Is SDC Helping or Hurting Our Bottom Lines? Revisiting Google Trends

Last year, I introduced you to “Google Trends”-an online place where we can check the general interest of a topic based upon Google searches. For instance, if you look at a Google Trend search of “Krieger Orthodontics” you can see in the image below, how many times people have searched for my practice. The numbers for a given moment in time are relative to the time when it may have been the highest, designated as “100”.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.26.23 AM
So, if you look at the graph, you’ll see how my practice has performed for Google searches over the last 12 months.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.26.37 AM
You can see in the graph above that my practice hit it’s highest number of daily searches back in middle of this past August, which makes sense, because it was the last week before kids went back to school, and generally the busiest time of year for me. Google trends doesn’t lie. It just tells you how many searches have been done for a specific search term, which lets you know how that topic is, well, trending.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s take a look at Smile Direct Club and see how it’s “taking over the orthodontic industry”. Here’s a graph of SDC’s interest on Google since 1/1/16, right before it really became known.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.14.12 AM
It’s been on the rise, and while not at its highest interest over the last 3 years, it certainly has been trending upward.
If you’d like to see where SDC is biggest, this graph shows a breakdown of “Smile Direct Club” searches by state. Keep in mind that the “100” for Tennessee (where SDC is based) is the reference against which all others are compared. So, searches in Georgia are 61% of the amount of searches in Tennessee. Most states are around 50% of Tennessee’s total number of searches, with Oregon being the lowest at 31%.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 9.17.43 AM
But will SDC take over the clear aligner market? Well, let’s compare interest in SDC to interest in Invisalign over the same almost 3 year period.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.43.08 AM
One can see that back in mid 2016, as SDC marketing grew, the searches for Invisalign decreased sharply. That would indicate that at that time, SDC was actually eating into the aligner market held by Invisalign. But, since the beginning of 2017, while they both have seen their ups and downs, and while SDC has grown more, they have more or less both grown at a steady pace. This would indicate that while people search for SDC they are also searching for the closest competitor, Invisalign. Or, vice versa. But, are they interested in what we, as orthodontists provide, or do they think that Invisalign might be a “do it yourself” option as well? Let’s see how often “orthodontists” are searched relative to “Invisalign” and “Smile Direct Club”.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.48.09 AM
The graph shows that searches for “Orthodontist” are in almost direct proportion to those for “Invisalign” which would indicate that when people are looking for Invisalign, they’re generally looking for an orthodontist as well. Or, moreover, when people look for an orthodontist, they are wondering if they provide Invisalign. It’s also worth noting that both “Invisalign” and “Orthodontist” have outpaced “Smile Direct Club” at the same rate. If you look at the numbers below, you can see where they stand.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.48.19 AM
Those numbers mean that compared to the highest search of all 3 categories-“Orthodontist” back around the end of this summer-and right now “Smile Direct Club” is at 34% of that number, “Invisalign” is at 65% of that number and “Orthodontist” is at 82% of that number, which makes sense considering that this isn’t the busiest time of year. But, what’s really interesting is that we tend to think that people are searching for aligners a great percentage of the time and that might be true until you look at how all of the aforementioned data stacks up against “Braces”.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 8.56.21 AM
This past summer, when Google searches for orthodontic treatment tend to peak, Invisalign searches were only 35% of the highest “Braces” search with “Smile Direct Club” at only 14%. Think about that. People are still searching for “Braces” FAR more than either “Invisalign” or “Smile Direct Club”. I can’t tell you the “why” but it’s clear that when people look for straight teeth, they look for braces more. Could you make the argument that “Braces” also includes construction braces, orthopedic braces, “braces” as a term for suspenders? Perhaps, but probably not. Why would those search terms peak at the same summer time every year?
What’s really interesting is how unimportant we really are in the big picture of search terms. We tend to think that everyone wants some form of orthodontic treatment, but in the bigger scheme of health care, we’re pretty darn tiny. For instance, compare us to “acne” searches on google and see what happens.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 9.02.22 AM
It’s clear that compared to clear skin, we’re not really too important. I guess I should have considered dermatology, right?
But how small is the body of searches for straight teeth in the grand scheme of things? Well, I could look up some of the biggest search terms of the web and see (“Facebook”,”Youtube” & “Amazon” are the top 3 with a combined 525,000,000 searches in just September 2018) , but let’s choose #82 on the list, “Dominos” which had 7,360,000 searches just in September 2018 alone.
Screen Shot 2018-10-28 at 9.08.47 AM
You can see how small we are. Even the largest search for straight teeth, “Orthodontist” was at roughly 1/8 the searches of the all-time highest search number for the quick delivery pizza.
So, what do all of these numbers mean? I believe it means a few things. First, the sky isn’t falling. As searches for SDC increase, so do searches for what we offer. There are many who believe that the more SDC advertises, the more people will search all options, not just SDC. The concept of a “rising tide raises all ships” is true, at least so far. I am in no way advocating that SDC is a good thing or that I like their presence in the market, but there’s no disputing the fact that searches for “Invisalign” and “Orthodontist” are trending upward and that we aren’t becoming dinosaurs any time soon. Perhaps the money spent by SDC on ads is generating interest for straight teeth in people who never would have considered it before. In either case, it’s up to us to continue our own marketing to grow our practices. The days of “I do great orthodontics, so people will simply flock to my door” are long gone.
My belief is that the trends show us that you should do your best work, invest in marketing and advertising and enjoy what looks to be a bright future for our profession.
All the best,
signature 2
Want to be a part of a geographically exclusive Facebook group like none other? With monthly webinars and CE courses with top speakers in the industry, there are only two prerequisites: You’re an orthodontist (yes, you can be an associate) and you want to contribute to a group of like-minded peers who have come together to share our practice ideas and solve our common business, leadership and management issues. Email me at to learn more and to see if you’re region is available.ORTHO22final spot