During the presentations and webinars PatientPop offers, we always ask providers what other insights we can share to help with practice growth and medical marketing. One particular recording always gets requests: our step-by-step guide to setting up and optimizing a Google My Business listing. (You can watch it here, keep reading, or jump right down to our walkthrough.)
Before we get into how to optimize your Google business presence, it’s good to know why you should.
Healthcare practices and discovery search
According to marketing insights from BrightLocal, 84 percent of online searches for a business are “discovery” searches. That means the person searching doesn’t include a name or brand in their inquiry — instead, they search for a type of service.
In healthcare, a patient will often use discovery search terms to find a specialty or specialist:
- “best pediatrician near me”
- “OB-GYN 90401”
- “podiatry chicago”
Or, they will search for a particular service in their area:
- “flu vaccine near me now”
- “invisalign 10016”
- “pap smear nashville”
Each local discovery search for your specialty represents a prospective patient. To attract patients in your area, your practice needs an online presence that is clear, descriptive, and highly visible for patients seeking the care you offer. The job of Google and other search engines is to connect a person conducting a search with the company or companies that best meet their inquiry and needs.
With that in mind, the details you provide online about your practice are critical: A correct office address and phone number are as important as a description of your care services.
Google and other business listings are essential for getting found online
Without a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, it’s impossible to rank well in search results and get found online by interested patients. An SEO strategy is about more than just adding the right words and phrases on your website; it must also include an optimization of the dozens of web profiles for your practice.
Any business or healthcare listings website (like Facebook, Yelp, WebMD) — even some you may not be aware of — can include a profile of your practice and providers. Finding, claiming, and refining your information on each of those sites helps patients find and connect with your practice.
Just as important, by doing this you’re also sharing consistent, accurate information with search engines, telling them your practice details are correct and ready to surface for inquiring patients.
If your listing profiles include incorrect information, you’re practically pushing away new patients. If a patient calls an outdated phone number, for instance, they’ll get no response and you’ve lost them for good.
If Google finds inconsistent or conflicting information about your practice, it won’t assume which is correct. It simply won’t surface anything.
Of all the websites that include business listings, the most visible and most important to your practice is Google.
The dominance of Google
To get yourself, your practice, and your providers into the local search results mix, you have to focus on Google. Why? Because they’re the most dominant search force, by far.
Google owns roughly 88 percent of the search engine market in the U.S., and has held at least 84 percent of search, every month, dating back to March of 2016.
The power of Google is even greater on mobile devices, covering 93 percent of the search market share. Their volume is unparalleled: In the month of April 2020, Google processed more than 12.7 billion search queries.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a set of tools that Google provides to help local businesses share who they are. This benefits the businesses, of course, but it also helps Google serve the right results to the right people, in the right geographic location.
The more details Google has about your practice, the better chance they’ll match you with patients a) searching in your area, b) looking for your type of services, and c) asking specific healthcare questions for which you provide answers.
Just like other business and healthcare listings sites, Google will share information about your practice even if you haven’t provided or confirmed it — that’s probable if a referred patient searches your practice by name. To control what’s displayed, you have to claim your Google business listing as yours.
Three reasons to claim your Google business listing
- Control your own space and online presence
- Prevent incorrect information from getting out there
- Improve likelihood of showing up in search results
Setting up a Google business listing for healthcare practices
If you’re setting up a Google business listing, simply follow these steps and you’re on your way.
Note: If you have claimed your listing, and want to know more about optimizing your Google presence, check out our blog post from January 2020 or skip to the next section. As long as you’re logged into Google, you can edit and update your Google My Business profile.
Step 1: Go to google.com/business. Choose “Manage now” to get started.
Step 2: Remember these four guidelines as you go along:
- Be consistent.
- Get detailed.
- Say who you are, what you do, and why your practice is different.
- Convey the experience of your practice online.
Step 3: The next screen is “Find and manage your business”. Enter your practice name here. Your practice name should be the same one used in phone listings and elsewhere across the web. Keep this consistent everywhere.
Step 4: Next is “Choose the category that fits your business best,” where you tell Google your primary business category. Begin by typing your specialty, which will produce a dropdown of options to choose from. The more specific your choice, the better. Don’t worry: Google knows that an orthopedic surgeon is also a surgeon and a doctor.
Step 5: On the “Add your services” screen, select the services that you provide at your practice, especially those unique to your market. It’s typical to enter about five to seven services; however, if you choose to market just one or two services to align with your practice strategy, that’s fine, too.
Keep in mind this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list of everything you offer. Focus on services or items you most want patients to find and be interested in. If you have a secondary revenue stream — you’re a podiatrist with a medspa, or a family doctor who sells supplements — include those in your services.
Step 6: Google asks if you have a location people can visit. Here’s where you add your address. As Google explains, this will show up on Google Maps when customers are looking for your business.
Step 7: The next screen asks “Do you also serve customers outside this location?” If you’re a mobile physician or provider who makes house calls, you may want to choose “Yes” as your answer.
Step 8: Google then asks for contact details. Although Google says this information is optional, you absolutely should think of it as mandatory, to maximize every possible connection point for patients to reach you. Enter a phone number and share your URL.
You’re just about done with the basics! Before moving on to some advanced optimizations, you’ll need to verify the business you just listed as yours.
There are a few ways this may occur. If you’re a brand-new practice with a new phone number, that verification will probably come from Google by way of postcard. If you’ve never verified your business but have an existing listing you’re now trying to claim, you may get an option to verify by phone.
If you’ve had your own practice website for a while, and have verified that site via the Google Search Console, you may not need to provide additional verification. As a partner with Google, PatientPop has a mechanism to make this a little more seamless and easier for practices.
Optimizing your Google business profile
After you have a verified Google business profile, you’re ready to optimize its use and power. (Remember to log in to Google using the account with which you claimed your business listing.)
As mentioned above, PatientPop has a blog post with guidance for some advanced Google My Business features, and we recommend you take advantage of all of them. Here’s a summary of those features:
- Add a photo album to your profile. Include images of your providers and staff, as well as your office interior and exterior. Local businesses have a median of 11 photos in their albums, according to BrightLocal.
- Add an “appointments” link that takes patients directly to your website’s online scheduling functionality. This gives patients an opportunity to book an appointment right from the same place they found you.
- Use the “questions & answers” feature by providing both the inquiry and the reply. Ask and answer a couple questions you’re most likely to hear from patients.
- Encourage feedback from patients as a way to increase your chances of getting reviews added to your listing. Our 2020 survey research shows that patients are 50.5 percent more likely to post an online review when asked for feedback. Google will respond to a practice that people engage with more often, and reviews are a key indicator of that engagement.
- Add Google Posts as promotional and informational mini-billboards, and have each one click through to your website.
Whether patients are seeking care via a discovery search or entering your name into a search query, you have to establish and maintain an excellent first impression on Google. It’s a critical component of any medical marketing strategy today.
By starting with the basics — claiming your Google business profile and filling out consistent details — and then adding flavor and specificity, you’ll position your practice to look great and inspire action on the most-visited website in the world.