Most medical practices rely on word-of-mouth referrals to acquire new patients and that is a feat to be proud of as a business owner. However, as the digital age progresses, more and more patients are relying on digitally available information to find their providers.
If you are alive today and you run your own private practice you’ve already heard of the term SEO and have a pretty good idea of what it means. But, it’s surprising to me how many private practices aren’t yet leveraging Local SEO to acquire new patients. It’s really not an enigma, it’s simply a checklist you or your marketing agency needs to follow and nurture to scale your business.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO refers to the practice of increasing the visibility of your business for searches done with geographical filters. It’s an essential subset of the overarching Search Engine Optimization strategy, especially if the majority of target audience is looking for a business like yours within a specific locale.
These searches can be done on various search engines including Google, Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, Zocdoc, Yelp, Apple Maps, etc.
For medical practices, majority, if not all, of your patients are within close proximity to your business location. Therefore, it’s imperative that you are practicing most of the strategies listed below to outshine your competitors.
Before you continue to read, let’s go over some terms I will be using throughout the article.
SERP refers to Search Engine Results Page when a user performs a search. The results are usually a combination of paid ads, businesses prioritized by reviews or geographic proximity to searcher, and finally organic results. The image on the right shows a Google Search Engine Results Page on my search for a dentist.
Local Pack Results are SERP results prioritized by ads, reviews and geographic proximity to searcher. For Google specifically, Local Pack is an area right below 3 paid-ads on the search results page, and it’s usually tied with a Google Map preview of searchers location and business address location pins. When a searcher clicks on a Local Pack result, Google presents them with a full Knowledge Panel Result of that specific business and its location on Google Map.
Organic Results are SERP results based on relevancy of searchers keywords to the local, national or global websites as per Google’s Ranking Algorithm.
Knowledge Panel is a boxed result comprised of snippets information Google has on your business through your Google My Business (GMB) listing, Google reviews, your website, etc. A searcher will usually see a knowledge panel if they search for your business name directly, or by clicking on your listing inside Local Pack results.
1. Get the basics right
Serve mobile customers as well as you do for desktop
Medical practices that haven’t made the leap to serving mobile users (prospective patients) will be left behind. In 2015, Google officially declared that more searches happen on Mobile than Desktops.
…more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan. – source
Yet, most smaller medical practices haven’t gotten around to serving an optimal experience for mobile users. Even if you have, I recommend you use the Google Mobile Friendly Test to make sure your website is mobile friendly.
Outside of the traditional on-page SEO practices like Keyword in H1’s, title tag, and URLs, qualitative meta descriptions, there’s quite a bit more to On-page SEO including:
- Location pages with relevant Schema markup, NAP information (see below), and relative URLs (yourpractice.com/location-1, yourpractice.com/location-2).
- Optimizing your Homepage around relevant keywords and NAP information of your primary location.
We’ll go into more details on basic On-page SEO in another post in the future.
2. Make your profile on Google My Business, Bing Places, and Apple Maps Connect
Since Google clearly leads the pack with 88.6% of search engine market share in United States, claiming and optimizing your Google My Business listing is arguably the most important and absolutely the easiest part of local SEO. And, for additional validation it’s key to claim your business on Bing Places and Apple Maps listings too.
Your Google My Business listing is responsible for making your business appear in Google Knowledge Panel and Google Maps searches. But, just like search results, whether or not all of the information will appear in the Knowledge Panel depends on factors of relevance, distance, and prominence. So, it’s key that you not only make your profile but also optimize it with all relevant information about your business, your practice areas, key differentiators and anything else you can think of that Google allows you to add.
Setup your local business listing
The basics of setting up your listings are easy to follow, below are the links for each of the primary search engines you should make your listing:
Optimize your listing
Outside of simply setting it up with your business name, phone, address, there is additional information you can add to enhance your listing for Google Knowledge Panel, including the following:
- Setting your business hours: Google knows you don’t work 24×7, having your business hours set in your listing adds value to the searcher, so Google considers it valuable for it’s search results as well.
- Setting your special hours: Google reminds searchers about special hours on major US holidays, and setting yours hours for those special days will avoid Google from displaying a warning on your listing.
- Adding more categories: You can have 1 primary category, and up to 9 other categories. Make sure your primary category is the most reflective of your practice.
- Uploading some photos: Ideally, the photos you add should have been taken at your clinic and should have location metadata attached for most photos you upload.
- Add relevant attributes: Attributes allow you to add specifics about your business or location to your listing including accessibility, amenities, etc. For medical professionals specifically Google also allows you to edit your gender for more specificity in attributes.
For the full list of types of edits you can make to your Google Business listing, visit Google’s support article.
Bonus Tip: An additional Local SEO bonus if you can utilize Google Posts, a micro‐blogging platform within Google My Business. All Google Posts are visible in the Knowledge Panel and on your listing.
3. Local Citations (NAP)
NAP, in the context of Local SEO, stands for Business Name, Address, and Phone Number. Your NAP citation information should be exactly the same on your website and your Google My Business Listing, but it doesn’t stop there. Google takes into account all the other websites where your business is listed, this includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, ZocDoc, Doximity, and any other online directory where your practice is listed.
According to the Moz survey, your citation signals are among the top factors for Local Organic Ranking Factors.
The best way to confirm if your NAP citations are all up to date and correct is to first manually check all of the obvious listings for your practice: your practice website, Facebook business page, Yelp, Twitter, Instagram, ZocDoc, Doximity etc.
And, then use Moz Local tool to search for your business and find your listings across other online directories. Chances are you will find several inconsistencies that you have to claim access to and fix.
And, finally, it’s also important to do another round of manual audit using advanced search operators. You can use some of the following recipes for quickly searching your business listings.
- “[Business Name]” + “[Partial Old/Current Address]”
- “[Business Name]” + “[Old/Current Phone Number]”
- “[Partial Old/Current Address]” + “[Old/Current Phone Number]”
4. Link Building (for Local Sites)
According to the Moz survey results, Link signals are the are the most important ranking factor for Local Pack results and the second most important for Local Organic results. Some of the NAP citations listed earlier are a great inbound links for your website but there’s more to it.
And, it’s out of scope of this article to list out in detail all of the link building techniques you can use but, in short, it requires either guest writing quality content outside of your own website and linking back to yours OR requesting other authors to relate their quality content to yours by linking back to it on your website.
5. Don’t neglect review management
A comprehensive review management strategy involves acquiring, monitoring, and responding to reviews, as well as fighting spam and analyzing people’s sentiment toward your brand. With a significant impact on rankings and an obvious impact on conversions, it’s clear that more companies need to pay more attention to reviews. Almost without exception, all local businesses should have review management at the center of their customer service programs. – State of Local SEO: Industry Report 2019
Just like a successful medical practice, Local SEO requires nurture, follow-ups and listening to your audience (patients). Simply ignoring the bad reviews isn’t wise, and not rewarding good ones isn’t nice.
Staying on top of reviews across the internet universe isn’t all that hard if you have the systems set up correctly to send you email notifications for each review posted. Google, Yelp, Facebook, ZocDoc all have robust reviews features within their Business Listings platforms and Bing leverages Facebook and Yelp reviews as well.
And, finally, a couple additional tips for you to rock your Medical Practice Local SEO:
- Organic and Local Rankings are related: Please don’t assume that if you don’t need a website if you only care about Local SEO, you still do because both Organic and Local SEO results are related. A high visibility in Local Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) result in improvements to organic placement too, why wouldn’t it. Google already considers you relevant locally, and most searches done within the geographic proximity (or not) of you are going to lead to a higher organic placement too.
- Focus on Revenue and Conversions over Rankings or Traffic: Prioritize the destination and not the journey. Follow a process and track it for the impact it makes on your business. Especially if you’re starting out new, don’t go down the rabbit hole of ranking and traffic metrics right away. If your medical practice is attracting prospective patients through Organic or Local SEO, you should then focus on converting prospective patients to active patients and delivering quality care that they never have to go searching for another provider for as long as they continue to live within geographic proximity to your practice.
Questions, Concerns, Complains? Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, if you need help with your Local SEO for your medical practice, we include it all within our plans catered specifically for Healthcare Clinics, contact us at akosweb.com/contact/