We are hearing about a lot Search Engine Optimizations these days and everything that can come into our mind is listed in the search engines. Local businesses are not exceptions anyway. No one has the time to go and search a local business, most importantly a doctor’s chamber in the area they are living. Patients want to get ready information and listing of doctor’s office, phone numbers, address and reviews about the practice and services in the search engines. So, building an effective SEO technique for businesses and well build local search optimization is very important.
What is a Local Search?
With an update on Google’s search, algorithm SEO world has got an uplift with in-depth technology and concept. With every update, SEO techniques change for searching businesses in search engines. Facts say, almost 80% of the potential customers come from searches only and majority of the users never scroll past the first page of the search engine.
To find a doctor nearby, patients will generally enter search keywords like “Doctors in Jersey City” or “physicians in New Jersey” etc. Geo-specific locations like states, regions, cities, towns etc. are entered into the search engines with the main keyword to search a doctor. Also, doctors can be searched by specialty too. This technique is called a local search. In that example local search works as a physician guide for the local people.
For the local search, Google’s new algorithm FIND <THINGS> NEAR ME has made it super easy for the novice users too. Patients do not even have to enter the location or area they live in. Google search engine along with google maps and location services, shows all the doctors listed nearby for the keyword “find doctors near me”. These long tail keywords are used by search engines to perform a very specific search.
Google also shows some Pay Per click ads sometimes on the top of the searches which are paid and featured ads. These ads can be created through paid campaigns. These PPC ads help gaining popularity of your medical practice if there is a high enough click through rate.
It lists name, address, phone numbers, websites (if any) and even directions through google maps. Specific locations can also be used if location service is in switched on mode. Next, it shows the organic search results, like different applications or websites that list doctors or manage doctor consultations and appointments.
Why is Local SEO necessary for medical practitioners?
The medical practice business has become online a decade ago all over the world along with the change in lifestyle of the new generation. Doctors need to really depend upon and care about the local searches and search engine listings if they want to get ahead with their business.
Here are some prominent reasons for doctors to adopt the local SEO as fast as possible:
- Fastest Search: Patients do not want to hop to websites one after another and search relevant doctors in case of emergencies, for example high risk disease like COPD. Local search is the key way to find what they want by typing just a few words.
- Mobile device friendly: Today almost everyone uses a smartphone and the number is ever increasing. Mobile devices like phones or tablets are just easy to carry a version of a computer these days. Any kind of small business like a coffee shop, bar, restaurant or a chamber of a medical professional, everything can be searched by location service of a mobile device at a lightning fast speed. According to a research, more than 70% smartphone users do the local search on their phone 3-4 times a week since geo-specific local searches have introduced. So, turning the patients to the clinic requires an extensive implement of local SEO.
- Search engines go local: The modern search engine techniques know the behavior and intent of the local people and culture of any geo-specific location. These search engines are smartly optimized for the benefit of the small business owners and local consumers. Small businesses like medical practices must be and should be reached to the people living nearby. From the plumber to the doctor, everything is needed to be listed on the search engines.
- Reviews and Ratings: This is the era of digital transformation and competition for any business is increasing day by day. That is why reviews and ratings are highly important to the gen next consumers. In today’s world, everyone has a voice and anyone can contribute to speaking for or against a service, thanks to the internet. Patients always want the best doctor available at the locality and that is why they read the reviews and rating mentioned for the business listed in local searches. The information is handy for them.
- Negative reviews: It sounds odd, but it is said that negative reviews are good for a business. Negative reviews show that the medical practitioner is real as no doctor can be perfect and chosen by everybody. Also, if there is a response from the doctor empathically on the negative reviews, it leaves a real positive impact on the doctor’s reputation.
Google mobile movement study says that more than 85% of the consumers who perform local searches, physically go there or call the business within 24 hours. Isn’t that number an eye-opener?
How consumers use local search to find a doctor?
People use search engines to search literally anything these days and it can be a service, business, or entertainment or else. Here are some scenarios where people intentionally or unintentionally come across the local search –
- Already known doctor’s name and doctor’s office can be searched specifically for search engines and the other options of medical professionals appear as choices on the listings.
- Keyword and/or location is always a way in search engines to encounter with the local search for consumers. Patients can find the listing of local doctors by the specific keywords and locations. Here local search is used to explore options for doctors and their offices.
- Social media, group discussions, online forums, another patient’s reviews, searching symptoms and solutions for any medical condition etc. lead people to the local listings on search engines.
There are other resources where people can search for a doctor –
- Search Engines – Traditional way to find a doctor is search engines. Keywords, geo locations like countries, state, city-specific searches are performed on search engines. Passive search results like contextual local listings, exploratory discovery etc. techniques are also performed by the local consumers to find the best medical practitioner of specific specialty in that area, like – dentists, surgeons, physicians, pediatricians, specialists for rare genetic disorders like alpha deficiency etc.
- Maps – Maps application from Google, Bing, Mapquest etc. are increasingly becoming popular to find and search doctors directly without going to the search engines. It shows local listings as well as their office location visually. Also, it shows all the information, ratings, reviews and website of the doctor if the office is selected on the map. It can give the shortest route from the current location of the patient to the doctor’s office through navigation and GPS services.
- Social Media – Social media is a hub of information these days and through social media marketing, review and ratings prospective customer base can be made.
- Online Directories – Yellow Pages and another listing of online directories are still in use. If doctor’s profile, name, number address are listed there, it shows the authenticity of the medical business and attracts patients towards the clinic.
- Local Apps- There are literally many applications available to find a doctor geo location wise. Local applications are great and quick resource to find a doctor locally. It helps to find doctors, name number, address, timings, and procedure to take an appointment, best time to visit, past success histories, patient reviews and appointment as well as payment management. The end to end solution for searching a local medical professional for different specialties.
Here are some of the popular apps that help to find doctors in any specific area worldwide:
Doctor on Demand
It is a free app to download and subscribe, find a doctor and make an appointment. Through this app, it is even possible to get a video call session personally with the doctor for some amount of money.
ZocDoc is a very popular app to find a local doctor, read reviews and ratings and fic an appointment. It is also a free app.
Booking a doctor, check live status of the waiting queue, alerts about queue’s progress and find a good doctor without a wait is easy with Sminq app.
Health Grades is a free app that helps to find a best suitable doctor for the complete family, healthcare package, pre-booking appointments with doctors easily. It is a free app.
RateMDs is a social media app to get ratings, reviews, online discussion forums about the local doctors, another patient’s stories, experiences, and even getting the number address and name of the doctors for any specialty available in that locality.
A very popular website for an online local listing of doctors, managing appointments and payments with the doctors and clinics, discussion forums and reviews for the doctors and even for the patients. It is a free app.
The quick finding of local doctors, queue notifications, pre-booking, sharing experience, pre-sharing of medical history with doctors to save time, are the key features of this app and the list is never-ending.
How can the Local search help in growing a doctor’s business?
A doctor’s business should be listed and visible locally on the internet, period. Small businesses like local doctor’s office can’t afford to fight for a rank in organic searches. Hence they have to depend on the local listings.
- High target rate: target rate of the local searches is high for especially searching services like medical service. So, the conversion rate is also very high because of the nature of local listings. Using local search engine optimization techniques, the doctor can grow their business and reach out to the customers easily whenever they need a doctor. Someone wants to visit a doctor, they’ll search locally and find. Logic is that simple.
- Chances to get exposure increases: Local searches provide choice to people the best to go with. If someone enters keywords like “best doctors nearby”, it will list out doctors according to ratings and reviews. The ranking factors of a doctor get affected by the category the business is listed, ratings and the reviews from previous searches. Keep an eye on the competitor’s information, services provided and listing the business in the correct category helps attract a good number of potential customers.
- Reliability on user searches: Internet is the only thing that is used by users 24*7 and users are habituated to be online all the time. Research says that 50% of the users who use smartphones, pick up their phones as the very first thing in the morning after they wake up. Internet search is the pandora’s box for everyone. Search engines get hit more than 6 billion times a day and out of which 4billion is alone google gets.
- Help Doctors get ROI: Unlike the traditional marketing system like newspaper ads, flyers, banners etc., local searches target only those who search for the doctor. It is the most cost-effective SEO strategy for a local medical professional.
- Local Listing is ‘Free’: Listing in local directories are free and it ensures your business to be visible on the top. Listing is considered as citations by search engines and citation of a business is one of the most important factors to get ranking in the search engine’s ranking algorithms. Building a website and make it SEO optimized to become high on rankings in search engines need time and money. The local listing provides ranking for only citations even if the doctor’s website is not SEO optimized to rank high in organic searches.
Doing Local SEO for Doctor’s – Step by Step Guide
So far we have learned about the local searches, how it works and the benefit of using the local searches in the medical business. Now we’ll learn about how to optimize and list your business in local searches to get visible on the front page!
Before jumping into the guide here is the list of online directories doctors need to list their business in –
- Better Business Bureau
- Merchant Circle
- Yahoo Local Search
- City search
- Ask Me
Let us now start the local search engine optimization strategy for doctors:
Step 1: NAP Says It All
Taking NAP seriously is highly important for the health of doctors and business! Jokes apart, NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone Number. These three factors are the most important factors to become highly visible on the local searches listings and get prospective patients turned to your clinic only.
Imagine if you are up for a doctor consultation and looking for a doctor, what would you look for in the information first that is displayed by the search engine? Name of the doctor it is right? The next part is like – okay, this is the doctor. How can we contact him? Here comes the address of the doctor’s office and the phone number. Only a valid phone number still can make all the difference. So, listing information should be updated all the time if you are really serious about your medical business.
Research shows that most of the businesses do not update their NAP information and the result is a potential business loss. How can you find a doctor or go for doctor consultation who do not have a phone number or correct address in the first place? So, to build an online reputation, it is highly important for doctors and any other small businesses to update their NAP regularly to rank high in business listings.
We can clearly see major reasons that a consumer will not consider a business are, majorly inconsistent or missing information. Now let us see how to make your NAP consistent and in-place to get a good customer base locally.
Consistency is the key!
NAP has a defined format to fill in and the majority of the users and search engines expect the information this way only. Or we can say they are habituated seeing it like this. NAP is generally given to the website’s footer and should be consistent on every page. Header or Footer are the places that Nap can fit in on your website and not within the content or anywhere in the middle of the pages. Not everyone will look into the content of your website and they’ll just look for the NAP information.
Correct NAP format
There are good NAPs and bad NAPs and the correct NAP information is the perfect example of a good NAP. From the name, we can depict the format – Name Address and Phone Number. Some other terms are there like NAPU – name, Address, Phone Number, and URL or NAPW – Name, Address, Phone Number, and Website.
Here is an example of good and bad NAP that can affect the medical business of a doctor-
The reasons behind listing a wrong citation can be many like the phone number is updated, doctor’s office has been shifted elsewhere etc. Whatever may be the reason, NAP should be updated time to time to perfection and consistency.
Personalized Domain over Generic One
Among the basic information, you can also add an email address for a value addition. But there is something about the email address. Personalized domain has a good impact on emails rather than having generic email service providers like google or yahoo. Google’s My Business listing adds a credential to your listing if you own a domain and personalized domain email. Domain authority is very important for a business like a medical business.
Local Landline Numbers:
Still, people prefer landline numbers over mobile numbers as it shows some authenticity of the address as well as the business. So having a local landline number listed is preferable over the mobile numbers that can be lost or changed over time.
Correct Business category
If you are a doctor and you are listing your business in some other category like clothing or cleaning services, you’ll never get to the top of local listings. Google’s My Business Listings work on categorical search and add credentials for listing incorrect category.
The last section is for entering a category for your business and examples are provided for choosing correct category.
This part is highly recommended if you need to be consistent in providing your information correct and medical business a facelift. Reviewing work is highly important time to time for any work and this is just similar to that. Auditing should include Google’s My Business Listings, citations, social media, groups, forums etc.
Local search has a large ecosystem which is equally complex too. Managing and auditing without homework or experience can be time-consuming and relatively tough. NAP in all the platforms and listings should be consistent and a check should be performed on that part at least. Correct format, data should be looked for and smallest discrepancy should be noted and corrected.
Listing in Top Local directories
Listing in the top performing directories helps your medical business get to the top of the listing. Google and other search engine’s ignore the directories that are least performing and are of no use.
If we enter “best general physician near me”, it shows a list of top directories right after the local pack. We can see doctor’s names that are listed on those directories come forward on the screen. Majority of the searchers do not scroll past the first page. So, it important to make a list of top local directories of the area and list your medical business in there.
Updating Website’s schema markup:
Correct NAP format should be updated on the website’s schema markup like below:
Step 2: Managing the Local Listings
Enough about information to be put on the local listings. Now the question is, how to manage and create listing everywhere on the directories and social media? There are two ways to create your business listing online:
- Manually – You can create information and list your medical practice in the local directories by going to each website. It is time-consuming but this has its own benefits. The information will be entered manually and verification will be done by the business owner as well at the same time. It will improve the performance of your listing.
- Bulk Uploads – You can do bulk uploads of data into different directories with the help of data aggregators like Neustar Localeze, Yext etc. These data aggregators work faster than the manual process and help to upload bulk data to many directories at a time. You just upload your information to their database and your listings will be created in all the directories they have a tie-up with.
- Combine the two- You can mix up both the processes to optimize the creation of your web presence and manage business listings efficiently. You can go to the top directories manually and create your listings and rest you can take the help of the data aggregators to upload in bulk.
Challenges in managing lists
There are certain challenges and potential problems arise while managing the Local listings:
- Duplicate Listings: The major challenge faced while managing a listing is duplicate listing creation. But this problem is probably now resolved with Google’s new update of a local search algorithm. It can be possible if and only if there is the smallest data inconsistency anywhere. Publishers will treat both listings as different from each other and thus duplicate listing can be created in different directories. This may result in losing the confidence of a potential consumer and they may turn to a competitor.
- Inactive Listings: When a doctor moves to another location, changes his business name, phone number, location or just the clinic is being used by someone else, the information on the listing becomes invalid. This makes the listing inactive and is enough to lose the consumer interest and confidence. Cleaning up or updating any inactive listing time to time to keep them alive will help to boost trust among the consumers to turn towards your business.
Step 3: Reputation building of Medical Practice:
In medical business or any other small business, it is very important to build credibility first. Reputation building and reputation management is the key to success here. To get to the top of the search engine’s local pack, it is important to build your citations well, create and earn reviews and ratings and create a listing on Google My Business. NAP citations we have already learned. Let’s talk about Local Reviews and Google My Business as next step.
A. Local Reviews
Local reviews, both positive and negative reviews are important. Would we go to a doctor for treatment who doesn’t have a single positive review? The answer is NO for more than 90% of people who get influenced by positive reviews. In search engines like Google, Bing or Yelp, the business which has more positive reviews and higher ratings get on the top of the list, or a business which does not have ratings or reviews gets wiped out from the list.
So, how to get positive reviews? Here are some steps that will help you get positive reviews for your medical practice:
- First of all, even if you manage to get some one-time positive reviews, you have to maintain that continuously. Ratings and reviews are audited by the search engines time to time and it is a continuous process. So, to build the reputation you need to earn positive reviews and ratings continuously and organically.
- More reviews are welcomed by some local directories like Google and not by directories like Yelp. So, before starting, read their Terms and Conditions at the first place. Even if these directories do not allow to get reviews directly, they have another way out to do this.
- There is always a way on your own website to encourage the customer to write a review and feedback. Leave a place for them to share their experience, write reviews and give feedback for improvement. This helps to build confidence in the business and give them the ownership to speak, which has a great impact on the listings.
- You can take professional help of some review sites like – Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals, Wellness.com, RateMDs etc. to get press reviews for your practice.
- Words like “Give Feedbacks” or “Review Us” can be added to personal email signatures. It encourages patients to write about you.
- Write a paragraph or a blog to show customers about how to add reviews for your business on your website or review builders.
- You can add some special discounts or gift vouchers for the customers who’ll post a review about your services or treatment.
It was all about positive reviews. Now, let’s talk about negative reviews. Why are they needed? Should there be any negative review at all?
- First of all do not take negative reviews negatively. Take them as feedbacks and try to implement the fixes and changes in your business.
- Write apologies for any complaints made by customers.
- Email customers personally to let them know that you are working on it and send follow up emails if possible to let them know the resolution was taken or the progress towards it.
- Get professional help for removing fake negative reviews or spam negative review which is posted to defame your medical services. These are easily recognizable.
- Keep in mind that negative reviews are actually good for your medical profession as it lets the customers know that you are real.
B. Set Up Google My Business
Google My business is a wonderful tool to help you listing local business like your medical practice. It lists everything starting to your NAP, hours of operation, maps and boosts the visibility in searches automatically.
Listing your medical practice on GMB is a very easy process just like other Google tools. You can use separate sign in option or can use Google Single Sign-In to list your business address or for claiming your business. There is some verification process done by Google through email, phone numbers etc. and you are done. Your GMB should be optimized by added photographs of your employees, patients and services boost the visibility and customer confidence, once it is approved.
There is some certain scenario occur when you start listing on GMB:
Single Practitioner Practices
You should be creating a dedicated page on GMB for your business if you are a single practitioner in your medical practice. Create the page with unique listing like [Brand Name]: [Practitioner Name] format. If people search for the brand or your name, both will indicate the same business, thus improving visibility.
For example: if you are specialist in treating rare disease like Medical Marijuana, and you are the only medical practitioner for this specific disease, you need to create a dedicated page for your practice that will be having keyword ‘Medical Marijuana’, your brand name and other NAP information including your name. If someone searches for the keyword of the disease or your name, both will indicate your page only. This will increase popularity and attract all the local patient with the disease easily to your clinic.
Multi Practitioner Single Location
If your medical service is having doctors other than you, you should create a separate page for the business with the phone number address and services for the business. One page should be dedicated to you only mentioning everything related to you. So, if patients search by your name or your business name, they find two pages and get know about you as a doctor and the medical center with services and other doctors available too.
Multi Practitioner Multiple Location
This is a very typical case. If your business has centers in multiple locations and having multiple practitioners, you need to have list page for business only and not the doctors. The doctors tend to leave the business and new doctors get recruited too. So, people should get the listing about your business only. It is very important to follow the instructions and guidelines from Google My Business in such cases.
For Example: there can be multiple surgeons practicing in your clinic in different locations. Then they should be listed in a single centralized page which will be about your business or brand. It will list you and the other doctors too. Even if any doctor leaves in future, the services and search results by brand, services or your name will indicate that business page only.
Google my Places is an app to take all the hassles of listing your business on Google My Business. This app is very instructive, interactive and easy to use. You just have to follow the steps, provide information and list your business in Google My Business. You can add keywords, description (more than 250 words) and other information once your business location is approved by Google.
C. Create Web Presence
Creating online presence is very important even if your medical practice is a small one or a big one. To get the most from local searches, you need to create some presence of you everywhere so people can connect with you easily.
- Content marketing is a genuine way to let people know about their business. Your website should have unique and creative content to attract the customers.
- Writing a lot of blogs about the services, diseases, topics you know help a lot to build a knowledge base for your business. Your website should have a separate section dedicated to blogs only.
- Include patient case studies to get more visibility.
- Use backlinking techniques on your website to do an effective SEO.
- Join online medical forums, discussions and write answers to medical problems.
- Use social media, a very powerful tool to become visible and accepted by people easily.
- Use other things like images, infographics, audio etc. to your content along with words to make it more reachable and understandable. These contents along with creative words in your website increase the visibility in the social media as well as among the potential customers.
- If you own a website that is on WordPress, add Business Directory Plugin, from WordPress which provides a Yellow-page style business directory and helps in customer retention.
- Take a good care for a personalized website design specific to your medical practice is important too.
- Add pictures of patients, doctor office, medical center, company and doctors to show that you are real.
- Seek help of an SEO expert to optimize everything starting from website, to contents, images to get a higher rank in local listing in the major search engines.
If you are a doctor just started practicing and started your business, you may have limited resources to invest. In that case, local SEO for doctors is your savior. It works as a practice builder, manage reputation, creates online visibility and let’s know everyone about your services that help your business grow from small to big in no time. If you have little time to do all of the above steps on your own, it is advisable to take professional help of a good SEO agency. Local SEO Agency can conduct SEO campaigns for you which will help you generate revenues. You can sit back and concentrate on your practice and leave the SEO service to the SEO Company.