Black Hat and ADA Non-Compliance in Dental Marketing

Do you really know what’s on your dental website? Recently, MDPM found seriously problematic, black-hat marketing tactics on some dental websites. Dentists need to know, some SEO tactics can get your domain blacklisted from Google and you’ll be up to your neck in hot water with the ADA – we’re talking suspended license. Ultimately, you are responsible for your dental practice’s marketing, and blind trust  of your marketing company could cause you major problems.

How Can My Website Get My Dental License Suspended?

The American Dental Association has guidelines for ethics, and the ADA’s marketing/advertising regulations are the basis of many state dental boards’ guidelines. The ADA offers a guide to help dentists understand advertising regulations.

The ADA’s marketing guidelines specifically state:

“…statements to be avoided are those that would: contain a material, objective representation, whether express or implied, that the advertised services are superior in quality to those of other dentists, if that representation is not subject to reasonable substantiation.”


For dentists who do not comply with regulations, state dental boards can  impose fines and suspension of licenses.

Also, most states have regulations against making comparisons of one dentist to another.

That said, do you know if your website is in violation? Perhaps you and your dental marketing firm should review the guidelines and your website as you make marketing goals for the coming year.

What is Black Hat SEO and Blacklisting?

As in the old west, in search engine optimization, a black hat means the bad guy. A white hat means the good guy. Black hat marketing defines a set of SEO tactics that Google and other search engines consider bad, unethical, and misleading. If caught by Google, a URL using black hat SEO tactics can be blacklisted, which involves being banned until compliance is re-established and proven. JC Penney faced this discipline a few years ago, and the mega-company had to grow a new Internet presence from the ground up, with a new domain.

Do dentists use black hat tactics? Absolutely. Some, unfortunately, are not aware that their SEO is backhanded, though. One website company in particular places misleading claims, comparisons, and statements of superiority at the bottom of their client dentists’ homepages. The color of this venomous text is only slightly different from the background, so it’s appearance and location make it visible, primarily, to search engine spiders, not humans. Color-on-color text is considered black hat.

Black Hat SEO Plus ADA Advertising Regulations Non-Compliance

The even worse issue is, dentists whose SEO marketing companies are using black hat and neglecting advertising guidelines can literally be the reason a dentist’s license is suspended. Here are some examples, pulled from live websites today, with the doctors’ names and website links omitted. At MDPM, we do not want to get dentists in hot water, we want to keep them ethical in their marketing. Here are some examples of what to avoid:

“Dr. [NAME OMITTED] is a Naperville dentist, who isn’t particularly focused on affordable dentistry, but more on quality at any price. Dr. [NAME OMITTED] does beautiful Chicago porcelain veneers. They are affordable only if you have a lot of money. Dr. [NAME OMITTED] is a Tulsa cosmetic dentist who does his own porcelain laboratory work. Don’t expect it to be cheap.”

“As another comparison, check [WEBSITE HERE] the website of Dr. [NAME OMITTED], who is an excellent general dentist without the sophisticated technology and implants and cosmetic services of these other practices.”

“Dr. [NAME OMITTED] is a Cleveland implant dentist who tries to be extra gentle with his patients. There is not that strong reputation, though. Also, Indianapolis dentist [NAME OMITTED] is similar. A good dentist, but no outstanding reputation.”  

“Dr. [NAME OMITTED] is a dentist in Boston who has a strong regional reputation. While his quality is excellent, you won’t find as much artistry, we don’t believe.”

Who Can Dentists Trust?

Trust is earned, so to develop trust, you’ll have to trust your own judgment at first. In this article, we discuss how to choose a good dental website company. Those points can help you select a reputable marketing firm. From there, when you review a website company’s portfolio, thoroughly evaluate their SEO. Scroll to the bottom of the webpages to identify any hidden statements that might get you in hot water with your state dental board and Google.

If you’d like an evaluation of your website, marketing plan, and social networking strategy, call MDPM today at 972-781-8861. Our clients trust us, per their testimonials. We offer a free Internet marketing analysis, so give us a call now!