Once commonplace, phone books are no longer a go-to resource to find local businesses. Instead, people turn to online directories, which can be thought of as the digital version of the Yellow Pages. Listings in online directories consist of information like business hours, location, contact information, industry, and website URL. They help prospective customers (or patients, in the case of healthcare providers) find a business that is the best fit for their needs.
There are dozens of online local business directories, as well as online directories specific to healthcare providers. You might not have heard of many of them, but don’t think that means your practice is not listed.
In this blog, we discuss how to get new patients with accurate online directory listings, and we also share the errors we see most often when helping healthcare providers claim and update their listings.
The importance of consistent information for online reputation management
Before we share common errors, let’s first discuss the important role online listings play in attracting new patients. It is important to have consistent information across the web for two main reasons:
Search engines consider online directories highly reputable
First, online listings can affect your search engine rankings. The more accurate online listings you have, the higher the likelihood you will be found and surfaced by search engines.
According to Pew Research Center, 80 percent of internet users are specifically looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional. This means search engines rankings can be a crucial step in getting new patients to come to your practice.
Patients rely on online directories for accurate information
Second, inaccurate or incomplete online listings confuse and frustrate prospective patients.
Imagine you’re looking for a new internist, for example, and you see one online listing that states a provider’s office is located in Santa Monica, Calif., and another that states the office is in Pasadena, Calif., some 25 miles away. You might think you’d just pick up the phone and call the practice, but our research shows most people will simply eliminate the practice from consideration.
Online directory listing mistakes for healthcare providers
PatientPop has helped thousands of healthcare providers claim or update their listings on important online directories. Here, we share the most common mistakes we see.
1. Incorrect NAP (name, address, phone number)
Name, address, and phone number (or NAP) errors are the most common type we see when auditing healthcare provider listings.
Sometimes providers will have their maiden name on one listing and their married name on another. Other times, they’ll have a nickname (Josh) on one listing and their given name (Joshua) on another. Another mistake we commonly see is that a provider will use their name on one listing and their practice name on others.
Address mistakes are most common for providers who have moved their practices from one office to another, or who have started their practices after working for another practice or hospital.
When it comes to their phone number, providers should always list their main office line — the one that connects directly to a front office staff member — not their personal line or cell phone number. We’ve even seen some listings that had fax numbers as the phone number. (Just think of the unpleasant noise awaiting unsuspecting people who dial the number!)
2. Duplicate listings
Some healthcare providers will try to increase their web presence by creating multiple listings on the same business or healthcare directory. For example, they’ll add keywords related to their specialties as their name (John Smith, MD OB-GYN and John Smith, MD Body Contouring), thinking this will help them attract patients for particular services. But this actually hurts the provider’s online reputation management efforts, because inconsistent information confuses search engines.
One listing per directory is all you need. Claim and populate your listing with accurate information, and update it any time there are changes.
3. Missing biography
Search engines definitely prioritize business information (like name, address, phone number, and hours) over auxiliary information (like your approach to care), but prospective patients appreciate information that helps them become more familiar with you and your practice.
Keep your listing biography short and sweet, by including just your speciality, credentials, and awards and recognition. You should also upload a high-resolution photograph of yourself so patients can put a face to the name.
Contrary to what some healthcare providers believe, directory listings play an important role in getting found online. If you have not already done so, take the time to claim or update your listings on important directories. Keep your information consistent from one directory to another to get the most out of your efforts.