This is a very common question I receive when talking with dentists. Presumably because Google Ads are one of the most common marketing tactics employed by marketing agencies and providers.

This is because they are relatively easy to execute (for the person or company running the campaign), and equally, require no additional effort on behalf of the dentist or the office. Marketing agencies and providers also have a guaranteed payback to run these campaigns on your behalf (there are two separate charges – one for the ad spend and another charge for managing your campaign). So, when you factor all of this together, it’s no wonder that Google Ads is pushed heavily within the dental marketing industry.

But, the big question still remains…..Do Google Ads really get results?

There are 3 important elements to consider in answering this question. Let’s walk through them one by one.

#1 – Reporting

Simply put, the reporting that marketing agencies generally provide their clients is at best incomplete or unintentionally mis-leading. And at worst, can be downright deceitful. A typical report will show a number of impressions, clicks and leads. And these numbers usually look pretty sizable. You see the number of leads and think….wow, that’s great!

Here’s the two major problems when the reporting ends there. First, you don’t know the quality of those leads. And, second, a lead is not the same thing as a new patient.

Let me give some real-world examples to illustrate.

An office in New Jersey, where I recently completed an analysis of their digital advertising campaigns, showed that nearly 80% of their Google Ad ‘leads’ were irrelevant. Only 20% of the leads they received were even within consideration of even being eligible to be a new patient.

An office in California was spending $2,500 per month on a digital ad campaign and being told by their agency that it was working great. I dug into the details and found that for $2,500 they were getting on average only 3-5 true leads. And at best only 1 new patient per month.

Another office, located in Ontario, was spending $8,000 per month across 5 separate ad campaigns, and being shown via reporting that they were getting 150 leads per month for that spend. And, yes, while that was in fact true….of those 150 leads, I found that only 13 of them scheduled appointments, and only 10 actually showed up for their appointment. 150 leads is not the same thing as only 10 new patients.

These are only three examples. I could go on and on. And I’m sure many of you reading this can painfully identify and share similar stories. Simply put, the reporting you receive from your marketing agency does not tell the entire story.

#2 – Return on Investment

Now that we know agency reporting is most often not telling the entire story, the conversation shifts to how to get an accurate picture of how your Google Ads are really performing. There’s good news here. It can be done! But it does require some work. You’re going to need to be able to identify where each of your new patients came from (by asking them). The ones who cite ‘Google’, or ‘online search’, or ‘website’, or something of that nature, are candidates to have come through your Google Ads (note that your patients aren’t likely going to know if they found you via a paid digital ad versus organic search).

From here, you can then do a match up between those new patients based on name, phone number and contact date, and compare that against a lead tracking report from your agency to see which of those new patients were actual leads generated via their Google Ads campaign. Yes, your agency should have this level of reporting. And if they don’t, that really starts to raise another set of concerns.

After you match those two reports up, then you can find the total production (or profit margin if you have it) resulting from those new patients seen, divide that by your total spend on the ad campaign, and you have your return on investment. And that’s the relevant number you need to be looking at to understand if your Google Ads are getting results!

Note that there are automated solutions available to do the above analysis for you. For a deeper discussion on that, feel free to contact me.

#3 – Lead Conversion

Now that we’ve covered how to understand if you’re getting real results from your Google Ads, let’s turn the discussion to how to improve upon those results.

I mentioned earlier that leads are not the same as new patients. That statement splits two ways. Yes, it’s your marketing agency’s job to deliver QUALITY leads. But, it’s also your team’s job to CONVERT those quality leads into actual new patients.

Offices where I’ve seen Google Ads actually work well (and it is indeed the minority) have lock-tight lead conversion processes in place. That includes ensuring that all incoming phone calls are answered (don’t run ads when your team is not there to answer the phones). That the team is fully trained on how to handle the unique aspects of Google Ad leads (yes, they’re quite different… and much more difficult… than other types of patient inquiry calls). And that you have a strong confirmation and no-show avoidance process in place (Google Ad new patients cancel and no-show at a much higher rate than other new patient types).


As a marketing consultant, I see these themes time and time again across office after office. Google Ads remain an incredibly frustrating proposition for most dentists because of the three issues I’ve laid out above. But the good news is that it doesn’t need to continue to be a source of frustration for you and your practice. Your Google Ads most likely aren’t getting results right now, but with the right analysis and processes in place, you can absolutely change that!

About Kent Sears

About Kent Sears

Kent provides over 15 years experience in consulting and marketing strategy. His work has spanned the globe, in both public and private sector, with leading companies such as Microsoft and T-Mobile. He brings his corporate experience to help private practice dentists realize their full business potential through more effective marketing strategies to stay competitive in the rapidly changing world of marketing and healthcare.