Canadians searching for a nearby dentist on the internet soon discover lots of dental finder services eager to help them find one. These local search operations collect data in different ways, and the means by which they gather information is what really separates the many players in local search.
Your hunt for a dentist is a microcosm of the intensely competitive local search marketplace.
The rise and fall of local search engines mirrors many elements of the American dream, and everyone's dream of a Utopian society made more effective by improved connectivity. There's no question the search for a dentist is certainly at the 'bleeding edge' of a sociological phenomenon.
Big players like Facebook are enjoying a growing percentage of the local search market, as people do tend to trust their friends, and more and more people are doing that everyday; it could even be said that the social networking giant causes people to seek out cosmetic dental services after seeing their pictures online.
Local search directories like Yelp, Gigpark, and Localfaves.com all index dentists with good results. The five dentist discovery services that I have outlined in this article use yellow pages data, dental association information or even dental school alumni records to give users accurate local choices. The fastest growing dental location services are building their own databases. The benchmark is Google, which has set the bar quite high in terms of delivering accurate and useful information for local search queries. Each of the web services listed below has to believe that they can provide better search results than Google for users seeking local dentists.
History of Dental Associations
South of the border, in the United States the ADA or American Dental Association was founded August 1859 in Niagara Falls NY, and that makes it the oldest national dental association in the world. It’s also the largest association with more than 152,000 members, 55 constituent (state-territorial) and 545 component (local) dental societies. Today they help people find dentists all across the nation with a website called MouthHealthy.org , which is filled with information about oral health advances and best practices, but they have lost their dominant position in terms of indexing and managing the search for dentists in America.
The CDA or Canadian Dental Association was established in 1902 and remains important today for standardizing details like the language on health insurance forms, the specifications of new dental equipment, medication, surgical supplies and training. For almost one hundred years, before the advent of the internet, this was how many Canadians found their dentist. They interacted one way or another with CDA data, dentists information, and literature relating to its members.
The Ontario Dental Association, ODA
The Ontario Dental Association or ODA is a big player in the pledge to provide patients with up-to-date information on dentist locations and specialties. Eight out of ten dental practitioners in the province of Ontario are members of this club, that was started by Dr. Barnabus Day in Kingston Ontario in 1867, which was a few years before Canadian confederation and before Upper Canada was called Ontario. The mandate of this organization reads, "This Association is instituted with the view of promoting professional and social intercourse among dental practitioners in the Province of Ontario, Dominion of Canada, and to encourage a disposition for investigation on their part in every direction which relates to the principles and practice of the profession and collateral science."
YourOralHealth.ca is the brainchild of the ODA and is a consumer facing portal filled with great information about keeping your teeth healthy. They have interesting articles on nutrition, cosmetic dentistry, fluoride and community water fluoridation, how to choose the right toothbrush, and how certain medical conditions can affect your smile. Your oral health is mandated to raise awareness about how your mouth and teeth are so intimately connected with the rest of your body. It's a real friendly place with a powerful dental finder tool that skims a large database.
The ODA is a popular choice for provincial dentists to join, but it's not omnipresent in the niche and membership is not legally required by the province; its just another useful association of Ontario dentists and by their own accounting approximately eight out of ten dentists in the province are ODA members in good standing. As mentioned above, the history of Ontario Dental Association is rooted in the colourful figure, Dr. Barnubus Day who was a dentist in Kingston, Ontario in the 1860s. He circulated a letter dated January 3, 1867, after which the Ontario Dental Association was born. The purpose of the new Association was described in its constitution, written by Day along with nine other dentists who were its first members and their names are recorded in the minutes of the first meeting.
Today the ODA has thousands of members and YourOralhealth.ca helps the people of Ontario find them. Users can search by last name, in case you had heard about a good one and wanted to track that person down. Or you enter city, town or postal code. One great feature is that you can search by specialty. Clicking the Specialty option produces a drop down menu that lets you select from the following options: Public Health Dentists , Endodontist , Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery , Oral Pathologists , Oral Medicine, Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Pediatrics Dentist, Periodontics, Prosthodontics, Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology, Dental Anesthesia... and that's pretty amazing and this is certainly something Google doesn't offer.
The ODA website YourOralHealth.ca is a very popular result in search engines because it has hundreds of incoming links from dentists' sites, which place its badge of recognition on their homepage, but also from many hundreds of public schools and community program websites.
Dentistfind.com is a map centric website that is really easy to use. It's actually better than easy, it’s fun to drag that little pink man around the map and watch all of the nearby dentists appear. The blue pins that pop up correspond to the business card blurbs that appear in the left hand sidebar; each info card details a nearby dentist.
This website is made for Canadians to explore the service practitioners in their area code. The site is real easy to use because there is no stressful forms to fill out, or any registration at all beyond simply typing in your postal code. Once you click the FIND A DENTIST button, the website goes to work and sets you (a pink man) in the center of your area and little blue pins appear in a wide map around you where you can check services, specialties, hours, languages as you hover over the display. Its an excellent interface.
Below the map there is a narrow buffer of content. Three stories in boxes hook readers who scroll down and for those that keep scrolling there is a reservoir of additional services. On the bottom of this website are three more boxes each containing different, more traditional search options. The first box says Search By City? and has a list of neighboring cities and suburbs. Secondly, there is a long list of specialists detailing their services; Cosmetic Dentistry, Bridges, Dental Bonding, Gum Reduction, Teeth Whitening, and Veneers are right up at the top.
Under General Dentistry they list, Cleaning/Scaling, Crowns, Dental Emergency, Extractions/Wisdom Teeth Removal, Fillings, Pediatric Dentistry, Periodontal Therapy, Root Canal Therapy, Sealants for Kids, Sedation Dentistry, Teeth Grinding, Tooth Desensitization. They have a Products section, and list Canker Sores and Cold Sores, Mouthguards, Night Guards, Sleep Apnea, Sports Guards, Thumb Sucking/Snoring Appliances. They also list Specialized Procedures including Braces, Dentures (Prosthetic), Headaches, Implants and Bone Grafting, Invisalign (Braces), TMJ Disorder Treatment. The Technology section lists Digital Impression for Crowns, Digital X-Rays, Laser Dentistry, Periowave. It's an extensive list, and they get points for these details.
Smile Canada is a dental service marketing company and is proud to be the only such corporation in Canada. They help Canadian dentists find customers by helping the public find dentists - they strive to make their website a one-stop information portal and to inspire each visitor to achieve their optimal dental health. They stand committed to helping consumers by educating them, and making it super convenient for users to find and contract nearby dental practitioners.
Smile Canada pledges to beat Google by offering users a customizable experience to help them find the right dentist who perfectly meets their needs. Their site is particularly geared to provide users with an in-depth understanding of many different treatments and procedures that are available in Canada. They have a separate section dedicated to kids’ dentistry where kids can play games and learn healthy dental habits.
Smile Canada users can use the dentist search tool to find the individual professional or the type of dental service they desire right in their own neighbourhoods. With some level of detail, they can even research the dentist's bio and read the various specialty services they offer, along with the flexible payment and insurance options. And of course, they have provided maps, driving directions and dentists’ office times. Find out wait times in a special dentist review section that provides access to other patient feedback.
For over twenty four years there has been a dentist referral business called Dental Referral. The organization has helped hundreds of thousands of dental patients find good dentists that are perfectly suited to their needs, all across across Canada and the United States. The service boasts that they deliver a human tested result when they promise to find users "...Not just any dentist but a top-rated local professional who's been carefully prescreened by us. In just seconds, we'll match you with a dentist who offers the exact mix of dental treatments, office hours and payment options you're looking for..." which is certainly more than Google pledges.
Dental Referral is free. There's no charge, no obligation and never any fine print involved with finding a dentist through DentalReferral.com.
Dental Referral's mission is to be the number one trusted online dentist directory available to help consumers find the best dentist in their area. The website boasts that they provide "so much more than the name and phone number of a local dentist." By accessing the online database (or calling a toll-free number), users will receive comprehensive background information on dentists and dental offices including years in practice, education, current licenses, practice specialties (such as whitening), latest dental equipment and technology, what type of sedation is available, and whether or not that practice accepts emergency patients.
One thing I will concede about Dental Referral is their belief ideology about how 'word of mouth' advertising is NOT the best way to find a dentist. They claim that folks who visit their friends' dentists soon discover that they have much different needs and often have unhappy experiences. Its true I bet.
CanPages is the digital child of the Yellow Pages, and this child was adopted and not born unto its wealthy parents; the Burnaby-based phone book and internet advertising company was bought by Yellow Media in 2009 for a reported $225 million dollars. The Yellow Pages directory once had over 50% of the local search market for dentists.
Throughout most of the twentieth century, the telephone directory was by far the the biggest player in the search for a family medicine, home service, automotive care and things that could be sourced locally, alphabetically and then ordered remotely by either business and residential consumers. But the times have changed...
Just last year, on February 1st 2012, CanPages laid off seven hundred employees across Canada in a move to eliminate duplication and streamline business operations, in part I believe, so they could concentrate on serving up better results on the web. And they do a pretty decent job online.
CanPages local search web service is quite intuitive and easy to use and separates all queries into business or people, just like Yellow Pages did with the White Pages set aside for residential numbers, and the Blue Pages were government.
When a visitor arrives from another search engine, the Canpages website shows the category she was searching for and offers new suggestions to use for their tool. A search for 'Queen St east dentist' on Google might prompt Canpages to suggest a search for 'Dentists in The Beaches' to find practitioners that have optimized their listings for that popular neighbourhood search term. Once again the map is interactive and the user icon can be dragged and dropped to show hyper local results in real time.
The first results in a Canpages query are sponsored ads and clearly identified as such. In my experience, most ads were not closely related to my search term. Similar off-topic 'featured listings' appear as advertising buttons below the map tool.
Where does Canpages get its data? Canpages crunches data provided by the Yellow Pages Group which is a data harvesting machine.
In summary, the business of capturing the search for a dentist is very competitive, and delivering high quality results in this niche is equally challenging.
What do you think is the next big thing in the search for a dentist?
Post by Robert Campbell on Dec 8, 2012