As discussed previously, Google intends to build a model of the real world with their maps and through local search. While they use a variety of signals to understand your practice and represent it online, there’s still a lot that can be influenced through your practice’s local listing on Google. Now, let’s focus on what you can do to represent your business online and how that impacts your visibility in search.
First, create a signature brand.
Don’t overcomplicate this step. Think about some of the following options:
For a sole practitioner, defining your brand by your name has several advantages. Putting your name and face to your brand creates an immediate relationship with prospective patients. They’ll quickly understand who you are and what to expect with their first visit. If you decide to work at different practices or become affiliated with other doctors. You’ll be able to carry your brand and online presence everywhere you go, regardless of other affiliations.
Alternatively, you can develop a brand name. This works when you’d prefer to grow a practice across multiple locations and potentially franchise or sell that practice upon retirement. The brand name should be simple, easy to read, and unique. If you intend to grow a practice beyond a single location, avoid creating a brand that’s unique to a location.
Finally, you could create a brand that has the highest value keywords to capture search traffic for those words, however, I don’t recommend this. While creating a “brand” that’s full of keywords can lead to early success in search marketing, keywords aren’t recognizable, so it won’t help in building an identity that customers can rely on. Ultimately, the short-term gain in keyword-titled businesses may not pay off over time as Google’s algorithms evolve.
Second, develop distinct service lines through that brand.
Define what you want to be known for online. All practices provide more than one service. A dentist might not only fill cavities but also provide cosmetic services. An OB-GYN will provides annual exams, but also delivers babies and performs surgeries. In some cases, you’ll want customers to know about every service you provide. However, it’s more likely you’ll want to focus on your highest value service in order to attract the desired patient type.
In some cases, you might offer services that seem like distinct businesses themselves. Perhaps you’re a family physician that also provides services focused on weight loss. While these services might seem distinct, it’s more beneficial to develop a single site all of your services. You’ll be able to capitalize on the search traffic across services while building the prominence of a single site — a much more difficult feat with multiple sites.
When developing content around the services offered, avoid talking about services you don’t want to perform. If you’re an expert at performing a needed, but not well-known procedure, talk about that the most. Again, think about the type of patient you want walking through your door and design your site to speak to that patient.
Third, follow the guidelines to your advantage.
Despite Google’s preference for algorithmic solutions, they’ve issued guidelines to help you understand what they’re looking for in a business listing. Essentially, they want a listing to match the customer experience with your business. Regardless of the number of separate entities you might have created, Google doesn’t allow you to list them separately in local search. While you can develop as many websites as you like, you can only connect a single site to your local listing. By creating this link, Google will be able to properly ascribe prominence and relevance singles to your business, causing an uplift in search visibility. Fracturing content among multiple sites will decrease overall prominence. And trying to create multiple listings for a single location will cause filtering and potential removal for guideline violations.
By creating a single authoritative site with a single listing on Google, you’ll compound the investments made in online marketing to improve your prominence and relevance in search, improving your overall visibility.
Search visibility through steady branding.
Over time, your best bet is to invest in a brand that can grow despite the search traffic trends. It will be less susceptible to Google updates, which will help you avoid headaches over future search changes.
Note the prime example of the power of brand in Airbnb (even though they fall outside the healthcare industry). When looking at their key search terms, [vacation rentals], their brand in no way matches those keywords. While the site vacationrentals.com capitalizes on keyword search traffic and was bought for whopping sum $35 million, Airbnb has consistently built a recognizable brand that takes the lion’s share of search traffic, possibly even cannibalizing searches for those specific keywords. Take a look at the search trends here
Ultimately by developing a strong brand, describing services related to that brand, and matching a single website to your location, you can expect improved visibility through local search.