


Content is an ever-increasingly used catchall term referring to copy, images, audio, video and so on. I call it a catchall because some argue everything a company produces is content, including the very products or services they provide. In this sense, content is defined as anything that someone can consume.

Content Calendar

A content calendar (AKA editorial calendar) is a tool used to chart the production and publication of an individual’s or organization’s content. In dental marketing, the beauty of a content calendar isn’t just the organizational benefit. Many a dentist struggle with trying to come up with things to post on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, their blog or whatever else. A dentist and team can sit down and within 30 minutes have a complete plan to follow for their content. This removes the time and energy-consuming part (coming up with something to post) and the practice can simply post what’s on the plan on the scheduled day.

Content Management System

A content management system (CMS) is a software used to manage the creation, publishing and organization of digital content (copy, images, audio, video, etc). Many websites are built on a CMS — WordPress being one of the more popular examples.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is a form of pull marketing, which means appealing to people interested in and actively researching dentists or dental treatments in your market. Content marketing focuses on producing high-value content which is easy to find online and is informative and authoritative. Imagine a dental practice built around attracting and treating cosmetic cases. Content marketing for this practice would include optimizing website keywords, writing informative articles with example cases and pushing relevant examples out on social media. Dental content marketing is a major component of what is called inbound marketing (getting interested people to find and contact you).


When we use the term conversion in dental marketing, we are referring to converting a potential patient into a scheduled patient. A practice with a successful dental marketing plan invests resources to increase the conversion capability of their marketing components.

Conversion Path

The steps/sequence followed by a dental website visitor until they take the desired action… scheduling their visit. Your conversion path should be monitored to improve the visitor’s experience and decrease the steps needed for the conversion to happen.

Conversion Rate

A conversion rate is the metric used to determine the effectiveness of a marketing campaign in converting opportunities to desired results.

Conversion Rate = # goal achievements# opportunities × 100

For example, if a practice is running an Invisalign special for the month and they build a landing page with a scheduling form for the campaign, the conversion rate would measure the scheduled visits against the number of visitors. So, if 100 people visit the landing page and 4 people schedule, the conversion rate would be 4%.

Conversion rate optimization is the effort to improve the conversion rate by assessing the conversion path of visitors and testing different variables to determine, and then implement the most effective conversion path.


A cookie is a small file a website can place on a computer to track a visitor’s immediate and subsequent interactions with the site. For example, if a visitor is looking at specific shoes on a shoe store’s website, the next time they visit the site recognizes the visitor by the information stored in the cookie and recommends the same shoes again (see “Remarketing / Retargeting”).

Cost Per Lead (CPL)

The total amount your dental practice pays for a lead. Your CPL is determined by dividing your marketing cost by the # of leads generated from the marketing effort.

Cost Per Lead = marketing cost $# leads generated

So for instance, if a practice spends $500 on PPC ads to generate 10 interested leads, their cost-per-lead was $50.

Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)

In digital marketing, the CPA is the metric used to determine the cost to acquire a specific action but not necessarily acquire a customer. Some also use the term “cost per conversion” synonymously. If the Acquisition goal is indeed a new patient, then I prefer the cost per patient acquisition (CPPA) metric (see “Cost Per Patient Acquisition”).

Cost Per Patient Acquisition (CPPA)

This metric is useful in tracking the effectiveness of your dental marketing efforts in producing new patients. The cost per patient acquisition is determined by dividing the total costs associated with a marketing effort by the number of new patients it generated.

Cost per patient acquisition = marketing cost $# new patients

I believe the CPPA to be among the most valuable metrics to track in dental marketing as it is the purest representation of the bottom line of a marketing effort. Many marketers justify their services with results and metrics that can’t be tied to dollars and cents. An increase of 20 unique visitors to a site is encouraging but it doesn’t mean anything unless the next steps in the sequence are tracked. For example, of those 20 new visitors, four contacted the practice, and of those four, two scheduled visits, and of those two scheduled visits one accepted treatment. NOW those 20 unique visitors actually mean something to a practice. If $350 was spent to attract those 20 unique visitors, then $17.50 was spent per visitor, or $87.50 was spent per contact, or $175 was spent per scheduled visit, or (finally) $350 was the cost per patient acquisition (CPPA).

Cost Per Click (CPC)

Cost per click is a common cost metric used in online advertising and represents how much an advertiser pays for clicks to their desired content. It is closely related to PPC (pay per click), however pay per click is used to describe the type of advertising effort and CPC is the actual cost associated with it. E.g., “I ran a Google PPC campaign last month and my CPC was $2.37.”

Cost Per Lead (CPL)

Cost Per Lead is a digital pricing metric in which an advertiser only pays when a site visitor actually submits a form expressing interest — thereby becoming a lead. This format (CPL) pushes the risk of advertising even more squarely onto the advertising platform and off the advertiser. For example, a dentist may create an implant-supported denture campaign including a landing page and free consultation sign-up form. The dentist only pays when a potential patient actually submits their information to schedule the free consultation.

Cost Per Mille (CPM)

Cost per mille is how some platforms charge advertising fees instead of CPC. The “mille” means thousand so when a dental practice runs a CPM campaign they are paying a defined amount to have their ad displayed to one thousand visitors. This does not mean exactly or only one thousand visitors. A CPM of $10 would cost $15 if the ad was displayed to 1500 people.


A crawler is a program used by search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) to scan and then index website pages. Crawlers are also called spiders and bots. An optimized website makes it as easy as possible for a crawler to access and interpret the content on its pages. If a crawler cannot scan content on your site for some reason, it will not positively impact the search engine’s algorithm and therefore not rank well, or at all, in search engine results.


The shared vision, mission and values of a dental practice.
Vision = WHAT a practice wants to accomplish
Mission = WHY it wants to accomplish it
Core Values = HOW (the manner) it will accomplish it

I consider a practice’s culture the foundation of it’s marketing with it’s PX (patient experience) being the physical manifestation of that culture.

Customer Experience

See “Patient Experience


Dental Marketing

Dental marketing is connecting a patient and practice (see “Marketing”).

Digital Marketing

Dental digital marketing is marketing a dental practice via digital mediums (online, digital signage, mobile devices, social media, PPC, etc). Dental digital marketing can be as simple or complex as a practice wants it to be.

Digital Real Estate

Digital real estate is a term I coined several years ago to describe digital assets owned and controlled by a private party (e.g., dental practice). A website, microsite, landing page or chatbot are all examples of digital real estate properties. A practice’s digital real estate is the ONLY place on the internet where a practice can completely control the user experience. This is the reason I call a dental website a practice’s digital front office.

Other digital platforms, like social media, only provide a semi-customizable business page. One huge problem with a social media page, as opposed to digital real estate, is having to compete with all of a visitor’s friends and interests for attention. And for this reason I recommend not drawing attention to social media buttons or other outbound links on a practice’s website(s). Why would a practice want to prominently display exit signs on their dental website after spending so much money and effort to get visitors there in the first place? Make the most of every website visit and don’t squander it by tempting the visitor to go see what’s up on social media.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing campaigns are efforts to communicate directly with consumers (potential patients) via one of a spectrum of mediums. A well-known form of direct marketing is mailers. A mailer is sent directly to a potential patient’s home with a CTA and usually includes a promotional offer. Because the goal of many direct marketing efforts is to elicit a specific response, many call these efforts direct response marketing.


In digital dental marketing, the term directory refers to a digital collection of business listings, including the practice’s name, address, phone number, website URL, etc. Having complete and consistent directory listings is a critical component of Local SEO. Also, every single directory listing represents a potential patient having the opportunity to find your practice. You would be wise to add as much valuable content to your directory listings as possible (including links, photos and videos).

Display Ad (AKA Banner Ad)

Traditionally, a display ad was a large, visually stimulating advertisement one would see in a magazine or newspaper. Currently the term is more frequently used in reference to a graphical ad displayed on websites, directories, social media, etc. Display ads can be dramatically more attention grabbing as animations, videos, and images can all be (and should be) incorporated.

Display Network

Google’s Display Network is composed of over two million websites which altogether reach over 90% of the world’s population. Because of the amount and value of data captured constantly today (see big data), businesses can target their ads to consumers based on recent behavior. People interested in rock climbing is an example target group. Google’s Display Network enables rock climbing manufacturers and retailers to directly communicate with these people via engaging display ads.

Here’s an example: a dental practice can incorporate Google’s Display Network into their dental marketing by creating a compelling dental veneer video which they use to target women, aged 25-45, who follow fashion publications and who live in a practice’s vicinity.


Distribution describes the efforts taken to get a product or service in front of potential buyers. In the context of dental marketing, distribution refers to the efforts taken to disseminate a practice’s marketing content.

Distribution Channel

Whereas distribution is the generic term for disseminating marketing content, Distribution channels are the avenues in which this dissemination actually occur. In our watering system metaphor each of the major and minor tributaries are distribution channels: social media, content marketing, broadcast advertising, internal marketing, etc.

Not all dental marketing channels are equally effective for a dental practice. Also, distribution channels frequently achieve varying results across different markets.

When building a dental marketing strategy, a dental practice team should do their best to consider what channels will be the most effective in their market and then monitor the results to validate or correct their approach.


A domain name is the title or label used to identify a network domain. A domain name (or just domain) differs from a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) in that the domain is usually made up of several URLs. For example, is a domain where is a URL. Domain names also have strategic value in both promotional and SEO efforts. If you are interested in growing the sleep component of your practice and you’re located in Hunter, Kansas, you may want to use the domain Although, would be a pretty amazing domain too.

Domain Authority

A website’s domain authority is how relevant or authoritative a search engine deems the website. A website with lots of valuable and relevant copy and content which is linked to by many other sites is considered more authoritative than a single-page site with thin copy.

I will reiterate here how important it is to build authority legitimately. Keep this little nugget in mind: the more your visitors (real people) like your content, the more Google will. Write valuable website content that actually helps your visitors.

Drip Marketing

A drip marketing campaign is a series of communications (emails, text, direct messages, etc.), usually tied to one topic or interest, which send at predetermined intervals (drips).

Often, the intent of a drip campaign in dental marketing is to feed a potential patient a sequence of information about a treatment (Invisalign, for example) to stoke their interest and prompt an action (scheduling) on their part. A potential patient can be entered into a drip campaign by your practice if the patient expresses interest, or, a patient can enroll (opt-in) themselves online.

Here’s how a patient might self-enroll-
A potential patient in your market is looking for invisalign providers but they’re not ready to commit. They search through several providers in your area and land on your Invisalign page.
You provide great information and impress the visitor but they still aren’t ready to commit. At the bottom of your Invisalign Page they see a prompt that says “Not ready to schedule a visit? No sweat! Provide us your email address and we’ll send you more information about Invisalign to help you as you consider your options.”
The visitor says to themself, “Self, that’s a good option. Let’s do that.” So the visitor submits their email address.
Over the following days they receive a series of three emails explaining the benefits of Invisalign and why choosing your practice would be smart. Each email includes a “FREE Invisalign Consultation” call-to-action.
On the third email the potential patient decides they appreciate how accommodating and knowledgeable your practice is and they call to schedule their free consultation.
Bada bing, bada boom, you’ve got yourself a potential Invisalign case sitting in Operatory #2.

Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is the term used to describe copy which was copied and pasted from another website — the opposite of unique content. In the world of SEO, having duplicate content on your website is a heinous crime. I have heard of sites being completely dropped from rankings when a developer built a site with duplicate content for a dental practice. This may often occur when a practice decides to use someone local or work with a website designer who doesn’t understand SEO principles or the dental industry. Buyer beware!



eBook is an abbreviation of electronic book. An eBook is usually just a long-form informative piece of content — though due it’s electronic nature it can be more engaging and interactive.

Many in the business world view ebooks as a viable commercial end product. However, a typical dentist isn’t going to see much revenue from trying to sell an eBook. In dental marketing, the real value in a dentist writing an eBook will be in the authority it gives the dentist in the market’s eyes, which can lead to increased practice revenue via accepted case treatments.


Electronic mail, or Email, is one of the most convenient and least expensive ways for a practice to communicate with current and potential patients. Email has replaced most written correspondence and has made a marked improvement on office efficiency; particularly when said email correspondence is automated.

Email List

An email list is simply a list of compiled emails. The general rule of thumb for any organization today is to build and grow a list. This list can be used for updates, requests, marketing, or anything else you may need an email address for.

The more information you have about each record in your email list the better — first name, last name, phone number, gender, address, past services rendered, etc. Having this information will enable you to create email list segments to which targeted email campaigns may be sent.

Email Marketing

Dental email marketing is the effort to drive patient interest in a practice or treatment via email. This can be done via emails sent one-at-a-time to individual patients. Email marketing can also consist of highly-advanced, multi-segmented email campaigns automatically triggered by predefined list-subscriber actions.

Below are three examples of email marketing in order of complexity:
One-off – A dentist completes a smile design consult with a patient and sends an individualized follow-up email reviewing the consult and offering to answer any additional questions the patient may have. It may include a call-to-action inviting the patient to move forward with the treatment and suggest days that are available.

Patient Base Blast – A practice may decide its major dental marketing effort for the month will be a teeth-whitening special. An email is composed with the pertinent information and it is sent to the entire patient base with a prominent call-to-action to call and schedule their visit ASAP as time slots are limited.

Drip Campaigns – A practice invests the resources needed to make every treatment page on their website a better patient generator by adding a drip campaign subscription option (see drip marketing for example). After several months each of their major treatment pages have received drip subscriptions which automatically kicked-off the relevant drip email campaign. A portion of the subscribers have taken the next step and scheduled visits with several having accepted treatment. The process was programmed so it works perpetually.

Engagement Rate

Engagement rate is a metric employed to track viewer’s engagement with a piece of content. The term and included metrics may vary but things like , shares, retweets, likes, subscriptions and follows are example components of a measured engagement rate. The intent of the metric is to help content creators quickly determine which content pieces worked well and then factor that into their future content strategy. In dental marketing, if your practice has 473 Facebook Page fans and one of your posts had 2 likes and another had 36… you may want to emulate what worked in the second post on your future posts.

Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is a term used for content which is not incredibly time sensitive and is therefore relevant for a long period of time. For example, a long-form article on your website about the proper approach to cosmetic dentistry may be relevant for several years. A summary article about your experience at a dental conference in 2015 is seasonal (not evergreen). A really good piece of evergreen content will stay relevant in your market’s eyes, and therefore stay relevant in the search engines’ eyes.




Facebook Ads Manager

Facebook’s proprietary platform for creating, deploying and managing Facebook advertisements. Many consider Facebook’s advertisement platform the best in history due to the depth and breadth of its targeting capability. Consider that every single interaction from the 2 billion Facebook users is stored and signals to Facebook the users’ interests, preferences and social circles. This data is then monetized by allowing advertisers to target their ads with laser focus to said users.

Facebook Business Manager

Facebook Business Manager is a tool developed and served by Facebook, enabling organizations and agencies to, in one place, manage pages, ad accounts and the people who work on them. This was a much welcomed and appreciated offering when launched. Previously, handling multiple client accounts was tedious, to say the least.

Facebook Business Page

A Facebook business page is a profile page for your business with specialized tools to help build your brand online. A facebook business page has a review feature, allows running offers, enables customer support through Facebook messenger and even includes a marketplace. A Facebook page is managed by personal profiles designated as admins on the business page.

You absolutely want Facebook to be part of your dental marketing strategy and a Facebook Business Page should be the platform on which your practice interfaces with the Facebook community.

Facebook Profile

A facebook profile is a personal account intended for a person to interact with their friends and family. This is the place for you to share political memes, funny cat videos and tag friends in embarrassing high school photos. A Facebook profile is needed to administer a Facebook Business Page.

Featured Snippet

A featured snippet is a block of information from a website, programmatically selected by Google’s bot, which is displayed at the top of a search result page. The featured snippet includes an abbreviation of the content (from the page Google’s bot deemed a relevant response) as well as a link to the page with its title and URL. The intent of the featured snippet is to quickly present an answer to a searcher’s question and provide them additional resources if they want to learn more.

Featured snippets are coveted by SEO professionals as they are essentially the penthouse sweet of SERPs — right at the top of the page in a big box where everyone else wishes they could hand out. A fair amount of strategic copywriting and code formatting go into enticing Google to make a featured snippet out of your content. Think of it like an exhausting mating ritual out in the wild with several suitors competing for the same prize.


A feed is a digital content stream produced by the feed creator. Content consumers may subscribe to a feed or multiple feeds to produce their own curated feed of content they are interested in.


A flywheel is a trending marketing model promoted as a replacement for the traditional funnel customer acquisition model (see funnel). In the flywheel model, emphasis is given to attracting, engaging and delighting patients and keeping this focus on your patients central to your dental marketing efforts. The idea being that prioritizing patient experience is what will generate more growth as opposed to focusing on new patient acquisition (while neglecting current patients).

In engineering, a flywheel is a wheel which, as it spins, stores energy which is then used to keep a machine running during intermittent power interruptions (pistons firing for example). Every internal combustion engine has a flywheel.


Friction is the term used to describe any point in your marketing efforts which slows or impedes the process of converting a potential patient to a paying patient. If your dental practice website makes it difficult to locate contact info, this would be considered a point of friction. If your front desk person isn’t good at getting new patients scheduled, it is a serious friction spot.

Funnel (include top, middle and bottom)

A marketing funnel is a model used to depict the sequence of steps taken to convert a potential buyer to an actual buyer. The first marketing funnel was invented by E. St. Elmo Lewis in 1898 and was called the AIDA Sales Funnel (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action). The purpose in the model and the specified steps is to craft specific marketing messages and tactics for the consumer based on where they are in the funnel; e.g., using closing language on someone who just heard of the product or service isn’t effective, just like it’s not effective to start explaining the basic benefits of a product to someone who is already excited and ready to buy.

Though marketing tactics and mediums have changed, the basic concept of the sales funnel has stood unsullied against the test of time. A quick Google search will net you as many versions of the sales funnel you would like, or care, to see. Usually, however, you will find three underlying constants in a funnel:
Top-of-funnel – Activities at the top of the funnel are what many today call lead generation efforts. Anything making your market aware of your practice would be a top-of-funnel activity.
Middle-of-funnel – You may have heard the term “lead nurturing” recently. A potential patient in the middle of your funnel is someone who is aware of your practice and somewhat interested. Efforts in the middle of your sales funnel are geared toward nurturing them and building perceived value to move them to the bottom of the funnel.
Bottom-of-funnel – When a potential patient has been made aware of you, has had several experiences with your brand to build their trust and is getting close to making a purchase… they are now in the bottom of your funnel. This is where the sale happens. Visit scheduling, consults, case presentations and so on, are all bottom-of-funnel activities.

Based on your practice’s dental marketing strategy, the specific stages in the funnel may be renamed, sections may be added or taken away, but the general concept remains the same.



A geofence is a digital boundary (no hardware necessary) set up to track the entry and exit of GPS or RFID devices, including mobile phones. The boundaries are established virtually through a digital map (like Google Maps). When a mobile phone enters the geofence, an action may be triggered. For example, If a business has an app which a user has opted into, the business can send a push notification to the user when they enter the geofence. Starbucks was an early adopter of this tactic and uses geofencing as major component of their marketing.

The above example is impressive, but unrealistic for most dental practices. However, building geofence ad campaigns on platforms like Google and Facebook is feasible and doesn’t cost anything more than other ad types on said platforms. You have the option to create an ad on Facebook for example, where if a Facebook user opens their app and looks at their feed when they are in the geofence you set up, your ad will be served in their news feed. Scary cool.


Google it.

Google Ads

Google Ads is Google’s ad platform for displaying your business advertisements when someone searches for a keyword already specified in your ad group (see “Ad Group”). As an interesting sidenote, Google Ads is Google’s primary source of revenue. Google Ads was previously called Adwords.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is Google’s free website analytics tool and is generally considered the industry standard of website analytics in the SEO world. The purpose of Google Analytics to is give website owners / managers visibility into the actions of visitors interacting with the site. This includes tracking the links a visitor clicks, what pages they spend the most time on, how they got to the site, what page they’re on what they leave, etc. This data can help a dental practice methodically improve their digital real estate and transform it into the patient generating machine it was meant, nay… born to be.

Google Home

Google Home is Google’s interface for smart home technologies. Everything from voice searching (see “Voice First”), to turning off the lights or turning the sprinklers on. Or… developing your own automated sting operation to catch those toilet paper launching, pumpkin smashing, egg-flinging miscreants from the next street over.

Google Maps

Google Maps is an interactive, satellite imagery-based map service. Its role has impressively expanded over the years and it is now the foundation of many additional applications and services. Google Maps may be embedded on your practice’s website via API to make getting directions to the practice effortless for your visitors.

Google My Business

Google My Business is a platform launched by Google in 2014 to provide businesses (dental practices) greater control of their listing in Google search results. Once a practice verifies the ownership of said practice, they can update, expand and manage the listing found on Google Maps.

A key feature of your Google listing is your practice reviews. Reviews are a huge, modern component of word-of-mouth marketing. Also, the more reviews you have and the better the average ranking, the more attractive your practice looks to the searching public.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is a free tool provided by Google for website owners. It enables a website owner to see how Google is indexing their website and suggests optimization efforts to improve the website’s search visibility.

Google Search Console provides a website owner tremendous insight into:
External and internal links to your site.
How often the Googlebot crawls your site.
What searches turned up your site and what the click through rates are.
Security issues on your website.
And many, many other things.

Guerilla Marketing

A guerilla – not to be confused with gorilla – is a member of an independent fighting group (usually small) which engages in unorthodox and inexpensive combat tactics. Guerilla marketing is focused on outsmarting and outmaneuvering your competition, not outspending them.


Hashtag (#)

The old, beloved “pound sign” has been usurped by these uppity, self-absorbed younger folk. It is now more commonly referred to as a hashtag and is utilized as a topic or trending term indicator.

Many hashtags are used just to be cute, or funny, or a person is just desperately trying to get a term trending. However, hashtags can actually be used strategically to great effect. For example, if your dental marketing strategy includes building a strong presence on Instagram (which currently allows 30 hashtags per post) you will want to use hashtags to help you get found in your market, position you, and hit topics people in your market are watching. If your practice is in Las Vegas you will want to use hashtags like #lasvegas, #dreamsmile, and #goknightsgo (Las Vegas’s professional ice hockey team). Now if someone is browsing any of those hashtags your practice will show up in the feed.


In digital marketing, a heatmap is a tool used to determine where a website visitor’s attention is drawn to and stays. Watching heatmap trends helps website developers and marketers understand how to present information to a visitor and the flow of said information. Effective digital dental marketing incorporates these findings to create the most effective dental websites possible.

Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is a psychological model defining stages of motivation and needs in human development. It is presented as a triangle with five defined levels:

Many useful insights for dental marketing may be gleaned from studying the levels of motivation and understanding WHY people do certain things. In my line of work I have naturally become friends with many dentists, several of which do lots of high-end smile design cases. Many of these cases are beautiful women who most would say have a gorgeous smile. However, these women have such a drive to look like their ideal self (in their own mind) they spend thousands of dollars for slight aesthetic improvements most people wouldn’t even notice. Even a small change (in reality) is a huge change for their psyche and confidence. If this is the patient you’re trying to attract, message accordingly — “become your most confident self with a perfect smile.”

Some people have such a fear of the dentist that they revert to a trembling, terrified child when considering a dental visit. Messaging in this situation should focus on the comfort and safety of a procedure. Some practices have even established themselves as THE sedation dentist in their market to appeal directly to these fearful people.


Ohhh the horrors and anxiety attacks the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act have inflicted on the dental profession! This piece of legislation has made many a dentist scared of their own legal shadow. However, the HIPAA hobgoblin isn’t as bad as many people make it out to be. HIPAA does impact your practice marketing in several ways but the marketing regulations aren’t incredibly burdensom. I cannot offer legal advice here so I will leave it at this — work with dental marketing professionals who know and abide by ADA counsel on HIPAA compliance.


HTML is the acronym for Hypertext Markup Language. HTML is coding language used in website development. Not only is it used to style website content, it is also used in hyperlink applications.


Hypertext Transfer Protocol is a protocol for applications which was developed to support hypertext and the internet (World Wide Web). It is the foundation of data communication on the internet.

Think of it like this:
An HTML document (website) is a building.
HTTP is the road system enabling transportation from one location to another.
A web browser is the car you get in to drive from one location to another.

HTTPS is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and is simply a secure extension of HTTP using an SSL.



In digital dental marketing, an impression is anytime an ad is loaded on a page for a visitor to see, regardless of whether the visitor actually saw and/or registered what they saw. When you run an ad on Facebook for example, your ad results will enumerate how many impressions the ad had as well as the engagement rate and actions taken with the ad.

Inbound Marketing

Dental inbound marketing is a collection of online marketing tactics intended to attract potential patient interest. SEO, social media, content marketing and so forth are examples of tools utilized in inbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a digital pull strategy (see “Pull Strategy”) and can be a major component of your practice’s overall marketing strategy.


If you ever walk up to me on the street and engage me in a conversation about an index, most likely I will assume you are talking about a search engine index (Google’s to be specific). An index is a compiled list of references with source information for items on the list. Google’s index is the same thing… just astonishingly gigantic. Think of it like a colossal digital filing cabinet.


An infographic is a visualization of data or information and is intended to make the data more appealing and digestible to its viewers. Infographics are sometimes used in dental marketing to make a compelling case for pursuing a particular treatment.


Instagram is a visually focused (photo and video) social media platform with, as of today, roughly 1B monthly active users. Its users prefer a more curated, beautiful experience. Think of Instagram like a fashion magazine whereas Facebook is more like the local newspaper. Many practices have heavily incorporated Instagram into their dental marketing efforts. I personally know a dentist who drives most of his business through Instagram alone, resulting in about 1,200 veneer unit placements a year!

Internal Marketing

The term “internal marketing” came into circulation in the 70’s. The idea was to market “internally” to a business’s employees to unify them and get them enthused about the business’s service or product. This led to increases in customer service, sales and employee retention.

I’m not sure when and where it started, but somewhere along the line someone in the dental industry completely changed the definition of internal marketing. In the dental industry today, internal marketing is generally understood to be the dental marketing efforts focused on a practice’s patient base to generate repeat business, upsells and referrals. Internal marketing in this case means marketing to your current patients who are already “in” your practice.


Java / JavaScript

Java is a programming language used to create applications to run on a computer. Javascript is a programming language used to create animations and effects on a website.

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory

The Jobs-to-be-done theory asserts that people don’t buy a product or service, they hire (buy) something to do a job for them. According to proponents of the theory, focusing on the job (not the product, service or customer exclusively) gives a business a competitive advantage as it improves their development, strategy, messaging, innovation, etc. In dental marketing, an example of this would be that a patient isn’t buying a porcelain veneer, they are hiring a porcelain veneer to make them more attractive and increase their confidence. Therefore, don’t run an ad focused on the price of a veneer and materials used. Run an ad talking about the instant attractiveness boost a veneer provides. capeesh?



A keyword is an important, or key, word used in your website copy which signals to search engines what the key concepts are in your website. Thoughtful website copy accounts for what phrases a searcher may use to find what they’re looking for. Precise and relevant words and statements on your website tailored to these queries may then be rewarded in the form of displaying your website in the search results.

Many tools and services exist to help a dental practice determine what the best keywords are for their intended purpose. A strategy may also be developed as some keywords are lower hanging fruit than others — meaning it may be easier to rank well for certain keywords as they are less competitive or more advantageous in some way.


Landing Page (Squeeze Page)

The term landing page can be used appropriately in two ways:
Whatever page on your website (whether the homepage or internal page) a visitor “lands on” may be termed a landing page. Maybe a searcher found your Invisalign page in search results. They click on the lnk and land on that particular page of your dental website. In this instance the landing page was your Invisalign page.
Usually when a marketer mentions a landing page they are referring to a website consisting of one page, which is designed to capture lead information and/or drive a consumer (potential patient) further down the purchase funnel. A landing page consists of valuable information the consumer is looking for with an invitation to connect immediately, or provide an email address to receive further information. This type of landing page is also called a “squeeze page”, “lead capture page” or “destination page” (among others).


For dental marketing applications, I define a lead (or prospect) as anyone who has expressed interest in your practice and for whom you have contact information. Both components are necessary to be considered a lead. The terms lead and prospect are often used synonymously.

Lead Generation

Dental Marketing efforts intended to generate leads (see “Lead”) for a dental practice. Popular lead generation efforts include content marketing, social media ads, contests, influencer marketing, and so on. I will not try to enumerate every lead generation tactic as any effort to interest people in, and provide contact info to your practice is a lead generation effort. Your imagination really is the limit.

Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is the incentive offered to your potential patients in exchange for their contact info. Remember, a lead is anyone who has expressed interest in your practice and for whom you have contact information. Lead magnets can be a white paper, eBook, video, report, etc.

Lead Nurturing

Once you have captured a lead, efforts to follow-up and accompany them further down your purchase funnel are referred to as lead nurturing. Lead nurturing is intended to build the relationship (hence the term “nurture”) with your potential patients throughout the patient acquisition process.

Usually marketers tend to think of lead nurturing as a series of email follow-ups but I have a broader view of the concept. Dentistry IS a relationship business. Your goal isn’t to sell a widget and then never communicate with a customer again. You want the patient to come back every six months for the rest of their life and bring their whole posterity with them, right? Emails, hand-written notes, video consults, text messages and personal responses from the doctor to address a potential patient’s concerns are all efforts to nurture and build a relationship with someone considering your practice.

Link / Hyperlink

In the digital world a hyperlink is a connection (link) from one html file, document or location to another. Links not only play a critical functional roll by enabling easy internet navigation, they’ve also become a major element of a digital dental marketing strategy. Search engines view links as signals, indicating what websites should be considered as more relevant.

Below are some of they ways links are used:
Internal link: A link pointing to a page, video, image or document on the same domain.
External link: A link pointing to a page, video, image or document on a different domain.
Backlink (inbound): A link on a different domain pointing to a page, video, image or document on your domain.
Link profile: Your link profile is the complete list of backlinks to your website from all sources.
Link Farm / Link Network / Link wheel / Private Blog Network: All are link building strategies employed to boost a web property’s search engine rank and drive traffic to the site.


LinkedIn is a social media platform catering to professionals and business networking. Due to the nature of the platform it is not extensively utilized in dental marketing as a patient generation tool. This is not to say that it can’t be done. An enterprising dentist may develop a strategy to attract a certain type of patient via the platform. Then, this enterprising dentist will be all too happy to charge you $25k to teach you how you too can do it!

Local SEO

Whereas most “traditional” SEO focuses on global reach (getting found on a search engine from anywhere in the world), local brick-and-mortar businesses (dental practices) benefit from a concerted local SEO strategy. Local SEO is the convergence of digital word-of-mouth efforts (reputation management, directories and reviews), citation management and geo-optimizing your website.

Because their goal is to deliver up the most relevant results to searchers, search engines started factoring a searcher’s location into search results. Hence, if someone moves to Chicago and is looking for a good italian restaurant, their search engine will want to deliver local italian restaurant options as they are more relevant.

Effective dental marketing would therefore include gearing your practice’s online presence to serve local searches. However, SEO and local SEO are not mutually exclusive. Make sure to use your local SEO tools to the best extent possible in addition to other SEO endeavors.

Lookalike Audience

A group of social media platform users who resemble each other in some way, whether it be their interests, locations, professions or other distinguishing criteria.
A Lookalike Audience is often assembled for social media ad campaigns to attract potential customers (or patients) who are similar to a business’s current customer base. The idea being that if a business advertises to a group similar to their current customer base, the group would be more likely to buy.

If your practice is considering incorporating social media ads into your dental marketing, building a lookalike audience that resembles your best patients and then advertising to them would be worth a try.

Lifetime Value (LTV)

In dental marketing, lifetime value is a metric used to represent how much revenue an average patient will bring into the practice during their time as a patient. This number varies WILDLY across the country and across different practice types. A high-end, fee-for-service cosmetic practice may have an LTV of $20,000. An insurance-driven practice in a transient community may have an LTV of $750.

I will not give you an arbitrary ideal for what your patient LTV number should be as no two practices are the same. I will, however, encourage you to identify, track and improve your LTV number as much as possible. Once you and your team understand just how much each patient is worth to your practice, you will be much less careless with how you treat current patients and much more intentional with your dental marketing efforts.


Map Pack

In Google search results, the map pack is the map with relevant listings displayed at the top of the search results page. A place in the map pack is obviously highly sought after and is a major goal in local SEO efforts.

Market Share

The percentage of a defined market a dental practice services. If your practice is located in a community with a total draw of 20,000 people and you service 2,000 active patients, your market share is 10%.


Marketing is connecting a buyer and seller. I’ve read dozens, if not hundreds, of marketing definitions over the years and I sought to boil down the definition to it’s pure, undiluted essence. At the very core, all marketing efforts are seeking to connect -in a limitless variety of ways- a buyer (patient) and a seller (dental practice).

I intentionally kept the definition vague on specifics to emphasize how much actually falls under the marketing umbrella. Many, if not most, dental professionals confuse marketing with advertising. They are not synonyms. Advertising is a component of marketing (see “Advertising”). If a dentist thinks their only marketing is direct outbound advertising efforts, they may not realize their patient experience is a huge and foundational piece of their dental marketing and therefore neglect it, not understanding its impact.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is using a software to automate marketing efforts. Chatbots, drip campaigns, retargeting, reputation management and text appointment reminders are all examples of marketing automation. Most of the successful practices I’m aware of tend to augment their personalized marketing efforts with automated marketing.

Marketing Mix

A business’s marketing mix is the sum of its efforts used to influence customer purchase behavior. For much of the 20th century the “4 P’s” (Product, Price, Promotion, Placement) were synonymous with the marketing mix. I don’t think the original 4 P’s model meets the needs of today’s digital marketing environment but many marketers have tried to keep the concept viable by adapting it and expanding it to address the current marketing landscape.

Marketing Stack

A marketing stack, also known as a marketing technology stack, is the collection of marketing tools and technologies a business employs to execute, monitor and improve their marketing efforts. Because so much marketing happens online now, tedious tasks can be automated. Automated software systems better track results and those results are used as guidance to direct further marketing efforts.

An example of a very simple dental marketing stack is:
A landing page for which Google ads are created to drive targeted traffic,
Google Analytics tracks the activity of people who clicked on the ad, and
The landing page has a direct scheduling feature.

In the example above, a practice can determine how effective various ads were because they can track a lead through the entire marketing campaign process.


In the dental marketing context, media generally refers to the mass communication tools leveraged in traditional and modern/digital marketing (radio, tv, internet, etc.)


Your messaging is what you consistently say about your dental practice and how you say it in order to claim a position in your market’s minds. But before embarking on your messaging campaign you need to clearly understand why you are saying it. Your messaging is most definitely a pivotal component of your overall dental marketing strategy. Your messaging is a commitment as it is distributed through so many channels. You will want to make sure of your intent and the likelihood of success before committing your resources to it.

Membership Plan

A dental membership plan is a financial strategy for a practice in which they contract directly with a patient to provide a set of included services (often for a discounted rate). The plan can then be paid for on a monthly basis (or however the practice wants to set it up). Membership plans are a great way for practices to “wean” their patients off insurance plans and build a recurring revenue stream.


Metadata is simply data about data. It is often only visible to search engine crawlers and is not to website viewers. However, some of this metadata (like meta descriptions) is actually visible within a search result. This gives a dental website owner a chance to differentiate themselves from the competition right in the SERP. SEO best practices include writing meta descriptions, titles, tags, subjects, creation dates and so on.


A dental microsite is a website focused on one treatment exclusively. In this sense, a microsite is similar to a landing page. However, a microsite often has several pages whereas a landing page usually has one. The benefit in having multiple pages is in longer-term organic SEO results. A site focused on one treatment in one market can often turn up well in search engine results and therefore attract more of the high-value cases you’re pursuing. Microsites can be a fantastic component in a robust digital dental marketing strategy.

Mobile First

Mobile first is a phrase which became popular over the last several years due to the dominance of mobile devices in online activity. At the time of this writing internet usage via smartphone (instead of desktop) is approaching 80%. The gist of the mobile first idea is to make sure your website loads quickly, is attractive (see “Responsive Design”) and call-to-actions are prominent and intuitive to engage with on a mobile device.

Mobile Marketing

Your mobile marketing strategy may be moderately to monumentally different from your desktop digital advertising strategy. An ad that works well for seniors on their desktops might not have the same impact on smartphone-clad millennials.

Take advantage of the new mobile marketing tools! Online ad platforms offer mobile specific advertisement options and even mobile device apps (like games) offer advertisements opportunities as well. These digital ad platforms give you the opportunity to optimize advertisements for devices the ads will be displayed on. Tedious? Yes. Worth it? Totes magotes.


Native Advertising

Native advertising is a technique of placing camouflaged advertisements on a platform (online usually). The reason I call it camouflage is because the goal of native advertising is for the ad to blend in with the surrounding posts with the intent to be seen. What?! Normally the intent of camouflage is to not be noticed? True, but people will often skip anything that even smells like an advertisement. A native ad looks like a normal post and therefore may have a higher engagement rate than an obvious ad. A facebook boosted post is an example of a native advertisement.


Off-Page SEO (AKA Off-Site SEO)

Off-page SEO refers to efforts made outside of your website to increase its ranking in search results. Building quality backlinks to your site, guest-blogging on another sites and getting mentions from others sites are all examples of off-page SEO.


In dental marketing, the term offer is often used synonymously with “promotion”. Usually no harm or foul will result from using the terms interchangeably. However, since we are defining terms and splitting hairs, we will draw the distinction in this glossary. An offer consists of deliverables with their associated price; e.g., free whitening with a cleaning. A promotion is to the efforts to encourage someone to accept the offer. The etymology provides further clarification — offer means to ‘bestow, present’, whereas promotion means to ‘move forward’.

Omnichannel Marketing

Marketing efforts that integrate shopping methods for a smooth and cohesive experience across all digital and physical mediums. The term is usually used in reference to the retail industry though many of the principles carry across industries — including dental marketing.

On-Page SEO (AKA On-Site SEO)

On-page SEO refers to efforts taken on a website to improve its relevance, and therefore ranking, in a search engine’s algorithm. The copy, how it is coded, how visitors interact with the content and how the website presents on different devices all play a role in on-page SEO.

Open Rate

In dental marketing, when we use the term open rate we are usually referring to the percentage of a recipient list that actually opened the sent email. This is another useful metric to monitor in order to improve email campaigns and is particularly useful when testing email subject lines as it indicates which subject lines lead to more opens.

Some marketers use the open rate metric with physical mail as well. In my opinion, trying to determine a mailer’s open rate is fuzzy extrapolation at best.

Opt-in Form

If your dental marketing strategy includes building an opt-in email list, you will want to build an opt-in form to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM act. An opt-in form gives the list builder permission to market to someone when that someone knowingly and willingly signs up via the form.


When used in the digital dental marketing context, organic is used to describe unpaid traffic and rankings. For instance, if you invest time and energy into writing great content for your website, you will probably be rewarded by Google with higher organic rankings. If potential patients find your website via this higher organic ranking and visit your site, that is organic traffic.



A pageview is when a web page is loaded. It is a common metric in website analytics and is useful for monitoring a page’s popularity and how changes to the page impact it’s pageviews.

Patient Experience (PX)

Your practice’s patient experience is the sum of every touchpoint a patient has with your practice. How your team answers the phone, how the practice smells when they visit, how payment arrangements are made and the actual treatment provided are all part of your patient experience.

Some of the most successful practices I know are exceedingly intentional in the creation and implementation of their PX. A great patient experience is often the manifestation of a great practice culture.

Patient Attrition

Patient attrition is the loss of active patients for any reason. Moving, death, change in insurance and turncoating to another practice all factor into patient attrition. Patient retention efforts can help to keep your patient attrition as low as possible.

Practice Management Software (PMS)

Your practice management software houses your patient database and is ideally kept current. Many dental marketing tools are popping up that integrate with your PMS in order to automate appointment reminders, analyze practice performance, improve marketing communications, and so on. Hence, the need for keeping your data clean.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click is an ad buying option allowing advertisers to only pay for online advertising when someone actually clicks your ad. PPC is a great way to offset the risk of online advertising as you only pay when it works. How awesome is that?! That’s like going to a casino and only placing your bet after you’ve actually won.

Persona (AKA Avatar)

In dental marketing, a persona is a fictitious character representing an ideal patient. A carefully crafted persona is as specific as possible and defines the ideal patient’s interests, purchasing behaviors, demographic criteria, and even name. For example, a persona for your practice may be a 54 year-old married women named Lisa, whose annual household income is $175,000. She drives an imported, small-sized SUV and loves tennis and traveling. Because of the specificity of this persona, you can now picture exactly who you’re talking to when creating an ad. Now you think to yourself “Would this appeal to Lisa?’

Your practice is limited to only one persona, but too many persona’s waters down the impact of the tool. Try to create a persona for each of your ideal patients (probably 2-4) to keep your practice marketing efforts focused.


Pinterest is a social media platform where users “pin” digital content to a digital artboard. Often people create favorite lists, idea boards and dream vacations to visually capture their thoughts. Maybe a smile design board would be appealing in your market? Maybe being included in a Top 15 businesses in [your town] board could generate some interest in your practice? Pinterest is a creative platform. Get creative.


Positioning is making a claim on a specific place in you market’s minds. Many have used the wonderfully apt metaphor of “putting a stake in the ground” to explain positioning. For example, you buy a practice in a rural market because there are only two other dentists (on the back nine of their careers) and you think the area is under served. Community members have to drive over an hour to get to a practice that offers anything beyond simple restorative treatments. You, the hotshot dentist, can already place dental implants and have purchased a CAD/CAM system. From day one in the market you start positioning yourself as the high-tech practice that can do everything under one roof. Your ads, signage, phone scripts and website all emphatically state this. Within a few months the market starts noticing. Now people call you whenever they think they need a more advanced treatment.

You will want to keep reiterating your positioning statement even if there is no competition YET. If you haven’t convincingly established yourself in the position you want to occupy, it won’t be hard for a competitor to come in and steal your feeble throne.

To tie a couple things together here… your position is the brain space you want to occupy. Your brand (see “Brand”) is the space it actually does occupy. The closer the two are, the better.


Your practice’s production-per-hour is the average production revenue generated in a given hour during work hours. Having a target goal for production-per-hour can focus the attention of your team to cut unproductive endeavors and increase value-adding efforts. I have seen a practice with such great visibility into their production numbers that they can pass on offering services or specials because they know it would actually lead to producing less per hour.


(see “Offer”)

Public Relations

Public relations consists of efforts to establish and improve the public image of your practice. Public relations has evolved and adapted to meet the swell of digital marketing channels. Though the mediums have changes, the wisdom in getting positive exposure for brands remains the same.

Pull Strategy

Pull Marketing is strategically suggestive. When a potential patient is interested and searching for a dentist, pull marketing presents your practice as the solution to their quandary. Search Engine Optimization is an example pull strategy.

Push Strategy

Push marketing is interruptive in nature — forcing a message to people who are not interested in or actively searching for a dentist. Display ads, mailers and billboards are all pieces of a push strategy.


QR Code

A QR (quick response) code is similar to a barcode in that it is a machine-readable image. However, QR codes are most often used to load a URL when scanned. The technology has been around for a while. Some early adopters tried pushing QR codes but the mass adoption didn’t start until recently, when smartphone makers began building QR readers into their camera app. Now a smartphone user simply need point their camera at a QR code to access a QR coded link.


Qualification is the process of vetting a lead’s interest, ability to pay, authority to make a decision and desirability as a patient. Some marketing strategies include qualifying a lead before they even click on one of your ads. Here’s a great example: If you are running a PPC campaign, you only pay when someone clicks, right? So if you create an attractive dental implants ad and include the price in the actual PPC ad, usually a searcher will only click on it if they are OK with that price. Therefore, the person who was sent to your website via the ad can is a potential qualified lead. As a bonus, you reduced your ad spend because many unqualified leads (those without the desire or ability to pay your fee) did not click on your PPC ad.


Rank (Position)

Your rank is the placement of your website in search engine results. Search engine optimization is focused on improving the rank of your website.


When someone is referred to your practice, it is called a referral. A referral can come from another practice, a current patient, an online review or pretty much anywhere else someone may recommend your practice.

Referral Program

A systematic approach to increase referrals, often incorporating an incentive to the referer. A well-designed referral program can be one of the sharpest tools in your dental marketing shed. The fundamental concept is to encourage referrals from current patients and / or referring practices with an enticing incentive (discount, gift card, raffle, etc). Be aware of state laws when choosing the incentive for your program.

Remarketing / Retargeting

Ever notice how you checked out a product online and then wherever you go online you see ads for that same product? That is remarketing. If a potential patient in your market begins a search for a dentist and they stumble across your practice, you can set up remarketing ads to follow that person online. Those frequent impressions can keep your practice top-of-mind when the patient is finally ready to call and schedule a visit.

Retention Rate

Your retention rate is the number of patients you retain over a period of time and is the opposite of your patient attrition metric. If your attrition rate is 10% over a given year, then your retention rate is 90%. An effective recall and appointment reminder program is critical for building and maintaining a high retention rate. Maybe the most important piece of your retention endeavors is consistently delivering a great PX (patient experience).

Responsive Web Design (RWD)

Responsive Web Design is the industry standard code structure to ensure a great website user experience across all platforms (desktop, tablet and mobile). A responsive website is coded in such a way that the website automatically reformats to look great and function perfectly on whatever device accesses it.

Several years ago developers made mobile websites which were separate from a practice’s desktop website. These websites were then loaded when a searcher on a mobile device tried to access the site. Search engines were not big fans of this approach as it convoluted their indexing. Thus the ensuing ascent of responsive web design.

Return on Investment (ROI)

In dental marketing, your return on your investment is the value generated by a marketing investment. Keep in mind that not all campaigns generate, nor are intended to generate, value in the form of immediate revenue or profits. ROI is usually represented by a percentage and is calculated with this formula:
profit from marketing effortcost of marketing effort100

For example, if you spend $10,000 on PPC ads and can attribute $25,000 in profit to those PPC ads, your ROI would be 250% ($25,000/$10,000 x 100).

Some marketers may use revenue instead of profit in the above formula. I’m not a fan of that approach. If you swap revenue out for profit in the above example, a marketer may say, “Wow! Look a that! You just got a 250% ROI on your marketing spend!”. However, even if your practice is hitting on all cylinders, you still probably have somewhere in the ballpark of 40% margins. A 40% profit on $25000 in your practice is $10000. You just spent $10,000 in marketing to get $10000 in profit on your services. That means you made nothing. Your real ROI in this example is 0%.


A website’s Robots Exclusion Protocol (robots.txt file) provides instructions to a search engine crawler about what to do with your dental website. For example, if you don’t want your site indexed at all or you just want specific pages excluded, you can include this in your robots.txt file.


RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. It is a type of web feed that makes it easy for content creators to spread, or syndicate, their content across multiple platforms.


Schema Markup is a relatively recent collaboration between the major search engines to improve search results for users. This is accomplished by enabling website owners to better indicate to search engines what their content is about and how to present it in SERP’s. Schema markup is a component of on-page SEO.

Search Engine

A search engine is the tool used to search an index (see “Index”). Popular examples of search engines include Google, YouTube, Bing and Yahoo.

Search Engine Optimization

Exertions to improve your website’s attractiveness to search engines are called search engine optimization. The intent of becoming more attractive to search engines is to increase the likelihood of your website or content being displayed prominently on SERPs. Statistically, the higher your website or content is ranked, the more likely it will be visited by interested online searchers.

Search Network

Google’s Search Network is a collection of search-related websites where a text ad, shopping ad or image/video ad may appear.


Search Engine Marketing is the umbrella term for any and all dental marketing efforts related to search engines. This includes paid ads as well as organic SEO.

SERP (Search Engine Results Page)

When a searcher queries a search engine, the search engine’s digital filing cabinet (see “Index”) is opened and the file containing the relevant entries (in order of relevance determined by the search engine) is presented to the searcher. The page on which these results are presented is called the SERP, or Search Engine Results Page.


A session is the extent and sequence of a visitor’s activities on your website within a given amount of time. For example, a visitor’s session on your website may include viewing to your homepage after checking out your reviews, then visiting the about page, Invisalign page and contact page. That sequence coupled with the seven minutes they took doing it was their session.

Share of Voice

Share of market is the percentage of patients you have out of the total possible patients. Share of voice is the the percentage of exposure your practice gets via paid (usually) marketing channels compared to your competition. Here’s an oversimplified example- If your practice is located in a market with two other dentists and you buy twice the ad space they do (and they buy the same as each other) then each of their share of voice numbers are 25% and yours is 50%.


Siri is Apple’s artificial intelligence engine which was the first digital assistant installed on a smartphone. Siri, as well as other digital assistants (like Amazon Alexa and Google assistant), are part of the voice first internet evolution in that it is the audio interface with the internet. For example, an iPhone user just has to say “Hey, Siri – where is the closest dentist to me?” for siri to search the internet and state the answer. Siri’s artificial intelligence and voice first capability will play a lead role in the future of digital dental marketing.


Snapchat is a social messaging app which boomed for several years with it’s perishable content format — meaning you could post something and not have to worry as much about it haunting you later. Snapchat started fading rapidly with the introduction of Instagram stories. Time will tell if it stays relevant.

Social Media

Social media is the collection of interactive web-based applications which enable users to share practically any form of digital content with followers, colleagues, friends and family. Due to the widespread use of social media, many practices have included social media as a major component of their dental marketing. It makes sense to speak to people where they are, right? Also, with the addition of viable advertising options on social media platforms, the opportunities to attract and engage your market are multiplied.

Popular examples of social media include Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Social Proof

The term “social proof” was introduced by author Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence. It has since become a household term. Well… at least in marketing households. The concept is that people tend to look to others to gauge what is appropriate or acceptable behavior in a given situation.

This psychological principle is why testimonials and reviews are so powerful. A slew of positive reviews signal to your market that the appropriate and acceptable behavior is to choose you over your competitors. It’s the old “If others are doing it, I should too” routine.

Spam (see “CAN SPAM”)



In dental marketing, a practice is best served when they have access to the most detailed data results possible. Tracking, in various forms, enables this. For instance, a tracking phone number is a phone number only used on one marketing piece. When a potential patient calls that number, the practice knows exactly what marketing piece generated the call. Also, a digital tracking code is a snippet of code placed on a website which enables analytic tools to monitor the source and result (as well as other things) of visits to that website.


Twitter is a micro-blogging social media platform where users post “tweets” with a maximum of 280 characters each. Many use it to create a custom, curated, constantly-updating digital newspaper to stay current on their topics of interest. Due to its nature of being a place to get updates on topics one is interested in, I haven’t seen a lot of dentists having B2C success on the platform. Although, as part of their B2B efforts, a thought-leader in dentistry may be able to amass a following of other dental professionals.


Unique Content

Unique content means it is one of a kind. It is not copied and pasted from another online source. In SEO, having unique content on your website is a must as search engines penalize duplicate content (see “Duplicate Content”).

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

A unique selling proposition, also known as a unique value proposition, is a unique benefit or solution you offer to your market to differentiate your practice from your competition. This can range from your culture, to your spa-like patient experience, to you being the only dentist to place implants in a two-hour radius. The intent of promoting your USP’s is to assist potential patients in your market in deciding you are the dentist for them.

Unique Visitor

In SEO parlance, a unique visitor is someone who visits your dental practice website at least once in a reporting period. Tracking your unique visitors gives you a general sense of the traffic your website sees and is a baseline metric in other calculations. For example, you need to know that your site had 100 unique visitors in a week to determine that the three new patients coming from your website gave you a 3% website conversion rate.


(see “Domain“)


User experience and user interface are commonly mistaken to be the same thing. UX has more to do with the analytical and research side of website design — designing the experience to best meet the needs and desires of the visitor and the dental practice. UI focuses on the visual components and layout of the website. Think of UX as the left brain of web design and UI as the right brain.



Video is a tremendously versatile digital asset as it can be used in your reception room, in advertisements, in your content marketing, or almost anywhere else allowing the use of digital files. Video is also one of the most powerful and compelling marketing mediums in dental marketing. I used to say that if a picture is worth a thousand words a video is worth a million. Forrester Research has since determined that a one-minute long video communicates roughly 1.8 million words. I stand corrected.


Content which is viral is so interesting and/or appealing that it is widely shared and distributed. Digital media platforms can propel viral content at alarming rates. Examples of something going viral include: Grumpy Cat, Justin Bieber and the ice bucket challenge.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a computer-simulated environment a participant can immersively experience. I’m actually surprised that we have not seen a faster adoption of the technology into our daily lives but you better believe it’s coming. The marketing opportunities will be endless. Here’s a possible scenario… imagine playing a game like Farmville in a virtual environment. As you build your farm, maybe you have to go into your tiny little town and you pass a dental practice. It’s not far-fetched to imagine a real-life practice paying a gaming ad platform to place their logo and video inside the virtual dental practice.

Voice First

Voice first is the emerging voice search technology accessed through digital assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google. Because it is speech based, modern SEO strategies include more natural speech patterns and phrasing in the written copy of a website. Seeking to imitate (in the website copy) the language people actually use will ideally result in better rankings for a website and better online visibility (see what I did there?).



A webinar is a web-based seminar, providing the same interactive capability as an in-person event. Webinars exploded in popularity on account of the convenience to participants and substantially reduced travel and event costs to the organizer.

As part of your dental marketing strategy, you may want to host a webinar to discuss the benefits of dental implants (or some other treatment) with your community. You can start by inviting your current patient base to the webinar. Once you have a good system dialed in and are ready to expand your reach, you may then want to consider online advertising to get more attendees to your webinar.


Ah websites… one of my favorite marketing topics. I call websites digital real estate (see “Digital Real Estate”) as they are the only place on the internet a website owner can completely control the visitor’s experience. All other digital platforms like search engines, social media apps and directories are more like a public square or marketplace where you are fighting for attention and have limited customization options.

YOUR WEBSITE IS YOUR DIGITAL FRONT OFFICE and is the #2 driver of new patients to your practice. Consider that statement for a while. Chew on it. Digest it. Put it in your bubble pipe and toot some bubbles. The sooner you grasp this concept and its implications, the more quickly you will grasp the significance of your dental website and how much attention it merits.


Word-of-mouth is still the #1 driver of new patients to dental practices. Traditionally word-of-mouth was just that — a person talking to an acquaintance, neighbor or friend and encouraging them to visit a specific dental practice. It was phenomenally effective at leading someone to choose the recommended dentist as people would trust the experience of someone who actually visited that dentist. Today, word-of-mouth is just as effective, but it is conducted through many different mediums.


WordPress is an open-source content management system used to build and manage websites. It is a remarkably versatile platform with a huge marketplace of plugins to make a website as useful and, more importantly, effective as possible.


XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap (often just called a sitemap) is a file built and placed on a domain which provides web crawlers information about the pages (URLs) on the website. When done right, a sitemap enables more efficient and effective crawling of your dental website, which in turn can improve the rank of your website.



Yelp is a social review application similar to Google My Business. Consumers use Yelp to leave reviews for businesses they’ve visited as well as evaluate reviews when choosing a business to visit. Actively encouraging and managing Yelp reviews (as well as other review sites) is called reputation management and is a huge component of modern word-of-mouth (see “Word-of-Mouth”) marketing.


YouTube is a social video sharing platform and is the #2 search engine in the world (behind Google) as well as the #2 social media platform (behind Facebook). Google owns YouTube and loves to rank relevant videos highly in SERPs. Savvy dental practices therefore produce great video and optimize the video description to be attractive to Google searches. Also, YouTube’s advertising platform is a great way to economically reach your target market with rich and compelling video content.



Zapier is a web company enabling data communication between two or more application APIs (see “Application Programming Interface”). For example, as long as both applications have joined the zapier platform, you can link your practice’s G Suite account (Google services, like Gmail) with Dentrix. Any time data is zapped between the two apps it is called a “zap.”