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Joel Headley

What Makes a Website Useful for Local Search?

Key components to helping your website rank in local search include a well-structured website, local citations, relevant content, and fresh information.

Website Structure

Websites need to be human-readable and machine-readable. Let me go into detail about what makes a great healthcare website for a machine (e.g., Google). First, it needs to be crawled by a search engine. Use Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) to measure that your website can be crawled. Also, ensure that search-friendly title tags, descriptions, and headings are added to the content of the page so that search engines get a clear understanding of the relevant content. As a bonus, you’ll want to mark up your business information with schema so that there’s no confusion about your address, phone number, and practice name.

Local Citations

Local citations are mentions of your business across the web. Search engines crawl these mentions across the web in order to understand what your business is about and how prominent it might be compared to similar businesses in your area. Principally, local citations should include the name of your business, an address, and your phone number. Citations may also mention your category and website and have reviews attached to your listing.

The primary citation for the success of your practice is on Google, which is updated through Google My Business. Google uses this citation information to create an entity within its knowledge graph — a hub for all your business information on Google. Reviews, attributes, and categories get attached to your business as well as the information mentioned in other citations across the web. Much of the information associated with your listing isn’t explicit or transparent to searchers, but Google has clustered the mentions of your business across the web into a single entity represented by your listing on Google.

Relevant Content

Content creation for your site should focus on the services you want to be known for across the web. Websites are marketing tools, not resumes. It’s more important to describe the special and unique skills your practice brings to the table than to list every possible procedure you’re able to perform. Sure, you might be an orthopedic surgeon, but if you really are great at knee surgery, you should focus on telling people what makes you an amazing knee surgeon. There’s no need to go into detail about diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome if that really isn’t in your wheelhouse.

Fresh Information

Relevant content and fresh information go hand in hand. However, it can be difficult to keep adding new content to your site on a weekly or daily basis when running a practice. Even ensuring a blog post gets published on a regular basis can be hard. But, if you provide a way for patients to leave feedback in the form of testimonials on your site and by ensuring the existence of citations across other review sites, you’ll ensure fresh content can be created by your patients across the web. This content, whether on your site or on other review sites, is added to Google’s knowledge graph, thus improving your search visibility.

A Single Website

When interacting with Google, Yelp, Bing, or other sites across the web to create citations or web profiles, they each have certain rules for listing your business. In general, for one business, there should be one listing. And, for Google, when they say one business, the number of licenses, LLCs, corporations, or DBAs are unimportant. It matters how customers interact with your practice. Do they walk into your location and see one front desk and interact with the same people regardless of the specific service provided? Then, that’s probably just a single business and would only get one listing on Google.

We want to match the listings on Google to your website. It’s counterproductive to create multiple websites for each service you provide. It makes building the connection between the entity on Google (your business listing) and content about your business more difficult. Plus, if you try to create multiple citations for each service on Google, they’re likely to be removed as spam. And, if multiple reviews have been left on each service listing created, they’ll disappear too.

Additionally, having a single website allows you to focus on building your brand once, without having to duplicate effort across the web. Ultimately, as your practice grows, customers will leave testimonials on your site and reviews across the web that will bolster the search visibility of your business. Think about it — would you rather have 12 reviews on one listing or four reviews on three different listings? The additive impact of other important signals outweighs any short-term gains that might be had by creating multiple listings for a single provider or practice location.

Developing a website that is search friendly, gets regular updates, and matches the citations across the web will build authority for your local listing on Google, improving its search visibility in order to bring new patients to your door.

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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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