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Joel Headley

Recent Google Local Business Updates Healthcare Practices Should Know

Google has been releasing many new features catering to local businesses. Here are a few that you might want to invest in for your practice.

Questions and Answers

Launched for Google Maps on Android, Google is now offering anyone to ask and answer questions on your local listing. The questions and answers are open-ended and can have multiple answers posted by anyone, including the practice account which owns the listing.

There’s an opportunity here to answer any FAQs that are top of mind for your patients. Think of those questions that they really might have about your practice, highlighting features about your business that aren’t well known (house calls, anyone?), or answering questions about your background and credentials (what does FACOG mean anyway?). Look for this feature to expand across apps and devices in the coming months. Get into the details in this Local U Deep Dive on Questions & Answers.

Posts

At one time Google+ allowed businesses to post to their +Page and then it could appear with your business listing in the knowledge panel. With Google+ posts being removed some years ago from the knowledge panel, Google wanted to fill that gap: enter Posts.

The Posts feature is a rigid microblogging platform, where a short message can be added with a single photo, plus a call to action (CTA). The CTAs are limited, though Google promises to expand them in the future. Use this feature to highlight current special offers, events at your practice, or new content you’ve posted to your site. PatientPop is using posts to talk about our upcoming webinar while also highlighting a recent blog post.

Messaging

Now, you can connect your mobile phone number through your Google My Business account to receive direct messages from search. This is great if you’d like to open up a new way for patients to chat with you or your team. Be aware that you’ll want to add a phone number where you or a member of your staff can be responsive as Google will post the turn around time to your responses on your page. There’s an option to add an auto-response in addition to being able to respond directly from your phone. Note that the messaging system isn’t HIPAA compliant, just as email, so avoid sharing health data. But if a patient does disclose their medical information, it’s best to make sure that gets into their patient record.

Appointment URLs

Google recently expanded the types of URLs you can post to your business. Many of them are specifically for the hospitality industry, but there’s a couple that your practice can make use: services and appointments. The Products & Services link should include a list of the services your practice offers and product, if you sell those too. It’s a great way to tell patients if you have the expertise for what ails them. Additionally, using the appointments URL will allow you to directly link patients from Google to your online booking tool. Take a look how our practices are taking advantage of the appointments feature.

Ultimately, you’ll want to ensure you’re choosing the features that best suit your patient base. But also those that give additional information about your practice to Google’s search engine. Speaking to your customers while keeping in mind how you speak to search engines is key to good SEO. Taking advantage of these key features allows you to do both.

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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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