The Practice Growth Podcast is an educational resource for doctors, dentists, and other healthcare providers about how to market and manage a thriving healthcare practice.
In Episode 11, host Jessica Neyer speaks with Sander Beck, PatientPop manager of onboarding services, about online listings on healthcare and local directory websites. Many providers don’t realize it, but they already have listings on business and healthcare directories — and these listings often contain wrong information. Beck shares how providers can determine how they look on online directories as well as how they can correct inaccurate details. Click below to listen.
Jessica Neyer: To find a new doctor 20 years ago, a person might have thumbed through the Yellow Pages. Most people today wouldn’t even think to open a phone book — but they might consider the digital alternative: online directories.
Many doctors don’t realize it, but they already have listings on business and healthcare directories like Foursquare, Vitals, and several dozen others. Too often, those listings contain inaccurate information that negatively impact their search engine rankings, confuse prospective patients, and ultimately damage their online reputation overall.
How can you determine how you look on online directories? And how can you fix inaccuracies? We answer these questions and more in today’s episode.
Hi and welcome to The Practice Growth Podcast, the doctor’s resource for marketing and managing a thriving healthcare practice. I’m Jessica Neyer.
Joining me today is Sander Beck, PatientPop manager of onboarding services. Sander has extensive experience helping doctors and other providers audit and optimize their online directory listings. Welcome, Sander.
Sander Beck: Thanks. Excited to be here.
Neyer: Let’s jump right into it. About how many different online directories are there where a local health care practice could or should be listed?
Beck: There are hundreds of online directories. They’re not specifically all for healthcare, but there’s business directories of all kinds. You can find your information over hundreds of different directories. There’s probably only a handful of ones that you really need to focus on, both general business directories and healthcare-specific ones, but you can find your information everywhere, really.
Neyer: What are those handful that you should really focus on?
Beck: The handful are the really high impact listings. Things like Google and Yelp. Those are two places that all consumers — not just for healthcare but for restaurants or any kind of business — they’re going to be on Google and Yelp. Those are two big ones that we focus on a lot.
Then we do also focus on healthcare-specific listings. Those are namely Healthgrades, Vitals, WebMD, MD.com, as well. Those are the big ones for us.
Neyer: Got it. You mentioned something interesting. You said, the big ones for all consumers overall are Google and Yelp, but the ones for healthcare are more specifically like Vitals, Healthgrades, that sort of thing. It’s interesting because, we as the patient, we’re acting like consumers nowadays more so than anything. It’s important that doctors are actually found on any site we’re used to.
Beck: Yes. We get a lot of clients that are really concerned about their Healthgrades and Vitals profiles, as they should be. But when I talk to people, my friends for example, when they’re looking for a doctor, they’re probably going to look on Google and on Yelp. It’s an interesting difference between a provider’s perspective and a consumer’s perspective.
People shop for doctors, almost the same way they shop for anything now. That’s why those things like Google and Yelp are really growing.
Neyer: Yes, absolutely. I’m in the market for a new pediatrician, and I went directly to Yelp.
Beck: Yes, exactly.
Neyer: I am right in that market. How can doctors discover all the places they’re listed online if they want to see if they have any inaccuracies?
Beck: That’s going to be quite tedious to find all of your online directories, because there are so many — they are everywhere. I think it’s probably best to start with what you care about. You probably care about the ones we’ve already mentioned, so start there.
You can always perform Google searches with different permutations of name, address, and phone number — we’ll refer to that as a NAP throughout the podcast. Search for your name, see what shows up. Search for your name, plus, whatever site you’re concerned about, see what shows up.
There are different kinds of services and kind of scanners that you’ll see that will help you do this, but to get 100 percent coverage, it’s going to be pretty difficult. I think you should do a Google Map search, do a search within Yelp, within Healthgrades, within Vitals, within those profiles that you really care about, and see what shows up.
A lot of those places do a good job of managing listings, there’s not a lot of duplicates. Some of those platforms are going to do not so good of a job, so you might have a lot of issues, like finding duplicate profiles and things like that.
Neyer: Got it. You mentioned there’s certain things out there where they can help you scan the web. Does PatientPop offer anything?
Beck: Yes. PatientPop does have a scanner, which is pretty reliable, and before you use PatientPop, it’s going to show you probably a lot of red errors. But once we get through with optimizing all of your listings, you’ll see everything turned pretty much green.
Diagnose your practice: Check out the helpful PatientPop tool
Neyer: What are some of those common red errors, as you said?
Beck: The most common errors will be things like name. You’ll have a first name/last name on one profile, last name/first name on the other profiles. Definitely NAP errors: name, address, and phone number. We have a lot of clients that come to us, and we find old addresses on some of their listings, old phone numbers — those are definitely the most common.
There’s other errors that show up a lot of, like keyword stuffing. People putting their specialty in their title, when it should just be either their business name or their own name.
Duplicate listings is a huge problem. On Google, we do a pretty extensive job of cleaning up your duplicate listings. Basically, anything where they are not accurately representing their practice.
Neyer: It’s really interesting. I actually went to a practice, and on one of their listings, they said they were a MedSpa when, in reality, they were a chiropractor’s office. I walked around circling the entire building over and over calling them trying to reach someone, because I couldn’t find them at the right address.
Neyer: It makes for a pretty bad patient experience.
Beck: Yes. I think a lot of people are kind of trying to game the system. What you really have to realize is all you’re doing is representing your business. Honestly, you shouldn’t be trying to play the category game and maybe try to appeal to a certain demographic by updating your categories to a way that you think might attract a certain type of patient. Really, what you’re doing is just being honest. You keep your name, your brand name, your personal name, and that’s really what’s going to show up. That’s what’s going to perform best in search results.
Really, search algorithms are just looking for consistency, and to recognize a pattern of your name, address, phone number. The more simple you keep it, the more consistent you keep it across all of your listings, the better you’re going to perform. You’re just really representing your real-world business scenario, that’s all.
Neyer: You are what you are. A neurosurgeon isn’t a plastic surgeon, and you shouldn’t be represented that way. I know you mentioned the typical errors you see. Is there an average number of errors your team usually sees?
Beck: Yes, it’s hard to give an average number, we definitely see at least one error per client. No one comes to us perfect. I’ve never seen that before.
Neyer: Got it. Jumping back a second here. I know we mentioned it makes for a bad patient experience when practices list inaccurate information. Are there any other problems that it actually causes if you list yourself incorrectly online?
Beck: Yes, again, Google’s looking for consistency. The reason I’m saying Google is because that’s the search engine we all use. They’re looking for consistency. If I have a listing on Google, is it the same name, address, phone number combination as it is on Yelp, as it is on Healthgrades, as it is on vitals?
If you start breaking that consistency, and maybe you have a different phone number or you have a different naming convention, you start to break that pattern. You’re not going to be recognized as one business entity.
Neyer: I’m sure you’ve seen some pretty terrible listings in your time. What’s the most amount of errors you’ve ever seen for a doctor?
Beck: Yes, it’s hard to give you a specific number. One of the things that my team does, when we get new clients is we do a pretty comprehensive audit of their online presence. We’re not auditing the full 60 plus listings that you’re going to get with PatientPop, but we are going to check those main ones that we keep mentioning throughout this podcast.
We’ve had a good amount of clients who come to us with errors on every single listing. We check Google, we’ll have a duplicate, they’ll have incorrect naming convention on other listings, maybe an old phone number. Already there are significant errors on Google.
We’ll have the same thing with Yelp. Duplicate listings, that’s pretty common and again, name address, phone number errors. Some people are missing certain healthcare directories. Yes, we’ve had clients come to us with errors, significant errors on all the things that we check.
Once they’re finished with onboarding — so this isn’t even a significant amount of time staying on the PatientPop platform — already when they’re done with onboarding, we’ve corrected all of those mistakes. We’ve cleaned the duplicates, we’ve made their NAP information consistent. It really solved all the glaring problems that they had before they started with us.
Neyer: Without them having to lift a finger?
Neyer: That’s ideal. I’m sure most of those doctors don’t even know that these profiles exist in their names? How can a doctor, once they find out they want to clean these directories, do it themself?
Beck: Most of the major directories have an option to claim. For Google especially, Google and Yelp, you have your own client login. Most of our clients actually do claim their own listings, which actually makes it really easy. They can just give us access, and we’ll clean everything.
Let’s say you’re not a PatientPop customer. You can easily claim these listings. You can find on any help center — Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Vitals — they all have their own easy claiming process. You can do it, it just requires some effort and some tenacity at times.
Neyer: Got it. I’m sure often these doctors just don’t have time at the end of the day.
Beck: Yes, especially the Google verification process can be quite time consuming. You actually, in most cases, have to send a physical postcard to your practice in order to verify your business. We have to do the same thing, but it’s a lot easier when you’re working with us; we have a lot of experience verifying Google listings.
Neyer: So a practice is still getting physical mail still?
Beck: They are.
Neyer: Interesting. Talk to me a little bit about once you’ve claimed a profile. What are the components of an optimized listing?
Beck: We’ve already mentioned NAP, so that’s obvious. Name, address, and phone number has to be correct. If there is a recommend naming guideline for this specific directory, you should follow it.
Besides that, you want to make your listing look used, you want it to look like people interact with this listing. Adding photos, adding a bio, adding your insurance information, your hours, your website, of course, things like that make it look like people use it. If you have reviews, respond to them. Make sure you have access to those listings so you can interact with your patients.
A lot of people might not realize it, but really your online listings are almost like a second, or third, or fourth website. It’s a place for you to interact with your customers. A lot of people will see your online directory before they even visit your website. Stay engaged. I’d say that’s probably the most important thing you can do.
Neyer: If doctors find errors on their healthcare listings or any listing in general, what can they do to correct that?
Beck: If you don’t have your listings claims, you should. Most directories will have an option to suggest an edit. If you see your phone number is wrong, you can simply suggest an edit on the listing and, hopefully, that edit will be corrected. Usually, those kinds of fixes are pretty simple.
If you’re going to want to do a full optimization by adding that additional content, then you’ll have to claim proper ownership of that listing.
Neyer: Perfect. Well, Sander, thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it. You taught us all a lot about listings.
Beck: Glad to do it. I’m happy I can help.