It should come as no surprise to learn that the majority of patients looking for a new doctor or healthcare provider will rely on the internet to find their best local options. PatientPop survey research from 2020 shows that 74.5 percent of patients have gone online to find out about a provider or care.
Whether patients are looking for a doctor or researching a condition or illness, they’re most likely to head for the same search destination we all use for just about anything: Google. But local businesses — and local medical practices, in particular — are featured beyond search results and their own website.
People can also seek out information on healthcare and business listings directories that include your professional profile. On these and other prominent healthcare websites, patients find information about their health, local providers, and resources they can turn to for answers.
Each online option creates a huge acquisition opportunity for your healthcare practice if you want patients to find you, read your online reviews and content, and book an initial appointment.
In part one of a three-part blog series on how your practice can improve your local search results ranking, we’ll cover basic steps to claim and optimize your online business listings to improve your SEO.
What is local search?
Local search is an online search that’s focused within a specific geographic area.
Today, people often don’t want to go too far away when they search for things like a restaurant, store, or doctor near their current location.
Whether a prospective patient uses their desktop or mobile device, Google and other search engines are pretty good at identifying where that person is located when they perform a query and will deliver the most relevant information in a limited geographic radius. They can even be actively moving (walking, in a car) and search engines will change the results based on location.
With that in mind, let’s get into the details that prepare your practice profile and brand for those local patients. These steps show you how to claim and optimize your business listings online, and explain why that matters to your SEO.
1. Discover which online directories list your practice, then claim ownership of your profile
Google is the most important online business listing to your practice, simply because Google has held about 88% of the search market every month since the end of 2016.
At the same time, there are dozens more online business directories, including those focused on healthcare, including Yelp, Bing, WebMD, and Vitals. These important sites, along with Google, are a source for patients to find your practice, services, and contact details.
You may not even know some sites on which your practice is already listed. To find out, search for your practice name, identify where you come up in search, go specifically to each of those online directory sites, and then officially claim your profile as the business owner.
Each online directory will have its own specific steps to claim your online profile, but it’s worth the time to ensure you control the information shared. Then, as we explain in step 2, begin optimizing those profiles by starting with your most basic information.
2. Ensure your practice information is accurate and consistent within each online directory listing
Once you claim your business profile on each business or healthcare directory, ensure all of your practice information is complete, consistent across directories, and accurate.
Specifically, review the following for your practice:
- Name, address, phone number (NAP) – Your consistency here gives search engines the confidence that your information is correct, and ensures patients can actually find and call you.
- Description of your practice – more on this in #3 below
- Proper business category selection – the more specific, the better
- Practice website URL
- Business hours
3. Review and update your keywords, practice description, and business categories for each online directory
Keywords are the words or phrases people use when searching for information about your specialty and services. When defining the keywords you want to use online, think about how you describe your practice. How might your prospective patients talk about the health concerns and problems you address? What are the questions they might have?
What makes your practice different from your competitors, and what do new patients want to know when they call your office for the first time? By answering this series of questions, you can arrive at the keywords that make the most sense for your practice.
When writing your practice description across online health directory profiles, include your keywords and practice differentiators. Make sure your description is consistent across all listings. Review them often (at least every two months) and update if your services, staff, locations, or other key business details change.
When selecting your business categories for each online directory, you want to get as specific as possible, and maximize the number of categories you can add to describe your practice.
Your ‘category’ is usually your practice specialty, but many local business directories (including Google) call this a category. Defining your category as “orthopedic surgeon” is better than ‘surgeon’ or ‘physician.’ Give search engines and patients this level of detail.
Lead with a primary category that is accurate and specific to your business and then branch out into a second or third category, if it’s available.
These secondary categories usually include broader definitions. For instance, a doctor who defined their main category as ‘pain management physician’ might add ‘medical clinic’ as a second category. However, they should be identified in their online profile as a ‘pain management physician’ first to make it easier for patients to find them in local search results.