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Joel Headley

How Google rich snippets can improve search presence for healthcare practices

Google is moving away from the classic 10 blue links in search results to include more engaging rich results. Here's how to add them to your site.

Man searches on Google

Update: On September 16, 2019, Google introduced algorithmic updates to reviews in rich results. The change limits the pool of schema types that can potentially trigger review-rich results in search. Affected schema types include LocalBusiness and Organization (and their subtypes) in cases when the entity being reviewed controls the reviews themselves.

As noted in this article, PatientPop improved the structured data on all customer websites in November 2017, which resulted in more webpages appearing as rich results (i.e. stars represented by reviews). Due to this recent Google update, those pages will no longer appear as rich results and will instead appear as typical search results (i.e. results without stars). Some webpages of your practice website may still show rich snippets for now as Google rolls out this policy change, but expect the pages to appear without a rich snippet in the future.

Structured data markup is still important for the success of a healthcare website, as it provides context search engines need to understand the content of a webpage.

This update only affects Google; Bing continues to show rich results at this time. The update does not affect third-party publishers or sites that gather reviews about healthcare practices (Yelp, Vitals, etc.). Results for sites such as these can show up in search results with rich snippets. Google business profiles will continue to show reviews left on Google.

To learn more about this update, visit the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Today, healthcare providers must increase their visibility in Google search to get new patients. You already know that appearing first in search results helps more patients find your practice. Here, I discuss another way to grab a prospective patient’s attention: rich snippets.

What are rich snippets?

Before diving into rich snippets, let’s first review how a typical Google search result looks.

When we use search engines like Google, we’re accustomed to seeing 10 blue link results (not including ads). Each result in Google contains a page title, website URL, and snippet (a few lines of text that give us an idea of what’s on the webpage).

google rich snippets

We might also see results like the one below. This is an example of a local result.

google rich snippets

Local Google results look different in search because they are sourced from Google’s local listings. Searchers are growing more accustomed to local results because they appeared on mobile prior to making their way to the desktop.

Now, let’s move on to rich snippets.

google rich snippets

Like the results we’re accustomed to seeing, this Google result includes a page title, website URL, and snippet. It also contains a Rich Snippet, making it a rich result.

Rich snippets help search engines better understand what information is on the webpage. With rich snippets, search engines can present more relevant search results.

Rich snippets can take many forms. In the example above, the Rich Snippet is a review, represented by stars.

How do rich snippets work?

This is a bit technical for the typical healthcare provider, but you might be able to catch on if you are familiar with HTML.

Rich snippets are driven by structured data markup, which helps define information so search engines can better understand the context of a webpage. For example, structured data markup can help a search engine understand that 844-487-8399 is a phone number and not just a string of digits.

This is different from HTML tags, which only tell a browser how to display the information included in a tag. HTML tags do not give any context about what a string means, which can make it difficult for search engines to display relevant content to a user.

The first result shown above is driven by HTML markup.

  • Page title sourced from the <title> tag.
  • The URL can be sourced from the <link rel="canonical” href="https://...” /> tag.
  • The description is picked up from the <meta name="description" content="..." /> tag.

Rich results use a different vocabulary and language. For example, PatientPop uses the schema.org vocabulary and JSON-LD language. (Other languages include Microdata and RDFa.) The specific markup required is called AggregateRating. It looks like the following:

<script type="application/ld+json">
  "@context": "http://schema.org/",
  "@type": "Physician",
  "name": "Benjamin F Pierce, MD",
  "description": "Great doctor that excels stress.",
  "aggregateRating": {
    "@type": "AggregateRating",
    "ratingValue": "9",
    "bestRating": "10",
    "worstRating": "1",
    "ratingCount": "20"

Will rich snippets attract more patients to my healthcare practice?

If you compare the Google results above, you’ll notice that rich results are more eye-catching than Google results without rich snippets. Therefore, you might think prospective patients will click links with rich snippets more often.

You’d be right. Multiple studies have shown that rich snippets can increase click-through rate (CTR) by 30 percent. PatientPop studies, which use data from Google’s Search Console, have shown even higher CTR. Additionally, we’ve seen URLs that received zero clicks prior to rich snippets get their first interactions after stars related to patient reviews appeared.

Although structured data markup does not impact search rankings, rich snippets can help grab attention, drive more prospective patients to your website, and result in more appointments.

Can I add structured data markup to my healthcare website?

Website operators can add structured data markup to certain webpages to reap the benefits of rich snippets. There are a few best practices to follow when doing so:

If you find you are coding too much, get help from Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

PatientPop rolls out rich snippets for healthcare practices

On Nov. 1, PatientPop moved all customer healthcare practice websites to using improved structured data. With this change, more practice website pages will show rich snippets — and will benefit from the increased visibility rich snippets bring.

To learn more about PatientPop and rich snippets, contact [email protected]. If you are a PatientPop customer, contact your Customer Success Manager.

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Joel Headley
Joel Headley is Director of Local Search and Marketing at PatientPop, the market leader in healthcare practice growth. With a decade of experience at Google, Joel is an expert in optimizing websites for search and has a deep understanding of how doctors are found and assessed online.

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