Google Ads Targeting Options For Dentists

Targeting options for dentists using Google Ads

With a plethora of targeting options to choose from within the Google Ads interface, it is easy for beginners to get confused.

It is important to understand that Google’s standard settings are not always the best. In order to use the available marketing budget in an effective manner it is important to choose the right settings.

A proper setup helps to realize a defined strategy, generates maximum results and minimizes waste.

Let’s look at the targeting options that dentists can take advantage of when using Google Ads to win new patients for their practice.

Network: Search Ads vs. Display Ads

The first decision that any proficient advertiser should make when using Google Ads is to select whether one wants to promote their dental practice using the search network or the display network.

Display network:

Chances are that most internet uses have been confronted with display network ads at one point or another. Just head over to Amazon or Airbnb, browse for a few products and leave their website.

Unless you have blocked their cookies, you will start seeing their remarketing ads follow you along for a while even on totally unrelated websites.

To illustrate a typical display banner ad I went to The Sun’s website:

Display network ads can be image ads or text ads as there are various formats available.

The most commonly used display ad formats in pixels are:

  • 300 x 250
  • 336 x 280
  • 300 x 600
  • 728 x 90
  • 160 x 600

The display network is made up of millions of websites on all sorts of topics and can be used as a tool to get your ads in front of a large number of people almost instantly.

Besides showing your ads on various websites, the display network also enables an advertiser to display their ads on other platforms such as YouTube.

Is the display network effective?

While you could think that the display network is amazing as it lets you bombard thousands of people with your ad, display ads have a major weakness when compared to ads on the search network.

Display ads are displayed to people on the internet on various websites when they are busy doing other things, e.g. not looking for your services.

If your mother or wife is browsing a cooking website to find a new recipe for a strawberry pie, they want to find a recipe for a strawberry pie that looks appetizing, not see an ad for your dental practice or any other service.

If you are reading an article on how to add 15 yards to your drives on the golf course, you are likely looking for the newest driver models or tips how to increase your swing speed, not for a dentist or any other unrelated product or service.

Some individuals with a big ego might think they are the best thing since sliced bread and think that they must tell everyone how great they are.

For anyone with a basic knowledge of marketing and psychology it is evident that most people only care about themselves and the problems they are facing.

They do not care about you, your company or your services. Only if you can offer a solution to their problem will they perk up and notice you or your ads.

Your display ads literally have to capture and steal the attention of web users in order to lure them away from what they are currently doing and having them click on your ad to visit your website.

This is why the majority of people has developed a behaviour that is called banner blindness. A large number of people rarely even notices banner or display ads as in the past they have been constantly exposed to totally irrelevant ads that were not of interest to them.

You may be advertising on the display network without even knowing it

Whenever someone creates a new campaign within the Google Ads interface two settings are pre-checked automatically: Include Google search partners and Include Google Display Network

Unless you uncheck these two fields you may have been advertising on the display network all along without even knowing it.

For best practices you should always create a separate campaign for each network in order to best evaluate performance, e.g. create one campaign for the display network and one campaign for the search network.

This will allow you to evaluate the performance of each campaign and see which network you should use to grow your dental practice effectively.

Search network:

The search network is your traditional Google search page and represents what most people think of when someone mentions Google Ads or Google AdWords.

If you type in a query into Google’s search bar when searching for a product or service Google will display a variation of search results.

To illustrate the Google search results I searched for a dentist in London by typing in “dentist London” into Google’s search bar.

As the name already states, the search network is a place where people come to search for answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.

In contrast to the display network where you have to go out and bombard a broad audience with ads, on the search network potential patients come to you.

While your ads may annoy people when they see it as a display ad, a search ad will actually be welcomed as it offers a chance to resolve their issue.

One could therefore think of the search network as a demand capture medium while the display network would rather be a demand creation medium.

Note that there are different types of users of the internet:

Some people avoid ads like the plague and will do everything they can to skip past any ads they are confronted with. These types of people will generally prefer to click on a search result from the local pack or the organic listings.

Some people prefer to click on the ads as they don’t require them to scroll down on the results page thanks to their prominent position on the top of the page.

Some people can’t tell the difference between paid and organic search results and don’t mind clicking on either of them, as long as the displayed options offer a solution to their problem.

Instead of having to guess where to find potential patients you can just present your dental practice to them whenever they search for a dentist in your geographic area.

Is the search network effective for dental offices?

Typically, cities with a population of 400,000 and more work best for dentists who want to grow their practice by using Google Ads.

If you live in a city with a population of 400,000, such as Bristol, you can expect a monthly search volume of 2,500 – 4,000 for the keyword dentist + your city.

For example Bristol offers an average monthly search volume of 3,600 with a population of about 428,000.

If you are lucky enough to be located in a city that has 3,000 or more people searching for a dentist each month, your dental practice could expect to generate 50 up to 150 new patients per month just by using the power of Google Ads on the search network.

If this does not excite you, I do not know what will.

Which network should you choose to advertise on?

Based on the nature of the two different networks and people’s behaviour on the internet, my recommendation to any dentist is to first maximize the budget in the search network.

Once you reach close to 100% search impression shares for all your keywords and optimize your paid search campaigns to a level where you achieve a conversion rate of more than 5% you can start looking to expand your marketing activities into the display network in order to generate even more patients.

What targeting options are available to dentists on the search network?


The most obvious and the most powerful targeting option of the search network is the keyword. If you select the right keywords you set yourself up for success.

If you are unsure which keywords to select it is best to consult with a Google Ads professional or order a Keyword Analysis.

Doing so will enable you to avoid irrelevant keywords and save you significant amounts of money in prevented wasted ad spend.


Target people based on their physical location. Check your dental software and run a quick analysis to find out where the majority of your active patients live.

If you have an active patient base of more than 5,000 people you should get a good idea of where the majority of your dental patients come from.


Target people based on their language. If you want to market to internationals or expats the language option should be part of your Google Ads strategy.

Let’s say that your dental office includes French and Spanish speaking staff. You could target French speaking people or Spanish speaking people with customized ads in order to win their business.

Chances are you will be the only dental practice marketing in multiple languages to potential expats in your local area.


Target people based on gender and / or age. By targeting users based on their gender and / or age you can pinpoint your target audiences with great precision.


Target male or female users separately.


Target people based on their age groups 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+

Note that some people will fall in the unknown category, as Google does not have data on 100% of its users. Typically, Google pulls the demographic information from people’s accounts once they log onto the Gmail.


Target people based on the devices that they are using to search for your dental practice. You can target the different categories PC, Mobile and Tablets.

By running customized campaigns on the mobile devices you can create better performance and outperform competitors who are only using one campaign to target all devices.

Now that you are armed with powerful knowledge on how to select the right network to target potential patients in your Google Ads account, I hope that you will go ahead and start implementing a professional structure into your very own Google Ads account.

If you still fill uneasy about the task of managing your own Google Ads account and you don’t want to waste the majority of your advertising spend on irrelevant clicks, I am here to help. Feel free to reach out via e-mail or the contact form and I will be happy to discuss your questions with you.

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